Award winning acrobatic burlesque starlet and pint-sized powerhouse Trixie Little talks celebrating America’s birthday, underboob, going down under, hateful monkeys and the four c’s of burlesque.
Interview: Miss Violet O’Hara
Q. Your wildly entertaining striptease performance repertoire includes acts featuring trapeze, physical comedy and acrobatics. Before joining the burlesque community, you founded a troupe called Fluid Movement. Can you share a bit about this unique adventure with us?
Fluid Movement was a troupe that I founded in Baltimore right out of college in 1998. I studied traditional visual art (painting and drawing) but knew I wanted to do something that connected more with the world than I could just by putting up work in a gallery. I wanted to really affect people with my creativity. The first Fluid Movement show I did was a puppet show with dressed up tofu hot dogs that re-enacted the opera Carmen in under 8 minutes. But what I always wanted to do was water ballet. I loved Esther Williams for combing beauty and athleticism; I was passionate about combing high brow and low brow for comedic effect and I also really believed in populist entertainment as art. That’s what we did…we paired regular community people with a team of artists and staged elaborate synchronized swimming shows in public parks every summer. I was artistic director and executive director of Fluid Movement through six seasons of water ballets and numerous other shows before leaving it to pursue burlesque seriously with Monkey. Fluid Movement is still going strong! I am proud that it was strong enough to survive without me.
Q. The Evil Hate Monkey has been your flipping and stripping partner since 2002 and became your fiancé (onstage during a show!) in 2011. Congratulations! What’s it like to live and work with your beloved? How do you balance the personal and professional aspects of your relationship?
Ha-ha! Well, it’s not something I recommend to people in general! When you’re self-employed and an artist, it takes constant effort to keep love and romance afloat, but we try! Artistically, we are always searching for ways to stay inspired and to allow each other space to explore our own ideas, but we both have a great desire to keep building our body of work together too. We sort of come together…go apart…come together again…it’s an ebb and flow we’re used to by now.
Q. In celebration of America’s birthday, you’re currently touring with ‘Trixie & Monkey’s All-American Burlesque Circus’, featuring juggler Sean Blue, singer Lady Scoutington and circus giant Mr. Gorgeous. What is your strategy when developing a new show and planning a tour? What do you look for when casting performers and booking venues?
We like to produce true variety shows. Since we have a background in circus, we love working with professional jugglers, acrobats, contortionists, hula hoopers and aerialists…in addition to stripteasers! I try to book people that seem fun to play around with and that would be easy going on a 5 hour car ride. We like collaborating on opening and closing numbers and incorporating all their new talents. For this tour, we’re creating a 21-pastie salute and a group jump rope number. As for venues, we just keep going back to the places that seem to like us the most. We maintain our relationships with venues because we need them as much as they need us.
Q. This current tour will stop in Coney Island, Baltimore, DC, West Virginia and New Jersey. Have you ever had to alter costumes or re-choreograph acts due to differing state or city regulations?
The laws are so crazy from state to state! We are really adaptable, so I don’t ever mind.
We’ve had to cover butt cleavage, under boob, and even got fired from a casino once for being too racy when we didn’t even take anything off! Whereas in England we’ve done outdoor daytime performances for kids in pasties and undies. I have to admit that we have been getting quite comfortable with NYC’s comfort with nudity! We do perform fully nude at times at The Box in NYC and love the freedom of it. It feels like an even more heightened expression of the emotion we’re going for in Total Eclipse to end it by collapsing onto each other fully naked as the curtains close. I never thought we’d ever be those performance arty types, but I guess we are.
Q. Congratulations on your win as the 2nd runner up for the title of Queen of Burlesque during the 2012 Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend! The coveted trophy for Best Burlesque Duo went home with you and The Evil Hate Monkey in 2006. As a veteran performer and competitor in this annual reunion and fundraiser, can you share with us some of your favorite memories of BHoF’s gone by? Are there any stories that are itching to leave Vegas?
Oh geez! There are too many to list. We’ve attended for seven straight years! I did have the time of my life bowling this year with our fellow Baltimore natives, Mr. Gorgeous and Lil Miss Lixx. We wore matching unitards with the Maryland state flag on them while executing acrobatic bowling moves and ribbon dancing. We really earned our “Most Distracting” and “Fan Favorite” trophies! You can see us on YouTube under “BHOF 2012 Barecats Invitational.”
