Atlanta burlesque performer and producer Talloolah Love, “The Sweetest ‘T’ in the South,” talks falling down the rabbit hole of burlesque, Studio Burlesque Atlanta, storm troopers, Daleks, and steampunk.
Interview: Divertida Devotchka
Q: What is your performance background? Theater? Dance? None of the above? How and when did you first learn about burlesque and when and how did you start performing?
TL: I knew about burlesque before I knew there was an entire movement behind it. I knew it in its vintage sense because of my insane love of theater and old movies. I haven’t had a lot of dance lessons, I will admit, but a lot of theatre experience and a love for all things glamorous I have in spades! Almost eleven years ago, I went to the beach with a friend and on the way back, she asked me to drop her off at a photo shoot for a new burlesque troupe that would be forming up within the next few months. I poked my head into that rabbit hole of period stockings, corsets, makeup and hair and haven’t come up since. For their first show, I was a costume hand and backstage assistant. A month later, I auditioned as the troupe’s belly dancer and within a year I was twirling tassels!
Q: From whom or what do you draw inspiration for your routines?
TL: I will go through hours and hours of old movies with lots of dancing, great costumes and beautiful hair before a show. I draw inspiration from the classic actresses and dancers and models more than I draw from anything. There was a sense of self awareness, and wholeness to the women of that era that I aspire to. I find a sense of peace when I dance, so I usually hear a song that inspires me to create something new, I think about and even map out some of the choreography and then, I think of what I can do to make it work.
Contemporaries that have made me keep doing what I am doing are Immodesty Blaize, Amber Ray, Roxi D’Lite and Tigger!
Q: You’re an instructor at Studio Burlesque Atlanta, which was just opened by Ursula Undress in January of this year. Care to tell our readers more about that exciting new development?
TL: Burlesque community outreach has been an incredibly high priority for me for years. When Ursula announced that we would have a studio, I was elated. I called her immediately to ask her how I could assist. Luckily, Ursula had a spot for me to teach beginning burlesque on Mondays and I leapt at the offer. The studio embraces women of all backgrounds and body types and brings them to the floor to pursue their own personal journeys through dance, self-expression, exercise, and camaraderie. The class pursues different levels of sensuality whether it be through the art of the tease, testing the limits of flexibility, or doing something more childlike and fun in the hooping class. Right now, the classes are focused more on the fitness and self-awareness one can achieve through burlesque, it isn’t as much focused on getting on a stage, but there have been and I believe there will be more classes in the near future that focus on taking it to the next level for those who show an interest.
Q: When did you first begin producing events? What are some of the biggest challenges that you’ve encountered as a producer?
TL: I started producing events under Syrens of the South with Katherine Lashe in 2007. We both decided we wanted to give the independent performers a chance to perform in their own shows and for performers to work on non-troupe related projects in a nice, more variety show based setting. Atlanta was all troupe based at the time, and there was rarely an opportunity for outsiders to break in unless they “knew somebody”. Syrens gave us the opportunity to work with anyone who was willing to play with us. In 2010, DJ Doctor Q and I moved on to form The Artifice Club and I have gone on to produce my own large shows at conventions all over the country, and big thematic event parties in Atlanta that include some burlesque, but not an entire show’s worth. My focus now is more based on audience participation and immersive experience, as well as promoting artists of all genres to collaborate.
My biggest and never ending issue is timing and venues. Atlanta fan base can be a bit persnickety. You have to find a sweet spot. Perfect timing, perfect theme, perfect venue, and you’re rolling, if you miss the mark on either of these, it’s all over but the crying in your cold cream. Paying the artists is positively number one in my book. I still don’t think they are getting paid what they are worth, but it’s all about public education and getting the fellow performers on board.
Q: Speaking of producing, since 2012 you’ve produced Dragon*Con Burlesque, “A Glamour Geek Review” which is currently taking applications for performers until February 28. For those of our readers who are unfamiliar, could you please describe Dragon*Con and its audience and describe the aesthetic of the acts which will be featured there?
TL: Oh, Dragon*Con. It’s quite a show! This is a pop culture geek-con and it brings in 52,000 fans from all over the world. It is the 6thlargest convention in Atlanta (considering the City is home to all the major trade show and corporate conventions in the Southeast, that is much more impressive than it sounds), and is the largest fan run convention in the world. There is nothing like it. It takes over five host hotels in the heart of downtown Atlanta, fills all other major hotels in the downtown area to capacity, and boasts the largest parade in the city (yes, even beating out our city’s Pride Parade). I am happy and proud to say that the burlesque show is one of the more popular events at the Con. The room we were in last year held over a thousand people and there were still people being turned away at the door!
This is the biggest event that I run, and I simply adore it. Last year was my first time taking the reins and at the end of the night, I can honestly say that I have never been so proud of any show that I have ever produced. It included some of the most incredible performers: Lola Le Soleil, Tito Bonito, and Kisa von Teasa just to name a few. Storm troopers, Rainbow Bright, dark elves and Daleks? Who could ask for more?
The con liked the format so much, they asked me to do it again this year, so the planning has started with the call for performers. I need a special kind of burlesque act from people. It needs to be what we call “nerdlesque”, but the act needs to be of a pop-culture geek reference that are of a fandom that they are seriously passionate about as a performer, not just because they think it would look good from random internet searches. Con-goers are want to know you are as into their fandom as they are, so if you bring a Star Wars act, you’d better have an opinion about who shot first! It’s not just about the boobies, it’s also about the geekdom.
Q: You’re a contributing author along with Alan Moore, Margaret Killjoy, Sarah Hunter and Molly Crabapple in “The Steampunk’s Guide to Sex“, published in both English and Italian on Ebook in November 2012 and you’ve mentioned that it’s to be released in paperback soon. Could you tell us more about this project?
