Seattle’s Indigo Blue talks BurlyCon, Menorahs and miracles, pandas, Portuguese, education, and Wild Cherry. Miss Blue hosts BurlyCon this month, and performs in Dallas on Dec 3rd at Viva Dallas Burlesque.
By: Divertida Devotchka
Along with Jo Boobs Weldon, you are the mastermind behind Seattle’s BurlyCon, a burlesque convention which focuses on education and community-building, as opposed to performances or competition. This year’s BurlyCon is October 14-17, with workshops on topics such as costuming, history, business and ethics. What have you learned and/or changed about the event since the first BurlyCon in 2008? What aspect of the event are you most looking forward to?
I first conceptualized BurlyCon back in 2005, inspired by the Tease-o-Rama daytime convention classes organized by Alison Fenserstock and Baby Doe. These were a brilliant start at peer-based education and were the first opportunities for the community to have face-to-face conversations about issues that arose at shows and were discussed online. Unfortunately, at festivals we are often distracted by performance demands, and are unable to really immerse ourselves in conversation and learning. I now envision BurlyCon as part of the mission of the Burlesque Hall of Fame’s Education Program, providing ongoing professional development resources to the growing Burlesque community.
The first BurlyCon was organized by myself, Dane Ballard, and Dale Rio with Jo Weldon and myself as the Programming Chairs. The first Convention was really a proof of concept – that is, “if you build it, will they actually come?” The response was resounding and powerful, “just what the community needed” was heard again and again from attendees. In the second convention, we responded to feedback and had longer classes, more breaks between classes, and a wider variety of instructors. This third year, we’re adapting to accommodate three different class lengths, repeating popular classes throughout the weekend, and presenting a Saturday night Dance Party open to the public. I can’t wait to get my dance on with all the presenters and attendees!
We continue to evolve BurlyCon and incorporate our lessons-learned. Due to the increase in attendance each year, we are moving to a new fabulous location conveniently near the Sea-Tac airport. BurlyCon 2011 will be October 20-23 and we will even further expand our course offerings, including a track for researchers and academics.
You just competed for Queen of Burlesque at the 2nd Annual New Orleans Burlesque Festival, as well as teaching your workshop “the Art of the Tease.” What was the best part of your experience at the festival?
It was a magical experience to be in New Orleans again. My first visit to New Orleans was the first Tease-o-Rama in 2001, which is essentially the undisputed galvanizing moment in Neo Burlesque History. What I most loved about the festival was seeing Bambi Sr. and Wild Cherry perform on Sunday night, and seeing Satan’s Angel perform on Friday night. It is always inspiring, moving, and thrilling to see the ladies do their thing on stage.
Well, as you know, I am Jewish – and one of my favorite acts to perform in the winter is my Chanukah Menorah act. I won’t say much about it except that A Great Miracle will happen…
What kind of an impact has “A Wink and a Smile” (the 2008 documentary based largely on your burlesque academy) had on your life (professional and/or personal)?
Being a part of the making of the film was an amazing experience. The filmmaker, Deirdre Timmons, is a former student and brilliant storyteller. I trusted her completely to handle the intimate and public details of the film. The film has had an incredible impact on both me, and the Academy. It is thrilling to receive the emails and messages from people all over the country who have seen the film in independent theaters or on Netflix, iTunes, and most recently on the Ovation channel. It’s gratifying to hear how inspired people are by the experiences of the students.
The Academy has definitely received an increase in attendance since the release of the film. Many newer students have already seen the film, and thus have that as their framework and expectations.
You founded the Academy of Burlesque in Seattle in 2003. How has the academy evolved over the years?
