Dear Constant Reader,
On Sunday afternoon, after the conference is over, but before the evening’s show, I host a little tea party. This year my co-hostesses were Brigitte Bisoux and Mimi Mischief. I don’t think we took any photos which is a shame because we were freaking adorable with our full skirts and aprons. I made the aprons Brigitte & I wore out of fabric with a tiny print of wee teacups and they tied with pink satin sashes, but Mimi, a costuming student, wore one of her own creations.
The party was sponsored by Jacqueline Hyde Emporium, who provided all the tea and made it possible for us to have yummy little sandwiches, scones, and tiny cakes. Jacqueline herself had a family emergency and couldn’t attend, which made me so sad, as I’m sure people would have been snapping up tea from her right & left.
It’s a nice way to relax and socialize after the intensity of the weekend and to get ready to enjoy The Newcomer’s Showcase.
Dear Constant Reader,
It’s time to get back to my Expo recaps. There are only a couple more to go…
I will confess that I’ve been stalling on this one. How do you describe so much awesomeness?
If you, O Constant Reader, are unfamiliar with The Expo, allow me to explain that The Main Event is the big competition. It’s judged by last year’s winners (and myself) and the Legends and special guests get to bestow awards on their favorite performers.
It’s really hard to judge. And this year was incredibly hard. The level of talent was so high. So many wonderful performances. Creative, funny, beautiful.
And I had to miss the acts that were not in competition because the judges were off deliberating.
In the end, the winners were…
The Shanghai Pearl’s favorite: Vivienne La Flamme and Vanil La Frappe, for their rubber ducky bathtub duet that made her dreams come true.
Jo Weldon’s favorite: Gorejess, for dealing with a wardrobe malfunction with grace and charm (and an upraised middle finger)
Toni Eliing’s favorite: Donna Denise with a classic strip and extraordinary tassel twirling.
Judge’s Choice: Bobby Barnaby, for his etherial fan dance. Sometimes called “Judge’s Choice”, sometimes “Honorable Mention”, this award recognizes a noteworthy performer.
Best Hybrid: Peggy de Lune, for her hysterical sing & strip in the guise of a ditzy stewardess from Chicago. This award is for the best combination of burlesque and another art. In this case, singing. There were also acts under consideration that involved acrobatics, baton twirling, and singing with live accompaniment.
Most Humorous: Dangrrr Doll, for her adorable polar bear act. As last year’s winner, Paco Fish pointed out, one way to burlesque something is to take something serious and parody it and another is to take something ridiculous and be serious about it. She fell in the latter category in a big way. Personally, I was won over when she pulled a rhinestoned fish out of her underwear.
Most Classic: Donna Denise, for her above-mentioned classic strip and tassel twirling. Donna is one of those rare women with total pectoral muscle control. She can pop her breasts up and down and twirl tassels. Last year she was April March’s favorite and it was a delight to see her become a title holder this year.
Most Beautiful: Femme Brulee, for her rain cloud into sunshine act.
Best Solo: Gorejess, for just total bad-assery. I suppose I could sum it up by saying she was a housewife who turned into Rosie the Riveter, but it was so much more powerful than just that. And she handled the loss of a pastie completely in character.
Congratulations to all the winners and you’ll see them next year!
Dear Constant Reader,
What a week it’s been! When the lockdown extended to Boston proper, Scratch and I were already on the road to NYC. We had tickets to see Nathan Lane in The Nance Friday night and, honestly, getting out of Boston didn’t seem like a bad idea.
I’m one of those polite people who turns off her phone the minute she takes her seat in the theatre. That night we were following the manhunt right up until the minute the house darkened. As soon as intermission started, we were back on line again to get the latest. What strange and frightening times.
Anyway, on to the show!
The Nance is the story of Chauncey Miles (Lane), a homosexual actor in 1937. He hides in plain site by performing in a burlesque show as a “nance”, a caricature of a mincing queen, flinging about double entendres and innuendo — similar to black performers working in blackface or Jewish comedians playing “Heeb” roles. I’m going to gloss over Chauncey’s story and focus on the burlesque part (as that is supposed to be why I write these little notes).
