New York Burlesque sensation, Headmistress of the New York School of Burlesque, and author of the recently published book The Burlesque Handbook, Jo “Boobs” Weldon talks glamour, the Muppets, popped pasties, and evil nurses.
By: Divertida Devotchka
Congratulations on the recent publishing of your book, The Burlesque Handbook! Care to share briefly how this book came to pass?
I had been producing handouts for classes for years, and also selling a 50-page ebook. I tried a couple of times to sell the handbook as a coffee table book, because that’s what everyone seemed to expect, since I was also a photographer. Then my agent, Brandi Bowles, and I came up with the idea of a portable, affordable handbook, and my editor Rakesh Satyal at HarperCollins picked it up. He had been to the Slipper Room and knew that it wasn’t just a “How to Strip for Your Man” type of book–although I’d love to do one of those too–and let me describe the way we’ve been doing burlesque in the independent scene.
You left home at 18 to become a stripper in an Atlanta strip club, and you state in your book that you were “disappointed by the lack of glamour” and that you found that working in such clubs was “high in drama but lacking in theater.” Burlesque was obviously the cure for your lack of glamour and theater. Tell us about that first experience when you made that discovery.
Coney Island, baby! Bambi the Mermaid took me to see shows at Coney Island and The Blue Angel. I also saw The World Famous Pontani Sisters at Marion’s Restaurant on the Bowery. Then I went to Exotic World, and it all came together! But as I say in my book, I was always seeing burlesque and performance art from the 1970s on…there’s a whole lot more to that story!
You mention the Muppets as one of your influences and inspirations. I’d love to hear more about that.
Oh, the Muppets backstage, who wouldn’t want to be in showbiz after seeing that? Also, the way they could mix smart humor with childish wonder. And the way they’d do tons of production to set up a one-liner. Of course the Muppets were influenced by burlesque and vaudeville humor, so it’s sort of a circular reference!
In your book you also state that “burlesque history is full of genius and passion and playfulness and dirty-mindedness combined with a willingness to do darn near anything to get applause.” I love that description and it made me wonder, what do you consider to be the most ridiculous things you have done for applause?
Leaving out some of the really filthy stuff, probably the most ridiculous thing I’ve done is Godzilla. I worked on that tail for months. And the giant head has Swarovski eyes.
Performers know that the occasional minor wardrobe malfunction is virtually inevitable. Do you have any suggestions on how to recover gracefully when one’s clothing gets stuck and doesn’t come off as planned (or when there’s a major prop failure or a popped pastie?)
Laugh, don’t cry! Use your showmanship to keep the audience entertained. Don’t let them get tense or upset on your behalf. Play it off, and if possible, call everyone up onstage to help you out of your costume! [Regarding] lost pasties–it’s a blessing, not a curse, but protect the venue’s interest and cover up if you need to.
You made a very good point in your book when you said, “Burlesque is prone to archetypes and zeitgeist…your chances of doing something that hasn’t been thought of before are slim.” Please explain more about this philosophy.
Thousands of people have been doing burlesque for decades. It takes a little research to know if what you’re doing is really new. I’d rather see people just follow their hearts and do what they love than strain to avoid doing an act with a theme others may have used. There have been tons of evil nurse acts, but you might do the best evil nurse act ever! Cleverness is awesome, but it isn’t enough to entertain an audience if they can’t see your bright idea. I’d rather see a common idea executed brilliantly than a unique idea executed poorly. I think it’s important for performers to put execution above ideas. In any field, it’s more fun to think up brilliant ideas than to do the work to bring them to reality–inspiration is a gift! Naturally, the best combination is originality and hard work. If you’re a real artist, you’ll probably enjoy the work as well.
What other projects and events are you currently looking forward to?
I’m excited to teach all over the world! I’m currently working with disabled performers, including Liz Carr, to develop burlesque numbers for the DaDaFest in Liverpool this winter. I’m also working with Keep-A-Breast and The Young Survivors Coalition to do burlesque programs for cancer patients and survivors who often feel alienated from their bodies after diagnosis and treatment.
Anything you’d like to add?
I hope everyone who wants to try burlesque will just do it! There is nothing at all to stop you from having the time of your life among some of the most loving and joyous performers in the world.
The Pin Curl staff had the good fortune to be able to celebrate Satan’s Angel’s birthday with her at the New Orleans Burlesque Festival last month. This month the legendary Devil’s Own Mistress dishes about her start in burlesque, the arrest of Wonder Woman, gumbo and the burlesque revival.
