Burlesco!

I’ve been up to some things.  And one of these things has been producing a live band burlesque show with the super amazing (and very handsome) Mark the Knife along with Matt Gandurski and his band, Grit and the Double Knit.

I’m very excited about it.

After a couple of not so great experiences with producers, I came away with some invaluable knowledge.  Namely, what NOT to do.  I don’t think there is a better learning tool than seeing other people’s mistakes firsthand.  That’s not to say that it’s been all bad.  I’ve had the unbelievable luck to work with some people who understand that the key to a good show is respecting the people who work for you and realizing that entertaining the audience is paramount (I’m looking at you Donna Touch and Plan 9!)  This is my philosophy, anyway.  It’s all well and good to have passion and confidence about what you do, but I truly believe that you’re only as good as the community that surrounds you.  Why bother pushing yourself to be as great as you can be if you isolate yourself from other fantastic performers who could make you better?  The performance suffers and by proxy the audience.  My own level of performance has improved so much since I started opening myself up to the Chicago burlesque community.  I’ve learned from the women I work with and, amazingly, they’ve learned a few things from me, too.  And as a result, I’ve gotten the chance to be at — and now this is going to sound super eye roll-inducing dramatic but bear with me — what I feel is the beginning of a brand new chapter of Chicago burlesque.  There are some very new exciting things happening and I’m stupidly happy and honored to be a part of it.

And now I get to contribute.

Burlesco!  It’s the brain child of three people with very different and complimentary talents who sat over a few beers and said “Hey, this thing should exist.”  And now it does.  I’m thrilled.

This is a live band show featuring the best Chicago burlesquers performing improvised strip-tease.  And I’m thrilled to introduce (not that these guys need introduction) the people who’ll bring it to you:

OUR HOST AND THE WORLD’S MOST DANGEROUS COMIC.

MARK THE KNIFE

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OUR BAND

GRIT AND THE DOUBLE KNIT

Matt Gandurski (Guitar and Vocals) Jeffrey Parker (Upright Bass) Tom McGettrick (Banjo) Evan Bivins (Drums/ Percussion)

Matt Gandurski (Guitar and Vocals)
Jeffrey Parker (Upright Bass)
Tom McGettrick (Banjo)
Evan Bivins (Drums/ Percussion)

BURLESQUE BOOKING BY YOURS TRULY

 

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AND PROUDLY FEATURING THE BEST IN CHICAGO BURLESQUE!

Millie May, Marie Curieosity, Stella Cheeks, Myself, and Vivi Valens

Millie May, Marie Curieosity, Stella Cheeks, Myself, and Vivi Valens

Burlesco! is every fourth Saturday exclusively at Honky Tonk in Pilsen.  The band starts at 10:30 and there’s never a cover.  Featuring new performers every month.  We can’t wait to see you there!

I just can’t. Not anymore.

I’ve been giving this burlesque thing a lot of thought over the last few months.  And something’s not jiving, you know?  I don’t know.  With the baby coming this summer, and all of the paternity issues with that, I’ve found my world views shifting.  I come from a very traditional Christian upbringing and that foundation has been weighing hard on me lately. I just don’t think I can keep doing this.  Living like this.  This burlesque life.  It’s just… not right.  So I’ve had to make some tough decisions.

First, the morality — or rather, lack there of — of being a burlesque performer is something I can no longer ignore.  I have A LOT of guilt about it.  I’ve tried to get past it, but when it comes right down to it, I think that the body should be covered, a present to be unwrapped by your husband and your husband alone.  So, I have to walk away from it and focus on rebuilding my life and my soul.

I’m moving back to Alabama.  There’s a man there who I’ve known since I was little.  He’s older (way older) and wiser and a good Christian man.  He’s a good provider and he can take care of me and my unborn child.  That’s the way it should be.  It’s the way I want it to be.  I can’t take care of myself and you know what?  I don’t want to.  It’s not the way that the Bible teaches us that women should be.  We’re here to be sweet, and gentle, and be mothers and wives. Not drinkers and sex-makers, and slutty strippers.

