2013: A Year In Photos.

•12/27/2013 • 1 Comment

~ Written by / compiled by Paul O’Connell (POC Photo)

Two years ago I posted an article here titled “2011: A Year In Photos”. I had intended to do the same thing for 2012 but totally dropped the ball. Most likely I got distracted by this:

The cast of Land of The Sweets from 2012

The cast of Land of The Sweets from 2012

I vowed this year I would not lame out or get distracted, and that I would meticulously go through all my burlesque photos from the previous twelve months and pick the best of the best, which is not an easy task, let me tell you. This year there were so many burlesque shows in the Seattle area, probably more than any other year thus far.  To accomplish this huge undertaking, I thought why not ask some awesome photographers in the Seattle area for their favorite burlesque photos of 2013: Jessica Drake, Mandy McGee, Rick Priest, Scott Foster, John Cornicello, Greg Holloway, Jackie Kingsbury, Magpie and myself, POC Photo, now proudly present our favorite burlesque photos from the year that was 2013, in no particular order. Enjoy!

Olatsa Assassin at Tuesday Tease-Feb(by Mandy McGee Photography)

Olatsa Assassin in Tuesday Tease-February (by Magpie Creative Photography)

Sydni Deveraux at Blue Velvet Revue-May(by POC Photo)

Sydni Deveraux in Blue Velvet Revue-May (by POC Photo)

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the Luminous Pariah in An Evening At Merlottes-January (by Jackie Kingsbury)

PollyWood-a long kiss goodnight FEB

Polly Wood in Sinner Saint Burlesque’s A Long Kiss Goodnight-February
(by Greg Holloway)

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Persephone Illyri at Moisture Festival-April (by Cornicello Photography)

Burgundy Brixx (Photo by Scott Foster)

Burgundy Brixx in Burlesque Royale-September (Photo by Scott Foster)

H_Seraphina Fiero June Sanctuary

Seraphina Fiero in Sanctuary-June (by Meneldor Photography)

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Waxie Moon in Nightcap at The Triple Door-June (by POC Photo)

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Miss Indigo Blue at Moisture Festival-April (by Cornicello Photography)

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Maggie McMuffin in Accio Burlesque! A Burlesque Tribute to Harry Potter-June
(by JLD Imagery)

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Stella D’Letto in The Best Burlesque Pageant Ever-December (by POC Photo)

La Petite Mort's Dark Cabaret-Miz MelancholyFeb

Miz Melancholy in La Petite Mort’s Dark Cabaret-February (by Greg Holloway)

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Lady Drew Blood in JOYstick! Level 2-September (by Jackie Kingsbury)

I_Seraphina Fiero and Olatsa A Ssassin Keep It Up October

Seraphina Fiero and Olatsa Assassin in Keep It Up-October (by Meneldor Photography)

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Lady Jack in Relentless-August (by POC Photo)

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Lily Verlaine at Moisture Festival-April (by Cornicello Photography)

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Ernie Von Schmaltz & Iva Handfull in Nerdiversary-June (by POC Photo)

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Morgan LaMay-September (by Mandy McGee Photography)

K_Candy Apples Starving Artists July

Candy Apples in Starving Artists-July (by Scott Foster)

Atomic Bombshells J'ADORE-Ruby Mimosa-March

Ruby Mimosa in The Atomic Bombshells J’ADORE-March (by Greg Holloway)

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Evilyn Sin Claire at Moisture Festival-April (by Cornicello Photography)

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Randi Rascal in The Last Burlesque Show You’ll Ever See-January
(by POC Photo)

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Tootsie Spangles in JOYstick! Level 2-September (by Jackie Kingsbury)

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Tory Tiara & Jonny Boy in Bastille Day-July (by Scott Foster)

Bitsy Rini in La Petite Mort's Dark Cabaret-February  (by Greg Holloway)

Bitsy Rini in La Petite Mort’s Dark Cabaret-February
(by Greg Holloway)

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Shanghai Pearl in Blue Velvet Revue-May (by POC Photo)

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Paris Original at Moisture Festival-April (by Cornicello Photography)

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Cherry Manhattan in Sinner Saint Burlesque’s A Long Kiss Goodnight-February
(by POC Photo)

Kitten LaRue, Lou Henry Hoover & Inga Ingenue in The Atomic Bombshells J'ADORE-March

Kitten LaRue, Lou Henry Hoover & Inga Ingenue in The Atomic Bombshells J’ADORE-March
(by Greg Holloway)

L_Lotti Glitterati June

Lotti Glitterati in The Beatitudes’ Under The Influence-June (by Scott Foster)

Al Lykya in Bechdel Test Burlesque-October (by POC Photo)

Al Lykya in Bechdel Test Burlesque-October (by POC Photo)

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Scarlett O’Hairdye, Bolt Action & Whisper DeCorvo in Accio Burlesque! A Burlesque Tribute to Harry Potter-June (by JLD Imagery)

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Jesse Belle-Jones in Tuesday Tease-October (by JLD Imagery)

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Iva Handfull in Relentless-August (by POC Photo)

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Lana Milk N Honey in Lady Lux Burlesque-May (by Mandy McGee Photography)

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Lola LeSoleil in Bechdel Test Burlesque-October (by POC Photo)

O_Norse Goddess A Burlesque Tribute to Harry Potter June

The Norse Goddess in Accio Burlesque! A Burlesque Tribute to Harry Potter
June (by Meneldor Photography)

Doña -a long kiss goodnight FEB

Doña Dei Cuori in Sinner Saint Burlesque’s A Long Kiss Goodnight-February
(by Greg Holloway)

Armitage Shanks

Armitage Shanks at Moisture Festival-April (by Cornicello Photography)

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Queenie O’Hart in Tuesday Tease-October (by JLD Imagery)

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Maxie Milieu in Bechdel Test Burlesque-October (by POC Photo)

O_Caela Bailey Spies 10-year anniversary March

Caela Bailey in Heavenly Spies 10th Year Anniversary-March (by Scott Foster)

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the Luminous Pariah at Moisture Festival-April (by Cornicello Photography)

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Jonny Boy & Rainbow in Relentless-August (by POC Photo)

P_Morgue Anne Vortex Variety Show February

Morgue Anne in Vortex Variety Show-February (by Scott Foster)

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The Evil Hate Monkey at Moisture Festival-April (by Cornicello Photography

Lady Tata's in Sinner Saint Burlesque's Noc Out-August (by POC Photo)

Lady Tatas in Sinner Saint Burlesque’s Noc Out-August (by POC Photo)

Q_Fuchia Foxx Jamfest Wing Luke July

Fuchsia Foxxx in Jamfest-July (by Scott Foster)

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Jesus La Pinga in Burl-X-Files-August (by POC Photo)

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Beatrice Belladonna in Carnivale-February (by Magpie Creative Photography)

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Bella Bijoux in Disney After Dark-March (by POC Photo)

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Olatsa Assasin in Monsters, Merkins & Mayhem-March
(by Mandy McGee Photography)

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Inga Ingenue at Moisture Festival-April (by Cornicello Photography)

