Burgundy Brixx, Vancouver’s burlesque queen, talks mentorship, Kitty Nights, Canadian immigration, and advice for traveling the festival circuit.
For the complete interview and more beautiful exclusive images of Burgundy, pick up your Winter 2013 Best of Pin Curl print edition, available mid-December here!
Interview: Shoshana Portnoy
Q: You explained in an interview that when you moved from Boston to New York City in 1998, you didn’t know what burlesque was until you stumbled across a listing on Craigslist for the New York School of Burlesque and before long, Jo Weldon, you enrolled as a student and Jo became your mentor. Can you share with our readers a little about that relationship between mentor and student, and the importance of having a mentor? What are three things you learned early on that you attribute to that relationship?
A: To be honest, I don’t think I ever officially asked Jo permission to officially call her my mentor, but we fell very naturally into a wonderful relationship that was based in mutual respect. Jo was always as generous with her advice and replies to my questions, as she was very encouraging of my early work, and continues to be an invaluable resource and friend in this stage of my burlesque life. She made performance opportunities available to me very early on that I would never have gotten on my own at that stage, and introduced me to many of the major players of the NYC burlesque community in an enormously welcoming way. Having the opportunity to perform so often with top-level performers at the beginning of my burlesque journey was invaluable to my early development as a burlesque artist.
Q: You mentioned in the BurlesqueStars.net interview that at one point you thought Kitty Nights Vancouver had plateaued, and since many new shows had come onto the scene there, you thought it might be time to close the doors, saying “Maybe we’ve served our purpose”. What is your #1 purpose with your showcase? What do you think the Kitty Nights show offers that other Vancouver shows don’t? What’s the secret to the super long successful run?
A: While there are numerous other regular shows in Vancouver now, most of them are still troupe-based. Kitty Nights still remains as one of the only shows in town that is a crossroads for performers of all different troupes, which means each week is always exciting for both the audience and for me. You never know what you might see each week, and I think that really appeals to people’s sense of delight. I work hard to book a diverse selection of performers in every show. And the as the quality of Vancouver’s performers has grown, that is reflected in the continued quality of Kitty Nights. The format of the show is effective, my husband is an amazing host, our DJ (currently the effervescent Cherry OnTop) keeps the party rolling after the show and I work hard to respect my performers both personally and financially. Keeping the outreach to new audiences is hard work, which is no secret, but something many people may not see. My daily burlesque life is filled with more graphic design, promotion and administration than with creative pursuits related to my performances which I would love to have take priority someday.
Over the last three years BurlyCon has taken the top spot in my list of burlesque events to attend… and not just because I can wear my yoga pants the entire weekend. The affair offers a unique opportunity to focus entirely on development and networking. The event is open to all interested participants, regardless of role or experience, and draws a hugely diverse crowd from across the country and beyond. The result is an inclusive, immersive experience that is unparalleled in our community. It is burlesque sensory overload… in a good way. Imagine I am Scrooge McDuck and my vault is full of strippers. BurlyCon is a deep dive and backstroke swim through that sea of striptease. All that fun and friendship builds a warm and fuzzy barrier against the brisk Seattle air (I tell myself as I sprint across four lanes of airport traffic in booty shorts and a t-shirt). I return every year with even higher expectations than the last, and this year’s experience did not disappoint.
I arrived a day early and decided to explore the town. Of particular interest to me were a number of local burlesque productions, some featuring out-of-town talent. I opted for the Cast-Off Cabaret since it included guest performances from some of my East-coast burlesque family. I have experienced tastes of the Seattle burlesque scene at festivals throughout the country, but this was my first chance to actually see Seattle performers on a Seattle stage. The show included a variety of performance styles and talents including live singing, silk fan dances, deadpan comedy, performance art, belly dance, traditional striptease, and (for good measure) crustacean twerking.
The highlight of the show was the beautiful and elegant performance of The Paris Original and his ballet telling of the life of coral. He is a walking (or in this case pirouetting) dichotomy. He performs a conservative art form with a liberal interpretation. He has masculine strength and feminine grace. He is technically proficient but also raw and emotional. Every single thing about his performance was en pointe. (Get it? It’s a ballet joke.) He was beautiful, sensual, sensitive, and sexy as hell… a perfect finale to the show. A rousing ovation ensued. After a quick chat with the cast, my roommates and I headed home to rest up for the busy weekend ahead.
Thursday was the big day. The glitter tribe was arriving. My walk to registration was interrupted countless times with introductions, reunions, and general squeals of excitement. Once I finally focused on the task at hand, I obtained my badge and backpack. It was official – BurlyCon had begun. I rushed to an empty corner to review the final class listing and strategize a schedule. This is always a daunting task as there are so many amazing course offerings available. I always try to choose a schedule that balances class type (movement, lecture, etc.) and subject matter. This year’s guide made that a breeze, utilizing a system of symbols to identify basic class information quickly without having to read through the written descriptions. I outlined my day and jumped enthusiastically into the learning process, taking classes during all available timeslots.
I always try to choose at least one class that will push me outside of my comfort zone. This year that class was Friday morning’s “Intro to Chair Dance” with the beautiful and talented Lola Frost. As someone that identifies as a comedic burlesquer, performing dances that focus on sensual movements makes me feel vulnerable onstage. Lola’s class took what I felt was intimidating subject matter and made it attainable for any student. The base movements were simple enough for a novice, and alterations were demonstrated to increase the difficulty for more seasoned performers. The movements were not physically difficult to perform, but displayed strength and control. The early timeslot was great for waking the body and mind after a long night of social events (and in some cases, alcohol consumption).