If you would like to say goodbye to me, I’ll be at the this event next month.  I’m moving the next day.  I hope to see you there.

CRWN Tax Freedom Day Reception

Here’s to a new life!!  God bless!!

Now Tammy Wynette and I have something in common besides big hair

At this moment, I’m sitting alone in my bedroom with a cup of coffee, a half-eaten bagel, and my dog at my feet.  This is an unremarkable scene.  Nothing special about it at all.

Except that it kind of is.

This is my bedroom and mine alone.  The half-eaten bagel can sit there as long as I want it to.  The cup of coffee came from a pot made by one of my four new roommates, and my dog is just here on the weekends.

And there are other differences.

There’s a rose in my great-grandmother’s carnival glass vase on my dresser that was given to me on Valentine’s Day by someone whose last name I do not share.  He’s never met my parents and I’ve never met his.  I have no idea what kind of shaving cream he prefers or how he folds his underwear.  There is now this unknown zone that I’m working in, a place that exists in this weird spot between loneliness and coupleness.  It’s a place I haven’t been in since I was 25 and I’m not sure how I feel about it.

I know it sounds lame to say that, gosh, it just feels so weird to not be married anymore.  But it does feel weird.  Topsy turvy.  There was once a person who wore a ring that matched the one that I wore.  There was once a person who slept in my bed, and stopped off at the store on the way home, and who sat on the other side of the dog, and who loved my cooking, and laughed at my worse jokes.  A person who hated the color I picked out for the living room but spent three days painting it anyway.  Who fought with me about how to make the bed.  Who left the house at one in the morning because I mentioned that ice cream would be nice right about then.  A person who knew exactly why my mood would shift after talking to my dad.  Who still struggled with keeping all of my aunts and cousins straight but was always wiling to listen to my anecdotes about them.

I had a husband.  But now I don’t.

Alright, I know the tone of this posting is tending to the mopey side.  It’s not meant to be.  But I realized the other night that I needed to sit down and process all of this. Because I wasn’t at all.  It’s this thing that I do.  Make decisions and then jump with all of my body and life into a thing (or out of a thing) without looking back once.  A pillar of salt I would never be.  And no exception here.  My marriage wasn’t working for a long time — we both knew it — and a mutual sigh of relief was had once we made the decision to split.  And once that decision was made, I got down to the business of starting over.  Found a new place.  Worked out stuff and dog logistics.  Told close friends and family members. Bought exactly the kind of beer I wanted at the grocery store.  And yes.  Started seeing someone else… ehh… pretty much right away.  (Not planned. But as Elizabeth Taylor replied to Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper when reproached for seducing Eddie Fisher, “What do you expect me to do?  Sleep alone?”)

The population of my bed aside, I can state for the record that this was a mutual and… well, describing it as a happy decision isn’t quite appropriate but it isn’t especially far off the mark, either.  Mike and I are on the same page, and even though there’s a lot of baggage and sometimes I want to slap his face off his face, we’re still friends.  Seriously.  We are.  I’m not just saying it.  I’m still really fond of the guy.  He’s awesome and Jewish and funny and weird and all of you ladies should totally want to date him.  I reserve the right to totally judge you in ex-wife fashion, but I give you my blessing all the same.

So, there it is.  Big life decisions.  Things that effect one’s taxes and vagina.  And now here I am.  Living in a house with four thirty-something musicians, a part-time dog mom, a stripper and art model, buying the kind of beer I want and watching The New Girl without impunity.  It’s not too bad, y’all.

Oh, burlesque.  Right.  I write about that.  The whole deal of this blog in the first place.  Yeah, I’m still doing that.  A lot these days.  I love it more than ever.  I love it so much, I want to have a baby with it.  I’m totally trying to get pregnant by it.  And the dirty little thing will hopefully be birthed this Spring.  It will be many-breasted and very sparkly. And very awesome.