TL: Oh, it did release this past month! This was a collaboration in which we all did articles, and in Margaret’s case even art, for a book that was leaps and bounds more than I ever thought it would be. It’s been well reviewed and is a fast read. It’s educational, fun, fascinating and practical knowledge about Victorian sexuality, current sexuality, and how that all has to do with the steampunk movement. I was elated to be asked to write about my experiences as a steampunk burlesque performer. I currently have three acts where I would say they are right out steampunk or at least steampunk inspired, and Margaret Killjoy asked if I’d like to do something for it. I have been writing book reviews for The Steampunk Chronicle for a few years, so he asked if I wouldn’t mind doing a top five steamy steampunk story list, as well as an article on burlesque and steampunk and I was flattered. To be honest, it wasn’t until the book was published that I realized that Alan Moore and Molly Crabapple worked on it. I am a huge fan of both of their work, and so it was most definitely on my top three amazing opportunities of 2012!
Q: I’d like to know more about the Atlanta Burlesque & Cabaret Society, its history and your role within the group. Please share with us a little more about the group and its mission.
TL: This group was started by Torchy Taboo and Tip Tart Tina when I first started doing burlesque. Tina quit the business and Torchy went on to bigger brighter and more fabulous things and the club went untouched for two years. In 2008, I decided my goal for Atlanta was to bring the community together. I believe that only through education, cooperation and collaboration can great things truly happen. That’s what I hoped to achieve with the club. It had a lot of ups and downs, but finally, Sadie Hawkins started talking about the peer reviews at BurlyCon and I had a flash of inspiration that blossomed into a real live format.
So now, we start the meeting with announcements, we have a DJ, and we invite new and experienced performers to come and workshop an act. It can be in any state of preparedness, and there are different levels of review, a new performer can just mingle with the crowd and get feedback as they ask for it, a more experienced performer can sit on the stage after the act and get live feedback with a stack of note cards from those who don’t want to speak about their critique. Everyone gets a recording of the show emailed to them within a week so that they may review it for themselves. Ever since we started this format, the club has taken off! We get new fans, new performers, new photographers every time, and I couldn’t be more ecstatic about that. It’s everything and more than I ever hoped for.
Q: What’s next for Talloolah Love?
TL: I did my first tour last year, my goal is to do another small one this year. I am booked pretty solid the first half of the year. I will be teaching a few of my Textbook Tease classes in the southeast, and I am currently working on my very first novel. It is about sex-positivity in today’s society. Seeing my words in print really inspired me, so I am hoping to springboard off of that as best I can. You can catch me as a featured performer in The Southern Fried Burlesque Festival, and I plan to make it out to attend, if not perform at The Burlesque Hall of Fame this year. It’s been two years, and I’ve missed my Nevada lovelies! It is my Mecca.
Q: Anything you’d like to add?
TL: Yes, I’d like to give a lot of love to the photographers of the Burlesque Camera Club and the Atlanta Burlesque Photographer’s guild. If not for their efforts, Atlanta’s burlesque community would not be where it is today. Marc Turnley’s reaching out to our community in his charming, witty, and embracing way has really brought all of us up a notch, both as performers and as photographers. I also have to give a back-slap to Derek Jackson’s efforts in reaching out to the international burlesque community, those of us who have not ventured to shows and festivals outside of our own community would have little reason to do so without his incredible shots to show us all what we are missing.
Again, thank you so much for this opportunity. I’ve loved Pin Curl for years!
The bi-coastal Jacqueline Hyde talks production, branding, tea, and pep talks.
Q: You are the producer and a performer in the upcoming Valentease which is sponsored by Bust magazine and includes an epic line-up featuring Angie Pontani, Indigo Blue, Jo Weldon, Harvest Moon, and so many more! Tell us a little about why you’re so “giddy” as your blog puts it, about the upcoming show at the Mauch Chunk Opera House.
JH: I am giddy because I didn’t actually think I could get this collection of performers. I wanted Valentease to be that of applicants and personally hand selected entertainers. I wanted to give those who were “new” or “newish” to the community an opportunity to perform with established entertainers; allowing for a dynamism that is unlike any other.
The cast of Valentease is a “dream cast” to me, and sensually unique. Valentease will showcase a variety of performers rising stars to industry recognized veterans. I am giddy because of the overwhelming interest by these entertainers in this unique love centric show. I think Cupid hit me with a couple of bows and arrows here.
Q: You hilariously refer to Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania as the “Switzerland of America”. Why do you say this?
JH: Actually “Switzerland of America” was not coined by me! It was coined by North Easter Pennsylvania era at the time of the industrial revolution surrounding coal. Jim Thorpe, originally called Mauch Chunk, was a major hub in the anthracite coal mining days. Jim Thorpe was an area that at the turn of the 1900′s had 13 millionaires in it. Today Jim Thorpe still has many of the original architecture and is rich with history of the coal mining days. Jim Thorpe is nestled in the Poconos in the heart of three mountains and has the essence of a little town in the middle of the Alps!
Q: You live in Edmonds, Washington just outside of Seattle, and produce shows in Pennsylvania, including the monthly “Silk Tease”. How did you become bi-coastal and how do you sustain having a business on each coast?
JH: I actually get this question a lot! I actually moved to Pennsylvania for an opportunity that was presented to me. While that did not work out quite as planned, what was built were the relationships with the area I had moved to. I fostered those relationships in the area via email, social networks and phone.
What is not really known is that I have actually produced shows not only in Seattle and Pennsylvania but in Paris as well. It is a matter of building relationships, finding markets that are untapped, and engaging with people in a variety of ways. I have a business manager who helps me tremendously, and have worked with him to create an action plan for the East Coast targeted areas that I want to work with. I have handed off the EC to him to work on my structured plan, as I continue to build up the WC presence… we meet up in the middle – lol. It is a full time job for sure.
Q: Speaking of your businesses, you own and operate Jacqueline Hyde Emporium where you custom create your own line of teas. How did you fall in love with tea, and what goes into producing custom blends?
