After reading up on you a bit, I found it very interesting that your burlesque career was partially shaped by the events of both 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. Would you please share with us the impact those happenings had on your life?
As strange as it sounds both these events greatly shaped the direction of my life. I think most people reassess their lives after witnessing or enduring a major disaster. Prior to September 11th I was a ballerina and most of my goals pertained to achieving a specific body type and dance technique. Watching the towers fall on TV and learning that my husband lost a family member it just sort of struck me that my goals, while important to me at the time, weren’t really what mattered most in my life. It became very clear that life is precious and short and I didn’t want waste another moment on anything trivial. I had battled with anorexia & bulimia and this was the catalyst to get serious about getting better. I spent the following months becoming the person I wanted to be rather than destroying the one I was. I decided not to pursue ballet and began training to be a Pilates instructor. I traveled to different countries for the first time and spent a lot more time hanging out with friends. It was a year or two later I started dancing again but for the pure joy of performance/movement rather than anything else.
I was in New Orleans for Katrina and left on the day the levees broke. Once again I coped with this experience through internal reflection. I was living a healthy happy life but wasn’t actively pursuing any creative endeavors which I think had a lot to do with my fear of slipping back into anorexic/bulimic behavior. I remember thinking of all the things I never did in New Orleans because I was too busy, it was too expensive, or I was simply just scared. Katrina made me realize that not only is life precious but so is this world so enjoy EVERY opportunity, experience, moment you have. I moved back in October 2005 and my character Trixie Minx was born.
When did you first begin training in ballet and for how long did you pursue it? Do you have experience in other styles of dance or other arts like theater or music?
My first class was a creative movement dance class. I was 2 and a half; my mom lied and said I was 3 because I wanted to dance so much. I was what ya call a “bun head”, obsessed with Ballet. I learned several styles of dance like modern, jazz, character but never loved them the same as ballet. It wasn’t until I moved to New Orleans and joined the Komenka Ethnic Dance ensemble that I really started enjoying other techniques like tango, swing, African, etc. My experiences with theater & music didn’t really develop until I moved to New Orleans as well. But… I do come from a crazy artistic family. My dad plays piano/guitar, my mom is an excellent visual artist, my sister is a musical theater actress, & my brother makes films. I think I got the dancing gene from my Grandma. She taught tap & piano when she was younger and currently directly her own dance group; they even have a retired rockette!
From what I’ve read you were originally very hesitant to perform burlesque. Can you tell us why you felt that way and what it took to change your mind?
The first time I saw burlesque it was a clip from a documentary about the Suicide Girls. Before everyone gets fussy, I sincerely support the idea behind the group and have a couple awesome friends that model for them but, what I saw on TV seemed more like soft core porn than performance. I assumed all burlesque was like that. I later went to see a live show and while it was definitely a step up in the performance department it was a very bare bones show. The girls took off clothes to different music but there was no theme, no props, no lighting. It wasn’t until I saw the Moulin Rouge in Paris that I realized that burlesque could be realized as a full scale production like a classical ballet or Broadway musical. What they did wasn’t traditional bump & grind but they were beautiful dancers in amazing costumes on a professional stage. They were almost completely nude but it was never raunchy; the whole show was a celebration of different women and everything they embodied. This show made me realize there are no rules or limits to burlesque and it can be performed many different ways.
In addition to performing, you’re the producer and artistic director of Fleur de Tease, a New Orleans-based performance troupe. When did you start FDT and how has it evolved over the years?
I started Fleur de Tease the summer of 2006 and we had our first show at One Eyed Jacks (formerly the Shim Sham) in September that year. I remember our first show in a very positive light but it has definitely improved over the years. Our earlier shows were great but didn’t have a lot of definition beyond pure entertainment. We started by incorporating holiday themes and later expanded on that by designing our own theme shows. Two years ago we started doing full length story productions, like Alice in Wonderland and our adaptation of the Wizard of OZ. But it has been our collaborations which are the current highlight in our performance history. We work with several bands and were able to create a Prince themed show with one of the groups that was spectacular. I LOVE Fleur de Tease! I love all the cast members, our venue, our partners in crime; the whole experience has been awesome.
Do you consider yourself to be neo or classic? Why?
Neither and both? My character has several different personalities depending on which production I’m performing in. With Burlesque Ballroom & Creole Sweet Tease (two other shows I organize) it is definitely traditional bump and grind with fantastic New Orleans musicians. However with Fleur de Tease I perform mostly comedic strip tease, and while it is not the extreme end of the neo burlesque scale it definitely isn’t classic.
I also perform as a clown with a couple bands/groups which is an entirely different yet complimentary part of my character too. I often feel like a clown who performs burlesque rather than the other way around.
I’d like to know your creative process when developing a new act.
For me it starts with inspiration in something. It can be anything like a song, an experience, a joke, most recently it was tortoise, but no matter what it is, it becomes the driving force for the act. I tend to pull towards OCD behavior so whatever I’m working with plays in a loop in my mind. I tend to lock myself in a room or a studio and just play a song on repeat while I work movement out in front of a mirror. Dance is the easy part but I’m weak at costuming/props which is where I’m lucky to have a great group of friends that are able to help. The last part is stage time. I believe that while you need to rehearse, you truly develop an act in front of a live audience. It is their reaction and behavior that is better feedback than any video could be.
You also produce a weekly show called Burlesque Ballroom, right? How does that differ from your FDT shows? (I’m asking from both an audience perspective as well as how your roles/involvement change(s) with each show.)