Q. The festival circuit has grown larger with each passing year in both quantity of festivals and the number of performers applying for them. What advice would you offer to a performer looking to navigate the myriad of festivals happening regionally, nationally and internationally? What trends have you seen developing along with the expanse of festivals and competitions?
My advice is to be humble, work hard and focus on your body of work not on one act or achievement. Apply to everything, work with everybody, collaborate and challenge yourself. I wish newbie’s would talk less though, they would learn more. It took us 3-4 years of attending festivals before we even had the nerve to talk to anyone! We were so shy, we just observed from the outside until people had seen us a handful of times and they started to talk to us. Over time, we became more outgoing as we built confidence, but I feel that we earned it. I get so tired of all the posturing and self-promotion that is inherent in this business. I just want to be with artists that I respect.
Q. Speaking of festivals, this fall you’re booked at two Australian burlesque festivals with your very own hour-long, greatest-hits show, ‘Trixie & Monkey: Flipping & Stripping Down Under!’ What an exciting opportunity to share your talents with a new international set of fans! Which of your signature acts have made it into this special show and why? Will you have any time to take a gander around the outback while you’re there?
Thank you, we are really thrilled to have evolved to the point of holding an hour-long show like this on our own. We’ve done it before, but in a theater setting, where we created every act to fit the narrative. This is a new challenge for us because we’re doing our best burlesque/circus acts which have lots of costume changes, so we had to select acts based on a mix of artistic and practical factors. We knew we wanted to put in “Total Eclipse” because that’s our signature act and we wanted to do our sexual fortune telling act “Gypsy Little” as well as our duo trapeze “Kama Sutra.” When choosing our solo acts, we realized we needed to do a bit of writing and choreographing for some fun transitions, that’s what we’re working on now. We’ll debut the show next month in Baltimore then have another 2 months to workshop it before Australia. One of the festivals we’re doing travels to 3 different cities, so I do hope we get to site-see as much as possible!
Q. In August you’ll be heading to Baltimore to perform a special preview of this show in order to raise funds for the airfare to Australia. Money is a hot topic, and some performers have chosen to create online campaigns with sites like KickStarter to help them fund new costumes, props, equipment, travel expenses and/or specialized training. What are your opinions on this new practice vs. producing a benefit show as you have chosen to do? How challenging is it to fund your traveling expenses in this economic environment and do you foresee an environment in which your compensation would include all expenses?
Well, we usually only go places when the producers cover all of our expenses, but we know that there’s a lot of work for cabaret/variety performers in the Australian festival circuit and have always wanted to be part of it. We’ve been working with a wonderful Australian producer for over a year now trying to orchestrate an opportunity, but it’s very, very difficult when people don’t know who you are! All of the work we get happens because producers are impressed with us live. So, we kind of know the deal now. When you’re trying to bust into a new market, you often have to take some risks. So, for our Australian debut, we organized a benefit show where we’re going to try to raise all $3,600 for our flights in one night and we’ll debut the show we’re going to take over there. We did consider doing a KickStarter for it, but ultimately just decided to do what we do best: put on a show. I know from my Fluid Movement days that people want something for their money- so doing KickStarter almost seemed like too much follow up work (with all the levels of thanks and what not) than would be worth it. It is very hard to fund your dreams, but that’s just part of the creativity. It’s the journey, not the destination, right? It’d be so boring if we didn’t have to work hard to pay for our crystals!
Q. In reference to the burlesque mantra: ‘The Four C’s: Choreography, Character, Costuming and Charisma,’ what are your favorite resources on the web and/or in our community to harness and develop these important C’s?
My advice for all of those is another C….classes! Just become a life-long student and you’ll be fine. I take classes continually and will never stop. This year, I’ve focused on contortion/handstands, screen writing, basic tumbling and ballet.
Q. Now that you’ve been in The Big Apple for awhile, what differences have you noticed in the fans and venues in comparison to Charm City? Do you have plans to stay in New York, or do you see yourself moving onto another city or possibly returning to Baltimore one day?
I was so sad to leave Baltimore, but life is great here! We work four times harder than we had to in Baltimore and are always going-going-going, but I feel like I’m closer to reaching my full potential here. New York audiences are actually great, but they do expect a lot. It’s harder to produce shows, but we work at some great clubs so we don’t have to do everything ourselves anymore. It’s just different. We traded some simplicity and space for complexity and culture. I always dream of having a big artist studio in Baltimore that I can use as a retreat. I don’t see why I have to choose between the two cities I love when they are only about a 4 hour drive from each other!