It’s tough when you hate something that comes out of you

You know, I have lots of mixed feelings about this number.  When it was conceived, it was something so entirely different from where it landed when it first hit the stage.  It went from a concept number to this watered down, trying-too-hard kind of number.  Mostly as a result of… well… of my trying too hard.  Trying to do what, exactly, I’m not sure.  A true burlesque number?  A classic burlesque number? To prove that I was sexy?  That I could hold my own without a story arc?  Without a gimmick? Whatever the reason, it didn’t work.  I listened to lots of advice when I was first putting this number together.  And the final result was that it wasn’t true to me and I hated it.  This fucking number.  It had a chair at one point.  Thigh-high boots.  It was a complete mish-mash of what the fuck, and on the video of my first performance of it, you can totally see it on my face.  That I just wanted to get it over with.  It’s too bad.  It has merit, this little guy.  So, I’ve spent a lot of time with it.  Feeling it out.  Letting it grow.  It has a new costume element now and it’s miles closer to where I want it to be.  And now I’m starting to enjoy performing it.  Which is what burlesque is about, at least in great part, am I right?  So, I’ve decided to post this video that recently turned up.  It’s an early incarnation of the number (though not the first; that one will not see the light of day, ever.) I think it’s the third time I performed it, and the very first as an independent performer.  It’s rough, and not where it is now (and where I hope it will be, because they keep growing as you keep growing, right?) but it’s pretty good.  And it’s apparent that I’m actually having fun with it.  Watching that made me really happy.

And that fucking zipper didn’t get stuck.  I also have that video.  It’s hilarious.  Maybe one day.

Click it.

Venus on Vimeo

Thanks for jogging my memory, UnWinona.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to what it means to be a woman.  It’s not something I spend a great deal of time mediating over.  I don’t spend my days raging against the penis machine or anything.  In fact, I think I’m pretty conservative when it comes to being a woman.  I believe in the healing powers of a lovingly prepared meal, and in lipstick, and that every woman should know how to sew on a button.  And, until this story started floating around Facebook, I was pretty philosophical about so-called street homage.  Maybe it’s the neighborhood I live or the places I frequent, but I don’t get a lot of street harassment.  I don’t remember the last time some strange pelvic-thrusting dude speculated verbally about the qualities of my ass and what, if given the chance, he could possibly do with it.  I barely remember the last time I was walking to the subway and had to pointedly keep my gaze fixed in front of me so I wouldn’t make eye contact with the person in my periphery making soft, barely audible sucking, mmm-mmm noises.  I hardly remember walking out of the door feeling pretty, but arriving at my destination with the thought, “Maybe this top is too low cut…” bouncing around in my head.  I don’t remem… Wait a minute.  I… was that…?

What the fuck.  That was just last week.

How I had a completely blocked all of that out?  Reading UnWinona’s story, not to mention the amount of comments on Jo Weldon’s Facebook page discussing it, brought all of that into sharp focus.

And then I started to remember.

I remember living in Downtown Los Angeles and dreading walking the six blocks from my apartment to school because of the unrelenting onslaught of comments from the local penile peanut gallery.  Everything ranging from “You look like an angel when you smile,” to “Mmm-mm.  I’d like to see what my dick looks like in that mouth.”  And even one old-schooler asked if he could get some fries with that shake.  An oldie but a goodie.  I remember crossing the street with my dog and having a mystery hand inject itself into my crotch so forcefully and fearlessly that my first thought was that Mike had decided to come with us on the walk after all and, in an ill-conceived attempt at marital playfulness, goosed me for a laugh.  I wheeled around to find, not my husband, but a sea of strange faces.  I remember feeling embarrassed.  Not indignant.  Embarrassed.

