Our Best of Winter 2011 with the infamous Lola Van Ella on the cover, is out now! Here’s a sneak peak at her interview with Divertida Devotchka and photo shoot with Shoshana For the entire interview & photo shoot, including a tear out poster, you’ll need the print edition! Issue release party Friday, Dec 2nd at Viva Dallas Burlesque!
Lola van Ella, the Derriere Beyond Compare, talks St. Louis burlesque, the Beggar’s Carnivale, being entertained, and embracing the crazy.
Interview: Divertida Devotchka
I recently watched a beautiful promotional reel for Jumpin’ Jupiter, and I’ve been following updates on the progress. Please enlighten our readers about your involvement at Jumpin’ Jupiter, which is billed as a “neo supper lounge.”
I am proud to say that VanElla Productions is very heavily involved with the Jumpin Jupiter. It’s a gorgeous new burlesque and supper club here, with amazing food and the swankiest environment. It’s just gorgeous. I’ve known the owner for about 10 years and we would always talk about how cool it would be if he could open up a show club that I could perform in. I didn’t actually think that would happen, but I’m incredibly thrilled that it did. It’s been a lot of hard work, a little stressful at times, but now we have a solid supper show and late night burlesque show every weekend that has been selling out and getting rave reviews. The venue is fantastic, with a beautiful red velvet curtain, great lighting and a nice stage. It’s kind of a dream come true to have a place like this in St. Louis.
Another exciting project in which you are involved is The Beggar’s Carnivale. Tell us about your role in the show and about any recent developments. The show is doing some touring now, right?
I’ve never been more excited about another project. The Beggar’s Carnivale has become the largest regular event here in St. Louis and Sammich the Tramp and I produce it together. We are true partners in this. We plan out the shows together and Sammich dreams up the story and a lot of the ideas and essentially directs the show. It is a very collaborative process with our whole cast as well, which includes lots of physical comics, aerialists, fire artists, burlesque dancers, jugglers and a really cool band. I’m really humbled by how large the production has become. We have over 60 people involved in each show including the cast, crew and volunteers. Recently, we’ve added a really cool black and white set and a big carnival midway with games, sideshow tent and vendors. We are also traveling a bit. We’re so excited to be coming back to Dallas!
In an online interview from last spring, when discussing the notion of performers sticking to only traditional classic burlesque, you said, “It would get boring. If art doesn’t change and grow with the times, it will die.” You also recently had a discussion with our editor about the changing climate of burlesque and the return of vaudeville-inspired performance. Could you elaborate on your thoughts on the direction that you feel burlesque is going, or rather, the direction you think it should go in order to avoid artistic death?
Well, firstly, I love a good piece of classic burlesque. When done right, it’s beautiful, sexy, and downright delicious. However, I do think that burlesque has evolved into a performance art that is embracing not only striptease, but really good performance. I see more and more incredible dancers, singers, and acrobats in burlesque. I think more and more, audiences are looking for variety. They want spectacle, skill, wonder. I think audiences crave a truly live experience. Something more than just a show, they want an event. An experience. Burlesque when it started, with its roots in vaudeville, was much more like this. The dancers were more of a novelty, a specialty act, which made them all the more exciting, because they were in the midst of comedy and variety acts and everyone was itching to see the beautiful girls finally come out and wow the crowd. I love the strip. I love burlesque, but I love it more when I’m surprised by it. When it’s titillating, interesting and unexpected. I think audiences are feeling the same way. Regardless, above all, people just want to be entertained; truly and honestly entertained.
California girl Gina Elise, the creator and face of Pin-Ups for Vets, talks the 1940’s pin-up aesthetic, fundraising and volunteering at VA hospitals, her late Grandpa Lou, appreciation from the troops, and more.
Interview: Divertida Devotchka. Photos: Mark Menchaca
When you first created the Pin-Ups for Vets pin up calendar, your purpose was threefold: to sell calendars to raise money for hospitalized veterans, to deliver the purchased calendars to actual ill/injured vets with messages from the donors, and to send calendars to deployed troops to help boost morale. When exactly did you start this project? Can you tell us about the process of creating your organization?
It was 2006, two years after I graduated from UCLA, and there were many news stories coming out about VA hospitals that were underfunded, overcrowded, and struggling to properly care for the big influx of patients. The number of patients was increasing due to the aging Veteran population and also the Veterans coming back from the combat zone. I really wanted to do something to help out. Our Veterans sacrifice so much for this country, and I think that they should be getting the best possible medical care. I’d always been a big fan of the pin-up culture, and I adore the art of the famous pin-up artists such as Vargas and Elvgren. I decided to create a pin-up calendar that would raise funds to support these VA and Military hospitals across the USA to try to improve their healthcare programs. The first calendar released was the 2007 edition, and the rest is history! $50,000 donated to VA hospitals across the U.S. and six “Pin-Ups For Vets calendars produced to date! It was definitely struggle to get the organization off the ground, as it is with any start-up. I created a website and started sending the website link to the Milblogging community (Military Bloggers). They welcomed the project immediately and started reposting the website link and asked me to do interviews about the organization. I also started to appear at live events such as car and air shows that always attract pin-up fans! It has definitely been a grass-roots effort to spread the word. My first supporters started sending the website to their friends and family. They also started donating calendars so I could ship them to deployed units. And after a while, I started getting a lot of e-mail requests from deployed units for these calendars. They became popular with our deployed service members who have requested them year after year. Supporters of Pin-Ups For Vets now collect the calendars, and many of them pride themselves on having the entire set! There is so much thought and production that goes into making the calendars; they are more like art pieces. I try to remain true to the aesthetic of the 1940s pinups; classy and glamorous, but with a girl-next-door quality.
You had some very personal inspiration for starting this project, right? Your late Grandpa Lou served in the U.S. Army for 4 years during World War II, and the 1940’s retro pin-up seemed a fitting aesthetic for the project. Can you tell us a little about Lou and his service?
My grandfather was a pharmacist for the Army. He was in charge of the Army pharmacy on his military base and did such a good job that he received a letter of commendation from his superiors who recommended that he attend Officers Candidate School. He was always very proud of his military service. He would take my mother to the cemetery on Memorial Day so she would understand about the sacrifices made by his comrades. I still have his military dog tags. I am inspired by the medical care that my grandfather gave to Soldiers almost 70 years ago during WWII, and I feel that I’ve been able to take that torch and carry it on into this generation to help our current hospitalized Veterans.
Since starting Pin-Ups for Vets, you’ve received a remarkable amount of recognition for your work. In 2007 you were named “Outstanding Young Californian,” in 2008 you received the “Daily Points of Light” award from Washington D.C., and in 2009 you were named “Volunteer of the Year” by the Los Angeles Business Journal as a part of their annual Women Making a Difference ceremony. Not only that, but you’ve also collected 9 certificates of appreciation so far and 8 American flags that were flown by our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Do you find yourself surprised by the extent of the gratitude of the vets and/or the community for the work you’ve been doing? Did you ever expect that the project would grow into what it is today?