My favorite class of the weekend was “This Class Goes to 11!” by Iva Handfull. The class was exactly what I would expect from the instructor: unique, high-energy, entertaining, bad-ass, rock ‘n roll amazingness. After a video voyage through Iva’s personal inspirations (ranging from pop icons Michael Jackson and Prince to 80’s hair metal legends Mötley Crüe) the class warmed up their inner “front man” with a little Bonnie Tyler sing along. All of my drunken karaoke experiences combined didn’t equal the magnitude of this raucous rendition. Brows were furrowed, fists were pumped, and folks were turnin’ around as far as my bright eyes could see. Later we learned a choreographed rock-inspired routine to Guns and Roses’ “Paradise City”. The room was so packed with attendees that the whole group could not learn the steps at one time. We broke into small groups instead and performed for the rest of the class, an unintentional yet completely appropriate built-in concert audience. The class ended with a Soul Train-style pelvic thrust improvisation strut across the room, to the speaker-thumping soundscape of The Revolting Cock’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy”. Each attendee took home a “What Would Iva Do?” wristband to commemorate the experience. I’m never taking mine off!
Friday night was wrapped up by the social event of the season: Burly Prom! It was everything I hoped it would be. The hair was big and the wardrobe was flashy. Light bounced off sequin appliqués and metallic lamé ruffles from every corner of the room. The music selection was straight from a John Hughes movie and the dance floor was always full. The event was complete with a tinsel-draped photo background and a line of eagerly-waiting corsaged customers who took turns posing awkwardly in true teenage style. Go-Go podiums were available for extrovert attendees to showcase their dancing skills, and both were often inhabited by con-favorite Rand The Vampire and his beautiful feather boa fans. Just like my real prom, attendees scattered off to various hotel rooms for a little post-prom debauchery that lasted into the wee hours of the night.
Saturday I tried my hardest to summon my inner twenty something and breeze through an early class like the night before hadn’t happened. A little Hospitality Suite breakfast and a lot of caffeine went a long way and I managed another complete day of classes. I also devoted some time to one of the other wonders of BurlyCon: The Vendor Fair. I have to admit, I went back through the vendor space every time the opportunity presented itself. There was so much amazing stuff to look at! I noticed something new in each visit. My wallet is quite a bit lighter, but I have a lot to show for it. My booty is geekier, my eyes are glitterier, my make-up is organized, and lack of pasties is a problem I will never have. I also paid a visit to the upstairs vendors, which included the shimmer-laden suite of Xerion Skin Science and Atomic Cosmetics. Dr. Jen is amazingly intelligent and so very personable. She takes a moment to speak with each customer about their wants and needs and offers them expert recommendations based on her intimate knowledge of the products. A bathtub full of champagne doesn’t hurt the ambience either.
The highlight of my Saturday would have to be the final session of Peer Reviews. Notable performances included Lola LeSoleil (Atlanta, GA) whose fringe-filled shimmy strut brought the audience to its feet and Deanna Danger (Richmond, VA) who was caught “red handed” dancing her way through a cover of Nick Cave’s “Right Red Hand”. My favorite performance of the night was that of Sunny Sighed and Bal’d Lightning (Baltimore, MD) who gave us a lesson on taming an audience with live song, dance, and striptease. Having performed for peer reviews in the past, I can tell you that being face to face with your idols in a fluorescent-lit conference room is an intimidating environment for performance. These intimate conditions worked in this act’s favor, however, providing the perfect playground for audience interaction. After getting up close and VERY personal with a lucky peer in the front row (Growl!), Sunny Sighed was lulled back into song at Bal’d Lightning’s intense insistence. The final reveal of Sunny’s unrequited longing for Bal’d Lightning solicited a mass “Awww!” from the audience and solidified their place in my heart. Sunny Sighed and Bal’d Lightning are talented, beautiful, and entertaining. I love seeing unique, genre-blending burlesque and this team brought it in full force.
Saturday night wrapped up with a popcorn-powered pajama movie party, the perfect event for people who are too exhausted to continue drinking or dancing but still wanted to spend every available second with their burlesque buddies. Those that weren’t in the mood for cinema could be found forced into the hotel’s outdoor hot tub, twenty at a time.
Sunday saw the final four class sessions and the launch of ticket sales for next year’s event. Twenty lucky so-and-sos were able to purchase a 2014 weekend pass for a mere 100 dollars!
The weekend was sadly coming to an end and the associated emotions were tangible. All those feelings culminated in the annual BurlyCon Closing Ceremony. This important experience gave opportunities to say goodbye to friends old and new and bond intimately with others over the shared love of the art-form that is burlesque. There were laughs. There were tears. There were indiscriminate hugs. Then, just like that, BurlyCon 2013 was over.
I made my way back to my room to pack up and head home. It had been an amazing weekend. I was exhausted, but excited. Each year I have attended I have become a better performer and a better mentor to my troupe-mates back home. I couldn’t wait to get back home and apply all the new things I had learned. My sass tank was full. I had enough inspiration to get me through another year… until we meet up again and start all over at BurlyCon 2014!
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!
Have you ever wanted to distribute flyers at a show, and asked the producer if it was okay and been assured it was, only to find out later that the venue was annoyed because they were also having a burlesque show that night?
Sharing resources such as venues, marketing, skills, ideas, and knowledge is an important part of community, and it can be difficult to know the difference between when you are simply taking someone’s resources and infringing on their work. Often, it’s a simple matter of putting yourself in their shoes, but on occasion you simply must ask. The examples below are intended more as food for thought than as hard and fast guidelines.