I produce Burlesque Ballroom in addition to Fleur de Tease which definitely keeps me busy. The shows are very different. Fleur de Tease is a Vaudeville inspired Burlesque Revue with a full time cast and lots of variety acts. Burlesque Ballroom is a modern spin on a classic 1960′s Bourbon Street Burlesque Show with a rotating cast of soloists all performing classic strip tease to live music. Ballroom is a very cool show on a historical level too. It’s bringing quality jazz & burlesque back to its original home (at least during the 50′s & 60′s) on Bourbon Street. And this weekly show is entirely FREE which encourages a lot of people to check it out who might not otherwise seek out burlesque on their own.
Can you tell us about the New Orleans Bingo! Show?
The New Orleans Bingo! Show is a curious rock’n'roll spectacle of theater, clowning, music, dance, and of course BINGO! It really is hard to describe but very easy to enjoy. I’ve been a member for 2 years but Fleur de Tease has worked with the band on specific projects since 2007. Rather than try to put it in words I suggest ya’ll check us out online here: www.neworleansbingoshow.com
What’s next for Trixie Minx?
I definitely want to perform as long as I can though I’m not sure what will happen after that. I have a lot of ideas and plans in the works but I don’t want to jinx anything so for now let’s say… hopefully a LOT more.
Rick Delaup, producer of Bustout Burlesque and The New Orleans Burlesque Festival, chats about Bourbon Street, Viva Las Vegas, and Ol’ Dirty Bastard.
Interview: Jolie Ampere Goodnight
As burlesque is primarily an industry run by women, what is it like to be a man in burlesque? What are the challenges of being a man in burlesque? What is that you love about being a producer?
As a male burlesque producer, I deal with the same issues as female producers. I’ve swapped stories with many female producers, and we face a lot of the same challenges – dealing with venues, booking talent, promoting shows, etc…
I enjoy putting good shows together and entertaining audiences, and if it turns a good profit, then that’s icing on the cake. Besides booking acts, I also create them. I have visions of what I’d like to see on stage. And it’s all based on my knowledge of the nightclub shows of the 1940s through the ‘60s. So I come up with ideas, work with a choreographer, a costumer, and sometimes with the legends of burlesque, like Evangeline the Oyster Girl and Wild Cherry.
What do you look for in classic routines, that is to say, what do you enjoy seeing? What enlivens you? What are some of the qualities of burlesque legends that epitomize classic burlesque for you?
I enjoy seeing a real bump ‘n’ grind, a real burlesque walk, someone that’s knows how to work their costume and/or prop. I like to see beautiful women who are confident on stage. I like dancers who can energize an audience. I also like to see something new and original. I would have loved to see Lilly Christine, Blaze Starr, Tee Tee Red, Evangeline the Oyster Girl, Rita Alexander, and all these other incredible performers live on stage! They paid so much attention to detail in their costuming, choreography, make-up, and the overall glamour of their act. They knew exactly how they wanted their lights and their music. They always looked their best on and off the stage.
As seen on Facebook this year, it appears that you love the build up of announcing performers for the New Orleans Burlesque Festival. Why is that?
Yes, I built up the announcement of our Queen of Burlesque contestants. So many people applied to the festival, and there are only 8 coveted spots for the competition. There’s been a lot of interest in the festival since I created it in 2009. A lot of excitement builds as the festival draws near, so I’m just contributing to it.
Bustout Burlesque is famous for being the show with a live jazz band. What is it that motivates you to maintain a show with both a full band and performers?
In the 1990s, I first heard about what the nightclubs shows used to be like on Bourbon Street in the 1950s. I became very interested in learning more about it. It sparked my passion for burlesque. It was always my goal to see those types of shows come back to life. Although it’s very costly to produce, I really love the formula. Just like the old nightclub shows, Bustout Burlesque always includes a comic emcee, singer, variety act, burlesque dancers, all accompanied by a live traditional jazz band. Although the focus is on the striptease dancers, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
You spoke at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and you live in the birthplace of jazz. What is it about jazz that is so enticing for you? Who are some of your favorite legendary and new jazz performers?
Jazz is the soundtrack to the city of New Orleans. If you’re strolling in the French Quarter, sitting by the river, relaxing on a balcony, socializing in a bar, it’s just what you want to hear. It’s fitting for a street parade and also for a funeral! But there’s nothing like watching a beautiful burlesque dancer performing to a live jazz band, especially if her movements are in time to the music. Everyone feels the music, and everyone is energized by it, from the band members to the dancer to the audience. Bustout Burlesque has been performing for 6 years, and we’ve never performed without the live band, even when we’ve done shows in small venues.
I haven’t thought about favorite jazz performers, because I don’t really listen to jazz at home or in the car. And I don’t often go to jazz shows, other than my own. I think jazz is great when you have the visual of a beautiful dancer to go with it, or a talented and entertaining singer! Usually, I just like it as atmosphere when I’m out and about or doing other things. But when I just want to listen to music, I listen to other styles of music. I love all the different genres. Perle Noire wants me to say I listen to Ol’ Dirty Bastard!
There are various philosophies about the way a fan dance should be done and it’s well known that you have strong opinions about fan dances. What is it that you look for in fan dance? What makes a fan dance thrilling to you?
Actually, I don’t have a strong opinion about how fan dances are performed. I enjoy watching Catherine D’lish’s fan dance and Dinah Might’s fan dance. They both have very different styles and techniques. I guess you’re referring to the fact that I discourage performers from submitting fan dances to the New Orleans Burlesque Festival. We just get so many of them! A dancer would have a better chance of getting into the fest by submitting something else. Back in the glory days of burlesque, there weren’t nearly as many performers doing fan dances as there are now.