You know, I did not expect that Pin-Ups For Vets would have become my life. I created this fundraiser calendar thinking it was only going to be a one-year project. Towards the end of the first year, I started getting e-mails asking me when the next calendar was going to come out, so I created a second calendar and the project grew, little by little, with the passing of each year. It is quite an honor to have received these awards. I was very humbled by them, as I feel that I am not doing anything extraordinary–it is our service members that should be getting the recognition. They are the ones that put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms. I am just doing my part to support them.
As a more personal type of recognition, you have also received hundreds of letters from troops in Afghanistan and Iraq telling you about their experiences overseas. I can imagine that you’ve heard all kinds of stories, from the uplifting to the downright horrifying. Can you share a few personal anecdotes that have been shared with you by the deployed troops?
In general, the e-mails I get from deployed service members show so much appreciation for the simple fact that people on the homefront are thinking of them. They want to know that we are behind them, that we support them, and that we have not forgotten about them. I just received this a few days ago: “Dear Gina, We are currently stationed in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. We received your calendars a few days ago, and I personally wanted to thank you on behalf of those in the shop, for not only bringing up our morale, but also giving me, along with several others, assurance knowing that there are still proud Americans back at home that love and support us for what we do.”
I understand that the proceeds from this project are donated to military and V.A. hospitals throughout the country to help with costs of healthcare programs. You’re also an advocate of volunteering at V.A. hospitals to assist our vets firsthand in their recovery. Any advice on how one can get started with volunteering?
Absolutely. It is as easy as contacting the Volunteer Services office of your local Veterans Hospital to inquire about how you can give back. The offices are always so happy to get new volunteers.
You’ve made a point to personally deliver gifts to hospitalized veterans at V.A. hospitals all over the country, as well as working with other non-profit groups to send care packages to deployed troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. We do cater to the pin-up crowd, so do you have any insight on what steps a gal should take if she wants to send pin-up goodies to deployed troops?
I would say to start by asking friends and family if they have any loved ones deployed and ask them if you would be able to send some care packages to the war zone.
What’s next for Pin-Ups for Vets?
I am right in the middle of a 50-state hospital tour. It is my goal to visit at least one VA or Military hospital in every state in the U.S. to boost morale of our Veterans across America! I have 31 states to go! If there is anyone reading this that would be interested in sponsoring a trip for me to their local VA Hospital, please contact me through the website http://www.pinupsforvets.com . I just hope to continue to give back and support our brave heroes for as long as I can. There is a quote I love, “You make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give.”
Anything you’d like to add?
I have many deployed units requesting calendars for the holidays. And I’m also planning some hospital visits in the near future. If you visit the website to purchase a calendar for yourself, please consider donating one as well for a hospitalized Vet or deployed service member. These gifts of appreciation will put some BIG smiles on the faces of our Nation’s heroes!
Dallas female impersonator Patti Le Plae Safe talks Home for the Holidays Texas, Viva Dallas Burlesque, Miss Gay America, small town life, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, witch hunts, doing what you love and Orange Power.
Interview: Divertida Devotchka. Photos: Michael Stephenson of Modern Noir Studios
You’re the president of Home for the Holidays Texas, a non-profit organization that works to improve the quality of life for persons living with AIDS. You and your team work feverishly to raise funds for this cause, and you just completed a black tie benefit for the group, right? There’s also the December Viva Dallas Burlesque show, Festivus Follies, which will again be a benefit for this organization. Please tell us about the outcome of your black tie event and your expectations for the upcoming burlesque benefit.
The 2010 Black Tie Dinner Organization chose Home for the Holidays Texas (HFTHT) to be one of the 20 charities receiving benefit money from the Annual Dinner. If Black Tie hadn’t chosen us I am most sure we would have faltered within a few years. Raising money for charity these days has gotten very hard and small organizations like HFTHT work ten times as hard. It has become a daily need to raise more money just to keep up with the requests our organization gets. We just have to be more creative with doing it. Luckily, Black Tie notices us and respects us and was more than willing to support us last year. They gave us $23,475 – enough to stretch us out for the roughest part for almost 2 years. Next year we will go knocking on their door with the hopes that they will support us again. We aren’t greedy; we know there are other organizations that need help too, so we don’t intend to ask for money every year. Yes you are correct the December 2nd Viva Dallas Burlesque show Festivus Follies will again benefit HFTHT. We are so honored to have been selected again to receive money from the producers of VDB! Last year was so much fun, and I certainly plan to make it fun again. We have auction items and a 50/50 raffle planned. If you remember the winner of last year’s 50/50 auction gave the money back to HFTHT! She was so generous to do so. With the VDB crowd you never know what to expect; we are so full of surprises!
Speaking of Viva Dallas Burlesque, you are the host of the monthly show at the Lakewood Theater, and have been since its inception last summer. Now that you’ve grown accustomed to the burlesque world, I’d love to hear your input on how hosting burlesque differs from your other hosting and performance gigs. What are your favorite aspects of hosting Viva? What are the biggest challenges for you?
You know I really didn’t think I would be accepted and/or fit in with the BurlyQ crowd. I still wasn’t convinced until the audience started asking for my autograph. OMG they want my autograph, are they sick or something? Really? This is going to be so much fun for me! Now I can’t wait to play with the audience and make them smile or laugh about what ever my brain cooks up. I plan a script for each show but oh so many times I ad lib on a dime and hope that it plays off well. I am stalling for the “Panty Wranglers” to clean the stage and prepare props for the entertainers. Truthfully, I think I do my best work when I have no script at all. Like I said before you just don’t know how a crowd will be with the VDB audience. You have to be up and ready for them at all times. Can you believe people come up to me and ask me to pick on their best friends (usually hot straight men) and try to ruffle feathers and scare them? Now that is hard work, sometimes a little scary, but it is so much fun to do. Especially after the show when “fans” tell me they enjoy me as much as they enjoy the performers. I’ve even stripped a few times. In the early years of Burlesque, there were famous performers that were men and absolutely no one knew. It’s all about the costume and lighting and the total tease. I have no intention of trying to fool anyone. I know I am a man in a dress, a pig in a wig! Who is the wiser here? I am having the time of my life and I think the audience is too. At least they tell me with laughter, applause, get pictures after the show and ask for my autograph. You wanted to know the difference between VDB emceeing and other hosting appointments. There is a huge difference. The VDB crowd most likely has never met a female impersonator LIVE! All of my other hosting appointments are typically gay and lesbian. I’d rather work for a primarily straight crowd like the VDB audience. They are so much more fun to share with, learn things from, play with, tease, and mostly get laughter from. They laugh with me and never at me. I think to be honest the straighter crowd is a hell of a lot more “open” than my gay and lesbian crowd. What do you think of that statement! But I really mean it. I would so much more play with a straight crowd! Our little Burlesque family is perfect! I am so lucky that Shoshana came to GayBingo that month and invited me to emcee. Who would have ever known? But I think now after a year and a half we are the perfect match!