Lady Drew Blood in Midnight in the Garden of Glitter and Heels-July (by POC Photo)

Lady Drew Blood in Midnight in the Garden of Glitter and Heels-July
(by POC Photo)

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Boom Boom L’Roux in Belltown Burlesque Revue-April
(by Magpie Creative Photography)

B_Dizzy Von Damn Burlesque Games October

Dizzy Von Damn in Burlesque Games-October (by Scott Foster)

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Lady Jack in Relentless-August ((by JLD Imagery)

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Sabina Soubrette in Tempting Tarts Burlesque-July (by POC Photo)

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Tony Tapatio-September (by Mandy McGee Photography)

Boom Boom L’Roux’s Late Night Revue 2-84

Boom Boom L’Roux’s Late Night Revue-February (by POC Photo)

C_Eddie Van Glam Siren and the Treasured Chests Afterglow July

Sir Eddie Van Glam in Siren and the Treasured Chests-July
(by Meneldor Photography)

A_Lada Redstar

Lada Redstar in Nightcap at The Triple Door-June (by POC Photo)

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Bolt Action in JOYStick! Level 2-September (by Jackie Kingsbury)

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Scarlett O’Hairdye in A Very Rosy Birthday-April
(by Magpie Creative Photography)

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Lucky Penny at Moisture Festival-April (by Cornicello Photography)

D_Ace Carter Rockabilly Daze Burlesque May

Ace Carter in Rockabilly Daze Burlesque-May (by Meneldor Photography)

Ben DeLaCreme in The Atomic Bombshells J'ADORE-March (by Greg Holloway)

Ben DeLaCreme in The Atomic Bombshells J’ADORE-March
(by Greg Holloway)

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Evilyn Sin Claire in Sinner Saint Burlesque’s A Long Kiss Goodnight-February
(by POC Photo)

D_Jovie Devoe Bordeaux Project February

Jovie DeVoe in The Bordeaux Project-February (by Scott Foster)

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Mae Kim Beg in Grab Bag 2 Electric Boobaloo-February (by JDL Imagery)

D_Sailor Return to Winterwood January

Sailor St. Claire in Return to Winterwood-January (by Scott Foster)

Inga Ingenue in The Atomic Bombshells J'ADORE-March (by Greg Holloway)

Inga Ingenue in The Atomic Bombshells J’ADORE-March
(by Greg Holloway)

Czech Mate, performing at A Very Rosy Birthday burlesque show

Czech Mate in A Very Rosy Birthday-April (by Magpie Creative Photography)

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Madison Avenue in Cinemagician April-(by Mandy McGee Photography)

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Donna Denise in Burlesque Royale-September (by POC Photo)

F_Holly Bordeaux Siren and the Treasured Chests Tropic Tease May

Holly Bordeaux in Siren and the Treasured Chests-May
(by Meneldor Photography)

F_TootsieSpangles_Inferno_Rendezvous_Mar

Tootsie Spangles in Inferno-March (by Magpie Creative Photography)

E_Merlotte Violet Tendencies_2189

Violet Tendencies in Evening At Merlotte’s-January (by Jackie Kingsbury)

G_EmpeROAR Fabulous Return to Winterwood January

EmpeROAR Fabulous in Return to Winterwood-January (by Scott Foster)

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Ivy Tam-Burlesque Royale-September (by POC Photo)

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The Heavenly Spies at Moisture Festival-April (by Cornicello Photography)

R_Bolt Action Burl-X-Files August

Bolt Action in Burl-X-Files-August (by Meneldor Photography)

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Vanadium Silver in AN Evening At Merlotte’s-January (by Jackie Kingsbury)

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Nikola Tease-la in The Last Burlesque Show You’ll Ever See-January
(by POC Photo)

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Vixen Valentine in ECCC Geeky Burlesque-March
(by Mandy McGee Photography)

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Eva Fairwood in Rumpus-August (by POC Photo)

P_0503_cornicello_Maria Margiyeva

Maria Margiyeva at Moisture Festival-April (by Cornicello Photography)

I_Tootsie Spangles Hattie Hellcat A Burlesque Tribute to Harry Potter June

Tootsie Spangles & Hattie Hellcat in Accio Burlesque! A Burlesque Tribute to Harry Potter-June (by Meneldor Photography)

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Miss Elaine Yes in JOYStick! Level 2-September (by Jackie Kingsbury)

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Fosse Jack in Cinemagicain-April (by Mandy McGee Photography)

S_Sydni Deveraux Keep It Up October

Sydni Deveraux in Keep It Up-October (by Meneldor Photography)

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Diva le Déviant in Sinner Saint Burlesque’s Noc Out-August (by POC Photo)

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Scarlett O’Hairdye in Accio Burlesque! A Burlesque Tribute to Harry Potter-June
(by JLD Imagery)

T_Shanghai Pearl Bastille Day July

Shanghai Pearl in Bastille Day-July (by Scott Foster)

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Kutie La Bootie in Midnight in the Garden of Glitter and Heels-July
(by POC Photo)

Jesss Belle Jones in Sinner Saint Burlesque's A Long Kiss Goodnight-February (by Greg Holloway)

Jesss Belle-Jones in Sinner Saint Burlesque’s A Long Kiss Goodnight-February
(by Greg Holloway)

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Maxie Milieu in Accio Burlesque! A Burlesque Tribute to Harry Potter-June
(by JLD Imagery)

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Trojan Original in Bechdel Test Burlesque-October (by POC Photo)

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Tribellas in Bastille Day-July (by Scott Foster)

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Sophie Maltease in JOYStick! Level 2-September (by Jackie Kingsbury)

Sara Dippity in Bechdel Test Burlesque-October (by POC Photo)

Sara Dipity in Bechdel Test Burlesque-October
(by POC Photo)

X_LoLo Ramone A Very Wes Anderson Cabaret October

LoLo Ramone in A Very Wes Anderson Cabaret-October (by Scott Foster)

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Pepper Patootie in Tempting Tarts Burlesque-July (by POC Photo)

M_Paco Fish Harry Potter a Burlesque Tribute June

Paco Fish in Accio Burlesque! A Burlesque Tribute to Harry Potter-June
(by Meneldor Photography)

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Bella Bambina in Lady Lux Burlesque-May (by Mandy McGee Photography)

X_La Chica Boom

La Chica Boom in Burlesque Royale-September (by POC Photo)

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Sydni Deveraux at Moisture Festival-April (by Cornicello Photography)

W_Pinky Shines Siren and The Treasured Chests Halloween Extravaganza October

Pinky Shines in Siren and The Treasured Chests-October
(by Meneldor Photography)

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Flirty Sanchez and Bella Bijoux in Undressed to Kill-May (by POC Photo)

(Photo by John Cornicello)

Waxie Moon at Moisture Festival-April (by Cornicello Photography)

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Karmen Sutra in Tempting Tarts Burlesque-July (by POC Photo)

W_Violet Tendencies Undressed to Kill May

Violet Tendencies in Undressed to Kill-May (by Meneldor Photography)

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Fuchsia Foxxx in Blue Velvet Revue-May (by POC Photo)

