Friday, January 27, 2012

Burlesque as Metaphor: Liz Fang Shares Her Opinions

by Liz Fang, the brilliant, soused, and often offensive emcee of Rogue Burlesque

Liz Fang having an epiphany.
Photo by Lee Kilpatrick
“We’re all just tassels spinning chaotically on the tit of life.”
- Me

We are all, essentially, dancers in this life. Some of us are square dancers, always following the line of people and never straying from the beat. For if we did, it would fuck everyone else up and we’d be cast aside, back to the dingy bar where we came from. (For me, I love a good stiff one at the bar [and a drink or two].) Some of us are strippers, dancing for others’ pleasure while they wank their willies in a hot, musty basement.  And some of us are ballroom dancers, graceful, yet always needing a partner to carry us to the end.

Finally, some of us are burlesque dancers. Full of the grace of Jean Harlow and the brashness of Liz Taylor on a hot tin roof. Confident and bold, hilarious and mysterious, we encapsulate all aspects of life from the absurdity to the darkness -- and, of course, the sexuality that binds us together as humans.

Burlesque has always been about confident, sensual women (and men, those angels!) showing off their talents while connecting through sex. Sex sells, and it sells well. However, it doesn’t sell as much as the comedy or the elegance in a routine. No one walks away from the burlesque show talking about the “reveals.” They walk out exclaiming “That part with the alien and the Micky Mouse statue was so fucking funny!” or “The routine she did was so beautiful, with the music and her gown glowing in the lights -- she was gorgeous!

Rarely does one say, “Yeah man, those tits at the end. They were sure spinning.” If you do, or know someone who does, defriend them because they’re a fucking nob. The reveal, much like sex, is quick and exciting, but once it’s done you forget it. However, you do remember the way he kissed your neck or the way she ran her hands through your hair...You remember that time when, just before you bedded down with someone, they said something absolutely hilarious that made you fall even more in love with them. Sure, your boner was gone, but you’ll have a ton of those. It’s what they said that stuck.

To be a burlesque dancer in your life is to be the confident, sexy person you are just before you’re about to get it on. That moment of euphoria where you don’t doubt or fear yourself for one moment. You know that what you are about to embark on is magical, full of pleasure, and you know how to rock that shit. So go!  Be a Burlesque dancer in life! Go fearless into the world! Be assured that you will succeed and make life beg at your feet, desiring your touch and your gentle caress! Then, when it can’t wait anymore, and it’s about to burst with passion  -- show it your big “reveal.”

Friday, January 20, 2012

How Low CAN You Go? Baring Witness to Boston’s Blue Laws

By Dixie Douya, Rogue Burlesque

Boston has a well-earned reputation for being a bit…well…stodgy. Long-time burlesquers will tell you about having to do “the Boston version” of their routine (a.k.a the “clean” or “covered up” version) when traveling to our fair city. Think of it as the radio edit of your favorite explicit song. What many performers don’t realize is that the notion of “banned in Boston” is very much alive and well, and the legal remnants of the New England Watch and Ward Society are still with us today.

It’s now 134 years since the Watch and Ward Society was founded.  But even today, in 2012, stripteasers in Boston must cover up -- their asses, that is.

That’s right. No ass crack. No g-strings. No thongs. No see-through panties.

The City of Boston Rules and Regulations of the Mayor's Licensing Division may in fact be some of the strictest in the country.  To quote:
6a. It is forbidden to employ or permit any person in or on the licensed premises while such person is unclothed or in such attire as to expose to view any portion of the areola of the female breast or any portion of the pubic hair, cleft of the buttocks, or genitals, except with specific approval of the Division upon a petition seeking nude entertainment.

Ms.Sassypants show us how to
"cover up our butts!"
This is generally interpreted as, you must have at least an inch of material on either side of the cleft of the buttocks – no thongs or g-strings. You must also wear pasties (not glitter glue) and must immediately cover up if you lose a pastie (women only). 

The regulations also include these gems:

6c. It is forbidden to encourage or permit any person in or on the licensed premises to touch, caress, or fondle breasts, buttocks, or genitals of any other persons.