JH: I fell in love with tea when I was little. But the concept for expanding Jacqueline Hyde as a brand one cold November morning in 2010. I wanted to be able to have “TEASe” parties and bachelorette parties that could be held in the afternoon or in the day. A place that would allow for the pun of TEASe to play out. A throw back to my preferred era of Victorian / Edwardian times when burlesque was socially different and where tease was just a hint of an ankle and a different level of saucy intelligence. Each named box of tea represents an act I have or a production I produce. TEASe shows are coming this summer and fall all over the country… so watch out!
Q: In the opening post of your blog, you write of the importance of having a good team of people working for you. We often get letters from readers about this issue. What advice would you give performers, producers, teachers, to help them decide when the time has come to hire a team (even a team of one to start) and how to let go of the need to do everything yourself.
JH: Having a team of people to help distribute the vision is vital to the success and growth of any business. Since I treat “Jacqueline Hyde” as a business, I of course have a business plan that is focused on driving my business forward. The business of all-encompassing entertainment. By partnering with individuals who have strong skills to support a variety of pieces in your plan, helps to distribute the workload, and helps to focus your attentions on other pieces for decision making. The biggest advice I can provide is to make sure you have a strong, strong budget. A realistic budget. You want to focus on an entire year of planning, rather than just one specific thing. Everything needs to budgeted down to even your applications to festivals to rhinestones, should a performer really want to succeed and move forward. It is also wise that have a non disclosure agreement between those you engage with on any level with any creative ideas. PERIOD! Creative theft is popular, protect yourself.
We all still want to do everything ourselves. You should know, or have conceptual knowledge, of the things you need to put in place. It is vital to not just let someone do something for you. You maintain the artistic control, the business control and for crying out you control the money decisions! You have to be willing to experience failures with people, as well as make the key decisions for letting people go should you so need to. Many people say, get your friends involved. I say… learn to separate yourself. This sounds silly, but you have to be willing to tell your friend their failures and detach from them business wise if you need to. Nepotism can be your greatest failure if you do not have the strength to change something that is going away from your vision. Many people do not necessarily like it, but I am friends with people I work with, and socialize accordingly, but I have learned over the many years of the entertainment industry the art of “separation” of friends and business. It is hard for some to do this.
Q: Speaking of writing, you announced your upcoming book Live it. Breathe It. Own It. – The Book of Pep Talk. Can you give us a sample of one of your awesome pep talks?
JH: Live it. Breathe It. Own It. has been something in the workings since 2007, when I faced one of the most challenging years ever. Since then, knowing I could survive “drama” I began looking at how I could translate that into a positive. LBO, as I call it, is my mantra for solving things, making life better, and to be free of as much drama as possible. Pep talks mostly are on individual basis, I start by questioning a person, challenging a person, and then making them believe! Yes, you can make someone believe if you believe.
Here is a sample “Pep Talk”… Scene (picture it) … a performer (Jane) really has been down lately, they don’t see themselves as someone who can make a splash in to the performance community. This would be how I would respond…
Look, Jane, you are an amazing individual with so much heart in your performances. People have come to see you perform in this show, that is noteworthy. If you want to go bigger and badder and make that name for yourself, you will have to live with choices from here on out. Ask yourself if you are living your experience. Are you enjoying this moment of being dressed up in your costume? Have you told yourself in the mirror that you are a freaking rock star and that you have something to offer? Are you taking in this moment to your heart with every breath? That you are inhaling the moment of glitter? Now mind you Jane, Glitter is not friendly up the nose, so make sure that when you dust yourself, that you don’t literally take it in. (Friendly laugh). Now, you are about go on sweetie, and you are nervous because you care. But go out there and OWN that stage. Own the moment. Own your change. Own the experience that you are providing for yourself and for others. Remember, that audience is here to see you. Remember that you are amazingly awesome in every way. Remember you can achieve if you want it badly enough.
Now, my book helps take people through the process of LBO. It is hard for many to digest a process of change or the motivation for making their world theirs. It is all about changing bad situations into good situations by changing your mind. I don’t tell anyone to forget the past, but to remember it, as it has defined them to who they are today. You can only learn from life. Breathe in the present with experiences, and enjoy life to the fullest. And you have to own all responsibility for successes (and failures) because this way you have a well-balanced life. Think of LBO as the vitamins of life.
Live It. Breathe It. Own It. will be available on my website(s) in late February early March, and the pep talk tour will be starting this summer (2013). Look to www.jacquelinehyde.com for connections about LBO.
Q: A question we often get from our readers is how to impress producers. As a producer, what are three tips you can give performers to get more bookings?
JH: Have a true press kit. I am sorry but Facebook doesn’t do it for me, in fact it makes me angry. Entertainers that truly want to be known and recognized need to manage their world like a business. That means have a website, have a press kit, have presence. Additionally, if producers have application portals (like I do) make sure to take time to fill out the form, attach photo and have video. Don’t assume that they will be able to find your email. If you are selected by that producer to work with them, don’t give them attitude, be on time, get your stuff in when asked, and realize that they are stressed out most of the time, thus we can’t babysit you. Sounds horribly mean, but it is very true. My 25+ years in the entertainment industry made me realize that perception is everything and if you are not “put together” in a variety of ways, well, you don’t really have your stuff together and you don’t want it badly enough. Be professional. Consider it a real job, after all we are paying you for your services.
Q: What’s next for Jacqueline Hyde?
JH: Well that’s a secret, but what I can tell you is that it there will be a lot more shows all over the country and in Europe that collaborate with others on for producing. Expansion of my Emporium to have more products for performers at reasonable rates, such as rhinestones. Additionally, there will be new wearable items that are going to be available as well. This summer I will be traveling to Paris again to perform with Sugar Da Moore, and I am looking to capturing another title somewhere in some avenue of everything I do. Mostly, the Pep Talk Tour will be keeping me busy on the weekends, as I really want to focus on giving back to individuals, and giving them the opportunity to challenge and commit to themselves and their dreams. Possibly in three years, I will actually open a venue of my own, the business plan is almost complete, its just a matter of talking to the right people.
