Now L.A. based Athena Fatale talks ink, true BDSM guidelines, Texas vs. California burlesque, 50 shades of Grey, and pot- really good pot.
Q: You were a founding member of Burlesque on the Fringe with Angela Ryan and Jami Deadly. BotF, was the very first burlesque troupe of the revival in Dallas, hitting the stage in 2004. Tell us about the incarnation of the troupe. Whom/What did you look to for inspiration considering there was absolutely no burlesque community in Dallas at the time? Re-live your first show for us, if you will.
In the spring of 2004, I was approached by Angela Ryan, a redhead, and Jami Deadly, a blonde. They were looking for a brunette to round out their trifecta of tresses. Jami was already doing her Marilyn Monroe act, and Angela and I had both done some performing at the Dallas Fetish Ball, but burlesque was an entirely new venture for us. YouTube didn’t exist yet, so the only videos we could find were old Bettie Page and Tempest Storm films, and the Pussycat Dolls scene from the first Charlie’s Angels movie. We worked with that and put together a group number and made our debut performance that July at the Lizard Lounge. We were very much learning as we went along, but the crowd loved us! We were later joined by choreographer and songstress Mimi Turpentine, and Lady Malice. Mimi’s dance training and theater experience was an integral part of our success. She would choreograph our group numbers and help us polish our solo routines. We were all so excited to have someone who knew what they were doing!
Q: Knowing what you know now, if you could go back to that first show, is there any advice you would give to young Athena? Anything you would do differently?
Breathe. Relax. Don’t forget to take off Angela’s bra.
Q: In Dallas, the burlesque scene emerged from the well-established fetish scene in Dallas. As an active member of both scenes, do you feel one respects the other more? Do you feel fetish performances get the credit they deserve in burlesque, or has the “classic” ideal taken over the Texas scene?
The fetish scene in Dallas definitely paved the way for the burlesque scene. Even before On The Fringe began, the only place to see a burlesque style performance, whether classic, neo, or fetish, was at the Lizard Lounge. You will still see traditional burlesque at fetish events from time to time, and I’ve seen fetish inspired routines at burlesque shows. But as each scene has evolved there is more definition and separation. The burlesque scene in Dallas has exploded beyond imagination, and there are girls who wiggle and walk in both worlds, but classic dominates the stage. Texas LOVES burlesque.
Q: Have you experienced any push-back to your heavily tattooed/modified body within the burlesque scene, or has your ink opened more doors then it has closed?
Burlesque tends to be very accepting of different body types and images, but I’m sure there have been some missed opportunities over the years. Tattoos aren’t for everyone. I recently produced my first show, The Texas Tattoo Tease, for Oliver Peck’s Elm Street Music & Tattoo Festival in Deep Ellum. I made a point of ONLY booking significantly tattooed performers. It was really cool to be able to showcase some of the most talented tattooed burlesque performers in Texas. Perhaps a little vindicating as well.
Q: You have recently moved to California, making L.A. your full time home. How do the Dallas and L.A. burlesque and fetish scenes differ?
I quickly realized that I had been very spoiled performing in Dallas. There are so many great venues for burlesque shows there, with stages so big it’s sometimes hard to cover it all. When you hear about various venues in LA, you imagine them as being really large and accommodating. But that’s not the case. Famous clubs like The Roxy and Viper Room aren’t very big, and most of the burlesque shows in LA are at much smaller venues. I’ve been to some that don’t even have a stage, and only hold about 100 people. It was quite a shock, coming from Dallas where we regularly perform in historic theaters with giant stages and even the smallest club can hold at least 300 people. But that’s LA, property is scarce. Other than that, the scenes are pretty similar. Each has a multitude of incredibly talented performers as well as several monthly and bi-monthly shows. And LA does have some really cool shows, like Star Girls, John Waters Burlesque, and Donna Hood’s Tease If You Please. My favorite event is Lucha VaVoom! It’s a crazy Mexican wrestling extravaganza that features some of the best aerial and burlesque performers from all over, and it’s hosted by comedians. Drew Carey and Bobcat Goldwaith have guest hosted before, among others. It’s insanity. I made my debut as a ring girl for Lucha in July of last year, and it is so incredibly fun!
Q: Speaking of fetish, can we address the giant elephant in the room? Why do people immersed in the BDSM lifestyle seem to really despise the 50 Shades of Grey film? Have you seen or read it? What are your thoughts on the phenomenon?
I have not read the book and have no intention of seeing the movie. I did read the book reviews after it first came out, and that was all the suffering and humiliation I could endure. The writing is painfully awful, and I am not a masochist. Having read countless articles and online debates since the BDSM community began to voice their displeasure; I will say the big problem is consent. Consent is everything in BDSM. Everything is negotiated beforehand, and the submissive’s limits are respected. Always. The Dominant may be behind the wheel, but the submissive has the power to stop the car with one single word. In the books Ana is coerced, and Christian Grey ignores her when she says no. That is not consent, and his treatment of her is physically and emotionally abusive. I read just today that a man was arrested on sexual assault charges for re-enacting scenes from the movie with his date. He tied her up and began to hit her with a belt, then ignored her pleas for him to stop and had sex with her against her will. The girl is traumatized and the boy (who is 19) will now likely spend his life as a registered sex offender with a history of violence, supposedly because of that irresponsible movie. The other possibility is that he’s just using the movie as his defense against rape charges, but that’s not really any better, now is it? The gates of Mordor have been opened. It is my understanding the book/movie also treats S&M as an affliction. It’s not going to sit well with a community when you portray them as mentally ill or defective for wanting a little consensual pain with their pleasure. Not cool, man. Not cool.