Q. With 30 different acts and two full length theater shows under your belt, are there any new characters in the works or additional circus skills you’d like to master and unleash on the world?
I’m always working on new things: handstands, a screenplay, new stripteases and new aerial numbers. Our documentary is coming out this year and I also really want to ride on an elephant in a circus before I die. But right now I’ve got 68 days to plan an awesome, relaxed, transcendent and thoughtful wedding with my soon-to-be husband! [See the Proposal]
Keep up with Trixie Little at www.trixielittle.com!
Want more of Miss Violet O’ Hara? Interview with Miss Astrid
Renee Stone, founder of the pin-up dance group the Diamond Bettys talks troupe dynamics, Viva Las Vegas, and divas.
Q: While you were born in Texas, the Diamond Bettys were actually born in Los Angeles, California. Can you tell us a little about the inception of the troupe from concept to first performance?
I am originally from Texas but lived in Los Angeles for 7 years as a professional dancer and performer. After dancing in several dance troupes around Los Angeles, I decided to start my own troupe but wanted to do something different then any dance troupe that was out there at the time. So I took my love for pin up girls and dancing and started The Diamond Bettys.
Q: I’ve had the pleasure of seeing you perform and was astounded by the dance ability and solid choreography of the troupe. This isn’t a “let’s see if we can wear a dance hat and increase our bookings” kind of production. Do you ever have trouble trying to explain to folks what the Diamond Bettys are? You’re not “just” pin-up models, and you’re not burlesque. How do you explain the troupe to folks?
Yes! I have a lot of trouble trying to explain to folks what The Diamond Bettys are! You kind of have to see our show to understand what we do. That’s how we got to perform at Viva Rockabilly Weekender in Las Vegas the first time. I remember asking Tom Ingram the first time about booking the Diamond Bettys explaining that we were a Pin Up Doll dance troupe and he literally laughed at me. So the next big show we had in LA I begged him to come watch the show and he did…. he booked us for Viva 2 days later.
My best explanation of who The Diamond Bettys are is that we are a high energy pin-up doll performance group consisting of tapping, dancing and singing in the era of the 1940′s and 50′s; but it is really something you just have to see to truly understand the greatness of it! It’s a refreshing show that will leave a smile in your face.
Q: Managing a successful and happy troupe can be incredibly hard work. What are your top three tips for success?
My 3 tips to managing a happy troupe are:
1- You can’t have any divas in the troupe; you want to get women who are appreciative, and excited about being a part of your troupe.
2- You want professional talent- girls that are good at what they do and take passion in being their best.
3- Take care of your performers. If you take care of the performers and make sure that they are paid for their talent, and treated like the professionals they are, they will be happy!
I try to hire the most beautiful and talented women “inside and out” to be a part of The Diamond Bettys. To be a Betty you have to have a great personality, great attitude, appreciative and a professional dancer, tapper or singer!
Q: What does the future hold for Renee Stone and The Diamond Bettys?
The future for The Diamond Bettys is endless. I can see us doing a production show/musical based on the Pin Up Girls of 1940′s and 1950′s. We continue performing at various venues and events around the world. We perform at private parties, festivals, trade-shows, charity events and many more events….
We couldn’t think of anyone’s advice we’d rather take than Miss Jo “Boobs” Weldon, Founder of the New York School of Burlesque and author of The Burlesque Handbook, which is why we’re thrilled to have her as our Burlesque Etiquette contributor! Have a question you’d like Jo to answer? Please title your email “Etiquette- _your issue___” and send to editor [at] PinCurlMag [dot] com and we will send them right over to her!
I’m Just Letting You Know…
People with a bit of experience often ask me how to tell people with less experience that they are using someone else’s stage name, repeating a common theme, or have some kind of figurative spinach in their teeth.
I posted a question asking performers what and how they’d like to be told that they were making professional mistakes or that they could use improvement in an area that was affecting the way their performances were perceived. Overwhelmingly, all of them preferred having the bad news to continuing to work in ignorant bliss. All also agreed that phrasing the comment or criticism in form of “you may want to know this” rather than “I can’t believe you don’t know that” made the unfortunate information easier to hear and absorb. In addition, all of them wanted to know as soon as possible.