When I first founded the Academy, I was teaching dance classes in a small studio run by a local feminist self-defense organization, and teaching the 6-week workshops in my living room! Thanks to the incredible generosity of Seattle’s Century Ballroom, last fall we were able to move into one of their stunning 2,000 square foot mirrored studios with wood floors, a gorgeous stage, and blue velvet curtains in a 1908 historic building! Having a centralized and public space for students to dance, learn and perform has been so wonderful for the Academy. We now offer classes year-round including the famed 6-week performance workshop “Burlesque 101”, Bellydance and Bump & Grind dance classes, and specialty classes like “The Art of the Tease”, “Tassel Twirling”, “Walking In Heels”, and “Burlesque Makeup.”
In the early days I taught all the classes myself and handled the administration. The Academy has grown so much that we now employ 6 additional instructors and an administrator. My extraordinarily talented staff and faculty are invaluable, and all of them are lauded working Burlesque professionals in the Seattle and National scene. Regular instructors include The Shanghai Pearl, Waxie Moon, Fuchsia FoXXX, Ruby Mimosa, Inga Ingenue, and Ernie Von Schmaltz, most of whom you can also see in the film “A Wink and a Smile”. It would not be impossible for the Academy to have grown without my Administrator (and Sexy Secretary) Polly Wood, as well as my assistants Lydia McLane and Verilee Faux. It gives me great pride to provide employment opportunities for working professionals and for graduates.
Your performance “Temptation” is a stunning take on New Orleans burlesque legend Wild Cherry. What do you find the most inspiring about Wild Cherry and how much research and preparation did it take before you felt you could do a tribute properly?
Thank you for that wonderful compliment! I absolutely adore Wild Cherry (she just made me a delicious breakfast of fried eggs this morning before I left New Orleans!) and have fawned on her since I first learned the Burlesque Walk from her at Tease-o-rama in New Orleans in 2001. Her style, grace, and power just blew me away. To tell the story of that act, I have to tell you a few other things: I have been a member of the Atomic Bombshells Burlesque Troupe since 2004. The founders, Kitten La Rue & Fanny n’Flames were taught their moves by Wild Cherry and Kitty West when they were part of the legendary Shim Sham Revue in New Orleans. Now, I have admired Cherry since I first met her. And along with Trixie Little & The Evil Hate Monkey, I have the privilege of being one of her Legend Minders at the Burlesque Hall of Fame reunion each year. But I got to be close with Cherry when she was in Seattle for an Atomic Bombshells show. She stayed at my house and we just talked for hours that weekend. She is the feistiest, fiercest, most determined and powerful woman I’ve met, and she has the most tender, generous heart.
What I find most inspiring about Wild Cherry is her absolute commitment to her fierceness. She will never back down from a fight, and in fact she’s been known to instigate one or two. When I very first saw her do the Burlesque Walk in that class back in 2001, and saw the delicacy and fluidity of her handwork, I was instantly impressed with her dance ability. This is even more impressive when you know that she learned her dance moves while on the carnival circuit – she peered through curtains and watched exotic dancers and performers from all over the world, and imitated them. This combined with her personal style, seething fiery sexuality, and stunning features, made her absolutely riveting to audiences.
The preparation for the act was long. Kitten La Rue, the Artistic Director of the Atomic Bombshells, asked me to perform a tribute to Cherry in our show “Nightfall in New Orleans”. I asked Cherry and she agreed. Cherry had taught her “Temptation” act to a Shim Sham Revue member in the past, and Kitten translated those movements to me. We evolved the choreography, and then I showed the piece to Cherry for her approval and feedback. Cherry was extremely moved to see it. Her daughter said “you look just like Mom when she used to practice in the kitchen!” I performed the act in “Nightfall” and then was honored to be accepted to perform it at the Burlesque Hall of Fame. I evolved the act further this last year by adding a prologue to it that references the snake armband Cherry used to wear. I think of the prologue as “the snake that bit Cherry and made her Wild!”
To properly do a tribute act, I believe it’s important to collaborate directly with the subject of the tribute (if still living) and realize that it is an enactment of THEIR vision. When I perform Wild Cherry’s act, I feel that I am doing her act – as Kitten de Ville said this weekend in the Contemporary Performers Panel, to do a tribute to a legend is really a humbling dedication of devotion to their talent and their work. We want it to make their legacy shine, which is a tremendous responsibility and honor.