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Whisper DeCorvo in ECCC Geeky Burlesque-March
(by Mandy McGee Photography)

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Tootsie Spangles, Scarlett O’Hairdye & Sailor St. Claire in Burl-X-Files-August (by POC Photo)

La PetiteMort

La Petite Mort in Dark Cabaret-February (by Greg Holloway)

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Duo Rose at Moisture Festival-April (by Cornicello Photography)

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Dickie Gazoonie in Tempting Tarts Burlesque-July (by POC Photo)

Bella Bijoux in Quick Change-July (by Meneldor Photography)

Bella Bijoux in Quick Change-July (by Meneldor Photography)

Jovie DeVoe in Burlesque Royale-August (by POC Photo)

Jovie DeVoe in Burlesque Royale-August (by POC Photo)

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Al Lykya in Accio Burlesque! A Burlesque Tribute to Harry Potter-June
(by JLD Imagery)

Shanghai Pearl in Burl-X-Files-August (by POC Photo)

Shanghai Pearl in Burl-X-Files-August (by POC Photo)

Lily Verlaine at Moisture Festival-April (by Cornicello Photography)

Lily Verlaine at Moisture Festival-April (by Cornicello Photography)

Sinner Saint Burlesque performed for the last time at Noc Noc on August 22. (POC Photo)

Sinner Saint Burlesque performing for the last time at The Noc Noc-August (POC Photo)

Gift it, baby: Picks of the Glitter.

•12/21/2013 • 1 Comment
Epic. Lily Verlaine and just some of the cast of House of Thee Unholy (POC Photo)

Epic. Lily Verlaine and just some of the cast of House of Thee Unholy (POC Photo)

Waxie Moon and Paris Original. (POC Photo)

Waxie Moon and Paris Original. (POC Photo)

There are few shows that so brilliantly fuse the worlds of rock and roll, dance, and burlesque the way that House of Thee Unholy does. In a miraculous surprise not unlike a virgin birth itself, The Swedish Housewife Presents has announced this week that House of Thee Unholy #5 will return from its achingly long two and a half year hiatus for ten shows in March. The rocklesque extravaganza is truly a thing of wonder: an incredibly accomplished cast of thirteen dancers, three singers, and five musicians explode in a 70s dream of hallucinatory sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Don’t miss it: this is your early warning and the very best seats at the gorgeous Triple Door are on sale RIGHT NOW.

Check out the teaser:

House of Thee UnHoly #4 from paulanow on Vimeo.

*****

Screw NYE- this is where the party's at

Screw NYE- this is where the party’s at

Our second offering to be filed under “DO NOT MISS” (not to mention a potential holiday surprise for that rabid burlesque fan in your life) is coming up a lot faster. Tickets are selling fast and furious to The Burlesque Marathon, an absolutely fab double feature at the Columbia City Theater on Sunday, December 29. The idea? A special single or double ticket deal at an extremely reasonable price featuring a jaw-dropping cast of Seattle’s latest and greatest movers and shakers, designed for the performers to film their acts before a live audience. There’s no theme, no story to follow- just a whole lot of burlesquers bringing their best. True to the show’s name, we dare you to do it “marathon” style, and stay for both the early and late shows. And oh yeah…get LOUD.

Here’s the scoop:

5-7 pm:
The Burlesque Marathon: The Early Bird Gets the Worm

8-10 pm:
The Burlesque Marathon: Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

With host Vanadium Silver, pantie wranglers Carlotta Shakin and Magnolia Monroe!

Tix available HERE.

5 – 7PM SHOW
Iva Handfull
Scandal from Bohemia & Hoi Polloi
Solange Corbeau
Seraphina Fiero
Stella D’Letto
Karmen Sutra
Jesus La Pinga
Lady Drew Blood
The Luminous Pariah
The Shanghai Pearl
Ava Raqs
Lexi Luthor
Inara Echo
Olatsa Assassin
Pepper La’Rouge
Violet Tendencies
Sydni Deveraux

8 – 10PM SHOW
Iva Handfull
Boom Boom L’Roux
Jovie DeVoe
The Shanghai Pearl
Scarlett O’Hairdye
Sara Dipity – Super Suit
Suzanna Davis
Violet Tendencies
Sydni Deveraux
Flirty Sanchez
Seraphina Fiero
Whisper De Corvo
Violet DeVille
EmpeRoar Fabulous
Bella Bijoux
Tootsie Spangles & Hattie Hellcat
Waxie Moon

ALSO epic!

ALSO epic!

Land of the Sweets & throwing out all the rules: an interview with Mr. Bruce Wells.

•12/15/2013 • 1 Comment
Land of the Sweets returns to the Triple Door December 12-28, 2013

Land of the Sweets returns to the Triple Door
December 12-28, 2013

Last week the curtain lifted on the eighth year of Land of the Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker. Costumes were unpacked, last year’s snowflakes were dusted from each set, and the dancers officially set up camp for an incredible 31 shows in their annual holiday home away from home, the illustrious Triple Door theater. When Land of The Sweets takes up residence in this chilly corner of downtown Seattle it feels like the holidays have finally arrived.

When I last interviewed producers Jasper McCann and Lily Verlaine, it was summertime; Burlesco DiVino rehearsals were taking place. Lily shared a story about taking a class at Pacific Northwest Ballet School for the first time after an injury – how an instructor she greatly admired approached her after barre, confessing that he had been hoping she would show up in class, as he was a huge fan of Land of the Sweets and had been attending for several years. He had noticed specifically the changes incorporated in the finale, and Lily recalled being humbled by his appreciation and attention to detail. To have a person from the world of classical dance talk about Land of the Sweets in terms of contemporary ballet was an honor – one that Lily recalled fondly when speaking about how the production has evolved since its inception.

Land of the Sweets, like all of the shows we’ve come to expect from Lily and Jasper, is the intersection of theatrical burlesque and contemporary ballet underlined with a clever eroticism (and just a pinch of sugarplum fairy dust on top). This week, we’ve tracked down the instructor that made Lily blush: Mr. Bruce Wells, who was kind enough to share his reflections on the holidays, dance, and his friendship with Lily…

Burlesque Seattle Press: Can you tell me how you first made Lily’s acquaintance?

Mr. Bruce Wells: I had seen Lily in three different productions and had heard she studied at The Pacific Northwest Ballet School where I am on the faculty. One day last summer she walked into my studio to take class. I thought to myself … OMG that’s Miss Verlaine…!!! I went right up and told her I was a big fan. We chatted a bit about her choreography and performances. I already had a reservation to see the new show, Burlesco DiVino: Wine in Rome.

BSP: Have you seen many of her productions in the past, and what were some of your initial thoughts about them? What do you think of the work she is doing with her production partner, Jasper McCann?

Mr. Wells: I have seen all three productions at The Triple Door…Land of the Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker (Twice!) Alice in Wonderland, & Burleso DiVino. I was impressed that Lily adds new choreography each season to keep the performances fresh. Lily has a very modern aesthetic about the stage. While there’s always the wink & nod to the traditions of burlesque… she also stages her dancers in very contemporary vignettes. In Jasper McCann she has the perfect partner. Where she is sweet and flirtatious… he is the charming Master of Ceremonies, full of double entendre with a stylish crooner’s singing voice. They clearly enjoy each other and that relationship allows the audience members in on the fun.