Q: What are your top 3 pieces of advice for virgins to the lifestyle who want to experiment/educate themselves in BDSM?
- Educate yourself so you don’t injure yourself. Or someone else. There is a veritable orgy of books on BDSM and kinky sex that are available – Different Loving, The New Topping / Domming Books, The Loving Dominant – these are a good start. Look for classes hosted by local groups or sex stores. The forums on FetLife.com hold a cornucopia of kinky advice for beginners, and the BDSM community is generally welcoming of newcomers looking to learn the ways of the wicked.
- Start slow. S&M isn’t just about inflicting pain. It is a mental and physical journey. Take your time. It’s a marathon, not a race. Your submissive needs a warm up, and a cool down. Warm ups get the blood and senses flowing and help prevent injury. A cool down helps bring them back down to earth after floating around in subspace for an hour or two. Caress them, praise them, tell them they did good. Reward them for their hard work, they’ve earned it. You might find they’ll be even more eager to please you the next time.
- Whether you’re the Dominant or the submissive, communication is paramount. Always discuss interests and limitations beforehand – what you want to try, what you want to stay away from, and what your body may be physically incapable of doing. Establish a safeword, or series of safewords, and use them when necessary. I’ve always preferred the stoplight approach – green, yellow, red. Green means ‘go ahead I like it’, yellow means ‘slow down I need to catch my breath or I’m approaching my limit’, and red means ‘STOP IMMEDIATELY’. Dominants, pay attention to your submissive’s reactions and body language, especially if there is a gag involved. Submissives, use your voice and body to communicate your experiences to your Dominant. Never be afraid to use your safeword.
Q: You wear so many hats! One of your most notable roles is that of a fetish model. What are the traits you look for in a great photographer? What emails/requests immediately turn you off of a project?
I’ve had the honor of working with so many truly talented and phenomenal photographers, both fetish and ‘vanilla’. They all have their own distinct styles that make their work easily identifiable. They have an eye for detail and composition, plus an uncanny ability to always make their subjects look gorgeous. Perry Gallagher, Richard Marz, Viva Van Story, Steve Diet Goedde, Ellen Stagg, the late Christine Kessler, River Clark, and Victor Rodriguez are just a few of my favorites. These days I’m more interested in creating unique images than posing in front of a backdrop over and over. I’m not really interested in helping someone learn how to shoot, and I’m a stickler for grammar. If a photographer can’t send a literate email I probably won’t even look at their work.
Q: Your latest passion, Vapegirl.com , gives fabulous reviews, tips, and a wealth of information for stoners. Where do you see the future of marijuana in ten years in America, and what is the most important thing the average American stoner can do to expedite the nation-wide legalization dream?
Now that Colorado is rolling in cash from tax revenues on recreational marijuana sales, expect more states to follow suit. Quickly. Unfortunately some politicians are calling for unreasonably high taxes, which would make legal weed more expensive than black market weed. That is a real concern, especially for some medicinal users who are on limited incomes and cannot afford higher weed prices. And now that cannabis is being proven to have legitimate medicinal benefits, I see that as the next phase of marijuana. In fact it’s already begun. Cannabinoids such as THC and CBD have been shown to successfully treat a number of ailments and diseases, from anxiety to arthritis to cancer to epilepsy to Tourette’s. There is a low-THC / high CBD strain that is being grown in Colorado specifically for children who suffer from violent seizures that don’t respond to traditional medicines, and it is saving their lives. I recently made cannabis oil suppositories for my father, who is fighting prostate cancer. The oil was made from plants that Tommy Chong grew to treat his own prostate cancer, and he is now cancer free. It’s been known since the 1970’s that CBD kills cancer, but because marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 drug, there has been almost no research conducted on this matter. Recently there have been 2 separate pieces of legislation introduced that would legalize marijuana and thereby eliminate the Schedule 1 classification, and tax it like alcohol. Even if you’re not a stoner, this is worth contacting your state representative and telling them that you support legal marijuana with a reasonable tax rate.
Q: What three new products should stoners try right now?
- There is a new vaporizer that is being developed that looks very promising, but in the meantime, my current favorite vape is the DaVinci Ascent vaporizer. It has digital temperature control for precise heating, an all glass pathway that delivers the most delicious untainted vapors, and it comes with insertable glass jars for vaping cannabis oil. It’s fancy. And versatile!
- The Pax vaporizer by Ploom. It’s small and simple and discreet, good for when you’re on the go. Take it to a concert, to the bar, on a road trip. It’s foolproof and very portable. It only vapes dry herb so it’s good for people whose resources are limited.
- Foria, aka weed lube. It’s not actually lube, it’s a topically applied sexual stimulant for the ladies that has been said to produce 15 minute orgasms in some users. There have been reports of men getting high from *ahem* ingesting second hand Foria, but really that’s just a win/win.