It's not my fault I look better in her party dress.


A Performance Review: Criptease at Le Poisson Rouge

This last week marked the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA for short). Naturally the best way to commemorate such a momentous occasion is with a burlesque show! I read a bit about this event online, and with every word I read, the more intrigued I became. Hosted by Mat “Sealboy” Fraser, featuring some of New York’s most prominent burlesque performers and other acts, both able-bodied and disabled, this was a show that I simply could not pass up.

It’s not just my newfound love of burlesque that prompted this interest. This past fall, I read an article called something like “Compulsory Able-Bodiedness.” The author was a queer woman who had cerebral palsy. One focus of the piece was that people with disabilities are assumed to be devoid of sexual desire, as though their situation renders a basic human need and desire irrelevant. I was somewhat horrified to realize that I was guilty of the same assumption. So now, hearing about disabled burlesque performers excited me. This was going to be an act of rebellion, a radical reclaiming of sexual identity and agency! And that, it seems to me, is what really lies at the heart of neo-burlesque: the philosophy that everyone is desirable, and everyone belongs.

I was not disappointed.

Having bought my tickets in advance, I arrived at Le Poisson Rouge around 6:30, which is when they said the doors would be opening. The club wasn’t letting people in yet, but that allowed me to get a good look at the rest of the audience. There were people in wheelchairs, queer girls and guys, some men and women who looked to be over 60, a few Asians and African-Americans—by far the most diverse burlesque crowd in my experience. The other disabled patrons assuaged the little voice in the back of my head that feared that the show would be partly a freak show, where an able-bodied audience treated the disabled performers as curiosities. Also in the house were the fabulous burlesque performers Dirty Martini and Jo Boobs—the fangirl in me shrieked and jumped up and down upon noticing and recognizing them, but the normal person in me let them enjoy their night.

In any case, Le Poisson Rouge is a suitably dark and sketchy venue, a basement cabaret space lit mostly by red and purple lights. The tables had charming little tea lights, and the bar was well-stocked, but I chose to abstain for the night. I wanted to be unaffected by anything but the show.

I appreciated that the performers were walking around amongst the audience. It gave me a chance to admire some costumes, and then realize “Oh shit! That’s Sealboy in the leather vest and skirt!” I don’t know how I didn’t recognize him right away with his distinctive arms, but that’s that. I felt the same about Tigger, who was dressed up as “Tiny Tigg,” a self-proclaimed “fictional Victorian lad” with an atrocious Cockney accent, complete with leg brace.

Honestly, the only way I can describe the show itself is as pure burlesque. The first performer was Ms. Tickle, whom I’ve written about before as being phenomenally gorgeous. This time, she went the opposite route. Ms. Tickle entered in a fabulous ball gown, flouncing and fluttering about. She had a full-length mirror onstage, and a large, bright red apple on one side. Princess Ms. Tickle admired took a bite of the apple, and soon transformed into a grotesque hag-version of herself. She applied a huge false nose, shredded her platinum-blond wig to reveal a raggedy white one underneath, added big fake ears, and when she removed her bodice and skirt, revealed lopsided breasts and a gigantic ass. Ms. Tickle turned several standards on their head—usually it’s the hag that turns into the princess. And, of course, usually the more clothes that come off, the steamier the show becomes. Ms. Tickle flipped it all on its head.

After Ms. Tickle, things got really crazy. It’s a good thing that Mat urged us all to leave our political correctness at the door.

Comedian Liz Carr gave a blisteringly funny standup comedy set from her wheelchair, commenting on the absurdities of her life and people’s reactions to her. At the end of her set, she invited the entire audience to “crip out” with her—to do anything at all that meant “cripple” to them, including but not limited to facial or body contortions and grotesque grunts. I found it fascinating that most of the audience (including me) did not commit to their cripping out, with the exception of those who already belonged to the group. Despite Mat’s recommendations to leave out political correctness at the door, I simply could not. Later on in the show, Carr returned to the stage for a strip. When Sealboy introduced her, he announced that Liz had finally gotten a day job. She was dressed as a secretary, and started to shed her clothes to Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5.” Halfway through, though, Liz got bored, and the music abruptly switched to the Superman theme. She stood up out of her chair, for the first and only time that night, and revealed a Supergirl outfit underneath her business attire. It was, quite frankly, inspiring.

