Vermont Burlesque Festival, Saturday part 2

Dear Constant Reader,

For the first two parts of this account, go here and here.

I think we arrived at Higher Ground before the show actually started, checked in with Kyla, and headed to the Chinese restaurant next door. A chicken and vegetable stir-fry is one of my favorite pre-show meals, so that was perfect. The photo is kind of dark, but we’re all wearing LBDs and the matching jackets Betty made for us, plus our rhinestone name necklaces from Scratch. The other 4 Babydolls have incorporated their demon horns for our number into their hairstyles.

After a relaxing dinner, we headed into the venue, which was completely sold out. We found a place to stand, way in the back, and watched some of the first set. After a while, my feet started to hurt and I went to the “Big Room” where the groups were set up. Betty and I sat under the warm lights on the stage and stretched. Just after the first intermission was over, Scratch came and got us because he had procured seats up front.

We got to see the second set of the show from the luxury of the second row and then we scampered off to the Big Room to get dressed and warm up for our number.

The show was unusual for a festival in that many of the performers from the previous night performed again. And a couple of the headliners performed twice. It made for a very long show. A few highlights from the bits I did get to see:

  • Miss Astrid: she’s one of the best MC’s in the business. A pleasure to watch her rip people up one side and down the other.
  • Jonathan Bitchman and Quechee George: a burlesque of burlesque to “Maple Syrup Time/Pour Some Sugar on Me”. So funny. So local. Nice scarf work.
  • Everybody who sang. Especially those who sang and stripped. That’s a challenge!
  • Scarlet James: So beautiful.
  • Lili Von Schtupp: Dirty and oh so funny. And she used a song from The Wet Spots which would have won my heart if she hadn’t already done so years ago. You can see her performing at The Expo in less than 2 weeks!
  • Cha Cha Velour: Her Bearded Lady number was quite touching.
  • Alexa Luthor: She performed a charity strip for a local cancer center. She tossed her gloves and hat into the audience and they came back full of money.

    And then there was Ray Gunn. My God. Of the three Stage Door Johnnies, he was the one I had not seen perform before, so I’ve been eagerly awaiting this show. He did “Trust Me”, the act that won at BHoF. I was stunned into silence. Later I was able to see how the snakey movements initiated in the core, like he’d shown us in class, and really appreciate what an excellent dancer he is. However, at the time all that was on my mind was that I had never seen anything so sexy on stage.

    And on that note, we all scrambled off to the Big Room to get into our costumes, touch up our makeup, and warm up. We were presenting “Hell”, our very first ever group number, although it has improved vastly in terms of dance and costume, it’s still the story of a sweet young thing (me) seduced by demons (everyone else).

    There wasn’t a lot of communication between the crew and the performers and it was impossible to hear the stage from the dressing room, so I was getting really anxious about getting to places on time and staying warm. Finally, we stepped out on stage and started.

    Scratch later said that it was as well-executed as he’d ever seen us do it, which is high praise from him. But I could tell we just didn’t have the audience. The lights came up on us in position before our music started and those few seconds of dead air just sucked the audience’s energy. There was a lot of energy on stage, so I hope we won them back. Also, it was *very* late at this point and a lot of the audience had left at the previous intermission and I could tell that many of those that were left were just tired. Frustrating.

    Still, we were happy with our performance when we came off stage and wriggled into our Babydolls t-shirts (our standard attire for curtain call) and rushed out into the house to see Ray Gunn again. We all perched on the back bar, which was a great vantage point. He premiered his Dandy act, which just blew me away. His musicality was stunning (I believe I said something unfit for delicate ears). He’s one of those rare dancers who looks like his movement is creating the music*. And the music itself was terrific: strong and powerful.

    Then we heeded the pleas of the stage crew and took our places for curtain call. It was kind of a cluster with so many performers cramming in the back hall. I managed to get separated from my fellow Babydolls and had to sneak on with Green Mountain Cabaret.

    And here’s absolutely everybody:
    (Photo by Michael Z. Rork at Zinfandel Photography)

    And that was the Festival!

    The recap of Sunday is: we drove to Boston, we went straight to the studio, we rehearsed, I went home, I slept.


    * My former bellydance teacher Taj is another one. Her dance “War Drums” has the same effect.

  • Published in: on 30 January 2014 at 11:55 am  Leave a Comment  
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    Vermont Burlesque Festival, Saturday

    Dear Constant Reader,

    If you’re just joining me, read about our Friday here.