Jamie Bahr, singer and upright bass player for Danger*Cakes, an Austin, Texas-based, all-female rock n’ roll band talks hopeless romanticism, how South by Southwest changed her life, sexy band geeks, hipster Lost Boys, and accessorizing.
Interview: Divertida Devotchka
Q: You’re the lead singer of Danger*Cakes and you play upright bass. How many total gals are there in the band? What are the names of the other band members and what instruments do they play?
JB: We’re an all-female band made up of five members: Jeremie Fletcher is on guitar, Tina Marie Bartolucci plays alto and tenor sax, Erin Knight plays trumpet and Violin and Laney Santana is on the drums.
Q: You’re originally from New York, but as luck would have it, you met “the most wonderful man [you’ve] ever laid eyes on” while on tour in Austin in 2009 with your previous band, and you two hit it off so well that you moved to Austin shortly thereafter to be with him and attempt to start the band of your dreams. The two of you are now married and he played a large role in the development of the band. How quickly did the move come about? Did your friends or family think you were crazy?
JB: Everyone thought I was crazy! But really, I’m a hopeless romantic, which my friends and family all know. I took the road less traveled and it took me down I-35 to Austin. I met Drew at a club called Headhunters, currently known as Metal & Lace, a dirty dive bar downtown during SXSW. Not exactly the place you think you’re going to meet the man of your dreams, but I did on St. Patrick’s Day of 2009!
I was setting up on stage when I saw him come in. I got off stage and walked to the back of the bar near where he was standing and learned the hard way that you don’t get the option of ginger ale in Texas, and mixing coke, sprite and bitters doesn’t count. It’s gross and definitely not what I was expecting when I went to take my much needed sip of liquid courage. But it worked enough to give me the guts to tap him on the shoulder. He was wearing a black work shirt that said, “Al’s Grave Digging, We Dig ‘Em Deeper”. I said, “Hey, nice shirt”, to which he bashfully replied, “Oh, it’s not that great. I got it at Hot Topic.” He was adorable. It was enough to start up a brief conversation. I handed him my card, bid him adieu and made my way to the stage join the rest of PBR (Punk Blues Review) and belted out our best.
We have a very gothic love story. We met at Headhunters, had our first date at the Bat Bridge, our first kiss was at a skate park called the Broken Neck and eleven months later, Drew would propose to me at the Alamo Ritz at the premier of “The Wolfman”. But what would you expect from Mr. Drew Edwards, creator of Halloween Man?
After our Southby romance, I flew back home to New York. Drew was the first person to call after my plane landed. Every night we talked for at least six hours, discussing everything from our pasts to our hopes and dreams and I knew I wanted to pursue them in Austin with Drew. Seven very sleep-deprived weeks later, Drew flew to New York to help me with the move and to meet my family so he could prove he wasn’t a serial killer. Everyone basically took to him right away, although my mother thought he had a lot of tattoos for someone who wasn’t in the Navy, whatever that means. We packed up my little Toyota Echo and headed south and arrived in Austin exactly two months after we first met. We married last April.
Q: The story of the formation of your band is quite fascinating! After relocating to Austin you posted an ad on Craigslist that was apparently so eye-catching that it garnered attention, albeit negative, from The Onion’s A.V. Club? Could you elaborate on that story for our readers, as well as how everything eventually panned out so that you had a complete lineup?
JB: Drew and I put up fliers all over Austin and on ads on Craigslist that said, “In Search Of Sexy Band Geeks. . .” to recruit for Danger*Cakes.
The flier said:
“Were you the kind of girl who played in the school marching band instead of cheerleading at the game? Were you more about showing off your chops than showing off your fanny? (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, wink wink). Have you grown to be a classy lady who
knows not only how to carry herself, but can also carry a tune? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then Danger*Cakes is looking for you. Danger*Cakes is an urban big band of sorts. We know just how to tickle the auricle fancy by combining a strapping rhythm section with a rich and luscious brass ensemble, all fronted by a nice big slice of cheesecake by the name of Jamie B! Add a side of soul with a dollop of punk pin-up and voilà! We are currently keeping an eye out for a percussionist, pianist, and rhythm guitarist, but if you’re someone who knows how to handle their instrument and can throw some spice into the mix, then by all means, please drop us a line. We look forward to making your acquaintance. Bon appétit!”
I know it’s a bit flowery, but it was supposed to get your attention. And it definitely suited its purpose. Most of the women that have been in this band replied to that ad. But it also caught the eye of the Austin chapter of The Onion’s A.V. Club, who tore it apart on their website under a column about strange Craigslist ads. I’m a big fan of The Onion. It’s sitting in my bathroom right now. I can take a joke, but instead of the A.V. club poking fun at the ad, they said a lot of chauvinist and sexist things about what they assumed the band would be like. And begged me to give up so as to not unleash another Courtney Love onto the world. Obviously, I didn’t let it get to me and their predictions couldn’t be farther from the truth. Que sera sera!
Q: I love the all the variations of descriptions that I’ve seen of your band’s style – “swing punk,” “psycho jazz,” “neo-soul,” and you’ve been called “pin-up psychobilly sirens,” yet you are inclined to describe your style as more classic rock n’ roll, right? Isn’t that hard to explain to people who might be confused when they see the horn section? Please explain more to our readers about your notion of paying homage to Little Richard’s notion of the “rock n’ roll orchestra.”
JB: Not Classic Rock ‘n’ Roll; Old School. There’s no Lynyrd Skynyrd in our set. And the only song from the ‘70’s we’ve covered so far has been Blitzkrieg Bop. No, we’re old school; Roots music. And I say that because we’re up there doing what Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Ray Charles did. We’re taking our roots, the music we were spoon-fed growing up and combining it with what we’ve been exposed to; nature plus nurture. Of course it doesn’t sound exactly like the Roots Music of the ’50’s and ‘60’s, but a child isn’t going to be the exact same spitting image of its parent either. And we wouldn’t want that anyways. If we did, we’d be a cover band. Instead we take all of our influences and stew them together to breed something altogether new
and hopefully innovative, but with respect to where we’ve come from. That’s why we used to pay tribute to Little Richard in calling ourselves a Rock ‘N’ Roll orchestra, like he did with his band in the Fifties.
