a magical night

April 14, 2011

photo by Norman Blake. Jo Weldon interviews Bambi Jones, April 14th, 2011

Last night I attended Bambi and Bambi: Classic Burley-q meets the New Burlesque at Coney Island USA, the museum and theater that houses Burlesque at the Beach and Sideshows by the Seashore. It was truly an amazing evening that included talks about burlesque at Coney Island, in interview by Jo Weldon with Bambi Jones, a burlesque performer who started performing in 1949 and worked with many famous performers and hob knobbed with Errol Flynn (who said said was a “nasty man”).

The show also included 2 other Bambi’s: Bambi Galore a wonderful neo burlesque performer  who plays a lot with gender and queer culture and Bambi the Mermaid who is one of the main neo burlesque performers who is responsible for the NY scene.  This plus Little Brooklyn (a NY burlesque staple) doing her first performance since the birth of her son, Bunny Love (another NY Burlesque staple), current Miss Coney Island Lefty Lucy and the cutie with the bootyKita St. Cyr made for a magical night.

It was an evening of fabulous performances, great lectures, and I’ll tell you, when Bambi Jones performered, I cried.  The woman is 80 years old, and she was up there, shaking it and the crowd loved her back. Check out the video below to see the powerhouse that she is and check out her book My Journey Burlesque: The Way it Was for more amazing stories about her life

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/9325669″>Bambi Jones Burlesque Hall of Fame</a>

Also, the next two weekends I will be back in Pennsylvania, which means I get to indulge in

shoo fly pie, A-Treat Soda and vegan Girl scout cookies! I love PA!

some of my favorite PA goodies! Note: In the photo you seem me with Girl Scout cookies.  Vegans – take note, there are two companies that make GS cookies.  If you live in an area that has caramel DeLites (and not Samoas) your company is ABC (not to be confused with the vegan Alternative Baking Company) and there are currently 4 vegan friendly cookies: Thanks a lot, the new cinnamon ones, the Lemonades and Peanut Butter Patties.

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The man, the myth, the Campbell

This past Thursday my partner and I headed down to Coney Island U.S.A. for the Casino O’ Fortune Cookie’s tribute to Bruce Campbell.   If you don’t know who Bruce Campbell is, I feel sorry for you.  If you do, you understand why this was a show not to be missed.

This was my first Casino O’Fortune Cookie production, and it was amazing.  I have to say that sometimes themed shows can be boring or lame, but because Bruce Campbell has a lot of variety in his career, it wasn’t painful. It was awesome.

Anita Cookie, Clams Casino and Neal O’Fortune were great hosts, and I appreciated that Anita Cookie even thought outside the B.C. box enough to do an act inspired by his Old Spice “Hungry Like the Wolf” ad. And Clams Casino’s chin act was an honorable tribute piece.

Sizzle Dizzle’s Autolycus (Xena) act was amazing and Jezebel’s S Mart chainsaw act was fantastic. This show was also my first time seeing Velocity Chyaldd – which is quite an act to take in.  I don’t want to ruin it for anyone, so I won’t say much except nudity and lots of fake blood.

I am super excited to continue to take in the themed Burlesque shows and hope to be in some in the future!

This past friday (April 30th) I got to stage kitten for the first time.  I was pretty nervous and flustered that day with a mix of excitement and worry.  There was still so much I didn’t know but I was excited to learn.  To help calm my nerves I watched the burlesque episode of Rupaul’s Drag Race with the ever so wonderful Dita Von Teese, the Queen of Burlesque, as a guest judge!