BSP: What do you think of the intermingling of all these amazing trained dancers with burlesque performers- do you think they can be positive influences on each other in some ways?

Mr. Wells: In each of the performances I’ve seen I thought Lily blended with ease… the dancers with the burlesque performers. There is always a well thought out reason why the burlesque performer appears in the precise moment that they do. It always highlights the emotional impact of the scene the way a song does on a Broadway musical. Dancers have such a strong work ethic … I’m sure the discipline it takes on both sides is shared and supported (especially on those two show evenings…)

BSP: I hear you’re a huge fan of The Nutcracker. Was it one of the first ballets that you saw? What do you recall your impressions were when you first saw it?

Mr. Wells: Being in the ballet world for well over 50 years The Nutcracker has been in my life a very long time. My first production was George Balanchine’s production for The New York City Ballet. I remember loving the idea that it was a Christmas card come to life…I would go on to dance in this production in a variety of roles for ten years. I followed this by creating my own version for The Boston Ballet. Of course I’ve seen many other versions … I like the fact that Lily begins with the Snow Scene then heads straight into the Land of Sweets. These are the scenes where both Lily and her talented company can truly shine.

BSP: In your experience, have you seen many interesting “mixed media” casts in the past as we seem to benefit from today?

Mr. Wells: I enjoy all forms of theater that throw out all the “rules”, whether it be mixed race or gender … it always brings a fresh new look to any production. I applaud Lily for her honest and open policy of casting with a wide respect for all who cross her bugle-beaded, boa-feathered path.

BSP: You’ve been a dancer and teacher for many years and have had quite an amazing career. What are you currently spending most of your time with? Does Pacific Northwest Ballet School take up all of your time, or are you working on other projects as well?

Mr. Wells: Working as a faculty member for The Pacific Northwest Ballet School is a full time job. However I have also created a “Special Family Matinee Series” for PNB. Three one hour long children’s ballet
that I also narrate. I’ve done Snow White, Hansel & Gretel, & Pinocchio so far. Many of these have also been performed by other ballet companies… Atlanta Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theater, & North Carolina Ballet to name a few. These are obviously at the extreme opposite spectrum from what Lily Verlaine creates…. My work is designed to introduce a young audience to a life-long love of ballet. When they become more mature they may come to understand the fun and sophistication of burlesque.

BSP: Who are some of your favorite choreographers and dancers today, and some of your most beloved icons from the past?

Mr. Wells: I’m a big fan of Christopher Wheeldon and look forward to seeing his work as often as possible. I also like Matthew Bourne’s work…. his all male Swan Lake and theatrical productions are terrific. I grew up in the New York City Ballet while George Balanchine was alive and worked closely with Jerome Robbins. I was a lucky young dancer to work with this level of genius.

BSP: How are you spending the holidays this year?

Mr. Wells: I have a number of terrific holiday traditions here in Seattle. I spend as much time with good friends as I can. Christmas Eve is always spent with my first dancing partner from childhood, with Christmas Day spent with my 95 year old Father. All that with Lily Verlaine’s Land of Sweets makes this truly the most wonderful time of the year. Merry Christmas!

**For tickets and more information, visit www.landofthesweets.com.**

*****

Bruce Wells was born in Tacoma and trained on scholarship at the School of American Ballet. He joined New York City Ballet in 1967 and was promoted to soloist in 1969. He was resident choreographer and principal dancer with both Connecticut Ballet and Boston Ballet, and served as interim and associate artistic director for the Boston Ballet from 1984-89. He went to Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre as resident choreographer in 1989 and joined the PNBS faculty in 1997.

Mr. Bruce Wells, dancer and faculty member at The Pacific Northwest Ballet School

Mr. Bruce Wells, dancer and faculty
member at The Pacific Northwest Ballet School

Sailor St. Claire’s Great Southern Exposure Travelogue.

•12/10/2013 • 1 Comment

~ Written by Sailor St. Claire, Special Guest Contributor

Me! (Photo by Ron Tencati)

Me! (Photo by Ron Tencati)

On Thanksgiving night, I drank too much brandy and ate too many starches and hopped on a red eye to Charlotte, NC to attend The Great Southern Exposure Burlesque & Variety Pageant. I woke up in Detroit for a three hour layover, but made it to Charlotte by noon on Friday.

Because there were no festival activities scheduled until 9pm, I checked into my hotel and caught a Lyft to Charlotte’s uptown arts district in search of lunch and a sizeable cup of coffee. It was a beautiful day to wander around a new city: sunny, and not too cold. Charlotte’s uptown area is anchored by two sizeable art museums and a theatre complex, and surrounded by some truly beautiful art deco buildings. I got coffee and lunch at Amelie’s, a small French bakery which is widely regarded as the best bakery in Charlotte (or so I gathered after hearing people recommend it the remainder of the weekend). I doubt everyone gets the treatment I received, though, as I am pretty sure I only got free croissants for complimenting the barista’s Serenity t-shirt. With a purse full of croissants, I dedicated the next few hours to visiting the collection at Charlotte’s Bechtler Museum of Modern Art and The Mint, the latter of which had a collection of decorative artifacts exhibited at various World’s Fairs. Though there was nothing from Seattle, there was a lovely leatherbound program book from the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair that I had a pretty big nerd moment over.

When I returned to my hotel, I got dressed for the evening’s festivities and met up with Austin’s Ginger Snaps and San Diego’s Eva Mae Garnet to head over to the venue and get some dinner. Eva Mae was performing in that evening’s showcase, so she left Ginger and I to our own devices for a couple of hours before the late night show began. This is how Ginger and I found The Dog Bar, which is exactly what it sounds like: a bar in which humans can hang out with their dogs, both indoors and outdoors. Although we’re both cat people, we’re pretty convinced that The Dog Bar is the greatest bar concept we’ve ever seen. There were roughly 15 dogs just roaming around the place being dogs. Some of the smaller dogs sat on top of the bar, snuggled together on a bed under a blanket, while the bigger dogs socialized with everyone and everydog they encountered. Eventually, we had to say goodbye to our dog friends and head across the street to The Upstage, where Friday Night Flash would take place.

Ginger Snaps (Photo by Ron Tencati)

Ginger Snaps (Photo by Ron Tencati)

GSE is a two day festival composed of a Friday night showcase designed to entertain Saturday night’s competitors. (In fact, several performers doubled up with a showcase act on Friday night and a competition act on Saturday.) Friday Night Flash featured roughly 14 acts housed in a restaurant-bar-blackbox theatre space in Charlotte’s NoDa district, which looks a lot like Portland’s Mississippi Ave (if Mississippi Ave had a dog bar). The show kicked off around 10pm, so until it began, we hit the bar, visited with other performers, and shopped the merchandise provided by bling purveyors C.O.C.A. Fashions and Glorious Pasties. I’d been drooling over Cheeky Cheetah’s work with Glorious Pasties for some time now thanks to the magic of Facebook, so I purchased a pair of purple and black rhinestoned pasties from her. Ginger couldn’t resist a gigantic rhinestoned alligator necklace at the C.O.C.A. booth, and I bought a necklace and earring set to wear in Saturday night’s competition that matched my costume.