I remember when I was 20 and spending the Halloween weekend in New Orleans visiting my girlfriend.  I remember coming up against a wall of young guys, fraternity types, spanning the entire width of the street in front of us.  It was a massive amount of drunk, unfriendly faces.  My girlfriend and I looked at each other with dread in our eyes but we had to go through them.  Our destination was on the other side.  As we “excuse me, please”d our way through them, I saw hands shooting up my friend’s little schoolgirl skirt and I felt hands raking against my own ass.  From behind me, someone grabbed the trailing bit of fabric from my Athena toga and pulled.  Hard.  It came off to the waist and I wasn’t wearing a bra underneath.  I remember screaming at them as I tried to cover myself.  I remember the guy taking a swig off his drink while he held the white fabric of my costume like a leash.  I remember another guy pointing at my partially bared breasts and yelling, “Look at them tits!” and I remember a girl next to him laughing.  When we made it through them, I remember feeling scared and embarrassed and so, so small.

I remember being followed home late at night by a guy who got so close behind me that I could smell his breath.  I remember being called a stuck-up bitch and that I wasn’t that pretty anyway when I told a foul-mouthed dude to fuck off.  I remember being called the same thing when I was polite about it.  I remember being terrified while I walked to the laundromat.  I remember wishing I hadn’t worn that dress.  I remember foreign bodies “bumping” into mine on the bus.  I remember wishing that I could just be left alone.

I remember in my mid twenties when I was finally ready to admit and confront that I had experienced some pretty fucked-up shit at the hands of a trusted friend of the family, how when I talked about it with my girlfriends every single one of them had their own story to tell, and in most cases it was way worse.

I also remember, passing it all off as just one of those things.  A bit of street homage. A thing that you just have to deal with if you have a pair of tits and a vagina.

But I don’t think I’m going to think about it that way any more.  Because now I’m remembering all of those times when I’ve walked around in the world and interacted with people, or didn’t interact with people, and felt fine and safe.  And now I’m starting to notice that I’ve endured more harassment on the streets of Downtown Chicago than I have at a burlesque show where I’ve just stripped out of my clothes.  And I’m thinking about the news and current political debates.  Debates about the definintion of rape, and harassment, and equal pay.  And I wonder what fucking century I’m living in.

And now I think that when I look back on this moment, writing this post, I won’t remember being scared or feeling small or embarrassed.

I’ll remember being pissed the fuck off.

Save the Titties!! Help the Burlesque Hall of Fame!!

I’m pleased as punch.  Happy as a crab.  Excited as a virgin in a whore house.

It’s time to promote a few things that are coming up and I’m silly with glee to do so.  Here they are:

First, I’ve put together a new number.  And it’s about fucking time.  My repertoire was a bit on the thin side and I’ve been really feeling it.  Getting out there into the wider burlesque world with one number that has a massive prop that fits nowhere, another number with which I have a highly dysfunctional love/hate relationship, and a duet that can’t be performed anywhere ever wasn’t doing me any favors.  So I’ve been working double time on two new ones, one of which I’m performing tonight (the second will follow soon,) and I have two more in infancy.   I’m filling up my burlesque notebook with ideas.  Having complete creative freedom is a thing that I needed, for better or worse.   So, the number I’m performing tonight has something of a special virgin sparkle to it.  It’s the very first one that I’ve concepted, costumed, and choreographed (and by choreography, I mean “walk there,” “ooh, applause, go over there,” and “touch my tits here” kind of choreography,) completely on my own.  And it felt good.  I’m proud of this nasty nice baby.  My homage to Betty Draper.

And then there’s this.  I’m so excited about this, I could fuck a bear.  When I email chatted with Chris O’ Biddle, producer at Kiss Kiss Cabaret, about wanting to help raise money for Burlesque Hall of Fame (go here to learn all about it their situation and why we need to help them), I had no idea it would turn out to be something so fantastic.  I’m thrilled and proud to be a part of it.  And it’s fantastic and refreshing to see so many in the Chicago Burlesque community coming together to pull this off.  I can not wait for this show.  Come to it.  Help the titties.  Raise them up and unite them.  You’ll be glad you did.

100% of proceeds go directly to The Burlesque Hall of Fame!