I had put my hair into two tight buns in the morning so by 7:45 when I took them out they had a good amount of curl and wave which I set with hairspray and gel.  I never used hair products growing up, so I was pretty impressed with how well it stayed! I also gave myself a little volume bump in the front to off set my sailor hat I’d pin on at the venue.  I then got started on my makeup, using Kandee Johnson youtube videos to assist me on smokey eyes, eyebrow arching, and applying false lashes. Sizzle Dizzle, who was the other stage kitten had suggested I do hair and makeup at home since you can never tell how well lit a backstage area will be.  I actually got the fake lashes on, which is a big step for me since I’ve failed at attempts in the past.  It was semi difficult finding fun lashes that are vegan, but I’ll save that part for another post!

back stage at Coney Island

My partner and I then quickly made our way to the Q train to get down to Coney island.  Upon arriving there, I met up with Doc Wasabassco and headed backstage.  Sizzle and Gigi were already there as well as Keith Bastard, who was doing a special song and dance peddling Burlixir, the Wasabbasco ‘medicine’  for the medicine show.   While the other ladies made their way in, Sizzle went over kittening do’s and don’ts with me and also showed me how to fill out the sheet for the music cues.  Keith, Sizzle and I did one run through which consisted of Keith doing his really funny routine and then Sizzle and I running on stage, acting like excited tweens at a Jonas brothers concert, and then going out into the audience to sell the Burlixir during intermission.

Before I knew it, the show was beginning.  Although I was not nervous to be on stage, I was very nervous about missing or losing a costume piece when it was my job to pick up after a performer.  Luckily, I got every piece every time and also didn’t flub any stage prop setups.  The ladies backstage were really nice and considerate but seemed very busy and focused, which I could understand considering the difficulty of some of their acts.  When it came time for intermission, we ended up selling almost all of the Burlixir and I had a fun time joking and working the audience.

The second half seemed to fly by and all the ladies (GiGi La Femme, Nasty Canasta, Sapphire Jones, Gal Friday) as well as Keith and a juggling act named Der Achten Taschen did a fantastic job, though I was somewhat jealous I didn’t get to watch them front and center.  Finally, the night ended with a champagne bath as a tribute to Tirza’s Wine Bath Revue that used to happen in the 1940’s at Coney Island.

Originally I had planned on wearing a sequined outfit but after realizing I would be having champagne poured on me at the end of the show, I decided to go with my vintage bikini instead.  GiGi and I got in the tub, and the rest of the ladies poured champagne on us, which they collected in cups and gave out to the audience.  (For those of you who may know me from college, this wasn’t too different from that one Peddle to the Meddle performance I once did!)  After all the champagne was gone, I went backstage, toweled off, got dressed, thanked everyone and headed back to the Q to go home.  It was a fun and exciting night where I went from nervous to really pumped and stoked at the end.  I hope I have more kittening and eventually performing in my future!

got a name, now what?

April 28, 2010

Last you read I had decided on my name.  So, what comes with a name and what needed to be done to choose that name?  First off I had to do an online search for Facebook, MySpace, the yahoo burlesque name database, and as a domain name by itself to see if it had been taken.  With some performers using MySpace and others Facebook, you can never tell where someone might be promoting themselves.  After checking and deciding, I added my name to the database, quickly opened a new Gmail account for Anja Keister, which then allowed me to make a Facebook page.  The domain name is not taken, so once I start doing shows and have more publicity pictures, that will be the next major internet challenge for me.

The next promotion task is to get business cards made.  Jezebel Express had recommended them as a great way of networking and also to have at shows and auditions to spread your name in the scene. Awhile ago I used vistaprint for promoting a co-op I’m a member of, so I will probably use them again. Aside from the ever so annoying almost daily emails touting their on sale products, vistaprint does do high quality printing of brochures, magnets, business cards, posters, etc.  If you can work thrifty, you can get a bunch of stuff for free and end up only paying for shipping.  Right now they are doing a sale with 500 premium business cards for free. 

bathroom photo shoot at 12:30 am

But what needs to go on the business card?  First off, this is the very visual burlesque world, so a photo is probably a good start!  I decided to do an impromptu photo shoot around 11:30pm Monday night so I would have pictures to put on the cards. Also, some nice photos for Facebook and other promotional use would be a good idea, so I curled my hair, did some makeup, put on my new vintage bathing suit, and did a self shot photo shoot in my bathroom.  It was definitely difficult to work the camera by myself, but fun at the same time to see the results. There are a few more which can be seen on the Facebook page.  I am starting to contact photographers to set up an actual photo shoot, but I want to wait till I have more costumes first to really makwe the shot worthwhile.