Much of the action occurs at the Irving Place theatre at the time Commissioner Moss and Mayor LaGuardia were attempting to eradicate burlesque from New York. And the show on “stage” is wonderful. We see classic burlesque comedy, like “Meet Me Round the Corner” and “Crazy House”, and iconic strip acts (usually only the beginning of it — this is Broadway, not actual burlesque) including a balloon pop and a half bride/half groom (that one was particularly exquisite). I was reminded again of the power of live music as the band punctuated both the bumps and the jokes.
The set was a fantastic 3 part turntable, with sets for Chauncy’s apartment, the stage at the Irving Place, and backstage at the theatre. One of my favorite moments came when the scene turned from a dancer on stage to the action backstage, but you could still see the dancer through the wing. After removing her gloves, she stormed backstage because the wardrobe mistress wasn’t in the wings to catch for her. This was just a little background action while the plot was going on center stage (that is, center stage on the backstage set), but some very nice business none the less.
It’s a very well-crafted play and an excellent portrayal of burlesque in the ’30′s. We found it very inspirational, especially some of the comedy. I don’t know how someone not as steeped in burlesque history would enjoy it. Nathan Lane is excellent, but all the acting was quite strong. I’m very glad we were able to see it.
And afterwards we had cheesecake at Lindy’s. Like you do.
Dear Constant Reader,
Despite all the chaos today, I refuse to skip a Friday Tip! So here it is…
True lipsynching, where the “singer” is crisp, clean, and right on cue, is incredibly hard to do well. If you can’t do it perfectly, just don’t. As Jo Weldon says, it makes you the music’s bitch.
Sometimes you don’t even realize that you’re mouthing the words while you’re dancing. Do watch out for that; it can make you look distracted.
Now, as always, I’m merely giving you a suggestion, not orders. This is not to say never. Sometimes it can create a dramatic moment, like when James and the Giant Pastie “sings” the first line of the song to St. Stella in their statue act. I like to give the audience the cue to sing along with the chorus of “Minnie the Moocher” by mouthing the first “hi-di hi-di hi-di-ho”. But both of those examples are deliberate choices and only for a moment.
Dear Constant Reader,
You probably heard that we had a very bad day here in Boston yesterday. I’m sure you’ll understand if I take a little break from reporting on my Expo exploits today.
All The Boston Babydolls and our extended burlesque family are fine. Sad and shaken, but safe.
I want to thank our friends and fellow performers from around the world who checked in and sent well wishes yesterday. Your love and concern was quite overwhelming.
Dear Constant Reader,
Every year at The Expo we have a Costume Exhibit, curated by BettySioux Tailor, who is assisted by Blitzen von Schtupp. This year we tried a couple of new things. Besides costumes belonging to our winners and guests, plus the ever popular Wall o’ Pasties, people were invited to submit costumes with a theme relating to luck, gambling, Vegas, &c.
Here we have the right hand side of the exhibit. Usherette costume by Scarlett Letter, The Shanghai Pearl’s “Bird of Paradise”, Wall O’ Pasties (and a few bras & g-strings), and BettySioux’s rhinestoned TV playing a slideshow of past costume exhibits.
And the left hand side. Jo Weldon’s “Nightmare”, made by Fleur de Lys, a classic costume by Burgundy Brixx, and Corinne Southern’s “The Temptation of Eve”.
Then we had a second exhibit, of costumes from The Wrathskellar. It was accompanied by a loop of all the video diaries we produced for the past year’s show, so visitors could get a feel for the characters.
I’m so proud of this coat and there’s such a story behind it that I’ll probably make that a separate missive. After I’ve finished with the rest of the Expo report.
Dear Constant Reader,
Another fun part of The Expo (I keep saying that — it’s all fun) is shopping! There were a lot of vendors this year, but I was so busy I did very little shopping.
Here’s my meagre haul:
A sleep mask from Not Your Grandmother’s Linen. This is the best sleep mask I’ve ever used — the elastic is covered with satin, so it doesn’t tangle in your hair, there’s a tiny cushion at the lower edge, so the light can’t sneak up the sides of your nose, and the fabric has a subtle design of wee couples getting it on. She designs all her own fabrics and they can get rather racy — at second glance.