It’s clear that you are in love with New Orleans and the history of New Orleans. What you do think it is about New Orleans that makes it such a great city for burlesque (past and present)?
In the 1950s, Bourbon Street had the highest concentration of burlesque clubs in one area than anywhere in the country. The nightclub shows are why Bourbon Street is known all over the world. They had beautiful neon signs and huge photos of the dancers in the windows of the clubs. You could walk up and down Bourbon Street and see numerous burlesque shows on any given night. They had big stars like Blaze Starr, Lilly Christine, Alouette Leblanc, Tee Tee Red, and on and on. New Orleans was known as “Sin City” way before Las Vegas.
One reason New Orleans is a great city for burlesque today, is that we don’t have to worry about getting our shows shut down. A second reason is New Orleans has many tourists that seek out this type of entertainment. And a third reason is that we have several nice stages. House of Blues has been the home of Bustout Burlesque for almost four years. And the theatre at Harrah’s is the main stage for the New Orleans Burlesque Festival. They are big venues with big stages, and nice dressing rooms. It’s great to work with a professional production crew that makes the show look and sound so great.
[Editor's note: Want to know more? Rick Delaup contributed to an article we did in 2009 on The History of Burlesque in New Orleans. ]
What has been one of your favorite moments as a burlesque producer?
My favorite moment was pulling off the first New Orleans Burlesque Festival. The moment it was over, I felt I accomplished something big that will grow every year, and hopefully be around ‘til the end of days – which I hope is not 2012.
You are now one of the producers for Viva Las Vegas 15. Will there be differences between Viva and New Orleans in terms of style and performances?
I’m producing the Burlesque Showcase next year. They asked me to do something different than previous years. So I decided to bring Bustout Burlesque to The Orleans for VLV. What could be more fitting? It’s an authentic New Orleans burlesque show featuring live music. I think the audience will love it. However, I haven’t decided which performers will be in the show. I waiting until after the festival to put it together, because not only am I too busy planning the New Orleans Burlesque Festival, but I want to see all the acts in the NOBF. I’ll be looking for stand-out performances. I’m also looking forward to seeing dancers I’ve heard about, but have never seen in person. The NOBF is a perfect time to look for talent I can book for Bustout Burlesque and other shows.
Burlesque seems to be gaining mainstream popularity. Do you see this as something positive? Do you have concerns? Why do you think burlesque is gaining so much momentum?
Of course it’s positive that burlesque is gaining a bit more popularity in the mainstream. That would mean it’s getting more profitable and creating more opportunities for producers and performers. However, it still has a long way to go. Burlesque can still be a pretty hard sell. It seems people who have never seen a burlesque show do not quite know what it is, or what to expect. And then there are those who do not enjoy their first burlesque show, and think all the other shows must be the same.
I think burlesque has been gaining momentum every year because it’s fun adult entertainment that women and couples can enjoy. There’s nothin’ like a burlesque show!
Do you view burlesque as more of an art form or a purely sexual form of entertainment?
I guess it should be both. Clearly, I see it as an art form. I think burlesque should sexy and/or humorous.
What are your plans for the near future? Are you in the midst of working on anything exciting?
I work in burlesque full-time, and I obsess about it 24/7. The only time my mind really moves away from it is when I’m watching a good movie or a TV show. I always have many projects up my sleeve! I don’t really like to talk about anything before it comes together. But I can say that I’d like to produce more shows besides Bustout Burlesque and the NOBF. I’d like to stage more shows outside of New Orleans. I have a new website project I’ll be working on soon. But my ultimate goal is to have a real burlesque club in the French Quarter that also includes a burlesque museum and gift shop. I have a huge collection of vintage New Orleans burlesque items that include tons of photos, promotional items, costumes, beaded bras, jeweled g-strings, interviews, and more. I want authentic burlesque to return to New Orleans in a big way!
Editor’s Note: This just a small part of the interview & photoshoot, for the full reveal (literally) get your hands on a copy of the Best of Spring 2011 online or at our Issue Release Party at Hot Rods and Heels 2011!
Miss Coco Lectric, crowned Texas Performer of the Year at Hot Rods and Heels 2010, talks titles as currency, travel, and the burlesque community evolving.
My goodness a lot has changed for you since Pin Curl last spoke to you. You were crowned Queen of Burlesque in New Orleans last September. How have titles changed things for you?
The biggest change is being held to a higher standard every time I hit the stage. When someone introduces you as the Queen of Burlesque, the audience sets their expectations a little bit higher. They’re expecting to be blown away. I don’t know if I’ve always been able to live up to this higher standard, but I’ve certainly tried.
Producers have also had a good excuse to hire me for their shows, since the New Orleans festival, which has given me the good fortune of making burlesque my full-time job. Having titles is like currency in this business and everyone wants to see for themselves what all the fuss is about. I’d become accustomed to performing for an unassuming audience, and these days they prepare themselves to see something spectacular. I have to bring it just a little bit harder every show to live up to their expectations.
Congratulations on being voted number 13 in 21st Century Burlesque’s Top 50 for 2010! We’re so thrilled to hear the news, what’s your reaction?
I was thrilled! I didn’t lobby for votes and I really didn’t expect to see my name on the list at all. I don’t know what happened, to be honest. I was watching the list and cheering on my pals, for sure. After it got to the top twenty performers I figured that I didn’t have a chance. I feel truly honored that so many people even know that I exist, let alone like my work. I’m still sort of in shock about it and I thank 21st Century Burlesque for always having such kind words to say about me. They’re doing great work to get the word out about so many talented performers and promote burlesque around the globe, and that’s priceless.
