20 girls, 40 pasties, and 1 big ass band: a Heavenly Spies anniversary gala.
My absolute favorite burlesque-dance-girlie-gang hybrid, The Heavenly Spies, have reached a milestone anniversary and are celebrating in a characteristically grand style. Their larger-than-life ten year anniversary show Diamonds takes place at the Triple Door this month and in keeping with their fantastical influences (the showgirls of the Crazy Horse meets Barbie meets the Rockettes) they’ve added a 10 piece big band and oodles of new girls to elevate the show’s high-kicking finale. Choreographer and founder Fae Phalen Pink, who performs as Agent Rhinestone, is a firm believer that sometimes more is more- at least when it comes to dazzling costumes and thrilling, hyperkinetic dance moves. Although they’re quite at home in the shadowy, intimate bosom of Can Can each Saturday for The Midnight Show, just think what the Spies can do with all that luxurious expanse of stage at The Triple Door.
Without further ado, we bring you a quick and dirty Q&A with the imaginative, fearless, and remarkably bend-y heart of The Heavenly Spies, Fae Phalen Pink.
Burlesque Seattle Press: Congrats on 10 years of Heavenly Spies! To celebrate, I thought we’d do a fun retrospective on the Spies in the form of a few questions, perhaps touching on some lesser known Spies trivia. For starters, how did the troupe form and who are the longest running members?
Fae Phalen Pink (aka Agent Rhinestone): We formed in 2003 when Sassy Delure and I were at Sonya’s having a drink for her birthday. We were daydreaming about putting together a cabaret show when the owner overheard us talking and told us he would build us a stage in the back of Sonya’s. Our first show was called Ultra and the Satin Dolls. We met Ultra for the first time when Wade Madsen introduced us and recommended him as a host for our new show. He auditioned for us at the old Velocity building and it was an instant love connection. I am the only original member!
BSP: Where was your first show?
Fae: Sonya’s on 1st Avenue.
BSP: Where is the most bizarre place you’ve ever performed (both individually, and as the Spies)?
Fae: Individually… A steak house in Cle Elum…. With the group I would have to say a 75th wedding anniversary. It was a very sweet event… just not our typical rowdy Friday night audience.
BSP: Can you recall any names for the troupe that almost made the cut, and didn’t?
Fae: The Heavenly Spies was the name of our first show at Can Can and it just kind of stuck.
BSP: What’s the most surreal or treasured moment you’ve ever shared as a troupe?
Fae: Definitely performing with Amy Sedaris at a Microsoft event in front of 35,000 people.
BSP: What’s the worst costume disaster you can recall in Spies history?
Fae: There are 2! The first was when a spy that shall remain nameless put her thong on backward during a quick change and had to do an entire number that way. The second would be during Viva Oz Vegas when both of my pasties fell off during a staged fist fight/dance with Ultra. A completely topless Dorothy… yikes.
BSP: Aside from the core dancers, who or what would you say is the “most valuable player” behind the scenes?
Fae: In the years past The Heavenly Spies were always run by myself and a partner in crime like Sassy Delure, James Blonde and Honey Sexpot…. Now with each of them living in a different state the person I rely on the most is my husband Chris Snell. Even looking back he has been a key part of our success as a group. In addition to him I rely heavily on Violet Hour/Summer who I have danced with for years… we met ages ago dancing for Greg Thompson and I am so lucky to have her as a positive person in rehearsal and on stage.
BSP: If the Spies could perform with or share a dream bill with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
Fae: I think we would each give you a different answer but I would have to say Toni Basil. My Dad gave me a VHS tape of her music videos when I was about 7 and I have been obsessed with her ever since.
BSP: What are some influences you channel in creating Spies shows?
Fae: [The] Crazy Horse, Toni Basil, Vegas show girls, Barbies, the Rockettes, Jane Fonda, booty bounce and a hybrid of old 60s glam and current pop culture.
BSP: The Spies are known for their skilled choreography, high energy shows, and fast-paced costume changes (not to mention great beauty!). How many costume changes are there in a typical Spies show?
Fae: About 20 quick changes!
BSP: Heavenly Spies are also known for impeccable taste in music, resulting in a potent pairing of music and choreography in all your shows. What’s your criterion for choosing music, and what are some of your musical ‘spirit animals’?
Fae: I’d say we try to have a perfect combo of high energy rabbit and slithering sexy snake spirit animal energy in all of our shows.
BSP: Ten years is a long life span for any troupe, and the Spies seem to be at the top of their game. What’s the biggest lesson or secret to success you’ve learned in these 10 years?
Fae: We continue to evolve as a group and we have fun in rehearsals and on stage.
BSP: What should we expect from the anniversary shows, and…what have you got planned for the next ten years?
Fae: The anniversary show is a little more classic and uses a 10 piece big band. We are doing a ton of new numbers as well as highlighting a few of our favorites from the past. We have also added a bevy of new girls to the closing number of the show which is new for us. I am very excited to see all those girls high kicking on stage together!
I’m not sure what the future holds. I would like to keep doing what we do. I love performing at Can Can and the family we have created there…
See The Heavenly Spies in Diamonds at The Triple Door, March 14-16, or catch The Midnight Show at Can Can most Saturday nights. For teaser videos, pix, and more Spies information click HERE. Diamonds features Bang Bang Big Band with vocalist Caela Bailey and a special performance by the Luminous Pariah.