That evening’s showcase was introduced by the producer, Mamma D, and hosted by her partner, Johnny Anonymous, whose hosting persona is blend of nightclub crooner and nerd and whose wardrobe is a rhinestoned purple suit reminiscent of Cesar Romero’s Joker. Every act in the showcase was a strong, but some numbers stood out to me more than others. Unfortunately, due to the layout of the space, half of the audience couldn’t see Bethany Summersizzle’s contortion striptease to “Razzle Dazzle,” which otherwise was notable because it was the only variety-infused act of the night. My favorites from the evening included Bella La Blanc’s sensual cape work to Lana Del Ray’s “Young and Beautiful”, Ginger Leah’s lovely footwork in her nightgown number, and Silver Kitsune’s reverse strip. At the end of the night, Mamma D announced that we’d choose the order for Saturday’s competition. This is always done by random draw, and each year Mamma tries to do it creatively. Last year, performers found their number in the lineup inside fortune cookies. This year, our names were stored inside balloons attached to Pepper L’Rouge and the order in which they were popped determined the order of the show. I’m a fan of balloon numbers myself, but let me tell you: it’s really fun to pop someone else’s balloons.

Kubrilesque (Photo by Ron Tencati)

Kubrilesque (Photo by Ron Tencati)

The next morning, I had breakfast at the hotel with Eva Mae and her family (her husband, young daughter, and mother joined her at the festival) before heading out to go vintage shopping with Bethany, Ginger, and Vince V. Vice. We got lunch at Zada Jane’s, and were seated coincidentally next to a painting of the Visulite Theater, where we’d be performing that night. The waitress obligingly took our picture with the painting, and then excitedly told all her coworkers that we were performers and tried to convince them to come to the show with her that night. After lunch, Bethany and I scored some great finds at Hong Kong Vintage, which has a pristine, well-curated collection of midcentury objects at shockingly reasonable prices. Bethany scored a 1980s formal gown for $40, and I got a 1960s maxi dress with a green and orange floral overlay for $45. (I realized later that I might have a problem as this is now the 3rd green and orange floral maxi dress I own.) We all returned to the hotel and took some time getting ready and rehearsing before our 5pm call, and then caught a Lyft to the Visulite.

The Visulite is a beautiful old vaudeville hall with a small but mighty proscenium stage. Because backstage space is limited, Mamma D and her crew came up with a great solution which allowed everyone enough time to get intro costume and still be able to watch about 90% of the show. Each performer was allowed backstage 3 numbers before their own and had to leave the backstage area 3 numbers after. Everyone followed the rules and kept backstage uncrowded and tidy. Plus, we all got to watch most of the show, which is an added bonus. At many festivals, it’s difficult for one reason or another for performers to watch the shows they’re performing in, and part of the reason I go to festivals is to watch what other people are doing! So anytime I get to see the show, that’s a good festival in my book.

I performed 13th in the show, which is not only my lucky number, but was right in the center of our lineup. The number I took to competition this year, “The Tattooed Lady,” is one that’s had various incarnations over time. I created it in 2011 for a Tempting Tarts circus show, and performed it in the Newcomer’s Showcase in my first ever festival appearance at the Great Burlesque Exposition in Boston in 2012. Paco Fish had given me some good conceptual feedback on the act that year, but I’d had so few opportunities to perform it after the festival that I put it in a box for a long time and didn’t touch it. I even thought about scrapping it entirely, except I really love the concept and the hand painted tattooed skin that Fleur Du Mal made me. When Sinner Saint Burlesque was putting together Vaudessey, I took this number out of the box for them and had some new costume pieces commissioned from Scarlett O’Hairdye. I’m so much happier with the number now at this stage than I was nearly two years ago. It finally feels right. And though I’m sure the number will still evolve some more, I felt comfortable, confident, and grounded before I stepped onstage at the Visulite to peel off my skin. I can’t wait to see the video of this one, because if Ron Tencati’s photos are any indication, it’s going to be stellar.

At nearly 1am, the competition had wrapped up and it was time to announce the winners. All 26 acts gathered onstage with Mamma D and co-hosts Johnny Anonymous and Lefty LaBlue as names were called:

• QUEEN of Southern Exposure Iris Le’Mour
• PRINCESS of Southern Exposure Deb Au Nare
• KING of Southern Exposure Max Bacchus
• PRINCE of Southern Exposure(4TIMES!) Stache
• Most Glamorous Southern Exposure April Showers
• Most Classic Southern Exposure April Showers
• Best Duet Southern Exposure Ginger Leigh & Cherry Bomb
• Best Group Southern Exposure Greater Atlanta Goddess Society
• Funniest Southern Exposure Dahlia D’Luxe
• Edgiest Southern Exposure Iris Le’Mour
• Best Variety Southern Exposure Macabre Noir
• Mammas Choice Southern Exposure Talloolah Love

Iris Le’Mour was absolutely the right person to take home the crown with her fusion of neo and classic burlesque set to “Cry Me a River,” in which she stripped out of a sparkly black suit and peeled her stockings off in the splits on top of a table. Ginger Leigh & Cherry Bomb’s jazzy duet to “Why Don’t You Do Right?” was also spot on, sexy, and slinky. Max Bacchus’s winning number was actually his boylesque debut, and it told the story of a gambler who just can’t put down his cards long enough to keep his lover interested. Greater Atlanta Goddess Society took home best group for their Mardi Gras inspired strip which utilized some simple but effective choreography, colorful costuming, and innovative makeup in lieu of masks (which I watched them meticulously apply before the show). Macabre Noir stripped while walking on glass (which I couldn’t really see from my vantage point in the back of the house). Dahlia D’Luxe was an adorable stripping box of popcorn which earned her the trophy for comedy. The other numbers all fell in the 3 acts slotted before mine or the 3 acts slotted after mine, so I unfortunately missed out on some of the night’s winners! However, some other favorites from throughout the evening included Jim Dandy, a Ringling Bros. trained clown who did a striptease and juggling number as a British punk rocker that utilized his clowning skills perfectly; Bella Sin, who performed a beautiful classic striptease in baby blue and gold that ended with some high-energy tassel twirling on the floor; and Kubrilesque, Crystal Swarovski’s fully scripted and choreographed burlesque musical tribute to the works of Stanley Kubrick, which was pretty epic.

I boarded an early flight home on Sunday, tired and happy. Every time I go to a festival, I get to explore a new city and make new connections with strippers and audiences across the country. It’s appropriate that this festival coincides with Thanksgiving weekend, because the experience made me extremely thankful that I am even able to do things like this at all. So thank you, Mamma D, for inviting me to your neck of the woods and for putting on such well-produced events. And I look forward to having a similarly thankful experience at the Great Burlesque Exposition in Boston this February where I’ll be competing alongside Olatsa Assassin, Maggie McMuffin, and Whisper De Corvo in The Main Event.

