The Goddess, Immodesty Blaize, talks bonkbusters, Ambition, waistlines and Texas.
1. You’ve never performed in Texas, correct? What are your expectations for your March 20th show in Dallas?
I am really looking forward to coming. The promoter has been incredibly welcoming. Generally I have no expectations or pre-judgments whenever I perform somewhere new; I just give everything to my audience wherever I am!
2. What made you choose Dallas for the location of the U.S. premier of your new film, “Burlesque Undressed”?
There’s a great tradition of entertainment in Texas and I’ve been approached a number of times to perform there. The opportunity to combine a USA Film Festival premiere with a performance (which features Dirty Martini and Perle Noire) was a great idea for collaboration.
3. Have you noticed any significant differences between your audiences in the U.S. and those at your shows in the U.K.?
I find the audiences equally appreciative, and with a similar split of around 60% female to 40% male. If anything I would say that perhaps the mainstream American audience is a little more conservative than the European audience.
4. Your first novel “Tease” came out last year, and your second, “Ambition” will be out later this year. Care to tell us a little about the upcoming book? What other literary aspirations do you have?
The upcoming book is called ‘Ambition’ and it’s set in Vegas. It’s another bonkbuster and so you’ll find plenty of sex, scandal, private jets, Alpha males, superheroines, feathers, big hair…I think the best way to sum it up would be Dynasty meets Paul Verhoeven’s ‘Showgirls’. I’m seriously considering setting the third one in Dallas…so I hope I get to come back for some more in depth ‘research’!
5. After seeing you in person, I must say that the most astounding of all your breathtaking features was your waistline. You mention in your film that your waist shrinks to 19 or 20 inches when you’re wearing your corset. Have you always been able to tighten it so severely, or did you train your waist by tight lacing? If so, how long have you been tight lacing?
Thanks! No I don’t train my waist, I have an hourglass shape at rest, I’m 38-26-38 – so it’s not too much of a problem for me to take it down. The key for me to get the extra inch is just to not eat anything bulky the day of a show. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone as daily wear and I only wear them that tight for short periods, I find it very uncomfortable to go down to 19 inches, as it hurts my back in particular. I once nearly vomited right before a show when I realized I couldn’t actually breathe. But I was stuck in the darn thing, with my shoulder pack strapped on underneath, my crystal underwire garroting my breasts, my headdress clamped in place, a choker tight around my throat, and sweltering under 50 kilos of feathers – I think it was a costume claustrophobic reaction. I’m sure there are many out there who identify!
6. In your film, your milliner Stephen Jones made the comment about your grandiose wardrobe, “It’s a costume. But she always wears it; it never wears her.” Can you think of any scenarios (performances, photo shoots, etc) in which you felt like your costume was “wearing you”? I’ve heard you describe some of your headdresses as “medieval torture devices.” How do you manage to make wearing them look so easy? (and glamorous, at that!)
Some costumes can be painful to wear, but it’s the smile you wear that completely outshines all that discomfort. If you want the exaggerated visual effect that the costume gives then you just find a way to deal with it. You can ‘tame’ the costume – rehearse a lot with it and find out what movement you can and can’t do, and get used to the pain/weight/restriction. Ultimately I think your persona still has to be the star, rather than the rhinestones – so the costume should suit, and work for the personality, not the other way around. I don’t mind the ‘no pain no gain’ thing – if it’s a hell of an effort to get it right then it feels like I’m going the extra mile in my presentation. I somehow feel more dressed to kill if my feet are dying in 6 inch heels. This will get me lynched by feminists, but it’s just how I feel, for me I don’t see the difference between that and the pain I feel after 100 crunches in the gym!
7. Other than the snag you ran into when choosing the name for the Tease Show, have you had any other experiences with censorship?
Not especially. Although occasionally some of my corporate clients ask me to reveal less, and not to remove my bra. (Dior for example). I’ll work closely with my clients to make sure we meet in the middle and achieve something they are 100% comfortable with, whilst still giving a burlesque performance. I’m not sure there’s any point just doing a dance routine in a corset, I wouldn’t try and pass that off as burlesque.
8. I’ve read that you immersed yourself in books as child, and in your film you touch on the topic of the escapist element of burlesque. Are your performances a way for you to bring those childhood fantasies to life? I mean, what little girl wouldn’t want an 8-foot crystal-encrusted red rocking horse or a 6-foot bejeweled telephone?
Actually an element of that horse prop was inspired by memories of the rocking horse my grandfather carved for me when I was tiny! However my shows are very much centered around ‘The Woman’ and I don’t really perform girlie things – no tutus or cupcakes. (At 6’3 in my heels it would look absurd if I came over all porcelain doll.) For me the escapist element came about because I always loved to create fantasy worlds and continued that into my adult life through working in film, and with writing and art. I am a huge fan of ‘camp’ which obviously involves an exaggeration of reality too, I love to include humor, and a sense of ‘ridiculous’, it’s probably just the European eccentricity in me.