I’ve noticed an unfortunate tendency among a few experienced performers and producers to say, “They should know,” or “They should do their research.” I understand this to an extent, but as an instructor, I see people coming in with ideas that aren’t necessarily wrong, but perhaps more likely incompatible with the burlesque culture in which those producers and performers operate.
For instance, all the eye-rolling over the choice of “Feelin’ Good” or over a white feather fan dance or a Bob Fosse-styled jazz dance with minimal striptease are a bit self-serving. While it’s true that many highly experienced performers are well sick of “Night Train,” they are unlikely to be paying to come see the new performers’ shows. The new performers’ audiences may never have seen such a thing. So while it’s fair to let new performers know that this may be considered overdone, I prefer to think of such aesthetic decisions, and express to new performers, as “burlesque standards.” In other words, such acts are important fundamentals, and certainly worthy of repertory, but not innovative. I see no reason to dampen the enthusiasm of new performers and audiences with jadedness and snobbery. I’ll take a well-executed burlesque standard to a poorly-conceived innovative act any day; but some people feel just the opposite. My concern, as far as etiquette is regarded, is simply to let new performers know that such perceptions and conversations are likely to occur if they submit burlesque standards to established producers and festivals.
Of course, it’s a little harder to explain to someone that pouring sugar or glitter over yourself while playing “Pour Some Sugar on Me” has also been performed by an uncountable number of strippers over the past 25 years, but that’s when research DOES come in handy. And in that case, the suggested etiquette from our panel was to say something along the lines of, “I love that, but you should know that Pepper AuPoivre does something similar, and you may want to do some research on him and other people who use the same song before you get too invested.” If someone takes this input poorly, they’ll be the ones to suffer; offering such gentle advice is an act of kindness and respect to both the newcomer and the more established performer.
If someone starts using a stage name that could get them confused with an established performer, I always let them know. I tell them, “If a producer wants to book you and Googles your stage name, they might come across this other person first, and they might get your gig!” this takes care of the use of “Kitty’ as well. I also let them know that if their stage name is difficult to spell or pronounce, it can make them harder to find for bookings. I always frame it as a matter of professional advantage, rather than as a matter of them infringing on the rights of the other performer. In such a case, etiquette is partly about thinking about what the person you’re addressing hopes to achieve!
Many performers expressed appreciation for having been told that their hair or makeup was sloppy or otherwise disappointing for a burlesque stage. One would think it would be obvious that a ten-dollar wig may not be up to a an expensive costume, or that party makeup doesn’t show up onstage, or that ratty shoes bring down the look of a hot go-go outfit, but nothing is obvious when you’re new. One performer after another told me that they were grateful for help with wig styling, eyelash and eyeliner application tips, and guidelines on where to go for reasonably priced sexy shoes. All of them told me that the advice had been offered not in the spirit of aesthetic correction, but as professional advice: “Producers really love to see a well-put-together costume, and your wooden bead necklace is distracting from your gorgeous outfit.”
Many producers and performers have also been experiencing a performer who’s new to their burlesque community billing themselves as “The Very First [Adjective] Performer’ when they have been doing an [Adjective] act or show for ten years. In fact, it’s really common for people new to this scene saying things like, “Someone ought to…” when in fact at least one, and possibly many, people do. If they’ve seen all showgirls, they might think, “Someone ought to do a rock n roll show” or if they’ve seen all nerd burlesque shows they might think “Someone ought to do an old-school burlesque show.” I often hear newer performers and producers saying, “Someone ought to do a show with a live band and a comedian as MC” when in fact this happens every week in New York. At this point the experienced performer really can tell them that they need to do their research. However, etiquette requires that this be couched in the form of professional coaching rather than be expressed with disdain for their laziness, presumption, and lack of originality. “When I have an idea, I always google it,” I say.