Without a doubt, the moment that hit me the hardest was after Tigger’s strip. As I mentioned before, his character was Tiny Tigg, whose leg brace led to a very comical strip. He began with a speech introducing his own act as a strip that would be so pathetic that the audience would be forced to give him money so he would stop. Tigger ended up completely naked, springing around the stage on all fours. Afterwards, he stood up and, still completely naked, talked about his first reactions to hearing about Criptease. One of his first thoughts was of a man to invite. I feel like a total ass because I can’t remember this guy’s name, but Tigger spoke of him so glowingly. He was a dwarf, and hard of hearing, and gay, and he needed braces to walk. According to Tigger, he also had the dirtiest, filthiest sense of humor of anyone he knew. More importantly, though, he was an advocate for queer rights, for disability rights, for any rights. Give him a cause, Tigger said, and he would fight for it. He could not be here tonight, though, because he had recently been hit by a cab while walking home late at night. The accident was fatal.

I sat at my table in the back, thinking to myself, what a fucking incredible world we live in, where a gay ginger man can stand totally nude onstage and deliver one of the most heartfelt eulogies I’ve ever heard, and move me to tears for a man I’ve never met.

The finale was in incredibly irreverent rendition of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, sung by Mat, while he stripped and Julie Atlas Muz did an interpretive dance. Towards the end of the song, Julie did a headstand in front of Mat and lowered her legs in an inverted spread eagle, and they…joined together. As shocking as it was to have to two of them practically simulating sex onstage, it was also quite symbolic of what the entire show was supposed to mean, or did mean. It was a celebration of complete acceptance, not only of the disabled by the able-bodied, but more importantly, of the disabled of themselves. Each and every performer on that stage asserted that they were a whole person, regardless of their physical abilities. And they were not only accepted but celebrated. That celebration of everyone owning their own selves in entirety seems to be at the heart of neo-burlesque. Criptease was a great example of that.


The Truth

The events of Gypsy Rose Lee’s life are fantastic in the most literal sense of the word: they seem to be part of a fantasy. Because she wrote them in a memoir, they are supposed to be entirely true. But with a little additional outside reading, conflicting accounts mar Gypsy’s credibility. Of course, any firsthand account is going to be subjective. But can a memoir be true without being factually accurate?

Rachel Shteir tears some of Gypsy’s assertions to shreds—or, rather, pokes holes in them from a sadly skeptical point of view. A fantastic example of this their accounts of Gypsy’s striptease number, “Lonely Little Eve.” Gypsy recounts carefully enticing men in the house to take bites of her apple, and impulsively tossing the core to a man in a box, who leaned out too far and fell into the orchestra pit. He emerged unhurt to applause. Shteir asserts that this man was a plant. This is, of course, far more likely than Gypsy’s tale of impulse and show-lady-ship. The difference brings Gypsy’s goals clearly into focus: she writes for show, and telling a good story. Gypsy’s version is exactly what the audience would have seen. Perhaps an audience member would have concluded that the falling man was a plant, but ultimately it doesn’t matter.

Shteir doesn’t use this as an example of how Gypsy was a sham artist, though. She says that Gypsy “teased and then revealed that her teasing was just a sham” (181). Shteir actually gives more credit to Gypsy’s intellect, whereas Gypsy paints herself simply as a magnetic, irresistible stage presence. Gypsy’s story is simply mystical, while Shteir’s is logical and much more likely.

