This year was my first ever participation in the Freezing Tassel Burlesque Festival in Anchorage, Alaska. I’ve been amazed by Vivavoom Brr-lesque for a decade since I met darling Lola Pistola at my first BHOF adventure.
After a year in Dallas, I figured I could handle the winter-like temperature of the Alaskan spring. I lucked out!
Freezing Tassel is a commitment, unlike many of the festivals I’ve been in over the past year. This isn’t a fly-in, fly-out situation. Performers are committed to be there Thursday through Sunday. Not only does it make tech and show scheduling easier, it also gives us a chance to explore this gorgeous place.
I started packing over the weekend because Anchorage doesn’t have the same kind of access to emergency performer nonsense that this former-Angeleno-turned-Texan likes for peace of mind. I obsessively checked my Google spreadsheet and printed all of my plans for fun several days before my departure.
The producers are diligent with sharing cold weather clothing tips, but I haven’t really done COLD weather in a couple decades. I probably should’ve considered color coordination for my outfits a bit more. It looked like a kindergartner packed my suitcase.
Travel from Dallas is long but wasn’t awful. That is, until my rideshare. 2:30am is not the time to pump up the volume of songs from the musical you wrote. I appreciate your enthusiasm, dude. It’s just not the time, especially during the 14-minute ride to the hotel. I was already a captive (captured?) audience so there was no need to turn it up. Welcome to Alaska!
Hours of rest and one reindeer sausage experience later, I headed to the venue to tech. Walking two blocks from the hotel to the venue was nice in the snow. Alaskans really know how to manage snow.
Everyone returned to the venue for a quick orientation and ventured across the street for a private meal together. I opened my goodie packet to discover a coupon for free ice cream. Sure, it was snowing. I grabbed a bite of snow on the short walk to Wild Scoops with Caramel Knowledge, Blanche Bourgeois and Sally Sweet Nothing. I got the Iditarod themed Puppy Chow and ate it in the snow. It made up for my early morning trip.
I walked 3.5 miles in snow boots. Go me!
The day kicked off with a trip to the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Blanche Bourgeois, Red Velvet and I trekked around the frozen pond at the park, peeping into snow-covered native repro structures and learning more about the natives. We saw a charming film about cultural icons Eagle, Raven and Frog. After eating (me) and kicking (Blanche) plenty of snow, we headed back downtown for food.
F Street Station is the second oldest pub in Alaska. There’s usually a block of Tillamook cheddar on the counter beneath a sign that says, “For Display Only.” We found a covered dish stacked with cheese cubes this day and were sure to break the “rule.” A local explained that the display sign is by order of the health department. They’re not supposed to serve cheese like that, so they aren’t really serving it. (I love how they worked around the rules.) I had my first crab salad sandwich of the trip, taking half for a tasty pocket sammich later.
After consuming more food and drink, we meandered down by the railroad to view the snow sculpture garden. Some of the sculptures were breaking down, showing that the end of Alaska’s snow season was nigh. We wrapped up the afternoon with a stop by the Ulu Factory for a curved Alaskan knife and some “bear claws” for salad tossing. (Dirty bird! They’re made from wood and intended for mixing greens.)
Each night had two shows—8pm and 10pm. Every show was different. The always amazing Blanche Debris kept them moving along at a nice clip. She also sang the Alaska state song! All shows were individually invocated by the Bishop of Burlesque.
There were so many amazing performances between the two shows. In the first show, Moscato Extatique had everyone drooling for that gorgeous, hand-painted costume. And, my dance crush for Red Bone grew.
In the second show, I dug Austinite-turned-San Diegan Sweet Dee’s down home and sexy tribute to Prince with “Kiss.” Bunny Wigglebottom killed me with her Matt Foley act, lovingly capturing the hilariousness I remember of Chris Farley. Auralie Wilde had a wonderfully clever costume and brought such grace to the stage. Closing out the show was Sweetpea, showing why she really is the Energizer Honey with her Jungle Boogie act.
Mushing my dreams come true, I hopped a comfy bus with Petite Renard to visit Alaska Mushing School. If you know me at all, you grok that I am stupid for dogs. We took a sled ride behind twelve dogs (Frank, Gilly, Donna, Fritz, Daisy, Dandelion, Otto, Chandler and two others whose names I missed!). A six-mile round trip, these dogs WANT. TO. RUN. I was amused to see they would eliminate while running, and they would take a bite of the snow if they were thirsty. Every dog has its own gait. Such joy to ride behind this team of dinguses.
We wrapped up our dogsledding trip with chocolate chip cookies, caribou hot dogs and cheeks flushed with joy. Next time I want to learn how to mush my own team of four dogs.
Since I was in the 8pm show, I spent the afternoon sorting my life out and grooming. I missed most of the first show. My costume is a little involved. It was a great chance to chat with my fellow performers backstage before we scattered post-show. I packed up my case, un-crumpled my tips, and got my ass out of the way so the second show cast could load in.
I kicked back with a whiskey and ginger and a slice of cheesecake as I watched the final show of the festival. Al Lykya’s Captain Kirk was spot on. The fighting moves, the shirt rip, the final reveal—you could tell Al was a true TOS fan. The versatile Caramel Knowledge brought a classic strip that was both lovely and sexy. RedBone closed out the show with a solid hip-hop girl fight act that left me shouting affirmations at the awesome reveals.
I missed the after-party because I got as naked as possible to do mostly nude cell phone photos in the snow downtown with Maggie McMuffin, Blanche Bourgeois, and Veronica Voss. The temperature had dropped into the 20s. I have no photos coy enough to share with you.
Sunday was the day of classes with the headliners. It was also the day the stupid time changed. (Can we just eliminate Daylight Saving Time already? It’s archaic and stupid, especially when you’re already three hours outside of your normal time zone.)
I was totally exhausted, which meant it was the perfect time to go to the Alaska Zoo with Blanche Bourgeois. This zoo is full of orphaned and injured wildlife who have recovered in captivity. We wandered through snow banked paths to see moose, wolves, bears and birds. I mistakenly believed the polar bear would be frolicking in the snow. Both times we stopped by, he was snoozing. Smart bastard.
I couldn’t get enough of that damn cheese and the crab salad sandwich at F Street Station so we headed back for more. They had the giant cheese block with the cheese pull for shaving off slices. I was so stupid for that thing that I got video of me cutting the cheese. The crab salad sandwich was so big I had pocket sammich for dinner. (I kept my leftovers cold in my Alaska fridge—the cold balcony.)
I made it to one class. Yep, RedBone’s class. With a few choreography projects on my plate, I needed to open up my creative flows. This class did just that. It was open to all skill levels. I highly recommend it if she is ever in your area.
One pocket sammich later, a handful of us got together in the hotel lobby to take a bandit mask photo! (Neck gaiters and balaclavas were recommended on our cold weather list, so I suggested we get animal bandit masks. I regret nothing.)
Go home day! A group of us hit up Snow City Café for brunch. After a little souvenir shopping, I got to spend some time with Pillow, Alaska’s Legend. If you ever have a chance to shoot the breeze with a Legend, take it.
Not to outdo my arrival, the return trip to the airport was curious. Moscato, Maggie and I shared a rideshare. The vehicle was supposed to fit two to four people and our destination was the airport. Our driver was ill-prepared for us. We tetrised suitcases and bags into his small sedan with its pre-stuffed trunk. We didn’t have the same loud soundtrack that I did on the ride from the airport days prior, but the amusement of the situation didn’t pass us by. (Seriously, why would you take an airport fare if you didn’t have room in your car for suitcases?)
I had an amazing time in Alaska. The festival was well-organized and tons of fun. Would boop again.