And one more etiquette tip for the new performer—you aren’t always innocent. If you wonder if a performer who does a certain kind of move in their burlesque number minds if you do the same, the only person to ask is that performer. Rest assured that they will want to say no, but they won’t want to be heard saying no. You have to decide whether you can do a number that look distinctly different enough that they will never be asked if your number inspired them or if you taught them how to do it. Whether or not they were the first o ever do it may not be the point. If it looks too similar, and you saw them do it before you decided to do it, consider that you really shouldn’t do it. In such a case, imitation is not the highest form of flattery; it’s the most insulting form of flattery. As a teacher, people often use my moves, because I teach them in class; as a performer, if I do something onstage that I don’t teach in class, or that I never saw anyone do onstage in burlesque before I did it (and it’s easier for me because when I started there were very few performers, though even so I’ve made mistakes regarding appropriating other people’s material or thinking I was the first to do something), then I do very much mind if someone else sees me do it and decides to do it. And I certainly prefer that a colleague of mine gently inform them, rather than having to inform them myself.
Remember, etiquette isn’t just about sharing your knowledge or information. It’s about considering the outcome of the conversation and the intention behind your remarks. If your intention is to show off what you know or diminish the newcomers’ enthusiasm, you won’t be well-received. If your intention is to help them avoid professional conflict or failure, then you’re on the right track. “I’m doing it for the community” is a bit grandiose, but it’s believable that you want to help your professional and personal associates protect their established shows and ideas; it’s not terrible to be self-serving, but it’s a bit ridiculous to think that the future of burlesque depends on your saying something when someone wants to do a Star Trek tribute show and you know someone already does one. When you talk to someone about something you think they should do or not do, think about the desired outcome of the conversation before you speak! When you say, “I’m just letting you know,” ask yourself if that’s what you’re really doing, and even if your motivations aren’t that pure, do your best to make it sound as if they are. Most newbies to burlesque will listen if they’re not treated like idiots—remember, they may be highly accomplished performers in theater, dance, or another discipline, and they deserve to be addressed with respect.
More From Jo: How to Annoy Performers
How I Learned to be a Fluffy Goddess and Other Lessons from the Kitchen
by Kitch Coquette
While writing this food article for Pin Curl Magazine (my first), this Texas girl is feelin’ pretty fancy. I’ve been a serious cook for about five years and a serious eater for about 33. So, I’m officially declaring myself a culinary expert. But, before you try any of my recipes, I have two culinary ground rules. If you don’t agree with these ground rules, the results will be disastrous. I’m talking end-of-the world stuff here. Consider yourself duly warned.
First, NEVER trust a skinny cook in the kitchen. Sure they can be trusted to rock the stage, run a marathon, or manage to follow an all-flax seed diet, but ultimately, it is curves and curves alone that rule in the kitchen. Although I may struggle with my fluffiness in other contexts — in my cozy kitchen, rockin’ my frilly red apron, high heels, and pigtails, I feel (neh…I know) that I am a sex goddess. And if you can manage to stay skinny while living in my home, then I need to step up my game.
Second, if you are reading this magazine, you are probably one intelligent, creative, badass chick (or guy). We know our demographic. So readers, I’m speaking to you: You are too creative and too interesting to do housework. Other people are meant to do that for us. We are meant to create. So rule number two is “cooking good, clean-up bad.”
I have been known to utterly destroy my kitchen while making a cassoulet, and I have also stumbled into my dining room a few times covered head to toe in butter and flour to serve my pain au chocolat. For me, cooking is a full-contact sport. The trick is finding a good man (or woman) to clean up after your creative process, preferably one who is willing to clean dishes with a joyful attitude. Resentment is so unbecoming.
So I have about a million recipes that I want to share with y’all, but I had to pick just one for this article. I decided on a Hot Milk Sponge Cake recipe that has been passed down in my family for generations. This recipe originated in North Carolina in the late 1800s. The cake’s substantial crumb and sweet, sugary “crust” make it perfect for being served under berries, peaches, ice cream, and whipped cream. The best part of this cake, however, is the flavor, which consists of sweet vanilla, egg, and scalded milk. Trust me, the scalded milk taste will actually rock your taste buds!
What you need:
2 cups of sugar
2 ½ cups sifted flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
1 stick of butter
1 cup milk
Your favorite fresh berries or peaches
Vanilla Ice Cream
Whipped Cream (preferably homemade)
What to do:
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour one 13x9x3 inch baking pan. Set aside.
2. In a mixer, mix eggs and sugar until they are light yellow in color and fluffy (about 5 minutes on medium high speed). The consistency should look like slightly-runny homemade whipped cream.
4. Put butter and milk in a sauce pan and cook on high heat until the butter melts and liquid comes to a rapid boil. Stir the liquid to make sure the milk doesn’t burn on the bottom. We want a scalded milk taste, not a burned milk taste. Once it boils for about 30 seconds, take off the heat.