By: Divertida Devotchka
After graduating high school, Satan’s Angel worked as an operator directing calls for $99 every two weeks. One day she went with friends (using fake Ids, of course) to an amateur stripping contest at a North Beach night club, and after seeing the winner make more than her entire 2-week paycheck, she came to the next amateur night, competed, and won! She continued to win the amateur contests until she was hired full time as a dancer.
In her career, she followed Bob Hope’s U.S.O. shows in Vietnam and entertained armed forces in Guam several times. She also appeared on Gypsy Rose Lee’s television show, performed with the Folies Bergére in Paris, and worked with Harold Minsky, Ann Corio, Barry Ashton, and many more. She is the originator of fire tassel-twirling and has lit her tassels approximately 25,000 times all over the world. She came out of retirement in 2000 to produce her one-woman play, “Have Tassels Will Travel” and she’s performed at every Burlesque Hall of Fame weekend since 2003. In 2007, she won “America’s Most Outrageous Talent” on the Maury Povich show, and she’s also received the Legend award for lifetime achievement in burlesque at the Burlesque Hall of Fame weekend 2009.
I was arrested in Guam for lewd and mischievous behavior while performing my Wonder Woman routine. My costume had a g-string, bikini panties, a bodysuit, and blue shorts, so four total layers. During my performance while I was still wearing the full costume, I put my foot on the shoulder of a man in the audience, and almost immediately two goons came and grabbed me! It almost caused a riot because a lot of the guys watching the show were Marines who were willing to fight on my behalf. That’s the only time in my life that I have been arrested. I still have my citation and the newspaper clipping about my arrest, which was on the front page!
Your name led to lots of attempts at censorship and caused issues with PR and booking, right? What other names did venue owners/show producers try to call you? Did “Satan” really cause that much of a stir?
I really wanted to use the name “Hell’s Angel,” but no one would put something like that on the marquee or in any advertising. I chose Satan’s Angel instead to avoid that issue, but that name still caused problems. My name still causes a stir today. It’s mellowed out a lot but I still get a lot of flack. Even this year if there are blogs or newspaper articles online about me, there’s always comments from concerned readers calling me a “devil worshiper” and saying that they’ll pray for me! As far as other names I was called, they tried to book me as “Satana” Angel (like Tura Satana, and I didn’t like that because I wanted to be respectful of the performer with that name. You just couldn’t use another girl’s name like that.) They’d also use “Satin Angel” (even though there were 2 other performers using that name.) At least two venues put a name on the marquee that wasn’t mine.
The Pin Curl Magazine staff was lucky enough to celebrate your birthday with you at the New Orleans Burlesque Festival. Was it an enjoyable one?
Yeah, I was drinking pretty good on my birthday! I got to eat oysters and Spooky LeStrange made me some homemade spicy gumbo! Performing with Trixie Minx and Fleur de Tease at the Boomtown Casino was an interesting experience since we weren’t allowed to take anything off. It was a lot like the old days where you knew that if you couldn’t take anything off you had better be a good dancer.
I was glad to go to New Orleans to party but also to see how it looks after Katrina. I really think I’ll be dead before that town fully recovers from that. I mean they’re working on it, but the old city is gone. The city and the people are fighters, and burlesque is alive and doing very well!
What are your fondest memories in your performing career?
Gypsy Rose Lee was really great to work for. I remember, she comes up to me and she says “Let me see you in my dressing room in 15 minutes.” And I thought, “Oh god I’ve upset the queen of burlesque, the one and only.” So I go in there and she says, “You remind me of myself, kid.” I said, “thank you, that’s a great honor.” She said ‘’you’ve got moxie.” I said “thanks, I took that from you.” That’s where that came from- from her. Gypsy Rose Lee wasn’t the most beautiful woman in the world; she made herself into that, and it’s because of her that I learned that you don’t have to be the most gorgeous woman in the world or the world’s best dancer or singer. You just have the guts to get out there and do your thing. To stand on stage with your fist raised in the air, saying “I’m not staying home and raising kids, working as a waitress, or whatever,” (because that was all you had then). It’s getting up there and saying “Here I am! I am a woman and I am beautiful!”
Gypsy gave me a dusty pink feather fan of hers, which I still have to this day in a box. It needs to be re-glued and repaired, but you know what, it’s Gypsy Rose Lee’s, so I just try to preserve it as best I can.