You’re the co-director of education at the Burlesque Hall of Fame. What exactly does that entail?
As the co-Directors for Education at the Burlesque Hall of Fame, Jo Weldon and I coordinate the Legend Classes each year at the Burlesque Hall of Fame reunion. We are also developing standards for curriculum and certification for instructors of Burlesque, authorized by the Burlesque Hall of Fame. Building BurlyCon into a self-sustaining educational event is part of our long-range plans. Jo is also working on paper archives.
Please share some of your fondest memories in your performing career.
Well, I feel like my performing career is just starting, but here are some of my favorites thus far: I loved travelling to Shanghai with the Atomic Bombshells; I never thought I’d have the chance to traipse through a bamboo forest like a panda. I also adored the opportunity to perform in Portugal with the Atomic Bombshells; it was so fun to speak Portuguese, my favorite language! Other highlights include the incredible show produced by Gurlesque Burlesque in Chicago with Margaret Cho, and the opportunity to perform my Ricci Cortez tribute act at last year’s Burlesque Hall of Fame Legends night.
DFW’s Vivienne Vermuth talks production, cross-dressing, heavy metal, making a spectacle of herself, and the sweaty side of burlesque.
Since going solo in spring of 2009, you have developed a performance arsenal that’s anything but predictable. From a classic piece like singing in the rain, to Rush in an Octopus belt, to cross-dressing numbers- you are anything but predictable. How do you describe your performance style? Do you strive to bring a little Coney Island to Texas?
Every time I want to come up with a new concept, I think back to when I first started in burlesque – I looked up the definition, and a sentence stood out to me. “Burlesque is to make a spectacle of oneself.” I see that as making a HUGE deal out of the piece, whether it is a larger-than-life costume, way-out-there props or hamming it up! I don’t really have a description; I guess for lack of a better word I’m “weird”. I can literally think up a routine to almost any song (thank your stars I don’t, because some of these ideas are better off in my head). Ever since I was little and in dance classes, I loved to make people laugh and to be in the spotlight, so burlesque just seemed to be a great way to intertwine my passion for the odd and sparkly and making people laugh! (Oh, and getting nekkid. Can’t forget that!)
What do you want audiences to walk away with after seeing you on stage?
I want the audience to be laughing, feeling silly/awed, and maybe even a little bewildered. After debuting my Vincent routine (where I dress as my alter ego twin “brother”) I got a lot of mixed comments, but overall Vincent was met with giggles, questions and a lot of emails telling me how much fun it was to see something so crazy and different. If I can make you think, laugh, even question previous ideas you may have had about burlesque, then I’ve done my job right! Burlesque can be so much fun, and I want all of you to see how many different sides there are of it!
In addition to being a performer, you are also a producer. You have two distinct show series with different approaches- Sunset Strip and Broads and Panties. What did you feel DFW was missing, and what do you strive to bring audiences and performers with your shows?
Who doesn’t love a party? So many DFW shows are about the glamour, the sparkles, the “pretty” side of burlesque – but what about the sweaty side? The raunchy side? The girl you’d see behind the alley in the leather jacket and heavy eyeliner, smoking a joint and wanting you to skip class? That’s the idea behind Broads and Panties. I love the term “broad” – it can invoke a very specific image! B and P shows are full of raw, kinetic energy – it’s not a theatrical burlesque show! Now, don’t get me wrong – I LOVE pretty burlesque, my house is practically COVERED in rhinestones! But it’s nice to stray from the equation, and see something different! The Heavy Metal show we presented at Trees in July was definitely something Dallas had never seen – and I still get emails asking about when we are going to do that show again! It tapped DFW’s desire to add another kind of show to the budding burlesque scene here!
You speak of not looking to book “the popular girls”- what do you mean by this?
