February 28, 2011
After the galleries and falafel, Diana and I jumped in a taxi and headed over to Nurse Bettie, a bar located at 106 Norfolk in the Lower East Side. I had never been to it before due to my work schedule, so I was excited to finally experience this weekly show!
Diana and I were able to quickly saddle up to the bar and due to having several small glasses of wine at the galleries, we ordered some non-alcoholic drinks and settled in for a night of entertainment.
The line up for that night was pretty great: Bettina May, Kita St. Cyr, Tansy (Tan Dora), Ruby Valentine, Broadway Brassy and the host for the evening, Calamity Chang! This show was also another chance for me to see Calamity perform while Broadway Brassy belts out the soundtrack. This evening both Brassy’s indivddual performance and Calamity’s act ended up being songs by the band Heart which Brassy covered wonderfully.
I could write a great deal about the performers, but since I am nodding off and my cat is getting bitey for dinner, I’ll just mention that they were all great and did a great job working such a small stage.
Right, because Nurse Bettie is a bar with very little space when crowded, so it was interesting to see the performers confine themselves to a small square of stage. The venue is fun, with pin-up paintings and posters decorating the walls, but the performance space is small. But Calamity works it and on Wednesdays when Honi Harlow hosts, I’m sure she does the same.
The overall experience was great, and I am saddened I didn’t get to see these free weekly shows earlier, but I know where I can now go if I have wednesday or thursday night free, and you should go too! Just make sure to get there early to secure a good seat for the show and then take your time and enjoy the pre-show go-go!
June 2, 2010
The Happy Stripper: Pleasures and Politics of the New Burlesque (2008) by Jacki Wilson. 187 pages of text plus citations.
I have a lot of mixed feelings about this book. There were some things I loved about it, and others that I couldn’t handle reading one more sentence about. If you were picking up this book because you were purely interested in burlesque and learning more about the new burlesque scene I’d give The Happy Stripper a C+. f you are looking for an interesting read about feminist topics concerning art, women, history and burlesque, this book would get a solid B+. Now let me explain.
The Happy Stripper is basically a really long paper about feminism. To me, it reads as a research paper, and not the most well researched one at that. If you notice, it does not say ‘feminism’ anywhere on the cover, so I was a bit confused when the author just kept talking feminist theory and citing feminist critiques throughout the whole book. The book also focuses a great deal on female artists, specifically performance artists. Luckily for me, I enjoy reading about feminism and performance art, but I didn’t pick up this book to read about those topics, I wanted to learn about burlesque! As I mentioned above, I felt the new burlesque research wasn’t where I would have hoped it to be. Now, that being said, the historical research seemed top notch and was fascinating to read. The current burlesque research done by the author seemed like it was all done hastily on the internet. For example, Wilson says the burlesque world is sadly lacking black burlesque performers and that they are discriminated against. Wilson then makes mention of only two such performers, one in the UK and one in New York. Doesn’t talk about them or their acts, just mentions two names. Although I can’t speak about the discrimination factor, I was floored by the audacity of the author to make it seem like there are only 2 black new burlesque performers (and only 1 in NY). Not only is this not true, Fem Appeal also runs her own weekly show! Plus the author made no mention of other performers of color, where you once again have a lady who not only is of color, but is ALSO the organizer and emcee of her own weekly show (Calamity Chang – Dim Sum Burlesque).
And while I am on the topic of the “lady” factor, I became very frustrated by the female focused perspective Wilson came from. There are a great deal of male burlesque performers as well as those that straddle or bend the area between the gender binary. Sadly, these performers weren’t discussed or even mentioned in the book. Since the author spends so much time focused on feminism and the debate between the sexually liberated woman and the objectified lady, we rarely get to even hear the performers themselves discuss their thoughts. It is one thing to speculate and theorize when you have no primary sources to work with, but the author did! She could have interviewed so many of the performers, or taken a class or even tried burlesque once herself before casting judgement on a whole movement that is still alive and evoloving.
My last issue was with the overwhelming heterosexual perspective in this book. Many times the author discussed feminist viewpoints about the woman always trying to please the man, or every time she undresses she is tied to the male gaze et. al. What about us queer ladies? I know many times while I’m performing, I am not focused on what men are thinking of me. And I am sure other gay female performers out there would agree that they are not consciously or subconsciously doing their show to impress and try to bed/wed a man.
All this negativity aside, the book was enjoyable to read, and the actual parts on burlesque (1/4?) were interesting and thought-provoking. The author does a great job of setting up the historical context to let the reader understand the world and society at the time the three big booms in burlesque were happening (1870, 1920, 1990). The author decided to focus on single performers from these periods, which allowed a deeper level of research on those specific women, but at the same time it also cuts away at the variety of shows and performers happening at that time.
In summary, the book wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t really focused on burlesque. I can say I definitely learned some things about the past world of burlesque, but the book stayed up in the theoretical and philosophical clouds of feminism and post-feminism that I feel the reader loses their grounding and ability to connect with the information on a practical level. The book doesn’t seem to be sold in book stores yet, but if you have the money and an interest in history, feminism, performance art and burlesque, I think you might want to check out the book for purchase online. If not, focus on some of the other burlesque books on the market or just go see more shows and talk with the performers. You might learn just as much if not more.
May 22, 2010
I know I have been slacking blog wise, but I swear I have been busy! This past week centered around getting my act together and really nothing else. I was sewing fringe and sequins for most of the week, listening to the song on repeat, and dancing (or dancing in my mind) at work, at home and on the train. Since I had finished almost all of the costume early on thursday, I even went down to practice with my friend and fellow NY school of burlesque student, Cheeky Lane.
Friday I left work early, but that still only gave me 45 minutes to try and get my hair and makeup done. My partner and I then ran to the subway and also had to take a cab so I could get there on time. A bit winded and nervous I put on my fake eye lashes, finished my hair, and got dressed. The dressing room at the Slipper Room is very small (well for now, who knows what it will be like after the renovations) and Jo Boobs (Weldon), Gal Friday, Fem Appeal, Veronica Varlow, Lefty Lucy, Calamity Chang and Gemini Rising, plus myself, all had to try and use it. Gemini was the other “debuting student” that night, though she had already performed once before, so I was technically the only virgin performer there. We chit chatted and wished each other luck on our very special last student showcase before the Slipper Room closed for renovations.
I did a few mimed run throughs with the curtain closed but soon it was time to start. Jo had me go first, which was nice because I could then get it out of the way and spend the rest of the evening getting to watch the others.
The performance went well, I think. While I was performing I was so focused on making sure I got all the clothes off at the right points and trying to make sure my face wasn’t blank from focusing too much. I had one clothing issue when my sequin belt didn’t come untied. So what did I do? I seductively slid it off, then kicked it up in the air, caught it, twirled it, and threw it to the side. Supposedly, this move was very impressive and got me lots of applause from the other performers backstage. I would tell you more about my performance, but I really can’t remember, it just went by so fast!
Once the curtain closed I frantically ran around and gathered all my clothes, except for the one glove I accidentally threw off stage, stuffed them in my bag, got changed into my little cherry dress, and watched the rest of the first act from backstage. The other ladies did great sets, all with a great comedic edge, that had us cheering and laughing backstage. For the second act, I sat out in the audience with my partner and watched. Fem Appeal had Gemini and I come on stage and dance for part of her Isaac Hayes act, and soon after, the show was over. Jo had us all onstage for a curtain call and then it was time to clean up all my supplies from backstage and take a seat for the second show of the night full of all new performers.
Whew, it was a great experience and I am excited for my next chance to perform. I came home that night already planning out new acts and routines for the future!