Other things to put on the business card would be contact info, like the email account, any information about the kind of performance I would be doing (comedy burlesque), and maybe a catchy phrase or tagline which I have seen several other performers have.  I’m going to wait till after friday when I can get more examples of business cards from  the other performers at the Coney Island show before I start layout.  I also plan to bring my camera and get some shots in full glam face and outfit!

For now, I return to sewing on sequins and dreaming about Friday…..

Will I see any of you there??

This cherry 'dress' is actually a skirt I put a belt around!

It was a pretty jam-packed weekend so far, but to save y’all having to read a super long entry, I will break Friday and Saturday into two different posts (though in my mind it has all been one big roller coaster).

I left work early on Friday to take my 2 hour commute home where I had about 15 minutes to change from mellow work clothes into a retro glam outfit for my night of burlesque.  Huffing and puffing, I quickly tried to curl my hair (no luck) and head out the door to catch the 5 train.  I very carefully did my makeup on the subway, and got out at the 14th st station, where I quickly ran to Quad Cinema for a special showing of Behind the Burly-Q.  This documentary follows burlesque (burlesk) as it grew in popularity during the 40’s via vaudeville and thrived during WWII till its sad downfall into the late 60’s-70’s.  The stories are told by the performers that actually lived it including Dixie Evans, Tempest Storm, and April March plus many others.  Even if you are not into burlesque, the film is fascinating just from a historical perspective and gives insight into a world of performers that they previously did not get to speak out.

The movie was followed by a quick Q&A with the director, Leslie Zemeckis, and April March (with her daughter and granddaughter in tow).  This weekend was the US premiere of the movie, and I have no idea how far screenings might go, but if you have the possibility of seeing it, I highly recommend it!

After the movie, I met up with my friends and we headed down to Coney Island for the kickoff of Burlesque at the Beach.  Since I had been rushed to get to the movie, I took my time in the car putting on my mini fishnets and heels so I’d be ready for the show.

Wasabassco had put together the show for the night and it starred the reigning Miss Coney Island 2010, Miss Gigi La Femme as well as Nasty Canasta, Melody Sweets, Keith Bastard and Snake Charmer Nikki Le Villain, plus Sizzle Dizzle and Jenny C’est Quoi stage kittened (picked up after the performer, kind of like a stage crew with more face time).  The show had a great energy and a friend from my burlesque choreography class (Cheeky Lane) showed up.  The show centered around Coney Island and side shows, but brought some other amazing and creative burlesque to the stage.

Earlier in the week I had emailed Doc to find out how I could eventually join Wasabassco when I felt more comfortable and had an act ready.  He told me that he typically books performers he has seen before and that many performers get their start by volunteering and kittening so they can get some backstage experience. He did say that he was also considering putting together a show of first time performers so I should introduce myself at the show and we could discuss things further. Fast forward to after the show, with me all smiles and excitement from just seeing some high quality acts.  I eventually make my way up to Doc and reach out for a handshake.

“Hi, I’m Danielle.  You told me I should introduce myself to you.”  He shook back, “Indeed you should! So you read the email and what did you think?”   I kind of stammered out something about how I completely understand and am interested in volunteering for Wasabassco in the future sometime.  “Well, what are you doing next friday?” he asked with a grin.  I look back, shocked “possibly going to a burlesque show?!?”  “Fantastic, how about you stage kitten with Sizzle Dizzle then?”   I nodded and thanked him and kind of walked off in a daze.  It was mind blowing to think that less than a month ago I had gotten my first dose of burlesque  and now in a week I will actually be on a burlesque stage during a show!  The rest of the night was a blur with me reeling from the excitement.  Oh my gawd, so much to do in one week, and I don’t even have a stage name yet!?!