    We began our Saturday with Bloody Marys and bacon at the Performer Brunch. There are so many Babydolls that we filled a whole table, but we managed to find a little room for Ray Gunn to join us. I just loved Lili Von Schtupp’s classy breakfast attire — a union suit, complete with butt-flap. Miss Astrid was in her Kate Valentine guise and I didn’t recognize her at first.

    Then off we went to the Burlesque Bowling charity tournament. We discovered that as bowlers we are excellent burlesque dancers, but we had a lot of fun. This was the first time Betty experienced “real bowling” instead of candlepin (Massachusetts born and bred!), but she turned out to be one of the best bowlers on our team. Betty won the first game and Brigitte the second (with a last minute strike!), coming ahead of Scratch, which was unexpected. I wasn’t half bad myself. I got a spare in each game — the first I’ve ever scored. Still, the absolute highest total score was 84, so “best” was completely relative.

    You can read local news coverage of the tournament here.

    Our proudest moment was winning the world’s most unprestigious trophy for “Best Dressed”. And this is why!

    And from the back:
    (Photos taken by Cha Cha Velour)
    It’s not so clear in the photo, but the shirts say “Dolls with Balls” and have huge rhinestone bowling balls. Scratch, not being a Doll, has the devil on his shirt, of course, also enhanced with some rhinestones.

    Then back to the hotel. Stella and I opted for naps. Betty headed off to take class with Lili Von Schtupp. Scratch, Brigitte, and Devora went downtown to go shopping and came back with some great finds.

    Then it was time for tech. Higher Ground, that night’s venue, is practically next door to the hotel and a really easy walk if it wasn’t ridiculously cold. Thank goodness for the Tassel Taxi. No surprise, but tech was running late. They were trying to move it along with “tops & bottoms” — just the beginning and endings of each act. Scratch pulled rank as headliner and had us not only jump the queue, but run the entire act. I felt like a diva going ahead of other performers. I hope no one was too resentful.

    Then Betty and I rushed off to Ray Gunn’s class which was supposed to be starting right that minute. The Tassel Taxi wasn’t going to be coming for half an hour, but we fortunately managed to catch a lift (but I’ve been sworn to secrecy as to with whom). Class had not yet started when we got there. The first class had started late and everything dominoed from there, getting later and later.

    Soul Fire Studio is lovely with mirrors and a wooden dance floor, but I wish the classes had been held in a conference room at the hotel, just for logistical purposes. One less place to travel to might have been easier on everyone.

    Eventually Scratch caught up with us. He’d been ferrying the other Babydolls back to the hotel. Class started with a light warm-up, then moved into some Bartimieff exercises (no, I’d never heard of it before either), which were awesome in their evil focus on the core. We were split into 2 groups for this and I will point out that our instructor did everything with each group plus the demonstration, which means he did something like 5 or 6 sets of ratcheted push-ups to the students’ two (that is, if we could manage even two sets).

    This was followed with some across-the-floor exercises to practice walking like a man. A bunch of the women had trouble, but so did some of the men. We ended with a short combination. I knew I was in over my head dance-wise, but if you play it safe, you’ll never learn anything.

    Then we took Ray back to the hotel and began getting ready for the show. Again, Scratch had okayed it with Kayla that we were going to miss call, but we would absolutely be ready well before our number. Considering that the show was going to last many hours and we were 4th from the end, that was an easy promise to make.

    I think I’ll save the show itself for my next missive.


    Published in: on 29 January 2014 at 11:17 am  Leave a Comment  
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    Vermont Burlesque Festival, Friday

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Friday morning Scratch, Betty, and I piled into the Babydoll-mobile and headed for the frozen North. And I’m not kidding — it was well below zero in Burlington. We arrived with just enough time to have a little rest before our tech rehearsal at the evening’s venue, a nightclub creatively called Venue.

    I know you were all worried about the whole decency ordinance and my g-string. When we checked in, they summed it up as “No penis, no vagina, no sex on stage”. No problem.

    Performers all got goodie bags — these chic Monday Night Tease packs filled with useful items for keeping warm, like books of matches and snazzy Vermont Burlesque Festival scarves.

    Tech was running late and there were some lighting issues that slowed things down further. As it was approaching 6 o’clock, I was getting worried about getting into hair & makeup (my April March transformation takes a lot longer than my usual face & ‘do) and getting something to eat and getting back in time for call at 7. Scratch squared it with Kyla, the stage manager, that we would be there by 8pm, without fail. That extra hour was a godsend.