I also really loved performing in Japan. We were backed by a twenty-piece orchestra, the theater sat 5,000 people, and there was this waterfall behind the stage, so you’d be performing and the water would trickle down and you’d be up there feeling just like the queen of the world, like a goddess or Zeus!
Another memory of mine is one that I talk about in my storytelling. When the first carrier coming from Vietnam (USS Carrier Ranger) came into the San Francisco bay, we raced out on a little tugboat called the Salmon Queen. All these soldiers started shouting “we want the topless” and so of course, I did my patriotic duty and I showed those boys my goods! So then we hear the Coast Guard announcing, “Ma’am please put your top back on. You are breaking the law!” from a boat. So I put my top back on and hauled ass out of there!
Who inspired you as a performer?
I got balls from Gypsy Rose Lee, the glitz and glamour from Mae West, the class from Lili St. Cyr.
In an article about burlesque in Time Magazine in April of 1970, you were quoted saying, “It will never be the same again. I’ll never be a Tempest Storm or a Lili St. Cyr. Burlesque is dead.” Forty years have passed since the publication of that article, and you’re still performing. Do you still think burlesque is dead? Or has it been revived? If it’s been revived, to whom should we attribute the revival?
What I meant was that I could never be a Lili or a Tempest and I really felt that their era was gone and it would never come back.
I absolutely believe it’s been revived. The Montreal Burlesque Festival was just like the old days. I would attribute the revival basically to Jennie Lee, who passed in 1990, and Dixie Evans and whoever they have helping them. It’s definitely coming back. It’s different now, but it’s back.
Cattiness, rivalry and similar shenanigans are known to happen in the industry. Did you have any experiences with costume/prop sabotage, fighting, or the like?
In my day, when you didn’t like someone or if you had a problem with a girl, you’d just wait til after the show, get in their face and tell them how you feel. And if they got a little over the top, you’d punch ‘em in the nose. I never got into fights. If anyone didn’t like me, they never told me.
How does the current burlesque generation compare to the one before it? By that I mean, what are we doing well? What do we still need to learn from you and your fellow industry pioneers?
I’ll tell you what you’re doing well, you’re keeping it alive! That’s the most important thing! I don’t know how to explain what you need to learn, but I always tell the girls who take my classes that you have to remember that it’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey. The tease, the charisma. Really looking at them and playing with the audience. That and you’ve got to work your best assets, whatever they may be.
Pin-Ups for Pit Bulls’ Little Darling is a pin-up model with a passion for Pit bulls. She has two bully breeds of her own, Carla Lou and Baxter Bean, as well as a Harrier, Zoe, and a Lab/Shepherd mix, Lexi. Here she talks bully breeds, horror films, and t.v. debuts.
By: Femme Vivre LaRouge
How long have you been performing burlesque and pin up modeling?
I have been a dancer since I was in my mother’s womb. I grew up in a French-Moroccan family, so I was around a lot of belly dancing and the like. I began performing burlesque in the early 2000s and Pin Up modeling around 2005. I am in love with the culture of female empowerment and enrichment.
Your videos show that you have a delightful knack for blending classic with cult classic! How would you classify your performance style and what are some of your influences?
I am a bit of a strange ranger when it comes to burlesque. I really enjoy pushing boundaries, horror films, and movies in general, so when I’m creating an act, I really like it to tantalize as much as it entertains my audience. I feed off my crowd, so it’s always important for me to theme my numbers around the venue and theme of the show. I am primarily influenced by the song I choose but am also influenced by magazines, art, and film. www.heartsandstarlets.com
You’ve done a spectacular job taking two of your (rather dissimilar) loves and combining them to create an organization that is much more than just a clever name. What prompted you to found Pinups for Pitbulls?
Why, thank you! I was doing a lot of pin up modeling at the time and was noticing how quickly my images received attention by “fans” on places like myspace and my website. At the time, I was equally aware of the negative press associated with pit bull-type dogs, so much so that over one thousand pit bull-type dogs were being taken away from responsible families in Denver, CO, solely based on how they look. I realized I had a look that was getting attention and a cause that needed ample attention, and the perfect marriage began from there. I have a dog named Carla Lou who I adopted 15 years ago; she was my inspiration to start Pinups for Pitbulls, primarily living in fear of the day that a law could pass like it did in Denver and take my best friend away from me.