9. What upcoming projects are you excited about? What are your goals for the upcoming year?
I tend not to talk too much about future projects in case I jinx them! But I will have some fabulous new performances in store, books….
10. How do you go about obtaining the goal of being perceived as “other-worldly,” as you mention in your film?
I used that term I guess as a way of relating to the concept of a ‘glamour’ which is, literally, a spell. With showgirls and actresses in mind for example, in setting up a much more exaggerated version of reality, it presents a vision to an audience that they would never see in everyday life – ie not in their immediate world – otherworldly. That way it becomes a special and memorable experience to watch and it has the capacity to transport the audience away from their every day concerns. However if you think about it, we create this believable idea that we waft around in gowns and rhinestones all day – the irony is that it’s not just an illusion, we really do live like that – because it’s part of the job, it’s vertical integration.
11. How do you think burlesque will change in upcoming years to accommodate the current boom in the industry?
Certainly there are great opportunities for mainstream awareness. Burlesque was always meant to be populist and accessible for both high and low culture, so it’s good to see a return to a mainstream audience base. Although it’s impossible to predict how the genre will evolve. I have no idea! I just hope that in whatever direction it progresses there will continue to be great new ideas, and high quality. If there aren’t then the audiences won’t want to come back for more!
12. When U.S. audiences first saw you, it was at the 2007 Miss Exotic World competition where you took the crown, but what about the first time you ever hit the stage as a burlesque performer? Did you have large scale props, fabulous costumes, and spot-on choreography or was it more “modest”?
Back in ‘98 there were no burlesque clubs in London; I performed on the performance art scene. There wasn’t the stage space for huge props, and there weren’t the audiences back then to pay for $50,000 costumes! However it was a vibrant and creative underground scene, I learned a lot. My first ‘classic’ act was a ‘garden of delights’, with an old velvet chaise lounge covered in fresh flowers, roses, petals, it smelt great but was pricey to do every show. (In retrospect it was a little like Lili St Cyr’s flower-covered throne.) I also experimented with Berliner cabaret influences, some of my acts were more ‘neo’. I surprised an audience once when I entered in immaculate black Victorian men’s riding gear to a baroque, before stripping into a military pony girl in sparkling harnesses to a Goldfrapp heavy electro cover of ‘Yes Sir I can Boogie’ which she sung as a political statement about the 2nd Iraq war. I really enjoyed those early days of experimentation! I guess it allowed my stage persona to develop naturally.
13. You found your burlesque name when the gas man compared you to the comic book character Modesty Blaise. Other than physical characteristics, is there anything else about her character with which you can identify?
Yes she had been a child without a family who had to grow up quick. Other than that, no I’m not a hit woman. I do have a secret penchant for thigh boots though, but as part of uniform or riding….
14. With so many projects, from managing the details of every production from the props & costumes to the talent, to writing and film projects, how do you manage to find time for things like meals and sleep?
Haha, I don’t! I’m writing this at 4 am!
15. What does a typical day look like for you? Is there any sort of routine?
No routine. But I have to be disciplined, for example I have to get my word counts done when I’m in the middle of a novel, I have a weekly training regime, I live by deadlines for shows etc …. But it’s a funny old job, as you know it’s time consuming to design and create shows, and the performances take me all over the world so I travel a lot. I have a low boredom threshold so it probably suits me best that no two days are the same. I try to squeeze in time in my house in France whenever possible so I can take an afternoon out by the pool to gather my thoughts.
16. What do you enjoy when not immersed in burlesque?
Art. Any kind of art or culture. Although not performance necessarily, I do try to have a break from that. I also like to DJ electro, disco, and soul as listening to 40s/50s music every day drives me round the bend occasionally.
17. Just out of curiosity, how many diamonds adorn your diamond merkin?
None, they’re constructed in China by my costume jeweler who uses cut crystals. Shhh, that’s not very other-worldly is it!
Miss Blaize will be performing for the first time in Texas on March 20th at the Lakewood Theater, as well as screening her new film Burlesque Undressed. For more info on the show, please visit our Events page.
Dirty Martini talks Texans, the Moisture Festival, straight men, and about her first Burlesque show.
Interview: Divertida Devotchka
Q: You’re featured in Immodesty Blaize’s documentary “Burlesque Undressed.” What was your reaction when you were informed you’d be included in the project?
Immodesty approached me about participating in her film when I performed in her show the year before at Koko nightclub in London. It was a fabulous show and I love her so I was more than happy to be interviewed for the film at the Burlesque Hall of Fame weekend the following year. Unfortunately the amazing footage from that show wasn’t able to be used in her documentary and I wasn’t able to perform in the show that all of the wonderful footage was pulled from due to my shoot schedule for the French film “Tournee” which will premiere at Cannes in May, but luckily it was used for my documentary Dirty Martini and the New Burlesque which will screen at the Dallas film festival in April. I’m really thrilled that the footage will be used as it was a very professional shoot and I was devastated that I wasn’t able to perform in her show last May because that was even better looking! I hate to have to pass up any opportunity to work with Immodesty.