Q: What are the most notable differences between the music scenes in New York and in Texas? What has remained consistent in both states? Do you find yourself missing anything about New York?
JB: I saw a great meme recently online that said “What people think when I say I’m from New York” and it had a picture of Times Square. Then it said “What I mean when I say I’m from New York”, and underneath was a picture of the Catskill Mountains. The Hudson Valley is an
interesting place to grow up and I stayed in that area until I moved to Austin. I traversed many a music scene upstate. In college, I was a jazz major with a classical background playing around areas such as Kingston, New Paltz and Woodstock with a slew of different musicians from genres ranging from Jazz, Folk and Funk, to Rock, Metal and Punk. There were only a handful of venues to play at in each town if you were in a band and most clubs seem to prefer DJ’s over live music. There are so many talented people who reside there that have already made their mark in music and decide to retire or Summer there. But cost of living is pretty high. I’m a full-time musician in Austin. I supplement my income teaching private music lessons, but I would never have managed to do only that in New York, at least I hadn’t figured out how when I lived there. And it’s usually so cold from October to April which doesn’t make for the best conditions to perform.
I love Austin. Texas has taken some getting used to, but I was in love at first sight when I came to Austin. It has a Neverland-like quality that just captivates you, except all of the Lost Boys are
hipsters. I feel like my dreams really have come true here, as childish as that sounds. There’s a lot of opportunity to play out as there are clubs a plenty here, it being the “Live Music Capital of the World” and all. But because of that, the music scene is saturated with people chasing their dream of rock and roll stardom, not all of them talented. So desperate just to play and be heard, that they’re willing to play for free or worse yet, pay to play, which sets a poor standard to clubs. Why bother paying someone for their art when someone else is willing to dole theirs out for free? This type of attitude only hurts the arts and music scene.
I will always love New York and I do miss it at times. But it’s usually my friends and family up there that I’m missing, them and bagels and hard rolls.
Q: You self-produced your first EP “Just a Taste” and went the indie route, mostly selling it at shows, correct? You’re now signed with Deep Eddy records and just released your first full-length album, “Dessert First.” How exciting! Care to tell us about the process of landing the record deal and recording the album?
JB: Technically we don’t have a recording deal. We have a distribution deal with Deep Eddy Records. We raised the money to record the album ourselves and were very hands on with the mixing and production. Ted James is a great guy; really responsible and trustworthy. We’ve
played with his surf-rock band, The Nematoads numerous times. So when he approached us about distributing our album through his label, we knew he’d be a good ally. Now, our songs are being played throughout the U.S., Brazil, Germany, Spain and the UK and are available for
download on Amazon.com, Itunes and CdBaby. So we’re really excited that our music is getting heard by so many ears, near and far.
Q: In addition to being a musician, you’ve also done pin-up modeling, including being asked to be the model and spokeswoman for Dangerous FX, a U.K.-based full-figured, vintage-inspired clothing line. You’re also very outspoken about body positivity, and you said in a past interview, “I do my best to promote a good sense of body image in women of all sizes and they have taken notice. I’ve had countless women thank me for showing them how to embrace their curves and ample figures. It’s the best feeling to know you’ve helped shape the way someone sees themselves for the better.” Have you always been so body confident? What advice can you offer our readers who are struggling with that issue?
JB: I’m not always confident. Doubt is an ugly mother. And as with most women, my weight fluctuates. But I’ve realized that the times I’m most hurtful to myself don’t always coincide with how much I weigh. It’s usually when I’m upset about outside stresses with my career or problems in relationships with family or friends. It’s during those types of scenarios that the anxiety takes over and I find any way to insult myself, regardless if I’m a size twelve or twenty. But I am also of the mind that if you’re not willing to change your situation, you shouldn’t complain about it. I try to resolve problems as soon as possible instead of procrastinating and having all of that stress and worry fester over into other aspects of my life.
I also try to take pride in my appearance. I like to look presentable and put together, which makes me feel that way as a result. If you’re looking for fashion tips for the full-figured female, I’d say avoid loud prints, black is always slimming, dress for your shape and size and always accessorize. But the best advice I can give you is to be good to yourself, like you would be to a good friend. It’s hard to always be nice, sometimes it may not be deserved, but a good friend
comforts you when you’re down, and tells you you’re beautiful when you’re feeling ugly. But they’re also honest with you in confronting not always the most pleasant subjects and helping you with resolving them.
Q: In keeping with your band name, you love baking cakes, especially for your friends’ birthdays. What are some of your favorite (or most often requested) cake recipes? What is your favorite birthday cake to receive?
JB: I insisted on making my own birthday cake this year. Everyone was all upset about it, but I wanted my carrot cake recipe with cream cheese frosting which is my absolute favorite. And I have yet to have a carrot cake anywhere that’s as good as mine. I’ve also had a rash of requests for German’s chocolate cake (which isn’t actually German like the name implies). I have a recipe from the 1940’s that belonged to Drew’s grandmother. It’s a decadent cake that would stop your heart if you have more than one slice in a sitting. But it’s absolutely delicious.
Q: In your rare free time, I understand that you’re an instructor at two different non- profits, Kids in a New Groove (K.I.N.G.) and Girls Rock Camp Austin. Please tell us more about these two causes. What is your favorite memory from working with both of these groups?
JB: I’m involved year round with Kids In a New Groove and during the Summers with Girls Rock Camp Austin. Kids In a New Groove is a non-profit organization that provides children who have been recently adopted or are in foster care with mentoring and music lessons on the
instrument of their choice. It was the first music program I became involved with when I moved to Austin and I do everything I can to support the program and its cause. I feel that music education should not be a privilege, but a necessity in every child’s life. But it’s extremely crucial for those who have suffered hardships as so many foster kids have, to have a positive and healthy outlet to channel their emotions.