Please tell me a little about the work that you do with Pinups for Pitbulls.
We do a lot of different things to help encourage educated advocates who can further our mission. For instance, we host education seminars and utilize positive reinforcement trainers and educators like Drayton Michaels (www.pitbullguru.com) and Don Clearly (National Canine Research Council). Additionally, we put out an annual pin up calendar to showcase beautiful animal advocates and their dogs in a manner that shows how goofy, intelligent, and wonderful these dogs are. We love all dogs at Pinups for Pitbulls; we’re not breed specific here. Our calendar is used to showcase this type of dog to help us dispel myths associated with the public’s view of these dogs and their “tough guy appearance.” In addition to our advocacy work, we host fundraisers, events, and tables to help fund raise to continue our cause, to sponsor urgent dogs in need, spay/neuter, and more. Lastly, we host events nationally and are hoping to be able to host them internationally soon, since these discriminatory issues are worldwide.
What are some of the myths about these dogs that you are endeavoring to dispel?
There are so many. First and foremost, we aim to educate the public. We want them to know that you cannot judge a breed, or breed-group in this case, based on appearance, similar to the theory that you should not discriminate against your fellow human based on skin color, disability, religion, etc. We set out to dispel myths related to locking jaws on dogs, “brain swelling,” and other ridiculous claims that have been disproven by reputable veterinarians and researchers.
Please tell me all about your experience being on the show, Pit Boss!
It was an incredible experience working with Shorty, Ronald, Geisha, Hercules, and their team! It happened so fast and before I knew it, we were done. Shorty has a wonderful staff of employees and the TV Team was exceptional to us! The show really helped further our national and international reach. Our fan base has doubled and maybe tripled since our time on the show. We are so grateful to him for his help in furthering the cause and educating the public against all forms of discriminatory behavior.
What would you like to share with us about the film, Beyond the Myth?
Beyond the Myth is a film about dogs commonly referred to as “pit bulls” and those who love and defend these breeds. It explores the contributing factors behind the public’s generalized fear of “pit bulls” and examines the conflict existing between advocates and opponents of breed discriminatory laws. It also investigates the myths associated with the breed, and challenges the idea that they are inherently vicious, or born with more aggression than other dogs. More info can be found at www.beyondthemythmovie.com Pinups for Pitbulls sponsored the film and will be hosting an event in tandem with NJ Aid for Animals on 11/21/10 in Voorhees, NJ to feature this film for its first NJ Premiere. Tickets are available on the Beyond the Myth website.
How can our readers get involved?
Check the Datebook on our website for upcoming events near you! www.pinupsforpitbulls.com
Interested in volunteering, please write to email@example.com
Interested in hosting an event, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
We open the casting call for 2012 Models in spring 2011. Please be sure to join our Facebook fan page and email list off our website to be the first to hear our latest news.
By: Femme Vivre LaRouge
Beginning at the top of the year, January 27-30, Lili’s Burlesque Revue presents the fourth annual Midwest Burlesk Festival in Minneapolis, Minnesota. There may be snow, but these gals will surely keep you hot under the collar!
Then, from February 3-6, Key West Burlesque and Thirsty Girl Productions team up to bring you their second annual Holiday Extravaganza in the ‘southernmost city,’ Key West, Florida! Key West Burlesque, the area’s “premier theater entertainment group” is produced by artist Marky Pierson and directed by Tatah Dujour.
But, if you can’t make it to sunny Florida in February, you have the option of joining us right here in Dallas, Texas, for the third Dallas Burlesque Festival! And, since everything is bigger in Texas, we have three festivals for your viewing pleasure, so stay tuned and we’ll tell you all about the others, too!
Immediately following these is the Southwest Burlesque Showcase, February 11-12, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Headed up by Kitty Irreverent and Devin O’Leary, the showcase is already entering its fifth year on the festival circuit!
After a short break, the next convention on the calendar is the very first Southern Fried Burlesque Fest, March 10-13, offering “more fun than will fit in a bucket.” Held in Atlanta Georgia, this event touts an extensive schedule of classes and workshops of all kinds.
Although the exact dates of the Moisture Festival are yet to be announced, sometime between mid-March and early April you will have the chance to travel to Seattle, Washington, for its seventh annual installment. The Moisture Festival and its cohorts, Libertease Burlesque, offer a full-blown variety show, involving “aerialists, jugglers, comedians, dancers, rope acts, bubble acts, clowns, acrobats, can can girls, strong women, strong men, tap dancers, drill teams, musical numbers, the weird and the wonderful.”