You were Miss Gay America 1995 and really took to the pageant circuit. Are you still doing pageant work? If so, how has the dynamic of the pageant scene changed since you first started? (If not, do you have any plans to resume doing them in the future? Why or why not?)
I entered Miss Gay America on a dare, not knowing I had what it takes to be a winner. It was my very first time to enter a pageant and I became the winner above 82 contestants. I’m not bragging but in 40 years of the MGA pageant that has only happened 2 times. I’m the last one it has happened to. I have a lot in my life to be proud of. I did a ballroom dramatic dance and theatrical performance for the talent category and I was up against girls that did illusions of Janet Jackson, Madonna and Cher. My talent was refreshing and it told a story that either made you want to be on stage as me or my dance partner. It was so romantic and so different from the high energy dance numbers everyone else was doing at the time. Pageants were so different back then. Now if I were competing, there is no way I would win. Kids today start planning and playing in makeup (secretly no doubt) in the early teens and once they hit the pageant circuit they are primed for the “look” of a winner! It took me years to perfect my look and I am still changing. In my day, lordy I hate that phrase, but it’s true, back in my day, interview was the most important category next to talent. I won interview with only 6 points from a perfect score. Today, scoring has changed and the system has changed a lot. The winners are more seasoned each year and very prepared when they finally win. For some winners it has taken them as many as 12+ years to win. It is a very serious entertainment business, and a very different world once you get involved! I wouldn’t be the entertainer I am today if I hadn’t simply tried it. MGA made me polish it up and glam it up for the stage. Burlesque in the last year of hosting has allowed me to be more myself and let me have fun with being who I am. I am so very happy that I am still evolving and becoming so much more than I have been and that is because of my Burlesque family! As far as entering pageants again……..nah prolly not! After winning the best title in the Drag World on my first try, why enter something lesser just to say I won something else? And maybe have to enter 12+ years to win it? Not only no but hell no!
You grew up in a small town in Arkansas, and since early childhood you were planning your escape to the big city of Dallas. Do you find that life in the big city was all that you thought it would be growing up? Do you find yourself missing the peace and quiet of Arkansas now that you’ve been in the city for so long?
I grew up in a town that was so small you couldn’t hide from anybody! Picture this: if I opened the back door and stepped out with my left foot, before I blinked or breathed and even begun to lift my right foot — the phone would ring! The neighbor lady next door would tell my Mom she needed me to bring her a gallon of milk since I was going to the store… HOW DID SHE KNOW? To this day I still never knew how she knew, but she did and of course I returned with her gallon of milk! Do I miss any of that? Yes I do! We all cared for each other. Life was simpler then, but I had dreams. I wanted to be famous! I had to go or I would have committed suicide. Life was simple but oh so slow and certainly unimaginable for a gay boy like me. I had needs and desires that fueled me and motivated me to get out and make a name for myself. I always knew it would be Dallas. I sort of took a long route to get here, but I knew once I made it that it was perfect for me. I was bullied pretty badly during my school years and recently at my 35th reunion one of those bullies apologized to me. He honestly meant it; shocked as I was over it, it was closure and certainly made me feel differently about the past. I have forgiven him and thanked him too. All that bullying made me the strong person I am today. I am a survivor and today a better person because of it. I am walking proof that “IT DOES GET BETTER!”
You were a staff sergeant in the U.S. Air Force and you also worked as a computer programmer on an Army base. I’m curious to know about your experience in the military and your thoughts about this year’s repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
HAHAHA too funny! I am not a bit different today than I was back then. A nelly boy never carries a sledge hammer. I have screamed more than once “Stop the War!! I forgot my Purse!” I have survived so many witch hunts during my time in the USAF and as a civilian in the Army. They were ridiculous. We were interrogated in front of groups of men and singly with men who tried to entrap us into the “gay” world. Once I was interrogated by this super hot guy (like a very young Kevin Costner or a Ryan Gosling kind of guy. Trust me he was hot!) He sat in front of me with his knees touching mine and tried to be “overly” friendly. Funny thing is if he was my type of man I still wouldn’t have touched him back because I knew what was happening. I was born on a farm but I wasn’t born stupid. He tried so hard to get me to admit I was gay, and it really was too funny to watch him try. I don’t know what made me think to do this, but today I admit it was a brilliant move on my part. I told him he was wasting my time. If he had some kind of proof like pictures or a video (back then it was 8mm) or a taped phone recording of me proving I was involved with someone of the same sex, then I would never need to admit anything, but until he did come up with that proof, I wanted to return to my job. I put my foot down and stuck to my guns with that thought and they couldn’t bother me anymore. You have no idea how many of my friends fell for the entrapment tricks and were kicked out of the military the very next day. I am a decorated soldier with an honorable discharge given only to those who complete their term of service with exemplary commitment to the military. So you see if you are strong nobody can knock you down. I am proud of my military past. I learned so much from serving my country and hopefully our country is a better place because I did.
Patti Le Plae Safe’s daytime alter-ego is Hott Rodd the Hair Godd, who has his own salon in Dallas, correct? Can you share with us how and when you got started doing hair? What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of your day job?
I was born to do hair. My motto is “If you like what you do, you’ll do it well!” So I ask you, would you really get your hair done by somebody who bitches and complains every time you sit in their chair? Do you really want someone who doesn’t enjoy coming to work every single day? I have found my calling. I used to cut hair in the dorms while I was in the military. We were poor and couldn’t afford to get our hair cut twice weekly to keep it perfect in standards. So I offered haircuts just so I could get free drinks in the night clubs. T’was in my blood long before I ever took professional classes and got my license. I was in computers bored to tears; I could do that with my eyes closed! When the insurance company I worked for here in Dallas decided to move our company to Indianapolis, I had only one quick question that needed to be answered. Does it snow in Indianapolis? I knew the answer, but it broke the ice in that big meeting. I offered to take the severance package whatever it was so that I could stay in Dallas. I took the offered package that was enough to live on for two years, went to school and well the rest is history. This past Valentine’s Day I opened my own salon just big enough for me and two clients at a time. I could not be happier. My career is great. I can always take new clients and never have to worry about the owner being upset because I am working too many hours. What doing what I love? Really? Okay I deserve my own place and the happiness that I create for myself. I wish I could bottle it and give it to those who hate their jobs… now that is sad for them. I just wish for them to have what I have!
I read a really beautiful story about you in the Dallas Voice, and I was very taken by your personal spiritual philosophy that you call “Orange Power.” Can you tell our readers what Orange Power is and how it affects your decisions and actions?
