Atlanta burlesque performer and producer Talloolah Love, “The Sweetest ‘T’ in the South,” talks falling down the rabbit hole of burlesque, Studio Burlesque Atlanta, storm troopers, Daleks, and steampunk.
Interview: Divertida Devotchka
Q: What is your performance background? Theater? Dance? None of the above? How and when did you first learn about burlesque and when and how did you start performing?
TL: I knew about burlesque before I knew there was an entire movement behind it. I knew it in its vintage sense because of my insane love of theater and old movies. I haven’t had a lot of dance lessons, I will admit, but a lot of theatre experience and a love for all things glamorous I have in spades! Almost eleven years ago, I went to the beach with a friend and on the way back, she asked me to drop her off at a photo shoot for a new burlesque troupe that would be forming up within the next few months. I poked my head into that rabbit hole of period stockings, corsets, makeup and hair and haven’t come up since. For their first show, I was a costume hand and backstage assistant. A month later, I auditioned as the troupe’s belly dancer and within a year I was twirling tassels!
Q: From whom or what do you draw inspiration for your routines?
TL: I will go through hours and hours of old movies with lots of dancing, great costumes and beautiful hair before a show. I draw inspiration from the classic actresses and dancers and models more than I draw from anything. There was a sense of self awareness, and wholeness to the women of that era that I aspire to. I find a sense of peace when I dance, so I usually hear a song that inspires me to create something new, I think about and even map out some of the choreography and then, I think of what I can do to make it work.
Contemporaries that have made me keep doing what I am doing are Immodesty Blaize, Amber Ray, Roxi D’Lite and Tigger!
Q: You’re an instructor at Studio Burlesque Atlanta, which was just opened by Ursula Undress in January of this year. Care to tell our readers more about that exciting new development?
TL: Burlesque community outreach has been an incredibly high priority for me for years. When Ursula announced that we would have a studio, I was elated. I called her immediately to ask her how I could assist. Luckily, Ursula had a spot for me to teach beginning burlesque on Mondays and I leapt at the offer. The studio embraces women of all backgrounds and body types and brings them to the floor to pursue their own personal journeys through dance, self-expression, exercise, and camaraderie. The class pursues different levels of sensuality whether it be through the art of the tease, testing the limits of flexibility, or doing something more childlike and fun in the hooping class. Right now, the classes are focused more on the fitness and self-awareness one can achieve through burlesque, it isn’t as much focused on getting on a stage, but there have been and I believe there will be more classes in the near future that focus on taking it to the next level for those who show an interest.
Q: When did you first begin producing events? What are some of the biggest challenges that you’ve encountered as a producer?
TL: I started producing events under Syrens of the South with Katherine Lashe in 2007. We both decided we wanted to give the independent performers a chance to perform in their own shows and for performers to work on non-troupe related projects in a nice, more variety show based setting. Atlanta was all troupe based at the time, and there was rarely an opportunity for outsiders to break in unless they “knew somebody”. Syrens gave us the opportunity to work with anyone who was willing to play with us. In 2010, DJ Doctor Q and I moved on to form The Artifice Club and I have gone on to produce my own large shows at conventions all over the country, and big thematic event parties in Atlanta that include some burlesque, but not an entire show’s worth. My focus now is more based on audience participation and immersive experience, as well as promoting artists of all genres to collaborate.
My biggest and never ending issue is timing and venues. Atlanta fan base can be a bit persnickety. You have to find a sweet spot. Perfect timing, perfect theme, perfect venue, and you’re rolling, if you miss the mark on either of these, it’s all over but the crying in your cold cream. Paying the artists is positively number one in my book. I still don’t think they are getting paid what they are worth, but it’s all about public education and getting the fellow performers on board.
Q: Speaking of producing, since 2012 you’ve produced Dragon*Con Burlesque, “A Glamour Geek Review” which is currently taking applications for performers until February 28. For those of our readers who are unfamiliar, could you please describe Dragon*Con and its audience and describe the aesthetic of the acts which will be featured there?
TL: Oh, Dragon*Con. It’s quite a show! This is a pop culture geek-con and it brings in 52,000 fans from all over the world. It is the 6thlargest convention in Atlanta (considering the City is home to all the major trade show and corporate conventions in the Southeast, that is much more impressive than it sounds), and is the largest fan run convention in the world. There is nothing like it. It takes over five host hotels in the heart of downtown Atlanta, fills all other major hotels in the downtown area to capacity, and boasts the largest parade in the city (yes, even beating out our city’s Pride Parade). I am happy and proud to say that the burlesque show is one of the more popular events at the Con. The room we were in last year held over a thousand people and there were still people being turned away at the door!
