Snakes, the Mob, and Stripping in the ‘50s: BurlyCon Chats with Bic Carrol

•09/06/2014 • Leave a Comment


~ intro by Crystal Tassels, BSP Contributing Writer.  Interview by Czech Mate

Each year, our friends at BurlyCon – that sparkliest of conference weekends – invite burlesque legends and critical community members to be the conference’s Guests of Honor. (Previous guests have included the late Wild Cherry, Julie Atlas Muz, and Toni Elling, to name a few.) These individuals have shaped the way the art form has developed and offer their extraordinary stories and experience to the Con’s glitter-loving attendees.

This year, BurlyCon brings us three unbelievably fabulous Guests of Honor: belly dancer Princess Farhana, producer Jen Gapay, and living legend Bic Carrol. The following interview comes to us courtesy of the lovely Ms. Czech Mate and the BurlyCon team.


Part I: Early Life and the Mob

He’s danced on Paris stages wearing nothing but boa constrictors given to him by Zorita.

He’s choreographed shows around fan-dance icon Sally Rand, learned comedy from Redd Foxx and Lenny Bruce, and created award winning costumes for Siegfried and Roy, the Ringling Brothers Circus and the Ice Capades.

He’s Bic Carrol, and BurlyCon is proud to present him as our 2014 Living Legend Guest of Honor.

Bic is an internationally renowned revue producer, choreographer, and costumer. He’s considered one of the first male strippers and a godfather of boylesque. Bic is presenting several standout classes at this year’s BurlyCon: “Burlesque and the Mob” (yes, the MOB), “Easy Tips for Burlesque Costuming” (he’s a TWO-TIME Vegas Costumer of the Year) and “My Life in Show Business” (Snakes! Sequins! Strippers! Oh, my!).

As BurlyCon sits down for a phone interview with Bic, he’s in his Vegas home, getting ready for a dinner party fellow legend Tiffany Carter is hosting for Austin-based troupe The Jigglewatts. He’s just stepped out of the shower, and in true burlesque fashion, he starts our interview wearing nothing but a towel.

CM: You’re this year’s BurlyCon Living Legend Guest of Honor! How does it feel to be considered one of the first male strippers, a living legend AND a godfather of boylesque?

BC: First of all, Tigger is going by the “Godfather of Boylesque”, so I guess I’m the GRANDFATHER of burlesque. I never considered myself a stripper, I considered myself an exotic performer – because I never wore enough to start with!

It’s all very interesting because I hid all that for so many years when I wanted to have a legitimate career. I didn’t even think about it until a couple of years ago when it became acceptable. Now it doesn’t bother me, but 20 years ago you wouldn’t dare mention anything like this, that this is what you had done and this was where you had started. I think it’s hysterically funny. If you would’ve told me I basically started boylesque back in 1954, I would’ve told you you were crazy!

Bic in the '60s

Bic in the ’60s

CM: You went from being a farm boy to teaching strippers to dancing in a nude revue in Paris all by the time you were 21. At a time when other male dancers refused to perform in g-string, what made you willing to dance naked on stage?

BC: Well, I became a father at the age of 20, and the girl did not want the baby. Being a good Catholic Italian boy, I decided to keep it. All the strippers were like second mothers. They helped me so much – I could not have gone through it without the girls helping me.

In those days it was almost impossible to be a single father because the child welfare people were always on your back. Either I kept moving every three or four weeks to keep away from them, or I left the country. So I left the country.

I had two snakes, a 6-month old under my arm, and off to Paris I go. There was no choice. I couldn’t raise my child in the United States because they’d try to take him away from me. When I went to Paris the only place I could get a job was Chez Noir, and you were completely nude there. It was all for the money. It never bothered me because the whole show was nude. My snakes were my cover.

CM: Most people dance with feather BOAS. You’ve danced with BOA CONSTRICTORS. Any advice on performing with snakes?

BC: DON’T. That’s my advice. When they get up to 10 or 12 feet in length and weigh around 100 pounds, it’s dangerous.

After I’d been teaching strippers and choreographing features for a while, Zorita finally said, “Look, you need to do your own acts,” and she gave me two snakes. Only later did I find out she gave me the snakes because they’d gotten so damn big she couldn’t work with them anymore! So I started doing snake acts when I got out of high school, as well as teaching.

CM: Sally Rand, Redd Foxx, Tura Satana, Lenny Bruce, Zorita – you’ve worked with them all! Who are some of your favorite entertainers you’ve worked alongside?

BC: Sally I first worked with in Calumet City, Ill. when I was 17. She was a wonderful crazy lady and she had fun being a grandma to my little boy. Tura Satana I have also known since I was 17, and we were always great friends through the years. Redd Foxx was a delight, Lenny Bruce and Honey Harlow were good friends of mine in Chicago, Zorita was a crazy woman, but I loved her – these people took me under their wing.

My very favorite was Bubbles Darlene. She was THE superstar in Cuba. She told jokes while she stripped and everyone loved her very, very much. Carrie Finnel was another dear favorite of mine in New Orleans, another “mom” who babysat my little boy.

But they were all my favorites. There were very few I could say I didn’t like, because we were all in it together. It was what we did for money – we didn’t do it for fun.

CM: “Burlesque and the Mob” is already one of the most talked about classes at this year’s BurlyCon. Was the mafia’s influence on burlesque in the 1950s and 60s as dangerous as it sounds?

BC: Yes, yes it was. There was no such thing as not working for the mob. I don’t care what anybody tells you. It was strictly mob-controlled. You did as you were told. You got paid well. As long as you made them money, then you made money.

One of the things I’m going to teach you in the class is how to B-drink. Because if you didn’t B-drink, you didn’t work.

CM: What’s B-drinking?

BC: You don’t know what B-drinking is?! (Bic laughs) Well, the average salary for a house girl in the 50s and early 60s was only $15 a night. But you got a $1 from every drink that was bought for you, and you got $10 for every split of champagne that was bought for you. But you didn’t really drink it – you faked drinking it, otherwise you would’ve been stoned! That’s how we made our money.


How did Bic go from dancing with boas in Paris to designing circus costumes for elephants? Find out in Part II of our BurlyCon interview, coming soon!