I’m told you’re focusing more on the education realm at the moment. As headmistress of the Austin Academy of Burlesque, do you mean teaching more, taking more classes/workshops, or both?
I love teaching and I love learning, so I plan on doing a lot of both. Learning from the legends and contemporary performers is key to keeping burlesque alive and well. It allows the community to grow and shape the art. Burlesque performers are like a family in a lot of ways, only we’re not born into it as much as we’re brought in by learning from the life and art of those who came before. I’m proud to be a part of this family, and by teaching I get to help other burlesque performers and students with the lessons I’ve learned from the greats.
In your last Pin Curl interview from July 2010, when asked about being the only Texan to perform at Burlesque Hall of Fame weekend in Las Vegas you said, “I was nervous that if my performance wasn’t so great, they really wouldn’t take Texas seriously. I’m hoping I made a big enough splash this year that they consider more Texas performers next year.” Considering that you’re performing in the Reigning Queen of Burlesque competition at this year’s BHOF weekend, it would be safe to say you made quite a splash, don’t you think?
I’m delighted to be performing in the competition this year. It seems as though the selection committee is looking a little harder at Texas performers, which is exciting to all of us in the Lone Star State. Congratulations in particular to my friend and colleague Ginger Valentine, who was chosen to perform in the debut category this year. I have high hopes that we’ll rock Saturday night and encourage performers from out of state to come to Texas and perform with us, too.
As always, you’re a remarkably busy woman. You said in your most recent Pin Curl interview that you were making festivals a priority, and boy did you ever! You’ve traveled all over the place this year, including Key West, LA, San Diego, Chicago, Albuquerque, Atlanta, Denver, New Orleans, Las Vegas, all over Texas, and plenty more that I likely missed. How do you manage to keep everything balanced?
This year I’ve had no choice but to take everything one step at a time. It’s wonderful that I get to do what I love, I wouldn’t change a thing, but I’ve had to remind myself more than a couple of times to breathe. I also remind myself that if I ever get tired of doing burlesque I can just stop, but I don’t think I’m in danger of that. It’s still the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing on my mind as I fall asleep. It’s my absolute dream job and I am so thankful that I can tour so much and make friends with performers all over the world. I suppose I manage to balance the craziness because this is my chosen profession and lifestyle and I’d like it to stay that way for as long as the universe allows.
The Jigglewatts, the Austin burlesque troupe you co-founded, was voted best burlesque troupe in Texas at Hot Rods and Heels last year and is also a finalist for the same award in this year’s event. How have the Jigglewatts evolved in recent years?
We’re constantly evolving because we recruit such great performers. Miss Ruby Joule and I love being solo performers, but having a group is so rewarding and allows us to reach more people. Selecting new Jigglewatts is a process, and in the five years we’ve been producing shows we realize how important it is to have a troupe full of headliners who all just happen to get along. We need to keep the cast small and everyone needs to be confident in their abilities and recognize how valuable their individual talents are to the group as a whole. This year we added Jolie Ampere Goodnight and Ruby Lamb to our cast and 2010 Jigglewatts Pearl Lux and Goldie Candela will be performing again with us very soon. We recognize that as a group we’re so much more powerful and entertaining than we are individually. The Jigglewatts mission has always been to support the beauty and talent in other women, and it might be a little hard to do that without showcasing as many different beautiful and talented performers as we can.
Anything you’d like to add?
The burlesque world changes and grows constantly, and with its increase in popularity there’s an opportunity for the community to come closer together and there’s also more potential for the genre to grow. It’s our responsibility as the current burlesque community to work together and help it become the best and most wonderful thing it can be. I understand that there’s been some concern about the recent increase in the popularity of burlesque and a lot of us are afraid that it will morph into something new and different and unappealing to those of us in the field now. I feel strongly that if we stay true to our studies and our roots and we keep our eyes open to the world around us, we will be able to help guide the art form as it develops. We just have to continue to support each other.
Oh, and I love Pin Curl! Thank you for all the great things you do in the community, and for working so hard to promote burlesque as the wonderful art form it is. See you May 21st!
Find the full interview & photo shoot here!
Our recent Josephine Baker inspired shoot with Miss Noire is exclusive to the Best of 2010 Print Edition. To get your copy, visit our shop!
December cover girl Perle Noire, the Rare Gem of Burlesque, sits down to talk the “burlesque look,” New Orleans, Josephine Baker, Australia, gold glitter and Prince.
By: Divertida Devotchka Photos: Shoshana of DallasPinUp.com
You’ve stated before that you don’t think that you have a “burlesque look.” As an avid fan, let me say that in my opinion, your sultry sass is the embodiment of burlesque, but in your opinion what characteristics must one possess to have the burlesque look? Based on your ideal of the burlesque look, who comes to mind (either legend or modern performer) as the epitome of burlesque?
Well, when people think of burlesque stars of yesterday and today they think of a woman with European features such as Tempest Storm, Lili St. Cyr. or Bettie Page. These women are the definition of a beautiful Bombshell! Tempest Storm, with her fiery red hair and that perfect voluptuous figure had the ultimate burlesque look. You can’t mention the word Bombshell without paying respect to the infamous Lili St Cyr, who had beautiful long legs and luscious lips. They were flawless. When you asked your average Joe or Joan about burlesque these names and images pop up.
