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
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!
Don’t sell your tits on Groupon. This seems like a perfectly good philosophy that’s really easy to adhere to…. So why then am I seeing so many burlesque shows and classes on Groupon? The myth of Groupon and discount coupons is that they give you a huge chunk of money at once, get the word out to thousands upon thousands of people who would have otherwise never heard about you, they then become loyal new customers and everyone lives happily ever after. This couldn’t be further from the truth- Groupon is the Devil.
Myths vs. Facts about Groupon and other discount peddlers:
Myth: Groupon merely helps me “get the word out” and I will receive a ton of loyal customers providing repeat business once they know I exist.
Fact: Groupon customers are loyal to Groupon. They are the Kmart bargain bin shoppers who are always searching for the cheapest deal- not the best product. Once they know they can get your services or goods for dirt cheap, they will wait for the next time you offer a Groupon. The most you will see as a return on your investment, “Oh my gosh! I loved the show. When are you offering another Groupon so I can come back?” Artfully illustrated in this short yet hilarious video.
Myth: Everyone is doing deals on Groupon- it must a smart business move!
Fact: Believe it or not, there are a ton of clueless and desperate business owners. This is part of the reason why more than 50% of businesses fail in their first four years. Sign up for Groupon- research the first 20 deals you get. You will find more than 80% are start-ups.
Myth: There’s legitimacy to being on Groupon. It’s a sign that you’re a real and legit business.
Fact: Anyone can be on Groupon. At this point, they are begging businesses to sign up with them. Seriously- Begging. Why?
Business owners and the general public have gotten smarter and realized listing on Groupon reads as desperate. After all, if your product is so amazing- wouldn’t customers pay full price? You won’t see Tiffany’s, Louboutin, Barney’s or Neiman Marcus on Groupon. Why? It reads as desperate and cheap- and they know it.
This is especially important in the world of burlesque- where the product is you. Are you the Payless Shoe Store of burlesque or the Louboutin Boutique of burlesque?
Myth: You just use Groupon to get them in the door- then you upsell them!
Fact: First off, Groupon users are cheap and want half priced stuff- that’s why they signed up for Groupon in the first place. Secondly, what are you going to upsell them on? Unless you get a very large cut of liquor sales at your show (which is mostly unheard of) or you own the venue, what are you going to upsell- a $10 t-shirt from your merch booth? Not unless their Groupon includes it.
Fact: That is partly true. You will get a huge check. Depending on the discounter you sign up with, you will get anywhere from 1-3 giant checks. But are they really that giant? You sold 200 classes on Groupon. Normally they would be $20 ea., but to participate in Groupon, you must offer a really steep discount- so you offered them at $10/ea (they will try to get you to go much lower- but more on that later). Of that $10, Groupon takes half- so you get $5 per class. You now have a total of $1000 for yourself- that’s great, right? Well no, the IRS will take 30-40%- so let’s do the math in your favor and say you now have $700. That $700 will be divided into two checks- one you receive in 30-60 days and is 30% of what they owe you. The other 70% is held for 90-120 days to account for chargebacks, invalid purchases, refund requests, etc.
Not bad for a day’s work… But it’s not a day. You now have 200 people to fit into your classes while still trying to accommodate your current students as well as new ones that aren’t Groupon users. You still have to pay for studio space, keep the lights and air on (the electric company isn’t running a Groupon!), create a bunch of new classes to fit all your new customers into as well as answering all of the phone calls and emails that will pour in. Trust me, I will illustrate later why by the end of the process, $700 no longer seems so great.
Myth: I was really smart and offered a long redemption period, so I wouldn’t be overwhelmed.
Fact: It’s human nature. Tons of folks will call right away to use their coupons, and tons will wait until the last possible minute. There isn’t much in between. How do I know? Keep reading…
Myth: I was really smart and offered a few tickets on Groupon, just so I could advertise I had a “sold out” show!
Fact: No one is going to be impressed that you sold out using Groupon. (And yes, someone will see it, post it, and everyone will know.) Of course you sold out using Groupon- but at what cost? You practically gave away tickets! Now you appear desperate, you have permanently devalued your tickets (Who’s gonna pay full price again?) and with it- devalued the burlesque shows in your town- lowering the price point for everyone around you who wishes to remain competitive.
My Personal Groupon Story:
It’s true –I am writing all of this from experience. In June of 2011 I ran a Groupon for my pin-up photography studio. Summer is our slow time of year and we were in a studio in a less than desirable part of town and we wanted the money to get nicer digs. When we saw a similar business in another state listing on Groupon, we decided to look into it as Groupon would be the perfect way to achieve our new studio goals. I was leery of being completely overwhelmed with Groupon business so I kept my cap low and my period until expiration long. The result was a listing that sold out in 37minutes- it was a pin-up photo shoot for $150 including hair and make-up (we sold out at 100) and a Pin-Up Party for 4 gals for $449 (we sold out at 50). Both packages were less than 50% of full retail. After Groupon’s take, we made $18,725. Splitting this with my partner, my hair and make-up artist at the studio, we made $9362.50 each. After putting money in the bank for taxes, we had $5,617.50 each- a large part of which we invested into opening our new location.
The other part of your Groupon equation- the clients. The phone calls and emails started pouring in and we booked a good 20% of our indebted shoots in the first month- which was great as we had time on our hands for the summer, and were newly energized by our new digs and fat paychecks. By fall our regular business started to pick up and we were booked pretty consistently. Then the holidays hit. In our busiest time of year, all of the sudden a wave of Groupon purchasers wanted to come in so they could use their photos as Christmas presents. The end result was either frustrated regular clientele or frustrated Groupon purchasers. There just weren’t enough hours in the day. For each Groupon redeemed it was 1 hour of time from the hair and make-up artist, and 2 hours of time from me (including post-production/ PhotoShop). I ended up hiring two different Photoshoppers to help me get through the work load- which meant I was actually paying Groupon holders to let me shoot them!
Meanwhile, Groupon and every other competing discounted sign up program is calling me at least twice a week begging me to sign up for another Groupon. You know why? It’s huge and great business for them! (Until people finally caught on to how much they were screwing small business owners and got turned off, the backlash began, and their stocks plummeted, but I digress…..)
I finally stopped working 16 hr days after Valentine’s day and things slowly returned to normal. That is until May, when everyone got a “Your deal expires in 30 days” email from Groupon- and then the process cycled again. Then there were the “I’m angry my deal expired” calls, and the “Can you get me in tomorrow calls.” As a business owner, you want to provide the best possible experience for your clients- but it’s almost impossible with the Groupon model.
To this day we still get calls from our past Groupon clients wanting to do another shoot or refer their friends; they are just “Waiting for us to do another Groupon.” When they ask us when they should expect it, we smile and say, “never.” We were one of the lucky ones; our business was able to survive Groupon. We have a very healthy client base of ladies willing to pay full and fair price and a good amount of work- all with happy clients we are happy to see. Some businesses can’t survive Groupon and it actually puts them out of business.
