Legendary sex pioneer, Annie Sprinkle, will be an emcee, judge and presenter at this year’s Texas Burlesque Fest, in Austin, Texas, April 14-16. We appreciate Annie taking time out of her busy schedule to chat about the movie Gypsy, Strip Speak, the “boxed lunch”, taboos, bad-boy strip club managers and her new passion, ecosexuality.
Interview: Divertida Devotchka
You’re one of the emcees for this year’s Texas Burlesque Fest. Plus you’ll be doing a retrospective slide show presentation with Q and A about your life and work, and you’re one of the judges for the Saturday night competition! Obviously you’ll be very busy. What are you looking forward to most about the festival?
To see the dancers perform, of course. I’ve been a burlesque enthusiast for years. To me it’s prayer—a spiritual experience to watch a sex goddess dance. It’s Divine and hot at the same time. Actually I’m a really bad judge because I love each and every stripper! I will want to give everyone a 10 for effort.
Other than the burlesque festival, what else is on your agenda
while you’re in Austin?
On Thursday, April 14, I’ll do an intimate informal presentation for Charla’s Body Joy productions, at her house for about 30 folks. Friday afternoon I’ll do a lecture at University of Texas. I love to do college gigs and do them all over the country as much as possible. Sunday afternoon, the day after the burlesque fest, I will do my newest offering at my favorite theater, the Vortex. It’s a keynote slide show called EcoSexology—Exploring the Landscape of a New Sexual Movement, Erotic Environmentalism, Green Porn, Nature Fetishes & Fashions. Then I will take folks on an Ecosex Walking Tour around the block and everyone can have an erotic experience with nature. Its super fun and differently sexy. Everyone is invited to everything!
Please tell us about your experience in burlesque.
When I was twelve my family went to the drive in movies to see the movie Gypsy about the life of stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, with Natalie Wood. That is my all time favorite movie and it was a big influence on me. Shy ugly duckling becomes empowered burlesque star and stands up to her controlling mother! I was very shy and insecure, and so wanted to be a sexy star. At 17 I happily gave up my virginity, and had a great first experience. By 18 I ended up in porn and prostitution and loved it. In the early eighties porn stars became in big demand in burlesque, so I got a lot of offers for big bucks. But was too shy to get on stage, and I wasn’t a very good dancer because when I was 13, my best friend told me I moved my ass funny when I danced, and after that I became so self conscious that I stopped dancing. It was very sad. But finally when I really wanted to go to college, and had to raise the money, I got up my courage and took the offers to do burlesque. My boyfriend at the time, a famous Dutch artist named Willem DeRidder suggested that I do story telling for my act. He was a fantastic story teller and we did radio shows together. So we created a new genre of burlesque we coined ‘Strip Speak.’ I strutted, gyrated, did floor work and stuff but I did sexy little skits, erotic storytelling, talked really dirty. I liked to interact with the audience. I did mainstream burlesque for 4 years. Playboy magazine did a little story on strip speak when I was at the Oak Theater in Chicago. I performed a lot at the Mitchell Brothers Theater, at the New Era in Cleveland, and Show World Center and the Melody Burlesque in Times Square. The Melody later became the Harmony Theater. I was always a headliner because I was a porn star. My porn fans came out for me.
Eventually I transitioned into performance art and continued to do nude and sexual performance with music but it wasn’t traditional burlesque. Maybe you could call it experimental burlesque…well, very experimental! I’ve done lots of things that people consider pretty taboo from fisting to golden showers. But interestingly, really, the biggest taboo so far is being nude onstage over 50! When you’re young taking off your clothes in public is pretty normal and acceptable. To be older and naked is taboo. But personally I love to see older bodies being erotic. Youth has its charms, so does age. We are a youth obsessed culture, which I think is very limiting. I like to expand and include. I like to fix taboos by breaking them!
While I was both on the road doing burlesque and getting my BFA at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan I took lots of photos backstage so I have a nice historic record of that time. I was also a pin-up model—in Hustler, Cheri, Club, High Society, Oui… all of them. I was also a pin up photographer for most all the magazines for many years. I had a monthly column in Penthouse Forum, and Cheri and others. So I photographed and interviewed a lot of the big strippers and porn stars of the 80’s and early 90’s. I’ve been around a long time, and I guess that’s why I was invited to the burlesque festival, because I’ve been there and done it, and have an historical perspective. The youngins have to be educated about the herstory, just like I had to be. I was tickled to be invited to do Burlesque Fest because I have been really out of that loop for a long time.
When you say, “In the early 1980’s porn stars became in big demand in burlesque” could you elaborate? Were these at modern “gentleman’s clubs” or theatrical venues? Were the performances burlesque, or more “feature dancing”? What did burlesque on the whole, look like in the 1980’s and 90’s?
The real change was the amount of nudity.
