Jonny Porkpie – performer and host, director, writer, and the Burlesque Mayor of New York City – talks unfortunate run-ins with the color purple, inauspicious beginnings, and of course- grabbing his junk.
Interview: Femme Vivre LaRouge
From Mr. Porkpie’s debut novel, The Corpse Wore Pasties: “I’m Jonny Porkpie, known to audiences as the Burlesque Mayor of New York City. It’s not an elected position—I’m self-appointed—but I do take my duties very seriously. I try to spend as much time as possible pressing the flesh and polling the electorate-”
First of all, let’s talk names and titles. Your name, Jonny Porkpie, comes from your trademark hat, a porkpie. Tell us about your favorite hat and what led you to make that your moniker…
The hat is so-called because of its crown, which – it is said – looks not unlike the crown of a savory pastry. The story of how it came to be named after me, or I after it (Wikipedia is unclear on that point) is a long and depraved one, involving not only savory pastries but savory pasties, a defunct basement dive bar called “Siberia” and an unfortunate run-in with the color purple. Someday, perhaps, it shall be revealed.
You bill yourself as the Burlesque Mayor of New York City and in 2009 you actually ran for Mayor of New York City, your main opponent being The Naked Cowboy. What set you on the campaign trail? Did you rise from inauspicious beginnings or have you been groomed for politics since birth?
Inauspicious beginnings, but of course. I like everything I do to be as inauspicious as possible. I got into the race specifically because this so-called “naked cowboy” was running. I mean, have you seen the guy? He’s wearing tightie-whities. I know naked. Some of my best friends are naked. And that, sir, is no naked. Soon after I entered the race, he dropped out. I think that says something.
I read that you’re an Ivy League graduate with a degree in Visual Arts – you’ve got smarts as well as a good dose of sex appeal and good humor! But what began your career in the Performing Arts?
Yeah, but for some reason they never list my shows in the alumni magazine. Strange. As for the performing arts, it’s unclear whether it was nature or nurture – all three of my parents are actors, and my first appearance onstage was as a rather large lump in my mother’s stomach. But once I scored the starring role of “Boy” in my kindergarten production of that seminal work “A Sunny Day” (by either Mamet or my teacher Mrs. Herbst, I forget which), I suppose there was no going back.
Another title you’ve gained is “Most Innovative” for your duet performance with Nasty Canasta at the 2007 Exotic World pageant in Las Vegas. I believe this was also the first time that award was given? Please tell us what it was like to win a title at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend.
Was it 2007 or 2006? I’m forgetting. Yes, that was the first one, and it was quite a surprise to get it… We’d forgotten there were more awards for which we would be eligible, and suddenly people were saying “You just won! Get the heck onstage!” I’m thrilled to have shared the honor of being the first, and thrilled to be in the company of those who have won it since. I miss doing that number.
I had the great pleasure of meeting you this year at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend in Las Vegas and all I really knew then was that you’d given one of the most delightful performances I’ve ever seen. If I had been more acquainted with your work I might have needed a fainting couch, but you were incredibly amiable and down to earth. How did you get to be such a great fella? And won’t you please share a description of that number so that our readers, who may not have had the chance to see it, can envision its greatness?
Oh, god, it can’t possibly live up to that ballyhoo! The name of the number is Competitive Burlesque, and it’s a classic burlesque number to classic tunes featuring classic moves – bump and grind, glove peel, stocking peel, tassel-twirl, etc., but with sports commentators narrating
the action as if it were an Olympic event. Special thanks to Jo “Boobs” Weldon for putting me through high-heeled boot camp to help get my classic moves up to snuff.
You’re co-creator of the widely acclaimed “Pinchbottom Burlesque” as well as creator of the bump and grind game show “Grab My Junk”(Grabmyjunk.net) and the monthly production, “Jonny Porkpie’s Bad Ideas.” “Grab My Junk” is currently wrapping up a summer tour and has even spawned a franchise in Melbourne! The show combines striptease, inappropriate questions, and a plethora of prizes that must be pulled from your pants. Now that’s a Great idea! What have some of your best ‘Bad Ideas’ been?
Those are probably inappropriate for a family publication. This is a family publication, right? No? Well, probably still pretty inappropriate.
This March Hard Case Crimes published your first pulp novel, The Corpse Wore Pasties. (He has supplied the first chapter for free on his website). The book has made mention in Vanity Fair and Publishers Weekly just to name two, and Bob Lunn of LibraryJournal.com states that the novel “will surely come to nestle comfortably between Gypsy Rose Lee’s classic 1941 The G-string Murders and Kinky Friedman’s mysteries.” What made you decide to put your wit and words on the page and where on earth did you find the time? Can we expect more hardboiled, lusty literature from you in the future?
I’m working on a follow-up (set in Las Vegas during “the Superstars of Striptease Showcase and Reunion”), but have to admit I didn’t get much writing done on tour. The first book happened because Charles Ardai, the creator of the Hard Case Crime line came to a Pinchbottom show and I guess he liked what he saw… And of course, he saw quite a bit. (Useless tip for aspiring writers: Putting talented nudity in a show is sure to catch an editor’s eye!) Charles proposed that we collaborate in some way, and I managed to convince him that the best way would be for him to publish a novel written by me.
Last, but not least, won’t you tell us what it’s like putting the burly in burly-q – what are some of the challenges and rewards of being male in a predominantly female field?
Tigger says, and I agree, that it’s very important that it IS a female field, and that it remain so, and that men are guests in it. (Don’t get me wrong, I love the boylesque as much as the girlesque, and in my travels have tried to get as many men into pasties as humanly possible, but it’s not the thrust of the genre.) It’s not just that burlesque is female-driven, it’s that it’s performer-driven – the performers themselves not only conceive, choreograph, costume their own acts, but also produce the shows, stripping alongside the people they hire. This is what makes burlesque such a vibrant, joyous, immediate, and fearless art form.
Thank You, Jonny Porkpie, for sharing your time, talent…and junk with us.