5. Add a small portion of the flour mixture to the egg and sugar mixture in the mixer. Mix on medium-slow until fully incorporated. Then, making sure that the mixer is turned off to avoid splashing milk, add a small portion of the milk mixture to the mixer. Mix until incorporated. Alternate adding the flour and the milk to the mixer, but make sure the last thing you add is the flour.
6. Once all the ingredients are fully incorporated, pour finished batter into greased baking pan and stick in the oven. If you are like me, and you want to “lick-the-batter,” have at it. Just remember—LICK AT YOUR OWN RISK— because the eggs are not cooked yet.
7. Cook for 1 hour. By the end, the top will look dark, golden brown (but not burned). This dark “crust” is the yummiest part of the cake.
8. Have your spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend clean up the kitchen while the cake bakes. While this is being done, I suggest that you pour yourself a glass of red wine, lounge on your couch, and read Pin Curl.
9. After removing from the oven, let cool for about 30 minutes. Cut a square piece of cake, split it down the middle (removing the top from the bottom). If the cake is no longer warm, toast both sides in a toaster oven/oven until warm. Lay both halves in the bottom of a bowl and top with fresh berries or peaches, vanilla ice cream, and whipped cream. Or, toast it plain for breakfast the next morning to have with your coffee on the way to work.
Kitch Coquette has recently abandoned her passions for wrestling bayou alligators and designing stylish window treatments for her time machine. She now exclusively focuses her efforts on creating amazing, life-altering food.
Welcome to our very first Burlesque Roundtable. The hope is to create an open dialogue to discuss relevant burlesque questions in an honest manner. Have a questions you would like to propose or two cents you would like to throw into the ring? Please do so via comments, we would love to hear from you!
Talking Point #1:
With so many festivals from coast to coast now, and so many titles to be won (many including the word Queen or Princess), The Reigning Queen of Burlesque title doesn’t have the weight it used to, and BHoF Weekend Festival isn’t the end all be all it used to be.
Blaze (Dallas)- I think that BHoF is still the pinnacle and does still carry a lot of weight. Those that are involved in the burlesque community know that there are different levels of competition and that is the top. The other festivals are still wonderful and mean an awful lot to those who win those titles (including me, reigning Queen of Burlesque of the Great Southern Exposure) and I think they are encouraging the community to reach to higher levels NOW. BHoF can only take a few performers at a time and everyone doesn’t want to sit on the sidelines all the time. This gives people to hone their craft now.
Minnie Tonka (NYC) I disagree. For me, The Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend will always be the most important burlesque festival in our amazing community due to its history, affiliation with the museum, and its relevance and impact on the past, present and future of burlesque worldwide.
It is exciting that burlesque festivals are popping up around the country (and world) over the past few years because it demonstrates that burlesque is growing and gaining more recognition and support in the mainstream, which I believe benefits us. Titles that are awarded at newer festivals can be fun and nice especially to new performers because ideally, it can help build confidence, boost one’s desire to continue to grow as a performer, and encourage one’s commitment and sense of responsibility to our burlesque community. However, I don’t take all of these awards and titles too seriously.
I am not against competition in burlesque because I think it can raise the bar for burlesque, help us strive to become better performers, and inspire us to work on our craft. However, outside of BHoF, I prefer silly and frivolous awards like the NYBF’s Golden Pasties. For example, in 2010, I won the Golden Pastie Award for the performer “Most Likely To Get Everyone Kicked Out of a Hotel” – which actually did happen at the Key West Holiday Extravaganza earlier that year! Uh-oh!!
Violet O’ Hara (Dallas) Competition is great and hard work should be recognized, but I prefer to see specific awards given (i.e. most innovative, audience choice, best duo, most original, best ensemble, novelty act, etc…) instead of the Princess and Queen titles.
Jo Weldon (NYC) The excitement around BHOF still seems to be unique, and there seems to be a passion about that title that no other title generates. However, it’s fair to say that there are now, as Scotty the Blue Bunny recently pointed out, various communities in burlesque, with different centers. People who don’t go to BHOF are able to keep pretty busy with gigs and such. BHOF matters to a specific group as much as it ever did, to other burlesque communities somewhat less than to the first specific group, and to some communities and individuals it’s pretty irrelevant. However, there are still people who just live for the Legends night. Also, there was an idea that BHOF was always a particular thing and operated in a particular way, but there have been advances and differences every year for about the past seven and maybe in every year before that. People tend to think that a thing has always been the way it was when they first encountered it, and that it should always stay that way. But that’s rarely the case with ANY organization or community.