2013 Princess of Great Southern Exposure, Deb Au Naire (Photo by Ron Tencati)

2013 Princess of Great Southern Exposure, Deb Au Naire (Photo by Ron Tencati)

2013 King of Southern Exposure Max Bacchus (left), 2013 Prince of Southern Exposure Stache (right)- (Photo by Ron Tencati)

2013 King of Southern Exposure Max Bacchus (left), 2013 Prince of Southern Exposure Stache (right)- (Photo by Ron Tencati)

2013 Great Southern Exposure Best Duet Ginger Leah and Cherry Bomb (Photo by Ron Tencati)

2013 Great Southern Exposure Best Duet Ginger Leah and Cherry Bomb (Photo by Ron Tencati)

2013 Queen of Southern Exposure Iris Le'Mour being crowned by producer Big Mamma D (Photo by Ron Tencati)

2013 Queen of Southern Exposure Iris Le’Mour being crowned by producer Big Mamma D (Photo by Ron Tencati)

2013 Great Southern Exposure Best Group Greater Atlanta Goddess Society (Photo by Ron Tencati)

2013 Great Southern Exposure Best Group Greater Atlanta Goddess Society (Photo by Ron Tencati)

2013 Great Southern Exposure Most Classic & Most Glamorous April Showers (Photo by Ron Tencati)

2013 Great Southern Exposure Most Classic & Most Glamorous April Showers (Photo by Ron Tencati)

“Bettie Page Reveals All” coming to SIFF Cinema.

•12/02/2013 • Leave a Comment
Bettie Page by Bunny Yeager, 1954

Bettie Page by Bunny Yeager, 1954

Bettie Page Reveals All, a new documentary from director Mark Mori and writer/editor Douglas Miller, will premiere at SIFF Cinema Uptown December 5 at 7pm. The special engagement will feature a performance from none other than Seattle’s beloved Miss Kitty Baby (we couldn’t think of a more perfect performer to represent Seattle burlesque for a night honoring Bettie) and a Skype Q&A with director Mark Mori. In case you miss the premiere’s fanfare don’t fret: Bettie Page Reveals All returns for a one week run at the SIFF Film Center starting January 3.

As anyone interested in pin-up culture and burlesque well knows, there’s never, ever been anyone like Bettie Page. Many fans (including myself) think of her fondly as the mysteriously compelling gateway drug that sparked their initial interest in pin-ups and burlesque. Bettie was the shining, charismatic patron saint of it all. The exuberance, total confidence, and sense of fun radiating from every image of Bettie from her peak modeling years of 1950-1957 made her unforgettable. No matter the pose- playing in the sand or toying with some of the most ridiculous props imaginable- Bettie was at ease. Her beautiful body was only outshone by the light in her eyes and that megawatt, playful smile. Bettie looked alive; she looked fun.

Bettie by Irving Klaw

Bettie by Irving Klaw

Bettie’s path to becoming a cultural icon was as unusual as it is legendary. If you were around in the 90s when she resurfaced (with the help of comic book artist Dave Stevens and Hugh Hefner), you may recall the joy it was to unearth more about this mysterious pin-up from the 1950s and what had happened to her in the years since. Ebay was ripe with photos, some of them signed. Camera club members who had taken famous shots of Bettie (such as Art Amsie and pin-up photographer Bunny Yeager) were actually reachable by phone or mail. Bettie herself remained elusive, although suddenly there were biographies, including the excellent Bettie Page: The Life of a Pin-Up Legend and The Real Bettie Page, which upset some by revealing that Bettie had physically attacked her landlord and was subsequently arrested during a bout of mental illness.

Bettie by Art Amsie

Bettie by Art Amsie

Bettie by Irving Klaw

Bettie by Irving Klaw

In Bettie Page Reveals All, rare audio interviews Bettie gave before her death are made public through Bettie’s trusted friend, director Mark Mori. Bettie narrates her own story through lengthy excerpts combined with photos, archival 16mm footage, and interviews with those that knew her. Mori once again brings Bettie’s charisma and magnetism back into the public eye, beginning with brief interviews with well-known fans (Hugh Hefner, artist Olivia De Berardinis, Dita Von Teese) and including a few moments of footage from Bettie’s service at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in 2008. The film attempts to explain what set Bettie apart against a backdrop of wistful footage and vintage photos; also touching on the ridiculous censorship battles of the period and Bettie’s outrage at being arrested for “indecency” after a secluded outdoor shoot. Bettie explains her early life and modeling discovery in 1950 with a touch of humor and a giggle here and there, as if in hindsight she found much of what happened to her quite amusing. The film touches on all the major events of her career, from the camera club and girlie mag days to her famous collaborations with Irving and Paula Klaw and Bunny Yeager before her retirement from modeling in 1957.

Though Bettie wanted the world to remember her as she was in her photos, it’s hard to imagine the reclusive star having too many complaints with how her words and life are treated in the documentary. Mori allows those that cared about her to explain what happened to Bettie in her later years, and Bettie herself speaks about her failed marriages, nervous breakdown, and the ten years she spent in a psychiatric hospital suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

What follows is a reprint from Music Box Film’s promotional materials on the documentary. The Q&A is well worth sharing and contains a lot of great insight and information from the perspective of friend, fan, and documentary filmmaker Mark Mori.

Bettie Page Reveals All opens for a one week run at the SIFF Film Center starting January 3. For more information, visit SIFF HERE and the film’s page HERE.

*****

So what gave you the idea to do a documentary on Bettie Page?

Mark Mori: I was living and working in Los Angeles at the time and my entertainment attorney was also representing Bettie in the entertainment field. I had lunch with him and he showed me the book “Bettie Page: Life of a Pin-Up Legend” which had just been published. I told him that I would love to make a documentary of this. I had made all these kind of serious political documentaries and I wanted to do something more fun. I really knew nothing about Bettie, except her image was familiar. Once I looked at the book, I knew it would make a good documentary without really know anything about her story. I arranged to meet her for lunch and we became friends. She would regale me with these stories and it was all just great fun to her. So she agreed to let me do this film of her life and there was almost nobody in the last twenty years of her life that actually talked to her face to face.

Why?

Because she was a recluse. She liked the fact that she had fans but she wanted to be remembered for how she was in her photographs. She could not understand why people were still interested in her. She wanted to live her life quietly and she didn’t want to have to deal with people. She and I would go out to lunch in public and nobody would recognize her.

Could she have passed on her knowledge to other performers in some way or did she not want to do that?

She didn’t view herself as possessing any special knowledge. She could tell you in detail all these stories of things that happened and what she did from her point of view. She had a good memory, but the concept of teaching what she did to anyone else probably wouldn’t have occurred to her. If you had asked her, she wouldn’t have known what to do.

So Bettie Page was a feminist icon, ahead of her time. She didn’t really care what anybody thought did she?

No and she didn’t realize that she “doing anything”. In other words, she was just being herself. She was a force of nature with no self-awareness. It wasn’t like she was setting out to make some statement or to be some kind of a role model. She was only working on a job and having fun doing it and that’s all that was to her.

Was she surprised when she was arrested and by the congressional hearings and senate committees?

Not only was she surprised, but also she was completely outraged that they would charge her with indecent exposure. She said: “I was not indecent” and refused to plead guilty to that charge. If she had have just plead guilty, everybody would have been able to go home; but there were photographers covering the trial who had been taking pictures of nude women but telling their wives that they were out fishing. They wanted to get out of there, but she took a stand and they ended up dropping that charge. One of the photographers covering the trial said she had more courage than twenty photographers.

Did she realize that she was way ahead of her time? I mean she must have known what the law was. She must have been aware of the very conservative values of the people around her.

I don’t think she paid any attention to it or knew much about it. I don’t think until she was arrested and charged with indecent exposure that she really thought that much about problems with nudity in an open field, on a farm: that was so natural to her. She couldn’t understand why people thought that was a problem. Once she had realized that people did consider it a problem she started to be a little more careful I think.

So she was a free spirit then?

She was such a free spirit: a force of nature that didn’t stop to think about what she was doing.

I’d like to have that kind of attitude.

It’s also what comes through in the photographs. She wasn’t trying to create something or put on something. She was, I think, the number one actress in terms of still photography.

Why is that? Because she’s a natural?

Well, yes, she is a natural but she also worked really hard at it from a very young age. And, she used to study her photographs to find out how to be better. She did her own hair and make-up and even, unawares, directed a lot of the photography.

She had a good idea of her own art?

It was all done without calculation. It was just who she was, which was the amazing thing about her and the unique spirit you get in her photographs.

How long did you know her for? I know she died in 2008.

I first met her in 1996. I’ve done a number of interviews with her over the years and the last time I saw her was in the hospital a week before she died.

You knew nothing about burlesque before you met Bettie. How do you feel about burlesque now after having known her?

I don’t know how big the burlesque movement was back on 1996. I only discovered this kind of neo-burlesque thing since I began to know Bettie and make this movie. In fact, I didn’t understand for a good while that Bettie’s fans were these young women who found their sexual identity from Bettie.

I think that’s part of burlesque as a whole, you know.

Exactly. Anyhow, I’m a big fan of burlesque now. I have had some burlesque girls who have volunteered on the film. I have had one burlesque troupe show the trailer during their tour.

Bettie has launched a thousand looks, hasn’t she?

Yes. Tempest Storm was at the premiere and there’s a clip of Tempest Storm and Bettie together in my film. There were a lot of burlesque dancers at the premiere of my movie. Some of the burlesque women that I worked with and got to know very well have gone on to very lucrative careers as Bettie Page models for Bettie Page lingerie.

Is Bettie Page lingerie a huge business?

Yes. Bettie Page clothing did ten million dollars in business last year. Then there’s the Bettie Page licensing that made six million dollars last year. She was one of the top incoming-earning dead celebrities tied with George Harrison and Andy Warhol. She was named by Men’s Health as one of the hottest women of all time. Time Magazine recently named her as one of the 100 people most influential in fashion. There have been French fashion designers who have said that they modeled their designs on Bettie Page.

Do you think that’s because of the rise of burlesque in the last ten years? Burlesque is becoming mainstream and quite fashionable so people want to dress like that, perhaps.

Well, yes I think dressing up and having fun: that’s part of burlesque. The whole retro theme is all an attempt to have fun and style. To me, what you’ve got going on in larger society is so stultifying. Burlesque is an outlet for people to have fun and be creative. It’s worthwhile, fun self-expression.

A portrait of Bettie.

A portrait of Bettie.

Oodles of Feelings and a Cupcake Dentata: The Libertinis’ Dinner with Death Comedy Hour.

•11/30/2013 • Leave a Comment
Hattie HellKat of The Libertinis (Ryan Adams Photography, 2013)

Hattie HellKat of The Libertinis (Ryan Adams Photography, 2013)

~ Written by Crystal Tassels

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the boundary-pushing, genre-melding arts collective known as The Libertinis, you’re missing out. A small but talented group, the self-proclaimed “interarts gang” combines burlesque, clowning, theater, sound engineering and remarkable amounts of glitter in their original performance art. Last weekend, I caught the group’s latest production, The Dinner with Death Comedy Hour, at the Blackbox of Theater Puget Sound.

Armed with a basic working knowledge of The Libertinis but no firsthand experience, I knew this show would include silly costumes, pounds of craft glitter, and probably even a dash of politics. I sat down ready for what I thought would be a clown-y cabaret laced with narrative, some sexy striptease and quirky dialogue.

While the costumes, quirkiness and glitter (have I mentioned the glitter?) were all there, I was unprepared for the work’s arrestingly poignant – even tragic – commentary on depression, complacency, alcoholism, and loneliness. Also present, and equally intense, was a sparkly, dancing cupcake that giggled delightedly as it revealed a set of fangs and disturbingly long, red fingers.

Somehow, all of this made sense. Every last bit of this show was treated with a brazen sincerity that made it both heartbreaking and comical, a balance that The Libertinis carry off exceedingly well.

Dinner with Death follows the lives of a tight-knit collegiate foursome whose magical ringleader, played by the endlessly fierce Kiki Cosmosis, mysteriously disappears. Grieving the loss of their friend, the remaining characters go their separate ways and spend the next several years grappling with the chagrins of adulthood, which are displayed through a series of strip soliloquies and vignettes.

Woody Shticks (Ryan Adams Photography, 2013)

Woody Shticks (Ryan Adams Photography, 2013)

Yes, that’s right. Strip soliloquies. One for each character. The stripping brought fresh intimacy to the already deeply personal problems presented on stage. And since this was performed in a theater sans alcohol (thanks Washington State), the three left-behind friends were literally stripped bare. Cosmic Kiki was, fittingly, the only character to reveal body parts covered in rhinestones.

The story of Karen Timmons (played by Hattie Hellkat) exemplifies The Libertinis’ penchant for the creepy/funny/sad triple-punch combo. After dropping out of college due to an unplanned pregnancy, Karen struggles to escape her wretched unhappiness. Alone on the stage, she removes her clothes with weary disappointment as she slugs down MD 2020, telling the audience about her adulterous husband, her body issues, and the joy she finds in gluing googly eyes onto citrus fruits and photographing them, “because they just look so friendly.” At the close of her soliloquy, Karen, wearing only an apron, laughs as she poses with her silly-faced limes and oranges, then smashes them to smithereens with a hammer, sobbing into the pulp as the lights come down.

Tootsie Spangles, Hattie HellKat, Woody Shticks (Ryan Adams Photography,2013)

Tootsie Spangles, Hattie HellKat, Woody Shticks (Ryan Adams Photography, 2013)

Genius aside, there were a few small hiccups in the story’s continuity. Did the opening scene take place at Kiki’s apartment, as she said? Or at Kiki’s parents’ house, as someone mentions later? Did the friends meet in college, as the characters maintain? Or in high school, as the program indicates? At times, it was also a struggle to see what was going on, as the Blackbox’s lack of an elevated stage made it difficult to see floor work that happened too far downstage. Though I will admit that this may be my own fault for (a.) being so very short and (b.) insisting on sitting next to goth-goddess Seraphina Fiero, who was seated in the second-to-last row.

Overall, Dinner with Death was an invigorating, sexy emotional jaunt. It’s rare that people actually use the phrase, “I laughed! I cried!” and mean it, but really. The rampant ridiculousness of the characters, the magic and the show’s general eccentricity made for a highly entertaining night of theater.

I am extremely curious (and confusingly aroused) at the thought of The Libertinis’ next adventure: a reprise of Gone Wild: A Savage Romp Through the Animal Kingdom produced by Annex Theater.

Tootsie Spangles (Ryan Adams Photography, 2013)

Tootsie Spangles (Ryan Adams Photography, 2013)

Tootsie Spangles, Hattie HellKat, Woody Shticks (Ryan Adams Photography, 2013)

Tootsie Spangles, Hattie HellKat, Woody Shticks (Ryan Adams Photography, 2013)

*****

For more information on The Libertinis and when you can catch their next show, visit their Facebook page over HERE.

Crystal Tassels untangles BurlyCon.

•11/19/2013 • 3 Comments

Editor’s note: Burlesque Seattle Press welcomes special guest author Crystal Tassels, whose passion for burlesque brought her all the way to Seattle from South Korea – and whose fresh voice, perspective, and enthusiasm brought her to BSP. Here Crystal recounts her first time attending this year’s BurlyCon, and we’re excited to share her sparkly musings with you. So without further ado…

~Written by Crystal Tassels

My burlesque career started in Seoul, South Korea as a member of what was, in 2011, the only burlesque troupe performing in the country. Looking for resources and inspiration, I rifled high and low through the internet to see how the art form was developing in North America. I watched hours of festival footage, tore through articles and blogs, and quietly stalked the cast of New York’s Wasabassco Burlesque on Facebook (I swear that one of these days I’ll finally work up the courage to friend Sapphire Jones). As one of about ten active sparkle tarts on the Korean peninsula, this was like standing on the street looking in on a fabulous party through somebody’s window.

Last weekend, surrounded by six-hundred sparkled, coiffed, graceful people, I felt firmly on the inside of the festivities.

This was BurlyCon: dance academy, history lesson, slumber party, love fest. Burlesquers from far and wide gather in Seattle once a year to hone their craft, network, and learn from one another for four community-oriented days. The event brings talent to the Emerald City from across the world. It’s fairly common, though nonetheless electrifying, to have the stars and legends of contemporary burlesque in class right next to you. During our “Advanced Chair Dancing” class, Ray Gunn, in all his splendor, stepped on my toe and I just about hit the ceiling.

Perle Noire (Photo by Don Spiro)

Perle Noire (Photo by Don Spiro)

I arrived on Friday night just in time for the Burly Prom. This parade of poofy skirts, bow ties and glitter came complete with hours of dancing, Iva Handfull as a very convincing Napoleon Dynamite, and huge hair as far as the eye could see. There were sequins, silks and extremely sheer organzas in every color imaginable filling the ballroom and spilling out into the lobby bar, where people socialized when dancing under so much fabric became tiresome. At the stroke of midnight, Seattle’s own Sir Eddie Van Glam and San Francisco’s cosmic minx Laika Fox were crowned BurlyCon’s Prom King and Queen. During their coronation dance, the couple dove across the room, peeling and revealing with every lunge and whirl. The delighted crowd, knowing very well the wonder of spontaneous theater, applauded as Prom King and Queen pulled their royal strip completely out of thin air.

"Go-Go Dancing” with Vancouver BC’s Burgundy Brixx (Photo by Don Spiro)

“Go-Go Dancing” with Vancouver BC’s Burgundy Brixx (Photo by Don Spiro)

My Saturday classes started early and were stacked back-to-back throughout the day (though I did leave time enough for an invigorating dip in the hotel’s hot tub that afternoon). My first course was “Go-Go Dancing” with Vancouver, BC’s Burgundy Brixx, who encouraged her sleepy, 9am class to give it their bubbly all by telling stories of The Slipper Room in Manhattan, where she used to go-go nonstop for 45 minutes at a time. Next was “Stripping Behind the Fans”, a seminar taught by sultry danseuse Michelle L’amour. After an hour of deftly maneuvering huge, graceful ostrich fans around her slender frame, Ms. L’amour spoke at length about the screwdrivers, hardware, and (for international air travel) veterinary certifications that are required to maintain them. For an art form that often appears so effortless and delicate, it’s always striking to hear about the hardcore, industrial mechanisms holding everything together.

Michelle L'amour "Stripping Behind the Fans" (Photo by Don Spiro)

Michelle L’amour “Stripping Behind the Fans” (Photo by Don Spiro)

Later that night, the sparkly citizenry gathered for “Peer Reviews” to watch and workshop one another’s performances. The audience, some in full face, some in footed pajamas, scrawled feedback for each brave performer on white index cards and offered constructive comments and criticism following each act. One of the evening’s standout performances was presented by the incredibly stylish Lola Lesoleil, who was recently crowned Queen of the Alabama Burlesque Festival. Ms. Lesoleil, a vision in royal blue floor-length fringe, rippled weightlessly from one end of the stage to the other while the room bit its knuckles, unable to look away.

 Fast & Furious Silk Fans with Agent Asian (Photo by Don Spiro)

“Fast & Furious Silk Fans” with Agent Asian (Photo by Don Spiro)

Alas, all good, racy fun must someday come to an end. Sunday dawned cool and drizzly as the BurlyCon contingent took its final classes, frantically bought up everything left in the vending booths, and converted new friends to Facebook friends (because Facebook is forever). Here are a few of bits of trivia that I learned this weekend* :

  • Sally Rand invented the weather balloon
  • Black tattoo ink is often made of animal bone char
  • Hermes leather was originally stretched out in men’s restrooms and tanned using human urine
  • Ostrich feathers may be cleaned by steaming them
  • If the TSA stops you at airport security because of your feather fans, you can tell them they are (very large) cat toys
  • When I moved back to the US from Asia, I made a strategic decision to move to Seattle not because I had friends here, or because I had professional contacts. I moved to Seattle for the glitter. In addition to the magic of BurlyCon, consider the city’s enthusiastic audiences, smart-as-a-whip performers, artistic risk-taking, and supportive community. It should come as no surprise that Seattle is a burlesque destination known across the world.

    ___

    *Are these statements true? Can I verify their sources? I can’t say whether these are facts, myths, or hearsay,  so I’ll just mischievously leave their validity open for you, reader, to untangle if you wish.

    Ray Gun and Shanghai Pearl in between classes (Photo by Don Spiro)

    Ray Gunn and Shanghai Pearl in between classes (Photo by Don Spiro)

    Iva Handfull and Sir Eddie Van Glam (Photo by POC)

    Iva Handfull and Sir Eddie Van Glam at The Burly Prom (Photo by POC)

    Burly Prom Conga Line (Photo by POC)

    Burly Prom Conga Line (Photo by POC)

    Billy Corazon (Photo by POC)

    Billy Corazon (Photo by POC)

     
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