6d. It is forbidden to employ or permit any person to wear or use any device of covering exposed to view which simulates the breasts, pubic hair, or genitals or any portion thereof.

6e. It is forbidden to employ or permit any person in or on the licensed premises to perform any act or acts, or to simulate an act or acts of:
(i)  sexual intercourse, masturbation, sodomy, flagellation or any sexual acts prohibited by law
(ii) touching, caressing, or fondling of the breasts, buttocks, or genitals of another

The above gets into lewdness. This means no lap dances (which is not typically an element of burlesque anyway) as well as being very careful about physical interaction with audience members (and even oneself).

Yeah, but can you really get busted?
Well, technically, you could be arrested or charged with lewd and lascivious behavior. But the real risk is to the venue, as these regulations are part of their liquor license. If you break the law, the VENUE could lose its liquor license. And saying “I didn’t know” doesn’t work as a defense because, legally, it is the PERFORMER’s responsibility to know the laws of the city in which they are performing.

Cops typically have better things to do than to bust performers/venues for acts of supposed lewdness.  And many venues are not even aware of the law until they run into a problem.  If a venue has had prior incidents, or has an ongoing bad relationship with their local police, the cops may fall back on the Blue Laws to send a message.  Adhering to the law allows us to protect ourselves, our venues, and our relationships with the folks who booked us in the first place.

So to all you stripteasers out there…when you’re in Boston, COVER UP THOSE BUTTS!*

* The laws cited above apply only to the City of Boston and its 20+ neighborhoods, including Allston/Brighton, Back Bay, Chinatown, Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury, and more.  Other cities have their own laws. For example, just across the river, liberal Cambridge allows full nudity on stage -- as long as you do not engage in "lewd and lascivious" acts, such as seductive striptease (!), in order to get naked.  So when in Cambridge, break out those thongs and g-strings!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Lucky 13 Amateur Burlesque Competition - registration now open!

Calling all amateurs and would-be Boston burlesquers.! Looking for a chance to break into the scene? Sign up to compete in Rogue Burlesque's Lucky 13 Amateur Burlesque Competition!

Show date: Monday, March 12
Registration deadline: February 12 (or when it fills up!)
Workshop night: Sunday, February 26th

Sign up today!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Not-So-Glamorous Moments in Boston Burlesque

Chapped nipples, flying shoes, forgotten pasties, coworkers in the audience…you name it, we’ve experienced it!  Burlesque queens may be known for our glamour, poise, and grace, but there are also those moments when we fall flat on our asses…literally. Some of Boston’s reigning burlesque queens share their weirdest burlesque injuries and embarrassing moments:

Femme Brulée's memorable cake incident!
“I skinned my knee from diving into a giant cake and the table collapsed underneath me. Then there was that time I forgot to put my pasties on and remembered one minute before going onstage, while inside a giant egg and nowhere near the dressing room. Oops!” – Femme Brulée

Getting glitter in my eyes and tearing up the skin on my face, when showering right after doing a piece and not washing my face ahead of time.  I learned that night never to use the large flake craft glitter.  Only medium grain for me now -- fine is too subtle, large is too painful to remove.” – Johnny Blazes

 “I got a 6-inch gouge (read: angry fat bloody scrape) the length of my thigh, procured from brushing my leg with my foot after buckling on my bejeweled, glittering heels backstage.  Le sigh.” – UnAmerika’s Sweetheart Karin Webb

“We were rehearsing for the finale of Slumber Party Seance and Polly Surely was standing behind me. She removed my bra, and when she went to throw it over my head, somehow it got caught on her ponytail and my glasses. We were stuck together through to the end of the routine.” – Allix Mortis  (Polly Surely says about this incident, “I laughed ‘til I cried.”)

