Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Big Clean

 I am a mess- and as my mother will attest, I have always been a mess. I'm generally not a dirt and mold and gunk kind of mess (ew), but I am the 'I'll put that away later' and never do kind of mess. Especially in my basement, where I don't have to look at it every day and so the mess can't taunt and embarrass me.

Last year I cleaned it up and organized it so that there was a place for all my costumes, supplies, storage etc. And it looked good for a while. And then it didn't, and I just let it pile up. Finally it was getting to be a hazaard zone, where every time I went down there I risked falling, being covered by piles of stuff and never getting up again. So I attacked. 


Things are in their place- I took all the costume making supplies out of the costume room (except the fabric bins- there's just no other place for them to live) so I can start building costumes again. It's still cluttered looking, I just have too much stuff, but at least now I can reach and find and use the clutter. I also have big plans for all the stuff I've accumulated with the plan to make them into hats, headdresses, costumes, etc. and the new clean space will definitely help. I even created a little makeup area in the costume room.

I've also got a small pile of stuff I need to fix, and discovered a few things missing that I need to go in search for. It's nice to know I don't need to dread looking for costumes for a show, or a pair of scissors. I unearthed my long lost swaravski ear buds, and created a basket of  'things that could become costumes'. I feel organized and ready to create!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Cheers to Gypsy Rose Lee

Tomorrow Gypsy Rose Lee would have turned 100. She was a burlesque dancer and producer, an accomplished seamstress and costume designer, the author of a play and several books (a couple that were turned into movies), she acted in films and TV, had her own television talk show and her life story was turned into one of the most popular and successful musicals of all time, Gypsy (which is about to be relaunched on to the big screen by Barbra Streisand).

I've always felt a great connection to Gypsy- I feel like I share her DIY attitude and her desire to do more and be more. Plus burlesque changed both of us for the better. For her it took an awkward girl who had no place in Vaudeville, gave her a stage and made her a star --and for me burlesque transformed my very shy and awkward self into an elegant, confident woman. We both cultivated stage personas that eventually we mostly transformed into, onstage and off. Burlesque made us both published writers, and while it defines who we are to the general public, we both have used that fact to achieve greater goals rather than letting it limit us, as it could.

When I went out to Exotic World in 2005 to help them pack up and make the move to Vegas, photographer Don Spiro was recording the museum pieces before they were stored away, and asked me to model Gypsy's gorgeous drapey green velvet dress and black shoes. Gypsy was just a half inch taller than my 5'9 and I have a similar frame, so the dress fit me perfectly, though her size 10's were a size large for me. I remember feeling slightly electrified thinking that I was literally standing in Gypsy's shoes and dress.

Author Karen Abbott just released an in-depth and entertaining biography of Gypsy American Rose:A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee and she'll be here in Denver on February 5th at the Tattered Cover in Lodo, where yours truly will be recreating a couple of Gypsy's numbers! If you happen to be in New York tomorrow, celebrate Gypsy's birthday with Karen and some of the city's finest burlesque performers at the New York Public Library.

And for a quick peek at this amazing woman, this terrific article from Life Magazine from December 14, 1942 catches her at the height of her success (plus check out all the holiday and booze ads- fantastic!).

She was an incredible woman and as I'm also a cocktail girl, I suggest lifting a glass to toast the great lady, maybe a gin and tonic (her favorite) or this cocktail, known as 'The Gypsy': Equal parts gin and sweet vermouth, and a maraschino cherry. Cheers to Gypsy!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2010 in Review

Started 2010 off in Helsinki in February for the publication of my book in Finnish, and the Helsinki Burlesque Festival. Then I was invited to perform at and judge the Texas Burlesque festival in the spring, and I started a short lived but much loved job as a tour guide for Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey, which led to my current employment with Montanya Rum, Colorado’s finest rum- recognized and praised nationally and internationally. They took me to New Orleans for my first Tales of the Cocktail where I learned a lot, drank a lot of amazing cocktails, met a ton of wonderful people, including a ton of LUPEC ladies, at our first national meet-up, and basically had the time of my life.