I know, I know, you may be thinking I sound a little bitter or dramatic. I assure you, it’s a very similar story that I have heard from several other small business owners I spoke with when I saw their ads- everyone from a massage therapist, a custom fragrance shop, and a popular local spa. That was back in 2011; it has now gotten so bad that all you have to do is Google or read their stock report. As it turns out, only dinosaurs are still running Groupons.
Lillith Grey is a seasoned burlesque and fetish performer, musician, and emcee, and can frequently be found performing in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. She holds a master’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in education, and is currently living in Miami as she completes her doctoral internship in Psychology. She has taught at the graduate and undergraduate level, and has also worked as a psychotherapist, an ASL interpreter and interpreter trainer, and social justice advocate. She travels extensively, teaching classes and workshops on a variety of subjects including relationships, communication, trauma, body image, sexuality and gender, and diversity issues. Add her on Facebook, or visit her at www.LillithGrey.com for more information.
The recent passing of burlesque legend Dixie Evans has reignited feelings of loss and grief in the burlesque community. Not only does her death impact us, it also reminds us of our previous losses: Kitty Twist, Sparkly Devil, Foxy Goat, Patsy Grind, and so many more. These ladies brought so much light and laughter into our worlds, each in their own special way, and often brightened the worlds of people they never even met. Their absence is felt not only by those who knew and loved them personally, but also those who found their own lives changed because of these incredible women.
Time, in fact, does not heal all wounds. Grief is a wound that never heals. We learn to deal with it, we figure out how to find new meaning, and we continue building our lives, but the empty space never goes away. That can be a frightening idea for someone in the grip of intense sorrow, but it can also be comforting, because sometimes moving on feels like betrayal. Very often, people become impatient when a certain amount of time has passed and someone is still struggling with the loss. That sort of external pressure to “hurry up and get over it” can end up silencing the griever, making the process much more difficult. The purpose of processing grief is not to eliminate it; the purpose is to integrate the loss into your life. The people you’ve loved and lost will stay a part of your story forever. You will write new chapters, and the loss will become part of chapters past, but the story is still your truth and will remain written on your heart.
We are a creative community, and our grief and celebration must be creative as well. We are not stoic, we are not invisible, we are not timid. We do not hide our scars – we cover them in glitter and learn to love them. We show them to people, proudly, and we tell our personal story with every inch of skin we display. We must not hide our grief, or silence others’ grief. We must dance and shout and cry and laugh and lift these ladies high, sending their radiance into the starry skies. We must carry on their message, and we must always remember.
When we lost Patsy Grind in my home community, a remembrance Facebook group was created where people still share memories and photos. On a difficult, lonely day, having a safe place to drop a note or express sorrow can make all the difference in the world. On those days, just a few “likes” on a post can feel like a bunch of tiny hugs. Others have established celebratory events to honor and remember those who are lost – not just in the weeks and months following the loss, but also in the subsequent years. Wine and photos and laughter and tears are a perfect recipe for healing, or perhaps working with other community members to plan an annual show benefitting a cause the person loved. Coming together, whether two people or two hundred, helps relieve not only the immediate, intense pain, it also helps the long-term grieving process.
One of the ways I work with clients experiencing loss and grief is through Wisdom Therapy. This approach honors grief and sorrow, but also highlights the wisdom, insight, and personal growth that come from surviving something so painful. Finding something meaningful, some way to feel like your struggle can be purposeful, can be incredibly healing. The Burlesque Hall of Fame does a number of fantastic things along these lines, including scholarship funds and memorial projects. Getting involved with these projects, or establishing your own, can not only provide a meaningful conduit for grief, it can also help connect those who need support. On a more personal level, many of us use tattoos to inscribe meaning on our bodies; whether large, like the person’s face or name, or small, like a tiny set of whiskers on a finger, a tattoo can help ease the fear of forgetting and can be a source of storytelling and memory sharing. Others may find meaning through artwork, dance, or other creative endeavors.
There is no right way to grieve, because no two experiences of grief are alike. It is helpful to connect with others who are also grieving, but, ultimately, grief is an individual pursuit. Tear Soup is one of my favorite books about grief; in fact, not only does it illustrate the grieving process so beautifully, it can also be a catalyst for the grief itself. It is simple and short, perfect for kids and adults, and has a powerful message. I have read it a million times, and have bought and given away more copies than I can count. I strongly recommend that everyone have a copy – even if you aren’t struggling now, you will someday. It’s also so helpful to be able to pull it from the shelf and hand it to someone in need.
Grief is like the ocean. The waves may crash, but they will calm. They pound relentlessly, but that will pass. You’ll learn when to duck, and when to swim. You’ll learn to handle the salt in your eyes. At some point, the gentle nudging of the water’s edge may even become comforting, and when the tide rises again and the grief swells, you’ll hold your breath and wait for calmer waters. The ocean never ceases, but it is tamed. Do not be afraid to put on your polka-dot bikini and heart-shaped sunglasses and dive right in – you will not drown. Float on your back, look up at the stars, and let their radiance envelop you.
See also: Lillith’s Thoughts on Suicide
For more information, resources, or to find a friendly ear, feel free to contact me at email@example.com
Sabrina Chap talks her second album “We Are the Parade!,” circus, sideshow and burlesque inspiration, her book tour, and the link between art and sanity.
Interview: Divertida Devotchka
Q: Your first album “Oompa” was very well-received, and your hilariously fun, horn-blasting, burlesque-inspired second album “We Are the Parade!” was released this year on ERT Records, and you describe it as if “Regina Spektor met a marching band and took them to a vaudeville show.” The record features over 30 musicians and blends orchestral sounds with big band and Dixie without sounding chaotic or overdone. I couldn’t help but smile while listening to your album, found myself laughing out loud multiple times and certainly wanting to dance. It’s also a politically charged album in the sense that the title track was written in response to California’s Proposition 8 bill. Please tell our readers more about the process of putting the album together and your inspirations in doing so.
A: Well, the feel and ridiculousness of ‘We Are the Parade’ was entirely inspired by a photo by my friend, Dave Sanders. He had taken the photo, initially to be the cover of my first album, ‘Oompa!’. We had this really great photo shoot where I dressed as a drum major and we snuck onto roofs to take the photos. They were brilliant photos, but I looked at the result and realized they didn’t look like Oompa sounded.
Oompa was more of a ‘back of a dim-lit bar’ type of album, upright basses, piano, a lone trombone. . .that type of feel. And here I had a photo that was me smiling in the blazing sun wearing a big bass drum. I took one look at it and knew we had great photos- but not for this album. I apologized to my friend and we reshot the cover of “Oompa!” into the cover you now see. But I also told him that the drum major shoot was the cover of my next album.
