NOTE: This one goes out to Dot Mitzvah, Kitty Katastrophe, Vivienne LaFlamme, Nikki LeVillain, Ruby Solitaire, Bastard Keith, Crimson Kittty, Jezebel Express, Miss Indigo Blue, Keith Paul, Calamity Chang, Lily LaVamp, Hors D’oeuvres, Captain Elastico, Vanil LaFrappe, Hottie McNaughty, Belle Cozette, Mistress Leona Star, Rosebud, Kellita Maloof, Lipstick Crisis, Dame CuchiFrita and all the many tasseled and G-stringed performers I’ve seen over the years.
I stand in front of the crowd, dressed in a blue striped sport shirt, jeans, black boots and a blue scarf knotted at the neck. You know, chill flyness.
My friend Keith, hosting tonight’s fun, introduces me and says it’s time. The music is blaring. Not just any music, but “The Stripper” by The David Rose Orchestra – that trademark trumpets punching out BAH-dah-BAH, bah-DAH-bah-BAH after a leering trombone led them in with a sliding bass note.
Expectations are clear, if not high. So I strut among the tables, playfully stroking at my scarf and removing it. I spin around, arch my bottom out to the crowd and shimmy the scarf underneath it.
The hoots and hollers egg me on. I shake my butt in response and drop down several times in low squats I learned from a CrossFit trial session. (That hip tightness from a few weeks ago is clearing up, I see.)
Now we’re feeling it. I show them my front again, unbuttoning the shirt just to tease. No, I’m not ripping it off, though I think about it for a second. But, as the cherry on the sundae, I lift up my undershirt just enough to bare a peek at my hairy man-belly.
Why not? It’s a burlesque show, and if I’m gonna participate in a sexy dance contest between acts, then best believe I’m in it to win it. How I beat my fellow contestant, a woman far easier on the eyes than myself, I don’t know, but I have the gift bag of Red Hots and a silly straw to prove my sexily gotten gains.
So, yeah, I dig burlesque. After 10 years of watching neo-burlesque, suffice it to say it’s not a fad.
As a cultural omnivore type of nerd who digs history, camp and the cross-pollination of eras, this is where I live.
I’ve seen burlesque go nerdy with X-Files and alien love affairs. Horrorcore with Evil Dead spoofs of Ash and his possessed hand. Punk-sexy with The Runaways’ “Do You Wanna Touch Me” and a dancer dousing herself in suds. Nudie-cutie retro with the classic balloon popping, or the cowgirl whose outfit just falls apart.
Men living out queer superhero boylesque and cross-dressing genderfuck. Snake-charming, belly-dancing wonders draped in Cleopatra’s golden splendor. Zaftig, whirling funny girls looking like Etta Candy incarnate. (Woo woo, indeed!) Even an America’s Got Talent contestant who got stuck in her corset doing a bunny-themed routine.
Sideshow charm with fringe and feathers. Technicolor glitz with a sea-foam green beehive and pink sequined bra. A trained opera singer in a basement bar, bringing the coquette full circle. A full stage show with the only sexy Captain America and Bucky that I’d ever want to see.
And an emcee who shared his sexy-man burlesque bona fides by daring us he’d whip out one testicle on stage, and then pulled it out of his suit pants and let it dangle free, wrinkly and alone.
So, obviously, burlesque is whatever you want to make it.
But, more often than not, I don’t get much out of it in the way of eroticism. I enjoy the performance, the artistry, the usual humor of it all. Its ties to the past give the impression of quaintness compared to the tapestry of pornography at our disposal today.
The encouragement of shouting to spur the dancers on tends to leave me feeling silly. Wolf whistles aren’t really my thing. I’m not much of a ogler. But it’s not for me. It’s for the performers. And it is fun to play-act at lechery, watching women dance and remove their clothes in a non-exploitative, body-positive atmosphere built on genuine appreciation and fun.
Another part of enjoying burlesque for me is the vicarious experience of performance. It’s been a long, long time since my days acting, singing and dancing. Theater was hard to keep up with working nights for close to 10 years. Now that I work days, perhaps I can find a show and audition.
And, yes, I have burlesque dreams of my own. I could host, sing a song, tell a joke or two, wear some fly clothes.
Or, could I myself dance and strip? My act likely would be every bit the blerd that I am. I daydream about a John Henry routine, swinging a giant prop hammer to Johnny Cash’s ballad to the steel-drivin’ man.
Then I can show my burlesque dancer pals that I can turn a jack, lay a track, and pick and shovel, too.