In the 80′s, most all the places I worked, you would do like 3 or 4 songs. The first couple were pretty classic burlesque in that you would work costumes, have “gimmicks”, strut, and really put on a show. Then once you were naked, or at least the naughty bits were showing, then you’d do some sort of floor work. OR, some strippers got down and dirty with the audience. Like Monica Kennedy would go out and just let the audience have at her. Or at the Melody burlesque you had what was called “boxed lunch” where the gals would lay down on the stage and men would line up and lick their pussies. It was really something to see. I never served boxed lunch, as I was a feature dancer, so didn’t do lap dances either. I think of stripper as the same as burlesque dancer.
The neo burlesque movement is based on the old vaudeville style of burlesque, before the 60s. During the sixties there was what you called go-go dancing, in bars also. But no, the places I worked all did what I would call burlesque, but it wasn’t usually the 50′s styles of clothing, of moves, of tease. It was a different style, with different kinds of moves-but still very theatrical. Very theatrical indeed. When gentlemen’s clubs came, yes, the dancing got mostly pretty boring. It’s not very theatrical at all, more ambient usually. Creativity isn’t really supported or encouraged. But yeah, in the 80′s and early 90′s, we had dancers with snakes, trumpets, magic acts, and all kinds of theatrical extravaganzas.
A lot of the earlier strippers were really pissed off about all the nudity and floor work that evolved, so they tried to say that it wasn’t burlesque anymore. But really I would say it was burlesque with more nudity, the latest fashions and more sleaze. I’m sure if you interviewed a stripper from the 50′s she’d probably say it wasn’t burlesque. But when I see the dancers at a gentlemen’s club, I would say that is not burlesque at all. There are very little theatrics. Most of the theaters we went to were not bars or night clubs, except in canada. You couldn’t have liquor and nudity both. So they were theaters, usually with a good sized stage and with a run way.
You use the word “stripper” for some, and “burlesque” for others. Is there a difference between strippers, feature dancers, and burlesque performers for you?
Stripper: A dancer that takes their clothes off on stage.
Feature Dancer: A dancer that has a known name and draws customers. Thus she/he is paid more than “house dancers” and usually doesn’t have to do things like boxed lunch, lap dancing, drink selling.
Burlesque dancer: A dancer that uses theatrical elements while taking (some of or all) of their clothes off. Costumes, props, lighting, tease, eye work, special music, etc.
In one of your articles on your website, you describe at length what you call your “brushes and crushes with the law.” I was especially interested in the section about your work as a stripper and all of the creative ways you had to work around liquor/nudity laws in various places. Please share some of those stories with our readers.
Over many years, I’ve seen the pendulum of freedom and repression swing back and forth. People try to stop adult entertainment from happening, and there are people who fight to allow it. Traveling the bumpy burlesque trail I got to see just how ridiculous laws could be, and how clever the lawyers could be in helping us get around those laws. For example, in one city the law demanded ‘no full nudity ‘. So we simply kept our g- strings on when we took our bras off, and put our bras back on before we took off our g-strings. It was full nudity, but not all at once. In another city, the law said ‘no nudity and liquor allowed at the same address’, so a glass wall was built between the bar and the stage, and each side of the glass was given a different address. In yet another city, the law insisted that ‘dancer’s nipples had to be covered’. So dancers had to paint them over with clear liquid latex, which kept us legal, but made our nipples painfully irritated.
You have stated that you “never really liked burlesque.” What specific aspects of burlesque did you find unappealing?
The only thing I didn’t like about burlesque was ‘the management.’ Some, not all, of the owners and managers at some of the places I worked were simply greedy, arrogant, controlling, misogynist, patriarchal men. The Mitchell Brothers theater was the best place to work. Ironically the Mitchell brothers were really respectful. For twenty years I worked in massage parlors (brothels) and in pornography and the men in charge were wonderful! They were there to protect you, make sure you were taken care of, and helped you make money and they were fun to be with. So after 38 years in sex related work, burlesque theater owners and managers were the only bad apples. Hopefully that has changed and they are more enlightened now. I had become too much of a feminist to put up with it anymore and got out of the burlesque biz.
You have a Ph.D. in Human Sexuality, and your bio states that you have “passionately researched and explored sexuality in all of its glorious and inglorious forms for thirty eight years.” Which did you find to be more difficult- your doctorate coursework or your many years of independent research?
None of it was difficult. It wasn’t all hunky dory. But I was very blessed. Just like with any job there were good and not so good days. But most days were wonderful. I was never a drug addict or alcoholic. I have noticed that people with drug and alcohol addictions have a tougher time in the sex industry. Plus I have relatively good self-esteem compared to a lot of people, and I had an attitude that I’d come out a winner no matter what. Very importantly, I had a wonderful support group, called Club 90–a core group of 5 porn stars. We all also performed in burlesque and we really supported each other. We are still a support group today we’ve been meeting for 27 years and are the best of friends. We email each other almost every day, but also get together whenever we possibly can.