Throughout the production and writing of Oompa! I wanted to think ‘orchestral riot’. The main word I wanted to be received by the listener was ‘joy’. As a former musical composition student, I allowed this album to be my grad school. I scored 10 out of the 13 tracks, writing out the music for the instruments, and basically decided I would do every musical idea that came into my head. There’s times for editing, and there’s time for explosion- this was my time for musical explosion, and acting as my own producer, I was able to be as ridiculous as I wanted.
My engineer was overwhelmed, especially as all the ‘orchestras’ you hear were mostly recorded one at a time. I would have a session with a lone bassoonist, and then another with a French hornist quadrupling their part. It was a musical puzzle on the production side of things, and luckily, it worked out.
I am very enamoured of the natural sound of instruments. Their voices, the clarinet has the smooth lilt of a classy lady two drinks in. A muted trumpet can sound like a drunk and horny widow. It’s theatre, making them all meet, and it was those musical moments I was searching for. ‘One Night Stand Serenade’ was written in part because I wanted to have a song where the instruments spoke as humans. Now, when I do it live in burlesque shows, I mostly fake orgasmic sounds during those musical moments in that song. Luckily, I have an orchestra or orgasmic sounds at the ready.
But yes- joy- I wanted the album to be joyful. Once I wrote the title track, ‘We Are the Parade’, which is a revolutionary call to arms for queers to arm themselves with the joy Joy is a weapon, sometimes the most resilient and underappreciated in survival. And I believe that the joy of the queer scene, which has to deal with so much hatred on the day to day, is how we survive.
Q: Regarding your background as a musician, you’ve played piano since the age of 5, with concentration on classical and even went to school for classical compositions but you’ve said that you “didn’t understand songwriting.” You eventually took up guitar, spoken word, theatre and books, but eventually made your way back to what you knew – piano. How did your other acquired skills (especially spoken word and theatre) help you as a performer (if at all)?
A: Well, my years doing spoken word have completely affected my type of songwriting. I am guilty of ‘over-writing’ sometimes, which is why patter songs come so effectively to me. Years of spitting out bad emotional open mic pieces have allowed me to simply be able to get the words out in songs like, ‘The Denial Rag’.
I began songwriting on guitar, but was terrible at it. Having been classically trained, I knew what a good musician should sound like- and my twang-y powerchords on acoustic guitar were initially embarrassing to me. So I did what anyone does when they’re embarrassed- I compensated. I compensated by writing really dense lyrics, in hopes that it would cover the bad guitar up. Once I got back to the piano, which I really could play, I realized I didn’t need to compensate anymore, which allowed me to write more musically confident songs that didn’t rely on the lyrics as much, although I am still inherently a lyric focused songwriter.
I was in theatre all of my life, and did study at the National Theatre Institute, but was especially interested in playwriting. I wrote and produced several plays, and would often tell people, when they asked what I did that I was a playwright and a songwriter. I really thought they were divided art forms in some way. However, once I stepped onto the burlesque stage, it was amazing. Here I could combine theatricality and songwriting. I also realized that most of my better songs were written from a character’s point of view. Sure, often times those ‘characters’ were versions of myself- but it became clear that character driven music was something that I naturally liked, and it combined my playwriting and songwriting skills.
Q: You perform your show regularly in burlesque and cabaret shows and circuses. Since your album is self-described as burlesque-inspired (and the inspiration is readily apparent in the music!) I’d love to know more specifically how you used burlesque as an inspiration for your music. Were there specific shows, venues, performers, performances, memories, etc. that you used as fodder while creating your album?
A: The entire burlesque and cabaret scene has been such an inspiration for this album. It started in a non-burlesque way. There’s a New York event called Cinema 16 where they pair up musicians with a series of silent movies. They’re incredible events, and the musicians they choose are varied, from cabaret inspired artists like me to more mainstream musicians, like the guys from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The curator, Molly Surno, listened to my music and gave me a series of silent movies to score- one of them being a test strip for Thomas Edison when he was testing out film colouration. The film was of the one of the silent movie era’s earliest stars (and later, Ziegfield Follies star), Annabell Whitford Moore, who was known for her amazing skirt dances. I was blown away by the silent film, and intimidated by it. She looked like a lotus flower, ever blossoming in a range of technicolour revolutions. When I performed it live, I performed it with a loop pedal, so I could create a big band effect with looped piano and kazoos. This dictated the form of the song, and when I came to scoring it, I sat down and rubbed my hands together thinking, “Now I get to score a big band!”
I studied Benny Goodman. I began talking to older musicians, one of which is the drummer for Woody Allen’s band, trying to understand the orchestration of those times. Again, I wanted that explosion. I wanted banging tom-toms that promised the thrill of an unraveling century. And even more so, I wanted to create something that a burlesque girl could dance to, so she could be a modern Annabelle Whitford Moore. (I later paired the original Edison strip inspiration with the final track off the new album, with Surno’s permission, and put it up on Youtube, so you’re welcome to look at what inspired the song.)
As a whole though, burlesque has inspired a lot of my music in the sense that it is character driven. I find that when I write a song, I’m creating a character- except since I’m shit at costuming and make-up, I create the characters and scenarios with lyrics, instrumentation and when I’m live- often a story set up. I was very surprised at my initial success performing in burlesque shows, although I was immediately at ease the first time I stepped on a stage. Currently, my albums don’t fully explore the range of my live shows, which are tending to be dirtier, darker or sometimes more satirical the more I perform in the scene. However, once I started touring in the UK, I began to see other people like me in the scene. Other ‘singers/songwriters’. The more I’ve performed in the scene, the more I learn about the tradition of vaudeville which was so inextricable from burlesque’s initial roots. Performing with the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus is a continual education in the history of the cirkus, sideshow and vaudevillian sides of showbiz, and where I fit in with them. But simply, I first truly came to burlesque because I had this one song ‘Never Been a Bad Girl’ on ‘Oompa! that I thought was something a burlesque girl should dance to. I didn’t know how to get the girls to dance to it, so I finally e-mailed a show and asked if I could perform it, and it worked like a charm. That song didn’t just belong in the burlesque world. I did. The more I’m in it, the more I learn about it and the more it inspires me. I feel extremely lucky, as a musician, to have any part of such a thrilling performance scene.
Q: I’ve read that in contrast to your current super happy, horn-driven fun album, your plans for your next album are “super twisted” and “really dark and very, very fucked up” and that you have the most songs written for that record. Care to share more details with our readers about those plans?