Of course, when I think of a Burlesque Goddess, I think of my idol Josephine Baker. Josephine had a theater background and had perfect comedic timing. She was so beautiful and electric, but she became a Legend overseas. Even though she knew how to connect with her audience and had an exotic look she would have never became a burlesque legend in the states due to the fact that she didn’t have the standard ” burlesque look”.
Over the years as a Burlesque artist, I’ve sent my promotional kit to magazines( burlesque and aboard) and producers and thou they love my performances, I’ve been turned down for numerous jobs and promotional marketing because I don’t have the ” burlesque look”. This is something that I’m working on and I’m enjoying every moment of it. Make up and Wigs and Heels.. Oh My!
Tell us all about your recent exploits in Toronto and at the New York Burlesque Festival.
Toronto was amazing! Starlight Burlesque put on a wonderful show and the band made me get a standing ovation. The NYBF is one of the oldest Burlesque Festivals and it was so organized. Angie and Jen put on a wonderful production.
I got a giggle when you recently posted on Facebook that you were “looking to be in ‘like’ with someone.” You also said, “I need someone who can handle my ambitions and many different personalities. I need a mixture of George Jefferson, James from Good Times, Rick James and Prince.” I’d love to know which specific qualities from these men that you’d like to see in a companion.
George Jefferson was an entrepreneur and very outspoken while James Evans from Good Times was a Man’s Man. He was faithful to his wife and children. Even though his back was often against the wall, he keep pushing and striving for a better life for his family. He never gave up. Rick James was so eccentric and confident. We would probably fight over gold glitter but I know he would go to war for me if anyone disrespected me. Finally, we have Prince. Prince and Rick James are the epitome of a true artist and performer. I love the stage presence that Prince has and I would love to borrow his clothes.
In our September 2009 interview, you stated that you really hoped “to become a burlesque queen one day.” That very same month you were crowned queen at the New Orleans Burlesque Festival, and last month you handed over the crown to Texas’ own titan of tease, Miss Coco Lectric. What have you learned since being crowned queen? Do you have any advice for new queen Coco?
I’ve learned that a title doesn’t make you a queen in the community. The title will come from the mouths of the fans. Before I competed for the Queen of Burlesque title I was honored with recognition from my fans and burlesque royalty. 21st Century Pin Ups posted an on line poll for the top 50 burlesque performers worldwide and I made the top 20! I didn’t campaign for votes, the fans voted for me and I’m truly grateful. During my burlesque career I’ve performed with Immodesty Blaize, Dita Von Teese, Dirty Martini, Kitten Deville, Michelle L’Amour and many others. How many people can say that they had a chance to work with people that they admire and respect as artists?
When I made that statement, I thought that with a title I would gain respect from my peers or producers who feel that I don’t belong to the world of burlesque. Truthfully, as an artist you have to keep pushing and striving if you want to be the best. I won a title, but I still have to keep pushing until I break through the barrier. My work is far from over. My advice to Coco Lectric is to stay true to your fans, the stage and yourself.
It’s well known that Josephine Baker is one of your biggest influences. You did extensive research on her to plan your tribute routine. Tell us more about how her life and career inspired you.
Josephine danced through so many doors as an artist. She was the first black woman to appear in a silent film and the only woman to speak at The March on Washington. What I love about her was her drive and passion to grow as an artist and individual. She started out in Vaudeville performing in blackface and ended up a glamorous singer who lived in a castle. Every morning I look a photo of her from an early theater production, in which she is wearing blackface. Then, I look at a picture of her singing with her rhinestone microphone, wearing a larger than life head dress onstage in Paris. This ritual reminds me that the only limitations I have are the limitations that I set for myself.
The name of the show is Burlesque Royale. Danica Lee will present the show Saturday, January 22, 2011, at The State Theatre in Sydney. I’m working on performing in Paris and in London again in the near future. I would love to perform in all the venues that Josephine performed in including the Follies Bergère. She was the first and last exotic burlesque beauty to grace the stage. It is a lifelong dream of mine to perform my tribute to her at the Follies Bergère and at Theatre des Champs-Elysées.
You just moved back to New Orleans. What brought you back and what are you doing next?
New Orleans played an important role in my burlesque career so I wanted to go back to my burlesque roots. I have a few top secret plans that I can’t reveal at the moment but keep your eyes open!
By Divertida Devotchka
You’ve been a dancer since the age of three. What was your first experience with dance and in which styles of dance do you have experience?
My first memories of dance are of being in class. I had wonderful teachers growing up; they made me fall in love with it. We had a big recital every summer and it was something I really looked forward to, more than anything else all year. The stage, the lights, the costumes, the dancing, the applause! The bulk of my dance training is in ballet, tap, and jazz, with abbreviated training in modern, lyrical, clogging, hip-hop, musical theater, Irish step dancing, and belly dancing. I love it all.
You moved to New Orleans from the Midwest in 2002, and by 2003 you had started your burlesque career. How exactly did you get started?
My fiancé and I were living uptown and our neighborhood bar was also a laundromat! So we would go there to do our laundry and hang out and we became friends with the staff there. One day the manager said she was going to start a burlesque troupe and wanted me to be in it, and I was like, “what’s that?” Well, she went on to explain a bit and I thought “oh no, I can’t do that. I can’t take my clothes off in front of people, but I’ll still come to the shows.” So my fiancé was their stage manager and I helped with whatever I could and cheered them on every week. After a while it became harder and harder for me to just sit and watch and NOT be onstage. So I joined the troupe the “Steamin’ Mimis”. My very first act was a tango inspired dance, and I only stripped down to a full corset, ruffle panties, and fishnets.