Girls Rock Camp Austin is a non-profit that helps build girls’ self-esteem through music creation and performance. It’s been a great experience. In five days, we teach the girls how to write a song and play it on the instrument of their choice (out of guitar, piano, bass or drums) in a group setting. They then learn the process of what they need to do to be in a performing band by participating in different music workshops and practicing before their performance for their friends and family on that sixth day.
I have to say my favorite memories of working with each program are the student’s recitals and performances. I love the look of their faces during their performance, how excited and nervous they are. And after they’ve finished, their look of pride and accomplishment. Knowing that I had something to do with that look always makes me misty with joy.
Q: What’s next for Danger*Cakes? What’s next for Jamie Bahr?
JB: Well, Danger*Cakes is already writing songs for our next album and we’re working on our very first music video for the song, “Judas Kiss”. We’re also in negotiations with a production company for some of our songs to be used in a few independent films. SXSW is just around the corner, which is always an exciting time and we’re in the process of setting up tours on the West Coast for late May, early June and the East Coast in August. We’ll be heading back to Louisiana at the end of March.
As for me, I’m busy planning my own adventures, sans band. I have a shoot coming up for Dangerous FX, but I’m looking to broaden my creative horizons so who knows where that’s going to take me. My New Year’s resolution this year was to relax more and worry less, so I’m
still trying to keep that in mind. Drew and I will be celebrating our one year anniversary April 5th, so we’re hoping to get out of dodge for some much deserved rest and relaxation. Who knows where life will take us.
Q: Anything you’d like to add?
Beloved Emcee and costume goddess Cora Vette, owner of Denver’s one stop burlesque shop VaVa Vette, gives us the lowdown on how to create your own custom fashions.
Zip Your Lip! – Cora Vette’s secret (well not anymore) way of making zippers easy!
Zippers are a mainstay in any burlesque dancer’s wardrobe. Hidden zippers for that surprise removal or a separating zipper for that easy, sexy dress. We use them in a million different ways. Also, vintage clothing has more than its fair share of zippers. As a matter of fact, a “simple to make” vintage pattern that I recently replicated had not one, but two zippers for a simple sleeveless top! Spandex was invented in 1959, so before this date, in order to get that close fit, a zipper was frequently used at both the neck and the side of a bodice. A little sewing history for you…
I hear so many people say “I hate zippers”. So for this DIY column I am going to let you in on my zipper trick. Shhhh…It’s fast and easy and will have you loving zippers once again.
First of all, I don’t put zippers in the way they instruct you to on the package. I cheat. I am proud to admit it. As a matter of fact, I thought I invented my way to put in a zipper until yesterday. I was sewing from an early 1940’s pattern and the directions for how to put the zipper in was EXACTLY how I do it. (I think the zipper foot was actually invented in the late 40’s, so this makes sense). The truth is, I lost my zipper foot somewhere in my costume room. I may never find it again.
So, here is how I do it. It’s simple and easy.
Use a long basting stich. (My machine setting is 4. You want the longest straight stich on your machine) Sew the seam closed where you intend to place your zipper.
Press your seam open. I encase my edges in bias tape for neatness.
Place your zipper with the pull facing DOWN and the teeth directly over the seam. Pin into place. I use dressmaker pins that you can sew over and I put them at a 90-degree angle so they don’t get caught in the machine when you sew.
Carefully turn the garment over and stitch roughly 1/8”-1/4” from the seam, squaring it up at the bottom and coming back up the other side.
Use a seam ripper to CAREFULLY open the seam. Don’t go too fast or it may slide off track and cut your fabric. Trust me…
Pull out the loose threads so the zipper doesn’t get caught. Pour a glass of wine, and enjoy your finished zipper. Heck, zip and unzip at will.
This garment is for the fashion show at the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend in March. I am excited to have the opportunity for VaVaVette to be featured in the show! Here is the finished product. I hope to see you in Vegas!
Until next time – Zip your lip about my secret zipper method! Shhhh…
xoxo – Cora Vette
Part I in our Guide to touring got you on the road, so now that you’re there what should you expect?
First Scenario – The performer reached out to the producer.
If you’ve reached out to the producer to get the gig, make it as easy on the producer to say “yes” as possible. Here’s a few things to consider:
- Make sure you make it easy on the producer by giving him/her everything they will need in advance well before your trip:
- *high res* photos for press
- a brief bio or buzz words to use in promotions
- your tech/stage notes and music
- Your itinerary & your phone number
More advance Preparations you *must* make ahead of time:
- Have your lodging set up and choose a place as close to the venue as possible.
- If you won’t have your own transportation, do a little research to figure out the public transportation or cab system in the area.
- Have dietary restrictions? Travel with lots of snacks that do meet your needs or map out restaurants/groceries close to your hotel that you can hit up on the way.
- Make a list of what to pack and go over it several times, trying to plan for the unexpected. You don’t want to have a curling iron or stocking emergency in an unfamiliar town under a time crunch. Also, plan an extra casual outfit and dressy outfit so no matter where the after party shenanigans take you- you have the perfect outfit. (No one likes to ride a mechanical bull in an evening gown.)
- Make sure you have the producer’s phone number, email, and a secondary contact saved in your phone.
- If you are using merch as a way to hopefully bring in some extra money during your tour, make sure everything is ordered in time to arrive long before you leave so you can make any last minute changes if something is wrong with your tees/glossies/stickers/etc. Pack as much as you can to bring with you, or consider shipping them to the producer before the event if he/she is okay with that.
- Additional Gigs. Each producer feels differently about this, so make sure you clear everything with the original booker. You are on the road to make friends, not enemies. Once you get the all clear (and maybe even a list of places to start) from the producer, reach out to other shows and burlesque schools in the area to see if you can land a second show or workshop to help cover your travel costs. Make sure you can get to and from all of your gigs using either public transportation or cabs. It is unreasonable to expect a producer to bring you to someone else’s show by tech rehearsal.