    Back at the hotel, while Betty and I got ready, Scratch ran out to get us dinner. He is so good to us. By now the 2nd shift of Babydolls had arrived in Brigitte’s zippy little car and got ready to head over to the venue (Venue) and get their drink on.

    A brief digression: One of the things I love about The Expo and BurlyCon is that they all happen under one roof. This festival, like most I’ve been to, was in multiple locations. Granted the evening venues were walking distance from the hotel — if it had been June (remember the negative temperatures?). So it was lovely that the event eased the burden of transportation with the “Tassel Taxi”, a couple of large vehicles shuttling between the hotel and other sites. It really made things easier. Especially if you wanted to get your drink on.

    We arrived a hair before 8, as promised, and headed backstage. There was a small but toasty warm dressing room and a spacious green room with a huge spread of performer snacks: a vast variety of cut fresh veggies and fruit and a little candy. Just about perfect.

    First up was the short film “It’s All That Glitters”, which is a companion to the book of the same name. The performers who were photographed were also asked, on camera, to define burlesque, in their opinion. I was rather disappointed. I know there were about 100 interviews but only tiny number made in into the film. And there was a *lot* from the same few performers. Not that they didn’t have valid and interesting things to say, but I would have liked to have seen more breadth.

    I’m not going to recap the entire show, because that’s boring and I spent a lot of time in the dressing room or green room getting focused and ready, so I missed a whole bunch of acts.

    Some memorable moments:

  • Vera Wylde: Great physicality and awesome cane work.
  • Kitty Kin-Evil: She did a very classic number and totally owned it.
  • Ellie Quinn: Very creative use of assels.
  • Lili Von Schtupp: Great shoes! A very good host and truly foul-mouthed. I was wishing Klaus from The Wrathskellar was there because the jokes were right up his alley. Turned out Scratch was texting him some of the better ones.
  • Caramel Knowledge: Nice pastie-punchline.
  • Cha Cha Velour: I love her Gypsy Valentine number. It’s so high energy. And I enjoyed chatting with her in the dressing room.
  • Betty closed out the first act of the show with “Betty, It’s Cold Outside” and she just killed it. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen her and Dino do it better. The audience was going absolutely nuts!

    Scratch performed in the middle of the second act with his “Martini Time” magic trick. Again, it was as good as I’ve ever seen him do it.

    I was starting to get nervous about living up to the expectations my troupe-mates were setting. And I was starting to wonder, given the large number of neo-burlesque acts, how well a Legend Tribute was going to go over with this audience.

    I was 3rd from the end. So, when the performer before me (I think it was Merrique Hysteric) started, I headed for the icy-cold waiting room. Kyla came in on her way to the dressing room to get me and realized that I, like my comrades before, was at places. We’ve been trained well. She brought me into the wing (such as it was) to wait, which was so much warmer, thank goodness.

    Lili gave me a very nice (and serious) intro. My music started, I channeled The First Lady of Burlesque, and stepped out on stage. I know I had fun. I hope the audience did too.

    Afterwards, Scratch said “You looked like a headliner.” And that was all I needed to hear.

    And here we all are:
    (Photo by Greg Gouwens @ G-2 Photography)

    It took me a little while to strike my prop and pack everything up. Although there was an after-party, we were pretty beat and headed back to the hotel. No rest for Babydolls yet! Despite it being 1AM, we had a little rhinestone party to give the costumes for our group number a little more sparkle.

    And I’m awfully grateful to the hotel for having hot beverages available in the lobby round the clock. That hot cocoa was just what I needed.

    Still to come: brunch, bowling, classes, and another show!


    Published in: on 28 January 2014 at 9:50 am  Comments (5)  
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    No Worries!

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Thanks for all the interesting suggestions for how to solve my costume issues.

    After discussing it with Scratch, we decided that I had to respect the integrity of the act and the Legend who inspired it. The plan was to perform without a single change to my costume or choreography other than making sure there was $50 in my purse backstage to promptly pay the fine if my bare backside was deemed in violation of the ordinances.

    Happily, the festival was able to clarify the actual current reality, as opposed to the out-of-date and poorly written ordinance, and it is unlikely that anyone will be in violation in the course of a normal burlesque act.

    Well, thank goodness! But getting busted would have made a good story.


    Published in: on 23 January 2014 at 2:10 pm  Leave a Comment