Q: You’ll be performing in Dallas on March 20th for the U.S. premier of the aforementioned film. Do you think Dallas is ready for Dirty?
Every city I’ve gone to all over the world has been very warm and receptive to my performance and made me feel extremely welcome and I’ve heard that Texans have big hearts so I’m excited to perform there. I was in Austin a couple of years ago and had a great experience there and loved it so I suspect I will feel right at home.
Q: Do you have any other film projects in the works?
I have two short films out currently touring the film festivals, one a short format documentary by Iban del Campo and a beautiful silent film by Steven Dirkes called the Object. I worked with French actor Mathieu Amalric for a film that will premiere this May in Cannes called Tournee and Dirty Martini and the New Burlesque by Gary Beeber will be having its first screening at the Moisture Festival in Seattle March 29th. I’ll be there with Burlesque Undressed on the 23rd as well. It’s been really fun planning Immodesty’s U.S. release along with my film too.
Q: You were recently voted the top fan favorite in the 21st Century Pinups Burlesque Top 50. How does that make you feel? What was your reaction when you heard the news?
I was very surprised to be voted number one and honored because of the company in the top 20 alone! It must have been a very tight vote indeed. I’m a big fan of Catherine D’Lish and Michelle L’Amour and Immodesty and Julie Atlas Muz and Dita and and and….. so you can only imagine how incredible it is to have such wonderful fans to vote me in there too! I feel very lucky indeed.
Q: The Lagerfeld photos in the V Magazine size issue are absolutely out-of-this-world! In a recent interview you mentioned that you didn’t know it was going to be a plus-size issue when you agreed to do it. Had you known that going into it, would you still have agreed to do the shoot? Do you feel like knowing that beforehand would have altered your perception, preparation or behavior going into it?
Well…. It’s not like you tell Karl Lagerfeld and V Magazine you couldn’t possibly come to Paris and shoot at the House of Chanel! It was an incredible experience and I felt shocked that Steven Gan and Steven Chaiken at V thought of me for the editorial. I suppose the whole thing made more sense when I found out a month later that it would be a magazine devoted to all body types. I think it’s a shame that people only think of it as a plus size issue when there are really all types of women represented. Actually, come to think of it there aren’t all types of women in it. People were complaining that I am obese and some of the other models were as well, but I didn’t see anyone over a size 16 in any of the shoots. Considering that the average size for women in the U.S. is currently a size 14, there seems to be a disconnect in the fashion world. Big surprise there. My goal for what I’m doing in burlesque is to have women with womanly features represented properly in today’s hyper-controlled media. I believe that this is a big step for me and my mission statement!
Q: You’ve mentioned that you seek inspiration in drag queens and burlesque legends of the past. Care to elaborate on this?
When I moved to New York City, I went to drag shows at least once a week. I really loved the spirited and improvisational nature of the performances and the fact that they were edgy and interesting. Burlesque never really died in New York. Kitten Natividad performed at Show World in her own burlesque review in the 80′s, Ann Magnusson hosted a Vaudeville night featuring burlesque themed material and Jackie 60 in the early 90′s kept the spirit alive. Drag Queens in NY like International Chrysis and Candice Cayne kept that sexualized uber glamour alive for us and we should all be praying to them like the goddesses they are! They in turn – along with the Something Weird Video reels of old burlesque that I studied before creating my own burlesque routines – inspired me to be the glamour-crazed performer I am today.
Q: You were inspiration in the neo-burlesque revival, especially in New York. What have you noticed about the changes in the neo-burlesque scene in the past ten years? Any patterns you notice in different parts of the country?
Yes, there are patterns but every place is different. I knew that in London and the UK it would become a big retro craze like Carnaby Street in the 60′s. When I performed in Paris for the first time I knew it would grow there too. I saw the very first new burlesque show in Paris’ Bastille district. Kitten on the Keys and I went to see Kisses Cause Trouble there and arrived too late because we were confused by the 24 hour clock. They ended up repeating the entire show just for us and their fans stayed to watch it again as well. That’s the spirit of New Burlesque- that punk rock DIY feeling! Burlesque will always have its high end shows and its more campy and experimental shows and it’s wonderful that there is room for all that self expression. I feel it’s very important for women to express their sexuality in a free and unencumbered way with no edicts from society or more particularly straight men.
Q: How rewarding is it to know that you are such an inspiration to women of all sizes? You’ve remarked before that “the power of possibility” is the most important result of burlesque’s influence on its female audience. Can you talk more about that power?
I would hope that I inspire ladies not to give up on their own power. I’m happy to be a role model for plus-sized ladies, but more than that I feel like the leader of a powerful revolution for women’s rights. What we do in burlesque in the 21st century is so much more than just glamour and beauty and a rhinestone leg show. I believe it also to be an important expression of female culture. People talk about the Amazonian tribe of myth, and well, I think we have that potential as well. Women are very powerful and taking away our power over our own reproduction and sexual expression is akin to castration. It keeps us down and powerless.