Unlike most performers who tend to stick to one style (be it classic, neo, etc.) you seem to dabble in all styles. What are your thoughts on folks who insist that classic performers should stick to classic burlesque (and that neo-burlesquers should only do neo?)
I think I HAVE touched on every style at one point or another. If someone insisted that I should only do one style, I might think they were being a bit selfish at first, but maybe they’re complimenting me on performing a specific style particularly well. I guess it could go either way, but I feel that it should always be up to the performer. If you love neo, keep doin’ it! If you’re comfy in classic, keep doin’ it! Do it your way and have fun! But since we’re all creative people, sometimes “sticking to” a certain style can lead to feeling “stuck in” that style. My advice is to try each one on and see what fits, maybe all of them will.
In one Fleur de Tease dance you choreographed, you and 2 other performers do a spot on ode to Bollywood-style dancing. In another, you do a mash up of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Beastie Boys “Intergalactic,” complete with an alien dance-off. You’ve stated that your Darth Vader striptease is one of your favorite routines to perform, and you also have more classic boa/glove/gown strips to music like Ray Charles. From where or whom do you draw your influences? Do you find it difficult to come up with fresh and exciting material or are you the type that always has a million new ideas stewing on the back burner?
I’m definitely influenced by all types of dance and all types of music. For me, most of the time a skit idea will come from a song. Sometimes it comes from a specific costume piece, or a show theme, or a random idea that gets bounced off someone else, which is exactly how the Intergalactic dance-off came about! Natasha Fiore (my alien cohort in that number) and I used to work together at a day job and we would throw around wacky ideas all day, and some of them stuck, like the space dance. And I get inspired by watching my fellow performers; we have some really talented burly girls here in New Orleans! Sometimes it does get difficult to come up with new material, I get dancer’s block, or I can’t figure out just what to do for that theme show. But oh yes, I’ve got ideas that have been on the back burner for a while, mostly due to lack of funds. But it’s okay, I’m hopeful that I can pull them out of limbo in the near future.
I’m really happy to be included in the fest again this year. Last year I missed out on the daytime activities, so I’m looking forward to attending some of the classes and panel discussions. And of course I’m excited to perform and to meet the other performers and watch them do their thing.
What other events or upcoming projects do you have in the works?
Well, I’m really excited to be heading to Dallas to perform at the Lakewood Theater on October 1st as a special guest for Viva Dallas Burlesque! And I’ll probably be hitting the road with Tony Clifton/Comic Relief for a few dates in October as well. With Fleur de Tease, we’re preparing for a big “Wizard of Oz” show, September 11th & 12th. We’re gearing it towards New Orleans (instead of Kansas) so it should be fun, and we’ll be performing at the Voodoo Music Experience again this year on Halloween Day. With the Storyville Starlettes, we’re having a show at the Shadowbox Theatre on October 24th. It will most likely be a Halloween theme that could veer towards serial killers and/or scary movies. And we’re planning a Facebook themed show soon, so look out!
Please share 3 little known facts about yourself.
–I once chased down a purse snatcher to retrieve my friend’s purse, even after being threatened with stabbing.
–I have love affairs with absinthe, Twizzlers, and bacon, but not at the same time.
–I can get any song out of my head by singing “Red Red Wine” to myself. It works!
By: Divertida Devotchka
New Orleans burlesque legend Wild Cherry grew up travelling the carnival circuit with her family, and her first performances were carnival girlie shows. She began dancing in New Orleans night clubs in the late 1950s. “I just wanted to make a living, because I had not had any formal schooling.” explains Cherry. Her stage name was given to her by a club owner who found it was befitting of her feisty personality. Cherry danced in various clubs throughout the French Quarter over the years and has fond memories of dancing, drinking, and of course, fighting. According to Cherry, there were certainly some clubs she didn’t stay at for very long. “I worked at some clubs with bad reputations- girls fighting a lot, and some managers even hit the girls. That never happened to me though,” Cherry said. “Maybe because my name put them off, I don’t know.”
There’s known to be intermittent cattiness and drama in some aspects of the burlesque scene, but Wild Cherry says things are nothing like they used to be. “There wasn’t a lot of that catfight stuff. Nah, these girls were pretty rough,” Cherry said in an interview with Rick Delaup, producer of New Orleans’ own Bustout Burlesque and the New Orleans Burlesque Festival. “And if they did decide they didn’t like somebody, in theaters I’ve seen, they would take a rolling pin and a light bulb, and grind that glass up fine like a powder and put it in your face powder. They would put shoe polish in the eye mascara tube. They could get really rough. They didn’t play.”
I found the “crushed glass in the face powder” gag to be rather shocking, so when I asked Cherry about it in our interview, she casually replied, “Well, I was glad I didn’t use powder, for one thing! I used pancake makeup instead and I suppose I would have seen crushed glass in that.”
In recent years, Wild Cherry has performed in several of the Burlesque Hall of Fame weekend Legends showcases, as well as performing occasionally with New Orleans troupe Fleur de Tease, and she’s also done a comedic monologue in some Bustout Burlesque shows. She’ll be appearing again at this year’s New Orleans Burlesque Festival, where she will participate in panel discussions and sign autographs. I asked Cherry for her opinion about the current boom in modern burlesque. “There are girls out there who are bringing back the classic style and I’m excited about that,” Cherry said. “There are troupes all over doing that now, thank God. But I’m dead set against most of the new Bourbon Street. So many girls just go on stage and stroll around begging for money. Most of them don’t even dance, and some of them may be good at working the pole, but soliciting money has no part in burlesque.”
