I know I had promised this interview awhile ago, but there were some details that needed to be ironed out on my side.  This interview seems long, but Dale is such a complex person and has such a great personality, you finish wishing there was more.  Heads up, there is some cussin’ in this interview, so if you have sensitive sensibilities, you were warned!

a self portrait taken by Dale Rio as part of her "a gallon of gas and a match" series.

Vegan Berlesque: Why what first got you interested in the world of Pin-ups and pin-up photography? 

Dale Rio: i knew some pin-up models through the vintage car scene when i lived in los angeles and photographed some of them for fashion shoots or personal projects.  i didn’t know much of the history of pin-up, though, until i started doing research for the classes that i teach.  don spiro and i got asked to do a pin-up class at one of the big burlesque events a while back, so we put one together.  we taught at tease-o-rama, exotic world, and burlycon, and when i moved back to new york last year, we started teaching through the new york school of burlesque.  it’s interesting, because something as extraneous as pin-up is actually part of an interconnected web of influences that you wouldn’t necessarily relate to each other; the economy, art movements, politics, war, fashion, etc.  the way we teach pin-up puts it into a sociological perspective, so it’s not just a bunch of pretty images of pretty women.

VB: Do you have a favroite pinup model or photographer?

DR: i really like bunny yeager, because she not only was a photographer, but she started her career as a model, so she’s experienced both sides of the lens.  i feel that must give her a better understanding of what her models go through than photographers who’ve never experienced being on the receiving end of a photo shoot.  also, being a female in a male dominated industry will earn my respect every time.

VB: What first introduced you to the world of burlesque?

DR: i was actually introduced to burlesque by sideshow performers who i was photographing.  I got to know them, and when i went to see them perform, it was usually at a 10-in-1 type show that featured burlesque performers as well as the sideshow style acts.

VB: Have you performed/Do you currently perform burlesque?

DR: i have actually performed…  on a semi-regular basis when i lived in l.a. and seattle.  time and money have prevented me from making it a regular habit, but i hope to find enough of both to be able to perform more in the future.

photo of Michelle L'amour at the Burlesque Hall of Fame, copyright Dale Rio

VB: Which burlesque performers inspire you?

DR: there are so many to choose from, but having seen michelle l’amour’s caged cat act at exotic world this year, she’s moved up to the top of my list with a bullet!

VB: Can you tell us a bit about Shimmy Magazine?

DR: shimmy started when a girl i skated with in l.a. and i decided we wanted to become magazine moguls.  actually, we both loved burlesque and sideshow, so we joined forces, (she was good with computers and wanted to delve into design more, and i’m a photographer and writer), and started both shimmy and our roller derby magazine, blood & thunder.  shimmy has been through several incarnations…  it started out styled after a ’50’s men’s magazine, but that was pretty cost-ineffective.  we then did a regular magazine layout, so we could sell it on newsstands.  (blood & thunder was about to hit newsstands then.)  but then my partner’s personal life, well, sort of consumed her, so shimmy was pretty inactive for a couple years.  but you can’t keep a good idea down, and i decided to take the reins on all aspects of shimmy, (i’ve learned a bit of graphic design along the way), and will be launching it as a “burlesque annual” in 2010.  a burlesque yearbook, if you will.

VB: Now, you are also invovled (were invovled?) in the roller derby scene. Do you feel the worlds of pin-up, burlesque and roller derby are similar in any way?

DR: i played derby for about six years, until i was injured.  (i’m taking an indefinite hiatus right now.)  with derby and burlesque there’s a definite sense of empowerment.  it’s expressed in different ways, obviously, and some people don’t really recognize it in either or both, but it’s definitely all about women taking control.  contemporary derby and burlesque are largely women-run, as opposed to their various inceptions in the past, and i think that’s a very important factor in why they’re both so popular.

VB: In these three worlds, do you find vegans are more common in any of them?

DR: vegans are still the minority in the gen pop, so unless you’re in a community that’s sort of geared towards that mentality, it’s hard to find fellow vegans, period.  i wouldn’t say that we’re more common in any of the three worlds, but i’ve found my vegan cohorts in each, and we look out for each other.

portrait of Darlinda Just Darlinda from Dale Rio's "Night & Day: Burlesque in the Workplace" series

VB: What made you decide to be vegan?