A hair comb from Esoterica Jewelry. It’s hard to see in the picture, but the comb has green gems. “Redheads and their green” said Erica, the proprietress. Most of her items repurpose elements from vintage jewelry in nifty ways. I’ve bought from her before, but only as gifts. This one is for me.
Not pictured is the tie that is being hand-delivered to Haute Under the Collar for them to bling up for Scratch. He owns several ties from them already, but this one is going to be special…
Even though I didn’t buy these at The Expo, I wore them there. (Forgive me for the crummy picture. My camera is cranky and often refuses to flash.) Both sets came from Farasha & Su’ad Dance & Designs. The amber set did dual duty as I loaned the necklace to Tony Elling for hostessing on Friday night and I wore it again on Saturday. The blue set I wore on Sunday. I also noticed Betty with the same set in red and Mimi Mischief in purple.
Betty, as usual, cut a wide swath. I know she picked up a ton of trim at Meadhall Outfitters, got a couple of vintage dresses at The Fox Affect, and bought an enormous organza boa at Nancy’s Basement.
I’d like to mention Vixens Ahoy who appeared for the first time anywhere. If you’re looking for retro accessories, like tea aprons or handbags, Marion is your lady. She does custom work too! (like a number of Boston Babydoll costumes…).
Dear Constant Reader,
The Teaseday Club is an experiment Scratch is trying out. He wanted to produce a fun monthly revue for local and visiting performers that might not otherwise have a place to perform. So, he created this cabaret with burlesque and variety acts and lovely libations at the bar in the lobby. Last night was the first show.
Sadly, I didn’t get to watch *any* of the show, as I was on last in both my sets and for the one set that I wasn’t performing, I was stage kittening. But I’ll do my best to report on the acts.
(All photos from Mystic River Studios by Rich Jarvis Photography)
Amber Rane performed her award-winning housewife act (which she developed in the Burlesque Your Way course at B.A.B.E). It was adorable when she debuted it and I bet it’s only gotten better in the past year.
Alissa Coates has a stunning voice and last night Teaseday Club members got a real treat. She accompanied herself on the guitar (the first time in front of an audience!) while singing “One Sweet Love.
Vikki Likkerish performed her Muff ‘N’ Mix act. I love this number and her current version of the punchline is awesome. I remember when she won a Taste O’ Burlesque contest with it and one of the ballots had “Cup f–ing Cake” scrawled on it, just to make sure we knew who they meant.
Sally the Altar Boy is a poi spinner, or “object manipulator” as Scratch likes to say. We’ve always been quite impressed with his skill. All I can tell you about this act is that he used glow poi, wore a striped suit, and the music was “That Old Pair of Jeans”.
I was up next. I had originally planned to do my boa & panels strip because it’s nice and fresh from the Mardi Gras Ball, but while I was out of town I saw that Delilah Spring was added to the line-up and I know her fan dance is to the same song. I pulled that act and chose my old favorite “Minnie The Moocher” instead (you’ll find out shortly why that was appropriate). It’s an audience favorite. And they joined in on every “hi-di hi-di hi-di-ho”.
Stella Diamond was a last minute addition when Ginny Nightshade fell ill. For her first number, she sang that classic “I Hate Men”, which she did so well in The Bod of Avon.
Amber Rane returned to the stage and rolled around on her adorable squishy pink bean bag, to “The Beanbag Song”, of course. The punchline to this act is so cute, but I’m not going to give it away.
Alissa Coates sang “Don’t Know Why” which suits her voice fabulously.
Delilah Spring performed her fan dance to “The Mooche”. This is the song I was going to use, but went with Minnie instead. See, the Mooche is the dance a Moocher does. Cute, no? I’m so proud to have had Delilah as a fan dance student. This is a lovely number.
By the way, this was the easiest set ever to kitten. Only Amber needed her costume picked up, and I just had to move the microphone for both Stella and Alissa.
Stella Diamond strips as well as sings! She hitchhiked to “Burlecue” with her trusty “Fame or Bust” suitcase by her side. (She loves that prop, although she couldn’t be more different from The Innocent in this act.)
Sally the Altar Boy spun his faster set of glow poi to “La Grange”. This picture kind of gives you an idea of what he looks like in motion.