Gypsy’s memoirs are full of other stories that are much more unlikely. More fascinating than the unlikely ones, though, are the accounts of her other family members, particularly her mother. Gypsy writes of her own childhood with innocence that belies her actual feelings of the period. Most pointedly, she does not judge her mother. Mama Rose pushes her children brutally and drives a relentless publicity machine, but when writing of her childhood, Gypsy has little to say that isn’t good about her mother. Her little sister is blatantly favored, and the girls are trucked around the country living in hotels with meals cooked over Sterno cans. But Gypsy allows the readers to judge on their own.

Overall, Gypsy’s memoirs can be critiqued for inaccuracy, but I think that’s foolish. To do so is missing the point. Throughout her childhood, Mama Rose bent the truth for the sake of the show and publicity. Gypsy retained that when she grew up. And even with her memoirs, which may be rife with factual inaccuracies, Gypsy’s falsehoods are told for the sake of the show. And even though every word might not be what happened, I believe that they are true to her and her experiences. And ultimately, the objective truth matters so much less than the subjective truth. That’s what makes a good story. That’s what gives us humanity. And that is what makes Gyspy Rose Lee a legend.

A Pensive Close-Up and Some Wistful Music

Extreme close-up on a woman’s face. The picture is slightly fuzzy, but it quickly sharpens into focus, making the image of the lower-right quarter of a face clear. A pierced nose, a cheek, a jawline, half of a chin, lips.

“I’m a virgin,” the woman confesses with some difficulty, accompanied by a few heartbreaking notes on the piano.

A Wink and a Smile is full of moments like this. In fact, within the first few minutes of the movie, Indigo Blue, headmistress of the Seattle Burlesque Academy, introduces the concept of the film in confessional, interspersed with slow-motion clips of her own performances, set to a woman vocalizing over a piano. She talks about helping women find their sexuality and confidence.

The film is full of confessional moments like this. They’re necessary in a documentary, especially with such interesting characters – there’s a taxidermist, a student studying sexology, an opera singer, a 51-year-old mom. That’s how you build connections between the film and the audience, building interest for the film.

But when you start a confessional with a girl in tears, so early in the film, it makes you think. Particularly for a documentary about burlesque, you have to think about when tropes become cliches. A Wink and a Smile has so many slow-motion shots, so many intentionally “soulful” shots, that it becomes a very tongue-in-cheek burlesque of a documentary. This gets really meta, if you think about it – it’s a burlesque documentary about burlesque.

The thing is, I’m not sure if the women know it, which makes me a little edgy. I want to laugh at them because they’re a little outrageous anyway, and particularly ridiculous when framed in this way. But if they don’t know that they’re being laughed at, then I’m not so sure I’m okay with that.

The shots of women standing and gazing pensively out at bodies of water, the melodramatic piano music in most of these confessionals, betrays a little bit more of a sense of humor on someone’s part than might be expected in a standard documentary. This peaks when, after the opera singer drops out of the class, she’s actually providing her own melodramatic piano piano music. She talks about how she worried too much about her family finding out and them being ashamed of her while the camera jumps between her talking and playing piano. It’s ridiculous, and certainly intentionally so, but again, does she know?

At the end of the day, the documentary really is a documentary about these women finding self-confidence and sexuality, and it’s got a lot of heart. And it’s hilarious, not just because of the documentary cliches but because of the absurdity of Indigo Blue explaining to this group of women that they should have their friends help them with “pussy checks” before they go onstage, and other such situations.

I just hope they intentionally burlesqued themselves.

Burlesque-a-Pades at Coney Island

Last Friday night, I made another trip down to Coney Island for my second Burlesque at the Beach show. Featuring the beautiful Pontani Sisters, this was a show that completely blew my mind. Presiding over the ceremonies was Murray Hill, who can basically be summed up in his quip to a particularly manly man in the audience:

“I know what you’re thinking, man or woman? The answer is no!”

After Murray opened the show, the gorgeous Angie Pontani took the stage for a solo tease, wearing a form-fitting green dress that sparkled with a thousand sequins. After she had stripped down to little more than her brilliant smile, Angie picked up two massive emerald green fans and started a seductive fan dance. She was a peacock. A glorious, sexy peacock.