DR: i’d been vegetarian for eighteen years, and about a year or so before i went vegan, i’d started minimizing my dairy and egg intake.  it wasn’t a big conscious decision, really.  just like when i stopped eating meat, it was more of a natural action.  but, like many people, i thought it would be prohibitively difficult to be vegan, so i never realistically thought about doing it.  but then i went on a photo shoot upstate and met a bunch of boys who were vegan.  they were really awesome cooks and would get together on sundays and do big, vegan mash-ups.  i thought, “wait a minute, if these DUDES can do it, then i should be able to, too!”  it just made me realize how easy it must be.  and it is.  especially nowadays.  if anyone claims to not be vegan because it’s too hard, they’re full of shit and are most likely apologists who are trying to cover up a lack of willpower or legitimate desire to be vegan.

VB: What’s your favorite thing about veganism?

DR: THE FOOD!!!  and imagining vegan hells for people.  i’m actually a pretty mellow vegan in the way that i relate with others.  i don’t try to preach or whine about having to search out food if i’m somewhere that’s not vegan-friendly.  that said, i have very strong and definite opinions.  but i realize that foisting your unsolicited opinions onto others isn’t always the best way to effect change.  and i also realize that each person does what he or she is capable of, for their own reasons.  my favorite example is one of my uncles…  he’s vain and eats mainly a vegetarian diet because it’s more healthy, and he wants to look good for as long as he can.  regardless of his reasoning, his decision furthers a cause i believe in, so kudos to him.  i know  he’ll never go vegan, but he’s doing his part in the way that he’s able. and i also respect his honesty.  i can’t stand apologists who feel the need to explain how much they want to go vegan, but can’t, because (fill in the blank).  if it’s a moral decision, then there’s simply no choice.  you just do it and never look back.  the taste of cheese or whatever isn’t enough to overlook all the wrongs in the system, if you feel they’re there.  touching on that issue, i believe that vegans generally are more aware of what they’re putting into their bodies, and the far-reaching implications of things like factory farming and whatnot.  people always get on your case about how you’re going to get all your nutrients, but if you ask a meat-eater where all their nutrients are coming from, most of them have no clue.  they think that the standard american diet is, by definition, healthy, where nothing could be further from the truth.

portrait of Bella Beretta, copyright Dale Rio

VB: Favorite vegan food/drink?

DR: good lord.  how can there be one answer?  one idiotic person once said to me, “you’re vegan?  you must hate food.”  are you fucking kidding me?  i actually love really good food.  and i love to cook, although until i recently forced myself to not be quite as much of a workaholic, i rarely found time to do so.  anything i make in good company is an automatic favorite.  i think vegans have a greater appreciation of food and get together more often than others to cook.  but, let’s see…  i do have a sweet tooth, and vegan desserts are still relatively hard to come by, so i’d say an overall favorite is vegan baked goods.  and…  red bamboo’s chicken parmigiana, dim sum at the vegetarian dim sum house in chinatown, just about anything at lula’s sweet apothecary, mighty o donuts in seattle, ronalds’ donuts in vegas, (they get bonus points for the exceptionally sweet owners and for being an oasis in vegas and because you’d never know they were vegan by looking at the joint…)…  the list could go on.

VB: Where can we see more of you?

DR: my new site is up www.dalerio.com.  i’m trying to get established in philly, so i’m hoping to open a studio there within a month or so and offer pin-up and photography classes there, in addition to shooting, of course.  i’ll be shooting at the toronto burlesque festival, vending for blood & thunder at the east coast extravaganza, and printing my ass off! Blood Thunder Magazine & Shimmy Magazine

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some of my props that I brought with me to the shoot

This past Saturday I woke up early (well early for a Saturday morning) and headed over towards Bushwick for a pin-up workshop with Dale Rio.  This workshop, which was set up through the New York School of Burlesque, used to be a three day class, but for this special workshop we went from 10am-6pm and went over the history of pin-ups, talked about how to do retro hair, makeup, and ended with photo shoots for each student.

The night before the class I went for a manicure and then packed my large suitcase full of props, outfits, makeup, curling irons and shoes in preparation for the class.  The suitcase ended up being pretty heavy which only made it that much worse when I got lost, several times on the way to Studio Noir where the class was being held.  Saturday was a pretty steamy day in New York City, so I was a sweaty mess by the time I showed up! The studio was a couple of floors up so I lugged my suitcase up the steps, collapsed into a chair and  prepared for an amazing day.

There were four students in the class, including myself, so we ended up getting very personalized treatment and attention.  Cheeky Lane was also in the class as well as another burlesque lady, Tess Truehart, and another girl who was just interested in pin-up and burlesque. After learning about the history of pinup (from geishas to modern day ladies like Dita Von Teese) we took a lunch break. The photographer led us to a local coffee shop where we stocked up on drinks, to stay hydrated in the heat, and a quick bite to keep up our energy till the end of the class. It was during this time that I heard Dale, the photographer, get really excited about the coffee shop selling vegan brownies.  “Are you vegan?” I excitedly asked. When she said yes, I gave a ‘team vegan’ high five and we gushed about vegan baked goods and food in the city.