Roxie Moxie (Seattle/Austin) Why do we focus so much on titles? I have a special place in my heart for BHOF Weekend, but that’s because it’s such an epic gathering of Burlesque talent and enthusiasm. It’s like Burlesque Mecca – a special sparkly holy place where we can all go once a year to worship the art in full. It’s not about who wins or doesn’t – it’s about celebrating Burlesque! That’s an awesome thing for us party girls!
Trixie Minx (New Orleans) I think BHOF is an amazing festival and my favorite of all the festivals I’ve attended. Part of the reason I enjoy BHOF is that it feels more like a community than a competition. And while they do have a competition the legends night is the highlight of the weekend in my opinion.
I’ve never competed nor do I desire to do so. I do not have an official title but I’m well respected in my community, I bring lots of wonderful performers together for great shows, and I am contributing to the living history that is Burlesque in New Orleans. I definitely don’t want to offend or downplay what a title means to many people, but for me it doesn’t make sense to compete in a medium that is (again in my opinion) art. Art is subjective, what is beautiful to one might not be so to another.
D.I.Y. by Cora Vette – Buying Vintage Patterns
I can write this column in one sentence. Do NOT buy patterns by dress size, buy patterns by bust measurement. – The end.
Over the years, as our sizes have increased, dress sizes have decreased. Call it a matter of marketing.
I always knew that vintage pattern sizes were different than contemporary sizes, but, it wasn’t until I started cataloging all my patterns for VaVaVette that I really realized how different. In the 1940′s, for example, a size 14 was a bust measurement of 32 inches! Imagine the confusion of an ebay shopper who buys a size 14 pattern, only to sew it and realize that it is the equivalent of a modern size 4! I have even seen some patterns listed on ebay as “plus sized” so buyer and seller beware!!
In the 1950′s a size 14 became a whopping bust size 34. Still, only around a modern 6. I have been experimenting with these sizes and am constantly shocked by the size of these patterns!
In the 1960′s they marketed patterns with “new sizing” and a 14 became a 36 bust, around a modern size 8 (where it remains today). I should mention that modern patterns still measure a different size than manufactured clothing. So, when sewing, you really have to set your ego aside and sew by the measurements listed on the back of the pattern. Trust me, do NOT go by what numerical “size” you think you are. Trust the measurements and make the size that matches closest to your actual measurements. This will save you a lot of time and headaches.
Now, I could write a book about why this happened and why men’s patterns did not have this phenomenon. Men’s patterns have always been listed simply as measurements without a corresponding “number”…maybe they just don’t care, maybe the fashion industry just likes to mess with women. But, I digress…
I will be continuing to sew fun vintage patterns for VaVaVette and will be posting them on our website as I complete them. If you are interested in the corresponding pattern size (out of curiosity) send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will let you know on which vintage pattern size the garment is based. But, I will not post them on the website because it is very confusing for a shopper to see something that is listed as a pattern size 14 when it is really a modern size 6.
I hope this has helped inform and educate some of you vintage enthusiasts and sewers out there! Remember, it is as simple as – “Do NOT buy patterns by dress size, buy patterns by bust measurement.”
Until next time! Sassy sewing to you all!!
xoxo Cora Vette
More From Cora Vette: DIY Shimmy Belt
Dallas Burlesque Gal’s Claim to Fame
What Dallas burlesquer has a famous family history?? That would be our very own Appaloosa Red! And which of Hollywood’s elite was married into Miss Appaloosa’s family during Hollywood’s Golden Era? None other than The King of the screen, Clark Gable!! (Pause for squeals and sighs of jealousy.) Yes, that’s right- and she showed me the monogrammed linens and original photographs to prove it! I even saw photographs of little Miss Appaloosa in front of the couch that Clark slept on when he was in trouble for staying out chasing skirts!