I follow the audience first approach to creating a show, and when I say this I mean I look at the show from the ticket holders’ point of view. I always strive to want to bring the newest talents and mix them with talent that may not be so known to DFW, even in our own backyard there are a LOT of entertainers not utilized! I’ve brought dancers from Oklahoma, Los Angeles, Louisiana, Austin, etc., and so many of them Dallas hasn’t seen or heard of, but when they were seen, they were loved and wanted back!
For example, Kira von Sutra was our neighbor to the North (Tulsa) for almost 8 years as a burlesque talent, and was never brought to Texas! I am so happy that I was able to introduce her to Dallas at our Metal show in July, she was perfect as our headlining act and we can’t wait to have her back! The “popular girls” are wonderfully talented and became popular for that reason, and I do utilize them, but I also look to showing my audiences that there are LOTS of amazing entertainers that they should also love!
What are three most important qualities that a producer must have in order to be successful? What are three tips you would give to fellow performers looking to book with new production teams?
Honestly, to be a great producer I think you need to be tenacious, open-minded and creative. You have to be passionate about what you are showcasing, or your show will suffer and your audience will notice! Creativity comes into play when choosing a theme, location and your performers! The audience is paying hard-earned money, they want a good show! Tenacity I find plays a major part in the whole process, from negotiating with venues to simply putting up with obstacles along the way! I put my heart and soul into every show, and I know that my crowds love the Broads for that reason!
On working with new producers, I say get OUT there to clubs and talk to people! Find bands that you dig, and ask ‘em if they’d like go-go dancers, or an act to open for them! Get to know your local art community and see if they’d like themed acts at their openings! Burlesque is a beautiful and fun addition to any event, so put your name in the pot! And of course, if you work with a team new to the concept of burlesque, don’t forget to tell them about your needs (stage kitten, prop setup, music/lighting, announcing, etc). Your new producer may not know, and so it will be on your shoulders as a professional to give them some insight. They will love and appreciate you, and the performance will go super smoothly!
You also have a pretty heavy arsenal of costuming experience as
well as beginning work as a make-up artist. Are you self taught in both?
I actually have a long history in makeup artistry, almost 9 years! It’s just recently that I have delved into the pinup/commercial shoot world. I am self taught in both, and also have been fortunate to learn bits and pieces from amazing costumers and MUA’s along the way! I really have to credit local ladies Ruby Redlocks and LaDonna Hearne to my success in the past year, both ladies have been so amazing to me, teaching me and working with me, and just being so sweet to me! They have inspired me in my creative process and given me a lot of confidence in my abilities. I also credit my burlesque friends, dancers and photographers, for collaborating with me on so many projects and trusting my crazy side!
What are some of your proudest costuming moments?
Honestly, getting THE email from Perle Noire asking me to create a hat for her for the Burlesque Undressed show. She wanted a custom creation to go with a gown she had, and she told me she loved the hats that I had outfitted the greeting gals at the Amour show. I about died, and set out to make a hat fit for a Queen. 2 failed attempts, 3 trips for pearls and ostrich plumes and almost 1000 Swavroski’s later, I had created a masterpiece. When I lifted it out of the box to show Perle, she gasped, told me she was in love, and that she wanted me to make her costume for Miss Exotic World in June. I am currently designing a vintage inspired gold outfit for her, and we have plans for more. I am also commissioned to create a costume for a dancer in San Antonio, we are doing to black widow outfit!
What does the future hold for Vivienne Vermuth?
I hope everything! My main goals are to grow my burlesque brand, my artistry and my overall creative career. There are so many things I hope to accomplish and do, and am so very thankful to everyone who has been instrumental in bringing me to where I am now. I haven’t slept a full night in almost 3 years, why start now?
Delia Dread, of Austin’s Black Widow Burlesque troupe, talks glitter smack, blackjack, to-do lists, and Spanksgiving.