Q. Do you think Karl Lagerfeld knew what he was getting into when you first entered the room for your shoot? Was he able to match your energy and pace when trying to capture your images?
Lagerfeld is a very busy glamour puss! He was shooting his own film that day and my shoot was like a little side diversion. He was exhausted by the time he got to me because his day started at 7am. It’s not easy to be the most glamorous man in the world and have your day start at that hour. Our shoot started at 10pm right after the film wrapped for the day, but he gave me as much as I gave him. I adored him and everyone on that set. They treated me with respect and I had a wonderful time.
Q. You’ve said that there were several Coco Chanel look-alikes milling about the area during your shoot due to a movie being filmed. How crazy was that?
Everyone on set thought it was surreal seeing Jane Schmitt dressed as Chanel later in her life. She was the spitting image of Chanel herself! The film is posted to Youtube (and you can see it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3t_3fIWFlw). I loved the woman who played the Duchess of Windsor, Amanda Harlech; she was someone with an incredible aura. I had never heard of her, but when I met her I knew she was someone I wanted to get to know better. Apparently she is a confidant to Lagerfeld and John Galliano. I just thought she was an amazing person. Jane Schmitt was too and that’s why she was in the photos with me. It wasn’t planned, we just happened to be talking and getting along and Lagerfeld started shooting us. She was a little unsure at first, but I made her feel welcome and told her I wanted her in the photos. I’m glad one of them was chosen for the magazine. I thought it was a fun juxtaposition as I felt Chanel’s spirit pirouetting in her grave while I was posing on her stairwell!
Q. Would you say that in a way your size/shape has been a double-edged sword for you in the industry? I’ve seen remarks from you before that you feel like people always focus on that as opposed to your art/talent being the primary focus as it is with some of your contemporaries.
I do wish that people could not have prejudices, but that’s a tall order. I started performing burlesque routines because I felt that it put my dance training and body type in perspective, but some people can’t go on that journey with me due to their own ideas of what women should be. I hate that should word. I think it’s very dangerous.
Q. What the most fun experience you’ve had since embarking on your burlesque career? What has been your most challenging experience to date?
There are challenges in every career. Mine has been to keep myself motivated to make new work, but luckily I have had life changing experiences seeing what other performers have done within the burlesque medium and it keeps me inspired to make new and different pieces. The best experiences have been traveling and meeting new performers everywhere. The first time I heard backstage chatter about pasties and burlesque costumes with a mid-west accent was a fun and weird experience. Walking into old theaters and feeling the history in those buildings has been amazing too! I’ve met some incredible people because of burlesque, some very famous and some just regular folks and I’m always amazed at people’s generosity and fabulousness!
Dirty Martini will be performing with Perle Noire and the mighty Immodesty Blaize on March 20th at the Lakewood Theater, as well as answering questions about her role in the new film Burlesque Undressed. For more info on the show, please visit our Events page.
Putting a New Spin on the Tradition of Pinup: Meet Girls Drawin Girls
By Bubbles von BonBon
The female form has always been emulated in art with the artists of each period dictating what should be stylized and celebrated in these figures. Traditionally, with the emergence of comic art and design, the predominantly male profession of illustration has often left their female peers to try to reconcile their own artistic desires with the rules already in place regarding what women should look like in a fantasy world of idealized proportions. Essentially, men have been making the rules governing how women should be represented in pinup art.
Animators, artists, and designers have joined forces to form the all female collective Girls Drawin Girls within the visual arts community to change the norms associated with pinup imagery in comics. And they’re showing off their T&A in the process—a girl can get real far these days with Talent and Ambition. Co-founded by Melody Severns of Simpsons fame and storyboard artist Anne Walker in 2006, Girls Drawin Girls has emerged into pinup art culture through varied channels. Organizing events in southern California to showcase their works and collaborating on themed print pinup books, the group seeks to inform us what the female artistic eye beholds as beauty while supporting each of their members’ pursuit of their place in the art world. Their blog features drawings from members old and new, artist spotlights, and links and information for what the girls do outside of their pinup work. Beyond bettering and advancing their own craft and recognition within the field, Girls Drawin Girls makes an effort to contribute to the betterment of the world around them by offering their works and time to charitable causes such as the Pasadena Chalk Festival and GDG’s recent fundraiser for American Red Cross aid in Haiti. While the girls don’t always receive monetary compensation, they are making a bold statement to the world: female artists hold an equally impactful place in the community of visual art.
The approximately 35 artists come from a wide scope of industries with a heavy concentration in the animation field. They share a common goal, proving the prowess of female artists in a male-dominated profession. And their common tastes run toward a more naturally rendered form—after all, don’t we prefer that even boob jobs look lush and appealing with feminine curves, rather than the bulbous forms sometimes inked by their male counterparts? But here’s another thing cool about these girls: even if they are women united in a common art with a common goal, each artist puts such a unique spin on what they believe is beautiful in the female form that it’s like seeing the women that surround you every day in a whole new light. You start looking for superheroes in the supermarket and wondering if the girl you see at the bar secretly likes to wear gardening gloves and a flirty apron. (See here, here, and here for some of my favorites on their blog.)