Many times, I have seen–or have been in–painful situations that could have been easily avoided by simply asking a direct question of the person(s) involved, rather than indirectly asking around (which is sometimes necessary for clarity about the question you want to ask, but is never the same as directly asking the person affected) or otherwise second-guessing how the person might respond.
Most of the time the only reason to ask is because of the relationship you hope to maintain. These are not often issues of copyright law or trademark infringement. You can follow the letter of the law rather than the intention of the law and do as you like, but that is one of the weakest defenses I know. It won’t help your relationship with a person or a community at all.
Keep in mind, you only need to ask if you value your relationship with this person and your integrity, real or perceived, within the community you share. And you must decide before asking how you will respond if you get an answer you don’t want to hear. They may be inappropriately proprietary, controlling, and egotistical, and your request may have been merely a matter of form when you knew you weren’t doing anything wrong but were just paying your respects. Know what to do if the person turns out to be an asshole, what to do if you turn out to be an asshole, and what to do if you end up feeling foolish, hurt, or terribly frustrated that you can’t do what you want without complications. Most importantly, know what to do if you get a response that, even though it wasn’t what you wanted to hear, was given from the heart. If you give them the impression that by asking you intend to honor their response, then honor it. That is the soul of integrity.
Good times to ask:
If you want to have a show in the same venue as another producer. This may be up to the venue owner, rather than the producer. The venue owner is the real authority here, and few producers have exclusives with given venues. But if you value your relationship with that producer, it may be a good idea to ask. If there are already a lot of burlesque shows with different producers there, it is probably unnecessary to ask, but the producer will still feel respected if you do ask.
If you want to use the same music as another performer. As the venue is owned by the venue owner, the music is actually owned by the people who hold the copyright, not the performer. If it’s a popular piece of music such as Night Train or Bumps N Grinds, it’s obviously fair game. But if someone you know and respect has a signature piece to that music, or has obviously invested a lot in it, and you are likely to perform in the same circles, think twice. You are by all means entitled to use it– if you are frequently going to be in the same show, do you want to be constantly negotiating who will be using “Pour Some Sugar On Me” on any given night?
If you want to use or teach a move a burlesque instructor taught you in one of your numbers or in a class you teach. It’s usually not an issue if you incorporate the move into a performance– you bought the class, and there’s not much point in taking a class if you can’t use what you learn there The the source might be recognizable to other burlesque performers and devoted fan, but how that is usually fine. As for teaching it yourself, it depends on how common the technique is. Maybe they didn’t invent the Breakfast Bump N Grind (I learned it from Bambi Jones), and you could have learned it anywhere. But you didn’t; you learned it from them. And even though it may have been around for generations before they were alive (and it also may not have been), you don’t know if their choreography breakdown, teaching technique, and terminology originated with them. Whenever I want to incorporate moves from another instructor, I ask that instructor to make sure there’s no conflict of interest, and I credit them in class. It’s not enough to just assume it will be okay credit them in class–I find out how they feel about it. I have plenty of resources to come up with other material if they are feeling sensitive or proprietary about having their material taught by someone else.
If you want to use a photo. Any photo you find on the internet is owed by someone, and if you use it without permission, you are violating their copyright. I know it’s maddening when people don’t turn in their photos when you request them, but a found photo may not even belong to that performer–it may be the property of the photographer. Yes, the internet is changing the way we understand distribution and copyright, but it’s still a matter of respect.
If you want to use forms, disclaimers, sentences, descriptions, or other business you found on a website. These things are hard to write, may have been vetted by a lawyer at the site owner’s expense, and explain the structures of their business, which was probably carefully crafted with great entrepreneurialism. Business writing doesn’t just spring out of thin air. Just because it’s not “art” doesn’t mean there’s no process of creation. And it too is copyrighted material.
If you want to create a tribute number. Your intentions are probably nothing but honorable: you want to show appreciation for this performer and let the world see what they’ve done. However, almost all performers would rather perform than have a tribute to them performed; many of them worked hard to create a distinctive number. If you are planning to tribute them, there are certainly circumstances under which a surprise tribute could be a beautiful gift; but if you’re not sure, ask. And ask them, not their friends. And ask them twice, once to bring up the subject and again later to make sure they were honest with themselves and with you in the moment.
If you could have found information is easily accessible on the website, application, etc. It’s a lot of work to put those sites together, and disrespectful to ignore their work. You may just need some human contact, or the site may be difficult to negotiate; it is okay to let them know you at least looked for the information, and acknowledge that you tried to avoid taking their time.
For an exception to rules which are essential to the operation of a given show or business. Most of the time these rules are intended to smooth out and hasten production, not just to be bossy over performers. Being low maintenance is one of the key ways to get asked back.
If you can do a version of their number (usually described as “with your own twist”) or use their signature gimmick or prop. Seriously, no. You may not know whether or not they were the first to do it, or how much it has been associated with them. Copyright isn’t always the relevant issue. If you just want to steal the applause they get in that moment, you didn’t have a creative desire to incorporate it your way with a twist; you just want that applause. Think hard about this one.
If a person can give you free business counsel via email. Sometimes you have mentor/mentee chemistry with someone, or are just looking for hints or a link or two, and that’s cool. But if you don’t, you’re asking for hours of their time for no benefit to them.
If a person of color is okay with you doing a culturally appropriative act. There’s a ton of information on the internet about such things; you need to make your own informed decision without putting anyone in the position of representing their entire culture.
These are just a few very common examples. There are more complex situations, to be sure. If you find yourself in one, the best way to approach it is: just ask.
