Category Archives: Burlesque – Costumes

Makeup At The Next Level

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Interview with Artemus Vulgaris

 

I have to preface this interview with a few notes. First of all, Artemus Vulgaris is also known as Damian Blake, my fiancee. So, needless to say, it took weeks of hounding and effort to track him down for an interview. Eventually, I just trapped him in our bathroom by holding the doorknob from the outside, and withholding whiskey until he talked.

Artemus by Paul Andrews

Your name (stage name, please)?

Artemus Vulgaris (Arty for short)

How long have you been a performer?

I guess I’ve been a performer ever since I was a kid.  I was never really a class clown, I just liked pretending I was someone else and putting on silly costumes.  I did a Charlie Chaplin ‘Gold Rush’ routine in a grade school talent show where I ate my shoe, and a friend and I hosted a 5th grade talent show as Groucho and Harpo Marx, complete with song and dance, harp playing, and sight gags in between each act.  I did theater and musicals in high school, and in college I got a BA in Fine Art and minored in theater.  I started busking as a clown and as a Chaplin impersonator, and joined the KC burlesque scene two years ago.  I hope to still be putting on baggy pants and a silly hat when I’m 95.

Damian Blake (at age 5) impersonates Charlie Chaplin

How would you describe your performance style?

Frequently sweaty and occasionally pants-less.  I think my style differs a little from my burlesque peers in Kansas City because my routines are not always based around a striptease.  I usually create a character that gets themselves into a situation, and then has to resolve that problem onstage.  A musical instrument that falls apart, a small pet that escapes, a magic show that goes wrong.  I like to incorporate over the top, cartoonish gags and nods to an older style of comedy, while giving it a somewhat bawdy twist.   If I’ve made an audience chuckle, I can go home feeling like I’ve done my job.

How did your stage name come about?

When I first joined the KCSOB, I was a hobo-clown type janitor character that would do pick-up and the occasional routine.  I called myself ‘Bindlestiff Willy’ after researching some hobo terms.  A bindlestiff is the bundle a tramp carries on a stick.  Willy was a nod to Emmet Kelly’s clown character, and ‘stiff willy’ is… you get the idea.  When I started performing in other cities, people thought I was part of the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, based in New York.  Not wanting to create any confusion, I changed my name to something vaguely old-timey that could relate to any character I play, not just a hobo clown.  ‘Artemisia Vulgaris’ is the Latin word for wormwood, the hallucinogenic part of absinthe. I like the way it sounds, and the way it looks spelled out.  It’s generically sinister, and has the word ‘vulgar’ and ‘art’ in it.

Damian Blake (still) impersonates Charlie Chaplin

Are you wearing pants right now? Nevermind, trick question. What attracted you to burlesque?

To be honest, it was the scantily clad performers. Then once I saw a show, I was hooked on the old-school variety revue format.  I had been struggling for years to find a place to do the type of entertaining I wanted to do.  I thought of going to school and becoming a performer with a professional circus, but Ringling had closed their clown college doors the year I graduated high school.  I tried to audition as a character for Universal Studios (they have roving celebrity impersonators), but at the time, they were not hiring new people due to budget cuts.  I tried community theater, busking, and birthday-party style clowning.  I had been to several local burlesque shows before performing in one, and I knew immediately I had found my niche.  It’s the closest thing to being a vaudeville actor you can get these days.  I get paid to do exactly what I like to do, create my own routines, work along side wonderful, beautiful people, and wear ridiculous costumes.  What other medium includes music, dance, comedy, drag, and sideshow skills?  It’s very therapeutic. (Recently, however, I have had the opportunity to audition for Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus in Boston, and it went very well. More on that in the coming months…)

Who makes your costumes?

Ebay and the Salvation Army.  I’m a stickler for good costumes, so I make all my own stuff based on the vintage things I find online or in thrift stores.  The only problem with wearing old clothes is how thick and sturdy they are.  Doing a routine in a three-piece wool suit gets me sweaty very quickly.  I’m pretty handy with a needle and thread, and it’s been a fun challenge finding ways to make costumes work onstage, like pants that can come off in a few seconds, or rigging an outfit to bleed.