Female artists have long struggled to gain the recognition they deserve. From Artemesia Gentileschi gaining entrance as the first female artist into the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in the early Baroque period—painting imagery of strong female Biblical heroines typically ignored by her male peers, to the trivialized and still largely unrecognized “Ink and Paint Girls” of Walt Disney Animation that devoted countless hours to adding the extra sparkle and necessary color to produce the dream-like reality of Disney’s full length feature animation in the 1930s and 40s, women have been forced to fight hard against discrimination from their male colleagues, who were often resistant to accepting their artistic contributions. But you cannot complain about exclusion if you are not willing to do the steps necessary to establish yourself in a field, and like female artists of the past, GDG has joined together to prove that the viewer deserves to encounter a variety of aesthetic interpretations, regardless of gender, race, or any other factor related to the artist. They don’t seek recognition as female artists, but rather just as artists—equal to their male counterparts and with images just as powerfully appealing.
The 1940s and 50s are the periods most frequently associated with pinup art. However, unwilling to pigeonhole the pinup form to one particular decade or look, GDG’s first print volume featured the theme, A Girl in Time, offering diverse visions of the female form through the decades and even into the future. What makes their pinup art stand apart from that which is typically associated with mid-twentieth century drawn female forms is that there has been a power exchange. Now rather than women being merely the object of pinup interpretation, they become the subject of an aesthetic statement as women artists look into their own minds to decide what is attractive and illustrate that which allows their female figures the simultaneous opportunity to be both sexy and powerful. Pinup as a medium becomes an evolving art as female artists bring their own set of ideals to the table of artistic discussion. In a similar stance of taking control of how women are portrayed, the second volume by GDG showcased Once upon a Girl, a reinterpretation of fairytales that once again allows the artists to decide what fantasy should look like. If female viewers are the primary audience for fairytales, then female artists should have the opportunity to dictate the imagery associated with those stories.
Reinterpretation to put a female-positive spin on art forms that have been regarded as objectifying to some feminists is similar to another art form enjoying a great resurgence—burlesque. Just as the reemergence of striptease as a form of performance art has increasingly gained popularity among female fans, pinup art offers an opportunity to female artists to take charge of what they want portrayed as beauty in the public eye. Women enjoy sexual arts; but it’s altogether much more satisfying when they have a say in what is being sold as sexy. By choosing what they want to see in female forms, GDG is providing an entirely new and different canon of imagery for female artists after them. Relying on their pens and paints and laptops to illustrate pinups is more than just creating pretty girls to look at; it’s creating new tenets and options for what should be looked at as pretty.
Female artists may submit their portfolios for review to gain entrance to GDG, and a few of the seasoned artists and animators provide feedback for all submissions even if they are not deemed ready to join. There is a strong dedication here to encourage all artists who are searching for the right inspiration or support. Once they are part of the collective, the artists make a commitment to spend time creating images that work toward originating or establishing their own particular brand of pinup art.
The girls are based all over the country, with the majority found along the west coast. They communicate mostly through newsletters and emails, and they work together to produce their shows, printed volumes, and the blog. But there is no hard and fast rule of aesthetic that is accepted into GDG. As they set out to diversify the look of female characters in drawn and animated art, they do not discriminate against variety within their own ranks. This acknowledgment that each of the artists is allowed to embrace what she deems as beautiful in the female form frees each of the artists to embrace making a world as they wish to draw it, unrestrained by any rules except those that they form for themselves.
In terms of what they contribute to art and animation society as a whole, Girls Drawin Girls offers a forum to showcase a variety of female artists around a common theme that doesn’t limit the space for individual interpretation. For some there is a tendency toward strong superhero women, the likes of which haven’t found a strong foothold yet in comics and animation. For others, they turn to classic poses and shapes, yet there is often a tendency to better balance out those more naturalistically drawn bosoms with realistic hips and thighs…even when the small waists still take center stage. In some instances, body shape is not as relevant, the artists deciding instead to bring focus to facial features or a sense of emotion, their pinups evoking more than just a physical presence on the page. GDG gives each of their artists the space and opportunity to present what they see as pinup in its ultimate style. A growing force in the field of pinup art, Girls Drawin Girls is reshaping the lines of illustrative norms, in a way that is proving both fun for its members and highly effective—or addictive—to their fans and viewers.
Women Air Force Service Pilots
By: Hella Goode
Although the term usually brings to mind images of pointy-headed individuals, WASP does not always refer to a White Anglo Saxon Protestant, but in this case, something way more exciting. WASP refers to the Women Air force Service Pilots who bravely served their country during World War II. When Rosie the Riveter was queen and women were taking the place of men displaced at war in factories, stores and offices, when supplies of men were drying up the government began looking for domestically licensed women to fill pilot’s seats.