This is the biggest event that I run, and I simply adore it. Last year was my first time taking the reins and at the end of the night, I can honestly say that I have never been so proud of any show that I have ever produced. It included some of the most incredible performers: Lola Le Soleil, Tito Bonito, and Kisa von Teasa just to name a few. Storm troopers, Rainbow Bright, dark elves and Daleks? Who could ask for more?
The con liked the format so much, they asked me to do it again this year, so the planning has started with the call for performers. I need a special kind of burlesque act from people. It needs to be what we call “nerdlesque”, but the act needs to be of a pop-culture geek reference that are of a fandom that they are seriously passionate about as a performer, not just because they think it would look good from random internet searches. Con-goers are want to know you are as into their fandom as they are, so if you bring a Star Wars act, you’d better have an opinion about who shot first! It’s not just about the boobies, it’s also about the geekdom.
Q: You’re a contributing author along with Alan Moore, Margaret Killjoy, Sarah Hunter and Molly Crabapple in “The Steampunk’s Guide to Sex“, published in both English and Italian on Ebook in November 2012 and you’ve mentioned that it’s to be released in paperback soon. Could you tell us more about this project?
TL: Oh, it did release this past month! This was a collaboration in which we all did articles, and in Margaret’s case even art, for a book that was leaps and bounds more than I ever thought it would be. It’s been well reviewed and is a fast read. It’s educational, fun, fascinating and practical knowledge about Victorian sexuality, current sexuality, and how that all has to do with the steampunk movement. I was elated to be asked to write about my experiences as a steampunk burlesque performer. I currently have three acts where I would say they are right out steampunk or at least steampunk inspired, and Margaret Killjoy asked if I’d like to do something for it. I have been writing book reviews for The Steampunk Chronicle for a few years, so he asked if I wouldn’t mind doing a top five steamy steampunk story list, as well as an article on burlesque and steampunk and I was flattered. To be honest, it wasn’t until the book was published that I realized that Alan Moore and Molly Crabapple worked on it. I am a huge fan of both of their work, and so it was most definitely on my top three amazing opportunities of 2012!
Q: I’d like to know more about the Atlanta Burlesque & Cabaret Society, its history and your role within the group. Please share with us a little more about the group and its mission.
TL: This group was started by Torchy Taboo and Tip Tart Tina when I first started doing burlesque. Tina quit the business and Torchy went on to bigger brighter and more fabulous things and the club went untouched for two years. In 2008, I decided my goal for Atlanta was to bring the community together. I believe that only through education, cooperation and collaboration can great things truly happen. That’s what I hoped to achieve with the club. It had a lot of ups and downs, but finally, Sadie Hawkins started talking about the peer reviews at BurlyCon and I had a flash of inspiration that blossomed into a real live format.
So now, we start the meeting with announcements, we have a DJ, and we invite new and experienced performers to come and workshop an act. It can be in any state of preparedness, and there are different levels of review, a new performer can just mingle with the crowd and get feedback as they ask for it, a more experienced performer can sit on the stage after the act and get live feedback with a stack of note cards from those who don’t want to speak about their critique. Everyone gets a recording of the show emailed to them within a week so that they may review it for themselves. Ever since we started this format, the club has taken off! We get new fans, new performers, new photographers every time, and I couldn’t be more ecstatic about that. It’s everything and more than I ever hoped for.
Q: What’s next for Talloolah Love?
TL: I did my first tour last year, my goal is to do another small one this year. I am booked pretty solid the first half of the year. I will be teaching a few of my Textbook Tease classes in the southeast, and I am currently working on my very first novel. It is about sex-positivity in today’s society. Seeing my words in print really inspired me, so I am hoping to springboard off of that as best I can. You can catch me as a featured performer in The Southern Fried Burlesque Festival, and I plan to make it out to attend, if not perform at The Burlesque Hall of Fame this year. It’s been two years, and I’ve missed my Nevada lovelies! It is my Mecca.
Q: Anything you’d like to add?
TL: Yes, I’d like to give a lot of love to the photographers of the Burlesque Camera Club and the Atlanta Burlesque Photographer’s guild. If not for their efforts, Atlanta’s burlesque community would not be where it is today. Marc Turnley’s reaching out to our community in his charming, witty, and embracing way has really brought all of us up a notch, both as performers and as photographers. I also have to give a back-slap to Derek Jackson’s efforts in reaching out to the international burlesque community, those of us who have not ventured to shows and festivals outside of our own community would have little reason to do so without his incredible shots to show us all what we are missing.
Again, thank you so much for this opportunity. I’ve loved Pin Curl for years!