Continue on over to Chicago, Illinois March 18-19, for the Windy City Burlesque Fest. Produced by Belmont Burlesque and Vaudezilla, this event endeavors to “celebrate the present, honor the past, and showcase the future of burlesque performance.”
For a second foray to Florida, visit the Orange Blossom Burlesque Festival March 24-27, in Ft. Lauderdale. “The show-girl and boy’s oasis,” this festival will give you the chance to not only enjoy fabulous performances, but kick back and relax, spa style, as well as participate in unique workshop opportunities.
April will be full of difficult decisions, as there are four wonderful burlesque experiences available to you that month. The first is the Jim Thorpe Burlesque Festival in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. Tentatively scheduled for April 1-3, this event is doing double duty to preserve history; last year’s festival raised almost five grand for the preservation and renovation of the local Mauch Chunk Opera House!
April 21-24 is just one of the wonderful times to visit Las Vegas, Nevada, for Viva Las Vegas! The ‘biggest rockabilly party’ in the U.S., Viva puts forward a burlesque show and competition, Jiving competition and classes, classic car show, tiki pool party, vintage fashion show, and a performance by none other than Mr. Jerry Lee Lewis!
The Great Boston Burlesque Exposition and Vintage Fashion Fair will also be taking place April 22-24, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This event will be celebrating its fifth year and includes burlesque, fashion, circus, and sideshow.
Back in Texas, you can enjoy the Texas Burlesque Festival April 22-24 in Austin, for its fourth year. This showcase and competition celebrates ‘all things burlesque, vaudeville, and cabaret,’ and was featured in a documentary about the American Burlesque Revival.
Produced by our very own Pin Curl Magazine, Hot Rods and Heels is the largest pin-up event in Texas. Held in Dallas, the one-day festival happens early each May and includes a burlesque competition, pin-up fashion show, and classic car show!
The annual Show-Me Burlesque Festival of St. Louis, Missouri, will be taking place May 12-15. Produced by Lola Van Ella, this event entertains and educates in a city with a marvelous burlesque history!
Drum roll please…the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend is the first weekend of every June, in fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada. This year’s convention will be June 2-5 and features the burlesque competition formerly known as Miss Exotic World, a spectacular bazaar, and performances, Q&A, and workshops by many of burlesque’s most treasured living legends. “Founded and fostered by burlesque legends Jennie Lee and Dixie Evans, The Burlesque Hall of Fame™ is a 501(c)3 non-profit archive, dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the art, artifacts and traditions of classic American Burlesque.”
The weekend of June 3-5 is also the Americana Burlesque and Sideshow Festival in Asheville, North Carolina. ABSfest is a Future of Tradition production and a wonderful walk on the wild side!
Colorado Burlesque Festival, LLC – “A literary and dramatic work of Colorado Burlesque’s finest, presented by Lola Spitfire, Fannie Spankings, Midnite Martini and Honey Touché,” enjoyed its first festival in 2010 and we are anxiously awaiting word about 2011!
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any hotter, the Superstars of Burlesque makes the summer sizzle even more in August. Debuting in 2010 and produced by Studio L’amour, this ambitious festival brought together modern burlesque’s best of the best for two star-studded evenings in Chicago, Illinois! Keep checking their site for info on 2011.
We all know that New Orleans does it like no other and the spectacular New Orleans Burlesque Festival in Louisiana will not disappoint! Brought to you by Rick Delaup and Secrets in Lace, this event has just passed, and the dates for next year have yet to be set.
The eighth annual New York Burlesque Festival was held September 30-October 1, 2010, and produced by Stoli, Thirsty Girl, and Pontani Productions. Featuring School of Burlesque Classes and The Golden Pastie Awards, this production will make you fall in love with New York all over again. See their website for updates on 2011.
For something a little different, check out BurlyCon, October 20-23, in Seattle, Washington. Rather than performances and competitions, this convention focuses on building the burlesque community, networking new and seasoned performers, producers, and aficionados, and workshops/feedback for performers who wish to fine-tune their talents.
Tease-O-Rama, the original American burlesque festival, began in 2001 in New Orleans, continued in San Francisco in 2002, Hollywood in 2003, and has continued take the show on the road! As their website says, “The medium of burlesque viewed through a twenty-first century lens offers endless opportunities for performance – from classic glamour to wry satirical commentary to carnivalesque freak-show skills, and Tease-O-Rama has it all!”