A: Oh yes. See, actually, of all of the albums, the next one, tentatively entitled, ‘Freaks’, is full-on inspired by my time in burlesque. Several of the written songs were directly because of burlesque shows. The one that is the most popular, and has undoubtedly become my ‘signature’ song is called, ‘The One Thing I have Never Done’ (aka as ‘The Dirty Song’.) I wrote that for Book Club Burlesque, an event that was going on a bit ago in New York. Each show was based on a different book, which you were supposed to read and then do a performance based off of. The assigned book was Edward Gorey’s “The Curious Sofa”. I read the notice about the this burlesque show, (at the time, I hadn’t been performing in burlesque) and thought I’d give it a shot. I love song assignments, and love Edward Gorey. I thought I’d have to write something about the alphabet- you know, A is for Alice when falls down the stairs type of thing. But then I read the book, which he actually published under a pseudonym originally because it’s so filthy. I was shocked. And I sat back, my eyes wide, and realized, “I have to write the dirtiest song ever written.”
I considered like my ‘Aristocrats’ joke. How far was I willing to go. I remember writing very clearly- I was sitting in my bathtub, scribbling away and I had two thoughts, well. . .one thought and one moment. The moment was when I cringed while writing some of the lyrics. I had never written something so out of my comfort zone before. The thought was, “Why am I working so hard on this song? I will never ever play it ever again. There’s no place for this song.”
But then a month later, I was booked for Cheeky Monkey’s Sideshow in DC, and all of the other performers were prepping their props- tying their razor blades together, prepping their broken glass or bed of nails. I felt like a high school freshman that just came from a Catholic school. My eyes were like saucers. And again, because I was so afraid, I overcompensated, and did the dirty song. I was like, “I’ve gotta do that song.” And now it’s my most requested tune.
That song’s in there, as well as several others written expressly for burlesque shows. One of my favorite burlesque shows I’ve ever performed in is ‘That’s F*cked Up!’ which is in Seattle every year. It’s curated by burly geniuses, Heidi Von Haught and Randi Rascal, and encourages everyone to push the boundaries of performance. I sent Heidi my dirty song because we were simply friends, and she invited me to be a part of it- but then asked me to write another song like it. I had gone as far as I could with sex in the dirty song, and didn’t think I could outdo it, so I decided to focus on politics, which forced me to write the satirical song, ‘Democracy’. In the performance, I sang it while stripping and then ended up blowing the microphone at the end. Performance! The next year, Heidi asked me to participate again, and I didn’t want to touch politics again, but no one else was touching on the Republican race for presidency, which at that point was dominating the news, so then I wrote a rap where I rapped as all the Republican nominees. I’ll tell you, when I was studying Stravinsky in college, I never thought I’d end up being on stage, dressed as a gangsta Newt Gingrich, yelling out, ‘You be the bitch, I be the Gingrich!’ But yeah, that happened.
The rap won’t be on the next album, but the rest of it will. The difference though, is that my earlier stuff has been more about recalling more classic burlesque or early century music sounds- touching on those scenes. I’m interested in creating a new sound. What is the sound of new cabaret? Of new burlesque? Who is our 21st Century Benny Goodman? Who’s our 21st Century Annabelle Moore? I want to see if I can listen hard to myself and figure that out.
That being said, the entire catalogue of songs is fitting into a narrative, so I’m also going to create a cabaret act based off those songs. My dream is to have a tight back-up band, small but effective- piano, bass, drums, sax and accordions and really flesh out the songs together instead of me piece-mealing an orchestra together. And the grand dream is that John Cameron Mitchell discovers it all and puts it together in some sort of Hedwig and the Angry Inch genius plan. But yes- long answer short- the songs on ‘Freaks’ are almost exclusively inspired my time in burlesque and cirkus, and in me trying to find my voice in that scene. And apparently, I’m a pretty twisted muthafucka.
Q: You just concluded your west coast tour for “We Are the Parade!” and you’re simultaneously promoting the second edition of your book, Live Through This – On Creativity and Self-Destruction which now includes an introduction by Amanda Palmer. You also do workshops on the topics of gender, self-destruction and art, and since it’s so pertinent to our burlesque readership – I’m quite interested in your questions about whether artistic women are more prone to self-destruction, and whether there is a link between art and sanity.
A: I could talk forever on this subject, and often do. Speaking in colleges about gender, art, creativity and self-destruction has been the way I have been able to be lucky enough to tour so widely. I’m very proud of the book, and the amazing contributors the second edition has allowed me to get (besides Amanda Palmer, Margaret Cho and street artist Swoon are new additions, along with original contributors bell hooks, Nan Goldin, Annie Sprinkle & Beth Stephens and more.)
The link between art and sanity. Oh, I love that question. It’s complex for me to answer, specifically because I’m an artist. I don’t know how it would be to come at this question from another profession. Simply, and it’s easy to say ‘YES!’ they’re connected, not only because being an artist encourages people to examine human nature, and hence, themselves. That propels a lot of navel gazing and emotion- a lot of consideration given to the deeper questions that other professions, sometimes can find easier to ignore. Also, there’s such a beautiful and romantic history of the connection between art and genius. From Sexton and Plath to the my modern day heroine, Sarah Kane- who famously killed herself after writing her seminal play 4.18 Psychosis, which was essentially a staged suicide note, there is such sensation in the self-destructive artist. For men, it’s more ‘acceptable’, but just as damaging, with iconic heroes like Hemingway who also killed himself, to Van Gogh to Bukowski to Rimbaud. I mean, hell. The lot of ‘em were ‘biographically nuts’. (I say this, because their biographers tend to romanticize any self-destructive nature because hey, ‘Crazy, alcoholic sells!’)
I used to believe this. I used to believe, you had to be crazy to be an artist. A good one. And then I watched a documentary on Chuck Close, the genius American artist. He’s someone I truly admire, and in the middle of his career, suffered a seizure which not only put him in a wheelchair, but made it very difficult for him to hold a paintbrush. In the documentary, I remember him sort of shrugging and being like, “Well, so now I have to wear a brace and I get my assistant rig up my painting to I can paint them while sitting down.” He just kept working. It astounded me. That you could just keep working, and that well of brilliance might just continue to be there.
The romance of being an unstable artist is one that we cling to because it’s easier for some people to simply be unstable than to do the work of being an artist. I often use Bukowski as an example, because I remember a lot of male ‘writer’ friends who wanted to ‘write’ but only hung out in bars and thought they had to screw a lot of women to be a writer. I remember being like, “I think you still have to sit down and write. . .” It is easier to assume the lifestyle of a romantic self-destructive artist and feel like you are emulating your heroes, and are, de facto, an artist. I chose to not be that type of artist long ago, and it is a very distinct decision on my part.
That being said, emotional highs and lows are nothing to laugh about. And that type of emotional resonance that comes easier to most are demonized as ‘crazy’ or ‘unstable’. Meanwhile, people are working 60 hour jobs in fluorescent offices and thinking prime time tv is hilarious. I mean, come on. Who are they calling crazy? Still, what do they want to do with people that don’t fit into that schematic of over-engineered life? Medicate them. Make them feel bad about not fitting into their rat-race. Say that the problem is that you’re crazy.