And somehow, the show only got better from there.

Helen Pontani was next, and although I thought it would be impossible to follow Angie, she did it quite well. When you’re only tap dancing and not stripping, there’s a little bit less to holler at, but I loved Helen every bit as much as her sister, so I definitely did my part to keep audience response up. Girl deserves it!

The rest of the first act is a little bit mixed up in my head, but only because the three other dancers were so mind-blowing.

I’m pretty sure Melody Sweets was next. She seduced first with her voice – Melody sings original jazz songs, and damn, does she ever sing! What a luscious instrument that lady has. (She’s on iTunes, for the record.) Her singing-and-stripping act was absolute perfection, complete with a few blasts of glitter. I highly recommend downloading “Piece of Heaven,” at the very least.

Kitten DeVille’s hips should be registered as lethal weapons with the government. Her gyrations could kill a man if he got too close. I love her look – kind of like Marilyn Monroe’s predatory sister. Kitten has the blonde, vintage haircut, but none of Marilyn’s softness – Kitten DeVille will get what she wants or no one gets it. It was terrifyingly sexy.

The first act closed with a full Pontani Sister chair dance, where Angie and Helen and a third (who I still can’t identify) were being delightfully naughty with their chair dance. Angie has such a wonderful, self-assured quality about her, which shines through and pulls all sorts of focus, not to mention adding a tremendous depth to her already substantial sexiness. The highlight of the number was definitely when she lit up a cigarette, leaned way back over her chair, and did some sort of fancy inhale, keeping the smoke hovering around her lips.

Suffice to say, I wished I could suck that smoke right back out.

The second act was more of the same from everyone, which is not to say it got boring. At all. This was certainly not hurt by the beer I grabbed at intermission – the Coney Island Human Blockhead is not a brew to be fucked with. Anyway, Angie stripped again, I picked my jaw up the floor, Helen tapped, Kitten stripped again, and Melody did another fantastic act, this time with two assistants. She was dressed as an Egyptian goddess, and her two assistants in little black dresses posed as grave robbers, who stripped off their dresses and then re-dressed themselves in Melody’s gold clothes, while she stood completely still and crooned. Kill me.

As outstanding as this whole show was, I deliberately skipped over one performer in this little recap. Miss Tickle was really the standout of the night. When Murray introduced her for the first time, he mentioned several awards that she’s picked up, but I can’t remember any of them, because her dances blew my mind. For her first dance, Miss Tickle was dresses as a mermaid, with a tight fitted skirt that flared into fins when it hit her feet. She started the dance seated, with two fans forming a giant oyster shell around her face and body. It was a beautiful, lovely fan dance, which of course ended with Miss Tickle the Mermaid gaining legs and strutting around the stage. Her Act 2 dance was really the one that left me speechless. Miss Tickle entered all in white, wearing a short bustle skirt made entirely of feathers. Her bustle was in fact made of feather fans – throughout the course of the strip, Miss Tickle attached a fan to each of her upper arms, and at the end of the dance, took one more in each hand, and suddenly she was no longer just a dancer, she was an angel. The image burned into my head from the night is that of a lovely nude burlesque angel – Miss Tickle, at the end of her incredible tease.

Of course, the image that hangs on my wall after this show is a pinup of Angie Pontani, which I bought and had her sign after the show. She’s an absolute sweetheart, and both her and Helen were very amused when I mentioned that I had watched their self-made documentary, 5’2″ and Showy, in Dr. Lucky’s burlesque class at NYU. They’re lovely women, with incredible stage presence and drive, and I’m so happy that I could thank them personally for an incredible evening.

Even after just these two shows, I’m convinced of the quality of the Coney Island burlesque shows. If you have a free Friday night, it’s more than worth the $15 ticket price and the trip out there.