Orange Power (OP) isn’t real to anyone but me. I can’t help but to be honest. I don’t feel like everyone else in this world. I’m not saying I’m alien. I just don’t fit in with organized religion but I do believe there is a sense of a higher power. God to some people is very, very real. S/He speaks to them, but I have never been spoken to! I do know what is right and what is wrong. We all do. So I need something to make me feel closer to the good vs evil. The color Orange does that for me. I feel surrounded by the warmth of Orange when I see or wear it. I felt it was the perfect choice to develop an OP and not worship a god of any type. I find so many holes in blind faith. Religion is something I cannot touch when I need to. I can’t lean on it physically. Naturally, I’d rather tell myself to be good. I’d rather tell myself to stay on the right side of life. I’d rather tell myself to be proper, professional, and polite, etc. OP does all this for me and I’m not giving money to a bigger church in a country that tells the local church what they can and cannot do in their own local church. I prefer the warmth and love I get from the simple vibrant color of Orange. Pick your own color and make your own OP! It’s cheaper and you can touch it when you need to.
I know a number of us Dallas burlesquers have had this chat with you backstage, but you look DAMN good, and we’d love to know some of your secrets! How does a gal like you stay looking youthful? We’ve also discussed with you the similarities in aesthetics of drag makeup and burlesque makeup. Do you have any drag makeup tips that could be used to enhance a burly gal’s stage makeup process?
How do I stay so young? Miss Thang I am 53 and I look every wrinkle of it! If you really want to know my secret you’ll have to move in with me and watch my routine! A girl never gives her secrets away. You are so right drag and burly makeup is very similar! I just say more, even when you think you have enough on, don’t stop put more on! The spotlight is so bright and harsh on unpainted faces and skin that you tend to disappear on stage under all those lights. So the more you put on the more you are seen. I have a big face, so I have to enhance it with lines and shapes to make it look smaller. You might notice I don’t use shadows on my cheeks. I spend lots of time on my eyes and lips! I have to draw attention to where I make the most expressions. It might be ugly up close but on stage for your 6 – 10 minutes you will be marvelous! Oh and always more mascara so you can flutter those loverly lashes. I have to wear fake lashes and without them I look naked (in a different sense) on stage. I sometimes double up my lashes so that they totally frame my eyes…… I think we should have a class! Would you attend a class if I set it up?
Shalom! It’s December, which means it’s Hanukkah time! We, The Schlep Sisters, Minnie Tonka and Darlinda Just Darlinda, are thrilled to share our secret Hanukkah recipes, crafts, and tips on how to help enhance your holiday season! Whether you’re a yeshiva bocher, an honorary Jew, or a bacon-loving Heeb, The Schlep Sisters Hanukkah Guide will titillate and inspire your holiday spirit. Come join us in the festivities!
Before we get started, we’d like to give you a brief overview of Hanukkah: Hanukkah commemorates the victory of the Jews over the Syrian Greeks in 164 B.C.E., and is celebrated by lighting a menorah (candelabra), for eight days, eating oily foods such as latkes (potato pancakes), and playing Dreidel (spinning top).
THE SCHLEP SISTERS HANUKKAH RECIPES
The Whirling Dreidel
- 1 cup Manischewitz
- 1/2 cup Slivovitz (plum Brandy, traditional Kosher-for-Passover drink)
- 1/2 - 1 cup orange juice, depending upon taste
- 2 cups soda (soda water, sprite, ginger ale, or 7 up) to taste
- 1 lemon thinly sliced with rinds
- 1 lime thinly sliced with rinds
- 1 cup chopped apple, pear, or plum
- 2 bottles Prosecco (a Schlep Sisters favorite!) or champagne, chilled
In a large pitcher, combine the Manischewitz, Slivovitz, orange juice, and soda. Stir.
Add fruit. Next, pour in the Prosecco and stir. Serve as is or on ice.
The Whirling Dreidel will have your head spinning and it’s a sure hangover; but,
wowza, it’s delicious!
Makes about 25 potato pancakes in about 45 minutes
¾ lb potatoes, peeled and coarsely grated
¼ lb sweet potatoes, peeled and coarsely grated
1 large onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup vegetable oil
Stir together potatoes, onion, flour, eggs, salt, and pepper. Heat oil in a deep 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches of 4, spoon 1/8 cup potato mixture per latke into oil and flatten to 3-inch diameter with a slotted spatula. Reduce heat to moderate and cook until golden, about 1 ½ minutes on each side. Transfer latkes with spatula to paper towels to drain.
Serve with sour cream and Apple-Pear Saucy Schlep Sauce.
Apple-Pear Saucy Schlep Sauce
- 3 ripe Comice, Bosc, or Anjou pears, peeled, cored and quartered
- 3 apples (e.g., Royal, Gala, Granny Smith, etc.), peeled, cored and quartered
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup sugar, or to taste
- 2 tablespoons Slivovitz (plum Brandy, traditional Kosher-for-Passover drink)
Place all ingredients in a heavy saucepan and cover. Cook on medium-low heat until fruit is soft and starts to break down, about 12 to 14 minutes. Uncover and cook over medium-high heat until mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Purée in a blender or food processor. If you like a chunkier saucy sauce, skip this step. Makes about 2 cups. Serve warm or at room temperature with Lusty Latkes.
THE SCHLEP SISTERS HANUKKAH GAME
Strip Dreidel with The Schlep Sisters!
We’ve got an exciting new spin (pun intended) that combines strip teasing and the ancient Jewish game of spin the Dreidel – yep, you guessed it — Strip Dreidel!
The History of the Dreidel
The Dreidel isn’t only a fun holiday game it also has an important history! The Dreidel game harkens back to 164 B.C.E. when the Syrian Greek armies controlled the Holy Land (before the Jewish warrior Maccabees defeated them). The Syrian Greeks passed laws outlawing the study of Torah and other Jewish practices. It has been said that Jews played with the Dreidel in order to fool the Syrian Greeks if they were caught studying Torah. Therefore, once the Maccabees defeated the Syrian Greek armies, the game of Dreidel became a game of celebration, and is now a traditional Hanukkah game played all over the world!
The Hebrew word for Dreidel is sevivon, a spinning top. Dreidels have four Hebrew letters on them, which stand for the saying, “Nes gadol haya sham,” translating to “A great miracle happened there.”
While the Maccabees’ victory is viewed as a miracle in itself, the eight days of Hanukkah celebrate another miracle. In order to rededicate the temple after it had been desecrated, the menorah needed to be lit. However, there was only enough oil to light the menorah for one night. Supplies were scarce in and around Jerusalem after the war and it would take several days to bring more oil to the temple. The miracle of Hanukkah was that the small amount of oil found burned for eight days until more oil arrived. That is why Hanukkah is also called The Festival of Lights.