Vikki Likkerish performed her signature Painted Lady act. As usual, jaws were dropping all through the audience.
Delilah Spring presented a number I hadn’t seen yet (and still haven’t since I was stuck backstage). It was to “Mississippi Mud” by The Andrews Sisters and you can see part of her river-themed costume in the photo.
And lastly it was me, performing “My Room” with my black & white fans. A classic.
The Teaseday Club will be open the second Tuesday of every month. That means the next one is May 14th. I’ll probably be in the audience for that one!
Two writings in one day! I hope that satisfies your desires to hear about my goings-on for a bit. At least until tomorrow!
Dear Constant Reader,
One of the wonderful thing about The Expo is The Conference, ably coordinated by Scandal from Bohemia and before her, Betty Blaize. It has developed into 4 tracks of classes over 2 days: movement classes, lectures, hand-on workshops, and panels. All sort of topics are covered from fan dancing and shimmies to taxes and contracts.
Despite having gone to bed quite late the night before, I was up bright and early Saturday morning to join my fellow Babydolls for the first class.
Boston Babydoll Boot Camp (Evie Sphinx): Evie regularly tortures us for 10 or 15 minutes at rehearsals. This was an entire hour of calisthenics. We did fast footwork across the floor. We did squats, pushups, dips, planks. I don’t even remember what all we did, but I was exhausted and sweating.
Stripteasing in Panel Skirts (Toni Elling): Miss Elling is a master of working with panels and she brought some from her collection for us to try out. Now I need to make some half-circle chiffon panel skirts…
Maximizing the Power of Hands and Gloves (Joe Paul Williams): This entire class focused on the movement of the hands, wrists, and forearms. We learned the relationship of the parts of the hand to other parts of the body, the symbolism, and mind-body-spirit connection. We never put on a single glove and yet I feel my glove removes are forever changed for the better.
Power in Silence (Paco Fish): By silence, Paco meant the silence of the body — stillness. I remind other dancers (and myself) to embrace the power of the pause and this class brought that home again and again.
Elements of Staging for Classic Burlesque Group Work (Joe Paul Williams): Using simple shapes on the stage, we created a Follies style group number in no time at all. We also explored the differing power of serial, parallel, and oppositional movement. I noticed, again, how much Joe’s teachings have influenced Betty and that it was reflected in our most recent choreography.
Stalking the Stocking (Jo Weldon): I always enjoy Jo’s classes, but I was hoping to pick up some tips for Your Lovely Legs! The class was, no surprise, both fun and informative. The high point may have been Mimi Mischief’s stockings trying to make her go down to the basement.
And that was Saturday.
Sunday morning, I skipped Betty’s Boot Camp to be prepared for my class.
Homemade Beauty (me): I’m pretty fanatical about my skin care (see my drawer full of Xerion Skin Science products sometime), but I also like making stuff myself and saving money. In this class we made a face scrub, a foot scrub, and bath fizz (like a bath bomb, only not compressed into a ball) with ingredients you can mostly get at your average supermarket. I may run it again at B.A.B.E.
Fan-Task-Tickle! (Bobby Barnaby): On the care and feeding of fans: how to make them, store them, mend them, transport them. Happily, Bobby prefers bamboo stave fans, like me.
FANatics Anonymous (Bobby Barnaby): An actual fan dance class. Always fun to play with my fans. Bobby uses the other grip, so it was occasionally challenging to translate the moves.
Drop-in Class (me): B.A.B.E. runs these all weekend for people who have only come for the Exhibit Hall and shows. They’re very basic introductory classes. The rest of the instructors were off in Dahlia Fatale’s Fosse jazz class.
I allowed myself a lot of down time this year. By which I mean that out of 16 class periods, I was doing something class related for only 11 of them. I regret skipping Blitzen von Schtupp’s Tantalizing Shimmies and Italian Burlesque: Sophia Lauren Style with Sophie Champagne, but I had to conserve my strength and brainpower at least a little.
Here’s a little picture of me and Toni Elling in her panel skirt class: She’s graciously allowed me to wear one of her skirts. I look a tad disheveled, and I’m going to put the blame on Evie and her calisthenics and not for my inability to look in a mirror.