Artemus, backstage

What do YOU like to see on stage?  What entertains you?  What inspires you as a performer?

I love any person that grabs my attention from the beginning, and holds it to the very end.  I love weird characters and confident performers.  I love movement timed perfectly to music.  I appreciate the strange and wonderful things people can do with (and to) their bodies. I love sideshow freaks and old circus clowns and people with a really great shtick, even if it’s corny.  It seems like everything has been done before, but if you can give it a new twist or do it really well, I’m sold.

What’s your pet peeve, onstage or backstage?

Inflated egos.  Unnecessary drama.  Lack of air conditioning.  Having to change in a storage closet or a public bathroom… nothing says ‘professional’ like seeing Charlie Chaplin glue on his ‘stache next to the urinal.

Do you have a favorite memorable burlesque moment or story you’d like to share?

I’ve had the pleasure of entertaining across the Midwest with both burlesque and my Chaplin-impersonating work.  I’m a history nut, so getting to perform in old, historic theaters is a real treat.  I got to do a black-tie benefit at the Folly Theater (in Kansas City) a few years ago as Charlie Chaplin, and that was a lot of fun.  I think my greatest burlesque memory to date is traveling to New York with you (Annie Cherry), performing in the burly revue at Coney Island, and having my sister (who was living in Brooklyn at the time) attend the show.  The entire trip was pretty magical, if I may be so sappy.

Artemus as “Arty” the Lounge Lizard

Who are your favorite performers, both vintage and contemporary?

I think it’s pretty obvious that a huge inspiration of mine is silent film comedy, and I love the work of Buster Keaton, Laurel & Hardy, The Marx Brothers, Red Skelton, etc.  The list goes on and on.  I’m fascinated by old vaudeville and music hall performers, and old circus clowns like Emmett Kelly and Otto Griebling.  I find the work of modern day clowns Bill Irwin and Rowan Atkinson to be a real inspiration, and there are a handful of local and national performers who continue to amaze me with their stage presence.

What’s an interesting fact about yourself that you don’t think your fans would guess?

No toenails on my two big toes.  I’ve considered touring as the ‘Toenail-less Wonder’ and forming a whole show around how I lost them, but it has yet to receive a positive response.  Potential backers, please contact me if you are interested.

Do you have any advice for burlesque performers just starting out?

Never stop researching, and never stop exploring what is out there.  There is so much that has been done, and so much that is being done right now.  I think the worst thing a performer could do is think ‘I’m the best I can be, from now on I’ll just coast on the shtick I can do.’  Keep learning, keep practicing, keep experiencing.

Artemus Vulgaris by Vixen Pinup Photography

Find Artemus Vulgaris, a.k.a. Damian Blake at his website, on Facebook, and at his blog The Faux Charlot.


Miss Vixen

Between the pinup contestants and the Kansas City Society of Burlesque, almost 20 gals were backstage, and no one’s claws were out!  Ha ha… Not what one might expect in a pageant environment, but in the Kansas City Pinup Community that Vixen Pinup Photography and Retro Vixen boutique have helped to cultivate, pinup girls and savvy boys alike got together this past Thursday at Knucklehead’s to celebrate some red-hot hot-rod culture, and to debut Vixen Pinup’s 2011 calendar! (FYI, the first printing of the calendar has sold out, and the girls are taking orders for the next run… Contact them for details!)