Officially begun in September 1942, the program only lasted about two years. When the men began to return from war, they wanted their jobs back, the ladies were sent packing as if it had never happened. Even the dead were sent off without military monetary compensation for their funerals. Thirty-eight lost their lives in training or piloting orders. Those who survived were forever changed. They had collectively flown 78 different aircrafts and over 60,000,000 miles of flight time.
During their service the WASPs were given menial housework tasks when not occupied flying. They were usually not sent on major missions, but ferried planes back and forth, sometimes tested other planes, and were even used to prove to the men that the B-29 was safe to fly. One would think that men, thinking themselves so brave and strong, would be the ones wanting to prove this to the women, not the women proving it to the men.
Over 1,000 women graduated from the vigorous training of an Air Force Pilot during those two years. Trained in the sizzling heat of Sweetwater, Texas, they were made to be as tough if not tougher than the men.
It was an experience that united women who were from very different ‘walks of life’ who otherwise might not have associated with one another nor had a common springboard to bond. Most of the candidates were single, young women, however there were married women and a few mothers who were selected to apply for the task at hand. Although it would seem obvious that their families would worry, the ladies felt the same sense of duty that their male counterparts did when addressing whether or not they would go to war. To many at that time, each individual had an obligation to serve whether it be in the military, at the workplace, or in the home. Interestingly, although the gender divide was as large as the Grand Canyon in the military, the economic status divide narrowed for prospective WASPs. WASPs included rich heiresses as well as less well-to-do farm girls. Ironically, no matter how much money the heiresses brought forth, they could not have bought the chance to become a WASP. WASPs were recruited from a list of privately licensed female pilots who had a certain amount of flight hours. For once, economic status would not interfere and allow for a truly equal opportunity where all women, at least, were created equal.
They found and lived freely only to be forced to return to the forced roles of standard life in the 1940’s and 1950’s where despite all they had achieved, they were once again limited to the options of housewifery and motherhood. These of course, are not bad choices, but really were not much of a choice as there were no alternatives. They yearned for other opportunities. Some applied to become commercial pilots, but were instead offered positions as stewardesses. It was not their safety records, or lack of flight hours that kept them grounded with the airlines but the simple fact that they were women. What would other pilots or passengers think? Others taught new pilots or became crop dusters in order to be able to keep flying. Still others found their prior roles just as fulfilling in offices and at home. Most of these brave lady soldiers never got the chance to pilot again. It wouldn’t be until the year 1977 when women would get another chance to be invited to fly military aircraft and finally be recognized for it. This, however, was when the WASPs fought back and became known as the first true female military pilots.
Today, when only 316 of the original 1, 074 lady wonders remain, the WASPs and women in general still have many hurdles to overcome. It’s ironic that despite feeling as close to equal as many of us do in this day and age, that it wasn’t until our lifetime that these women were finally recognized by the military for their service. To date, despite even dogs who fought in Vietnam having a memorial monument before the WASP pilots do. Keep in mind these dogs served in a war that dated later than the one fought by the brave women of the WASP unit. One would think that if choosing between the contributions of these heroic women and the also heroic canine units, that women would win the respect of men first. The problem with that statement is that it involves thinking and what reasonably good excuse could there have been to prevent women from doing what the WASP did both before and after World War II? Inequality and discrimination are beyond reason and logic. Thankfully, there have always been those ready to challenge such biased beliefs and try to instill change. What I’m sure women would like is not to take the place of the dog as ‘Man’s Best Friend,’ but instead to become to be seen as his equally brilliant and beautiful counterpart.
What the WASPs do currently have in their honor are two smaller pieces of recognition. In the Arlington National Cemetery, there is a memorial display for the Women in Military Service for America, which features one section about the WASPs. In 1996, the Postal Service created a stamp for the WASPs with the image of one of their founding mothers, Jacqueline Cochran, also known as a Pioneer Pilot. She later became the first female pilot to break the sound barrier. Before 1996, wasn’t that still something worth commemorating?
To learn more about the WASP experience, visit the site of their training in Sweetwater, Texas, home of the WASP Museum, or read up on some of their more personal stories in such books as Flying For Her Country by Amy Goodpaster-Strebe, and Winning My Wings by Marion Stegeman Hodgson. For those who wish to help make a permanent memorial for the WASP, they can make donations to the Memorial Campaign at http://waspmuseum.org/donation-sub-nav-page/.
Dallas Burlesque Festival, billed “The Sexiest Show in Big D” took place last month at the Historic Texas Theater in Oak Cliff, one of the oldest sections of Dallas. Only two years old, the festival, produced by Elisa Davis, Ginger Valentine, and Black Mariah, grew by leaps and bounds over its inaugural year. While ticket sales for 2010 were about the same as 2009, the festival spanned two nights, which meant all festival goers had the luxury of their own seat. The sold out production grew to host over 50 performers spanning seven states and two countries. The DBF gals also decided to add a featured performer to the line-up, Angie Pontani of New York headlined the festival. Due to the 1000 plus attendees in 2009, the media was ready this year and gave Dallas burlesque lots of attention the week prior to the show.
