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 http://www.coneyisland.com/burlesque.shtml
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.