Interview: Femme Vivre LaRouge
Black Widow Burlesque was founded in January of 2009, but you were performing with Red Light Burlesque before that. What inspired you to strike out on your own and form BWB?
Well I did a Christmas show with RLB; I was under the impression that they were coming to an end. So essentially, this is my first and last show. I was so hyped up on the glitter smack that I wanted more and made it happen. I am very thankful for Red Light and glad to know they are still going strong with Ruby Rockit.
How did you first discover that burlesque was your calling?
Well, I have always loved singing and dancing. I had a job as a karaoke entertainer for a while. When I moved from Midland, TX to Austin I knew there was a fabulous burly-q scene here and I am already into the rockabilly, and my love of showgirls became one and the same.
Performing, modeling, managing a troupe, producing shows, and having a personal life is a lot to keep up with- how do you maintain balance?
I also have a part time job and I am getting back into school so now is more difficult than ever. But I realize that every single hour of every day is important, and I have a planner and I am a big fan of to-do lists. They help me stay on point and focused on important things that need to be done. I decompress by singing karaoke, going to other burlesque shows, playing blackjack, watching the Golden Girls and Judge Judy, yoga, and of course champagne!
How did you meet the lovely ladies (and gent) that perform with you? Do you do most of the booking and group choreography yourself, or does the group function as more of an artist collective?
CRAIGSLIST! Yeah, that’s right; we hold auditions whenever we need fresh new faces and ideas and we actually just had 3 new ladies join our ranks! The biggest reason why I started Black Widow Burlesque was because I wanted the troupe to be a group collective and for everyone to have a say in what goes on. It makes it more of a family and it’s great that we can delegate tasks to each girl so I am not responsible for everything.
You draw on several influences for your work, from the classic queens of burlesque to classic monster movies- if you had to pick just one favorite of each, who would they be?
Lili St. Cyr is my favorite classic burlesque queen and Frankenstein is my favorite monster!
What are your performance pet peeves? What is your favorite aspect of performing?
Sound guys and venue space. We aren’t like a band, where we just plug in and go. We need room to dress and we need a person to press play and pause on the sound board. You would be surprised, but that is hard to find. That’s why we wrote up our terms of agreement, yea we are professional now woohoo! The best parts are the costumes, free booze, the audience’s energy, and being able to be proud of your femininity and accept your body.
Have any great stories about show catastrophes?
We had a show at Creekside Lounge and the sound man ended up leaving to go drink, so I had my friend’s boyfriend run our sound. The stage had broken bottles on the ground and I ended up ripping the hem off my dress from a protruding nail….Burlesque is dangerous, people! I know, classy…..we have come a long way from our humble beginnings.
Tell me about your upcoming projects and your goals for yourself and your wonderful troupe.
November 19th Black Widow Burlesque is proud to present the first annual Spanksgiving, a burlesque festival at club Encore! The show has two stages with variety acts, burlesque, and bands, not to mention vendors such as Naughty Cakes and Dreamers, the best part is 100% of the proceeds go to breast cancer awareness.
Ginger Snaps and I are putting together a performance burlesque class for the future. We plan on a Texas tour and to keep supporting burlesque in its entirety.
Q: When did you first become interested in costume design?
I was always into dress-up when I was a kid. I think I was doomed from the very beginning to get into historical costuming. I used to layer my dress-up dresses over each other so my skirt would be puffier, like I was wearing petticoats. When I was about 11 or 12, I decided I wanted a really huge, elaborate Marie Antoinette style dress. Of course, I couldn’t afford to buy one, so I set out to learn how to sew one for myself. I took a few lessons from shops and friends, and then just dove in head first. The first dress I ended up making was a simple Regency styled dress, like what’s seen in Jane Austen movies. It all snowballed from there!
Q: Have you always been a geek? (I use the term lovingly)
Hehe, yes, definitely! I’ve been a very devoted Star Trek geek for as long as I can remember. I even used to get into trouble in class because I was reading Sci-Fi and Fantasy books that I had hidden in my desk, instead of paying attention to the lessons. I got into anime later on, and that led to anime cosplay, where you dress up as your favorite characters for competitions, meet-ups, and photo shoots.