Do you have any other current projects about which you’re
I’m what I call metamorphosexual—always in a state of change. I’m constantly interested in the new thing. I honestly feel like my best is yet to come. The past couple years I’ve been super excited about the work my partner and collaborator Elizabeth Stephens and I are doing around ecosexuality, and what we call Sexecology; exploring the places where sexology and ecology intersect. We are working on changing the metaphor from ‘Earth as mother’ to ‘Earth as lover’ to entice people to take better care of the Earth, Sky and Sea. I’m interested in nature fetishes, in being sensual with water, plants, sky, dirt… We have a new theater piece; Dirty Sexecology—25 Ways to Make Love with the Earth. At the end of the show I do an ecosexual striptease for the Earth while Beth sings a song about the destruction of the Appalachian Mountains. Then we get down and dirty in two breast-like piles of dirt. At the finale she pulls a flag of the Earth out of my plooch. It’s fun and very dirty! I’m stripping for the Earth now.
For more about Annie Sprinkle visit her sites: anniesprinkle.org, and loveartlab.org.
Known as the gal with the mouth of a sailor and the voice of an angel, Denver’s Cora Vette talks Texas Burlesque Festival, sparkly vinyl, Reefer Mania, drag queens, body image and vintage rockabilly.
Interview: Divertida Devotchka
You’re one of the producers of BurlyCute. Please tell us about how BurlyCute got started and what’s planned for the future.
I come from a theater background and I think everything I do will have an element of musical theater to it. Rather than try to avoid it, I try to incorporate singing and dancing into burlesque whenever I can. When I put together my first show it was cast from singer/dancers who had never done burlesque. It was called “Leadville Or BUST!” and it was actually a burlesque that pre-dated the striptease. So, I think the theater element has evolved naturally in our shows (which have focused more and more on the striptease element). Everyone who works with us in BurlyCute is very multi-talented and theatrical. I believe there is a place for everything. We have had singing, tap dancing, pointe work, mimes, fan dances, crazy characters and even the occasional furry creature. I think it makes shows more fun when you never know what to expect. I also always try to add a song or piece that is heartfelt and grabs the audience on a personal level…plus (in the words of Satan’s Angel) I am “totally cornball”. I just can’t help it.
Last summer BurlyCute produced “Reefer Mania: Denver’s Gone to Pot!” a ‘vaudevillesque pot opera.’ You stated in The Denver Daily News that it was hard to get businesses to keep posters up for the show due to the current controversy around marijuana. You were quoted saying, “suddenly I’m spearheading something that’s either really awesome, or really horrible.” Now that it’s said and done, was it awesome, horrible or a little of both?
It was both. We produced that show in a city run venue and were unprepared for the challenges that that produced. In a nutshell, Reefer Mania was basically a burlesque musical revue of vintage songs about marijuana. In Denver, medical marijuana is now big business and I thought it would be an easy hit with how prevalent “pot culture” is in Colorado. What I underestimated was that people were reluctant to be associated on one side or the other of this hotly debated business. Store and restaurant owners would take our posters down for fear of being labeled pro-marijuana. Honestly, we got more publicity than I ever expected and people were always asking me what side I was taking and my answer was always the same. I am just taking the side of the music. The songs featured and danced to in Reefer Mania were all written in the 1920s-1940s. Oddly enough, most of them were written during a time when marijuana was legal but alcohol was not.
Reefer Mania was a blast and a half and we are currently working on a version 2.0 that will incorporate even more burlesque. We kept the original version pretty PG for fear of offending the theater. This time it will be produced in April on 4/20 at Bender’s Tavern where it probably should have been the first time. Reefer Mania Burlesque Version 2.0 (Naughtier and more Neked)
I heard that you are releasing a CD soon. Can you tell us more?
I am releasing a jazz CD next month called “Smoking Reefers”. It features many of the songs from Reefer Mania only bigger and with more musicians. It is really amazing how this has all come together. The music was done by David Nehls who is a theatrical composer and the Music Director of the Arvada Center. He called in some favors and got some awesome musicians to record on this project. So now, instead of just a piano like we had for the show, we have piano, cello, clarinet, drums, saxophone etc. and the CD is engineered by Zac Miller who is an amazing guy! It was just wonderful to see how many people donated their time to create a modern recording of this vintage music. I will be eternally grateful.
We’re so delighted to hear that you’re one of the emcees for the Texas Burlesque Festival! Please tell us what the audience should expect from you when you’re on the mic.
Haha! I never know! Honestly, I rarely have any clue what I am going to do until I get out onstage. My head is full of dirty jokes and I love playing off the crowd’s energy. There is NOTHING like a full house in another city to get my blood pumping! I am sure I will sing a few numbers. I usually sing at least 3 songs in a big show. Usually one to open the show, one somewhere in the middle to cover up a big setup and one near the end. I don’t know exactly how TBF will be just yet but I will definitely bring my whole 2 suitcases full of sparkle vinyl and tricks. Hmmm…maybe I will bring Dolly along. I do a pretty mean Jolene/9 to 5 number that is pretty crazy and fun. I am really excited to come back to Austin! I am realizing that there is a LOT of stuff that I want to be involved in that is happening in Texas!!