While Friday night’s showcase was hectic and had some technical setbacks (the wrong music was cued up and took seven minutes of silence to fix, at which point the crowd became agitated, the producers were also thrown a last minute curve ball when the fire marshal was called in due to questions about the venue’s safety, which resulted in ticket holders being turned away.) By Saturday night the Dallas Burlesque Fest crew, in a large part due to stage manager Nick, got all of the kinks ironed out. Saturday night’s performance was nearly flawless, and the energy of the crowd was amazing! Pin Curl was on hand to ask festival attendees to share their experiences. Here’s what we learned:
Jessica Dawn, from the audience perspective:
I arrived Friday night eagerly anticipating the event. Both Pixie and I were excited to attend as audience members instead of working the event, either off or on stage. When I arrived, there was confusion at the door with the different lines you needed to be in and though it was a cold night to be left waiting a half hour for the house to open- it was neat to listen in to those in line with us and what they were anticipating the event. The Friday night showcase was performers bustin’ out the crowd favorites. The show was a little rough with a couple of snags which the emcee, radio personality Jesse- handled with flare and aplomb. I had a friend with me who had never been to a Burlesque event before and she (of course) fell in love.
Saturday night was less line confusion but still a long cold wait for the house to open. A group behind me that had not been to a burlesque event before worried whether or not it would not be worth the wait. I reassured them it would be, but I’m not quite sure they believed me.
I have to say Saturdays showcase was FABULOUS. Many of the acts, routines and performers, were new to me, which was quite a treat. The production on the second night was much tighter and seemed to run very well from the audience perspective. The sound quality this year was a vast improvement from the year before as was the closer attention to crowd control. It was easy to see that the team had learned a lot from last year’s event and applied it skillfully to this one. At the end of the show I did run in to the couple that had stood with me in line and I asked them if they had thought it was worth the wait in the cold. Their faces lit up with smiles, assuring me it had been and they were very excited about next year’s show already.
Jessica Dawn’s favorites? Angie Pontani’s veil routine Friday night, and Roxie Moxie’s Saturday night routine, about which she remarked- a Vodun who kills herself at the end- gotta love it!
Jessie, the festival’s emcee
Terror aside I had a ball at Dallas Burlesque Festival. Emceeing such a huge show over the course of two nights was totally out of my realm of experience…as a dj I am usually hidden in a small studio where it is just me and a mic. It is a totally different animal to be thrust in front of a paying crowd AND have to be entertaining; which is probably why I spent both days TREMBLING and slightly horrified. But once I was in the Dirty Martini/Ellingson inspired Wonder Woman gown it was all right.
Highlights for my role include the Cat Butt Gum intro for Athena Fatale, seeing Angie Pontani’s dazzling bongo number live, ohhhhh and Lily Wilde’s explosive dance routine…. that was MOM upside down for sure….WOW! Small wonder she earned a standing O.
Mostly I LOVED the goofball Jigglewatt boys who kept screaming “GOD BLESS AMERICA“ during Fridays show. That was actually helpful because the crowd was kind of rough and unresponsive. They gave me someone to focus on and to play with. I got them good on Saturday when I wore the lacey see-thru Immodesty Blaize gown with the Swarovski merkin. They were screaming again as I came out on stage so I looked down at my bedazzled merkin and then, stared right at them and said “you know… if my cooch were a rifle it would go BLANG BLANG!” and I blasted a few very pronounced rat-a-tat-tat pelvic thrusts in their direction…the incredulous yet radiant look on their faces was worth its weight in rhinestones. Hilarious. They were cool too because they helped us raise some additional money for Patriot Paws Service Dogs and comedy attempts aside, that was really the passion that fed my participation in this wonderful event.
I am eternally grateful to Ginger Valentine, Elisa Davis & Black Mariah for inviting me to be a part of Dallas Burlesque Festival. I would love to do even more on the scene and in any capacity be it as an emcee, pantie wrangler, seat-pointer-to-er, program hander outer, dressing room fixer upper etc… the ENERGY and the art of burlesque really captures the primal essence of what it is to not only be feminine but also to be powerful without having to apologize or downplay it. Burlesque celebrates the female body in ALL of its forms and that is an electrifying combination that is as beautiful as it is intoxicating. I am woman hear me RAWR!
Vivienne Vermuth, performer in Friday night’s showcase and make-up artist Saturday night
At 6 pm on Friday Feb. 5th, the Texas Theater was fairly quiet, except for the low hum of crew bustling about setting up. The only signs that the biggest burlesque event in Dallas was about to happen was a white screen, that had clips of Bettie Page and Tempest Storm rolling. They smiled their Mona Lisa smiles, as if they knew the festival was going to be amazing – and they were right!
