Minneapolis, Minnesota’s Original Triple Mocha Latte, Her Highness of Highness, the Boss of Burlesque Foxy Tann talks touring, Wham Bams, terrible children’s theatre and fabulous being a state of mind.
Interview: Divertida Devotchka
Q: The Foxy Tann we know and love got her start hosting the Gay 90’s in 1997 at the Superior Lounge, which led to a 2-year stint as the “first and only female female impersonator to emcee at The Le Femme Show Lounge.” Can you also tell us about the production of Miss Biracial Upper Midwest 1984?
A: Ah Miss Biracial Upper Midwest 1984! I love that show! Miss BUM is a stage play that reenacts how Foxy Tann got her start in Superior, WI by winning Miss BUM, which launched her on that road that ends all roads, the road to stardom. It was a show that was about the ridiculousness of stereotyping. Each major race was represented, Black, Asian, Native American, Latin and Celtic. Each contestant had to represent their race through “traditional’ ethnic wear and dance. Example – Missy Asia wore a sequined karate outfit as her ethnic wear, I was Miss Black and wore traditional mammy attire…it was hilarious…now it seems so tame and not edgy at all. Back in the day people were really pissed off that we were doing it. They thought it was not respectful and bordering on offensive (which was the whole point) and the last time we did it the reviewers said it wasn’t deep and edgy enough…but we had a ton of fun doing the damn thing and quite honestly those ladies are still some of my best friends and we work together all the time to this day!
Q: You first began performing burlesque in 2006, which brought the creation of Foxy Tann and The Wham Bam Thank You Ma’ams, the troupe with whom you won “Best Troupe” and “Most Vegas” at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend in 2006. I first saw you perform your “Foxy Lady” act with the Wham Bams at BHOF 2009 and I fell in love! How often are you and the Wham Bams performing together these days? How did the group come together and how has it evolved over time?
A: Well we are working together much more these days because I have managed to find the perfect replacement for the original Wham Bam, My Funzalo. I am so ever fortunate to have RedBone (who is my right hand and sometimes brain) and now Jeez Loueez! We are touring together as a trio for the first time in November, going to BurlyCon and then working our way back to Minnesota! I do have to say that we as a group have evolved into way more of a partnership, especially with me and RedBone…before it was me doing everything and they were just along for the ride and now we do everything together from costume building to promotion to booking. It isn’t a dictatorship but we think it is funny to represent ourselves that way! It amuses us! Well it amuses me and that is what really matters!
Q: Your hosting experience is obviously vast, but I’m curious about your background in general. Were you involved in theater or dance previous to your career as Foxy?
A: All of it! Theatre dance, directing, tech, costume design everything. I have been making my living in the theatre in one way or another for more than 2 decades…Jesus I just said that, 2 decades…wow I am old! I have a degree in theatre; I am the recipient of the National Irene Ryan Acting Award a big deal in the college acting world. I worked with Theatre de la Jeune Lune and toured to Yale with them (that’s also big deal), I toured almost continuously for 3 years doing terrible children’s theatre, I have done really out there modern dance as well as costuming weird modern dance. I have done outdoor drama in Ohio, I worked for Disney in Florida for 2 years…that was a nightmare, but hey they paid well…but honestly I love burlesque so much, I think that back in the day, I would have been a vaudevillian, I really do, I love the short form performance, I love the road, I love all the people, I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Q: When it comes to burlesque festivals, you seem to be everywhere! This year you headlined the Vancouver International Burlesque Festival in May, co-hosted the Icons & All Stars show at Burlesque Hall of Fame weekend in Las Vegas in June, you headlined the Colorado Burlesque Festival in July and those are just a few! How do you keep organized and on top of everything, and do you ever rest? What have been some of your favorite festival highlights this year?