Eleven beautiful pinup contestants vied for the honor of carry the title for the coming year. Ashley, Amanda, Daretha, Katie O., Ruby Sunset, Dolly DuMaul, Gretchen, Margaret, Betsy Booms, Ave Martini, and Emily strutted their stuff, first in vintage and vintage-inspired bathing suits, then in costume (for the talent portion of our evening), and finally in pinup worthy dresses. Mr. Artemus Vulgaris and I were honored to emcee the pageant, aided by the lovely pick up artiste Bijou Merlot. I always have a good time improvising with Mr. Vulgaris, and improvising was what we did. I always think it’s the little unexpected moments and how you handle them that really are the icing on the cake of a show. (When Katie O.’s music was off cue we did a little impromptu can-can number, for example.) The night’s judges were Nikki Moreno and Candy Cunningham of Vixen Pinup Photography, Melissa Evans of Retro Vixen boutique, and Little Rachel of Little Rachel and the Rhythm Busters. The beautiful Gretchen went home with the crown, with Margaret as first runner up, and the fetching Betsy Booms coming in close as second runner up.  I want to mention something that I absolutely loved about this group of gals. Though many of them hadn’t met before, and they were competing against each other, the mood backstage stayed light and fun all evening. Ladies were helping other ladies into their corsets, passing safety pins, styling each other’s hair… It was a dream.

After the pageant portion of the evening, Arty segued nicely into a (a)rousing rendition of ‘A Little Less Conversation’. He was followed by burlesque performances from Kitty von Minx who did her classic ‘Marahuana’ fandance, Violet Vendetta in a classic tease to ‘Harlem Nocturne’, Daisy Bucket with her rousing rendition of ‘Stuff Like That There’, Honey Valentine with ‘Slowly But Surely’, Veronica Voodoo who always makes me feel like a ‘Natural Woman’, and Your’s Truly with my rendition of ‘Whatever Annie Wants’ and my classic strip to ‘Toot’s Shore’s Blues’. We were assisted by our own lovely pick up gal, Scarlet LaFever. Following the Kansas City Society of Burlesque, Little Rachel and the Rhythm Busters took the stage, and they took it good. Ahem.

Congrats, again, to the lovely new Miss Vixen, Gretchen! Rock that tiara like I know you will!

Click for  an article from Pitch Weekly.


Interview with Daisy Buckët

Daisy Buckët is an entertainment force to be reckoned with. She (also known as “he”, a gentleman by the name of Spencer Brown) is The Kansas City Society of Burlesque’s resident drag queen, as well as a prolific solo performer. Spencer is also “Trampolina Sicks” of the Kinsey Sicks, the World’s only dragapella beauty shop quartette.  Spencer answers a few of my questions about inspiration, striptease, and The Golden Girls.

Daisy by Drew Orrin-Brown

How long have you been a performer?

My first solo stage performance came about during a talent show when I was in the fifth grade. I was eleven years old and sang “Some People” from the musical “Gypsy” wearing my grandmother’s clothes. Since then I have enjoyed performing and that was… Well, if I told you how many years ago, then you’d know my age… So let’s just say I’ve only been performing for a few months now. I am also a 2006 graduate from New York’s American Musical & Dramatic Academy and really started getting work when I did a few shows with Ron Megee’s Late Night Theatre (“A Scarrie Carrie Christmas Carol”, “Disaster ’74”).

How would you describe your performance style?

Campy, I suppose. I love to sing but I also love a good-natured ribbing and slapstick and blue jokes. I’ve never been big on improvisation and when I hear the word I get terrified but people tell me I do it well. I guess people need to see more live entertainment.

How did your stage name come about?

I developed it in 2006 and used my favorite character in literature, Daisy Buchanan from Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”. I love that she’s this blonde, attractive, seemingly sweet and naive person but, in the end, she’s the reason two people are dead. She’s bad news. I knew that was the main structure for my character. I also knew ‘Buchanan’ would never take off so I referenced the name “Bucket” from the British comedy, “Keeping Up Appearances”, where a middle-class woman who tries to be the elite upper class insists her last name is pronounced ‘bouquet’. I love a good running gag.

Daisy by Vixen Pinup Photography

I’m a fan of that show as well… What initially attracted you to burlesque?

Strangely, I never thought I would fall into burlesque. When I was nine, I saw the TV version of the musical “Gypsy” with Bette Midler. The musical is the story of burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee’s childhood and her overbearing stage mother. I remember when that movie aired, we video taped it and my sister and I would dress up and do the “Gotta Get a Gimmick” number. I had no idea that what I was doing at that age was a song about the art of striptease! Since then I’ve always had a fondness for burlesque. I love the idea of women being sexy and funny and adding a layer of creativity to striptease. I guess that’s what appeals to me -the ‘tease’ in striptease. It’s not just about taking your clothes off, there’s an elegance to it and a playfulness about it. I think it’s a very beautiful form of entertainment.