Note: In Israel, instead of the fourth letter shin (meaning “there”), the fourth letter is a there peh, (meaning “here”) –- the saying is “Nes gadol haya po”–“A great miracle occurred here.
So, now you’ve got the history…a smart stripper is a successful stripper!
What you’ll need:
- A minimum of four players
- At least 1 dreidel
- Lots of clothes. We recommend gathering up clothes that you’d like to donate and ask players to donate part or all of their winnings to tzedakah (charity). Look up your local donation centers.
1. Make a large batch of The Whirling Driedel, The Schlep Sisters signature Hanukkah cocktail (see recipe on page above)
2. Start with as many clothes on as possible, it will make the game last longer and you’ll have more clothing to donate at the end of the night!
3. Each person adds some clothing to the communal pile.
4. There are four sides of the dreidel, from right: nun, gimmel, hey, and shin, take turns spinning the dreidel and when it lands on . . .
נ (Nun Yiddish for “Nothing”) – Take a sip of The Whirling Driedel
ה (Hay Yiddish for “Half”) – Take half of the clothing from the communal pile, another player(s), or some combination of the above.
ג (Gimmel Yiddish for “Everything”) – Claim everything from the communal pile of clothing.
ש (Shin Yiddish for “put in”) – Strip off 2 pieces of clothing and add to the communal pile.
5. Game lasts until everyone is naked or all participants are too drunk on The Whirling Driedel! Remember to also drink lots of water and eat the Lusty Latkes (The Schlep Sisters latke recipe) beforehand.
6. Whoever ends up with the most clothing is responsible for organizing the clothing donation!
If you’re in NYC, be sure to check out our 5thAnnual Menorah Horah Hanukkah show on Saturday, December 17, 2011 at the Highline Ballroom!
The Schlep Sisters are burlesque performers of the Jewish persuasion! Minnie Tonka and Darlinda Just Darlinda are long lost sisters who found each other while tracing the roots of Yiddish Theater and Vaudeville on the Lower East Side. Inspired by Manischewitz, the Barry Sisters, and Rock n’ Roll these ladies can cut a rug! They’ve been livin’ it up on stage together and captivating audiences across North America since 2004. From the New York and Toronto Burlesque Festivals to the Burlesque Hall of Fame in Las Vegas to the Key West Burlesque Holiday Extravaganza, and the USA’s Premier National Touring Burlesque Troupe, Dangerous Curves Ahead: Burlesque on the Go-Go!, these sassy sisters have so much love they schlep it all over the country! To keep up with The Schlep Sisters visit, www.schlepsisters.com.
THE SCHLEP SISTERS HANUKKAH CRAFT CORNER
Menorah Merkin/Hanukkah Hairpiece
Depending on what Hanukkah party you’re going to, you’ll want some holiday bling to stand out in the crowd! If it’s a family gathering your hairpiece will be the most festive fascinator at the party. If you’re planning a sexy date or a holiday burlesque act your merkin will remind your sweetheart or audience where to find the miracle of light!
- Buckram (hat-making material; you can substitute with card stock or cardboard)
- Silver and/or gold fabric
- Red, orange, yellow and black tulle (optional)
- White, red, orange, yellow and blue sequins or crystals (it’s your choice, get creative!)
- Hot glue gun and extra glue sticks
- Beacon Gem-Tac (The Schlep Sisters preferred decorating glue)
- Menorah stencil (see attached photo, print out according to your sizing needs.)
- Hair comb (optional)
In honor of the eight days of Hanukkah, here are eight easy steps to making this interchangeable miraculous merkin/festive fascinator!
Make this any size you want, you know how big your head/merkin area is!
2. Turn on your hot glue gun
It will take 1-5 minutes to heat up depending on your glue gun. Put the glue gun on top of a piece of cardboard covered in tin foil to prevent any mess on your table.
Print and cut out the stencil and trace it on to a piece of buckram. Cut the buckram and, voilà! You have a buckram menorah!
4. Glue and sew the comb to your buckram menorah (optional, you can also just pin your fascinator on with bobby pins):
Sew the comb to the buckram and reinforce with hot glue.
Using the hot glue gun, glue the buckram menorah to silver or gold fabric and trim off excess fabric. Let it cool to a warm (not hot) temperature. Then place and form it on your head/merkin area.
Use Beacon Gem-Tac to decorate your merkin/fascinator with sequins/crystals. It takes about 24 hours to dry, but it dries clear! Our preferred design is white for the candles, and red, orange and yellow for the flames. Blue to line the Menorah. Optional: add tulle to the flames to create a flowing fire/smoke look!
7. Wear it!
Wearing it as a merkin? Apply double-sided carpet tape to your merkin, remove the backing and apply to an (ideally) hairless merkin area. Please advise, we’re not advocating for a hairless bush. We just want to prepare you for the potential ouchies of taking off a merkin.
8. Werk it!
Wearing at as a fascinator? Style your hair or wig to showcase your beautiful locks. Attach your Hanukkah Hairpiece with bobby pins if you didn’t glue on a comb. You’ll be the shining light of the party!!
The Pin Curl Staff put our heads together and came up with the best gifts this holiday season for the pin-up or burlesque gal in your life. Happy Holidays!
We are completely in love with the gals at Sugarville Candles! Their unique candles, lip balms, & body butters smell so delicious, they are hard not to eat & the adorable pin-up girl labels are to die for! (S’mores and Birthday Cake are among our favorites!)
There are several burlesque autobiographies that scored high on our list of gift giving favorites. Check out: Georgia: My Life in Burlesque by Georgia Sothern, And Men my Fuel by Lili St. Cyr, Tempest Storm: The Lady is a Vamp by Tempest Storm, Gypsy: Memoirs of America’s Most Celebrated Stripper, The Days We Danced: The Story of My Theatrical Family From Florenz Ziegfeld to Arthur Murray and Beyond Any of which are sure to please the bookworm on your list.
For the fashion diva, we like Elegance Navy Polka Dot Dress by Bettie Page Clothing, The Birdie Dress by PinUp Couture is a fabulous holiday party dress, and for underneath we adore the Bernie Dexter Tigress Garter Belt and matching bra by Lucy B. The vintage lingerie selections sold by Shannon Doah at Vintage ShowGirl are not to be missed!
If you are looking more to decorate yourself from the neck up, we are head over heels for the work of Sharon Sullivan, the milliner and owner of Dream Hats! Whether you are looking for the perfect pillbox, fedora, or fascinator from her amazing line, or a custom one of a kind creation, Dream Hats is the perfect choice!
For stocking stuffers or the collector in your life, we adore the series of pin-up and burlesque gal drinking and shot glasses. The gals’ clothes disappear as you drink!
If those aren’t enough eye candy, there’s a fabulous collection of modern pin-up books out by photographers such as Viva Van Story, Gayla Patridge of 666 Photography, and Roy Varga available on Amazon.