Your rockabilly band, Cora Vette and the Vinyl Tops, incorporates vintage rockabilly and burlesque. I’d love to hear more about that.
I have a rockabilly trio in Denver called Cora Vette and the Vinyl Tops that focuses on vintage female rockabilly and blues songs. I usually involve a couple of the BurlyCuties whom I jokingly refer to as my “Wrenches”. They wear mechanics overalls to start and of course as the night wears on appear in less and less (venue appropriate of course). I am a big fan of Wanda Jackson, Janis Martin, Charlene Arthur, Julia Lee and tons of other women who were singing songs way ahead of their time. It is pretty amazing the music that these ladies were making! I think it deserves to be heard again. Plus, pretty dancing girls never hurt either…
In addition to your roles in production and performance, you’ve also been busy working on a vintage reproduction clothing line called Slenderette. Tell us more about your involvement in this project.
Well, people may know that I make all my own costumes. I was trying to figure out what my burlesque name would be and I remembered that Vivenne VaVoom (who also lives in Denver) had mentioned that she had a bunch of vintage sparkle vinyl in her basement that someone had given her when their classic car upholstery shop closed and Cora Vette was born…I get so many inquiries about my sewing that I started branching out and making chorus girl costumes in vintage patterns and other random pieces that I was making for fun. I was thinking of making some custom order dresses when I ran across a few patterns called “Half Size Slenderettes”. They were basically vintage petite sizes (not patterns to make you appear more slender as is the common incorrect opinion). I decided then and there that I loved that word and wanted to use it to describe the vintage pinup clothes that I wanted to make. The company is still in the beginning stages but I have made a few and have had many people asking about ordering one. Hopefully “Slenderette” will be making a bigger debut soon. But, for now, you can just find me on Facebook if you are interested.
You performed as Tanya in Mamma Mia! at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for three years, performing to more than one million guests during that time. Were you performing burlesque before your tenure as Tanya, or did you get into that after coming back to Denver?
I think every big part I have had in theater has had an over-the-top element of comedy and glamour. My part as Tanya in Mamma Mia was the comic role of a wealthy glamorous sex pot. So, glamour and comedy have always been a big part of my career. But, I didn’t officially get into burlesque until I came back to Denver and found out that there were really very few jobs in theater. I have my Actor’s Equity Association union card and I cannot work in theaters that don’t offer union contracts. I have a pension that I don’t want to lose by dropping my union membership so I was looking for performing outlets that would fall outside of legitimate theater. Illegitimate theater suits me to a “T”! I am creatively more happy than I have ever been! It is a wonderful thing to be able to do whatever you want to do. I don’t have a director telling me how to deliver my lines. Plus, I have learned that when I am just being my crazy self that I am actually funny…when someone tells me to be funny…I think too much and am just not funny!
What’s next for Cora Vette?
I have learned that just when I think I know what is next, I am wrong! Recently, I started performing in a weekly drag show called “Tucked” at Charlie’s Denver so frequently I am mistaken for a Drag Queen. (Turns out that, other than the obvious, there is not that big of a difference between a Drag Queen and a Burlesque Queen. They are both awesomely outrageous off-the-wall glamorous characters).
I will be hosting lots of festivals in the coming year. Texas Burlesque Festival, Show Me Burlesque in St. Louis, the 3rd Annual New Orleans Burlesque Festival and hopefully many others. I hope to be able to travel more this year. Plus, I have just started a new job as a bartender at this cool retro little bar in Denver called…what else?…The Stingray Lounge. So if you are coming through Denver come to the Stingray and let me make you a drink!
Anything you’d like to add?
Check out my website www.CoraVette.com for information and links to all my madness! A huge thank you to all the ladies of BurlyCute for all their creative contributions. Plus, thanks to my Co-Producer whom we refer to as “Misther Cellophane” because he handles the tech and if he is doing his job right, “you can look right through him, walk right by him, and never know he’s there.”
And – I would like to add that my association with the burlesque community has given me back something that I lost in “theater”. A positive body image. I struggled for YEARS with my weight (as most actresses do). I was put on my first theater diet at 19, tried crash dieting, excessive exercising and just about anything I could think of to beat the curves off my body. I remember one time, during Mamma Mia, the director described me as “voluptuous”. I was horrified. Now, thanks to burlesque, I am proud. Thank you for that…XOXO Cora Vette
We asked Austin native Ruby Joule, The Gem You’d Love to Polish, to put together her Glamma Gal’s Guide to Austin to help you get the most out of your visit to Texas Burlesque Festival!