Also not be overlooked is the infamous Coney Island, NYC, offering Burlesque at the Beach each Thursday and Friday night all summer long, The Mermaid Parade in mid-June, the Cockabilly Records Rockabilly Festival Labor Day Weekend, and much much more in the way of sideshow and variety!
If you know Dallas based fetish and pin-up model Courtney Crave, you know she loves to bake, does it from scratch, and is damn good at it! We asked her to come on board and share a new recipe every month with our readers, and we think you’ll be so glad we did!
Thanksgiving is almost upon us! And what does everyone associate with Thanksgiving? Pie! Turkey, football, and extra days off work also count… but pie is numero uno my list. One of my all favorite pies is a Mystery Pecan Pie that comes from the wonderful mind of chef Paula Dean (of “just add a stick of butter” fame). Of course, I’ve lightened it up a bit for anyone who prefers or requires vegetarian baking like myself.
Mystery Pecan Pie
- 3 eggs*
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 (8 ounce) package room temperature cream cheese**
- 1/3 cup sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 egg*
- 1 frozen unbaked deep dish (9 inch) pie shell (I recommend Pillsbury Pet Ritz brand, no eggs and tastes great!)
- 1 ¼ cups chopped pecans
*For a vegetarian or egg free pie replace eggs with Ener-G Egg Replacer which can be found in specialty grocery stores like Whole Foods or Sprouts. Follow instructions on package and do not let the egg replacement mixture sit out long before putting it in the oven.
**For a vegan pie follow vegetarian recipe instructions and replace cream cheese with Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese or Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet Cream Cheese. Again, check your local health food store for these products.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (that’s 176 degrees C for all of our European friends). Combine all the topping ingredients together in a medium sized bowl and set aside. In another medium sized bowl, mix the softened cream cheese and egg (or substitutes), sugar, salt, and vanilla extract until they are well combined. This can be difficult with the cream cheese; you’ll definitely get an arm workout. I recommend using a large fork or handheld mixer to combine these ingredients. Pour the pie mixture into your frozen unbaked deep dish pie shell and top with the chopped pecans. Pour the topping mixture over the pecans. Is your oven ready? Bake on the center rack for 45 minutes. This pie is delicious warm, room temperature, or chilled and will keep in the fridge for about a week, if it lasts that long without being devoured.
Looking for a unique and classic drink to complete the most wonderful of all fall meals? My favorite thing to sip on cool fall nights is a Dark & Stormy.
Dark & Stormy
In a tall or highball glass pour a couple shots of dark rum over ice. I prefer Bermudan rum and Goslings Black Seal is the official rum of the Dark & Stormy. Top this with 8 ounces of ginger beer. Make sure you are using ginger beer, which can be found at World Market, and not ginger ale. Squeeze half a lime into the mixture and stir. Sit back, relax, and enjoy this spicy and refreshing fall cocktail. Go have another piece of pie too.
I have always wanted to do 1940′s style modeling as I am a passionate fan of the era of 1912-1945. Do you know how I could get into this sort of modeling as I really don’t know how other than signing up to agencies? Thank you for your help!
My name is Liz. I have been fascinated with the 50′s, pin-ups, and just the whole era for a long time. I do my hair pin-up style and love to wear red lipstick. I get comments all the time from people saying I look like a pin-up model, or that I should do car shows. I feel like this is something I want to be involved with for a long time but I feel like I’m outside of this secret club and don’t know how to get in. Should I just start taking photos and build up a portfolio? How do the pin-curl magazine cover models get started with you guys? Any help would be appreciated. Thank you for your time!
Liz , Houston
Hi Ella and Liz,
Since you both have similar questions about a very popular topic that I am asked about frequently; “How do I become a pin-up model?”. I’m going to address this response to both of you. Although it may seem like the world of pin-up modeling is a secret club it’s really quite open to anyone. You hear lots of people talk about determination and passion getting you a long way towards your goals and as cliché as it sounds, it really is true. Also, now is the time to become involved in pin-up culture. We are currently seeing a huge resurgence in the pin-up lifestyle, thus making it more accessible to you. More than likely, there are multiple pin-up photographers in your area. Here are a few basic steps you can take towards becoming a pin-up model.
