Roxie Moxie, founding member of The Lollie Bombs (Dallas), and later Stripped Screw Burlesque (Seattle) talks big glittery ponds, sexual role-reversal, inside jokes, and surviving marathons.
Q: You got your start in burlesque as one of the founding members of The Lollie Bombs. Can you share a few stories with us on the early days of burlesque in Dallas?
Those early days were so much fun – mostly, I think, because we had no idea what we were doing. We made a lot of it up as we went along. Not everything we created was stellar, but because we were free to explore the avant-garde side of burlesque, some of it was really ground-breaking and unique. We used spoken-word poetry and even conceived a number where we formed a giant human spider that crawled around the stage as Lawless sang about the “unrighteous government.” It was weird and silly and fun, but I suppose my favorite story is of the time Angi’s balloon-popper broke and she had to tear apart the balloons with her hands instead. Now THAT is dedication to your craft.
Q: In regard to your early days, you are quoted as saying in your interview with RAW that “I told [The Lollie Bombs] I would be in it as long as I didn’t have to strip”. Obviously you have changed your mind about the stripping part. In your mind, is doing a full reveal essential to calling yourself a burlesque performer? Why or why not?
I suppose that depends on how you define “full reveal.” A burlesque reveal is less about showing your body and more about showing the audience something special. Something they didn’t expect. I don’t think you have to take your clothes off to have an effective burlesque routine. I’ve seen some great numbers that don’t incorporate stripping at all.
Of course, most of the time your body is at least part of the reveal because the naked human form is beautiful, tantalizing, forbidden, and hot and a hell of a thing to see onstage surrounded by feathers and rhinestones. If you make the decision to incorporate classic 50’s style striptease into your burlesque acts then yes, you do have to remove your clothes. Preferably nearly all of them. There’s no reason at all to be ashamed of doing so.
Q: In 2008 you moved to Seattle. How hard was it to come from a place where you were very connected with the “scene” to being completely on “the outside”. What did you learn about how to break in to a new burlesque community that you could share with our readers who might be having the same experience?
It was really very difficult to break into the burlesque scene in Seattle. Some would argue New York is the burlesque capital of the country, but I beg to differ; no offense to Jo Boobs or Tigger. Seattle is a well-established scene that is saturated with fabulous performers. Many of them come from Indigo Blue’s burlesque academy and are driven enough to begin performing almost immediately after they graduate. So by the time I got there in 2008, I was a very small fish in an enormous glittery pond. I kept pushing, went out to as many shows as I could, took classes (acting, voice and dance), met producers, and took any gig I could get. I did a lot of awful gigs, but I just refused to give up. Eventually I hooked up with some like-minded burlesquers and formed Stripped Screw. After that things really skyrocketed for me.
Q: In 2009 you formed Stripped Screw Burlesque in Seattle. What is it about being part of a burlesque troupe that appeals to you so much, as opposed to life as a solo performer?
The best part of having a troupe is you’ve got a built-in sounding board for your ideas. Sometimes you don’t realize an idea is terrible, or already been done by another performer, or logistically impossible, until you run it by other burlesquers who understand your mindset. They often have creative insight on how to change or improve an act so that it works. Having a troupe means you also have a ready pool of available actors/dancers/singers to pull from for specific roles in a show. Having talented people to work with in a group setting is invaluable.
Don’t get me wrong. Being a solo artist has its perks. You don’t have to depend on other people to show up to rehearsals, get their costumes finished in time, or remember to send you the right cut of their music, but you also have no one to share the workload, no one to laugh at your inside jokes backstage, and no one to gripe to when the sound guy screws up your music. Your troupe is your showbiz family.
Q: In Stripped Screw you began producing shows that were more narrative from start to finish, reading more as a play then “just a burlesque show” or even “a themed burlesque show”. What was your thought process behind the move, and what were the pros and cons of such a structure?
First of all, I still love burlesque shows of all kinds, themed or not. But I noticed in Seattle that the most successful shows, the ones I wanted to see over and over like The Burlesque Nutcracker, House of Thee Unholy and Shine (the burlesque musical in which I played “Feral” in Seattle and New York), were shows that followed a more narrative structure. With a cohesive show that follows a narrative framework, each number can advance the plot and provide audiences with a more effective and engaging story. You can also create really interesting, complex reasons for characters to take their clothes off.
Q: In your RAW interview you also stated: “I use sexy strip tease to send a message.” Can you please elaborate on this?
Sure – actually I suppose I should have said that I use sexy strip tease to tell a story. Whether or not you want to interpret the act as having a message is entirely up to you. It’s not my goal to beat the audience over the head with a message. For example, my Roxie the Riveter act is, on one level, a cute story about a Rosie the Riveter character who transforms into a military-costumed pinup girl. On another level, it plays around with female stereotypes and sexual role-reversal. You could see it as a feminist piece or an anti-feminist piece, or both. Or you could just watch me strip into a heavily-rhinestoned military costume with sequin shoes and the cutest army hat EVER.
I prefer to create acts that work on multiple levels like this. You can choose to over think or to turn off your brain. Either way, you’ll be entertained.
Q: Later this month you are performing in the first ever Lollie Bombs Reunion show, on January 6th. What should audiences expect, and what makes The Lollie Bombs so unique? With so many troupes that come and go, what is the secret to keeping together and strong for as long as The Lollies have been going?
I think audiences should expect to see how each of the Lollies have grown as performers over the years. One of the unique things about the Lollies is that we always emphasized the individual girls’ personalities. We each had strong show personas that shone through in the types of acts we danced, the clothing we wore and the music we chose. We prized that individuality and somehow it never got in the way of creating a strong troupe of performers that worked well together. Also, we were the “old school” of Dallas burlesque. We stuck it out through a lot of craziness in those early years and pushed into new burlesque territory. Because of that, we all have a very intense bond that will never be broken.
Q: Speaking of the new year, what are three of your New Year’s resolutions?
I’m running my first marathon on February 19th, so my first resolution is to survive that.
If I succeed in surviving, my second resolution is to push new boundaries in my burlesque routines. I’ve got a few new tricks up my sleeve for 2012 that I’m sure no one has seen before. I’m super excited about that.
Third, I want to really get involved in the Austin burlesque scene. I’ve only just returned to Austin after seven years away, and I think the scene is really ready to take off. I’d love to be a part of it.