Want to see more of Jo’s columns? See: Sponsorship for Beginners, Like a Boss: The Harem Trope, Teacher/Student Dos and Don’ts, These Children That You Spit On: Established Performer to New Performer Etiquette, Stage Kitten Etiquette, Making Introductions: Emcee Etiquette, Photos & Pasties, How to Annoy Producers, How to Annoy Performers, I’m Just Saying, Headliner Etiquette – Part 1, Social Media Etiquette for Nearly Naked People
At BurlyCon 2013 I had the honor of teaching a class called “How to Mix and Mingle with your Adoring Fans.” I love to socialize with my audience and this makes me a “Socialite Stripper.”
Mingling with your audience post-show can not only be a valuable marketing tactic, it can sometimes be part of your contract for a special event. It’s a wonderful skill to have in your beyond-the-stage toolkit.
Some highlights I can share today are:
- Use the opportunity to reinforce who you are to the audience members by sharing a business card or future show flyer with those who approach you.
- Talking with the audience after a show and taking pictures with them extends the showgirl/showboy experience for a fan beyond the stage show. Often leaving them with a delightful “I got to meet the dancer” feeling and winning their hearts.
- Accept compliments with an open heart. A compliment is just as much about a person’s desire to muster up the kind words and deliver them to you as it is about you yourself.
- Be patient: Your audience is often more intoxicated than you are. This can lead to all kinds of skill needed to navigate your fancy self amongst a sea of tipsy fans.
You can learn more about me here at my website as well as links to all of my social networks and favorite endeavors.
We love this time of year because of all the delicious peppermint flavored candies and treats that you can find and we love to stock up, so we thought we’d share some yummy ways to drink some of those extra candy canes you may have lying around! Enjoy!
What You Need:
1 1/4 ounces vanilla vodka
1 1/4 ounces white crème de cacao
3/4 ounce peppermint schnapps
Garnish: peppermint candy
What You Do:
Fill cocktail shaker with ice. Add vanilla vodka, white crème de cacao, and peppermint schnapps. Shake and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with peppermint candy.
Peppermint Piña Colada
What You Need:
3 oz of coconut milk
1 1/2 oz of premium white rum
1 oz of pineapple juice
2 peppermint sticks
Mint (for garnish)
What You Do:
Add ice and liquids to shaker, shake. Pour in glass. Break one peppermint stick and place in drink to give peppermint flavor and pink color. Garnish with mint and second peppermint stick.
Portland’s Tana the Tattooed Lady, Miss Tiki Oasis 2013, talks El Vez, Robocop 2, Yogatease and being a “lunatic drag queen.”
Interview: Divertida Devotchka
Q: First off, congratulations are in order! You were recently voted Miss Tiki Oasis 2013; how exciting! Please share with us your experience at this year’s Tiki Oasis.
A: This year’s Tiki Oasis was the most magical year ever. It was so fun to connect with all my friends & play in the San Diego sunshine. 2013 marked the first annual Miss Tiki Oasis Pageant, a beauty contest of sorts to represent Tiki Oasis all year long. I was in total shock when they announced my name as the winner. My dear friend & fellow devoted Tiki-goer Meghan Mayhem (with whom I moved to Portland in 2007 after stealing her from Honolulu) handed me my GIANT trophy with all the appropriate cheekiness. Being crowned Miss Tiki Oasis gave me such confidence I felt like I could chat with everybody. What a fun feeling to be so popular. Southern Culture on the Skids- one of my all time favorite bands- played Saturday night before the midnight burlesque show. I was shaking and bopping so hard in the crowd I almost rocked my beehive loose. I also got to teach a custom stretching class Saturday morning set to the lounge sounds of Cal Tjader. Then to cap off the most wonderful weekend of good vibes I played a special Hawaiian Elvis set with El Vez! He even had me sing a solo song while he changed into his tiger suit. Afterward I found out that Mary from Southern Culture on the Skids was in the audience and thought that I’d done Wanda Jackson proud with my rendition of Let’s Have A Party! AND THEN… I met Exene (from the legendary punk band X) who told me she loves what I do & would like to use me for a web series she’s doing.
Q: Let’s talk about your performances with El Vez. How long have you been performing with him? You’ve toured with him too, multiple times right? I’d love to hear some of your favorite stories about that!
A: I’ve been an Elvette for nearly nine years. More recently El Vez and I have been performing new material together as a duo act. But don’t get me wrong, nobody outshines Robert Lopez. We were just in Austin, Texas last month performing his new soul show. That was a lot of fun. Our drummer for the soul shows was Hunt Sales who played with greats like Iggy Pop, David Bowie and Todd Rundgren. My first exposure to El Vez was when my burlesque troupe, The Atomic Bombshells, opened for his Christmas show in Seattle at the Showbox. I was sooo enchanted I basically harassed him until he gave me the gig. I think I got his email or something and wrote him every few weeks and stars aligned to where I kept running into him. I’d say in my coyest (give me the damn gig) possible voice “you know, if you ever need another Elvette…” Finally he relented. I’ve been performing with El Vez since 2004. Some of the best times of my entire life have been singing on the road with our band the Memphis Mariachis. The most incredible time I had on the road with El Vez was when we played the Crossroads Music Festival in Gijon, Spain with Little Richard, The Blasters, The Presidents of the United States Of America and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. All the bands stayed in the same four star hotel; lots of mischief ensued. One night we played spin the bottle on the roof top. I wrote a little song up there that evolved into a track on the next President’s record. My version was pretty emo, but Chris doctored it up in pop as only he can. Spain with The Presidents led to more collaborations including the Capitol Hill Block Party and a music video for a song called Some Postman. It was the first music video shot completely on cell phones. Technologically speaking, it was a pretty big deal at the time. We made a behind the scenes DVD with an Australian film company in support of their upcoming tour. Then in a worst move ever I quit perusing the offer to go with them to Australia and stayed in Seattle to work toward my master’s degree in theatre only to embark on my journey as a full time artist mere months later. Bye bye, Seattle U. Never got the degree.