Catch Bic’s BurlyCon classes “My Life in Show Business,” “Burlesque and the Mob,” and “Easy Tips for Burlesque Costuming” at BurlyCon 2014, Oct. 9-12th at the DoubleTree Hotel in Sea Tac, WA. Visit for more information.

Bic Carrol

A conversation with Sara Dipity on Star Trek: The Sexed Generation

•08/31/2014 • 1 Comment

Star Trek web

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

This Friday and Saturday (September 5-6) at Annex Theatre, Songbird and Raven bring you Star Trek: The Sexed Generation. It was only a matter of time before the Seattle nerdlesque scene rallied to produce a show entirely dedicated to the exploration of the final frontier. Like many other burlesque/nerdlesque shows of late, The Sexed Generation is fully scripted. Songbird and Raven is the realization of a dream shared by Sara Dipity and her partner Jacob Farley, who both obtained degrees in theatre (Musical Theatre and Theatre Arts respectively). BSP recently did a story about Sara and her involvement in Tassel Talk: A Peer Review. With a glass of Tranya in hand, I asked Sara about Star Trek and her new production company Songbird and Raven:

POC: Why Star Trek?

SARA: We adore it! Jacob grew up on Star Trek: The Original Series, while I caught Star Trek: The Next Generation in syndication every day after school. In 2013 we decided to watch all of Star Trek together; all six series (Original, Animated, Next Gen, Voyager, Deep Space 9, and Enterprise), and all 12 movies. I had already co-written The Last Burlesque Show You’ll Ever See and was about to co-produce Indiana Bones and the Lips of Destiny, two shows that melded burlesque and theatre. Star Trek seemed like the perfect canon to tackle; the episodes range from comical to deep political-social commentary, so we can explore gender, sexuality, self-worth, and power… and also make ridiculous jokes about Riker’s sexual prowess and Troi’s “psychic whammy.” As the incredible Crystal Tassels wrote about the show, it’s a space-age cultural study in tassels and sequin!

I had toyed around with the idea for a long time, about a year, with Jake always being supportive. I spoke about it with a lot of people and producers I trust and admire until finally I got a kick in the pants from Sailor St. Claire in the form of, “Yes, you can totally do this. Ask Annex for space.” I formed a little snowball of an idea, and she helped me push it down the hill. (Thanks, Sailor!)

POC: How did Song Bird & Raven come about?

SARA: Upon graduation Jacob and I found ourselves thrust into the economic downturn and recession. We both scurried to find jobs while doing our art on the side, and continued on this path for some time. In August of 2013 I felt like I met a breaking point. I found myself saying, “Well, I’m starting my fifth year in a job that I didn’t plan and don’t love. My B plan somehow became my A plan.”

We went into a discussion of dreams; what we wanted, what are strengths were, where we saw ourselves in 10 years, etc. That conversation revealed a vision: I wanted a production company. One that would produce quality work using our shared skills. One that would tell stories not often told. One that would elevate the art forms that I’ve been studying since I first took the stage at age five. We set to work. The goal, produce one stellar show combining our shared love of musical theatre, comedy, dance, and of course; burlesque and Star Trek. And here we are.

POC: What are your plans after Star Trek?

SARA: We have a ten year plan set. We’re solidly in year one. Year two, 2015, involves three burlesque shows: Broadway Babes: A Burlesque Tribute to the Great White Way (at Annex Theatre, March 20-21), World Cups: Burlesque in the Wide World of Sports (location TBD, June), and Star Trek: The Sexed Generation II (tentatively titled “The Wrath of Brawn,” at Annex Theatre, September 10-12). In 2015 we’re also looking to produce a sketch show featuring exclusively female writers and performers, as well as a full length straight-play.

After that? We expand as we can, producing a mixture of theatre, burlesque, and sketch. Our eventual goal is to own a space – to give the Seattle artistic community the space they deserve, with all the bells and whistles (and lights and sound and trapeze rigging etc.) that we can. We’re driven to create a community space; a place for artists to put up their best work, and for the Seattle public to consume it. Our space will be a love letter, a tribute, an offering to Seattle; the best place we’ve ever called home.

POC: Finally, Kirk or Picard?

SARA: I grew up with Picard. He’s strong, diplomatic, smart, dreamy, and Patrick Stewart is an incredible actor. Kirk on the other hand is scrappy and resourceful…and also dreamy. Everyone on the original series is dreamy! Ack! I don’t know! Picard! Kirk! Picard! Kirk! Janeway! Picard! I can’t decide!


Incidentally Songbird and Raven will be taking over producing duties for the show Revelry, as current producer and founder Queenie O’Hart is leaving us for New Orleans.

Star Trek: The Sexed Generation

Featuring Performances By:
Lady Drew Blood
Sailor St. Claire
Scarlett O’Hairdye
Al Lykya
Bolt Action
Maxie Milieu
Jesus la Pinga
Crystal Tassels
Olatsa Assassin
Eva Fairwood
Miz Melancholy
Briq House
Sin De La Rosa

Also Featuring:
Maggie McMuffin
Magnolia Monroe
and Verity Germaine

Star Trek: The Sexed Generation

Stardates: 8:00 PM, September 5-6, 2014

Coordinates: Annex Theater, 1100 East Pike Street, Seattle, WA 98122

Get tickets HERE.

songbird & raven logo_ actual-1

Picks of the Glitter: Black Lodge, Star Trek, and more…

•08/26/2014 • Leave a Comment


We’ve had a busy summer here at BSP and though we’re loathe to admit it, fall is just around the corner. A few noteworthy niche shows have caught our eye to end the summer, ushering in the fall burlesque season and of course the advent of BurlyCon.

First up, our favorite creators of the weird and wonderful – Sign of the Beast Burlesque and Go Go Rocket Productions, hailing from Portland – are returning to Seattle for another glorious round of Black Lodge Burlesque: Cabaret Inspired by David Lynch. This time around your awkward host the Log Lady and a carefully curated cast of Lynchian misfits will be at the Columbia City Theater, undoubtedly imbued with extra magic from the Twin Peaks-y red curtain that lives on stage there. This year features a costume contest, a Lynch-themed baked goodies table, raffle tickets and prizes, and a who’s who of some of Portland’s best burlesque and aerial artists.