Q: Did you take formal training?
Well, sort of. I took lessons at a local sewing shop for about 6 weeks, during which we only managed to make a single vest. Instead of enrolling in the next set of lessons, I took a couple more lessons from a friend’s mom, and after that I started to teach myself. It was definitely a bumpy start, and the first skirt I made on my own was absolutely horrendous, but I was determined! I learned a lot from online sewing sites, back in the days when online bulletin boards were a good place to get information and help on projects. Thankfully, there were some really great sites, which are still around today, like Marquise.de and The Elizabethan Costuming Page, which had great tutorials, pictures of extant period garments, and reference pictures. I’ve used those sites as references for at least 10 years, and still go to them whenever I need a jumping off point on a new historical costume.
This September, a friend and I competed in a local costume contest and ended up winning “Best in Show”. I had never felt quite as giddy! We both had put so much work and time (and blood and tears!) into our costumes, and it was a really proud moment for both of us.
Q: What’s the most complicated costume you’ve made? Most fun costume?
The most complicated costume was probably for a character name Cardinal Caterina Sforza from an anime series called Trinity Blood. Admittedly, I probably made it much more complicated than it needed to be, but I wanted to get every detail perfect. It ended up taking quite a bit of time (and sanity!), but the end result was more than worth it. As for the most fun, I love crafting anything that has a large headdress, or some armor! My last costume had this gigantic gold headdress, which was hugely detailed and had at least twenty different pieces. I made it out of craft foam and dimensional fabric paint! I did the same thing with some plate armor for another costume, where I used different thicknesses of craft foam to create detailing and designs. I think I really just like playing with craft foam.
Q: I know you did some costume work for an MTV awards ceremony a while back, if you could costume any celebrity who would it be and why? If you had your pick of any film or television series to do costuming for, who which would you choose and why?
Oh, wow, that’s a good question! I’d love to do some costuming for Jennifer Ehle. She’s such a well known actress for period films and she has a great figure. I’d also love to do something for Kate Winslet. I love the characters she’s played, and she’s absolutely gorgeous.
For film and TV, I’d love to work on a period piece set in the 1750s-70s. It’s still one of my favorite eras. I wouldn’t mind working on the next installment of the Sherlock Holmes movies, too! Bustle gowns, gadgetry, all the Steampunk-esque elements, what’s not to love?
I recently learned about this stuff called ‘Styrospray’, which is used in construction and insulation. It’s basically a hardener for foam materials. I’m really excited to try it in prop and armor making. I’m rather scared to try my hand at working with fiberglass because it’s such a mess and has such a small work time, so the Styrospray is a great alternative. It has a much longer work time (24-48 hours vs. the 5-7 minutes of fiberglass), you don’t have to embed anything in it like fiberglass cloth, and you can clean it up with soap and water while it’s still wet. It’s really exciting stuff!
Q: What should readers look for in quality costume construction?
Look for well finished seams. They don’t necessarily have to be surged as long as they are finished off nicely with an edge stitch or some pinking. Make sure your costume fits you well, and doesn’t hang off you like a potato sack, or is tight enough to show any unflattering rolls or bulges. If you don’t provide the fabric for your costume, then make sure your seamstress will be working with quality materials. Some commissioners will use cheaper fabrics to save money, but the end product may not be as nice. Avoid things like panne/crushed velvet, cheap costume satins (shiny=bad!), and acetate velvets. Fabrics made from natural fibers not only look better, but they breathe better, too.
Burlesque Haunts : Dallas
Story: Femme Vivre LaRouge
For October’s edition of Burlesque Haunts, we wanted to share some local haunted theatres with you so that you might visit them in this the spookiest of seasons. Of Dallas’ many spirited sites, we’ve decided to feature The Majestic Theatre, Sons of Hermann Hall, and Lizard Lounge.
The Majestic Theatre, a Texas Historic Landmark and Vaudeville original, opened its doors for the first time in 1905, burned down in 1916, relocated, and then moved once again in 1921, to its current location at 1925 Elm. It boasts performances by the infamous Mae West and the magnificent Houdini. To keep up with the times, it eventually began to show movies as well, but always hosted live entertainers of the Cab Calloway caliber. Closed for nearly ten years, the theatre reopened in 1983, restored and renovated, to become the beautiful space which now houses a variety of presentations and performances. Several sites describe the theatre’s common ghostly occurrences of backdrops being moved by an invisible force, strange smells, and phone lines lighting up although they are not in use. Such phenomena have been attributed to the venue’s benefactor, Karl Hoblitzelle, if for no other reason than that he simply loved showbiz so much he did not wish to leave it behind.
For more information and a listing of upcoming shows, visit: www.liveatthemajestic.com
Another legendary local venue is the Sons of Hermann Hall, located at 3414 Elm and Exposition. Also a Texas Historic Landmark, the music hall was opened in 1911 by the Dallas chapter of The Sons of Hermann, “the nation’s oldest fraternal benefit society.” The order was named for a German tribesman and military leader who defied the Romans’ oppression of his people, successfully defeating three Roman legions in the year 9A.D. These battles are said to have been a decisive factor in Germany and the British Isles’ freedom from the Roman regime. The venue, voted Best Place to Take a Non-Texan by the Dallas Observer, has seen a great number of musicians over the years. Swing and blues dance lessons are a regular event, as well as The Smoke, Dallas’ longest running 60s mod dance party. Staff at the hall has witnessed a good deal of ghostly activity while carrying out their closing duties, but they’re not the only ones to experience phenomena. Phantom footsteps, a child’s laughter, doors opening and closing, and the sounds of someone bowling when the alley is empty are just a few examples. Paintings have also been known to spontaneously fall off the walls and the sounds of furniture being moved across the completely empty second floor are a common occurrence. Of the figureless voices that have been heard at the hall, only one has been identified; the original caretaker, Louie Bernardt, can still be heard yelling at kids to stop their horseplay, just as he did in life! Another interesting episode happened during the filming of a Walker, Texas Ranger episode, when some of the crew watched a couple dressed in the fashion of yesteryear walk through the hall and down a corridor, only to disappear. Furthermore, the Metroplex Paranormal Investigations team sponsored a ghost hunt at the Sons of Hermann in 2007 and ended up with almost fifty photographs of orbs that had not been visible to them during the tour.
Visit www.sonsofhermann.com to find out more about all there is to enjoy at Sons of Hermann Hall.
Perhaps the most famously haunted venue in Dallas is Lizard Lounge, known as The Church on Thursday and Sunday nights. This club/venue was originally called the Grand Crystal Palace Theatre and opened around the turn of the 20th century. Rumor has it that several workers were killed during the construction of the building and this may be where its haunted history began. Or, maybe it is the spirits of actors who took the stage in the club’s years as an ostentatious theatre. Serving up its current cocktail of primarily industrial and electronic culture since 1992, it is located in Dallas’ historic Deep Ellum, at 2424 Swiss Avenue. The venue also hosts a wide variety of events and acts, including local burlesque favorites, such as The Lollie Bombs. These days the main haunt is a man dressed all in black who is said to look a bit like Zorro sans the sword and dallies around in the audience area. There are more dramatic stories about the establishment’s days as a playhouse, in which one actress suffered a hair dryer being thrown at her head by an invisible hand, the light bulbs of her vanity simultaneously bursting for no discernable reason, and her iron melting into a puddle.
For a list of upcoming events see www.thelizardlounge.com
If you have any leads on burlesque haunts that we haven’t yet published, let us know! Happy haunting!
Herstory of Corsets
By: Hella Goode
Ah, the hourglass….a symbol of passing time, and a woman’s curves. And who wouldn’t want to spend an eternity on an hourglass figure?
The best way to achieve such shape is with a corset. A corset is technically defined as a stiffened and fitted item of clothing that gives shape or reshapes a woman’s torso, usually to fit the fashion of the moment. Some women today wear corsets to help keep in what they want in, others enjoy the feeling of being bound and supported, while still others use corsets and similar pieces to help improve their posture. Jennifer Gonzalez, custom corset maker-Jupiter Moon 3 says, “Some of us wear corsets just for the sheer fact that it makes us feel so damn SEXY!”
Many people today are still convinced that a corset is torture, which is meant to impose impossibly tiny measurements on women just to please men. It makes them imagine a throwback to less free times for women, a throwback to when a thirteen inch waist, as in what 16th century French royal Katerina Di Medici was rumored to require of her helpers, with the help of a corset of course.
Some cite the corset’s origin back to the binding habits of ancient Greek women, although their binding tools would hardly be recognized as similar of a corset today.
Venitian ladies of the upper class began to wear stiff conical garments to elongate their necks and flatten their torsos in the 1500’s. This is where the more identifiable practice of corsetry is documented.
“Stays” were then developed. These “stays,” or two piece corsets enhanced the bosom. The pieces were laced together. These laces are what allow for the practice of ‘tightlacing’ or training the body to stay in a certain shape by tying it tightly and binding it for most of the day. Stays were often pretty and decorated since they would be seen as outer garments. Corsets tended to fluctuate between being underwear and outerwear as time and fashion deemed necessary.
With time this method can help create a new shape for the torso. This is also what began to alarm doctors. Doctors noticed that the extremes in corsetry, such as creating the tiniest waists possible were shifting women’s organs in their abdomens, creating strain. They began to advise against these extremes.
Busks, usually made from bone were beginning to be employed as a way of keeping the stomach straight, and eventually to support the cups that held breasts apart in the 18th century. Corsets were once again an obligatory part of fashion, a woman not wearing a corset seen to be improper. Yet, doctor’s warnings about the damage to inner organs made many worry. Thus, corsetry took another twisted turn. New corsets featured a straight front so as not to force organs back into the body. It was a valiant effort, but fashion extremists intervened again and forced the new corsets so tight that although their stomachs were straight, wearers’ backs were arched backward, creating havoc on their backs. Doctors again issued warnings about this “S-line” corset.
With the onset of the World Wars, women’s roles changed. They went from wives and mothers to workers who needed to be able to move freely and get dirty. Corsets did not make sense anymore. They did not disappear completely however. Instead they morphed into two different pieces of clothing-a supportive bra and what is more like a girdle which helped keep the tummy in. The pieces were no longer one big garment, but two separate necessities. The materials used to make corsets were also changing. They became more flexible and were given the ability to stretch.
Then Madonna came along and rocked everyone’s world when she wore a tight bodice as an outer garment for a performance. Madonna made underwear-in, by showing it off and started a new fashion craze. Leave it to Madonna.
Since most of us are not Madonna even on our best day, we tend to go for comfort. Today’s standard underwear for a woman is pretty much all stretch. So when a woman needs some control, she can find a corset, most similar to the style of the 19th century. This style of a curved bust and flat stomach is the motivation for most modern women who wear corsets. “We have the benefit of bendable steel boning now, which makes corset-making much easier, and corset wearing MUCH more comfortable,” corset-maker Jupiter Moon 3 adds.
For those of us who are a little daring, who want our curves in the right places, and enjoy being in control, the best corset is a custom made corset-one that is made to fit our specific shape and our exact measurements. A corset built for you can be as comfortable, as restricting, and as scintillating as you want it to be. Find out for yourself.
Custom made corsets:
Jupiter Moon 3
Step by step instructions on how to make Sugar Skulls for Dia de los Muertos. For more on the history of Dia De los Muertos click here