The Mysterious Annabelle Whitford

The obituary of Annabelle Moore gives very few details about her life. She was a performer, a dancer, who was “fatally burned in the great Chicago theater fire.” The majority of the column in which her obituary appears is taken up by a large photograph of Moore,  surrounded rather gruesomely by flames, smoke, and panicked theater patrons. No memorable performances are mentioned. The greater part of the text is actually given over to a description of how Moore avoided performing at an event that would have been far too scandalous: a dinner party given by one Clinton Barnum Seeley, requesting that Moore—also known as Annabelle Whitford—stripped entirely nude.  Moore/Whitford refused and brought the police down on Seeley.

Most interesting about this obituary is that it gives no mention whatsoever of Whitford ever having danced as Little Egypt, which was what brought her to my attention. Rachel Shteir asserts in her book Striptease that Annabelle Whitford was the only name to be attached to a Little Egypt dancer. Piqued by this omission in her obituary, I set out to find the truth of the matter.

The account of the Seeley affair in the obituary, found in the San Francisco Chronicle, is consistent with another report of the incident found in a Washington Post feature on the ensuing trial. Whitford is portrayed as an unfortunate victim who, although having been a “public dancer” for the past four years, is not entirely depraved and without standards. The performance requested of Whitford is slightly different here—according to the Post, she was only asked to appear nude from the waist down. Of course, that could ostensibly be what the writer of her obituary meant as well. Equally likely is an intentional sensationalizing of the event at the later date, or simply an inflation of events.

The Post column reveals a few more interesting tidbits about Whitford. Assuming that the age she gives—eighteen—is accurate, as is the her figure of having been a public dancer for four years, Whitford began performing at the age of fourteen, “at the time of the World’s Fair” in Chicago. Her dancing debut was at a venue called the Grotto, which was apparently “reputable,” although “liquors were sold there.” Whitford also describes two of her costumes. One seems to be  fairly conservative—the sleeves are short and the neck low-cut, but the skirt reaches her ankles and she wears tights underneath. The other costume is not described except for the total yardage of fabric involved (110 yards “of silk and gauze”), which leads one to believe that it, too, is fairly conservative.

This report from the Post is fascinating in that there is a good deal of distance put between Whitford and any Little Egypt act, and no real connection between them. Another dancer who was at the party gives a description of Little Egypt’s costume, which left the dancer “practically naked” according to the reporter and the standards of the day. This account comes at the end of the column, whereas Whitford’s testimony takes up the first half. If there is truly any connection between Whitford and any Little Egypt act, let alone the one that performed at this scandalous party, both witnesses and reporters are being careful not to make it known.

Another account recalling this infamous dinner and scandal appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on February 27, 1987, about a month and a half after the courtroom account in the Post was published. This column gives Annabelle’s surname as Moore and again paints her as the dancer who brought down the fire on the Seeley party because she was so offended at the prospect of appearing nude. In this article, however, she appears right after a mention of Little Egypt, whose name appears in quotations in this paper.

It is difficult to conclude whether or not Whitford was indeed a Little Egypt dancer at the Seeley dinner, but she continued performing regardless, appearing in a number of touring stage productions. She is listed playing Johnnie, a friend of Prince Charming’s, in a production entitled The Sleeping Beauty and the Beast. In this breeches role, Whitford was surely a draw to the audience, who could glimpse her scandalous legs. Her final tour was in a production called Mr. Blue Beard, in which Whitford played Stella, Queen of the Fairies. The spectacle opened the brand-new Iroquois Theater in Chicago, and a notice in the Tribune heralding its arrival lauded the play’s spectacle above all else. The second act is reported to “contain more gorgeousness than has yet been shown on the American stage,” and not one but two ballets are advertised. Although Whitford was listed as a principal performer for this production, it seems likely that the Queen of the Fairies would take part in ballets entitled “The Land of the Ferns” and “The Triumph of the Magic Fan.”

Whitford appears again in connection with the Iroquois Theater and Mr. Blue Beard, this time in a New York Times article about the hazards of overcrowding in theaters; specifically the danger associated with evacuating in the event of a fire. Whitford appears here as a victim of such a fire at the Iroquois, the injuries from which ultimately took her life. The column speaks of her proudly as a New York girl, but spends more time remembering her involvement in the Seeley affair. Whitford herself gets a short paragraph. The scandal is reviewed in the following two.