According to Cherry, burlesque isn’t the only thing that she has seen change over the years. She was known for being “scrappy” and argumentative, and admittedly used to go looking for fights some nights as an outlet for her rage. “I don’t go looking for trouble like I used to. People who knew me before would definitely think I’ve mellowed out over the years,” Cherry said. She may be calmer these days, but the old Cherry is still in there, and is known to make an appearance from time to time, much to the chagrin of her family. “I haven’t been in a good fight in years, but I wouldn’t back down from one even today, doesn’t matter if it’s a man or a woman. A few years ago I embarrassed my granddaughter in Wal-Mart because I was threatened by two young women and I said, ‘Let’s take it outside.’ Of course, the girls backed down.”
We asked Ginger Valentine to share her insiders’ tour guide to New Orleans as well as her favorite Louisiana recipes. Here’s what she had to say:
I lived in southeast Louisiana for about five years, and what an impression it left on me! Trips to New Orleans were frequent, and before I knew it, I had fallen in love (really fallen) with the city. I will never be the same. To keep my sanity I visit at least once a year. The following is a very short list of some of my favorite places to visit for food and drinks. I hope if you plan on going to the upcoming New Orleans Burlesque Festival that you will check out some of my favorite spots – you’ll probably see me there devouring a po’boy or giddy from one too many Pimm’s Cups.
Snake and Jake’s Christmas Club
This is the queen mother of all dive bars everywhere. Located near Tulane and Loyola in Uptown at 7612 Oak Street, this bar is nothing more than a glorified shack where you can get beer like Schlitz in a can. The bar is an old house and it’s in the middle of a residential area. It’s hard to tell whether it’s a home or bar. They say they open at seven, but things don’t really get going till 1 a.m. At my first sojourn to this truly locals-only bar, I found myself in need of the ladies room. You can imagine my surprise when a bartender led me to the end of the hall where there sat an exposed toilet. Ha-ha, joke’s on me. That one was just for show; they do have a private bathroom. Use it if you dare.
Café Du Monde
Sandwiched between the mighty Mississippi River and the French Quarter you will find Café Du Monde French Market on Decatur Street. Open 24/7, this is my favorite late-night spot for a quick pick me up after too many sazeracs and hand grenades. Famous for their scrumptious beignets (so much more than just a French doughnut) and café au lait with chicory, Café Du Monde is always packed no matter the hour. There is a perennial dusting of powdered sugar throughout, so think twice before wearing black.
That famous red and yellow hotdog cart that you find parked throughout the French Quarter is more than just ordinary street food – it’s a Crescent City tradition. Sure, some may scoff at a greasy hotdog bought from a vendor, but this has a literary connection that permanently endears them to me. Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, A Confederacy of Dunces is part tall tale and part love song (albeit wacky one) to New Orleans. The main character, Ignatius Riley is briefly employed by Lucky Dogs, and what ensues is some of the funniest shit I’ve ever seen in literature. I suggest picking up a Lucky Dog and taking it to the corner of Canal Street and Bourbon where you’ll find a bronze statue of Ignatius Riley parked in front of the old store front of the D. H. Holmes department store.
You want tradition? You want unique cocktails and the best damn muffaletta you can wrap your hungry mouth around? Then you want to go to The Napoleon House located on 500 Chartres Street in the French Quarter. Built in 1797, story goes that this was a residence intended for Napoleon Bonaparte after his exile, but he died before he could move in. Now it’s the most famous place to get a muffaletta (call it a “muff” if you wanna blend in, but try not to giggle like me) and one of my favorite cocktails, Pimm’s Cup. The building really hasn’t changed much in 200 years, be sure to check out the cash register at the bar. And the bartenders wear arm garters there, which I think is really romantic.
If you want to get rowdy (I mean really rowdy), and don’t mind hitting up a tourist spot (but hey, I’ve even known some locals to have fond memories of this joint), then you have to go to Tropical Isle to get a Hand Grenade. Order the big one in the commemorative cup. About half way through your drink, you’ll swear it’s talking to you. Yes, it’s obnoxious and cheesy, but that’s usually how I like to start out my visit in the Quarter, but then again, I kind of turn into a hedonist once I’m in the 504, so I’ll just say I can’t help it.
Not far from the French Quarter, you’ll find Mother’s Restaurant on 401 Poydras Street. This is a cafeteria-style deli that serves po’boys so good it’s hard for me to express my feelings without using profanity. When you go to Mother’s this is what you get: The Ferdi Special. Baked ham, roast beef, debris (crusty bits of roast beef that fall off during the roasting process) and gravy crammed in between two perfect pieces of crusty french bread are the key players in the Ferdi Special. I’ve stood in the line that wraps around the block (hungover and in the rain!) to eat a Ferdi special, and I’d do it again (and again) in a heartbeat.
Laffite’s Blacksmith Shop
If you keep walking down Bourbon, and then walk a little more, you’ll come across one of the oldest bars in the country. Built sometime before 1792, this bar is lit by candle light, and it’s easy to imagine yourself transported back 100 or so years ago, that is until your cell phone rings. They have all the usual New Orleans cocktails here, but I suggest trying a sazerac. This whiskey cocktail is one of the oldest cocktails (which is why it’s great to order it here) and it has such a yummy and distinctive flavor that you’ll always associate with the magic of New Orleans. I think this place is a piano bar too, but I can’t be for sure. I could have had one too many drinks and found myself singing along to a song that only I could hear.
Click here for Ginger Valentine’s Red Beans and Rice recipe.