Burlesque festivals – To the dancers, it means a chance to hone their skills, strut their stuff, and meet other like minds from other parts of the nation/world. To the audience it means a chance to see a WHOLE LOTTA STRIPPIN’ GOIN’ ON, and a lot of different interpretations of burlesque, from classic to modern and beyond. This was my second run at DBF, having performed in the inaugural fest the year before, and I was determined to leave my big, glittery pawprint! This year I performed in the Friday night showcase with a new sea-inspired routine to Styx’s “Come Sail Away”, complete with glittery Guitar Hero controller, and helped backstage as a makeup stylist alongside LaDonna Hearne and Ruby Redlocks for the fashion show models on Saturday. This allowed me to enjoy the fest from all angles, and meet people on all sides of the show, as well enjoy the entire showcase on Saturday.
Without a doubt, this years’ fest certainly had something for everyone. There were great local artisans showing off their wares . Being in line with offering all side of burlesque, the fest featured pole dancers from The Girls’ Room in Dallas on stage before the shows, and local models took the stage in fashion shows both nights for Electrique Boutique and Jupiter Moon 3 custom corsets. The burlesque acts also varied greatly; some of my favorites included Viva La Muerte’s (Chicago) tribute to Creepshow, Angi B. Lovely’s (Dallas) aerial silks, …The emcee for both nights was the lovely Jessie Jessup, and she kept the audience laughing and cheering on the ladies onstage. The audience was outstanding, and I think Dallas has gained a new legion of burlesque fans!
The biggest and sincerest applause goes out to the entire cast and crew who put this together, and to the three producers (Elisa of the Ruby Revue, Ginger Valentine, and Black Mariah) for putting on this fest and upping the ante with each year. All in all, the show was a rousing success, and I know I walked away from it feeling fantastic! Met some great performers, got to talk to a lot of fans, and generally had a great time! Can’t wait til next year – can you?
Rouby Joule, Performer
I was honored to perform in both the 2009 and 2010 Dallas Burlesque Festivals, and though the 2009 show was a smash hit, I thought this year’s show took it to another level. I love how the Dallas community of photographers, producers, designers, models and performers comes together to support this festival, and this year it seemed more focus was channeled toward the performances themselves. It was wonderful to have such a seasoned and capable tech crew running sound, lights and stage managing. The theatre itself was a bit on the chilly side, especially in the dressing rooms, but it’s a historic building after all. It was a small price to pay for such a beautiful stage. Having some reserved seating for the performers was a big plus, as we learn so much from watching each other, and from feeling the energy of the crowd all around us! The audience was very enthusiastic and responsive, seeming to gobble up every act like candy. I got to perform both Friday and Saturday nights, and the show and crowd on both nights was outstanding. Some new fans even made the trip from Houston for the show. I must say that having female producers who are also performers gave a rare spirit of camaraderie and heart to the entire event. We were all invested in it together, body and soul.
Jennifer, Jupiter Moon 3 Corsets, Vendor
Dallas Burlesque Festival was an absolute blast. Even as a vendor, I had a great time. The energy was fantastic, people were really enjoying themselves, and the performers were top notch. I am so glad it was a two night event, because with that many people in attendance, it would have had to run all day to cram them all in to a one day event! I personally had my best night vending, twice over; I was a happy camper! I also had a fashion show to kick off the evening, and I couldn’t have been happier. I had eight great ladies modeling for me, and it went off without a hitch, especially for not having a single rehearsal! It was a great little fashion show, and the crowd really seemed to enjoy it. All in all, it was a fabulous show, I have only heard wonderful things, and I sincerely hope to do it again next year!
Your Sex Questions Answered by the Lovely Dayla Cox, Passion Party Consultant
Some say love…
“My vagina lips are long. Is this normal? I am so embarrassed.”
Just like penises and nipples, V-Jays come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. A vagina with long lovely lips is referred to by some as a “Full Blown Rose” and is a fetish for some people. Some women even claim a higher sex drive that they contribute to more nerve endings. So in other words, nothing is wrong with you. Nothing at all…
Got a question for our resident sexpert? Send them to Dayla c/o firstname.lastname@example.org
We found a great little video on achieving great vintage hairstyles in under 5 minutes. Enjoy!
5 Min 1940′s hairdo
In honor of Miss Dirty Martini’s scheduled Dallas performance in March, we thought we’d give you the recipe for her namesake. “Dirty” refers to the amount of olive juice added, feel free to adjust your level of dirty to suit your tastes. Enjoy!
Classic Dirty Martini
2 oz gin
1 TBsp dry vermouth
2 Tsp green olive juice
2 green olives
1. Place small amount of water and an ice cube in a martini glass and place in freezer for 2-3 minutes.
2. Fill martini shaker with all of the ingredients, less the garnish. Cover and shake 3-4 times.
3. Remove glass from freezer, and empty. Strain contents of shaker into glass. Spear olives onto toothpick and add for garnish. Serve.