Bartending at RumFest
Montanya also sent me to London for Rum Fest, where we were one of five rums nominated for a Golden Barrel award in the ‘Best Rum in North America’ category! Yes, it’s that good.

Montanya also made it possible for me to attend one of my favorite events, Tiki Oasis. I’ve always attended as a burlesque performer, and while that was always fun, it was even better as a sponsor. Tiki people love rum, and so they loved me!

I was honored to be invited to perform at the Burlesque Hall of Fame event in Las Vegas, The New York Burlesque Festival, The Southwest Burlesque Showcase, The Great Burlesque Exposition in Boston, along with the Texas and Helsinki festivals.

Locally, BurlyCute (who put me on a giant moving billboard downtown) and Immundo Burlesque gave me lots of stage time, plus Westword’s Artopia, the Cala Inn in Dillon, Fresh City Life at the Denver Public Library, Ginger Sexton’s Apocalyptic Ball and the Denver Modernism Show all let me shake my tail feathers (and feather fans) on their stages.

I was lucky enough to go to two burlesque weddings! The first was in the spring and was the wedding of burlesque historian, Jaye Furlonger- now Jaye MacAskill at the Little White Chapel in Vegas with Dixie Evans, Tempest Storm and Laura Herbert in attendance.

Then in San Fran in the fall, Sparkly Devil married the west coast’s most fabulous and foul mouthed export from Brooklyn, a gent known as Bones. I performed as part of the wild and wacky burlesque reception and the next night at Hubba Hubba in Oakland at the post-wedding show produced by Sparkly.

Trying April's makeup style
Just before the New York festival, I headed upstate to spend some time with April March, who when we first met a few years ago gave me one of the biggest compliments of my life. She said I move like she did when she used to perform! We’re working on a tribute act to her- she travels and speaks about her career, but doesn’t perform anymore, plus there’s not much footage of her performances, so I’m hoping to give the world a view of what it was like to see her live back in the day. We picked out music and the costume and prop and hopefully we’ll get to debut it at the Exotic World Weekend this year!

My burlesque school is really taking off with sell out classes and a ton of fabulous ladies graduating with honors and wanting to take it to the next level to be professional performers! I’m so excited!

Vintage lifestyles magazine, Milkcow called my burlesque school one of the top 10 in the world!

LUPEC Denver is more organized, connected and driven than ever before. I’m so proud of us!

Dita's Be Cointreauversial
costume at Contreau Prive

I took a side trip to Paris and stayed in the shadow of the Sacre Coeur with Forest, the author or Paris' finest cocktail blog, and had a couple cocktails with burlesque mover and shaker Gentry de Paris. Plus I spent an evening at Dita Von Teese's fabulous temporary club, Cointreau Prive where I sipped great cocktails and had a chance to drool over a couple of her costumes on display.

I was able to see Dita, one of my favorite artists, in New Orleans performing three acts I’d been dying to see live. She’s the epitome of the self created showgirl. Plus I had a story published in the international online burlesque magazine, 21st Century Burlesque about that Dita show in NOLA.

I had a bit part in Katharyn Grant’s movie Carolina Blue as a 70’s hooker!
Marie Vlasic painted my portrait
 which ended up on a billboard downtown!

I’ve always been fortunate enough to have great friends and colleagues and this year I feel like I’ve met more amazing people than ever before, mostly from the burlesque and the cocktail world.

As usual, I’ve really got no idea what 2011 will bring, but I’m hopeful for good things. I’d like to write more, and I feel like I’m ready to produce shows again after a long self imposed hiatus. Definitely stay tuned for at least a one night re-launch of Vivienne VaVoom’s “Burlesque As It Was”!

Happy New Year to you all, follow the golden rule, and above all else, do what makes you happiest!