Annabelle Whitford remains a bit of an enigmatic figure. She was certainly a dancer who showed a little skin, and she was certainly centrally involved in the infamous Seeley party. Her prominence in that trial was one of the distinguishing features of her career, and followed her the rest of her life, presumably giving her career a nice little boost of notoriety. But was she a Little Egypt dancer? It does seem likely, but contemporary reports are murky on the subject. It seems most likely that she did dance as Little Egypt, but abandoned the act and attempted to distance herself from the persona as much as possible in order to provide a more credible defense at her trial. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to know for sure.

Works Cited/Referenced

Annabelle Moore Fatally Burned. (1904, January 1). San Francisco Chronicle (1869-Current file), p. 2. Retrieved July 13, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers San Francisco Chronicle (1869-Current file).

Before the Footlights. (1901, November 5). Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1922), p. 5. Retrieved July 13, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers Chicago Tribune (1849 – 1987).

Conditions in New York. (1903, December 31). New York Times (1857-1922), p. 2. Retrieved July 13, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers, New York Times (1857-1922).

The Guest of Honor at the Sherry Feast. (1897, February 27). San Francisco Chronicle (1869-Current file), p. 16. Retrieved July 13, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers San Francisco Chronicle (1869-Current file).

Playbills. (1903, November 22). Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1922),p. 33.  Retrieved July 13, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers Chicago Tribune (1849 – 1987).

Shteir, Rachel. Striptease: The Untold History of the Girlie Show. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.

Those Dinner Dances. (1897, January 10). The Washington Post (1877-1993),p. 5. Retrieved July 13, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The Washington Post (1877-1993).

Burlesque at the Beach: Trixie Little and the Evil Hate Monkey’s Burlesque Circus

Last Friday, I had the exquisite pleasure of attending a burlesque show at Coney Island. They’re having shows all summer on Thursday and Friday nights as a Burlesque at the Beach series, presented in the Sideshow by the Shore building. More info at

This was my first burlesque experience, apart from stalking Dita von Teese on Youtube and Twitter, and I have to say, I could not have wished for a better beginning. Although I’m sure it was once far more offensive, the sideshow building is still an assault on good taste, and piling onto the rough wooden bleachers bordered by chicken wire really got me in the mood for something deliciously sketchy. The space gives a sense of dilapidated seediness, and you know the place was never pure or respectable. The walls and floor are bright red and yellow, paint everywhere chipping. There were too many of us to fit in front of the stage, despite a row seated on the floor, and a good number of people had to watch the performances from the side of the stage. Every act attempted to cater to them and include them, which I appreciated, but I know they didn’t get nearly a good a show as the people facing front.

Ah well. Sucks to be them.

I’m not going to go sequentially throughout the entire show, because frankly I can’t quite remember the order. Instead I’ll go by performer.

So to start things off, there was Mr. Ding-a-ling, our master of ceremonies and ringmaster for the Burlesque Circus. He was self-deprecating and dirty, pushing the envelope of good taste just far enough. Particularly fascinating and new to me was the way that he welcomed and encouraged heckling. I’m not used to that sort of audience participation, but it only made sense in the context we were in. He was quite entertaining throughout the entire show, making the most of the seemingly unexpected dead air that occurred between acts sometimes.

Ekaterina the Great was the first performer we saw. Her first number was acts of flexibility, performed with an air of terror and charming anxiety. She made the most wonderfully pained faces as she slid down into splits and backbends, settling into her poses with smiles that landed somewhere between jubilation and pride, a middle ground between “Look at me!” and “Oh my god this is awful please let me stop now.” It was terribly amusing. For this act she wore a short curly black wig–very short–and a black leotard-type garment which was sparkly and glittery and meshy and sometimes made me fear that we were going to see a bit more of her crotch than she intended. But everything stayed in place. When Ekaterina reappeared onstage later in the evening, she wore some pink lingerie and jumped into some silks that had been lowered from the ceiling. The fabric was very translucent, and she had let her blonde hair down. The combination of seeing her silhouetted in the silks and her flowing hair was absolutely delicious. Her acts nicely rounded out the circus theme of the evening.

