Kitten on the Keys
The multi-talented Kitten on the Keys sits down to talk New Orleans, Cannes Film Festival, red carpet shenanigans, skinny-dipping, Satan’s Angel, interpretive dance for the Lord, and her favorite moments in her performing career.
By: Divertida Devotchka Photos: Larry Utley
First and foremost, major congratulations are in order for being featured with Cabaret New Burlesque in the French film “Tournée” which recently won Best Director for Mathieu Amalric at the 63rd Annual Cannes Film Festival! Did you have any inkling that the film was going to be so well received? What was your reaction when the award was announced?
TOURNEE won the Foreign Press Award and Best Director for Mathieu Amalric! What a gracious gent; he flew us back from Paris to Cannes so we could join him onstage when he won the award. He’s a class act, that Mathieu. I had no idea what a big deal his film would be! I feel very grateful to be a part of it all. Honestly, I still pinch myself. It was a true Cinderella going to the ball dealie. Mathieu’s project had been in the works for a LONG time. He had been scouting dancers at Teaseorama , NY Burlesque Fest, and other venues- he did his research. When I first heard of his screenplay in 2007 I was convinced he was going to “borrow” the acts and personas of the cast of Cabaret New Burlesque and have skinny French actresses who smoke too much learn our schticks. But no- Mathieu is a true artist who wanted to harness raw talent. The French love the film with its mountains of inner turmoil. I have the photos to prove I was there in Cannes and it TRULY does not seem real! (I did a lot of OH MY GODS and WOWS.)
You walked the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival along with your cohorts Dirty Martini, Julie Atlas Muz, Mi Mi le Meaux, Evie Lovelle and Roky Roulette, correct? Care to share your red carpet experience with us?
Well, I had to double-Spanx my womanly bulges that night. (Felt like I had my thighs and lady bits in a medieval torture device. Ouch!) I am so proud of my burlesque pals and I am very grateful I had this experience because nothing like this will ever happen to me again! We all had our own red carpet styles. I was going for a 1930’s bias cut look, Mi Mi was sophisticated, Dirty went Mrs. Roper, Julie forgot her panties, Evie was a goddess and Roky ROCKED it! We were very popular! The French Minister of Culture told us we were the hit of the Film Festival! WOW! We went to lunches on yachts and partied in a castle.
Did I tell you Tim Burton was the head juror for the Festival? I heart his blue-tinted nerd glasses and he hearted us. The Paparazzi were a bunch of swarming mosquitoes; they travel in packs like wild dogs! I have never seen so many HUGE lenses barking up my tree. As award winners -we went to many fancy dinners in swellagant pricey hotels. On one occasion, after appetizers of salty peanuts and Pringles we found ourselves eating dinner next to George Lucas! (He has a wombat on his head.) Benicio Del Toro meowed at me for a couple days and took a real shine to leading lady Mi Mi le Meaux. I shared styling tips with Kirsten Dunst (she was in head to toe Chanel) in the ladies lounge and drooled over Javier Bardem backstage at the awards ceremony! I stared at Salma Hayek and marveled just how awesome her bodacious curves are (my geriatric punk rock boyfriend has a thing for her cleavage).
In the retro chic Villa where we stayed in Cannes I had one of the silliest ménage a trios times rooming with Evie Lovelle and Roky Roulette. I laughed so hard my sides ached and I do believe I piddled at some point. Our orange and blue Brady Bunch-meets-Evel Knievel wall paper and matching pillow shams hurt my eyes. I knicked a roll of designer chi chi hot pink toilet paper from the outhouse on the Croisette. (Don’t tell Interpol.)
We’re so excited to hear that you’re the “femcee” for the 2nd Annual New Orleans Burlesque Festival’s Queen of Burlesque showcase on September 18 at Harrah’s New Orleans. How was your experience last year at the festival? What are you looking forward to the most this year?
The New Orleans Burlesque Festival was one of the highlights of my performing year 2009. I am thrilled to be returning! Having a live band back the Queen of Burlesque Contest was sensational! I am a second generation burlesque musician – I started my career in burlesque singing and playing piano in a burlesque band in San Francisco so this means a lot to me! Live music is such a treat.
There are so many fabulous performers this year- and I LOVE hearing the legends celebrate this classic form of adult entertainment. I love the swampy and swarthy mysterious air of New Orleans. Plus I can’t wait to see Satan’s Angel burn the place down! Katrina? Oil Spills? Voodoo? Hell, Satan’s coming to visit! Between the 2 A.M. skinny-dipping with Catherine D’Lish and Evie Lovelle and the 24-hour access to chicory coffee and beignets at Café Du Mond, how can a gal go wrong? (I have a nudity and sugar problem.)
You have several songs featured on the soundtrack to Tournée, as well as several solo releases. How and where can our readers purchase your music?
Pinch me some more! OUCH! Yes, I am lucky to be in the Tournée Soundtrack. Kitten butchers Aerosmith and Radiohead! I have copies of the French Import CD available for $17.00 including shipping and handling within the United States. I cannot believe I have so many musical offerings out now! I have several DIY CDs available on CD Baby and iTUNES.
Being bi-polar comes in handy while putting together tunes to record- a little bit cabaret, a pinch of punk rock, some flapperosity and a heapin’ helping of ballsy blues. My CDs, “Kitty Muffins,” “(It’s Not A) Pretty Princess Day,” and “Salty Meat Girl” are all online. I have 2 other CDs but they are sold out! (If you bribe me with shiny things I can make ‘em available!) (For more info: firstname.lastname@example.org, Paypal accepted. For our European pals, Amazon.fr and iTUNES.fr carry the Tournée Soundtrack.)