- Plan some wiggle room in your plans to go to lunch before or go for drinks after the show with the producer or fellow performers, but don’t take it personally if no one is available to entertain you. While you may have a day free of obligations, others may have day jobs, children, deadlines, so don’t be hurt if you aren’t invited out.
After the trip
- A brief thank you card, or email sent to the producer is never a bad way to go.
- Follow up with the connections you made: performers, fans, producers, or otherwise telling them what a pleasure it was to meet them and how you can’t wait to see them again. (Only if you mean it.)
Scenario Two – The producer reached out to you.
In addition to all of the above, with this scenario, it’s a little safer to assume you will be hosted, though you want to be a gracious guest, so how do you navigate? The short answer, as Jo Weldon puts it, is *read your contract*! If you aren’t given a contract by the producer, consider having your own performance contract. If something is non-negotiable for you- make sure it’s in your contract!
- It is very reasonable to expect the producer to either bring you to and from the airport themselves, or have someone assigned to that role so you will arrive safely at your hotel/host’s house. It is also reasonable to think that transportation to and from the venue will be provided. However, you should always know where you are staying in advance, as well as where you are performing, so in case of emergency you can catch a cab or public transportation.
- It is reasonable to think you will be asked to join the producer or someone he/she has assigned to host for lunch, dinner, maybe shopping or sightseeing sometime during your stay as that is all part of being a good host, but please do not take it personally or be hurt if you are not asked. While you’re experiencing a new city, the rest of the crew is experiencing their daily grind.
- The tab question. Generally whoever asks, pays, and in most situations it is the producer. However, in situations where the entire cast is going out it’s understood it’s every man or woman for him/herself. The safe bet? If you can’t afford your meal- don’t order it.
- I’ve seen producers offer “welcome packets” when they know they are going to be too busy to be a good host (mainly festival situations) that provides sightseeing, dining, and shopping recommendations, as well as phone numbers for cab companies and places that will deliver food to your location. I always thought this was a great touch.
- It is unreasonable to expect the producer to run you about town for items you forgot, places/people you “must see”, or anything else that tickles your fancy. Have to see the Space Needle while you’re in town? Make plans to get there on your own.
By: Kitch Coquette
If you are like me, you love Chinese appetizers more than the meal itself. Unfortunately, every time you go to a Chinese restaurant, you politely agree to share an appetizer plate with your friends. Then, you have to pretend to be cool about only getting one pot sticker, when the guy next to you got two. Aarrggh! If my dignity didn’t get in the way, I’d just order three plates of pot stickers all for myself. The caveman in me would come out, and I’d poke people with my fork if they tried to steal my precious little yummy dumplings. But if I did that, I’m pretty sure I’d lose a few friends.
So what inspired me to create my own homemade pot stickers was actually my strong aversion to sharing. Sharing bad. Lots of Chinese dumplings good. This is my version of Kenny Lao’s Rickshaw Dumpling recipe. For those of you who don’t know Kenny Lao, he owns Rickshaw Dumpling Bar in the East Village in New York. This recipe will yield more dumplings than you can eat by yourself. You may even want to share. They also refrigerate and heat up well. So you can have dumplings for the entire week. Yippee!!
Pin-Up Pot Stickers
What You Need:
½ head of napa cabbage
1 T kosher salt
1 lb. Jimmy Dean’s Sage Sausage
1 bunch of green scallions thinly sliced (green parts only)
½ bunch of cilantro finely chopped
2 T ginger paste (tube found in the produce department near herbs)
1 T lemon grass paste (tube found in the produce department near herbs)
¼ cup soy sauce
2 T sesame oil
Black Pepper to taste
1 package of wonton wrappers
What To Do:
1. Finely chop cabbage. Place in a bowl with salt and mix together until salt is well-incorporated. Let it sit for 5 minutes while you are mixing other ingredients.
2. Put the remaining ingredients (other than wonton wrappers and vegetable oil) into a large mixing bowl.
3. When cabbage is done sitting in the salt, it will have released a lot of water. Take handfuls of the cabbage and wring out the moisture with your hands. Place the cabbage from your hand into the bowl with the meat mixture. Repeat this until all of your cabbage is fully drained and sitting on top of the meat mixture. Throw out the remaining cabbage water. Mix the meat and cabbage and herbs together with your hands until well-incorporated.
4. Set up a work area for folding the dumplings. You will need a cutting board, a small bowl filled with water, and a place where you can set your folded dumplings before we steam/fry them (I used a sheet of aluminum foil that I laid on my counter). Grab a few friends to help you fold. There will be more than enough for everyone.
5. Lay several wonton wrappers out at the same time. Place 1 T of the meat in the center of each wonton wrapper. Dip your finger in the water and trace the outside of the wonton wrapper so that it is moist. Then bring two sides together and seal them by gently pinching them together. Pull up another corner, and seal the edge. Pull up the final corner and seal the two final edges.
6. Set each dumpling aside on your aluminum foil while you make the others. The more you fold, the faster you get. I’ve gotten to the point where I can fold all four-corners at the same time. It ends up being almost one fluid motion. If you get tired of folding and you think you have enough dumplings, you can always freeze the meat mixture and remaining wonton wrappers. You can make another batch next weekend.
7. Once you have finished folding your dumplings, put vegetable oil into a large frying pan (just enough to coat the bottom). Place stove on Medium-High Heat. When the oil is hot (but before it is smoking), place as many dumplings as you can fit in one layer on the bottom of the pan.
8. Immediately pour ½ cup of water into the frying pan with the dumplings. Cover the pan and let it steam in the pan until the water is fully evaporated. This is a good time to make your dipping sauce (See recipe below). Just make sure you keep an eye on your pan – or you may end up with burned pot stickers. When the water has evaporated, you can remove the lid, let the dumplings fry for about 30 seconds more. Peek under the bottom of one of the dumplings, if it is brown, it’s time to get them out of the pan. Use a spatula to scoop all of the dumplings out onto a large serving plate. You can cover with aluminum foil if you want to keep them warm while you are cooking the other batches of dumplings.
