blog coverage

January 4, 2011

photo by John Galayda

Awhile ago I did my Kitty Nights at Bar on A debut. An exciting thing about this was that a New York Times blog writer and photographer was there! It has taken a little over a month, but the blog finally posted it, so you can read the article here and see the photographer’s viewfinder here. Here is a photo of me performing my rainbow connection act that night:

 

photo by John Galayda

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posing with sexy S&M Vader after the show.

Last night i finally got to see an Epic Win performance, and man oh man was it awesome.  Since I am a nerd I of course got dressed up as a jedi to support my Star Wars vs. Star Trek.  It was truly epic.  I am a huge fan of themed burlesque so this was my cup of tea.

First we met up with some friends and got some Ethiopian food for dinner at Meskerem near 42nd street and then headed over to the show.

There was a slight mixup since I accidentally had bought my tickets for the wrong night, but everything worked out fine and we got in.

What can I say besides that it was awesome.  The show started with Nelson Lugo (Trek)  and Schaffer the Darklord (Wars) defending their side in the debate and then quickly went into a night of alternating themed burlesque  acts.  Some were funny (B. B. Heart, Lefty Lucy, Miss Mary Cyn, Bonnie Voy’age, Fem Appeal), some were more sexy (Rosey La Rouge), some were creative (Victoria Privates) and Magdalena Fox pulled out a stunning and beautiful Queen Amidala act that literally brought tears to my eyes. Dangrr Doll also had an amazing light up outfit as she portrayed ‘the force’ while stage kittening.

The Epic Win Burlesque: The Great Star Debate cast

The debate was settled by a selling of raffle tickets for the themed prize bags.  Luckily since Star Trek had won Friday night, the Star Wars team was really pushing it and offered cupcakes to anyone buying $5 worth of tickets.  Now, the normal cupcakes were tiny little buggers, but thankfully there was a vegan option if you bought $5 worth of tickets for the Star Wars bag, and those cupcakes were normal sized ones from Babycakes.  om nom nom!!

Star Wars ended up winning, there was celebration and pictures and then it was time to go home.  Sadly, but understandably, EW Burlesque will be taking a little break while Schaffer the Darklord goes on tour in the fall and Nelson Lugo works on some other projects.  But trust me, when they come back, I’m sure it wil lbe a show not to be missed!

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.

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.

backstage at the Slipper Room (from left to right: Gal Friday, Fem Appeal, Veronica Varlow, Gemini Rising and Calamity Chang)

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!