If DIY is more your style, you’ll want to get to work on a Mikiphone- vintage or reproduction a Mikiphone is a nifty pocket phonograph popular in the 1920′s. It fits into a canister just a little larger than a snuff can. Certainly a lesson in patience and not for the novice builder, you can find plans and video online to build your own, or get lucky on Ebay! Either way you go, a wonderfully original gift for the music loving guy or gal in your life, and a superb conversation piece.
Of course, if you are looking for a practical yet fun gift that helps a good cause in the process, you’ll want to check out the 2012 calendars offered by pin-up centered non-profits such as Pinups for Pitbulls, The Pinup Angels, and Pin Ups for Vets. What’s not to love about flipping through images of lovely ladies with big hearts? Each are changing the world one centerfold at a time.
Femme Vivre La Rouge has compiled a list of great vintage and burlesque inspired books and films to keep you cozy by the fire this winter!
For a cheeky and satirical look at social history, go with The Nice Girl’s Guide to Good Behavior by Monica Redlich.
With chapter headings such as “A Guide to Public Appearances” and “People You Ought to Know About” this book gives the best worst advice of the 1930s and, while it purports to teaching girls good behavior, it really focuses more on how to put other women down ‘politely,’ play men, and climb the social ladder.
If you’re looking for something instructional this year, you may want to give Atomic Cocktails: Mixed Drinks for Modern Times a whirl. Compiled by Karen Brooks, Gideon Bosker, and Reed Darmon, this book is full of fantastic photos, illustrations, and best of all, drink recipes from the great age of the cocktail. Throughout the year this little gem has helped my fella and I keep our New Year’s resolution of ‘drinking fancy.’
For aesthetic inspiration and leisurely gazing, I recommend The Art of the Great Hollywood Portrait Photographers by John Kobal. Spanning the period of 1925-1940, this title offers up 150 stunning photographs with information on the photographers and their subjects. This one would look great on your coffee table!
Sisters of Salome by Toni Bentley is an excellent look at female artists at the turn of the last century, the emergence of modern dance, and the Salome Craze This one is definitely in my top 10 favorite non-fiction books.
For something spooky, I recommend Hollywood Haunted: A Ghostly Tour of Filmland by Laurie Jacobson and Marc Wanamaker. Featuring stories about Marilyn Monroe, Lucille Ball, Bela Lugosi, and many more, this is an excellent compilation of Hollywood’s most famous specters.
If you enjoy pulp fiction and a good detective mystery as much as I do, and you’ve already made your way through the Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammet classics, here a few new suggestions:
The Corpse Wore Pasties by Johnny Porkpie, the Burlesque Mayor of New York City– a scintillating burlesque detective mystery written by one of our own He Done Her Wrong: A Toby Peters Mystery by Stuart Kaminsky features Mae West as a main character, blackmailed with a stolen manuscript of her scandalous autobiography. Chinatown Death Cloud Peril by Paul Malmont is another fine choice An excellent modern pulp fiction, this book’s characters are all famous writers from the great pulp era.
If you’re in the mood for a classic holiday film, but you’ve tired of White Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life, check out 1945’s Christmas in Connecticut with Barbara Stanwyck
For another marvelous Barbara Stanwyck film of the burlesque variety, look up Ball of Fire, in which she plays a nightclub performer mixed up in a murder case with her gangster boyfriend. It’s a little bit like a 1941 version of Sister Act except that Stanwyck seeks asylum with a group of nerdy lexicographers rather than nuns.
For a burlesque biopic try The Josephine Baker Story Released in 1991, with Lynn Whitfield as the title character, this film chronicles the incredible life of Josephine Baker.
Another great biopic that shouldn’t be missed is 2009’s Coco Before Chanel starring Audrey Tautou as the great designer, Coco Chanel.
If you’re in the mood for a musical, might I suggest 1960’s Can Can starring Shirley MacLaine, Frank Sinatra, and Maurice Chevalier
For Romantic Comedy, try one of my all-time favorite films, 1934’s It Happened One Night, starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. Filmed in just four weeks while Colbert was on break from another film set, this cinematic masterpiece was the first to win every major Academy Award.
A marvelous series of films beginning in 1934, The Thin Man movies are a mix of detective mystery and romantic comedy, with heavy drinking and witty dialogue on the side
Finally, for a modern classic, set in the 1930s just before the dawn of WWII, watch 2008’s Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, with Frances McDormand, Amy Adams, and Lee Pace
1 oz Plymouth Gin
1 oz cranberry juice
1 tsp lemon juice
fresh or dried cranberries for garnish
Pour the gin and juices into a Collins glass filled with ice. Stir. Top with club soda. Garnish with cranberries and mint.
Too drunk, lazy, or busy to make drinks one at a time for guests? Try this fabulous Christmas punch!
2 cups chilled unsweetened pomegranate juice
1 cup chilled cranberry juice
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
1 cup Cointreau or other orange flavored liquor
1 cup chilled club soda
1/2 cup simple syrup
Fresh Cranberries frozen in ice cubes for garnish. (Stick 3-5 berries per cube mold in tray, top with water, freeze.)
Dump everything in but ice and stir. Add ice. Viola!
After reading up on you a bit, I found it very interesting that your burlesque career was partially shaped by the events of both 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. Would you please share with us the impact those happenings had on your life?
As strange as it sounds both these events greatly shaped the direction of my life. I think most people reassess their lives after witnessing or enduring a major disaster. Prior to September 11th I was a ballerina and most of my goals pertained to achieving a specific body type and dance technique. Watching the towers fall on TV and learning that my husband lost a family member it just sort of struck me that my goals, while important to me at the time, weren’t really what mattered most in my life. It became very clear that life is precious and short and I didn’t want waste another moment on anything trivial. I had battled with anorexia & bulimia and this was the catalyst to get serious about getting better. I spent the following months becoming the person I wanted to be rather than destroying the one I was. I decided not to pursue ballet and began training to be a Pilates instructor. I traveled to different countries for the first time and spent a lot more time hanging out with friends. It was a year or two later I started dancing again but for the pure joy of performance/movement rather than anything else.
I was in New Orleans for Katrina and left on the day the levees broke. Once again I coped with this experience through internal reflection. I was living a healthy happy life but wasn’t actively pursuing any creative endeavors which I think had a lot to do with my fear of slipping back into anorexic/bulimic behavior. I remember thinking of all the things I never did in New Orleans because I was too busy, it was too expensive, or I was simply just scared. Katrina made me realize that not only is life precious but so is this world so enjoy EVERY opportunity, experience, moment you have. I moved back in October 2005 and my character Trixie Minx was born.
When did you first begin training in ballet and for how long did you pursue it? Do you have experience in other styles of dance or other arts like theater or music?