“I was walking up the stairs to the stage, tripped and did a face plant, right before my act. The worst part was trying to pretend it didn’t hurt.” – Lolli Hoops

After my run as “The Suffolkator” in The Quest for the Golden Pasties (where I was a villain who suffocated person after person with my breasts), I actually had bruises on my chest bone from performers’ foreheads! And once, I lost BOTH pasties in front of a sold-out crowd at the Coolidge and didn’t even know it. I strutted off stage to thunderous applause – clueless as to why until I got offstage and saw two pasties sitting in the spotlight.” – Dixie Douya

“During one Slutcracker performance there was an unintentional pause in the music of about 30-40 seconds. Total silence. The few of us on stage had to figure out whether to keep dancing/miming or just wait a little longer... thankfully it resolved itself and we pushed onward.” – Malice in Wonderland 

And the most cited injury of all? Sore and painful nipples from excessive use of spirit gum and pastie tape! This was often repeated as the one downside to the fabulousness that is tassel twirling.

Remember, the next time you see these dames in all their glory, they may be covering up bruised knees…or bruised egos!

Watch Femme Brulée's most memorable moment:

Are you a performer? What’s your weirdest injury or moment onstage?

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Glamorous Burlesque Bathroom

By Ms. Sassypants, Rogue Burlesque

I heave open the giant wooden doors of Middlesex Lounge and wheel in my battered red burlesque suitcase, prepared to primp to the max in preparation for my numbers at that night’s show. Blinking my fake lash-lidded eyes and ridding myself of the tears that come from cold Boston wind blasts, I spot a familiar bartender across the room and wave. I wheel up to him with my case of costumes and order a glass of wine to warm my system. Drink in hand, I slowly ease the door of the handicapped bathroom open, careful not to bump anyone.

Inside are my three fellow performers for the evening, the ladies of Rogue Burlesque. At the sink, I gently put down my glass, drop my purse in a free spot on the concrete floor, and stuff my suitcase into one of the four corners not occupied by sink or toilet. Voices raise in pitch with exclamatory statements, and I greet Dixie, Lilly, and Keaton and brief them on my current state. “I have gloves for you, pasties for you, and I need to use the mirror for just a few seconds when someone is done,” I say, handing out the gear I brought for people. There is one sink, and one mirror for four women in serious need of glitter lip applications. I remove my coat, stuff it to the side of my suitcase and check my face in the mirror. The toilet flushes repeatedly, so Lilly tapes a piece of scrap paper over the automatic flush sensor. Our sweaty bodies bump into each other as we get dressed and no one apologizes (it happens too frequently for repeated “excuse me’s”). “Can you check my lines?” asks Keaton, and her legs stand at eye level to Dixie who is crouching next to her polka dotted suitcase. Dixie adjusts Keaton’s stockings to give her a straight line for a back seam, and I clutch my hairspray.

“Okay, spraying now!” I announce, and a stream of aerosol clouds my windswept hair, adhering it back in place. I remove my weatherproof boots and place them behind the commode so they don’t leak on anyone’s costumes. Dixie needs help with her zipper, so I tug her into a green sequined gown, carefully allowing for the tassel attached to the zipper to lay on top the dress. This way, unzipping in front of a crowd is free of fumbles. I remove my street clothes and make sure that I am wearing my nude foundation underwear in case of a costume malfunction. I’m wearing the wrong panties. “Bush out!” I call, as I switch into the correct underwear, using a phrase I picked up backstage from Sugar Dish, a fellow performer. In a pink glittery box, I keep my pasties. Lilly needs to borrow my scissors to cut toupee tape, so I hand off a pair from the box and stick two pieces of double sided tape to my tasseled pasties. Shards of pink tape remnants clutter the sink basin and flutter to the floor as we peel the scraps of tape. I drink some wine, and the glass knocks into the mirror in the flurry of activity. Sequins scatter over every surface, dripping from Dixie’s gown like rain drops.

“We’re starting in five,” calls the emcee, and I reply “Thank you, five,” in acknowledgement. Keaton removes a vial of glitter and begins applying it liberally. I dump some on her back, chest, and use the excess to brighten my cheeks. Lilly dusts glitter into her hair and it settles onto the floor to be ground in by so many pairs of high heeled shoes. Knowing our time is limited, movements become more frenzied. I can hear the DJ pumping melodic oldies to the crowd from his booth. The audience is growing in size and sound. I curse as I dig in my suitcase for one last prop, and Dixie searches the floor for her right glove. I check the set list taped to the wall, and emerge from our tiny space primped and costumed, to find my light on the stage.