Brad Pitt visited New Orleans shortly after Hurricane Katrina and was devastated by what he saw in the 9th ward. Even more disturbing was the overall sentiment that New Orleans would never be able to rebuild. He decided that doing nothing was not an option.
Pitt moved his family to New Orleans, where they spend much of their time, and put his love for architecture and his environmentally conscious sensibilities to work. The result is the Make It Right Foundation, which strives to do just that- make it right. Make It Right, working with Global Green and others, has embarked on one of the most unique and ambitious rebuilding efforts New Orleans has seen to date. The first eight homes are completed, and displaced 9th Ward residents now call these houses home.
To learn more on this amazing project, and how you can help, visit www.makeitrightnola.org
Nola Chick, Pin-Up model and New Orleans resident gives Pin Curl the insider’s guide to New Orleans, tips and tricks on modeling, and the importance of a mystery.
Your name let’s folks know just how proud you are of your home town. If an out of towner had one weekend to spend in New Orleans, what are some things they should be sure and see/eat/do?
Oh my gosh! Where do I start? Well, when you come to New Orleans, what do you want? You want food. Start at Mother’s and go from there. It’s one of the best places in the city and they are known for their roast beef po boys. Cafe Degas for French and Tony Angelo’s for Italian. Oh! And you have to stop by Central Grocery to get a world famous muffaletta. This delicious sandwich was invented here.
Then go see jazz at Snug Harbor on Frenchmen- they have free shows at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. Go to One Eyed Jack’s or Dragon’s Den for your Burlesque fix. Visit the Ogden museum and the World War II museum and the New Orleans museum of art! Also be sure to do some shopping on Magazine street and get a drink at the Sazerac Bar in the newly refurbished Roosevelt Hotel. The Roosevelt is a place where anyone can dress up and instantly feel like you are back in the 1950′s. I could go on and on, but I would be here all night!
Take us back four years to August 2005. When did you leave, when did you return? Describe what the city was like after Katrina.
Well, I left with my family the day before the storm hit. It was a Sunday and the mayor had officially told everyone that they need to leave or seek shelter. We were gone for about 3 weeks, not really knowing what was going on or what the future held for any of us. To this day, I think that the “not knowing” was the very worst of it.
When we got back, we had discovered that although our home had been spared, my aunt and uncle, had lost everything. For those first few months, New Orleans was not the city that I knew. The national guard was heavy, parts of the city didn’t have power, there was a curfew all over town and there was a general feeling of unease. We all had the question of, “well, what’s next?” swimming in our heads, because we weren’t getting any answers. People who had lost everything didn’t even know where to begin in the whole “rebuilding” process.
Should we stay and start over and hope this doesn’t happen again? Should we leave and start a new life somewhere else? Imagine your entire town being wiped out; Imagine that you have lost everything. All you have are the clothes on your back and a couple of bucks that the government threw at you. What do you do?
You cling to what you DO have…family, friends…this is when you realize what matters. This is what gives you hope and keeps you going. What else can you do? You’ll go crazy doing anything else.
Has New Orleans returned to her former glory? Have the business, culture, & community returned?
I know some will argue with me and say that New Orleans will never be what it was. I believe we are there now more than we ever have been. The culture is here and it always will be. The culture is in the people, the food, and the music, and it will remain as long as people come here and experience it.
Do we still have work to do? Absolutely. Homes are continuing to be rebuilt and we could definitely use all of the help we can get. I don’t want anyone to think that everything here is perfect, but I definitely don’t want anyone to hesitate to pay us a visit. If you come down here, we will definitely make you feel at home.
Let’s switch to a lighter topic. How did you fall in love with the pin-up style? What about it is so alluring to you?
Well, I have always been a “girly girl”, and I love pin up because it is so classic. I just grew up appreciating the art of it and loving the “tease” aspect of it. You can be sexy without showing anything at all. It’s all about being a woman and embracing all that entails. It’s about doing your hair and makeup and getting dressed up. To me, it’s about that as much as it’s about getting a pretty picture- It’s about the whole process.
I want people to know that anyone can do pinup. ANYONE. It doesn’t see race, size or age. You are never too old, young, big or small to feel like a gorgeous woman and embrace who you are. There is nothing that I do in my pictures that a woman admiring it on the internet can’t do herself. I would tell anyone who is interested in pinup to do it. Even if it’s just once.
Who are your favorite vixens?
Well, ok, we’ll start with the obvious, the queen, Miss Dita Von Teese. As far as models, I’m inspired by people like Gia Carangi. The way she mixed fashion and art is what makes her a legend. The classics: Betty Grable, Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, Eartha Kitt.
These were women who did it right. They were gorgeous, but they also had strength and attitude. All of the actresses from this era carried themselves in a way that demanded respect. They weren’t like the “starlets” of today with sex tapes and mini skirts. They weren’t all over the gossip rags. There was a mystery about them. I think that’s the problem with a lot of girls today; there is no mystery left. Girls shouldn’t be so quick to put it all “out there”.
What is your trick to relating to the camera?
Well, that depends on the shoot. For a “boudoir” kind of thing, I imagine that the camera is a boyfriend that I want to seduce. Isn’t that so cheesy? But it really works! A photographer once told me to imagine that the camera is a person who I have to convince that I’m beautiful with just my eyes. Ha! That’s easier said than done.
If the shoot is about you looking more serious, then you have to put yourself in that place. If you have to look dominant, you have to put yourself there, too. A lot of it, I guess, is about acting. Only, you have to portray everything you want to say with one look.