Who makes your costumes?

Not me! Most of my costumes can be found from various thriftstores and bargain basements. About 90% of my closet comes from Boomerang in midtown. I can always find something at Boomerang. I’ve been going there for quite a few years now.

What do YOU like to see on stage? What entertains you? What inspires you as a performer?

I like to see performers having a good time. I like performers owning their craft. I get uncomfortable watching timid people perform or people that haven’t spent a lot of time working on their act. That’s why I change the channel with all of these reality ‘variety’ programs (“America’s Got Talent”, “American Idol”). I can be amused very easily though. I love vaudeville routines and new takes on old skits. I am always fond of a good singer. To me, a good singer is one that can emote and put meaning to the lyrics their singing. I can only aspire to be that good some day.

What’s your pet peeve?

How did you know about my pet, Peeve?! He’s doing great. Best dog I’ve ever had.

Who are your favorite performers, both vintage and contemporary?

Daisy by Vixen Pinup Photography

I’m sure you’d be surprised if I told you that I think Bette Midler is the greatest entertainer we have today. I also love Marlene Dietrich and Bette Davis. There’s a certain elegance about them and they also worked very hard. They were known as very dominant women and I’m sure they didn’t take no bull from anyone. I like that.

What’s an interesting fact about yourself that you don’t think your fans would guess?

When I get ready for a show and am painting my face, I always have “The Golden Girls” playing on a small TV next to me.

Do you have any advice for burlesque/drag performers just starting out?

Own it. Find your niche. Find what makes you unique and what you have to offer that makes you interesting to watch and own your performance.

Find Daisy at The Kansas City Society of Burlesques Monthly Revue at Korruption, November 20th, and on facebook.


The Doctor Is In

Words of wisdom from the amazing Dr. Lucky… (www.lukki.com)