Meanwhile, I think there is insane untapped power locked into our self-destructive forces that, if unleashed upon the world, would change it. Art has been a very effective tool for this transition. It lends itself better to the insane than, I don’t know, a maniacal insurance salesman. That being said, as an artist, I see the direct links. However, I do believe that we’ve co-opted that romantic image of self-destruction, when it can indeed be found in any field. There is a culture to the ok self-destruction in any field, in law offices, you’re sometimes expected to work 80 hours and then go out and get hammered with your buddies. Yeah, like that’s not a self-destructive culture. But I do believe that there is art in every field- art simply is questioning life, and bringing forth your interpretation of that. That can play out in any field. There are lots of artists that I don’t even consider ‘artists’ anymore. Just turn on the radio. They’re money-making machines, just cuz they sing doesn’t make ‘em artists. But contemplation, strength, and a desire to see beyond your own given horizon- be it arts or science or law . . .anyone can have those tendencies.
All of that being said, I know my art keeps me sane. If I didn’t make things, I’m not sure I’d be here anymore.
Q: What have been the results of the dialogues in your workshops so far?
A: Because I think about this so often, I’m surprised at how little others do. I know that sounds snobby, but I’m often speaking in colleges, where a lot of the students have only begun to consider themselves, and often get lost in the maze of romantic roles, idealizations, cultural landmines our history has laid out for us. One of my favorite essays in the book is bell hooks’, who talks about how by reading fiction as a child, she was able to understand that sometimes children are the target for unjust adult rage. When she realized that, she realized that some of the suicidal feelings of helplessness she was feeling weren’t necessarily her own fault, but came with the tidal wave of history that washes over all of us, every minute. The wave that carries misogyny, racism, ageism, class war in the force of it’s current. I am constantly astounded at how much women artists tend to claim the fault of histories failings as their own fault, and silence themselves, or accept the label of ‘crazy’ or ‘unstable’. The dialogues have been fascinating to me as someone who has vested interest in the subject, but what has amazed me most is how many e-mails or quiet admissions I have received from people who have read the book and said it has saved their lives, or helped them through a difficult time. And I think the reason that happens is because it’s one of the few books out there that doesn’t demonize self-destruction, but recognizes its importance in harnessing your own sense of power.
Q: What have you learned during the process of editing your book, touring and promoting it?
A: Oh, so much. I was signed with Seven Stories Press, who also publishes heavy-weights like Kurt Vonnegut, Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky. Being considered by an outside source to have something to offer was astounding to me. I don’t want to say I didn’t have confidence as an artist before hand, because I always have. But I didn’t truly believe that it was possible to live as an artist. To have that profession. The book was my first entry into living my dream as a reality. Having something you thought of at night suddenly be available in every Barnes and Nobles was a pretty empowering moment for me. It made me believe in my wild notions more.
Touring and promoting it made me begin to understand the ‘biz’ in showbiz. Currently, I represent myself. It’s getting hard to manage doing tour booking, press, marketing, writing new songs, producing, orchestrating, arranging the albums and then actually showing up and performing without feeling like I want to hide in my apartment and watch Netflix all day. That being said, I was lucky enough with the book to have an awesome cast of already established artists help me understand how ‘they’ did it. What does it mean to ‘tour’. Why do you have to ‘promote’. Up until the book, I literally thought that all Tom Waits did was drink whiskey and write songs. Now I’m beginning to get, he might have attended some meetings too. Reading the biography of Sophie Tucker, she talks a lot about the management of her career- and I’m beginning to realize how important the biz is to making it in ‘Showbiz’.
Q: What’s next for Sabrina Chap?
A: So much. Right now, I’m in the middle of booking my UK tour again. I’m hoping everything works out. I’m doing some spot gigs in Cleveland and Detroit for some stellar gigs, performing at Pinch & Squeals’ Voix De Ville and Detroit’s Theatre Bizarre, as well as doing a burlesque show with my favorite line up EVER – me, Lushes LaMoan, Moxie Rhodes (Wisconsin), Sweet LilyBea (Minneapolis), organized by Shane Bang, who’s amazing. I have some ‘producers’ that want to do a musical revue based off my music, so that might happen. Right now I’m working on fleshing out the story with them. I’m hoping to get a monthly live gig in New York where I can figure out a way to pay a band so I can develop the next album. I’m doing a lot of songwriting at home. And I have to clean the tub at some point. I mean, really- it’s just there staring at me day after day.
Q: Anything you’d like to add?
A: I’m honored to have a small place in this burgeoning scene of burlesque, cirkus and vaudevillian entertainment. I have learned so much from every performer I’ve been lucky enough to perform alongside, and the generosity and fearlessness of these communities astounds me . I hope I can continue to make a little music to add to the scene, make a few people laugh and continue discovering my own voice as an artist on these stages. Also, I’d love to tour in your city and meet you, whoever you are.
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!
Bringing sponsors on board for your events is a great way to share promotional activities and bring other people into your community. A sponsor is an entity–usually a person or business–which contributes resources to your projects. Their resources can include, among other things, promotion of your event, in-kind donations, and cash. In return you support them with recognition and promotion.
For many of us, promotion is the most time-and-effort-intensive part of producing an event, once the artistic work is done. For this reason, you should think carefully about sponsorship, and whether or not what most sponsors can afford to offer is appropriate for you.
When approaching a sponsor, have a contract prepared in advance. Then contact them with a brief letter stating:
1) What you like about their product and/or their work.
2) A one-two sentence description of your event, with time and date.
3) Why you think they are a good match for your event: demographic, aesthetic, etc.
4) A detailed and honest list of what you can do to promote them, including expected attendance at the event.
5) How you will promote your event.
Thank them for their time and let them know that if this is not a good match for them at this time, you hope you will be able to work together in the future.
If they agree to sponsor you, immediately provide a contract. Be willing to negotiate back and forth once or twice, and no more. Know in advance what your top and bottom limits are.
1) Make acquiring the item your responsibility, and do not pressure them to ship at the last minute. If they are sponsoring with money, make sure you schedule to receive it well in advance and be wary of printing materials before you have received it, in the event that their plans or circumstances change and they are unable to sponsor you after all.
2) Make good on your descriptions of what you can do for them.
3) Make sure they get recognition at the event. Have their business cards out, if appropriate, and make sure the host mentions them and does not make jokes at their expense, rush over their name, or misrepresent them. Even if their donation to let’s say a raffle was smaller than that of other, honor their contribution.
4) Report to them afterward on what was done and how the event went.
5) Thank them for their time and let them know that if they are happy with the outcome, you hope you will be able to work together in the future.
Show respect to all your sponsors, and expect them to respect you, and you can build lasting relationships and community!