Unless I’m mistaken, you’ll be returning to France with Cabaret New Burlesque this October, correct? What other upcoming events and projects are you currently planning?
Yes, the Show Cabaret New Burlesque with the latest cast returns to France in October 2010! Delighted Kitty Hartl is bringing us back to France! Le Lieu Unique is a cultural center in Nantes, France, which is where the original show started back in 2004. At one point some of the cast had a 3-month residency there so I hope to run into a lot of familiar faces! I am working up some new songs, like “Madame Marajuana,” something I hope everyone can relate to! I am having a super duper time putting together obscure and fun earworms to perform at a variety of piano bars in San Francisco and beyond. I am also working on the set list and busting open my piggy bank to record my next CD.
“Does This Piano Make My Ass Look Big?”is the title of my one woman show, full of songs! sequins! sass! I have had one wacky carnival ride of a life full of a variety of oddball characters and A.D.D.-addled adventures. This more-or-less autobiographical show is based on songs I have written over a period of years. My three female role models Alice Cooper, Freddie Mercury and Liberace help me out through the tough times. A magical litter box of HOPE flies from the sky and allows me to purge and bury my problems. Several videos portray the different stages in my life played by a variety of San Francisco underground musicians. Sample story lines include:
When I was young I was in an interpretive dance troupe for the Lord. We were called the Earthen Vessels. Our brown leotards infuriated the Church Elders. When the air conditioning was on full blast our budding nubile breasts were a little too happy for Jesus.
I was in a band called Sugar Baby Doll with Courtney Love. During a drug fest she tried to rip my jewelry off and put ice cubes up my rear.
I am a second-generation burlesque musician. My father, drummer Oz Ramsey, was born cross-eyed. He left home at the age of 15 in order to pay off a debt to a band leader who had paid for an operation to correct his vision. My daddy was the youngest guy in the jazz trio on the Midwest Burlesque Circuit, accentuating the bumps and grinds of the dancers. He has some truly bizarre tales that include nude women, trained birds, jokester musicians and some mineral oil-laced bird seed.
Your bio states that you perform regularly with various San Francisco Bay area circus troupes. How did you get your start in the circus show circuit?
My hustle in SF is to be as varied as possible-I consider myself a VARIETY ARTIST. I play several instruments in a bunch of styles and have a crazy wardrobe to boot! We have the world famous CIRCUS CENTER in San Francisco and I have been hooked up with different producers for several years. One of my close pals runs Velocity Circus in SF; I am the Ring Mistress, A Singing Life-size Barbie Doll, Accordionist, and I accompany contortion and aerial acts with classical piano. I often work with sword-swallowers, geeks, fire breathers and I stilt walk/roller skate and play accordion and ukulele- anything for a buck! Vau De Vire Society- a circus/performance hybrid, has hosted me a few times. We did VeGoose in Las Vegas and Outside Lands Rock Festival in a 1909 Belgium Speigeltent last summer.
I had the privilege of seeing you play piano for jazz legend Little Jimmy Scott at the Burlesque Hall of Fame weekend in 2009. It was an incredibly moving show. What are some of your most memorable performing experiences in your career?
Playing for Jimmy Scott was a religious experience- glad you enjoyed it! Luke Littlel made that happen. I feel so lucky! I truly value my elders and all I can learn from them. I was an untrained music “therapist” in rest homes. That was such a cool job! Here is a quick list of some memorable gigs:
Always LOVE working with Baby Doe and Teaseorama.
I did PLAYBOY radio in L.A. with Catherine D’Lish and Dita.
Performing in Birmingham, U.K. at the Candy Box Burlesque.
Co-emceeing a Burlesque Show on a boat in Helsinki with Finland’s Queer Fear Factor Winner.
“Meating” Ron Jeremy at a gig while dressed as a pig.
Having Roky Roulette deep throat my chocolate pudding-covered foot while singing my song about toe sucking called “Bare My Sole.”
I was tongue tied while interviewing Tura Satana on stage at Exotic World in the Old Days. Interviewing Liz Renay and Ricci Cortez was such a treat too! Calling those special ladies on the phone and chatting for HOURS is something I will treasure forever!
Going on tour with the DAMNED with Missy Malone and Mi Mi le Meaux all throughout the U.K. and Ireland.
Performing in The Wau Wau Sisters show in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Having the members of Mini Kiss slap my ass to my song “Leather Daddy” in France at the Isle De Nantes Festival.
Opening up for the scatological Extreme Elvis and picking up my pay the next day. (He is notorious for using “body fluids” in his shows.)
Playing piano and glockenspiel for Dr. Elmo (of “Grandma Got Ran Over By A Reindeer” Fame. It’s the #1 Christmas Song in the U.S. for 25 or more years; it beats out “White Christmas” all the time.)He still does not know the words or chords even though he has made MILLIONS from recording this one song.
Touring with Devotchka and Catherine D’Lish in 2003’s Burlesquefest .
David J from Bauhaus has me play David Bowie songs for him to sing to sometimes and he had me perform for his wife’s birthday. I was terrified of pissing off the elders but her Mom kept copping a feel and told me I had a nice “bum”.