Dr. Lucky’s Top 10 Tips for Budding Burlesque Babes
So you wanna be a burlesque babe? Take the following with a grain of salt; I offer these tips to make your future performances seamless, enjoyable, and productive! Enjoy and I hope to see you under the bright lights!
1. Respect Your Predecessors
Always acknowledge those that have helped pave the path that you now find yourself on. You haven’t invented anything. Everything has been done before. Which is both liberating and challenging. The history of burlesque spans over 150 years while the circus arts go back, well, let’s just say WAY before that. Which leads me to 2…
2. Do Your Research
See shows, read books, watch movies. Subscribe to listservs dedicated to the scene. Surf the net, watch videos on YouTube, and be a myspace whore. Know the major players in the scene. Your humility will enable you to learn an amazing wealth of knowledge from experienced performers. Which will help you avoid 3…
3. Don’t Copy Others
Inspiration is one thing. Stealing (or borrowing heavily which is basically stealing) a signature move or concept is another. No one owns the fan dance at this point but you should avoid copying something you’ve seen before (which, if you haven’t seen anything, see point 2, you are clueless). And if you are recreating a classic, simply attribute the original as inspiration. Dirty Martini makes it very clear that certain numbers are inspired by her predecessors (see point 1). She acknowledges these as “tributes” (and the person who originated the idea) and always inserts her own “original idea.” Make sure you are making an original contribution and not simply copying. Which leads me to 4…
4. Don’t Use the Stripper CD (“Striptease Classics”)
Many pick this CD up to start and everyone is tired of hearing the same fucking songs over and over again. One suggestion, borrowed from Julie Atlas Muz’ advice to my students at NYU in the past (see point 3), is to pick a song you love. A song that you can listen to over and over (and over) again. Simple as that. Of course, you may use the stripper CD if you are making fun of it. In which case, if you are making fun of it, anything goes! Burlesque is, after all, largely (though not wholly) about parody. Which segues, quite nicely, I do say so myself, into 5…
5. Avoid Cliché Archetypes
There’s a fine line between cliché and clever. As a general rule, if you can buy the concept of your act from a plastic bag at Target during Halloween (i.e. kitty cat, naughty nurse, dirty school girl/teacher, angel, devil, housewife) you may either want to consider: 1) coming up with another archetype or 2) work the fuck out of it in an unexpected way or make fun of it (see tip 4). Most burlesque numbers use archetypes of some type but after seeing 6 housewife numbers in a night, the audience may grow tired. Even if you do 2 (i.e., work the fuck out of it/make fun of it [in which case anything goes]), you will still want to avoid, at all costs, 6…
6. Your Underwear is Not A Costume
I cannot stress this enough. This is not a Victoria Secret runway or a Pussycat Dolls Show. If you want to do a sexy strip down to your panties stay at home. Clothes in your closet, no matter how fabulous, are not enough for the stage and require bejeweling, bedazzling, and general whoring out. Which as a concept and a lifestyle cannot be separated from 7…
7. Do Not be Pedestrian
People are paying to see you perform. Entertain them at all times and at all costs. From the moment you walk into a space until the moment you leave, you are performing a personae. No one wants to hear about your shitty day job or how early you have to get up in the morning (unless, of course, you’re going on tour or flying to Paris). Which, once you’ve mastered, is inextricably linked to 8…
8. Build Your Character
You does not equal Your Stage Personae. Make up stories. Invent origins, biographies, performance history. Lie all the time. (And I mean ALL THE TIME.) Pretend you are way more fabulous than you are. Eventually, you’ll start to believe it and so will others. But be aware that you do not forget rule 9…
9. Being Fabulous Does Not Mean Being a Diva: Make It Work
Turn mistakes into new choreography; no one will know something wasn’t planned unless you tell them. Throwing tantrums backstage, complaining about the sound or space or [fill in the blank] is annoying. Fellow performers are your allies. Save the catty crap for close friends. Do not talk shit or complain. Commiserating is one thing; making an entire show about you, you, you! is another. Which leads me to the 10th but not final tip…
10. Practice. Practice. Practice.
You will probably suck for awhile and until you become a veteran performer, you may be able to pull it off despite your greenness by practicing. Maybe sometimes you will get lucky but practicing is an even better strategy. That means practicing with music, full costume, and choreography from beginning to end until you are ready to puke or are really, really bored. Control props and costumes; don’t let them control you. Which leads me to the three final basics of all performance which, though they may be dreadfully obvious, are worth restating: 1) have fun; 2) be in the moment; and 3) smile!
Oh, and one more bonus tip for those ready to take on the word of our savior, our Lady Luck, the Patron Saint of Glamour, MORE = MORE and LESS = LESS. Once you recognize the power of those simple but provocative equations, excess and glamour will rule your life. Amen.

[1] © 2007 by Dr. Lucky. Must be printed on Pink Paper.


Interview with Special K

Recently, when Artemus Vulgaris and I were performing in Chicago, we had the pleasure of sharing the stage with a firecracker named Special K. We watched as she titillated the crowd with her carefully placed ray-guns, and then the following night, doused herself in fake blood while performing a Ronnie James Dio tribute. We thought she was absolutely charming. I caught up with Special K recently, via e-mail.

DeeDee and Irma”–two salty broads

Hi, Kelly!  How long have you been a performer?

I have been performing solo burlesque now for about a year, but before that I was part of a comedic “caburlesque” duo by the name of “DeeDee and Irma” and we did that for a few years.  Actually, we still perform when we can but we’re sort of on hold until my partner in comedic crime finishes school and gets married! How would you describe your performance style? I would definitely put myself in the “Neo-Burlesque” category for my performance style.  My background and training is in theatre and I always like to tell a story with my burlesque acts, so they tend to be more theatrical and narrative vs. the “classic” striptease.  I also tend to be attracted to more contemporary music, things with a good beat that really get me pumped and music that the audience can really relate to and engage with (i.e. Lady Gaga, MGMT, Dio, Mariah Carey, etc.).  I would like to get more classical acts in my repertoire, but I find it more difficult to tell a story with those pieces and I really want the audience to be interested in me and what I’m conveying to them.  The getting naked part should just be a sweet bonus.