Pin-Up Pot Sticker Dipping Sauce
What You Need:
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup rice vinegar
1 T sesame oil
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp sriracha (or 2 tsp. if you want it hotter)
What You Do:
Combine all ingredients and mix vigorously with a fork. Serve alongside the Pin-Up Pot Stickers.
Want more cooking ideas from Kitch? Try her Blueberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies, Braised Corned Beef, Bacon Mashed Potatoes, Farmer’s Wife Avocado Salad, Kahlua Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars, Ribs or Sponge Cake
ADA Accessibility & Burlesque
By: Elsa Sjunneson-Henry
One of the things I love about the burlesque community is that we can be quite accepting when we feel like it. Not always. Sometimes we falter. Today I’m addressing one of those falterings in the hopes that we can perhaps step it up. I remember performing my mother’s 50th birthday shindig. I was performing as a surprise for that evening. On my way sneaking away from her table, I had to run up black stairs, past a glass door, up another flight, and down another flight of stairs. The venue is not ADA accessible for performers, at least not as far as I’m aware.
This is how I managed to slam into the glass doorway at full speed, and slid down the glass in my teal and purple dress and ostrich feather plumes, recreating the Roadrunner of Looney Tunes Fame for a moment. I nearly broke my glasses. If that door hadn’t been made out of glass – if there was a safer way to get from one spot to another, perhaps this wouldn’t have happened. And if I had broken my glasses, I never would have been able to get on that stage.
You have disabled performers in your midst. You have disabled audience members. You have Legends.
We need to take care of these members of our community a lot better than we do – and one of the ways in which we can do this is through ADA Accessibility.
Does this mean we need to work harder? Absolutely.
Will it be worth it? Absolutely.
Why will it be worth it? One of the reasons is simply because as an artistic community we should always be striving for more diversity and a more interesting community. Through not giving people with disabilities opportunities to perform we’re also denying that they have something to offer. Disabled performers are just as sexual as able bodied ones, and perhaps offer a different perspective on human sexuality, just because of who they are. Furthermore, creating safer spaces means making it easier Legends to perform, making more opportunities for us to learn from them. Without Mat Fraser, we wouldn’t have the same burlesque world that we do. There’s probably way more Mat Fraser’s than you would expect.
And then there’s a diversified audience. Right now most burlesque festivals have almost entirely made it impossible for visually impaired audience members to access their shows, and this is unfortunate, because most of us can see something, and why wouldn’t we want to watch burlesque? Many venues for the New York Burlesque Festival aren’t ADA Accessible, meaning that wheelchair using patrons cannot attend shows, and I have to climb stairs in the dark.
Step one is address physical accessibility – not just for people who use wheelchairs, but for Legends who maybe don’t walk as confidently as they once did. Here’s what isn’t accessible: Stages which have steps (even one!) going up to them. Elevators in kitchens which aren’t for public use (in this instance I hauled my suitcase up and down the stairs with the assistance of my peers.) Not a perfect solution, but it was a solution.
We can’t remove glass doors, but we can make them more obvious – by placing warnings, or by having decorative (and these can be classy) stickers marking where the door is. Producers don’t have the discretion of moving walls, but they do have the discretion of where they choose to produce – and perhaps by asking venues to make themselves more accessible, we can begin to fight the tide of inaccessibility.
Step two is addressing issues of sight, hearing – if you’ve got visually impaired audience members, or Deaf audience members – you should make it so they can sit close to the stage. Offering accessible seating is just as important as offering accessible venues – we can’t make shows financially accessible for everyone, but we can set aside a few seats at every show Just In Case someone needs it. For example, while the Triple Door was nearly the sight of the Great Spectacle Debacle, they also made sure every time I attended a show that I had a decent seat. They never penalized me for it, and they were always helpful when it came to my needs.
Step Three – Ask questions. If you’re not sure that the cast will be aware that a castmate has a disability, ask them if it’s OK to disclose (or even if it’s needful) before doing so. Ask what accommodations are necessary for your performers. Feeling welcome is a huge piece to this – I’ve worked with casts who didn’t give a damn whether or not I could get to the stage, and I’ve worked with casts who went so far as to make sure I could get all my makeup on even when they were pressed for time. Being the kind of cast that helps the visually impaired performer is where you should strive to be. It doesn’t just extend to disabled performers either, being a warm and comforting community makes for better working environments for everyone.
Step Four has to do with flexibility. If you know that you’ve got a performer with an illness, you have to be prepared to replace them at the last minute if something goes wrong. This does not mean that you should penalize sick people by never booking them. It just means that you need to be an excellent communicator. Are you able to say to the performer “Are you feeling comfortable enough to go onstage?” Are you willing to be supportive of them? Are you willing to not be angry at them when they call and tell you “Hey, there’s no way I can perform tonight. I’m having an episode.” Does it suck to have people end up not being able to do a show last minute? Absolutely. But if you’re working with quality people, they’ll have someone lined up to take their spot long before they call you. And if they don’t, that’s something they can likely remedy.
As performers ourselves, we can be thoughtful. Strobes are sometimes necessary for theatrical effect, but perhaps putting them in the middle of a crowded show isn’t the best idea. Submitting something which requires you to blind your audience temporarily may be suited to a smaller show where there are escape routes for visually impaired and epileptic audience members. Posting signs in the theater are also necessary.
We never fully know who is in our audience, sometimes people don’t want to be known as disabled, some people don’t want to identify in this manner. However – we’re there and we need your help sometimes in enjoying the show.
Creating accessibility doesn’t mean that we have to step entirely out of our way to make things easier, it doesn’t mean that we have to choose between making money and making art. But it does mean that we need to make a safer and more welcoming community – so that when people do come out as disabled, they don’t feel like they’re the latest addition to a minority in a community, but that they are equal and welcome members of an artistic world.
Elsa Sjunneson-Henry will be teaching an Accessibility Guide for Burlesque Producers class at Boston Burlesque Expo in March. For more of Elsa’s work, see her blog: Feminist Sonar.