Q: On that note, I’d like to discuss your background. You’re a singer, a burlesque performer, a model and a yoga instructor. Did I miss anything? How did you get your start in each of those areas? Do all of these elements blend together to equate a full time job for you? Or do you also miraculously balance another job on top of all of that?
A: My mother swears I came out of the womb singing and tap dancing. I used to take off all my clothes in the backseat as a kid and jump around the moving car. I performed my one-woman-show at Kmart near the blue light to reach the largest audience possible. I auditioned for anything and everything I could. At age eight I was an extra in Robocop 2. My uncle Paul and I threw hot dog buns and Nerds at the cops in our scene in the movie. As I approached double digits I became obsessed with Hollywood glamour, movie musicals, musical theatre, all forms of dance, vintage clothing and home furnishings but the most mystifying and alluring fascination of my young mind was sex appeal.
I’ve not had a “day job” since I quit my makeup artist gig with Benefit Cosmetics in 2004. Thoughts become reality and I was ready to create a reality where I was a successful international entertainer.
Yoga is my daily moving meditation. It helps to center me and maintain spiritual connection with my community and the cosmos. I’m a certified hot yoga instructor (250 sweaty hours) worth every pain, ache and dime.
Currently I teach power yoga which is a crazy hard workout that has more mass appeal to westerners, and a vinyasa yoga inspired by Patanjali’s yoga sutras. I really prefer to gift these styles of classes. Traditional yoga is something I enjoy sharing. Creating a space for people to have a transformative, healing experience is absolutely amazing. I find teaching class more rewarding than a sold out, standing room only crowd cheering on your every move. While living in the Minneapolis area in 2012 I brought yoga into Pride, one of the only GLBTQ treatment facilities in the world as a weekly volunteer. Talk about a heartwarming experience. But a gal’s gotta pay the bills… So I took my power yoga knowledge, classical dance educator and burly teacher background and created a fusion workshop called Yogatease. I teach Yogatease all around the world and am currently working with an investor who thinks it’s a multimillion dollar idea.
When I’m home in Portland I work for the Rose City School of Burlesque as the dance and movement teacher.
I’m also a pin up model. Bettina May and Go Go Amy took me under their proverbial pin up wing in 2006 and we developed a workshop which traveled to Portugal, France, Germany, Canada and all over the US. Now I teach classes to spread the gospel of high hair and ruby lips solo. I’ve had a few prestigious modeling gigs. I was chosen for PETA’s “I’d Rather Go Naked than Wear Fur” campaign in connection with Suicide Girls. Most recently I became the face of Slappy Cakes- a DIY pancake house with locations in Tokyo, Singapore (Universal Studios), Maui, five locations in Manila and the original in Portland, Oregon. Last spring Slappy Cakes flew me to the Philippines for the grand opening in the third largest mall in the world. There were life-size cardboard cut outs and floor to ceiling posters of me everywhere. It was totally surreal.
Q: Speaking of travel, you just returned from a tour of Italy and Finland! Please tell our readers all about it!
A: Earlier this year I was selected to join an erotic circus for an event called Turkkusex. It boasts being the largest ‘sexfest’ in Scandinavia. Our Portland based cast was joined by a bevy of porn stars, male strippers from Russia and beyond and champion pole dancers from around the globe. One of my very best friends, Ivizia actually blew fire balls in a blinged out bikini inside a metal sphere with two Finnish motorcycle riders whizzing past her. Then my friends bought me tickets to Italy and insisted we go ‘make party’.
Q: From whom or what do you gather your inspiration?
A: I have no idea where my ideas or inspiration come from. Most often if I’m writing a show or creating a character I hear a piece of music and go from there, but all burlesque is derivative. No one has any original ideas anymore. I’m just a crazy, lunatic drag queen. I am certainly not the best at anything I do, I’m just not afraid to try new things and fail horrifically.
Q: What’s next for Tana the Tattooed Lady?
A: This year in addition to Miss Tiki O, I was voted Hardest Working Woman in Show Business (according to Portland) and I won the Satan’s Angel Award for Hottest Body In Burlesque at the Dallas Burlesque Festival. Every time I think I’m about to slow down another amazing opportunity turns up. I have no idea what’s in store for me and I’m thankful for the mystery. My life has turned out to be better than my wildest dreams.
Q: Anything you’d like to add?
A: Thank you for this opportunity!
Hawaii’s Burlesque Sweetheart, Violetta Beretta, talks Tiki, Hawaii Burlesque Fest, and Oscar Wilde.
By: Shoshana Portnoy
Q: It stands to reason our chosen names would say more about us than our given ones. Yours is quite unusual; would you give us the backstory on your choice?
Of course! My original Burlesque name was “Honey Lulu”. I like that it sounded like a sweet little tribute to my island home but after a few shows I decided it didn’t quite capture what I was looking to convey. I looked around for a bit for things and names that hit the mark and was super happy to hear the words “Violetta Beretta” in the lyrics of one of my favorite songs/bands- Gogol Bordello. I chose my stage name because I loved the old world prettiness of Violetta, contrasted with the make of a gun- Beretta. It’s cool being able to convey feminine beauty or explosive energy onstage and feel that the contradictory nature of the name gives me the license to portray a total weirdo, pretty lady, or whatever suits my fancy.
