Category Archives: In Print

Recent Highlights

Oh my. It seems like the times when I have the most to write about are always the times when I don’t write anything at all. So this is going to be a big update. Here’s a recap of highlights from the last several weeks:

Pinup Workshop in a Book, RELEASED!

Presales for my book, “Plain Jane to Pinup Queen: Pinup Modeling Workshop in a Book,” were shipped out a day ahead of schedule, and the book is now available for immediate shipment. Jam packed with information about how to create a flattering silhouette, this book will help you look better at photo shoots, for candid shots, and even on stage!

Tease-o-Rama Burlesque Convention

This was a truly magical event. I was euphoric for weeks after the Tease-o-Rama weekend. Everyone was so supportive: performers were friendly and non-competitive, audience members were responsive and super friendly, and the staff! The people helping out behind the scenes were some of my favorite people in San Francisco. Mynx d’Meanor, Reverend Dick, Lady Borgia and Candy came up from San Diego for the weekend, and it was so wonderful to hang out with those folks. They are really transforming the burlesque scene in San Diego, too. They are bringing individual troupes together for collaboration on shows, which no one in SD did before. It is great to see a trend toward more inclusiveness and cooperation in a regional burlesque scene. (Click here to see a great photo of me, Reverend Dick and Lady Borgia backstage after my act!)

My student group, the Burlesqueteers, performed at the opening night meet-and-mingle, and they did a fabulous job. We did our bunny version of “Take Back Your Mink” from Guys and Dolls followed by Josie Starr’s Bunny Assassin act. There was a malfunction during the first number when the power to the sound booth got unplugged, but the girls kept their heads and played it cool like true professionals, and we really pulled it off.

I also performed a solo act during the Saturday night show, and it was so much fun. I really adore performing for a big room, and the Tease-o-Rama crowd is such an appreciative audience too. What a rush! I performed my Tassel Tricks act, which starts out super glam and then gets really silly, sort of a burlesque version of the bait and switch, and the crowd went right along with me. So much fun!

“Fromagique”

On Monday, November 17, my new Dixieland/traditional jazz band, “Fromagique,” debuted at the Uptown Hubba Hubba Revue show in Oakland. I am singing, dancing, and playing the hoochicoo in this project, and I can’t wait for our next gigs! The performance was really well received, and it was so much fun. The band was amazing. Randy Johnson put together all the arrangements and organized the band, and I have to say he did a terrific job. We still need to get a web page up and running for the band, so I will post links here once we have that together.

Monday night was the first time I sang on stage in almost 2 years, and probably the 5th or 6th time singing in front of a crowd EVER. Talk about stage fright! You know, I really don’t think it’s fair that every new kind of thing I do on stage has it’s own stage fright about it. I mean, I’ve been taking it off on stage for over a decade, so nothing about that scares me any more, but whenever I add a new aspect to it (talking on the mic or any speaking role, over the top comedy, and now singing…) I get stage fright as if I’d never been on stage before. I’m complaining, but I have to be perfectly honest and say that the stage fright is one of the reasons I keep performing. It shows that I am stretching, growing, trying new things. The day I stop getting stage fright is the day I give up the stage altogether.

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Hitting the Reset Button

Wow, I haven’t written in so long and there is so much to write about. I’ve just been working, working, working my sparkly butt off (more than usual) the last few months and have not updated here at all. In addition to “Plain Jane to Pinup Queen: Pinup Workshop in a Book” that is officially available on September 30 (presales are available now!) I am working on two other book projects, one of which I expect to have available in late October or early November. No, I’m not telling you what it is yet, you’ll just have to wait for the announcement, but I am very excited about it. Aren’t I just a tease?

Venus Zinepublished a writeup about my Pinup Workshop in their fall issue. Venus Zine is absolutely my favorite alternative magazine, with lots of great writeups about the alternative music and arts scenes plus great DIY instructions and coverage. Pick up their fall issue now! You can read Joelle Caputa’s writeup of the pinup workshop here!

The Pinup Workshop Tour has also been keeping me super busy. I’ve done a ton of traveling this year, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to be slowing down going into next year either. Woo! I adore traveling, and not just the part where you’re hanging out in new and exciting places. I actually love the traveling part, the getting from Point A to Point B, on the train, the plane, and walking. It’s that in-between, on-the-way-somewhere-but-not-quite-there-yet limbo place that I like. It’s very relaxing. There’s nothing to do but sit there, read, and daydream. I get a lot of great ideas on planes, trains, walking, or even a few times on the back of a motor cycle. I get a lot of ideas in the shower or doing dishes too, but that’s a different story.

Of course, this is not as relaxing when taken to extremes. My Boston/New Haven trip turned into the Murphy’s Law trip from hell, and would have been miserable if the people in the workshops hadn’t been such dears. In particular, the ladies in New Haven were total dolls. That story is so great, I will write a seperate entry about it.

Right now, I am in New York, staying in Brooklyn with my friend Legs Malone, who is an absolute sweet heart – and an amazing burlesque performer! She is brilliant and beautiful and a wonderful hostess. She has had a few days off and a childhood friend in town as well, and it has been very cozy and wonderful hanging out. Other than the Pinup Workshop on Saturday, Randy and I didn’t schedule any work for this trip, and I am glad. It is so nice to be able to just relax and hang out with wonderful friends.

It has been so good, in fact, that I think it fulfilled my horoscope for me! From Free Will Astrology, which is absolutely the most delicious and witty horoscope anywhere:

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): My friend Joan was experiencing a cascade of
annoying physical symptoms — mediocre digestion, mild headaches,
chronic congestion in her ear, itchy skin. None was terrible, but together
they were a big distraction. After two trips to her regular acupuncturist,
there was little improvement. The acupuncturist decided it was time for
more drastic measures: He was going to try a dramatic treatment that
was akin to pushing a reset button on a machine. Success! Joan was freed
from the nagging ailments and experienced a thorough rejuvenation. I
suggest you seek out the equivalent treatment, Libra: Push the reset
button.

(BTW: I always read Libra and Scorpio because I am a Libra born on the Libra/Scorpio cusp with a Scorpio rising. However, I am only referring to the Libra horoscope in this instance. In case you wanted to know.)

I definitely feel like this trip has hit my reset button. I am more relaxed and invigorated than I have felt in a long time. Who says taking some time off right before big deadlines is a bad idea? It is sure working for me! I will write more later, after I have finished lounging for a bit…

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Bellydance/Burlesque fusion?

I haven’t written here in a few days, but I have been busy writing!  One of my students, who is a bellydancer, asked me to give my perspective about bellydance/burlesque fusion for a lively debate that has been taking place at The Guilded Serpent, a bellydance zine.  The gist of the argument is that one person in the bellydance scene, Miles Copeland, attacked Princess Farhana for producing a show that was advertised as offering burlesque and bellydance performances, blaming burlesque for giving or supporting a bad reputation for bellydance, and even going so far as to say that the association of burlesque with bellydance would affect the rights and respect that women have in the countries where bellydance originated.

Here is my response to the article and the letters to the editor:

4-18-08 re: Divorcing Bellydance from Burlesque by Miles & When the Hip Hits the Fan by Princess Farhana
This is a very interesting conversation. There was recently one very similar to this in one of the burlesque message boards I belong to, only it was talking about the association that burlesque has in the eyes of the public with strip-club strippers, i.e. poledancers. I wrote about this in my blog here: https://bombshellbetty.wordpress.com/2008/03/08/stripping-vs-burlesque/ In the burlesque movement, we are seeing some fusion between burlesque and poledancing (for example, the duo called Gravity Plays Favorites). Some people like this, and some don’t. I consider it to be the inevitable result of a creative and innovative movement. Everyone adds their own style and flavor to the mix, which then inspires more people to add their own styles and flavor, which then inspires more people…

The burlesque “bump-and-grind” dancing in the 50’s was taken directly from bellydance moves. You can call this cultural appropriation if you wish. I call it human nature and an inevitable part of growth and creation. As creative humans, we see something we like and wish to emulate it, and then we add our own creative influence to what we are doing and soon enough a new style or even artform is born. This happens in music, in visual art, in dance, in architecture, in literature… you name it. Burlesque as it is known in America (and as it is spreading internationally) is an American cultural tradition that drew from European theatrical traditions and later developed into striptease (often comedic) with bellydance inspired moves and costuming themes.

It is pointless for traditionalists to bemoan the changes and new interpretations that people create in these art forms. Everything changes. People will always innovate. All I can recommend is that traditionalists stick with the style they enjoy, the innovators stick with what they enjoy, and everyone just worry about your own act, your own reputation, your own success, and leave everyone else to their own business. Or you can bang your head against the wall, but I promise you that won’t change anything anyone else is doing, although it might give you a headache. And dismissing someone else’s success by calling them “sleazy” while excusing your lack of success by blaming it on them is just a cop-out. If you want to be hired (to perform or to teach), work on your skills and presentation and stop worrying about what other people are doing. If you stand out, you will be successful. If you don’t, you probably won’t.

To the people who are afraid that “bellydancer = callgirl” in the eyes of the public, keep in mind that the people who would look up a bellydancer in the phone book and harrass her are the kind of people who automatically think “woman = whore.” Disassociating burlesque from bellydance won’t iradicate that kind of ignorance and sexism. Any employer who would fire a person for practicing or performing burlesque in their off time deserves to be slapped with a law suit.

And anyone who claims that associating burlesque with bellydance is undermining their efforts to “legitimize” bellydancers in the countries the art came from is just fooling themselves. The dance forms will be respected in those areas when women are respected in those areas, and not until then.

Public dancing and performance in general has only recently been seen as a respectable activity for women in our culture, and there are many places in the world where it is still seen as indecent. For hundreds of years in Europe and America, “actress” or “opera dancer” or “chorus girl” were synonymous with “prostitute.” The bias against women showing their independence and flouting cultural strictures is not new to striptease, and cultural ideas of what is “vulgar” or “tasteless” or “indecent” change from generation to generation. Expecting the norms of yesteryear to apply today is not only unrealistic, but it would also paint even the most “traditional” and “respectable” of dance forms with unflattering associations.

Blaming burlesque for dance’s “sleazy” associations isn’t going to fix any of these problems, because burlesque is not the problem, just as pole dancing isn’t the reason burlesque has a bad rap. The problem is that so much of the American (and hello… Middle Eastern… or even the world’s?) population is afraid of stong, earthy female sexuality and artforms that express it. Fix that problem and the rest will go away. Until then, you’re just putting fresh frosting on a stale cake.

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More on body love/hate

After writing this post, everyone in my life seems to be talking about body issues! A recent thread in a burlesque list hashed out some controversy about whether the burlesque scene is body-positive and what that means. Friends and family have come to me expressing unhappiness with their bodies. I have personally been dealing with the fact that I have gained 20-30 pounds in the last year and a half (mostly I’m fine with it, it’s just frustrating when my favorite clothes no longer fit over my ass). An email conversation with Violet Blue, the witty and lovely sex educator, author and sex columnist for the SF Chronicle, resulted in quotes in her column and a mention on her blog.

All of this discussion has inspired me to go a bit deeper on this issue that affects all of us to one degree or another. To start off, this is the full rant that I sent to Violet Blue, which she quoted from in her column:

What I have always noticed in my own life and when I am watching other people is that “when you feel sexy, you are sexy.” Period. The end. There are people out there who are attracted to every body type, age group, coloring combination, clothing style, you name it. What makes one person stand out more than another are confidence and vivacity, both of which come out when someone is really feeling sexy.

I have shared dressing rooms with thousands of ravishingly beautiful women over the last 12 years, and the one thing they all have in common is… none of them think they are beautiful enough! Our society teaches women to pick themselves to pieces, analyzing each and every feature individually and keeping a list in our minds of each and every perceived fault. No one comes out of this scenario feeling good, and when women are in this mind set, nothing you can say will change the way they feel about themselves. Believe me, I’ve tried. (Have you noticed that most women will argue with you when you give them a compliment rather than just saying “thank you”?)

On the other hand, men tend to be seen in more of a gestalt fashion: people look at the whole package – including personality! – and evaluate the sexiness and attractiveness of the person as a whole rather than analyzing the perfection or imperfection of each feature. This is a much easier standard, and I find that the women who are most confident tend to see themselves in this way as well.

I don’t think people learn through words, they learn through experience. With this in mind, what I strive to create in my classes (and what many burlesque shows create) is a totally new environment where women of all shapes and sizes and ages and complexions get encouragement and support from each other rather than competitiveness and criticism. Often for the first time in their lives, they are allowed to explore their sexuality and enjoy their bodies in a safe and non-threatening way.

As new people come into the group and experience how the group encourages others who do not represent our society’s unattainable ideal of what is beautiful, they see how sexy these other “imperfect” women are when they are letting go and feeling sexy, and it allows them to stop judging themselves so harshly. Soon enough, they start stretching themselves, coming out of their shells more and more, and the encouragement and support they get from the group allows them to let go of even more of this unneccessary shame and self-judgement. This is really powerful and transformational, and I have seen it start huge snowball effects of positive change in people’s lives.

I think the best thing people can do to start feeling good about themselves is to get rid of the critics! Turn off the TV when it’s talking about some celebrity’s weight issues! Stop listening to your mother or your friend or your boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse when they make comments about your weight. Hang out with people who think you’re hot! Find them. They’re out there!

As I mentioned in my previous post on this subject and in the quote above, these body image issues are pervasive. It is not only heavier women who feel insecure or downright ashamed of their bodies. Women of all ages, sizes and shapes feel this way, and many men have body insecurities, too; they just don’t usually talk about them as much, I think. I have asked some of my students (women of every body type and various ages) to give me their thoughts and experiences on how learning and performing burlesque has affected their body image, and with their permission I will be posting some of them here soon. The responses to my questions made me want to cry in a really, really good way. Such beautiful women!

I was surprised a few days ago when someone posted this comment on my post about Lindsay Lohan’s ode to Marilyn’s last photos:

I do agree that it’s exciting to see the pin-up aesthetic coming into the mainstream media … However, these photos of Lindsay Lohan are ATROCIOUS! Why on God’s Green Earth would these ever be published! Lindsay’s figure is emaciated and she looks like she’s about to kick the bucket! She took a gorgeous icon’s last photo shoot and turned it into squirrel droppings. I hope that the mainstream media can use the pin-up aesthetic … but, I certainly hope that they don’t keep bastardizing it like they did with this photo shoot!

I find this whole attitude offensive! If we are going to escape the limitations and shame placed on us by our society’s pressure to fit into one ideal body type, we’re going to have to stop hating people of any body type, not just ones that look like ourselves. Hating people because they resemble our current cultural ideal is only going to keep spreading body hate and unreasonable pressure. You can’t create freedom for “fatties” by hating the “skinnies.” Thin people are under just as much scrutiny and criticism as everyone else. Personally, I don’t see the difference between automatically hating someone because they are “too thin” or “too fat” and hating someone because they are of a different race or gender or sexual orientation. It is all judging someone because of what they are physically rather than who they are as a human being.

I came across Kate Harding’s “Shapely Prose” blog a couple of days ago, and I love it! Here are the “ten principles that underlie pretty much everything” she writes in the blog (taken from here):

1. Weight itself is not a health problem, except in the most extreme cases (i.e., being underweight or so fat you’re immobilized). In fact, fat people live longer than thin people and are more likely to survive cardiac events, and some studies have shown that fat can protect against “infections, cancer, lung disease, heart disease, osteoporosis, anemia, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis and type 2 diabetes.” Yeah, you read that right: even the goddamned diabetes. Now, I’m not saying we should all go out and get fat for our health (which we wouldn’t be able to do anyway, because no one knows how to make a naturally thin person fat any more than they know how to make a naturally fat person thin; see point 4), but I’m definitely saying obesity research is turning up surprising information all the time — much of which goes ignored by the media — and people who give a damn about critical thinking would be foolish to accept the party line on fat. Just because you’ve heard over and over and over that fat! kills! doesn’t mean it’s true. It just means that people in this culture really love saying it.

2. Poor nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle do cause health problems, in people of all sizes. This is why it’s so fucking crucial to separate the concept of “obesity” from “eating crap and not exercising.” The two are simply not synonymous — not even close — and it’s not only incredibly offensive but dangerous for thin people to keep pretending that they are. There are thin people who eat crap and don’t exercise — and are thus putting their health at risk — and there are fat people who treat their bodies very well but remain fat. Really truly.

3. What’s more, those groups do not represent anomalies; no one has proven that fat people generally eat more or exercise less than thin people. Period. And believe me, they’ve tried. (Gina Kolata’s new book, Rethinking Thin, is an outstanding source for more on that point.)

4. Diets don’t work. No, really, not even if you don’t call them diets. If you want to tell me about how YOUR diet totally worked, do me a favor and wait until you’ve kept all the weight off for five years. Not one year, not four years, five years. And if you’ve kept it off for that long, congratulations. You’re literally a freak of nature.

5. Given that diets don’t work in the long-term for the vast, vast majority of people, even if obesity in and of itself were a health crisis, how the fuck would you propose we solve it?

6. Most fat people have already dieted repeatedly. And sadly, it’s likely that the dieting will cause them more health problems than the fat.

7. Human beings deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Fat people are human beings.

8. Even fat people who are unhealthy still deserve dignity and respect. Still human beings. See how that works?

9. In any case, shaming teh fatties for being “unhealthy” doesn’t fucking help. If shame made people thin, there wouldn’t be a fat person in this country, trust me. I wish I could remember who said this, ’cause it’s one of my favorite quotes of all time: “You cannot hate people for their own good.”

10. If you scratch an article on the obesity! crisis! you will almost always find a press release from a company that’s developing a weight loss drug — or from a “research group” that’s funded by such companies.

I really love that bit that she says, “You can’t hate people for their own good.” I wish I knew who said that originally, too. She has links to resources supporting her statements on her website, so check it out.

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Filed under Body Image, Burlesque, In Print

Pinup articles, body love/hate, and pornography

Two national magazines have published articles about my Pinup Workshops and Photoshoots so far in 2008! Curve Magazine published an article chronicling the adventures of three staffers as they participate in a private workshop for their Jan/Feb issue.

A few days ago, a friend in an online social website sent me a message telling me that he’d read about me in the April issue of Skin&Ink Magazine. This was a little surprising to me, because I had originally expected the article to run in the March 2007 issue – a full year ago! You can read the article here (sorry, I don’t know how to make it into one PDF document): Page 1, 2, 3 and 4. It is a great article, I think. For some reason though, whether due to misquotes or changed ideas in the year and a half since I interviewed for this article, a couple of my quotes don’t really express my perspective on a couple of touchy subjects, so I’d like to expand and clarify what I think about two subjects mentioned: very thin fashion models and pornography.

First of all, I don’t think fashion models are personally responsible for the eating disorder epidemic that is taking place in the United States, accompanied by misogyny and body hating from both men and women. Fashion models have as little control over their genes and overall body type as the rest of us do, and they are under considerable pressure from their industry to maintain extremely low body weights in order to get work.

And THAT is where the problem comes from. The industry pressure. To be fair, the fashion industry has recently started making efforts to change this. In the last few years, some countries have banned models that they deem unhealthily underweight (read about it here), and Jean Paul Gaultier recently featured a plus size model, Velvet D’Amour on the runway in Paris. You can read a couple of opinions about Gaultier’s gesture here and here.

I’m not sure what Gaultier’s intention was or whether there will be any real changes in the fashion industry standards, and to be honest, I think that in recent years more of this body scrutiny and criticism has come from Hollywood and the tabloids than from Paris or Milan. Tabloid magazine headlines are constantly screaming about celebrity weight fluctuations – whether real or imagined – as if they are really national news. Actresses are constantly attacked and pressured, which makes them lose more and more weight to keep up with expectations, and then the women who read these magazines and hear these reports compare themselves with the supposedly “fat” actresses, and translate the criticism into self-hate. Enough already!

This is what I love about the modern burlesque resurgence, and one of the things I love most about the pinup movement as well. These communities are creating a space for women (and men!) to come together in all of their shapes, sizes, ages and races and be seen as sexy, powerful and beautiful! Pinup artists like Coop and Big Al celebrate voluptuous women. Women of all body types and ages come to my burlesque classes and pinup workshops, and start to feel good about their bodies. Not in a few months when they lose 15 pounds. Now. Just as they are. I have heard other burlesque performers talk about how participating in the burlesque scene has given them this confidence, too.

In a recent article, Margaret Cho discussed how burlesque has changed her views of her body:

Along with her identity as an Asian-America, Cho has struggled with her identity as a woman, particularly her personal struggles with eating disorders. As a young woman growing up in her family, Cho was susceptible to sexist messages that told her she had to be “small, petite, and skinny” to be beautiful. As a result, Cho developed a devastating eating disorder, and went through dramatic periods of anorexia and bulimia. After being told to lose weight while working on her television show All-American Girl, Cho starved herself for several weeks, eventually becoming hospitalized for kidney failure.

A breakthrough for Cho came when she saw burlesque being performed for the first time. “I was so amazed when I saw the performance. There were women with all different body types, ages, races, and you could tell they were so happy and comfortable with their bodies,” she said. “I was crying when I saw it, it really cured me.” For Cho, who performed burlesque on her tour “The Sensuous Woman,” burlesque was not about sexualizing herself as much as it was about emancipating her from the idea that her body is a prison. “We are so conditioned to a certain look that models have, and people think that’s the only kind of body that can be beautiful and sexual, and that’s not true, everybody has that ability.” Cho believed that performing burlesque allowed her to see that ability.

* * *

Another issue from the Skin and Ink article that I’d like to address is pornography and the degradation of women. I do not believe that all porn is degrading to women. Some is, some is great, and some I probably just don’t get, so I don’t like to make blanket statements about it. As Mae West said, “It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it.”

I’ll wind this up with my favorite quote of all time regarding pornography:

“I don’t know what the definition of pornography is and nobody else does either. Pornography is somebody else’s erotica that you don’t like. People are interested in their own sexuality and they’ve always reflected it in their art. End of story.” – Erica Jong

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Filed under Body Image, Burlesque, In Print, Personal, Pin-Up

Stripping vs. Burlesque

A lively debate in one of the Burlesque lists was recently sparked by an article about Bunny Bravo, a burlesque producer in the LA area, entitled Burlesque Is Not Stripping.

Many people responded with outrage and annoyance about the question of how burlesque is or isn’t stripping and how this comes up in the media all the time. Personally, I am glad that this is a question that is addressed in most articles that come up about burlesque in the mainstream media. Why? Because most people in the mainstream culture still don’t know the difference between pole dancing and burlesque!

For example, during a party that I recently hosted for a friend’s 11th birthday (he was born on Leap Year), the guests were people I didn’t know and who were not from the burlesque scene. People kept asking me what happened at the studio, what I do, etc. Some people heard the word “burlesque” and shut off, walking away as quickly as possible. One woman replied, “Burlesque? How interesting! So where is your pole?” I had to pull out my 30-second “This is Burlesque” explanation many times that night.

My life is centered around burlesque, so it is rare indeed these days that I find myself surrounded socially or professionally by people who have no idea what the burlesque scene is about. But the moment that I step outside of this cozy little subculture, it is quite clear to me that the general public has no idea what we are doing.

It is clear to me that although the burlesque scene is tired of being faced with this question and would love to move on to more interesting and worthier subjects, the burlesque resurgence is still very much an underground movement and the public continues to need basic education about it. Until the public is generally better informed about this artform we love, I think it is in our best interest to address these most basic of questions that the public has about our art for as long as it is necessary.

Part of the reason that this confusion continues is because many shows that are not really what we in the scene would consider “burlesque” latch onto the word for its buzz factor. For instance, most fans of the New Burlesque would not consider X Burlesque to have anything to do with burlesque performance. Maybe it falls under the catch all umbrella of “burlesque” today, but it seems like a big corporation’s way of cashing in on a popular underground trend with not a care in the world of whether they are in fact presenting a burlesque show.

I also think it’s funny how quickly many burlesque performers denounce our pole dancing sisters, calling burlesque “the good stripping” and similarly distancing themselves by calling stripclub dancers “strippers” and themselves “burlesque dancers” or “burlesque artists”, when to my way of thinking, the current strip clubs are a lot closer to the original environment and performance intention of the “original” burlesque than the neo-burlesque shows of today. In the heyday of burlesque in America, women were booked into the burlesque houses to perform sexually titilating (and according to the views of the time, lewd and indecent) acts, displaying their bodies in as little clothing as possible without getting arrested, all for the benefit of a horny male audience. These women were exotic entertainers, performing as a way to make a buck, not in the interest of furthering their feminist ideals or promoting body positive environments or challenging the status quo. I think the closest parallel to this can be found in the modern strip clubs in Western Canada, where the dancers are booked for a week at a time into a club circuit, perform for 20 minutes at a time wearing elaborate costumes, and are paid per show by the club. Patrons are not allowed to touch the performers at all and must place tips on the stage rather than giving them directly to the dancer. Of course, most clubs in the US are quite a far cry from the clubs of Western Canada, however most of them still have a lot more in common with the “Burlesque Houses” than our modern shows do, aside from the pasties and feathers.

On the other hand, what you find at a New Burlesque show is much different – and much different that what you would have seen at a burlesque show in the 1940’s or 1950’s. Women and men get dressed up in extremely extravagant costumes to perform for mixed audiences in shows at an assortment of venues – from dive bars to large theaters. Most of the performers do this as a moderatly expensive hobby, for the love of it, and few performers actually make a living at it. Many acts are as much performance art as striptease, and the focus is much more on theatricality and personality than it is on body parts. While most burlesque acts involve some stripping, not all of them do, and different performers who do strip only take off as much or as little as they want to. The feeling at these shows is usually boistrous and celebratory.

I feel that the poledancing stripper and the burlesque artist of today are equally the descendants of the classic burlesque dancer of the 1950’s, though they have evolved in very different directions. So if burlesque and club stripping are so different, why the perpetual confusion and the need to constantly differentiate ourselves to the press and the public? I think part of the problem is that burlesque is still very much an underground movement, and to those outside of the scene, it is largely invisible.

I get emails from people in cities across the US asking me how they can find a burlesque show in their area! I’ve had people tell me they can’t find burlesque shows in San Francisco and LA, two places where I know that there are thriving scenes. In fact, approximately 75% of my new students say they have never been to a burlesque show, mostly because they haven’t known where to see one. A few people have created websites to give burlesque performers and producers one place to consolidate their show listings, which would make finding a show much easier. This could lead to many more people coming to shows who were previously unfamiliar with the art, and public awareness of exactly what burlesque is would grow exponentially. Unfortunately, none of these websites are being widely used at this time, and so shows continue to be hard to find for people who aren’t “in the know.” Because of this, I welcome any and every opportunity to present burlesque to the public through the press, and I think it is important to continue to clarify in these articles what burlesque is and what it isn’t.

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Filed under Burlesque, In Print

Lindsay Lohan plays Marilyn Monroe for New York Magazine

New York Magazine

In this month’s New York Magazine, Lindsay Lohan recreates images from Marilyn Monroe’s “The Last Sitting” with Bert Stern, the original photographer who shot the pictures of Marilyn in her last photo shoot in 1962, six weeks before her death. While I personally don’t think that Lohan looks much like Marilyn in more than one or two photos (with her blonde wig hanging in her eyes and hiding half of her face), I think this photo series definitely says something about the resurgence of the pinup aesthetic. For the last few years, we have been seeing more and more mainstream magazines showing photo spreads and advertisements reminiscent of the classic pinups, and I’m hoping that this is just the beginning!

Read about the shoot here.

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Filed under In Print, Pin-Up