How did your stage name come about?

My stage name is a nickname I have had for years, since college (many years ago!).  I think I actually started calling myself “Special K” because I was enamored with Seth Green’s “white boy wanna-be gangsta character” from the film “Can’t Hardly Wait” where his real name is Kenny but he calls himself “Special K.”  I feel a kinship because I’m your average white girl but I like to think that I’ve got some street cred and wouldn’t hesitate to cut a bitch, if need be!  Anyways, it’s just been my nickname for so long it only seemed right that it should follow me into my burlesque persona.  And it’s a little different, not necessarily feminine or suggestive or sexy like a lot of burlesque names are.  Some days I wish my stage name was prettier, but for the most part, I dig the Special K!

What attracted you to burlesque?

I sort of fell into burlesque about 3 years ago when I moved to Chicago from Madison, WI where my friend and I had developed these ridiculous, vaudevillian-style characters that we named “DeeDee and Irma.”  We had friends who were involved in the burlesque scene in Chicago and so we started doing a few shows as DeeDee and Irma and it seemed to go over really well, because they’re not your average burlesque duo; they’re sort of “deconstructed” “anti-burlesque”–often a bit vulgar and unsexy but always very, very sassy.  So we did that as long as we could before my partner moved back to Madison, and by that time I was quite involved with the Chicago burlesque scene and had built up a bunch of solo act ideas that I wanted to try to make reality, so I took a deep breath and embarked on my solo burlesque career as Special K.

Who makes your costumes?

The majority of my costumes are compliments of the Salvation Army or other thrift stores, often with embellishments and alterations by me (mostly just hot gluing sequins and shiny things willy-nilly).  I also get a lot of accessory pieces (gloves, nylons, makeup, etc.) from the awesome little wig and beauty supply stores that are all over the city–great burlesque stuff for super-cheap.  And when I’ve saved up enough pennies I go to my girl Kristy White, a Chicago-based costumer who specializes in custom corsets, burlesque and costume pieces.  She’s affordable, super fun and easy to work with and super nice (that’s my plug for Kristy White, folks!).

 

Performing “Blue” at the Girlie-Q “Freakshow”

What do YOU like to see on stage?  What entertains and inspires you?

I enjoy seeing a variety of acts on stage–I tend to connect more with acts that are theatrical in nature or have strong characters or stories.  But I absolutely love and respect the classic striptease.  Really, if either style can be done well and with skill and with personality, it’s enjoyable.  A lot of it is just what the performer gives the audience–if they exude confidence and a feeling that they are having fun and enjoying themselves, the audience will totally be right there with you.  I am also enamored with fan dancing–so gorgeous!

What’s your pet peeve, onstage or backstage?

I really can’t abide by any performer who has the self-entitled diva attitude.  Burlesque should be a collaboration and a celebration between performers, not a ridiculous competition–each performer is truly unique and has something special to bring to the table and that should be respected.  I also can’t stand poorly organized shows where things are not clearly planned or communicated (i.e. someone to pick up clothes after an act and do set-up and sound, call time, being up front about payment, prompt payment, etc).

Do you have a favorite memorable burlesque moment or story you’d like to share?