Q: I first heard that Hawaii had a burlesque scene when I saw the announcement for the Hawaii Burlesque Festival last year. I surprised to learn through my research that you have actually been performing for seven years now. Was Cherry Blossom Cabaret the first to kick off the revival of burlesque on the islands? Can you give us a brief “lay of the land” of the burlesque world as you know it on the Hawaiian Islands?
I’d love to! How much time do we have? Here’s a brief breakdown:
The Hawaii Burlesque Festival is now in its third year and I am super happy to hear that you were able to learn about Hawaii’s burlesque scene through hearing about the festival! I began the festival in order to showcase the talents of our amazing local performers, and to foster growth and exchange in our burlesque scene by inviting international and US Mainland performers to attend, perform, hang out, and enjoy the beauty of Hawaii! The HBF is also on a mission to bring out the best of the best in burlesque to Hawaii audiences, and contribute to Hawaii’s artistic community by offering free workshops and classes to anyone interested during the festival week. It’s been extremely successful in all of its ventures and now the HBF is growing to include not one, but two nights of star-studded performances by some of the top names in burlesque internationally and locally, as well as workshops and group activities! I’m very interested in showcasing some of the performers and troupes from Maui, the big island (Hawaii), and Kauai for this upcoming year and I am looking forward to announcing the mind-blowing line-up soon!
Cherry Blossom Cabaret, to my knowledge, was the first burlesque troupe in the Hawaiian Islands. It was started by my burlesque wife, Meghan Mayhem, and we’ve all been twirling our tassels together ever since. CBC is an amazing collection of performers with all kinds of skills from acting to visual arts and everything in between. Everyone in the troupe has something distinct to bring to the table. Our annual “Varietease” is probably our biggest accomplishment because we work super hard to present an original full length theatrical show complete with original story, script, music, choreography, and costumes. We also have several monthly shows that are really fun! I suggest checking them out if you haven’t already!
Maui is also host to several talented folks/troupes. The Kit Kat Club Cabaret is one of them! They are wonderful performers and dancers, and have very popular and regular shows. I love working with them and they are probably the sweetest women on Earth! My pal Rachel Deboer also heads up another troupe called the Ultraviolets, an outstanding blacklight burlesque troupe that recently finished a successful US tour.
I’ve heard that Kauai [one of the smallest islands] now has a troupe by the name of Black Coral Burlesque! I believe we are in the process of setting up a joint show with them and I look forward to learning more about these lovelies from the Garden Isle!
That’s just a brief lowdown…. So many great performers on the islands in general!
Q: Many of us developed our own local scenes by watching other scenes around us. It was from official or unofficial mentors that we learned even the basics of developing a quality act, building a great show line-up and structure, marketing basics- everything that goes into a quality burlesque production. With the geographic isolation of Hawaii and the cost of travel, I imagine seeing other live shows (either mainland U.S. or Japan) would prove challenging. What were those early days of developing a scene like? Did you have anything to go on or were you starting from scratch?
Great Question! It’s easier for me to answer this question on an individual basis first. As part of Cherry Blossom Cabaret and a solo performer of some experience I’ve definitely dealt with both the benefits and the drawbacks of Hawaii’s unique geographic situation. The benefits are the lack of over-saturation, a climate of expression that allows for the formation of ideas without the possible pressure of comparison to other performers or “scenes” and Hawaii’s overall laid back nature and a propensity for tolerance and fun! The drawbacks include of course- the expense of travel, the time necessary to travel, the expense of bringing in non-local performers, and the limited audience. That said, as a local girl, born and raised in Hawaii, the benefits of living in a literal paradise often outweigh the drawbacks!
I’ve always made a serious effort to not only research and learn about both the burlesque legends and the contemporary neo-burlesque scene, and attend US Mainland events like Teaso-O-Rama, etc in order to better understand not only the nature of burlesque, but the community and intent behind it. I came from a very traditional ballet background originally, and though my dance career since then has been in a broader range, I’ve always had a semi-technical approach to learning about movement and dance, which is why I enjoy the emotional part of burlesque so much. I was fascinated by the history of burlesque, the societal reactions, the sexual implications, and of course- the glamour and beauty of it all. As I traveled to perform 9and to watch any burly-q shows I could) I began to get a sense of what I felt worked well, what didn’t, and how I’d like to entertain the audience in general.
Classes have also been a good way for me to learn some amazing things! I had an excellent time with Coco Lectric at her “Big Bad Boa” workshop class during the Hawaii Burlesque Festival and came away with some good basic boa skills- Coco is amazing!
Being able to watch and perform with those in LA, NYC,Portland, etc has also been an amazing experience for me personally in terms of growth as a performer! There are too many talented and outstanding performers to name so I’m not gonna try, but it’s a long and interesting list! I’m super excited to be attending and instructing at BurlyCon 2013 and I can’t wait to learn from my sisters in arms/pasties!
In terms of Cherry Blossom Cabaret, and the overall Hawaii burlesque scene; I feel that our origins were a great convergence of people/performers of various backgrounds and expertise in the right place at the right time. Every single person in CBC has contributed to our growth in their own unique way. Although Hawaii may seems isolated, we are also very well connected to the outside world via technology. There is also a constant stream of returning locals, new residents, and visitors bringing new ideas to the island. It’s really cool to think of how much Cherry Blossom has grown and learned over the years thanks to the worldwide burlesque community, visiting performers, and vast amounts of reference material.
Q: By the same expensive travel token, year one of the festival was dedicated to local performers, but in year two, you had quite a few performers from neighboring islands and the Mainland. Were there extra challenges the location presented?
Performers traveling from the neighbor islands have a bit of an additional expense in terms of airlift and housing, however, the festival is definitely working to alleviate some of the costs with fundraisers and volunteer housing from trusted sources.