A look into the studio before the shooting started.

When we got back to the studio we went over hair and makeup techniques and each of us started getting camera ready.  Once everybody got into their first outfit for shooting, we closed the studio door and turned on the professional lighting.  Holy falafel did it get hot!  Despite the fans going in the room, all of us were sweating like nobody’s business.  In between outfits, I quick ran to the bathroom which was cooler so I could mop off the sweat, touch up my makeup, switch outfits and adjust hairstyles.

During the shooting part of the class I ended up getting to do three different styles: my retro polka dot swim suit, a long black mermaid style dress and black pillbox hat, and a crazy punk/sci fi mish mash full of comics and ridiculous styling. (For the record, that long black dress was actually my senior prom dress, so it was pretty fun to put it on 8 years later and totally rock it- again)  Originally Dale said we would get them out to us in a few weeks, but a few days later she said that they were so fun and came out so well, she made them top priority and we should get them by the end of the week. Hopefully, that post will come sometime this weekend!

There is no better way to end a photo shoot than a gyro and creamsicle "milk" shake from Foodswings!

As we were packing up after the shoot, I talked about wanting to go to Foodswings while in that area of Brooklyn and Dale was totally down.  I invited everybody from the class but in the end it ended up just being Cheeky, Dale and me.  I got a gyro, Dale got mac and cheese and Cheeky got some cheese fries, and it was all glorious.  We talked about the local burlesque scene, photography, roller derby and how good the food tasted.

Before long it was time to head out and we all headed back to the subway where we later went our separate ways. Although I was saddened the day was over, I have since been an email contact with Dale, helping her find people to do shoots with in Philly (where she has moved) and have secured an interview with her that will show up tomorrow on this blog!

I’ve been trying to see as many different burlesque shows as my schedule allows, and last night was a fantastic new experience that I hope will continue.  The Loungerati blog got the skinny on this event in early April and had a pretty good description I am going to copy so I don’t forget anything:

One of the gorgeous rooms at the Players Club.

The Players Club, the Slipper Room, and band leader JC Hopkins collaborate to throw the first gala of the spring called Midnight Follies on May 7th. There will be dancing, there will jazz, there will be free mint juleps from 8-9pm! This event will have a mid-century theme so think “The Apartment” or “Mad Men”  when picking out your pocket square and cocktail dress.

The cabaret atmosphere reaches crescendo as some of the best burlesque dancers in NYC step on to the stage to delight and entice: winner of the 2009 Golden Pastie Award for “Most Sensual Performer in Burlesque” Peekaboo Pointe, Miss Coney Island Ekaterina, and, in band breaks, 1920s tap sensation The Minsky Sisters.

The entire evening is presented by Midnight Follies and hosted by James Habacker, illustrious owner of downtown’s The Slipper Room and with Kiki Valentine, actress and producer of The Sunday Show. Valentine explains, “The Players has an incredible history and energy…to open the doors to the public and create a happening like this seems to wake the spirits of Frank Sinatra and Sarah Bernhardt. It’s like they’re giving us their blessing. Plus, they always loved a good party.”

The Minsky Sisters do a tap and fan routine.

The even also included live jazz, big band music, swing dancing, comedians and a large bar set in this beautiful mansion in lower Manhattan.  There was also a photographer there, Steven Rosen, who was taken pictures of partygoers for $20 (plus $10 per additional person).  I really liked his style so my partner and  got our picture taken. In order to see the kind of photos he was taking there, look under the ‘portraits’ tab. When we get the hand painted prints back I’ll definitely post them for you guys to see. (They are digital shots – so bonus vegan points there!). In the meantime, here is a picture my partner took for me last night.

lounging on the couch

The Burlesque acts were fun and fit the old timey theme very well. It was exciting to see Pointe because I know she is a highly esteemed performer. Ekaterina did a great mix of burlesque, gymnastics and contortionist moves.  Both Peekaboo Pointe and Ekaterina did their acts to live music played by the band, which was very exciting to witness the absolute live factor of the acts. The  Minsky Sisters act I saw didn’t actually include any clothing removal, but the tap aspect was a very exciting addition.

Overall, the atmosphere of the evening was fantastic, all the performances were great and crowd was excited, polite and really playing into the dress up theme.  I hope the evening was a success because I am looking forward to the summer edition already!