At The New York School of Burlesque, we have sponsors who give card-carrying NYSB students a discount on their goods, and often donate goods and gift certificates to our raffles and fundraisers. To get these relationships going, I literally walked into stores and said, “Hello, I’m the founder and operator of The New York School of Burlesque. I’m looking for independent and female-owned businesses with a community interest. I’d like for my students to support these businesses and feel part of a community, as well as be able to shop for fun and fabulous stuff. I know your business has things they will love, and I admire your business model. Would you be interested in being a part of the program?”
Invariably, they say yes. I collect business cards and flyers from them and hand them out to students in The Essential Burlesque Series, as well as giving them a handout with a list of merchants both in the city and online (my approach with online merchants is similar, but it happens in email). So far, so good!
As the author of The Burlesque Handbook, I am frequently asked to give copies of the book to raffles and fundraisers, which I am happy to do. However, many times the people asking don’t offer me anything in return. Even though I understand that they may not know that in order to sponsor them I have to order and pay for the book, I don’t understand what they get out of having the item in the raffle if they don’t mention it. I know from going to raffles that many emcees do not describe what’s in the raffle, or make fun of the items in the raffle, or rough up the things in the raffle bag. I don’t know if this can always be avoided in the rush of a show, so what do I want? Of course I really do want the emcee to show the book and hold forth about it, but keeping in mind that may be unlikely, and in some cases unreasonable, I would like acknowledgement somewhere, wherever it’s appropriate. On the show’s website, social media, flyers, or wherever they are doing such mentions. I don’t expect it to be prominent. I just don’t expect it to be invisible.
Having been both a sponsor and a sponsee, I’ve given this a lot of thought. Each situation is different, but as with all of my etiquette articles, the point is to think about the person on the other end of your etiquette practices. You may not necessarily know what they want, but in some cases you can certainly guess, and in the case of a sponsor, you can safely guess that none of them want to be ignored.
With a cash sponsor, you will have an actual contract outlining the responsibilities both of you have. But that is the subject of another article.
Bringing sponsors on board for your events is a great way to share promotional activities and bring other people into your community. A sponsor is an entity–usually a person or business–which contributes resources to your projects. Their resources can include, among other things, promotion, in-kind donations, and cash. In return you support them with recognition and promotion.
Want to see more of Jo’s columns? 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
By: Jo Weldon
“To live in a culture in which women are routinely naked where men aren’t is to learn inequality in little ways all day long. So even if we agree that sexual imagery is in fact a language, it is clearly one that is already heavily edited to protect men’s sexual–and hence social–confidence while undermining that of women.”
― Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women
Burlesque, of all the performing arts, seems to have the widest range of opportunities for both sexism and feminism in the ways it can be executed and represented. I’ll expand on that idea another time; I’m mentioning it briefly to clarify that the following non-feminist thing I see happening in burlesque is not what I perceive as a defining element, but as a growing concern that needs to be addressed as soon as possible, before it does become a defining element.
I recently took some time to really remember what it was like to be a naked woman surrounded on all sides by men in suits. In the 1980s/90s I worked in high-end strip joints where the customers were required to wear suits. In fact, we often called the customers “suits.” (Women were allowed in the club, but it was understood that “customers” meant “men.”) These clubs sought a clientele of conventioneers and businessmen, with a sprinkling of celebrities (for whom the clothing rules were somewhat lax, particularly when the celebrities were Vince Neil or Dennis Rodman.) The club owners were always in suits, always the boss. I associated men in suits with the more upscale clubs where I was closely monitored, in an industry where I originally went intending to work under fairly anarchic conditions. The atmosphere of “luxury,” “sophistication,” and “elegance” included women who were pre-approved (by management for the customers) to have a tasteful, well-groomed appearance and demeanor. The clubs were supposed to be classy. “Classy” meant “appropriate.” “Classy” meant “controlled.” “Classy” meant “consumably pretty.” “Classy” meant (shudder) “ladylike,” a term of oppression if ever there was one.
Generally speaking, the customers in commercial strip clubs didn’t want to see feather fans or corsets or slow peels from us, so when I got to do burlesque I felt super rebellious. Mainstream dudes in suits didn’t relate to false eyelashes and feather boas, and they definitely didn’t want to carry glitter home on their lapels. Burlesque has a different appeal. Beginning in burlesque in NYC in the late 1990s I felt like a post-feminist stripper, and when I participated in a photo shoot of scantily-clad dancers posing around a man in a suit at that time, it felt ironic. We were doing it specifically to celebrate the fact that it was now unlikely that a man in a suit would ever tell us what to do.
Now the image of scantily clad or nude women around the man in a suit has gotten more common in burlesque advertising, to the extent that I’ve started calling it “The Harem Trope,” and I’ve participated or been asked to participate in it often enough that it no longer seems to be an ironic tableau. Last year as I was walking away from one of these shoots I asked one of the other female performers who’d stood around the guy in the suit why it felt so off to me.
“We’re being used as accessories,” she said.
And at that point it dawned on me that whether ten men in suits surrounded one naked lady (as in the upscale strip joints where I used to work), or ten naked ladies surrounding one man in a suit, it felt the same to me.
Historically, a “harem” has been a place where a group of women are sequestered, “kept safe,” isolated, etc., as the property of one man. The history is complicated and varied, but there is always one man whose interests are served by many women.
In many of these kinds of promotional shots, the women are not acknowledged as accomplished, creative performers in any way. They are holding props such as fans that appear to be ornamental, or they refer to the men in the center instead of to the camera, or they are nude or in lingerie in such a fashion that there is no sign whatsoever that they are entertainers with developed careers. Their sole accomplishment appears to be getting to be associated with this man. And if a producer is selective and accomplished himself, it may BE an accomplishment–but then why wouldn’t he show why he is proud to be associated with them by showing them in their carefully created costumes and personas, instead of as mere accessories to his aesthetic?
Think about it–that person in the suit might use it as a promotional photo of himself as a solo artist, but would you, as one of the bunnies, use it to promote you as a solo artist? Do you look more like part of an ensemble, or an accessory? While this is true of any group photo, isn’t the potential meaning in the type of photo to which I’m referring pretty specific? Man in suit boss of naked ladies. Man irreplaceable, women interchangeable. Right?
I’m not saying I’ll never do one of these photos again. But if I was going to play the bunny quite so often, I wanted to add something to the pantheon of pictures that come up when I’m googled. I wanted a reverse Hugh Hefner. Last year I was voted “Most Likely to Start a Harem” at the NY Burlesque Festival, but I don’t think of myself as a gatekeeper–I think of myself as an enabler. So to play with the idea of The Harem Trope I had this picture taken, Like A Boss:
And also this one, The Photoshoot Afterparty, in which everyone looks like we’re having a blast together instead of waiting for me to give directives:
My guidelines to evoke The Harem Trope: you can’t wear a costume, just lingerie. You can’t do any of your signature moves. The woman has to be in the middle, dressed, and you have to look like an accessory. And the men totally dug it. Many animated discussions ensued in the weeks before the shoot, about The Harem Trope and whether or not mere gender reversal could address the problem. (It can’t, but it’s a great way to shed some light and start a conversation.) It certainly wasn’t the first time a woman in a suit has been photographed with naked men, but it was the first time that I, a burlesque performer who has usually been in the naked position, have done it.