My first class was a creative movement dance class. I was 2 and a half; my mom lied and said I was 3 because I wanted to dance so much. I was what ya call a “bun head”, obsessed with Ballet. I learned several styles of dance like modern, jazz, character but never loved them the same as ballet. It wasn’t until I moved to New Orleans and joined the Komenka Ethnic Dance ensemble that I really started enjoying other techniques like tango, swing, African, etc. My experiences with theater & music didn’t really develop until I moved to New Orleans as well. But… I do come from a crazy artistic family. My dad plays piano/guitar, my mom is an excellent visual artist, my sister is a musical theater actress, & my brother makes films. I think I got the dancing gene from my Grandma. She taught tap & piano when she was younger and currently directly her own dance group; they even have a retired rockette!
From what I’ve read you were originally very hesitant to perform burlesque. Can you tell us why you felt that way and what it took to change your mind?
The first time I saw burlesque it was a clip from a documentary about the Suicide Girls. Before everyone gets fussy, I sincerely support the idea behind the group and have a couple awesome friends that model for them but, what I saw on TV seemed more like soft core porn than performance. I assumed all burlesque was like that. I later went to see a live show and while it was definitely a step up in the performance department it was a very bare bones show. The girls took off clothes to different music but there was no theme, no props, no lighting. It wasn’t until I saw the Moulin Rouge in Paris that I realized that burlesque could be realized as a full scale production like a classical ballet or Broadway musical. What they did wasn’t traditional bump & grind but they were beautiful dancers in amazing costumes on a professional stage. They were almost completely nude but it was never raunchy; the whole show was a celebration of different women and everything they embodied. This show made me realize there are no rules or limits to burlesque and it can be performed many different ways.
In addition to performing, you’re the producer and artistic director of Fleur de Tease, a New Orleans-based performance troupe. When did you start FDT and how has it evolved over the years?
I started Fleur de Tease the summer of 2006 and we had our first show at One Eyed Jacks (formerly the Shim Sham) in September that year. I remember our first show in a very positive light but it has definitely improved over the years. Our earlier shows were great but didn’t have a lot of definition beyond pure entertainment. We started by incorporating holiday themes and later expanded on that by designing our own theme shows. Two years ago we started doing full length story productions, like Alice in Wonderland and our adaptation of the Wizard of OZ. But it has been our collaborations which are the current highlight in our performance history. We work with several bands and were able to create a Prince themed show with one of the groups that was spectacular. I LOVE Fleur de Tease! I love all the cast members, our venue, our partners in crime; the whole experience has been awesome.
Do you consider yourself to be neo or classic? Why?
Neither and both? My character has several different personalities depending on which production I’m performing in. With Burlesque Ballroom & Creole Sweet Tease (two other shows I organize) it is definitely traditional bump and grind with fantastic New Orleans musicians. However with Fleur de Tease I perform mostly comedic strip tease, and while it is not the extreme end of the neo burlesque scale it definitely isn’t classic.
I also perform as a clown with a couple bands/groups which is an entirely different yet complimentary part of my character too. I often feel like a clown who performs burlesque rather than the other way around.
I’d like to know your creative process when developing a new act.
For me it starts with inspiration in something. It can be anything like a song, an experience, a joke, most recently it was tortoise, but no matter what it is, it becomes the driving force for the act. I tend to pull towards OCD behavior so whatever I’m working with plays in a loop in my mind. I tend to lock myself in a room or a studio and just play a song on repeat while I work movement out in front of a mirror. Dance is the easy part but I’m weak at costuming/props which is where I’m lucky to have a great group of friends that are able to help. The last part is stage time. I believe that while you need to rehearse, you truly develop an act in front of a live audience. It is their reaction and behavior that is better feedback than any video could be.
You also produce a weekly show called Burlesque Ballroom, right? How does that differ from your FDT shows? (I’m asking from both an audience perspective as well as how your roles/involvement change(s) with each show.)
I produce Burlesque Ballroom in addition to Fleur de Tease which definitely keeps me busy. The shows are very different. Fleur de Tease is a Vaudeville inspired Burlesque Revue with a full time cast and lots of variety acts. Burlesque Ballroom is a modern spin on a classic 1960′s Bourbon Street Burlesque Show with a rotating cast of soloists all performing classic strip tease to live music. Ballroom is a very cool show on a historical level too. It’s bringing quality jazz & burlesque back to its original home (at least during the 50′s & 60′s) on Bourbon Street. And this weekly show is entirely FREE which encourages a lot of people to check it out who might not otherwise seek out burlesque on their own.
Can you tell us about the New Orleans Bingo! Show?
The New Orleans Bingo! Show is a curious rock’n'roll spectacle of theater, clowning, music, dance, and of course BINGO! It really is hard to describe but very easy to enjoy. I’ve been a member for 2 years but Fleur de Tease has worked with the band on specific projects since 2007. Rather than try to put it in words I suggest ya’ll check us out online here: www.neworleansbingoshow.com
What’s next for Trixie Minx?
I definitely want to perform as long as I can though I’m not sure what will happen after that. I have a lot of ideas and plans in the works but I don’t want to jinx anything so for now let’s say… hopefully a LOT more.
Jeez Loueez, the Powerhouse of the Midwest, talks hot messes, family, Jeezy’s Juke Joint, butt cymbals and bro-dude karaoke.
Interview: Divertida Devotchka
You’ve described your first burlesque show as “a hot ass mess” with very little preparation and wardrobe/wig malfunctions. You’ve certainly cleaned up your act since, but we’re curious to know of any other show disasters you may have had. Any advice for aspiring burlesque performers who need encouragement to bounce back from a less-than-stellar show?
Where do I even begin? Wigs have flown off, bras have gotten caught in fishnets. So many things have happened, but I try to work through them. They usually happen at a festival. Last year on the opening night of WCBF I was performing Ramalama Bang Bang, it was my first festival and so many burlesque celebs and headliners were in the audience so I was very nervous already. My netted shirt got caught on my belly piercing and after a struggle to get it out I unscrewed it, yelled “Fuck iiiiit!” and threw it into the audience and everyone went crazy. This year at the WCBF opening night I was doing my Whitney Houston act and I slipped on a bag of crack and busted up my hip. I definitely played it off and the audience thought it was on purpose. I wish I could recreate that moment! My advice would be to allow yourself some time to recover from a slip up and play it off as best you can. If your facial expression shows that you effed up the audience will see that, but if you keep your confidence and cool they’ll never know. Don’t beat yourself up about it; those are just the brakes of live performance!
You’re originally from St. Louis but you now reside in Chicago where you perform and teach with Vaudezilla Productions, though you also perform regularly with the Beggar’s Carnivale. What brought you from St. Louis to Chicago? What are the biggest challenges and rewards of maintaining a presence in both cities?