I grew up in Austin, and though I’ve traveled ‘round the world, I love coming home to “The Violet Crown” as it was once called. The city has many treasures and breathtaking vistas, but here are a few of the essential highlights…
The Austin Chronicle – To get acclimated to the city and its vibe right away, I’d recommend picking up a copy of this free weekly paper. It’s available at over 1500 locations around town; cafés, shops, groceries, etc. It has all the music listings, a killer horoscope, and all the current issues the cool kids are buzzing about.
2109 E. Cesar Chavez, Austin, TX 78702
Coco Coquette is run by Allyson Garro, former member of Velvet Hammer Burlesque in LA and The Shim Shamettes in New Orleans, and boy does she know what a glamma girl wants! Her little place is home to a salon, vintage clothing, and some of the most imaginative, magnificent handmade wigs, accessories, and perfume you’ll find.
Lucy in Disguise
1506 S. Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704
Described as “Woodstock meets Las Vegas,” this is hands-down the best costume shop in town. No flammable catalogue costumes here, this is the real thing available for rent or purchase. They carry a staggering array of costumes for any theme; accessories, even special effects makeup and masks.
Amelia’s Retro-Vogue & Relics
2213 S. 1st St., Austin, TX 78704
The Best Vintage Shop award goes to Amelia’s. Specializing in vintage fashion from the mid-1800s to mid-1900s, Amelia’s has long been used as a resource for designers in the film, theatre and fashion worlds. The high quality of its stock has garnered an international reputation, and there seems to be a growing selection of hats and incredible handbags.
The Bazaar/The Bazaar Backstage
1609 E. Riverside Dr., Austin, TX 78741
Off-the-rack costumes aside, The Bazaar is my favorite “stripper store” in town, offering unique accessories, great selection of stockings and some wonderful gowns for après show. The Bazaar Backstage, located in a little building right next door, has a huge selection of wigs and all the glittery, shimmery stage makeup you’d ever need.
7739 Northcross Dr., Suite S, Austin, TX 78757
I admit, I hesitated one moment before letting you in on this one, but I just can’t keep this place all to myself! This consignment boutique outlet has the best value in designer formal gowns I’ve ever found. They also have furs, jewelry, and casual wear, but it’s the gowns I’m interested in! Bridal gowns, pageant and formal gowns, cocktail dresses—whether for stage or après show, you’ll find something stunning and cost-effective here.
Once all that shopping works up an appetite…
4710 E. 5th St., Austin, TX 78702
Old fashioned French comfort food served alongside decidedly glamorous cocktails. A converted 1937 bungalow, part of the mystique of Justine’s is the sense that you’re in the middle of nowhere, yet you’re surrounded by an international and chic crowd of other folks “in the know.” Try the duck confit, it is superb!
The Good Knight
1300 E. 6th St. Austin, TX 78702
Classic cocktails and comfort food for the gourmand, this little hideaway conjures images of a Parisian rendezvous with its secluded dark little booths hung with drapery. The lighting is very flattering, the food is delish and not too pricey, and the cocktail mixology is delightful. One of my favorite spots!
1308 E. 6th St., Austin, TX 78702
A coffee shop that also serves champagne? Yes please! Described as “a mild mannered coffee shop by day, swanky lounge by night,” this place lives up to the tagline. It is one of my favorite cafes, with darling themed retro seating areas and even a giant painting of Audrey Hepburn a la Holly Golightly. Just look for the antique 7-Up sign and you’re there!
615 Red River St., Austin, TX 78701
A true glamma girl’s haven, with a charmingly distressed finish. This bar and live music venue invites you into an ethereal dream world of all-white décor, soft light, and delicious cocktails—many of which are served in old-fashioned champagne coupes. Have the French 75!
1142 S. Lamar, Austin, TX 78704
This is a “diner” as the Rat Pack would have imagined it, swanky mid-century modern décor and all. Sure they serve great food, but there’s also a huge bar, 8 lanes of bowling, a ballroom for live music and dancing and themed private karaoke rooms upstairs.
You may also need…
Zilker Botanical Gardens
2220 Barton Springs Rd., Austin, TX 78746
If you need to get back to the beauty of nature or restore your inner “fairy princess,” this is the place. I grew up in a neighborhood close by and remember magical hours spent here. Created in 1955, the gardens now include a prehistoric garden, herb and fragrance garden, butterfly garden and trail, rose garden, and my favorite, the Isamu Tanaguchi Oriental Garden—all flowing seamlessly one into another under a lush canopy of live oak trees.
In the wee small hours, you needn’t resort to IHOP or Denny’s. Just punch this into your GPS or tell the Cabbie:
Magnolia Café (the spinach artichoke dip is divoon!)