I’ve always been a Wild at Heart fan myself, but the surreal Lost Highway inspired telephone act a few years back stole the show. Don’t miss it.

Black Lodge Burlesque: Cabaret Inspired by David Lynch

Friday, August 29, 2014

Columbia City Theater

4916 Rainier Ave S, Seattle, WA 98118

Featuring performances by:

Baby Le’Strange

Miss Alex Kennedy

Hai Fleisch


Mister Fogues

Hyacinth Lee

Vera Mysteria

Meghan Mayhem

Dylan Hillerman

Jolene Dickerson

Man Johnson


Early show doors open at 7pm, early show begins at 8:30pm.

Late show doors open at 10pm. (Please note that the doors may open a few minutes late depending on the running time of the previous show), show begins by 10:30pm.

General admission: $15




Incidentally, Portland’s Baby Le’Strange will be sticking around to appear at the Pink Door on Saturday, August 30. “The Glittering Misfit of Burlesque” always takes her acts to levels of bizarre you didn’t see coming…squirrels? Hot Dogs? Donuts? You never know where you’re going to end up when Baby takes the stage. Check her out at Black Lodge and the Pink Door, and visit her here:




Next week, Sinner Saint Burlesque will be at the Vera Project in another of their series of community showcases leading up to new production Inheritance: Maiden, Mother, Crone (October 9-19 at the Theatre Off Jackson). Get tickets to the Maiden Show September 4, and read what this constantly evolving group of women states are the top seven reasons why they have been producing community shows, not burlesque shows, this summer:




Finally, September 5-6 Star Trek: The Sexed Generation glides into the Annex Theater. The show is a fully scripted burlesque adventure that unfolds aboard the Starship Enterprise. If you’re a Trekkie, this is your wet dream. Here’s a little sneak peek from the producers, Songbird & Raven:

When a mysterious force alters time and space, the crews of Captains James T. Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard find themselves united on the Enterprise. Something is clearly amiss, as the crews seem unable to repress their own deepest desires, resulting in some terrifically bawdy, though highly illogical, hijinks. Could it be a nefarious space gangster? The all-consuming Borg? A gaping inter-dimensional rift? Only Starfleet can get to the bottom of this.

In true “nerdlesque” fashion, The Sexed Generation goes beyond mere parody to explore the series’ treatment of gender, identity, and sexuality. The cast boasts some of the most established nerdlesque performers on the West Coast, including Geek Girl Con favorites Scarlett O’Hairdye and Sailor St. Claire. Through gender-bending and storytelling, the stars tease their way through questions of queerness, power, and sex in Roddenberry’s future utopia. It’s a space-age cultural study in tassels and sequins.

Star Trek: The Sexed Generation

Stardates: 8:00 PM, September 5-6, 2014

Coordinates: Annex Theater, 1100 East Pike Street, Seattle, WA 98122

Starring: Al Lykya, Briq House, Bolt Action, Crystal Tassels, Eva Fairwood, Jesus La Pinga, Lady Drew Blood, Maxie Milieu, Miz Melancholy, Olatsa Assassin, Sailor St. Claire, Scarlett O’Hairdye, and Sin De La Rosa

Get tickets HERE.

Star Trek web

Olympia’s Own TUSH! Burlesque seeking new faces.

•08/17/2014 • Leave a Comment

2014 Audition call

Well look who’s recruiting…

Do you have what it takes to be a part of the untamed & fiercely independent collective that is Olympia’s Own TUSH! Burlesque? The following call for auditions caught our eye when it hit Facebook last week:

Saturday, September 6

TUSH! Burlesque is seeking talented individuals for our cooperative run troupe during the fall/winter season.

We are looking for motivated people of all experience levels to participate at events and in performances in the capacity of interns. This is an opportunity to work closely with our troupe while you learn how our cooperative runs. This internship is intended as a trial membership and will offer mentorship with-in our troupe as well as encouragement for interns to learn and grow as performers, team members and individuals.

Auditions will include an introduction to TUSH! Burlesque, an interview, and an opportunity to meet our current members.

You will perform a routine of your choice, no longer than 7 minutes, and have a chance to ask TUSH! Burlesque any questions you might have.

We encourage performers of all type and experience to take advantage of this fabulous audition opportunity!

Please email for an information/audition packet.

Details (time, location) will be emailed as well.
We can’t wait to see you! ♥


Don’t delay…send that email and throw your feather boa in the ring to be considered.  Being on stage with these ladies would be an absolute riot.

(For previous BSP features on TUSH!, click on the tag below).

The Best of Undressed Portland: A Burlesquer’s Guide to Rose City Strip Clubs.

•08/07/2014 • 1 Comment
Crystal reports from the front lines in PDX

Private Dancer: Crystal Tassels reports from the front lines in PDX

~ by Crystal Tassels, BSP Contributing Writer

Back in June I had the sincere pleasure of exploring some of the best strip clubs in Portland, a city that boasts the highest number of strip clubs per capita in the country. For a place that prides itself on having bespoke everything, it’s not surprising that the massive number of strip clubs does little to dilute the quality of performance or ambiance if you know where to go.

I was accompanied on this mission by my sex-positive partner-in-smut, Press. Before arriving in Portland, I sent out a call to my friends in the burlesque community asking for suggestions on where we should go. In the 36 hours we had, we visited:

1. Acropolis

2. Lucky Devil Lounge

3. Kit Kat Club

4. Casa Diablo

5. Union Jacks

6. Hawthorne Strip

7. Devil’s Point

8. Black Cauldron

9. Club 205

As a fellow performer and striptease artist, I am interested in the ways strippers command space and attention, how they move, and how they entertain. I watch strippers with the same analytical eye I study ballerinas and rock stars with (because if you really want to see someone strut in heels, watch Tina Turner). That’s not to say that I’m immune to the artful presentation of a nude body for my viewing pleasure – or that I wasn’t hot under the collar during the one exquisite lap dance I received – but I’m watching for performance, so that’s what impresses me. I don’t hold it against working performers when they go through the motions instead of throwing themselves in 100%; everyone has a day when that’s necessary. But that’s not what makes Portland strip clubs famous and it’s not what makes me hungry for more.