Although Appaloosa was born too late to meet her in person, she’s always loved hearing stories about her great-grandmother, Maria Franklin Prentiss Lucas Langham Gable, the Houston, TX socialite who spent nearly a decade married to Mr. Gable. Auburn-haired ‘Ria’ was 5’2” and full of sophistication; she had perfectly smooth, creamy skin which wrinkles dared not cross- she swore till the day she died that her flawless face never had any surgical assistance. Ria always presented herself in an immaculate manner, had a flare for picking the perfect hat, and was known to chastise, “Dear, either you wear nail polish or you don’t!” if she caught you sporting a chipped paint job. Chic designers clamored to give her clothing and she, in turn, promoted what and whom she fancied.
When Ria and Clark met, and became involved, in 1929, he was estranged from his first wife, Josephine Dillon. Dillon was an acting coach 11 years his senior who had taught him how to act on the stage. But it was Ria who taught him how to act in polite society… and how to dress, even how to write a check! Of which it seems she wrote several on his behalf, fixing up those signature teeth and grooming young Gable for the career she believed he was destined for. The two took up with each other when Clark was new to New York, just another Broadway hopeful. A fellow actor, and family member of Ria’s, first took her backstage to meet the dashing man who would come to rule Hollywood. It didn’t take her long to fall madly in love with his good lucks, irresistible charm, and intoxicating masculinity. A double divorcee and one-time widower, Ria already had 3 children and a swell bankroll from her previous marriages. No doubt, she knew that the 17 year age gap between herself and Clark would one day cause problems, but she had already married a man who was her caretaker, and, as biographer Lyn Tornabene puts it, “at this stage in her life she needed to give, and she adored this moody, beautiful young man with whom, as she envisioned it, life could never be dull because it could never be easy.”
She couldn’t have been more right. Ria was a fabulous hostess and mingled with everyone who was anyone in Hollywood, manicuring Clark’s social circle and standing, while Clark preferred blue collar company. Tornabene wrote, in Long Live the King, “Clark didn’t mingle with big shots at the studio, and didn’t see why he should at home. At work he was happiest with underdogs, not only in the early thirties when he identified with them, but throughout his career.” But social sets aside, it seems that life with Clark was never easy for anyone, even the ones he loved the most; he was a passionate man in every aspect, given to brooding, and frequently indulging in affairs. His magnetic appeal drew women in, and he didn’t like turning them away.
Gable began his long-term, on-again-off-again affair with Joan Crawford during this time, but Ria took it in stride. She said, “I was smart- had her over for breakfast, lunch, and dinner- till they were sick of each other!” It was also during his marriage to Ria that Clark sired his ‘secret daughter,’ Judy Lewis, while having a dalliance with co-star, Loretta Young. Although it was a well-known secret in Hollywood, Miss Young hid their daughter away in orphanages and other homes for the first year and a half of her life, after which Young ‘adopted’ the girl. Judy’s resemblance to Clark was so pronounced that Miss Young even had the child’s ears surgically pinned back when the girl was just 7 years old. (Incidentally, Miss Lewis eventually became an actress herself.) While Clark was not involved in the life of his doppelganger daughter, he did share what little time he had free with Ria’s daughter, Jana, and son, Al. Jana was his
secretary and fielded all of his fan mail, while Al accompanied Clark to ballgames and picnics. Clark was a father figure to Al, whose own had father passed away while Al was still a toddler, and more of a protective older brother to Jana- although he did walk her down the aisle. But, sadly, when the marriage ended, so did Clark’s relationship with Ria’s children.
The last affair, with screen star Carole Lombard, prompted a divorce at last, in 1939. Ria demanded a large settlement as she had supported Clark and paved his way to fame; as she said, “It’s only fair. I gave him a good many years of my life and taught him a great deal.” So, MGM made the divorce possible by giving Clark a princely advance on his contract to secure him for the part of Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind, and preserve their big star’s reputation. Three and a half weeks after the divorce was granted, Gable and Lombard were married, making one of Hollywood’s legendary love affairs legal at last…but that’s another story.
Ria maintained her dignity as always, and often said, “Clark never did anything to embarrass me. Our marriage was one of mutual respect.” She dated actor George Raft for a time, but left Hollywood for Houston a few years after the divorce. She never married again, and remained Mrs. Gable to Houstonians until her death in 1966, 6 years after Clark’s. The scrapbook in which she continued to paste all of Gable’s press clippings remains in Appaloosa’s family, and Maria Franklin Gable rests in peace at the illustrious Glenwood Cemetery in Houston, TX.