U.S. Mainland and international performers present a unique set of challenges in terms of expense, however it’s not too hard to convince people to come to Hawaii, and I am a resourceful ecdysiast.
Q: Please correct me if you feel differently, but in my experience on Kauai, native Hawaiians are very proud and protective of the authentic culture of Hawaii. Did you catch any flack when you began incorporating hula into your burlesque acts? What about with your signature hula lamp act? Would a non-native Hawaiian performer trying to incorporate hula have a different experience?
Because there is such a legacy of misunderstanding and misrepresentation of Hawaiian culture and history in general and because the issues of cultural censorship, religious freedom, imperialism and Hawaiian sovereignty are so sensitive overall as well as personal to me as a native Hawaiian, I’m not comfortable answering this question. Please know that this is absolutely nothing personal, I’m just very protective of how and when I share my personal mana’o on this subject.
Q: In that same vein, “Tiki Culture” tends to be a huge part of the Mainland pin-up/burlesque/rockabilly scene, especially on the West Coast. What most mainlanders think of as Hawaiian, can be a touchy subject for native Hawaiians. How do you feel when walking the line between the two worlds, perhaps with your recent performances at Tiki Oasis?
Wow- Interesting Question! I love attending and performing at Tiki Oasis, and I always appreciate the love of “tiki tribe” shows for all things Polynesian in general. Most of the folks I’ve gotten to know in that subculture express genuine interest in a myriad of aspects of Hawaiian and Polynesian culture and are really into learning and preserving the tiki subculture, as well as legitimate Polynesian culture for others to enjoy, which I think is admirable! The origin of tiki culture itself is most interesting to me in the sense that it was essentially born out of visitors love of Hawaiian culture/design/motifs, and the trappings (however garish) of our local tourism culture, especially in the 60’s. Basically I feel that the representation of Hawaii within tiki culture can be at worst somewhat willfully ignorant of the realities of Hawaiian culture/life, both historically and presently. At best, it is a fun and imaginative whirlwind of ideas/cultures inspired by people who truly loved and enjoyed Hawaii, but had little to go on when they got back home, say to Ohio. Necessity being the mother of all invention, tiki culture was born from the pieces of Hawaii salvaged from vacations, knick knacks, recipes and photos, and many a backyard was strewn with flower lei and populated with Aloha shirts when America went crazy for the luau. In short, as a native Hawaiian, I celebrate my culture and heritage, and enjoy sharing them with other people as long as I feel the intent is positive, and not willfully exploitative or degrading. I also welcome the chance to educate people who might not be familiar with Hawaii, it’s history, or why it’s flipping amazing!
Q: Let’s switch gears into something lighter, and one of my favorite questions to ask of anyone. If you could have dinner with any three people, living or dead, who do you choose and why?
Oscar Wilde- His wit and charm were utterly, devastatingly, rapier sharp and he was known as a brilliant conversationalist.
Mae West- No explanation needed.
My grandmother- Because she was awesome and I love her.
Q: What does the future hold for Violetta Beretta? What are your goals for 2014?
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.
This DIY will focus on constructing a male g-string. You’re welcome…photos to follow…
I run a male burlesque troupe called Cora Vette’s Hot Rods. We recently opened a new show in Denver and I found myself needing to make some more costumes for the guys. So, I thought, why not share with the Pin Curl readers something different? Penis pouches!
When I first started working with the guys a while back, I really didn’t know where to start. It’s easy to go to the store, buy and embellish something if you are a woman…at least as a starting off point when you’re a beginner in burlesque. But, for men it’s not so easy. Since I make most everything for both the VaVaVettes and the Hot Rods I was looking for something more interesting. But, I digress…
I asked one of the guys to go out and get a pair of underwear that he liked, bring it to me, and I’d decorate it. He came back with a pair of fancy designer ones that cost a small fortune. Problem was, that even though they were expensive…they still just looked like underwear. Then, I spent lots of time with his underwear…and started to have an idea. Ha!
I’d figure out how to make them myself. And, I did.
Cut a 7 inch square of stretch fabric. Easy right? This can be made bigger or smaller according to your needs. Heehee. (I’m just having fun now.)
Fold it in half with right sides together.
Stitch along FOLDED edge very close to the fold. Gradually, curve the stitching at the last couple of inches. Remember to use a stretch stitch or a zigzag stitch.
Trim edge close to the stitching.
On the wrong side fold raw seam to one side and sew that down. You know, for comfort and all.
Turn under and finish the edges of the pouch.
Cut 3 elastic pieces. One piece your hip measurement minus one inch, one 10.5″, the other 5.5 inches. All of these measurements are give or take and adjustable for your comfort. These measurements work as a baseline for my guys and fittings would be…awkward.
Sew the ends of the waistband together, mark the center and sew the pouch top to the underside of the waistband.
At the center back, mark and pin the 10.5″ elastic on either side of the center back. I use 4.5″ on either side of the center back as a good measurement. This way it has some slack in the elastic and creates a nice butt accent. Sew.
Find center of 10.5″ elastic and pin one end of the 5.5″ elastic to the center, then, pin the other end to the bottom seam of the penis pouch. Sew.
Voila! A male version of a g-string! You can skip the 10.5 inch elastic piece if you like and just make the other piece longer…but I like the way the extra piece frames the tush myself.
So there you have it. A man’s teeny tiny g-string for you to decorate any way you like! Again, You’re welcome…I do it because I care.