For those of you in Cyberland who have never been to a strip club, here’s how it works: the stage (or stages, depending on the club) is surrounded by a slim counter called the “rail” or “rack,” where guests are required to tip at the start of each new song in exchange for front row seats. In between sets, performers sell private dances (usually for $20 a pop) that last one song. Just like in burlesque, guests are not allowed to touch the performers, though dancers may, and often do, straddle/grope/twerk on their audience members. In Oregon, state liquor laws require that food be served at every bar, so many of the strip clubs compete via food gimmicks, like the 10-egg omelet at Acropolis ($7.50) or the all-vegan menus at Casa Diablo and Black Cauldron.

The performances we witnessed on our strip club safari ran the gamut from high production value narrative pieces to brand new dancers doing yoga on the stage. Without a doubt, the three best clubs we visited were Devil’s Point, The Kit Kat Club, and Lucky Devil Lounge.


1. The Acropolis

Tagline: Who needs glitter when you can have gristle?

Why it Sparkles: giant food portions, like the two-pound Colossal Burger, which comes on a 14-inch bun ($10)

Pros: apparently the best strip club steak in town ($6 for an 8 oz. sirloin)

Cons: uninspiring performances, sticky furniture

Press immediately recognized the blue and white façade of this club, which looks from the road like someone draped a giant Greek flag over a warehouse next to the highway. We paid a $5 cover (the only cover we paid all weekend) and walked into a dim, sprawling dive with multiple large stages. Vinyl table tops, lots of wood paneling, and a crowd of mostly middle-aged men made the “A-crop” feel more like a sports bar than a strip club. On the inside, the only thing that matches its patriotic Greek exterior is the enormous and achingly 1970s statue of Zeus (and attendant nymphs) gleaming in the corner. We slid into two sticky plastic chairs and watched the dancers undulate and giggle with the men sitting at the tip rail. As performances go, these were heavy on humping and light on dance, and the blasé looks on the performers’ faces made it clear that they were going through the motions. Motley Crue and AC/DC blared as the dancers switched shifts, taking turns plugging their iPhones into the stereo. Rumor has it that the club’s famous sirloin is sourced from the owner’s private cattle ranch. I wasn’t particularly inspired by the A-crop, but maybe it’s because I’m a vegetarian.

2. Lucky Devil Lounge

Tagline: Where red velvet wallpaper feels classy

Why it Sparkles: two fireplaces (one on the patio) and a poker table

Pros: laid-back, mid-century vibe, an even crowd of men and women

Cons: for some reason the whole place smelled like pancakes

Lucky Devil seems like the kind of place where you could catch up with friends over a Manhattan after work. The red velvet walls, copper-topped tables, and back patio make this a casual whiskey spot that wouldn’t feel out of place in Mad Men. Of course, the mirror-backed stage with dual stripper poles and dancing ladies in garters only adds to the Don Draper-approved atmosphere. Unlike the haphazard gyrations of the A-crop dancers, much of what we saw at Lucky Devil was polished choreography with a good sense of musicality. Given a relatively limited performance area, the dancers used every inch of space by crawling on the rail and hip-bumping into the mirrored back corner of the stage (which, visually, was a very neat trick…two mirrors facing each other means hip bumps for days).

The level of skill and acrobatics we saw on the pole was high, but the most impressive aspect of these performances was the interactivity. The dancers at Lucky Devil were social, upbeat, and extremely inspiring hustlers. (Both Press and I purchased lap dances, the only ones of the weekend, from the incomparably sexy Elle.) When faced with a table of gentlemen that seemed interested in her performance but were seated back from the stage and not tipping, Elle spun up the pole and onto the counter, then strode over the rack, never once breaking eye contact with her targets. Smirking, she swaggered to their table, took one of their beers, nearly full, and glided back to the stage. Making eye contact once again, she saluted the men, downed the entire beer, and then slid the empty glass down the deserted tip rail. The gentlemen, on their feet at this point, rushed the stage, throwing handfuls of dollar bills. Press quipped, “So she steals HIS beer, and then he pays HER. That takes talent.”

3. The Kit Kat Club

Tagline: Like burlesque, but naked and with poles!

Why it Sparkles: upscale and vintage, feature dancing, accepts BitCoin

Pros: high production value burlesque and pole performances

Cons: parking downtown is tough

The Kit Kat Club topped my list of “Sexy Things to See in Portland” for quite some time before I ever had the opportunity to visit. Owned and managed by local smut mogul Frank Faillace, who also owns Lucky Devil Lounge, Devil’s Point, and Sassy’s among others, Kit Kat offers a high-quality mix of burlesque-y striptease, pole dance, and rail humping. Many of the strippers are also famous burlesque stars, including headmistress of All That Glitters Burlesque Academy Tana the Tattooed Lady and electrifying danseuse Sandria Doré, who is also Russell Bruner’s duet partner. The club is right in the heart of Old Town Portland, next to Voodoo Doughnuts. Tucked beneath street level, the club is spacious with surprisingly high ceilings and an enormous main stage complete with smoke and stage lights. A smaller, mirror-backed second stage lit entirely in red takes up a small corner, and curtains above the booth seating reveal an elevated, backlit catwalk with multiple stripper poles for additional drama and ogling. The club was a bit mellow when we arrived at 11:30, but the crowds trickled in after midnight and the atmosphere changed palpably.

Kit Kat is known for doing themed performance nights, including their weekly Nerdgasm cosplay feature. Our strip club tour happened to commence on Friday the 13th, so the Kit Kat was celebrating with a night of horror-themed feature dances. As we got our drinks, a dexterous stripper wound up and down the pole to tune of “Suddenly Seymour” from the musical Little Shop of Horrors. Keeping with the theme was the ever-evocative Layne Fawkes, who appeared in a disheveled Victorian gown and trussed herself to the pole with a slender rope that ended in a noose around her neck. She revolved effortlessly around the pole, miming her own slow death. At the close of Layne’s macabre work of art, the emcee came on stage and bellowed, “Give it up for these hotties on stage!” While I was more than willing to “give it up,” something about his announcement irked me, as though this guy was oblivious the level of artistry that we had just witnessed. His comment snapped me out of Layne’s entrancing act and brought me back to the strip club I was in, where skilled performance runs the risk of being boiled down to mere “hotness”.

