Pasties, Pistols, and Platforms: Just Another Week at The Academy of Burlesque
Lots of yummy burlesque goodness to report from last week, my lovelies! Not only did our class get an amazing lecture from burlesque legend, Joan Arline aka “The Sexquire Girl,” I also attended a stellar burlesque show featuring the incomparable Immodesty Blaize (pictured above). Finally, I learned how to apply makeup for the stage from Seattle favorite, Ben Delacreme. I have no idea how I’m going to cram all this in one little blog post, but I’ll certainly try!
First up though, I want to talk about a major personal development in my own routine… I’ve acquired my costume! In case you’re just tuning in, I’m creating a very 70s-era, funkadelic, Blaxploitation-style character influenced by the likes of Pam Grier, Cleopatra Jones, and Misty Knight. I’m talking afros, platform boots, and a few ninja throwing stars put in for good measure. While I at first wanted to go with a bell bottoms and a halter top for my costume, I ran across this authentic vintage catsuit on Etsy and immediately fell in love with it. What do you think? Very foxy, no?
Since I have the most important piece out of the way, I’m going to spend the next week shopping for faux weapons, afro wigs, and platform boots. I might also embellish my gold booty shorts and triangle bra with a few rhinestones or sequins for good measure.
Now that I’ve done my little show-and-tell, I want to talk about “The Sexquire Girl’s” lecture. Joan Arline toured from 1953-1958, and in her heyday she was not only the marquee but she also commanded a rate of $935/wk. That’s good money now… let’s not even talk about my grandparent’s generation! Joan got started in burlesque at her husband’s recommendation and, after discovering how much more lucrative it was than the classical dance she’d been trained in, decided to stick with it until becoming a mother in 1959. She had lots of great stories to share (such as how Detroit used to be nicknamed “The Vatican” because of their strict anti-obscenity laws), but what I found most enjoyable was her burlesque tutorial where she dropped the following pearls of wisdom (paraphrased):
“You must establish an intimate rapport with your audience. Be always the lady, always the tease. Your act must build in intensity, and each article of clothing removed must expose a little more. Be sexy, but not vulgar; seductive, but not lewd. Be a temptress with class. Stay on beat.”
Amazingly enough, Joan Arline still fits into her costumes from 50 years ago, and, even more amazingly, she was scheduled to perform in the same burlesque show with Immodesty Blaize, Dirty Martini, Catherine D’Lish, Indigo Blue, and Inga Ingenue the next night!
Hosted and produced by local celebrity, The Swedish Housewife, last week’s burlesque show was a night to remember. Not only was the audience treated to an intimate screening of Immodesty Blaize’s recent documentary, Burlesque Undressed, we also got to see routines from veritable legends in the genre. Indigo Blue and Inga Ingenue both wowed the audience with tributes to Wild Cherry and Sally Rand, respectively. Dirty Martini gave the audience a glamourous fan dance, and Catherine D’Lish performed the most sophisticated striptease (involving petticoats and corsets and garters) that I’ve eve seen. Joan Arline performed the same routine that made her famous in the 1950s in the exact same lingerie (and I confess that I swooned over her vintage merrywidow and bullet bra). Finally, Immodesty Blaize showed everyone why she’s the reigning queen of burlesque with a fantastic piece involving floor work on a fur rug that left everyone speechless. Best of all… The Boyfriend went with me. I’m going to turn him into a burlesque fanatic yet!
Oh… this is getting long. Need a break? Go rest your eyes. I’ll still be here.
So… now that you’re back, let’s talk about the pièce de résistance provided by the very lovely Ben Delacreme. I don’t know the first thing about makeup, so everything in this class was completely new to me. Not only did he teach us about foundation, concealer, and how to apply eyeshadow. We also learned how to create “glitter lips” (so glam… I plan on using these the night of my show!) and how to apply false eyelashes. The funny thing is… I could tell Ben knew his stuff just from the class, but I didn’t know how good he was at makeup until I looked him up on Facebook. As you can see, the man works magic with cosmetics.
And that was my week! I’m kind of tired just typing it all out again. In the next week, I’ll finish sketching out my routine, get my costume altered (the legs are about two inches too short), purchase my makeup, sell tickets to my friends, and practice, practice, practice. The big day is only a little more than two weeks away! Eek!