Interestingly, we also did a shot in which I directed everyone to have the same expressions as models in American Apparel ads, but it was too boring, and I didn’t really want to equate “feminizing” with “minimizing.”
Some comments from the men in the shoot on how they feel having seen the photos:
“It’s great to have this shot show lots of naked men surrounding a woman, as opposed to the traditional patriarchal imagery of the clothed man of power with the naked women, an image that used to represent all the traditions that our (neo-burlesque) work seeks to confront. It became ironic presumably because we all accepted that we were past that, but now seems to be creeping back with another generation who have apparently lost the irony (and the politics too?), rendering it for me no better than the bad old days. So way to go CFNM!!” —Mat Fraser
“I’m just happy to see such a straightforward role reversal happen in a picture. I very much wish I could see the reaction from the average male. I already know women will be cheering the image on and I’m curious if men will be confused, if they’ll find it ridiculous, or if they’ll find an uncomfortable irony in frame. The shoot itself was a blast. There were so many great people that you only get to see once or twice a year there and having such a great excuse to shed our clothes was a god-send. It’s possible for this photo to have more impact than a live performance ever could and it’s great to be a part of it.” —The Trojan Original
And, big bonus! Three of the men from my suit shoot—The Luminous Pariah, The Trojan Original, and Paris Original—are featured, as their troupe Mod Carousel, in this video that plays with Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” video. Mod Carousel said they produced the video because “It’s our opinion that most attempts to show female objectification in the media by swapping the genders serve more to ridicule the male body than to highlight the extent to which women get objectified, and does everyone a disservice. We made this video specifically to show a spectrum of sexuality as well as present both women and men in a positive light, one where objectifying men is more than alright and where women can be strong and sexy without negative repercussions.”
Within the burlesque community, these Men In Suits, these “bosses” may appear laughable. However, these photos aren’t only happening inside the burlesque community. These photos are happening on the internet, which is the whole wide world. The people hiring us and coming to our shows may or may not get the “joke”. From a Facebook conversation about The Harem Trope in The Fringe Forum, a moderated discussion group for burlesque performers:
Annie Cherry Of the Kansas City Society of Burlesque: “Damian and I actively avoid that scenario. Often, when he was the only person presenting as male in our troupe of eight, people automatically assumed he was the emcee.”
Damian Blake: “People also automatically assumed it was ‘my’ troupe, or ‘my girls’ if I was a guy in a suit with scantily clad women. It made me uncomfortable.”
Many men in the burlesque community are interested in seeing The Harem Trope become less accepted. Schaffer the Darklord, nerdcore rapper and burlesque emcee, frequently points out the sexism in the gaming community, and often takes issue with The Harem Trope. He posted a status on Facebook that read, “Well, how about that? A photo of a naked woman standing next to a fully-clothed man. You know, like an accessory. What a completely original & non-problematic idea you had there, dude.” When a commenter on the post called him out for the way gender was presented in a promotional video he had produced several years ago, Schaffer responded, “There’s a lot of problematic shit in that video that doesn’t exactly sit right with me anymore. In fact, it’s even addressed in lyrics in a song on my new record. Thankfully, people’s attitudes and perspective CAN change over time.”
Bastard Keith, a popular burlesque emcee who produces a show called The Sophisticates with his spouse, Madame Rosebud, told me about some changes he wants to make in show promotion: “I feel slightly ill looking at photos of men in suits smugly presiding over a bunch of scantily-clad showgirls. It reeks of privilege, of women as property, of a sort of unapologetic entitlement. Rosebud and I previously took some shots for The Sophisticates that somewhat fit the paradigm, and while I don’t regret them necessarily (we were both very happy with them) we’ve decided that the best way to move forward is to flip it. In future promotion, we’re going to move me further out of the center of the image. And that idea pleases me immensely.”
One male producer told me that the trope wasn’t doing any harm, and he needed it to get butts into seats at the shows. I don’t think it does get butts into seats; I don’t see any reason why it would, even if you like the harem motif. Performer/producer Jonny Porkpie explains how he came to be at the center of one of these photos: “It was at the end of a much longer photoshoot featuring 9 people, male and female, all in various stages of undress. After finishing the shots we needed to promote the show, I decreed ‘I want one of those pictures of me in a tux surrounded by scantily-clad women.’ The men were dismissed, and the women instructed to look adoringly at me, while I alone made eye contact with the camera. It seemed, at the time—over a half-decade ago now—an amusing lark, a winking throwback to the sexist yet swingin’ sixties; certainly this could accompany my Playboy interview circa 1967.
“Looking at it now, it is (through no fault of our fabulous photog, Don Spiro) the worst of that shoot. The rest of the photos are engaging, vibrant images, balanced in nudity regardless of gender, depicting characters in costumes interacting with each other and/or the viewer in a salacious manner. Even at the time, I didn’t include that particular photo in the press packet for the show, though I did put it on my own promo page. Perhaps I knew instinctively; even surrounded by scantily clad women, the central figure of a fully-dressed man made a lousy selling point for a burlesque show; an objectification antithetical to both the spirit and appeal of neo-burlesque.”
But even if it did gets butts in seats, I don’t think it’s worth it to do so at the expense of making women look more like property, in a world plagued by beauty insecurity, street harassment, and rape.
Someone asked me why I didn’t interview women for this article. I think that’s worth doing, but first I wanted to get a few men who’d been in that position of privilege to talk about it. Also, this is a third of what I wrote before we edited it, and it could be three times as long as it was before it was edited down. And — this is of course part of the larger problem — people listen to men differently than they listen to women.
To be clear: I’m not referring to A Particular Producer. I don’t have a bug up my ass about male producers. Producing is a fuckton of hard work. Since in the 1990s, I’ve worked with producers like Dick Zigun and James Habacker, who have provided progressive venues and artistic opportunities, and they deserve kudos, and have every right to be photographed as relevant to a group of performers to whose careers they have contributed. I believe in supporting such producers, both as an individual and as part of a group that has benefited from their hard work. And I have seen many photos of male producers surrounded by performers in their costumes or in attitudes that make the show look like it’s a whole lot more than a panty parade. A producer looks more amazing to me if he is surrounded by folks in brilliant costuming and performative poses than if he’s simply surrounded by pretty girls in a harem or Playboy Mansion party setting. It looks like a Real Show, a show people will want to see.
It’s not that hard. Gender roles can be disregarded even in situations where a woman’s breasts might be assumed to be essential, as in this tassel-twirling instructional I did for L Magazine.