Crystal at the Kit Kat Club

4. Casa Diablo

Tagline: More gimmicks than a used car lot

Why it Sparkles: all vegan strip club (no fur/feathers/leather/silk)

Pros: the food is actually pretty tasty

Cons: remote location, expensive, interior looks like a 1990’s Roy Rogers

When you enter Casa Diablo, the long, ski lodge-looking interior comes to a point up near the rafters, where a giant painted portrait of the proprietor hangs beneath the vaulted ceiling. With his long, scraggly grey hair and pointed goatee up in lights, Diablo’s creepy portrait sets the mood for this oasis of sleaze in the otherwise deserted Northwest Industrial District. Casa Diablo is exceptionally gimmicky. Everything is strictly vegan both on the menu and on stage, so no feather, silk, leather, or fur costumes or props are allowed. All change is doled out in $2 bills, and the prices for dancer interactions reflect that. At $2 per song at the rack and $40 for a private dance, Casa Diablo is exactly twice as expensive as all of the other clubs we visited on our tour (with the exception of Diablo’s other venue, The Black Cauldron).

Our visits to both of Senor Diablo’s clubs were timed poorly, as we arrived just as the clubs were opening around 11:00 AM. I’ll admit that although it was lovely to eat breakfast in the presence of several undulating naked women, the lack of crowds and lineup of burgeoning dancers looking for practice time really did the clubs no justice. (Especially considering that Autostraddle dubbed Casa Diabo, “The Cadillac of Strip Clubs.”) We slid in behind a greasy wooden table and watched a dancer straddle the lone man at the rail to Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse.” We ordered food ($4 vegan burgers and house-made tortilla chips) and watched the inexperienced but enthusiastic dancers practice pole tricks, do yoga, and try and entice the few patrons eating breakfast to step up to the rack. At one point, a dancer straddled the head of a woman at the rail and was swiveling her vagina around her face when the Lana Del Rey song that had been playing abruptly ended. The dancer continued swiveling for an awkward 15 seconds of silence as another dancer fumbled with the iPhone plugged into the speakers. I’m sure that had we come in the evening, we would have seen a very different show.

5. Union Jacks

Tagline: Something for everyone

Why it Sparkles: diverse range of dancer aesthetics and abilities

Pros: leather captain’s chairs, no gimmicks

Cons: not a lot of seating that’s not at the rack, inexperienced performers during prime hours

Walking into Union Jacks from the bright of day is kind of like entering the red-lit harem grotto of a cave-dwelling ‘70s playboy. The club is comfortable, and the well-worn leather captain’s chairs and copper-topped tables give the impression of being in someone’s living room (especially if your friends are like mine and often have naked ladies prancing around). The most striking feature about the place was the range of ability and presentation seen in the dancers. The club prides itself on maintaining a variety of aesthetics and styles in the dancers it hires, unlike many other clubs that tend to focus on a particular “type” (i.e., tattooed and pierced Suicide Girls, garter-clad vintage vixens, etc.). This makes Union Jacks an excellent destination for large groups with a range of personal tastes or affinities.

I did, however, find it odd that there was such a dichotomy of physical and dance abilities in the dancers we saw. One performer, clearly an expert and lover of her craft, socialized merrily as she flipped upside-down, spinning by her ankles, before landing fluidly in a full split. (With gracious politesse, she placed her own spectacles on the face of a man at the rack before this inverted trick. Very inspiring.) Moments later came a slim performer with hunched shoulders, minimal makeup, and lank, straight hair. She was clearly anxious as she stepped up to the stage, her eyes shifting to and from the faces seated around the rack. She clambered up to the top the pole, then reached behind with her left hand and tried to unclasp her bra. Unable to get the thing off, she slid back down and used both hands to unhook it as she bowed her shoulders, giggling nervously. Why book such an inexperienced performer on a Saturday night?


6. Hawthorne Strip

Tagline: Your local watering hole, with strippers!

Why it Sparkles: friendly establishment close to the hip Hawthorne neighborhood

Pros: pinball in the back, very casual, easy to talk to dancers

Cons: ghastly bathroom, dive-y place

Flanked by smudged mirrors and Christmas lights, the one tiny stage at Hawthorne Strip is shoved into the far corner of the bar and surrounded by rack with space for eight. The bar was mostly empty when Press and I arrived at 9:30 on Saturday night. A few arcade games took up one corner on the other side of the bar, and several beer-sipping patrons watched a soccer game on a plasma screen instead of watching the dancers. The strippers themselves were energetic, serene but not bored looking, and happy to chat with us while going through their circuits of intermediate pole moves. (The most common: spinning around the pole while holding on with one hand, arm extended, then ending the spin and starting to strut towards the rack with a compact pas de bourée.) Hawthorne Strip was the least fussy of all the clubs we visited, and although that was relaxing, I wouldn’t go out of my way to drop in again.

7. Devil’s Point

Tagline: Like the circus, if the circus oozed sex

Why it Sparkles: rock and roll theme, Stripparoake Sundays

Pros: pole gymnasts and acrobats with serious skills

Cons: gets crowded and the rack is often full

Of all the places we visited on our safari of smut, Press and I agreed that Devil’s Point was the juiciest. That isn’t to say that it was the most explicit, but it had a certain decadence that carried it from merely sexy to Dripping (with a capital ‘D’). The performers that we saw here were among the most skilled acrobats and pole artists of the weekend. Though the performances didn’t possess the storytelling elements or costumes that we saw in the feature dances of the Kit Kat Club, the gymnastic musicality and sheer muscle control made for a riveting show. The dancers spun and swung in every possible direction, often landing in splits or backbends. One lithe, tattooed dancer walked the length of the stage on her hands before spilling her body over backwards in a perfect arc. An enthusiastic crowd filled every seat at the rack surrounding the single stage as we watched from a high cocktail table. The punk and classic rock blaring out of the speakers complemented several Bettie Page posters and (unsurprisingly) retro red and black décor. On Sunday nights, Devil’s Point hosts Stripparaoke, where audience members sing karaoke and the club’s talented dancers work their magic on the pole next to them. We were told repeatedly that we should have extended our time in Portland to include this unique and totally fun event.