Mr. Gorgeous, too, opened with some circus-type acrobatics. A trapeze-man, he spun about in the air, beginning with a simplicity and enthusiasm that one usually only attributes to the mentally challenged. His tricks and skills proved him to be of quite normal intelligence, and indeed more graceful on the bar than I would have expected.

When Mr. Ding-a-ling announced the first appearance of Trixie Little and the Evil Hate Monkey, I couldn’t help but shiver with anticipation. I had never heard of them before this show, but I did a little research beforehand, and I knew that I was going to love them.

Trixie is fucking adorable. She perfectly toes the line between innocence and naughtiness, a very intentional woman playing up her childlike qualities and stature before she blows your mind with how ridiculously sexy she is. Anyway, Trixie started out with a flea circus act which was wonderfully disastrous. She was costumed in red, with a top hat and bustle, and as her flea circus failed miserably, she kept going with fantastic pluck. It was really some of the best intentionally bad acting I’ve ever seen. More genius was the transition from flea circus to striptease – Trixie lost a flea, and had to go searching through all of her clothing for the poor little bug. Naturally, the flea was only found when Trixie was down to her g-string and pasties.

Trixie’s overall tone with this act and all of her other numbers was something I’ll probably be comparing other acts to for a long time. She really struck a perfect chord between incidental–being completely unconscious of her double entendres, or of her sex appeal–and intentional, being in complete control of what we saw, when we saw it, and how we saw it.

It was hot as hell.

The Hate Monkey was also an incredible performer. He had a solo strip as well, and a couple of numbers with Trixie. He really stuck to his character, which is another thing that I noticed with all of these successful performances. He was definitely a talking monkey, kind of an idiot and simple-minded, but capable of supreme acts of physical grace and coordination. The man did a fucking pointe number in a banana-yellow tutu with a ridiculous wide-eyed monkey face the whole time. That takes some serious skills.

Dr. Lucky was a brilliant introduction to a more grotesque burlesque. Both of her characters – Hozo the Clown (which is a great name) and Miss Dairy Queen – pulled some fantastic grimaces, which they clearly thought were sexy faces. Again, her commitment to character was total. Having her follow Trixie was a great contrast. Where Trixie was intentionally unintentional, Dr. Lucky is over-intentional. Trixie had to use her teeth to take her satin gloves off because there was no other way to find the flea, it just happened to be very sexy. Dr. Lucky took her big poofy clown gloves off with her teeth because it sexy, goddamnit, and Hozo is one sexy motherfucking clown.

The funny thing was, though, that in the end, Dr. Lucky really was sexy. She took herself seriously the to point of not taking herself seriously anymore, and somewhere in there, she struck something absolutely alluring. You could subtitle her act the proof that confidence really is the sexiest thing, even when the woman in question is a beauty queen with six breasts (Oh hey, Miss Dairy Queen!)

Of course, the patriotic revue number at the end of the show needs a mention. Since it was the Fourth of July weekend, there were a fuckton of American flags being waved around during the finale. The biggest one was attached to its pole upside-down. That, ladies and gentlemen, is irreverence at its finest.

I had a fantastic time, and I’m pretty sure this show was a good introduction to some burlesque aesthetics. The balance between parody and sincerity, between self-awareness and self-conciousness, the sheer dirtiness of it all. I’m very much looking forward to my next show, which will be soon, and I’ll surely be returning to another Burlesque at the Beach before the summer’s out.

This is Bella….

Hello beautifuls, Bella here.

This blog is gonna start as an exploration of American burlesque, historical and neo-burlesque.

But it might go wandering in other directions too! Here we are, here we go…