I moved to Chicago 6 years ago to pursue a degree at Columbia College and I graduated with a B.A. in Musical Theater Performance. At the time I was very naïve to the artistic scene in St. Louis and wanted to be in a mecca for performing arts. I feel like being a part of both the Chicago and St. Louis burlesque communities is a luxury and very rewarding. I went to STL about one or twice a month this year. They make me feel like the hometown girl they’re all rooting for trying to make it in a big city. I’m fortunate to have the support of a troupe in Chicago and still have the freedom to travel. Both cities are my family and the biggest reward is that my mom and dad, brother, and grandmas are in St. Louis so I get to see them and my friends. It can be challenging because I want to do every show I can while I’m there because they’re all so amazing, and I might not get to see my family as much, or I might only be there for less than 24 hours before we head to another city. St. Louis and Chicago have very different communities and both are growing at a rapid rate and gaining national recognition. What’s great is that more and more performers are traveling between Chicago and St. Louis. The Midwest is not playing around and I love being a part of the Bi-State Burlesque Exchange!
Your father is a musician- your mother a radio personality and actress. You’ve stated that performing is in your blood and it seems your family understands this because they are known to be very supportive of your performances, correct? Can you tell us more about that?
Oh yes, my family is all up in it! Just last weekend at a show a random man asked about my mother and where she was. She loves coming to support me and everyone loves when she’s there. Nadine Dubois even brought her on stage at the Show-Me Burlesque festival, and she always takes a bow and gets an applause! It’s hilarious. Someone thought she was in the show once and told her to get in the dressing room! My dad has even been to a performance and he said he loved it up until the taking my bra off part. My grandmother and aunt came to a zombie show, and my uncle came to the Colorado festival. Although, I do think too many people are adding my mama on the Facebooks. Back off!
You write a blog called “Jeezy’s Juke Joint” which focuses on burlesque performers and producers of color. You also had a show of the same name this year. We’d love to know more about both of these projects.
Well, it’s a project that’s very dear to my heart. When I started burlesque there were only a handful of Black performers in Chicago and EVERYONE always has to be compared to Josephine Baker. Not that that’s a bad thing! But every time you do a show someone is telling you that you should do the banana dance. There are already talented performers that pay tribute to her. I wanted to find out about other Black burlesque and shake dancers around the world and in history so I started researching and found so many performers! I found out about Perle Noire while searching for videos and I was floored. Here was someone who moved like me, danced like I danced and had an obvious physical and emotional connection to the history and culture of African movement. I draw a lot from my training in African and modern dance, and from club dancing, juking, footwork, etc. and I knew there were more dancers out there who do the same. The response was overwhelming and someone suggested that this should be a show. Vaudezilla approached me about getting the ball rolling and in July we had the one night only SOLD OUT Jeezy’s Juke Joint: A Black Burly Q Revue! There was drag, burlesque, comedy, music, tap dancing and we were able to bring in great performers from around the country like Praline Dupree from New Orleans, and Switch the Boi Wonder from Minneapolis. We all felt such a connection with the cast and the audience in paying tribute to our past and future, it was one of the greatest nights of my life.
Your dance and music training is very impressive! Starting at age 5, you took jazz, tap and ballet classes five days per week all the way until high school. What is your absolute favorite style of dance and why? Did you find the transition into burlesque dancing to be an easy one with such an extensive background?
I don’t know if I can pick just one style of dance! Oh man, this is cruel. There is something about tap dance that soothes me. The crisp, clear sounds of the metal making music. I think that’s what draws me to it, the fact that you can make your own rhythmic, percussive soundtrack with your feet. You don’t even need a song; you can be your own song!
I found the transition to burlesque to be very natural. I’ve always been very feminine and aware of my sexuality even at a younger age. My mother was quite open and honest about sex and nudity and showed an appreciation for the female body and didn’t shame it. That had a huge impact on me already feeling very comfortable with embracing my body and sensuality. I think my dance training definitely gave me the advantage of already knowing about lines, and technique and confidence on stage. What I really had to work on was the tease and the clothing removal. Instead of 5, 6, 7, 8, glove off, 5, 6, 7, 8, bra off, I had to find how to blend the two elements and to also take my time. I’m always learning new things about burlesque.
You’ve said that you were “fed up with dance” in middle school and decided to “become a jazz musician instead.” You took vocal lessons as well as piano and trumpet. When is the last time you played music? Have you ever/Do you plan to mix singing/playing an instrument with your burlesque?
I make music every day! I’m love singing and writing songs and melodies. My friends and I actually prefer to sing most of our conversations rather than talk, and we would love to create an improv musical show. In high school I abandoned my dreams of jazz music because the school I transferred to didn’t supply band instruments, so I left the trumpet and drums for show choir and haven’t played since. I continued with piano through college but reading music is such a pain that I prefer to learn by ear. I really want to utilize all of the education that I’ve received and show people that there are more sides to me so I’ve been hosting and singing a lot more. I have a few acts that are singing strips as well. I actually just started playing the harmonica and my dream is to learn accordion. Honestly, I want to be a one man band like Bert in Mary Poppins. I need butt cymbals if anyone would like to donate to that cause.
You’re also an actress, right? Any recent projects you’d like to discuss with us?
Yes! I just guest starred in a web show called Fool’s Goal with comedian Marz Timms here in Chicago. I was also featured as a trendsetting lesbian activist on The Playboy Club on NBC. And by “featured” I mean my face was blurred in the background in the last 2 minutes of episode 3, and you might have to watch a few times to really catch a glimpse of me. But hey, there are no small parts, right? And you can always catch me and boylesque sensation Tito Bonito making lip-sync videos and short films on our wacky internet sitcom, The 8th Degree (www.the8thdegree.com)!
From what I understand you’re really into singing karaoke. If you could pick 3 overused karaoke songs that you would never have to hear again, which ones would they be?
Anything sung by bro-dudes. The top 3 bro-dude karaoke disasters are Don’t Stop Believing, Living On A Prayer, Bohemian Rhapsody, with Sweet Caroline as an honorable mention. Just stop. STOP. That’s why I go to gay bars.
You’re a rapidly rising star in the national burlesque scene. You’ve been in burlesque world just a few years, and you’ve already been voted #39 in the Burlesque Top 50! What’s next for Jeez Loueez?
I’m looking forward to more touring with the Beggar’s Carnivale this fall. Vaudezilla has a Live Band Burlesque show coming up that I’m preparing new acts for, and Jeezy’s Juke Joint will be back in early 2012. I’ll be performing in Iowa, Indiana, St. Louis, and beyond the next few months. And you’re hearing it here first; I’m throwing myself into the running for the Viva Las Vegas competition! I’ve never done anything like that before so I’m quite nervous! I just want to keep working hard, stay true to myself and my craft, be a classy fucking lady, and continue to be inspired by the artists I encounter.
Anything you’d like to add?
I wasn’t kidding about the butt cymbals thing.