8. Black Cauldron

Tagline: Fake fur, painted castles, and witch on witch action

Why it Sparkles: live witch sex, racy raffles, and free (vegan) tacos

Pros: silly medieval witch theme, dancing, witch sex

Cons: rack and private dances are twice as much as other places

As I mentioned earlier, Press and I visited both of Johnny Diablo’s establishments far too early in the day to do the clubs justice. We arrived at the log cabin-looking Black Cauldron at 11:15 AM and found the place deserted except for one bartender and the lemony reek of disinfectant. Taking the opportunity to look around, we found the club to be sprawling, much larger than Casa Diablo, with a long corridor of private dance rooms, a separate space for private pole dances, two central pole stages, a poker table, and multiple platforms for dancing or other nefarious activities. In the center of the main dance hall is a wide, round platform topped with green faux fur. When the morning’s sole dancer arrived – a spritely thing called Neptune – she explained that the ‘witch on witch sex shows’ happen on top of this ‘cauldron’. Although our stop at Black Cauldron was poorly timed, I was able to enjoy a cup of tea and a fairly tasty taco (free with any drink purchase) for breakfast. Adding to Diablo’s usual litany of gimmicks, the club raffles off a free lap dance from one of its “nude bewitching beauties” every hour. As resistant as I am to cheap marketing ploys, I’d like to give Diablo’s two shtick-laden clubs another go during a more appropriate time of day.


9. Club 205

Tagline: Your average American strip club

Why it Sparkles: blue collar club with “the hottest young strippers in PDX”

Pros: $1.75 well drinks and drafts during happy hour

Cons: not really anything special, lots of Lynryd Skynryd

After exploring the deserted Black Cauldron, we were about ready to pack up and bring our exploration to a close. As luck would have it, we wound up driving right by Club 205, which the Cauldron’s bartender described to us as “a rough joint, biker bar.” Inside the grey rectangle of a building are three stages, each a freestanding octagon with lots of neon up-lighting and diamond plated steel finishes. When we dropped by, it was noon on Sunday and the bar was packed with middle-aged men. Only one of the stages was occupied by a dancer, but there were several men sitting at the rack. The dancer smiled politely down at them from the height of her impressively tall heels (seven inches, and yes I asked) before slamming her slim pelvis down onto the rail, looking dreamily off into space. The atmosphere in the bar was polite and jovial; not at all what I was expecting after the description we had heard. The blaring classic rock was complemented by the truck stop glamour of corrugated metal and neon, and the dancers themselves were cheerful and vigorous girl-next-door types with tans and curled hair. Although it was a bit run of the mill after our other strip club adventures, Club 205 was a pleasant Sunday morning stopover.


Thus ended our adventure through the best of undressed Portland. On the ride back to Seattle, we tried to estimate how many dancers we saw through the course of the weekend. Our best guess is 40, which means that we had the pleasure of being exposed to 80 individual breasts. If that’s not a weekend well spent, I don’t know what is.

(Author’s Note: A HUGE thank you to all the performers, bartenders, and club owners that we met and interviewed during our trip. You are all gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous.)

POC takes on Tassel Talk.

•07/28/2014 • Leave a Comment
Sara Dipity, one of the duo which started the peer review sessions "Tassel Talk"  (Photo by Dawndra Budd)

Sara Dipity, one of the duo which started the peer review sessions “Tassel Talk” (Photo by Dawndra Budd)

~ Written by Paul O’Connell (POC Photo)

Last month I was excited to be part of Tassel Talk, a peer review of burlesque acts in the works at Annex Theatre that began in January and meets every month. Peer reviews like this in burlesque usually consist of a performer (in this case six performers) presenting acts they would like feedback on and an audience of peers giving constructive criticism. It was such a positive and fun experience because of the sense of community I felt (not to mention the very yummy brunch that was provided), that I decided to get the lowdown on the origins of Tassel Talk by the women behind it: Sara Dipity and Bunny Von Bunsmore. Both women have been performing and involved in theater years before they ever hit the burlesque stage. Sara, who moved to Seattle in 2009, holds a bachelor’s in Musical Theater with a minor in Dance and Human Sexuality. Bunny went to Cornell for Theater and Feminist Studies and moved to Seattle in 2010 after graduation. She is currently working at Annex Theatre as a staff member, actor, and director. Sara and Bunny got their burlesque start at Miss Indigo Blue’s Academy of Burlesque in 2011 and 2012 respectively.

We conducted the interview at Bunny’s apartment while her lovely cat Sage kept us company:

POC: How did you get into burlesque?

Sara: Well honestly I had been fascinated with dancing naked since I was a little, little girl, like just kind of precociously loved that.

POC: That’s funny, a lot of people say that.

Sara: Yeah I had kind of been locked up in church ideals and stuff for a very long time and when I got to Seattle I kind of let go of that. I felt like I needed to go back to who I was and what I loved and it felt like a really good way to explore my own creativity and my body and my sexuality, so that is why I started doing it [burlesque], and then I just seriously googled ‘burlesque class’. Miss Indigo Blue. Perfect. Here, $600. There you go.

Bunny: Before I moved to Seattle I had watched the documentary A Wink and a Smile…I watched that and kind of just filed it away. Like…ha, this is really cool. This is a very cool part of this place where I’m moving. And it was actually with Cocktails at the Center of the Earth (a play at the Annex Theater) that I decided to pursue burlesque because Sailor St. Claire was in the show and I just asked her “How did you start this? How?” and she said, “Well I was moving here from California and it was something I had never done so I did it.” So I took the Academy class in 2012 and it’s been lovely.

POC: For the Academy 101 performance, did you have any feelings about how this was a different type of performance than what you had done in the past and was there any type of nervousness about getting naked on stage?

Bunny: I was nervous but it was kind of like normal performance nervousness for me. It was, “Okay I’m gonna go do this thing that I know I know how to do. I’m just gonna trust that I’m gonna do it. I wasn’t nervous about getting naked. It’s funny some of the other girls in my class put it really well. You’re busy doing so much stuff during a performance. Is this gonna come off the right way? Am I going to remember the right steps? Am I gonna give good face? You’re so busy with other things, thinking about your own nakedness is really the last thing on your mind.

Sara: You know I’d say that I still get that level of nervousness. Ugh, I’m going to perform and get naked, and the second you step on the stage that just goes away. You have to focus on doing your job and getting your stuff done. Self-editing and criticizing is completely unhelpful at that point.

Bunny Von Bunsmore (Photo by Ian Johnston)

Bunny Von Bunsmore (Photo by Ian Johnston)


POC: I guess that brings us to someone else helping you. So what is Tassel Talk?

Sara: Tassel Talk is amazing. Tassel Talk is a baby from BurlyCon where we were sitting around thinking, man, I have no idea if I’m making good work because I’m not getting a lot of feedback about that. And there was a peer review at the time but it wasn’t consistent…So we decided that we wanted to provide that. Tassel Talk is a morning where a bunch of community members sit down and get together and have brunch and drink mimosas and then six brave people get up on a stage – with full lighting and full sound and all the tech we can give them – and perform for us and then we give about 10 minutes of constructive feedback.

Bunny: We thought really hard about how we could make it the safest, happiest experience possible because it’s a scary thing to get up in front of…

Sara: People you respect.

Bunny: Yeah, it’s scary to do that so we wanted to take the bite out of it. Because BurlyCon peer reviews… I haven’t done one personally. But it’s like, oh so you go into a room, there could be people that you don’t know from other cities sitting there and you just kind of go in and you have your time.

Sara: You get feedback there and that is absolutely valuable but I wanted feedback from people that I am working with every single week. I wanted feedback from people that I’d performed with and understand. We wanted to make it as show-like as possible to benefit the people performing but also to benefit the people watching it. We figured if we added a stage, we added lighting, we added sound that wasn’t coming out of a boom box, you know sound coming out of big stage speakers, people would feel more comfortable performing and people would feel more comfortable to ‘woo’ and such.

Bunny: And Annex has been really generous. They’ve provided our space for free.

POC: So you asked them ‘can I do this thing?’

Bunny: Yeah I asked them and you know it’s half because I’m on staff, they know me. They want to keep me happy. And half because Tassel Talk really aligns with their mission, which is creating bold new work. So we stole a lot of our moderation technique from what Annex does from their progress showings where we have people come in to see a production that’s barely on its feet or hasn’t had tech added in yet, and give feedback.

POC: How do you choose performers to perform in a particular month?

Sara: To get the six, I post on the Facebook event page: “Hello we have open sign-ups.” And then on my own personal Sara page: “Hello we have open sign-ups. Please send me a message.” And generally within the first hour I’ve got six people. Then over the course of two weeks or so someone drops out. People drop out because they have other commitments. And that’s why we have alternates. Every single time, one or two alternates have gone. So that’s how we get the six. I’d love for it to be more but we don’t have that kind of time.

Bunny: We can get it done in less than two hours. We do about 10 minutes of talkback after each one, for a five minute act. It’s plenty of time to really hit everything.

POC: Plus you get to take home the notes.

Bunny: Yeah, we have everybody fill out forms so if they don’t necessarily share in the verbal talk back , they can still write down what they thought. And the performer can take that and they can burn them or they can read them. Whatever they want.

POC: So the first one was in January so now six months later can you share your experience on what it’s been like?

Sara: Honestly it has fed me so much as a person in a community and as an artist where every time I go, even if it’s early in the morning. Every time I go I see at least something incredible and often times many incredible things and it inspires me to go work on my stuff. And the Tassel Talk that I was reviewed in inspired me to make it [my act] better because I walked in thinking “I don’t know if this is good or not. I don’t actually know if this is a cohesive, good piece” but getting that kind of feedback made me think, “Oh OK, it’s alright. It’s a good place to start” and I can go much further with it.

Bunny: And you have a direction.

Sara: We create these things in just a little bubble, in our living room. Gluing stuff to stuff.

POC: Or you just have any idea in your head…

Sara: Exactly. And you hope it comes out cohesive. But then you do it [at a show] and you get a bunch of people saying, “Oh good job.” You don’t know if that’s real…

Bunny: Only in a peer review do you find out. And I’ve been surprised and delighted at the way that people have responded to getting very difficult critic of their work. They’ve been delighted and so excited to go and take it away and work on it. And there haven’t been too many hurt feelings, which is incredible.

POC: Well the idea is that there are certain rules on how you can critique someone, right? Let’s say someone’s on stage and the person watching thinks “I don’t like this at all.” They’ve got to find a way to articulate it, so that’s part of the process for the reviewer as well.

Bunny: We’re very specific with the questions we ask. We start with, “What did you like?” So then it’s love-fest,“Hello, these are the good things. Don’t make those good things go away”. And then we move on to “What was confusing? What was unclear? What do we want to see more of?” So that leads people to think very specifically about what it is that they were missing if they really hated an act or really weren’t jazzed about it. They have to be very specific about what it is that made them have that reaction. And that’s helpful because general negativity is just not helpful.

POC: So let’s talk about the hospitality aspect of it…

Bunny & Sara: Mini Bobbins!!!

Sara: She’s great. She got invited to the first Tassel Talk and wrote me and said, “I want to help. How can I help?” And she completely took over food. And it’s the best food. For Valentine’s Day she made chocolate dripped strawberries because she’s adorable. You were a partaker of the food. Did you enjoy it?

POC: I did partake of the food. It was very good. And there’s a jar for donations which goes to her for the food?

Sara: It costs about $50 for the food. So any donations go to her basically and then Bunny and I make up the difference out of our pocket. Which I look at it as a community giving thing.

Bunny: It’s really important to us that the event stay free for the performers because there are lots of opportunities to go and take classes, but they tend to be pricey and that’s fine, and they’re so valuable, but we wanted to have a place where people could come and show their work and not have to spend money in order to make their work better. Annex is donating their space which obviously is such a huge boon to us because space is so difficult to find in the city. And our technician, Alex King is an angel.

Sara: And he’s a professional technician who’s donating his time which is beautiful and I want to hug him all the time.

Bunny: Right. He’s wonderful. He’ll come and tell the performers, “Oh you can just tell your tech to backlight you during this part and it will look great.”

POC: So he’s giving feedback as well?

Sara: Yes. He designed a prop for me. He just gave me a sketch last time and said, “This is how you do that.”

Bunny: He’s one of the best people in the world. Anyway it’s because of donations that we’re running [this]. Annex is donating space, the donated tech, the donated Mini’s time and effort, and people who show up are putting in for food. But we want to make this a little more formalized as far as funding goes for the snacks. So we’re trying to put together a show in December (date and time TBD), showing acts from Tassel Talk that have been reviewed as a fundraiser for next year and to give some money back to Annex…so details forthcoming on that one. It should be a really fun show.

Sara: One thing I do want to say is I wish more people would utilize Tassel Talk. I wish producers would come and audition talent that way. I know I have. I feel like a few other producers have come and said “I’m casting that person now because I know they are fierce”.

Bunny: It’s a place where a completely new performer can come and show themselves and a producer could also come and see, and I think that is really exciting because often you know, the application process for shows is an idea online, but you’re not likely to cast someone that you don’t know or have never seen. So it’s a great opportunity because it’s free and because you just have to sign up. Anybody can get in and be seen.

POC: Well it was a wonderful experience for me… And first of all who doesn’t like socializing around food anyway? It’s people talking and enjoying good food and then they go inside the theater and watch the acts. So it’s a fellowship is what it is.

Sara: It’s burly church. It’s time to go and commune

Bunny: Yeah that’s what makes it less intimidating. You come and you have food and it’s relaxed and casual and you’re just chatting about ideas.

Sara: This a really great way to get to know people you don’t know. There are circles within our community of people that work together all of the time. And this is a good way to make those circles into Venn diagrams. 101 students that are just graduating, if you want to keep performing, come to this. You’ll see so much for free. I mean Iva Handfull did a review once….Crazy. So 101 students, come. Producers, come. Headliners, come give us feedback, if you wouldn’t mind donating your time…

Bunny: …There’s brunch in it for you…

Sara: There’s brunch in it and mimosas and if you gave us the time to tell us how to be better, everyone would get better. Rise all the ships.


You can see Sara Dipity next in Star Trek: The Sexed Generation in September. Visit her at:

You can see Bunny (Katherine Karaus) in Balconies opening August 1.

For info about future Tassel Talk sessions, like them on Facebook.

And… check Annex Theatre’s schedule of performances and go to their support page where you can make a donation to a wonderful theater.


Sara Dipity (Photo by Ralph Gayle)

Sara Dipity (Photo by Ralph Gayle)


Bunny Von Bunsmore (Photo by John Cornicello)

Bunny Von Bunsmore (Photo by John Cornicello)


Pick of the Glitter: Relentless.

•07/25/2014 • Leave a Comment
he baddest of the bad: the ladies of IvaFiero Productions

The baddest of the bad: the ladies of IvaFiero Productions

IvaFiero Productions brings two of burlesque’s most untamed hearts together for shows of a slightly different palate than our already wide world of Seattle burlesque.  “Relentless” is the adjective that many have used to describe the individual performance styles of Iva Handfull and Seraphina Fiero; Relentless is the name they’ve chosen for the annual showcase of some of their favorite performers.  Anyone who has seen Seraphina or Iva on stage will know that high-octane musicality is high on their priority list. It’s hard not to notice that these women are positively vibrating with energy when given the chance to strip to some of their favorite songs.  Nine Inch Nails-inspired burlesque? Hell yes.  (That show is coming in January 2015).

Back in 2012, the newly christened IvaFiero Productions launched with Glitter Friday, a Burlesque Hall of Fame fundraiser highlighting fashion designers from the burlesque community (costumes, day wear, fetishwear, accessories…you name it).  The following year the first Relentless arrived, featuring Seattle’s Rainbow & Jonny Boy from the Can Can Castaways and Lady Jack from Chicago. Next up was 2014’s Better Off Nude, a burlesque tribute to ’80s flicks.

“Every act in Relentless oozes individuality, the love of the artform, and epicness in the eyes of the performer (yep, I said epic),” Iva explained to me this week while getting that trademark platinum hair coiffed.  “We aim to make the audience hold their breath during our acts, scoot to the edge of their chair, and be inspired to attack the art they love. It allows us to highlight other Seattle area performers who we think are also relentless in their performances, as well as invite an out-of town relentless guest performer to introduce our Seattle audience to.”

Attacking the art they love? Words to burlesque by…and voraciously, in BSP’s humble opinion.

Relentless 2014 brings together Bolt Action, Tootsie Spangles, Flirty Sanchez, Iva, Seraphina, and 2013 King of Burlesque Ray Gunn (Chicago).  I asked Iva how they met Ray:  “Where do we begin?  We start by saying that Seraphina Fiero has the hugest crush on Ray, to the point where it’s hard for her to speak with, stand next to, or act normal around.  She literally has to change her panties every time she talks to him. Ray hails from Chicago (seems like Chicago is hoarding all the relentless performers) and is one-third of the award-winning Stage Door Johnnies,” she explained.  Since meeting Ray in 2010 at the 1st Annual Windy City Burlesque Festival, Iva has performed with him on numerous other stages around the country.  “I love that Ray hits beats you didn’t know were there and then creates his own waves when there’s no beat there.  He slithers, creeps, and flexes each muscle individually,  oozes sexuality, and makes audiences lose their minds.”

Ray will be debuting a new act for this show, as well as his fabulous step-down number for BHoF as well as one other number that Iva herself deems “perfectly relentless.”


Relentless runs July 26-27 at Theatre Off Jackson. For tickets and more info, click HERE and HERE.

Ray Gunn

Ray Gunn

Bolt Action

Bolt Action

Tootsie Spangles

Tootsie Spangles

Flirty Sanchez

Flirty Sanchez

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