I’d like to challenge performers, producers, and photographers to come up with something more exciting and less predictable, something that doesn’t contribute to an environment in which women are thought of as consumables, as naked bait, as requiring the endorsement of a guy in a suit to create their art.
The Woman in a Suit photo owes special thanks to Jen Gapay and The New York Boylesque Festival of April 2013 for bringing the boys to town and helping coordinate!
Thank you to photographer Maggie Saniewska of PlayMe Burlesque for donating her time and talent, and to Duane Park NYC for contributing space for the shoot.
Models in the first suit photo:
James and the Giant Pastie
The Luminous Pariah
The Trojan Original
Models in the laughing photo:
The Evil Hate Monkey
The Luminous Pariah
“I’m not tweeting to say what we need and what we don’t… I just wanted to think out loud with you guys today… #THEWORDBITCH.” –Kanye West on Twitter, September 2012
For more of Jo’s work in Pin Curl, check out her Burlesque Etiquette Columns: 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
By: Shoshana Portnoy
Burlesque performers, instructors and industry figures worldwide team up for Dixie Evans Week! Dixie Evans, founder of The Miss Exotic World Competition and Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend has dedicated her life to preserving the legacy of Burlesque. We thought it high time we as a community gave back to the woman who has given so much to us! During her birth week, August 26-September 1, shows and classes will be going on worldwide with proceeds going to Dixie’s continued care and health costs. Want to join in the festivities? Producers and Troupes: To host a benefit for Dixie in your home town please request a Producer Participation Application from Producer Angie Pontani at Angie [at] PontaniSisters [dot] com. Instructors, to teach for Dixie’s benefit, please contact Teacher Coordinator Jo “Boobs” Weldon at NewYorkSchoolofBurlesque[at] gmail [dot] com. To follow the fun, please visit Facebook.com/DixieEvansWeek
Dixie in her own words:
You might not realize this, but there was a time before television, before the Internet, before cell phones, and even before VCRs and DVDs. Yes, once upon a time, when people wanted to be entertained, they went out.
Back in the day, there wasn’t much affordable entertainment for working-class folks, but every major city in the United States had at least two or three burlesque theaters. And burlesque was unbelievably elegant with white cloths on all the tables and wonderful brass bands, featuring the best musicians in the world. You’d see hilarious comics sharing the stage with stunning dancers with amazing, elaborate costumes, and props, and chorus lines that would take your breath away.
I’ll never forget my first burlesque show: I was seventeen, and my boyfriend took me to see Tempest Storm. That titian hair! Those curves! Tempest was a goddess, and she had the entire audience in the palm of her hand. I was bowled over by the glamour and sexiness of it all, and knew right then and there what I wanted to do with my life.
I’d always been considered pretty, and worked as a figure model in my teens, posing for “girlie magazines.” My father died when I was very young, leaving us with no means of financial support, and growing up with a single mother in the Great Depression I was taught to take advantage of every opportunity that came my way. Fortunately, while I was modeling, I landed a job at a theater, where another girl and I danced on stage to open the curtains. Somehow, I got noticed, and before I knew it I was onstage as a solo burlesque dancer.
Although I was never a terribly good singer or a classically trained dancer, I was enthusiastic and ambitious. Originally billed as “The Southern Comfort Girl,” after a year or two of traveling the circuit I met the legendary producer, Harold Minsky in New York. Minsky took one look at me, and said: “You’re a dead ringer for Marilyn Monroe. That’s how we’ll bill you.” Suddenly, I had a top gimmick, and was booked two years in advance. I adored Marilyn and always tried to honor her in my performances.
In those days, audiences didn’t just pay to see a woman take her clothes off, they came to burlesque shows to be entertained. Every night, we performed for couples, servicemen, and women, people of all walks and backgrounds, often with only one thing in common: they had come to forget the drama of their “real” lives, and lose themselves in a glittering fantasy of live music, beautiful girls, and slapstick comedy. And we dancers constantly competed with one another to give them the best show possible. It was always a struggle to stay on top, but the competition kept us in peak form.
Like others who dedicate their lives to their work, success came with a high personal price for many burlesque performers, myself included. My mother was a religious woman, who never truly accepted what I did for a living, and constant touring made settling down to have a family of my own impossible. I did marry once, to a prizefighter, for thirteen years, but when I started getting jobs in Paris and London, it put too much pressure on our relationship, and we ended up getting divorced. But burlesque was more than my profession, it was my passion, and I chose to follow the road wherever it took me.
By the time Marilyn Monroe died in 1962, burlesque as I had known it had changed. Television had arrived, and as it infiltrated more and more homes, fewer and fewer people were going out to see live shows. Dancers and musicians still performed, but theater managers were cutting back on club costs, and the whole scene began to lose its gilded glory. For a theater to hold on to the traditions—the bands, the big production numbers—and still make payroll and rent, while fewer and fewer people were coming out to fill seats, well, there was just no way. So the theaters closed, and burlesque just sort of faded away.
In its place, increasingly explicit performances began to replace exotic dance in the remaining clubs, and the suggestive, yet comparatively wholesome, legacy of burlesque was soon eclipsed by “amateur nights,” all-nude reviews, and live sex acts on stage. Rather than “more strip, less tease,” in most cases it had become all strip, and no tease.
In the years since I formally hung up my pasties, I’ve heard much about burlesque’s demise at different points in history, and due to various, disparate causes I’ve also heard much about its rebirth. Every few years, it seems, some new group “discovers” burlesque, and the magical alchemy of glitter, glamour, and guts transforms an ugly ducklings into a sensational swan.
Though I’m thrilled to see the media proclaim, “Burlesque is Back!” and the world at large catch up with those of us who’ve known all along how special it is—as a historical era, a unique American art form, and a remarkable means for self expression through music, dance, fashion, and beyond—there appears to be a common misconception that burlesque encompasses the entirety of live, adult entertainment, including forms that, however artful, athletic, or beautiful they may be in their own right, have little to do with burlesque’s historical origins.
That said, I’m thrilled to see that burlesque as I know it is becoming popular again. I get such a kick out of the young performers who care enough about the art that they want to know about its past. These young girls, the ones who come and perform in the Miss Exotic World Pageant every June, the ones who go to Tease-O-Rama, and organize their own troupes and shows all across the country, may not know firsthand what the old days were all about, but they do have the fire, drive, and ambition to make it their own. This is the same fire that I felt burning in my heart when I first saw Tempest take the stage as a girl. This is the same fire that drove Jennie Lee to dream of Exotic World. And this is the same fire that keeps me going every day to help preserve that dream for future generations.
The future of burlesque may not look exactly like its past, but whenever a carload of wide-eyed young people pulls up to Exotic World, or a wild-looking, green-haired girl with tattoos and a nose ring asks my opinion on the finer points of bump-and -grind, I feel more confident than ever that the legacy of classic—and classy—burlesque is in good hands.
Learn more about Dixie here: