Tag Archives: Burlesque

And Now for Something Completely Different!

Bombshell Betty and Fromagique present…
A Burlesque tribute to Monty Python and All Things Ridicul-esque!

We will have killer rabbits, dancing Spam, exploding shrubberies, singing lumberjacks, dead parrot juggling, Departments of Arguments and Abuse, the Spanish Inquisition, a Ministry of Silly Walks striptease and much, much more! You will not want to miss all the fun!

Burlesque acts by:

Bombshell Betty!
Red Velvet!
Pearl E. Gates!
Pickles Kintaro!
Lezzie McFaggerson!
Andi Stardust!
Mistress Marla Spanks!
Carlita Cupcake!
Velvet Vixen!
Cinnamon Stick!
Baby Blue Boom Boom!
Pyro Pantera!
Laura Borealis!
Plus Burlesqueteers so new, they don’t have stagenames yet!
MC’s Patina DeCopper and A. Randy Johnson

With live musical accompaniment by San Francisco’s cheesiest band:
FROMAGIQUE (Bombshell Betty, Patina DeCopper, A. Randy Johnson, B.J. Johnson (no relation), Ezra Lipp)

* * *

Tues. Mar. 1st, 2011
@ The Elbo Room
647 Valencia St (2 blocks from 16th St. BART)
Doors @ 9PM Show 9:30PM

21+ W/ ID

General Admission $10
Table for two: $35 ($30 at the door if they last)

For presale tickets, go here!


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Filed under Burlesque, Shows and Events

Combining Clownery and Burlesque: How funny should Clown Burlesque be?

Here is another question about clown burlesque from Angel:

I never knew about clown burlesque, but watching your numbers interested me in it. I guess my question is how do you combine the two, clownery and burlesque- but still be funny yet sexy and still teasing at the same time. Cause Im thinking that if you did too much of one, the idea wouldn’t really come across.

Thanks for taking the time to answer some of my questions I appreciate it so much.

Angel B.
Wethersfield, CT

Great question! If you’re gonna be a clown, you have to really go for it!  I read an article about Tina Fey in a magazine recently where she talked about some advice she got from Steve Martin. He said that if you are at all funny, you have to kill every time. So don’t hold back! Take risks! There is nothing entertaining about a clown without a punchline!

Clown humor is often self-effacing, so you need to be able to be silly without feeling embarrassed. The clown clothes and makeup are a great way to seperate your clown character from your normal self, freeing you from your inhibitions. As a clown, you can really do anything and get away with it. People will just look at you and go, “Of course. She’s a clown.” You can use this as a way to explore subjects and expression that may be too awkward or embarrassing when not in clown face and costume.

When encorporating comedy into your act, the original definition of burlesque comes into play.

bur·lesque (bər-lěsk’)

  • A literary or dramatic work that ridicules a subject either by presenting a solemn subject in an undignified style or an inconsequential subject in a dignified style. See Synonyms at caricature.
  • A ludicrous or mocking imitation; a travesty: The antics of the defense attorneys turned the trial into a burlesque of justice.
  • A variety show characterized by broad ribald comedy, dancing, and striptease.
  • v.   bur·lesqued, bur·lesqu·ing, bur·lesques

    v.   tr.
    To imitate mockingly or humorously: “always bringing junk . . . home, as if he were burlesquing his role as provider” (John Updike).
    v.   intr.
    To use the methods or techniques of burlesque.

    [From French, comical, from Italian burlesco, from burla, joke, probably from Spanish, from Vulgar Latin *burrula, diminutive of Late Latin burrae, nonsense, from burra, wool.]
    bur·lesque’ adj., bur·lesque’ly adv., bur·lesqu’er n.

    The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
    Copyright © 2009 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
    Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

    It’s important to be concious of that fact that in Clown Burlesque you are presenting the clown archetype at the same time as the showgirl archetype. For a really effective performance, I always consider my clown showgirl character to be a clown first, showgirl second. A clown uses exaggeration and humor to present and comment on ideas and experiences that are universal. As a clown showgirl, you would use exaggeration and irony to explore ideas or experiences relative to the showgirl character. I think of it as “burlesquing the striptease.”

    For example, you could play up the showgirl’s natural interest in appearing sexy in at least a couple of different ways:

    1. Come out dressed as a totally ridiculous-looking clown, but never break character as a showgirl. Keep all the movements and face expressions sexy and “classic showgirl” even while removing crazy clown garb and props. For example, you could play up the classic clown gag of the never-ending scarf from the pocket by removing a glove that just keeps getting longer and longer, removing boas tied together from oversized pants, etc. You could also remove whoopie cushions, balloon animals, etc. from hiding places within your costuming, all the while keeping a “straight face” and maintaining your showgirl presentation.
    2. Play a clown character that is overly concerned with her appearance. Use exaggerated, clowny face expressions to express concern and make it obvious that the clown character is aware that she is not really cutting it as a “classic showgirl.” Perhaps have her pull out a mirror to check her face and hair, maybe fussing with a hat that doesn’t stay in place or something along those lines. You would want to use exaggeration and repetition on the same theme to make it clear to the audience exactly what you are playing on and that you are doing it intentionally!

    These are just two examples of different ways to play on one aspect of the showgirl archetype, which I pulled from your question. There are so many other facets and ideas that you can play on, so have fun and get creative.

    I think playing on the showgirl archetype is a natural starting point for clown burlesque, but of course you can explore any themes that appeal to you. You can always play on experiences that are universal to your audience, women, or humanity in general, not just to the showgirl archetype. You could also choose to be a character clown, layering another archetype or stereotype on top of the clown/showgirl combination, which creates whole new ideas to explore. For example, you could be a clown/police officer/showgirl or a clown/housewife/showgirl. The options are limitless!

    The main thing to remember when putting together your number is to have fun! Pick an idea that makes you giggle. Entertain yourself! The more fun you have while creating and performing the act, the more fun the audience will have watching you. Your enthusiasm is what will enthrall your audience, so have fun, explore, and play!


    Filed under Articles: Ask the Bombshell, Burlesque

    Fun Stuff

    So much great stuff has been going on around the studio and at shows, it’s time for an update. Over the weekend, we had Living Legend of Burlesque, Isis Starr, present her take on burlesque in a workshop entitled “The Spirit of Burlesque.” On Monday, several students made their performance debuts at the Uptown Tavern in Oakland for the Hubba Hubba Revue‘s Burlesqueteer Night. Congratulations, ladies!

    I am very excited to announce the first Luxury Edition Pinup Workshop in San Francisco! That’s right, the acclaimed Bombshell Betty Pinup Workshops have been upgraded at no additional cost to participants, and now take place in a posh suite of a luxury hotel, providing multiple beautiful sets as a backdrop for your transformation and photo shoot. Experience a day of pampering and girly fun in a supportive, body positive environment!

    I am also excited about the upcoming Burlesque Choreography series that will include live musical accompaniment by Fromagique, my burlesque jazz band, and I’d like to officially welcome MJ Paul back as aspecialty dance instructor here at the Bombshell Betty Dance studio. Keep reading for more details on all of these great developments!



    – 3/15: Luxury Edition Pinup Workshop in SF!
    – 3/2: Burlesque Choreography with Fromagique
    – 3/12: “Fosse-esque” Burlesque Jazz with MJ Paul



    The first Luxury Edition Pinup Workshop in SF takes place on March 15, 3:00-9:00pm, at the Hotel Frank on Union Square, in a newly renovated suite – “A bold new style in a striking palette of black, white andemerald green. Houndstooth-patterned carpet, tufted faux crocodile headboards, sleek leather couches and custom hand-blown glass light fixtures. Stylish bathrooms outfitted in floor-to-ceiling carrera marble.” What a perfect setting for a pinup shoot!

    Want to attend a Luxury Edition Pinup Workshop, but you don’t live in San Francisco? The 2009 Pinup Workshop Tour is going to cities such as LA, Seattle, Portland, London, Leeds, Chicago, Boston, NYC, Washington DC, and many more!


    With live accompaniment by Fromagique, the burlesque jazz band!

    In this special burlesque choreography session, we will be focusing entirely on the choreography for the Burlesquercise acts that are performed with Bombshell Betty’s burlesque band, Fromagique! The band will play the music for the last class in the series, so that you can get some experience performing with a live band. It’s exhilarating and VERY different from performing to a CD. You won’t find another class like this anywhere!

    All participants in the Burlesque Choreography series are invited to perform these acts with Fromagique at upcoming shows around the BayArea!

    Mondays, 6:30-8:00pm
    March 2, 9, 16 & 23

    To sign up, go to: http://www.bombshellbetty.net/burlesquercise.html



    Starting in March, we are once again offering “Fosse-esque” burlesque jazz classes at the studio, taught by MJ Paul! He is also training to take over teaching the Cardio Can-Can classes! We here at the studio are excited to have MJ back at the studio, teaching his own brand of fun classes with lively choreography. MJ Paul can be found teaching various workshops and master classes throughout California. He is the long-time assistant to Emmy award winner Suzy Miller and has been dance director/resident choreographer for the SF Boylesque performance troupe for the past 18 months. His varied theatre background has included working on productions such as: Cabaret, Damn Yankees, A Christmas Carol with the renowned Gilbert Reed Ballet, 12 Days of Christmas with Ballet Theatre of SLO, Kathy Mata Ballet, Bombshell Betty’s Burlesqueteers, and Fieldwork at Shotwell Studios.

    To find out about MJ Paul’s classes, go to: http://www.bombshellbetty.net/burlesquercise.html

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    Filed under Burlesque, Classes and Workshops, Newsletter, Pin-Up

    Any publicity is good publicity? Good reasons not to talk trash…

    Recently someone (or a few someones) apparently decided that I was too successful and started up a smear campaign in San Francisco to take me down, or cause me trouble, or annoy me like a mosquito buzzing in my ear, or something. I’m not really sure what their intentions were, except that I’m positive their intention was NOT what the end result actually HAS been: to bring me additional publicity, thereby supporting my business.

    I got an email from one of the owners of Stagewerx Theater, where I produce a monthly show  in San Francisco, telling me that they had found a couple of these stickers pasted around the theater:
    bettyzerorewardThe folks at the venue are pissed because whoever put up the stickers put one on a big sign that cost $5000 to have made, and they can’t take it off without damaging the sign. Now the venue is looking into finding out who the vandal is and will prosecute them to the full extent of the law, which could include a prison sentence up to one year plus damages up to $10,000. Pretty serious for a petty stunt, don’t you think?

    And here’s the kicker: I received a second email from someone who saw the sticker, thought it looked interesting and looked me up online to find out what the fuss was about. She loved what she saw and signed up for a Pinup Workshop and my Burlesquercise Intensive that starts in January. Which means that this “bad publicity” directly brought me at least one new student. So, dear vandal(s), thank you for your help. Feel free to put up your stickers all over town and get more and more people looking me up to see what I’m about. Just be careful where you put them so you don’t cause damage to any more property!

    This reminds me of how the group on Live Journal a few people created to trash talk the Suicide Girls website actually increased sign ups for the Suicide Girls website because it got so many people who had never heard of the website to go check it out to see what all the drama was about.

    These are both great examples of how even bad press can help you! We have all heard the saying “there is no such thing as bad publicity” and that it’s only bad when no one is talking about you. For the most part, I would say this is true (the exception being when you reach the level of notoriety where the paparazzi stalks you… luckily I don’t have to worry about that).

    I guess the moral of the story is: If you see someone being more successful than you at what you want to do, put your energy into promoting yourself and building up your own project, rather than trying to tear down the other person. Also keep in mind that trash talking someone within your industry can fall into the categories of slander, libel and trade disparagement, which are crimes and can get you prison sentences and huge fines (and this is separate from any charges for vandalism, as in this case).

    In many burlesque scenes in different cities, there seems to be what I consider an unnecessary feeling of competition. I don’t understand why so many people would rather undermine each other rather than pull together and work on building the scene together – especially in the burlesque scene, which is so underground and needs as much proactive outreach and public awareness building as possible. Wouldn’t it be better to think of your “competition” as another group helping to bring more people into the scene? Isn’t each person they meet and bring in to one of their shows or classes or what-have-you another potential audience member or student or customer for you as well? Most people who come to one burlesque show and like it will go to more burlesque shows if they can find them.

    I appreciate all of the hard work that everyone else in the burlesque scene is doing to build awareness of our art, locally in San Francisco, across the country, and around the world. Promote, promote, promote! That is how our art will thrive! I look forward to the day when telling someone you are a burlesque performer will be like telling someone you are in a band. Instead of “What’s that?” or “I hear dancing on a pole is a great workout” people will say, “Really? What style do you perform?” and I will be able to reply “My acts tend to be sort of New York avant garde style with a traditional aesthetic and a clowny twist” without people looking at me and saying, “What the hell are you talking about?”

    So, the next time you find yourself gritting your teeth as your “competitor” has another successful show or announces yet another class format or fun product, rather than setting yourself against them… put your energy into designing a clever flyer or sticker that showcases you and your fun project  and spend your time proactively putting them around town. Shameless self promotion is a great game that we can all get in on!

    In the next few days, I will post a few easy and inexpensive ways to get in on the promotion game. This will cover the first steps discussed in my previous posting about Getting Paid to Perform.


    Filed under Articles: Breaking into the Bump and Grind, Articles: The Entrepreneurial Performer, Burlesque

    G-Rated Burlesque: Keeping It Clean for the All Ages Crowd

    I just got home from Florida last night, where I was in Orlando to teach a Burlesquercise Intensive and a Pinup Workshop. During the burlesque intensive, some of the ladies told me that they really want to get out and perform burlesque and get a burlesque scene going in their area, but because all the tourism in the area is based on Disney World attractions, there are no adult-only venues. Apparently all the 21 and up bars quickly start serving food so that they can be all-ages venues, because everyone brings their kids to Orlando.

    I was incredulous. “You mean there are NO small bars or theaters that you could use for shows? Nothing???” Apparently so. Well, we can’t let Disney keep us down! So I decided to focus on this issue for this blog entry:

    “G-Rated Burlesque” may seem like an oxymoron to some people, but I actually recommend that all burlesquers, in any area, create a wide variety of acts ranging from G-Rated to PG-13 and even up to Rated-R material if they feel like getting racy (or even X-rated if they live in NYC). This is an important thing to do so that you will be ready to accept bookings in a wide variety of venues and situations, including those top-dollar corporate events.

    So how can you keep it fun and sexy while not offending Mickey Mouse and the Disney gang? Here are a few ideas:

    Strip without getting naked. Take your time sensually removing your jacket, your gloves, a hat… Take off one dress to reveal another (full coverage) dress beneath or double up on gloves, bras, stockings, and remove one layer of each… Take off your clothes behind or inside of a large prop, without ever actually revealing your scandlous flesh… I perform a version of my X-mas Stocking act (video below) this way, without ever showing pasties! Now that’s leaving them wanting more!

    These are a few ways that you can allude to striptease without actually crossing the line into adult material. For inspiration, watch old song and dance videos! They were masters of this technique. Here are a few of my favorite all-ages-appropriate stripteases:

    – “Take Back Your Mink” from Guys and Dolls. Striptease with a story line. I love this act.

    – Cyd Charisse in Party Girl: Note the skirt removal and how she removes the scarf over her bodice! Striptease, but still acceptable for all-ages. Also note the bumps and grinds! Burlesque “bump and grind” moves were very popular in dance movies from the 1940’s and 1950’s.

    Draw on Classic Burlesque Gimmicks. One great technique is to make reference to classic burlesque through its most iconic techniques and images, while avoiding the striptease. You can perform a fan dance, a shadow dance, and tassel twirling without actually getting naked or even taking off any clothing! Wear a nude leotard embellished with rhinestones or a sexy dress for your fan dance. Do a real or suggested striptease or a naughty pantomime behind a backlit screen for a shadow dance, and no one sees any skin at all! Put tassels on the outside of your gown or on top of your leotard and you can twirl to your hearts content without actually going down to pasties.

    – Here is Sally Rand performing a fan dance. She often wore nude body stockings behind her fans. Note how she pulls the fans away while behind a screen.

    – Here’s another example with Cyd Charisse. I don’t actually like the look of this nude outfit with tassels, but it demonstrates how it can be done.

    Use innuendos. Another great way to keep it clean is to skip striptease altogether, but lay the innuendos on thick. This was a common way to make G-Rated material fun for adults in the 1920’s through 1950’s and can add to the “classic” feel of your performance. Here’s a great example, also from Guys and Dolls:

    These are all great ways to keep it sassy and risque without crossing the line into depraved displays of nudity that will shock our good American parents. So long as there is no nudity, what can they say? I mean, if Britney Spears could grind and spin on a stripper pole in front of her concert audiences that included 8 year old girls, what’s wrong with a bit of saucy glove removal?


    Filed under Articles: Breaking into the Bump and Grind, Articles: The Entrepreneurial Performer, Burlesque, Photos and Videos, Travel and Adventure

    Ask the Bombshell: How to do what you do?

    I regularly receive emails from people around the world wanting to know my advice on how to get started in burlesque or the next steps they should take. In order to share these answers with everyone interested, I have added a new article category to this blog, Ask the Bombshell. Read on for the first Q&A in this series:

    Bombshell Betty,

    Hello, I am a fellow Burlesque enthusiast. I have a dream to own a burlesque theater/studio in my home town of [Anytown], TX. A little background, I have danced and been in musicals for most of my life. I was a dance major in college and while I was there I spent a lot of time studying Burlesque on an academic level. I loved the subject so much, but after college I gave birth to my son and put dancing/performing/burlesque on the back burner.

    I recently came across it again and thought about how much I’d love to be a part of this world but it doesn’t really exist so much in [my area]. I thought about how much fun it would be have a theater for the community to discover this art. How much fun it would be to teach people how to move and love and celebrate their bodies. I feel like it might be some kind of calling for me and I want to do everything I can to make my dream reality.

    Since I have decided I wanted to do this, I have been trying to figure out what I need to learn to become something of an expert. I have read books, practiced making and designing costumes, tried to understand the culture, watched videos, and DVD’s, I attended the New York Burlesque Festival and actually saw some burlesque shows, attended a workshop in [Texas], I taught a burlesque dance class for my cousin’s bachlorette party, and I’m trying to learn what I can about web design.

    I just want to know from you what all I need to learn and how to go about gaining the knowledge that would prepare me to take on something very similar to the operation you have going. How many people do have working with you to make all this possible? Are the costs of running and operating terribly high? I imagine that you would have to be very careful about how you spent money to run things. I would truly appreciate any direction you could give me.

    Thank you for your time,
    Miss D.D.

    Dear Miss D.D.,

    It is great to hear your story and I love your enthusiasm about the art of burlesque! You don’t mention whether you actually perform burlesque or not. Do you perform? If not, I would recommend that you start performing burlesque right away. If you want to teach burlesque, you will need to learn through hands-on performance as well as academic study and watching others. Being an active performer will also give you credibility as a teacher and give potential students an idea of the skills you can teach them.

    My next piece of advice would be to start small. No one ever wants to hear that, but it’s really great advice, I promise! Starting too big is why such a large percentage of new businesses fail every year! Keep teaching private burlesque parties to get some more experience and confidence, then build from there to start offering group classes at dance studios where you rent by the hour (that’s how I started out).

    Running a dedicated studio of my own was a dream of mine for a long time. I taught classes for 3 years before I found a partner and dove into running the studio. Two of us work full time to keep all the aspects of this business running smoothly, and I am in the process of hiring more teachers right now in order to double the number of classes offered at the studio in early 2009.

    I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any more questions. I’m always happy to help out other burlesque enthusiasts!

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    Filed under Articles: Ask the Bombshell, Articles: The Entrepreneurial Performer, Burlesque

    “Pin It Up, Babycakes!” Art Show

    In February, 2009, I will be participating in a group pinup-themed art show, “Pin It Up, Babycakes!” at 111 Minna. The show is being curated by two of my burlesque students: Alice Stribling (aka Sweet M’alice) and Jessica Whiteside (aka Tinky Sparkles). The opening gala on Feb 5, 2009, will include burlesque performances by the two curators, the Burlesqueteers, and myself, and will be MC’d by Kitten on the Keys.

    The other artists included in the show are:

    Jessica Whiteside
    Alice Stribling
    UK artist Emma Mount
    Molly Crabapple
    Shaunna Peterson
    David Perry
    Darling Propaganda
    Kirsten Easthope

    At this show, I am officially unveiling my collage/assemblage artwork, which combines my pinup and nature photography with watercolor drawings, fabric and found objects to create fantasy portraiture. Here is my artist bio from the website:

    I started pinup modeling in 2000, shortly after jumping into the world of burlesque performance. I needed sexy promo shots, and since burlesque and pinup are two sides of the same coin, it was a perfect excuse to channel my inner Bettie Page. In 2003, I stepped behind the camera, using what I learned from working in front of the camera to help me direct my models to get the most flattering shots possible. I have pursued pinup from both sides of the camera ever since, including shooting for SuicideGirls.com and other websites, the Bombshell Betty Pinup Workshops and private clients.

    As a photographer (and posing director with other photographers), I get great joy from helping women who do not look like conventional models get photos that make them look more beautiful than they thought possible. I believe that we all have a perfect pinup somewhere inside us, regardless of age or body type, and through the proper styling, posing, lighting and camera angles, that pinup queen can be brought out for the world to view. From the responses I have received from participants in my Pinup Workshops, I know that having beautiful glamour pictures taken for the first time can be a transformative and empowering experience for many women, having a tremendous positive impact on one’s self image.

    My collage and assemblage pieces are a very new medium for me, and I am very excited to present them for the first time at the ’Pin It Up, Babycakes!’ show. This form allows me to tell a story visually in a similar way as when I perform a burlesque piece, the main difference being that I must tell a whole story through elements that are visible all at once rather than in a linear sequence of events as with burlesque. I am thoroughly appreciating the challenges and possibilities of this medium, and I hope viewers enjoy the pieces as much as I enjoy making them.

    Artwork from this show will be available for presales starting in early January 2009. I will post samples and where to go for presales around that time.

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    Filed under Burlesque, Pin-Up, Shows and Events