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.