I recommend you learn how to do classic 40’s and 50’s hair and makeup. Hair and makeup stylists may not always be available or affordable and knowing how to do this yourself is a huge feather in your cap, especially when you are just starting out. Also study some of your favorite models or pin-up artists for poses and facial expressions. Practice these in the mirror! Good photographers will be able to coach you into the poses but if you already know what you’re doing you’ll seem much more professional and your shoot will have more of a natural and fun flow. Purchase a few staple pin-up clothing items. You can get great stuff from Pin-up Girl Clothing and Girdlebound and even Ebay. A good pin-up swimsuit, dress, underbust corset, and lingerie set with stockings can last you a long time.
Alright, so you’ve painted on your red pin-up pout, coifed you hair into victory rolls, and cinched up your corset over your Capri skinny jeans. If you know any friends who are photographers or are aware of any local photographers contact them about doing some shoots to build your portfolio. It’s not a bad thing to pay photographers for quality shots that you can use for your portfolio. Professional quality photos will also help grease the way to working with lots of other photographers. The absolute best way to book shoots with photographers is to show up on time and not flake or cancel. A lot of really successful models got to where they are by showing up for their shoots. There are lots of different modeling portfolio sites that can put you in touch with photographers, designers, and hair and makeup artists in your area such as Model Mayhem and One Model Place. PinUpLifestyles.com is also a great site for meeting people specifically in the pin-up culture and finding shows and events. You can set up a free account with these sites and begin finding people to connect with. Getting publications is all about who you shoot with. Check out the photographers who shoot for your favorite pin-up magazines and book shoots with them. While you’re at it… it may not hurt to think of a cute pin-up name to start marketing yourself as. Just make sure when picking out a name that you’re not inadvertently using someone else’s name. If you’re blessed with an awesome sounding legal name you may want to keep that. Believe me, a whole book could be written on picking an alias alone.
Once you’ve started building a portfolio and networking with other pin-up enthusiasts you can start making yourself seen around the scene. Find out when burlesque performances and car shows are happening in your town and go! Introduce yourself to people, pose for pictures, and have fun. If you take yourself seriously others will follow suit. Contact promoters and ask how you can get involved. You may get some “no’s” in the beginning but if you are tenacious, enthusiastic, and professional those will quickly turn into “yes”.
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by: Hella Goode
“When I’m 100 I’ll still be doing pin-ups,” said a young, beautiful Jayne Mansfield. Too bad that was not meant to come true. At the still maturing age of 34, Jayne, a passenger in the front of a car with her children riding in back, was killed when the vehicle collided with a large truck on her way back from Mississippi.
Jayne was born Vera Jayne Palmer on April 19, 1933 to Herbert and Vera Palmer. She was a kind and generous child, who always had hope in her heart and stars in her eyes. Yet, those stars dimmed when her father died and Jayne was only three years old.
It was no crime. There was no need for Jayne’s real-life daughter, Mariska Hartigay, who plays Officer Olivia Bennett on Law & Order’s SVU series to investigate. Vera wouldn’t be kept down about it and neither would young Jayne. Jayne married Paul Mansfield in a hurry and gave birth to Jayne Marie Mansfield. She kept the name even after she didn’t keep him. It just sounded right.
Jayne began to work in Hollywood as a model but found that the 1950’s world was a little taken aback by her large chest. But her potential shone through. She liked to say, “A forty-one inch bust and a lot of perseverance will get you more than a cup of coffee-a lot more. But most girls don’t know what to do with what they’ve got.”
Jayne was working her way up and starting to outshine the crowd when she became distracted by Mickey Hartigay, 1956’s Mr. Universe. Soon there were three more twinkles in Jayne’s eyes: Micklos, Zoltan, and Mariska. The pair were very dedicated parents who did not let their work take from their children, nor did they let their children take work from them.
Soon Jayne starred in “The Girl Can’t Help It,” and “The Wayward Bus,” as well as “Rock Hunter” and “Kiss Them For Me.” She began to perform at the Tropicana in Las Vegas and was thrilled to be able to have more personal live contact with her fans. She did cameos on television and was up for almost anything the fast lane of the world of entertainment could throw at her. Apparently she did not have room for Mickey anymore, and they divorced.
Jayne had once said, “I will never be satisfied. Life is one constant search for betterment for me.” Unfortunately neither she nor the world can be satisfied by a glowingly beautiful life cut so short. But se la vie, thus is the life of the 1950’s superstar. Only the good die young, right?