A: God each one is so different but I do have to shout out about Colorado Burlesque Festival, my personal fave…they treat me so well in Denver! I love it there so much and it isn’t just the blatant use of marijuana either! They have amazing venues…I mean Lannie’s is a gem and one of the anchors of the national burlesque scene and Jefferson Arca, who we all know as Naughty Pierre, has done so much for burlesque…and they are crazy partiers as well! CRAZY! And we all love that! And keeping organized is not my strong suit! That is Professor HoneyBunny and RedBone’s job! I couldn’t do it without them! I am not blowing sunshine here, it’s true! I don’t know how people do it without a crew, it’s too hard to do everything yourself! I am just lucky that my folx have faith in me.
Q: Let’s talk about your local burlesque community for a second. You just finished the Twin Cities Top Drawer Burlesque Exposition last month, which for the first time ever, showcased performers from all the burlesque troupes in the Twin Cities metro area. What an exciting idea! Please share your experience with us.
A: It was awesome! It was a love fest for all of the Twin Titties performers! I mean there are so many new burlie performers now! Back in 2004 which is when I started doing burlesque proper, I could count on both hands the number of performers in burlesque…now I am like, who the hell is that?!? There are people that I don’t know in the community! That is amazing! The growth of burlesque has been astonishing! And the fact that people aren’t getting fired for it any more is also amazing…it was also the first time some performers have shared the stage! I know it seems ridiculous but there are troupes that I have never performed with and they haven’t performed with me…stupid…and I think that is the best thing to come out of it, people realizing that everyone should be working together and look what we can achieve. Props to Mona Montague and Musette The Midnight Muse!
Q: You’re currently finishing your “Fox on the Run” Tour right now, and later this month you’re hosting the Shanghai Pearl’s Burlesque Royale show in Seattle, which features quite the lineup of performers! Sydni Deveraux, Donna Denise, Chica Boom, Burgandy Brixx, the Seattle debut of the Grant Avenue Follies, and of course Shanghai –that sounds like one hell of a show! What else does the rest of your tour have in store for you?
A: OOOOOH I know! This show is gonna be the shit! I haven’t worked with some of these folks and have been dying to do so…I love me some Sydni! Woot! Well..I currently am going to Chicago to work with The Stage Door Johnnies and give Ray Gunn the razzing that he deserves…make sure his head doesn’t get too big…we are doing BurlyCon, Portland with Zora Phoenix (LOVE her) and then back to Denver at Lannies and Colorado Springs with Lola Spitfire and Peaks and Pasties…and we put up two monthly shows here in Twin Titties with our production company Red Carpet Burlesque…Thank God I’m Fabulous in Minneapolis and our amateur show The Nudie Nubie Show in St. Paul…so we got a bit on our plates!
Q: You teach a 2-hour class called “Fabulous is a State of Mind.” Could you describe for our readers the general idea behind your course and what your students take away from it?
A: It’s just what it says, fabulous IS a state of mind and the class uses burlesque as a frame work to build your own methodology to get to your fabulousness. It is a class meant to build confidence because, as far as I am concerned, that is the core of sexy and hot…confidence…scares the shit out of some people, but hey without any risk it ain’t no fun! And the wonderful thing is that the methodology transfers to real life. I have seen women have major breakthroughs and change the way they interact with the world. See I think that everyone is fabulous and that a person just has to be shown their own path.
Q: Speaking of education, I see on your calendar that you’ll be at BurlyCon! Will you be attending to teach, socialize, participate in panel discussions, or all of the above? What are you looking forward to most?
A: I am teaching, attending the classes and with Professor HoneyBunny will be vending our kick ass pasties (HardCorePasties.com). I am looking forward to pinching as many butts as I can and gossip with everyone and just generally geek out about an art form that I love.
Q: What’s next for Foxy Tann?
A: More of the same…touring, teaching, producing, making costumes, rehearsing, putting together new numbers…general hustling…oooh speaking of, I am in Hustler magazine in November! Who knew? Amazing! My life is fucking amazing! My dad is gonna be so proud!