1920 S. Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704
2304 Lake Austin Blvd, Austin, TX 78703
2700 S. Lamar, Austin, TX 78704
2606 Guadalupe, Austin, TX 78705
3704 Kerbey Lane, Austin, TX 78731
3101 N. I-35, Austin, TX 78722
Diner 24 (a bit fancy for a diner, but good)
600 N. Lamar, Austin, TX 78703
Have a question you would love to have a seasoned performer answer? Are you a fabulous burly-q gal who’d like to answer reader questions? Hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org !
Tips for stretching your costume budget: Making every rhinestone count!
by: Vivienne Vermuth
Sitting in the audience at a burlesque show is thrilling, especially seeing the moment when the dancer struts out on stage, displaying a glittering, gleaming costume full of feathers, sequins, rhinestones and glam. You immediately decide to go home and try to create something similar… Wow, who knew that those teensy rhinestones were worth their weight (literally) in gold! And how much are ostrich feathers? GEEZ!
Yes, burly girls develop quite the expensive habit… But there are ways to cut down costs and not lose the glitz! I will also clear the air on types of bling so you are more educated on where your dough goes!
The most important item that every ecdysiast needs: rhinestones to adorn their pasties, g-strings, gowns and gloves. It can be confusing searching for these, especially when buying in bulk and in high quantity! Here’s what years of searching and buying have lead me to -
1) Not every rhinestone is equal! There a three major types – plastic (acrylic), glass (also can be preciosa) machine cut, and the highly coveted Swavroski. These can be broken down by two main categories that separate them, cut and clarity. Hold up an acrylic rhinestone, and they appear a bit cloudy, not easily seen through, but still some shine, and there is just a little reflection off its surface. Hold up a machine cut glass stone, and it’s much clearer, with more glint. Machine cut stones have more facets, or inner/outer surfaces for the light to bounce off (like a diamond). Swarovskis have a specific cutting process that gives them the most facets, which gives them what’s commonly called the “inner fire”. While a lot of machine cut glass comes close, there isn’t anything like a “Swav”. Good news is you can find balance of sparkle and checkbook by mixing your stones!
2.) Be careful of how MANY you buy! I’ve seen too many companies sell stones for much higher mark
Up, simply by changing the numbers. Look for words like “by the gross” which is industry term for 144 pieces, or stones in a pack, or a “ten”, meaning a ten gross pack, 1440 pieces or stones. Generally the more you buy, the cheaper they become. Don’t be fooled by half gross! You could pay way more!! Best places I have found for great prices on Swavroski without a wholesale ID – rhinestone guy.com, rhinestoneshop.com (free shipping!) and my newest find, rhinestonebiz.com. I have used them all, found great prices, excellent service and fast shipping. For excellent acrylic and glass stones, I highly recommend Decadent Dame Designs on etsy.com, she sells an amazing selection of high quality acrylic and glass machine cut stones, and I have a coupon for you to use when purchasing through this store – use “VIVIENNEVERMUTH” in your checkout for 10% percent off your purchase! Please do not buy crystals at the local craft stores unless you are in desperate need – you won’t get nearly as much bang for your buck!
3.) When combining rhinestones, it’s always smart to use them strategically! If you have a large area to fill, use acrylic or machine cut stones, and use Swavroski to highlight where light will hit your costu e most! the great performer and costumer Penny Starr Jr teaches this in her famous workshops all over the country. You can also use sequins, especially faceted ones (not flat) because they are foiled and will bounce light off easily! You can also use sparkly material and use good rhinestones to accentuate.
4.) Don’t forget a food glue! When possible, don’t use hot glue! It’s not a bad glue for in a pinch, but generally speaking it’s not a long term adhesive. Look to more industrial glues, such as E6000. Do material tests first to make sure these glues don’t stain fabric, and be VERY cautious of fumes and work in well ventilated areas! When used properly, these glues will ensure you don’t lose stones while taking it off! They also work well for trim, feathers and other pieces.
Now get out your crafty stuff and make something sparkly! Happy bedazzling!
Burlesque Arrests: Jack Ruby & Tony Midnite
by: Femme Vivre LaRouge
I present to you two very different figures from the history of burlesque: Jack Ruby and Tony Midnite. While Midnite made his mark as a performer, costumer, and LGBT activist, Ruby went down in history not for the clubs he owned, but for shooting Lee Harvey Oswald.
Born in Chicago in 1911, Jack Ruby relocated to Dallas in 1947, to take over management of the Singapore Club, which his sister owned. Ruby later changed the dancehall’s name to the Silver Spur Club and additionally purchased the Bob Wills Ranch House to operate as a western-style nightclub. Neither of these clubs survived, but his next venture, the Vegas, did. The Vegas club offered beer and wine, a limited food menu, a live band, and the occasional striptease act. After a failed attempt at operating a private club on Commerce, he changed its name to the Carousel Club and abandoned the membership system (which enabled club members to purchase liquor) for a public nightclub format with four stripteasers, an emcee, and a band on the payroll. While some employees got along just fine with Jack Ruby and even spoke fondly of him and his generosity, he was known to have violent outbursts of temper. He reportedly sapped one employee, beat a musician with brass knuckles, and pinned another to the wall then kicked him in the groin. He also supposedly gave a handyman a sound beating and threatened to toss a cigarette girl downstairs when confronted about wages. Somehow in the end, though, the charges were always dropped.
Ruby’s money management was sketchy at best and some performers claim he withheld payment from them; he used his car trunk for his banking, always paid cash, and took out several loans, but never from a financial institution. His operations were suspended multiple times by the Texas Liquor Control Board, for being an agent of moral turpitude, producing obscene shows, allowing a drunkard on the premises, alcoholic beverage consumption past club hours, and bounced checks. He was also arrested for permitting dancing after hours (twice), selling liquor after hours, disturbing the peace, allegedly carrying a concealed weapon, assault, and ignoring traffic summonses for a total of 20 tickets. Most of these charges, including an additional one by the Bureau of Narcotics, were dropped, or resulted in a small fine. His final arrest, however, in 1963, saw him sentenced to death for shooting Lee Harvey Oswald point blank in the stomach. However, Jack Ruby died of cancer while awaiting the appeal process. His motivations are much debated and his life was a turbulent one from the very beginning; the widely differing opinions of him by people who knew him keep the true Jack Ruby cloaked in mystery.
A native Texan, Tony Midnite was born in 1926 and began his performance career as a female impersonator in Galveston. Before long he took his show on the road, made it to Hollywood by age 20, and then joined Chicago’s Jewel Box Revue in 1948. Midnite’s passion for costuming eventually took him away from the stage and in 1952, he opened his own studio. He outfitted all of the best performers, both female impersonator and female, worldwide, in lavish costumes and gowns. In 1958 Midnite costumed the Jewel Box Revue for its Broadway performance and after that he stayed on in New York, doing costumes for theatre, television, and even the Metropolitan Opera. He later returned to Chicago to open his own show; although the Chicago police were open with their dislike of female impersonation, this never held him back. In the early 1950s, the police department attempted to quell his career, but undaunted, Midnite audaciously booked the Jewel Box to perform a two week run of 25 Men and a Girl at a lush show lounge. The show, consisting of 25 drag queens emceed by a drag king, was so popular that it continued at this venue for eight months. The Jewel Box Revue also pushed boundaries by employing a multiracial cast of performers in the early fifties. Although his career was a very successful one, it was nonetheless peppered with discrimination and, effectively, segregation, at times. Tony Midnite participated in protests and publishing about LGBT issues, earning him an induction into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 1996.
Burlesque Haunts: Austin
by: Femme Vivre LaRouge
If you’re planning on heading down to Austin for the Texas Burlesque Festival this month (which we recommend) you may want to consider staying at The Driskill hotel for some extra kicks. Fans of all things vintage just might have an intimate encounter with history via one of the numerous ghosts known to haunt The Driskill. A “landmark of legendary Texas hospitality,” the place is so lavish and lush that some guests choose never to check out.
The Driskill was built by wealthy cattle baron Colonel Jesse Lincoln Driskill. Its architectural splendor was matched by its advanced technological luxuries and was the first hotel south or west of St. Louis to boast electric lighting. The very first long-distance call ever placed in the city of Austin was from the lobby of the Driskill, and the hydraulic elevator and elaborate bell system that enabled guests to ring for room service made it a luxurious place to stay in 1886. Thanks to the Austin Heritage Society and many concerned citizens, the structure was saved from the wrecking ball and remains not only a State Historic Landmark, but a luxurious place of lodging to this day.
Ever important to Austin’s social scene, the hotel is located right on the infamous 6th street, and during Prohibition it housed the finest hideaway in all of Austin. The Driskill has been dubbed ‘the living room for Texas politics’ and indeed, not only have the politically powerful gone there to meet and drink, but the Texas Senate convened at the hotel for about a year during the construction of the State Capitol. Rumor has it that the Texas Rangers even hatched the plan that would be the demise of Bonnie and Clyde while sitting in a suite at The Driskill. It’s also considered by many to be Austin’s most haunted building as well as the most haunted hotel in the state of Texas.
Due to a tragic accident on the stairs, the first resident ghost of the hotel arrived in 1887 while the Texas Senate was in session. The daughter of a senator, the little girl was back within the week and has never quit playing and bouncing her ball in the 1st floor lobby and the 2nd floor ladies’ room. The Driskill is still home to its namesake, Colonel Driskill, as well, whose face you can gaze upon in the lobby thanks to a portrait painted in 1890. Don’t worry, he won’t be showing his face any other way, although if you smell a cigar and no one’s smoking or an unseen force becomes interested in your bathroom lights, he may be nearby.
But don’t get Colonel Driskill confused with Colonel Peter Lawless, who also haunts the hotel. A resident of the Driskill hotel for around 31 years, the retired railroad man stayed on thereafter and has been seen by several, usually checking his railroad watch while waiting for the elevator. A woman driving a bus recently had to slam on her brakes at the intersection of 6th street and Brazos when a man wearing “old time clothing and carrying a watch on a chain” appeared in front of the bus, only to disappear again. If you happen to see him, he’ll probably just turn and walk off through a wall, although hauntedtexas.com notes that he is an unusual spirit as he will look at and acknowledge the living.
There is one room of the Driskill that has been known to steam up as an invisible roommate takes an imaginary shower and you may even find some scribbles on your notepad. Guests in another room have had their luggage rearranged while they slept and once a cheeky phantom decided to choose Annie Lennox’s outfit for the evening while she was showering. In a friendly fashion, the alternate outfit was hung neatly in the closet. The same ghost has a reputation as a ladies’ man and has been known to make advances on single ladies.
The most mystifying room, though, is 525, which went unused for years. Legend has it that two brides, 20 years apart, had committed suicide in the bathroom, but whatever the reason, the bathroom door was bricked up until 1998 when renovations brought about a smattering of paranormal activity. The paint peeled from the walls, the air conditioning defied science, and most alarming, the tub turned out to be full of water with seemingly no way of it getting in there.
The ghosts of The Driskill really seem to be a kindly bunch and for some of them, the party just never ended. Banquet manager Arthur Cicchese once heard inebriated laughter erupting from the elevators at 6am and then a whole group laughing around him in the hall after the elevators had both opened, although none of the merrymakers was visible. As the author of Ghost Stories of Texas, Jo-Anne Christensen, puts it, the Driskill embodies “the true ‘spirit’ of southern hospitality.”
If you still haven’t had your fill of ghosties, head on over to The Tavern, rumored to have been a speakeasy and brothel during Prohibition. Located on West 12th Street and Lamar, The Tavern is home to ‘Emily’ who is enjoys the peaceful mornings at the bar and has been known to change channels on the television and occasionally break a glass. The staff doesn’t seem to mind, though- they’ve named a liquor cabinet after her! Emily has also been seen standing in the window with a little girl who may or may not have been her daughter, and staring out across the road, to the gas station.
Or, you could just camp out at the Capitol hoping to see the mysterious lady in the red dress. Whatever your itinerary looks like, April in Austin is sure to be spectacular, and maybe even a bit spooky.
April happens to hold the ever so confusing holiday of Easter (seriously… a rabbit leaves eggs around your yard?) and my beloved boyfriend’s birthday. To pay homage to my boyfriend and our inner child who once was able to believe in some bunny deftly stuffing candy and toys into plastic eggs and hiding them around our houses I will tell you how to make his favorite cake in every child’s favorite form: the cupcake.
Yellow Cake Cupcakes
- 3 eggs (substitute with plain applesauce for vegan option)
- Boxed yellow cake mix (Yeah, I said it, it’s yummy and it’s easy. I prefer Betty Crocker Super Moist or Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe.)
- Cupcake cups and cupcake pan
- Olive oil
- ½ cup butter, softened
- 1 egg or a couple tablespoons of milk (soy or almond milk can be used as a substitute)
- 1 generous tsp vanilla extract
- 16 oz box powdered sugar
- 6 heaping Tbsp cocoa
- I’m going to make this super easy for you and still super tasty. Just follow the directions on the box with one exception, instead of using vegetable oil as instructed replace it olive oil, measure for measure. For a vegan cake substitute ¼ cup plain applesauce for each egg. Place cupcake cups in cupcake pan, pour batter into cups, and bake according to the almighty cake box instructions. While your cupcakes are baking mix the frosting. In a large bowl cream all the frosting ingredients together until light and fluffy. If it’s too thick add some milk. After removing the cupcakes from the pan and allowing them to cool frost the tops and enjoy!
Giving another nod to the main man in my life I bring you the Caipirinha, which, like my boyfriend, hails from Brazil. Have a few of these with your Easter brunch and you might find yourself willing to believe this whole magic bunny thing. If a magic bunny starts talking to you however, stop drinking.
- 1 lime
- 2 ounces of cachaça
- Ice cubes
- Sugar to taste (regular or raw sugar)
- Wash the lime and roll it on the cutting board to loosen the juices. Cut the lime into pieces and place them in a rocks glass pulp side up. The lime pieces should take up about ½ of the rocks glass. Sprinkle the limes liberally with sugar and, using a muddle, crush the lime pieces. Only push down with the muddle, do not twist as this will cause the drink to be bitter! Add cubed ice to the glass and pour just enough cachaça to cover the ice. Look at your drink! If you have done this correctly the muddled limes and sugar will fill 1/3 of the glass while the ice and cachaça fill the remaining 2/3. Oh, why hello there Mr. Bunny. What’s that? You have chocolate eggs for me?