Xoxo Cora Vette
Want more DIY with Cora? Check out her work here: DIY Tearaway Pants, DIY Rockabilly Headwrap, Cora Vette & the VaVaVettes: The Biggest DIY Ever!, DIY Zippers, DIY Dye, DIY Gauntlet Gloves, DIY Shrug, DIY Shimmy Belt, DIY G-String, Buying Vintage Patterns, DIY Pencil Skirt
We here at Pin Curl are making our very first journey to BurlyCon this month and we couldn’t be more excited! If you’re like us, you’re probably super excited but also a little overwhelmed by all the information, activities and FUN in your near future. So a gal (or guy!) has gotta plan, right? We decided to put together a handy dandy guide for all you first-timers out there to make navigating BurlyCon 2013 even easier!
This can be nightmarish for some of us habitual overpackers – (ahem, me) but I digress. BurlyCon offers the following suggested packing list, which will be super helpful while trying to talk myself out of bringing everything I own.
Probably the most important thing to keep in mind is that according to BurlyCon, the event “is intended to be a weekend ‘off’ from show mode so be sure to dress for comfort! If you think you’ll need a glamour fix be sure to pack accordingly.” So no, you probably don’t need 4 of your most over-the-top outfits per day like you might at BHOF (unless that’s just how you roll; then go on with your bad self!) Here is the sample suggested packing list from BurlyCon’s email list:
- Comfortable clothing – think yoga pants!
- Comfortable shoes
- Dance wear for classes
- Character/dance/tap shoes for classes
- Warmer layers, jacket, raincoat/umbrella (Seattle in November – it’s going to be cold and rainy!)
- High Heels
- Swimsuit (pool and hot tub at the hotel!)
- A robe (to wear over revealing outfits in public hotel spaces)
You’ll also want to pack for any of the special events that you plan to attend.
Thursday Night: Vintage Meet & Greet
Bring your favorite vintage outfit for this annual mix & mingle time!
Friday Night: Class Photo!
Come ready to party at BURLYPROM for your Class of 2013 BurlyCon photo!
Friday Night: BURLYPROM!
Wear your dream burlesque prom inspired outfit!
Saturday Night: BurlyCon Movie Night
Fabulous and comfortable pajamas are suggested!
Extra Stuff to Bring:
- Hair accessories
- Notebook for classes
- Business cards/promo
- Cash for vendors
New BurlyCon Guidebook App
Next, for navigating your trip while you’re there, the fine folks at BurlyCon created a fabulous app this year for all you tech-savvy burlesquers! You can access the entire class schedule, vendor information, maps, local food & shopping locations, presenter information and more all in one easy to access location! Click here to download the app and access BurlyCon’s schedule on your smart phone.
The non-mobile online version is also available, so even if you don’t have a smart phone, you can still keep up with everything by clicking here.
If you happen to make it into Seattle early, we highly recommend this show, Foxy Tann‘s Afrodisiac, featuring The Luminous Pariah, Sydni Deveraux, Jeez Loueez, RedBone, and more! According to our friend and Seattle local Sydni Deveraux, you can take the train from the convention hotel to the venue for fairly cheap!
If you don’t have full days of classes, we’re jealous if you get to go to this. It’s at Goodwill. It’s called a Glitter sale(!!!) and they’re supposed to be selling “all that is glitzy and glamorous” (think gowns, accessories, jewelry, what have you.) We may have just ruined a Seattle secret stash… Sorry Seattle locals! This looked too good not to share! Go my friends, and get your glitter fix!
And last but definitely not least, don’t forget to re-read Sydni’s Showgirl’s Guide to Seattle, in which she dishes on all the hot spots in town for food, drinks, shows, shopping and more!
Do you have other fabulous BurlyCon tips, packing suggestions or Seattle spots you’d like to share? Comment below! We’ll see you there! Come say hi!
Hot Caramel Apple Cider
What You Need:
1/2 gallon apple cider (64 oz or 8 C)
1/2 C orange juice, fresh squeezed if possible
2 cinnamon sticks
1/4 t ground allspice
1/3 C jarred caramel sauce
Spiced Rum (As much or as little as you like!)
Caramel flavored syrup
What You Do:
Pour 8 cups of apple cider into a large stock pot on the stove. Set heat to medium-high. Add orange juice, cinnamon sticks, and allspice.
Thoroughly wash your orange and then gently press the whole cloves into it. If you find it hard to do that without destroying the cloves, use a toothpick to poke holes in the orange first and then insert the cloves. (If doubling the recipe, you can still use one orange; just double the number of cloves you put into it).
Gently drop the whole orange into the pot. Bring cider to a boil and then reduce heat to a low simmer. Simmer on low for 60 minutes and longer if you wish. If you’re keeping the pot on the stove for an extended period, keep an eye on the orange. If at any time it splits open, remove it from the pot. If the white is exposed it will add a bitter taste to your cider. (If you’re going to have the pot warming for hours on end, take out the orange.) After you’ve simmered for an hour, add caramel sauce and stir to combine and dissolve. Add more caramel to taste if needed.
When ready to serve, ladle into mugs, top with whipped cream, and give it a drizzle of caramel and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Feeling fancy? Try these super cute (and incredibly easy!) apple cups for your cider! Simply hollow out your favorite apples (we love honeycrisp in the fall!), fill with cider, and garnish with caramel and a cinnamon stick!
Apple Cider Champagne Sangria
What You Need:
- 3 honey crisp apples, sliced
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup halved dried figs
- 1 cup Cabernet Sauvignon (or any fruity red wine you have on hand)
- 3 cups apple cider
- 4 whole cinnamon sticks
- 1/2 tbsp whole cloves
- 1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
Garnish: Fruity champagne
What You Do:
- In a tall pitcher, add all ingredients. Mix and refrigerate overnight.
- To serve, add sangria in a lovely glass and top it with some bubbly champagne!