As I had mentioned earlier, by the time I finally started doing solo burlesque, I had a small arsenal of act ideas that I really wanted to make reality.  The most important one, the one that really pushed me to do solo burlesque, was an act that was inspired by a very painful, hurtful, disappointing breakup that really messed me up for awhile.  Music is such therapy, and I listened a lot to “The Birthday Massacre” during that period of time.  One of their songs, “Blue,” was the inspiration for my act where I was a pretty baby doll that comes to life and sets up a tea party but her guest never shows up and so she starts to lose it, methodically slicing off different parts of her outfit (sleeves, bodice, etc), revealing far more sinister undergarments than her cutesy doll dress would suggest.  As the song reaches its climax, she finally just completely loses it and destroys the entire tea party.  Obviously, the costume and the set up was very complicated and detailed and involved–and messy, but I had just had to do it, had to bring this idea to life, had to purge these emotions.  So I asked Kristy to make me the costume (which then sat for almost a year).  I was finally afforded the opportunity to perform the act a few months ago in Girlie-Q’s “Freak Show” production.  I was so nervous and scared about how it would go and how people would perceive it (would they all just think, “this chick is crazy and has no business doing burlesque”) but it went really well, felt really good and I got such nice compliments afterwards! One woman came up and told me that she really empathized with the act and how it feels to be in that crappy place where someone you care about leaves you and your first impulse is just to lose it and break stuff.  My boyfriend was also in the audience, and he was floored and really proud of me.  It felt good to finally “get it off my chest” as it were (no burlesque pun intended there)!

Who are your favorite performers, both vintage and contemporary (burlesque or not)?

Favorite performers?  Let’s see…contemporary burlesque favorites include Murray Hill and Dirty Martini and Justin Bond (NYC), Anna Fur Laxis (UK), Trixie Little and the Evil Hate Monkey (Baltimore), an amazing performer named Meow Meow (not sure where she’s from, but I saw her perform at the Spiegeltent in NYC several years ago).  I also really appreciate my peers here in Chicago and all of the hard work, innovation and diversity they bring to the burlesque table.

What’s an interesting fact about yourself that you don’t think your fans would guess?

I am very squeamish about real blood, even though I cover myself in fake blood in my Dio act and love gore and horror films!  Also, I have horrible stage fright and can actually be quite shy.

Do you have any advice for burlesque performers just starting out?

Performing “Electric Feel” at Viva La Muerte’s “Sci-Fi Striptacular”

Advice for newbies:  Trust in your instincts and never compromise your integrity as a performer.  Work hard to develop your personality and to create quality acts with meaning and heart.  Lately I have been sensing a mentality with some of the newer performers that they think it’s okay to just go up on stage and do whatever, and as long as you strip and end up in pasties, you’ve got a legitimate act.  Burlesque truly is a subtle art, and to be successful it has to be done well and with the right intentions. Also, just have fun and know that confidence is a HUGE part of being a strong burlesque performer (or any performer); it’s not necessarily what you’ve got, it’s more about how you use it!  I am so very, very far from being an expert at burlesque and feel very humble in comparison to a lot of my Chicago peers.  It’s hard work, but it’s worth the rush when you’re up on stage!


Interview with Kitty von Minx

Kitty von Minx as photographed by Drew Orrin-Brown

Kitty von Minx is one of my favorite performers, though I admit being a bit biased.  She’s one of my fellow founding members of the Kansas City Society of Burlesque!  We’ve been performing together for a few years now, and she never fails to impress me with her wit and her presence.

Your stage name?

Kitty von Minx

How long have you been a performer?

I have been performing on and off the stage since around 1980. I studied drama through school and have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech/Theatre. I took up belly-dancing a little over ten years ago and kept being told my performances were “too burlesquey.” So I made the logical decision to start performing burlesque, which I have been doing since 2006.

I got into burlesque through belly-dancing, too.  I think belly-dance might be the burlesque “gateway drug”.  I know some performers are really extremely cautious about that line between the two, due in part to the pervasiveness of the belly-dancer theme in many classic burlesque revues, beginning with Little Egypt, I believe.  What was it about your belly-dancing that made it burlesque-y?

I was “violating” rules set in Arabic countries about what was acceptable for dancers to do, such as the amount I’d “bounce” and the way I’d make certain movements. Plus, even as a belly dancer I was always trying to bring humor into my performance, and traditional performers failed to be amused.

How would you describe your performance style?

Fun. I try to incorporate elements of humor into almost all of my performances. It’s where my comfort level is, and I truly enjoy making an audience laugh.

I love that many of your numbers are topical, like your Tiger Woods number. Your sense of humor might be called dark…  Do you hear that a lot?

HA! Love it. My sense of humor in life has always been a bit on the dark side, so that only makes sense that it follows into my performances.

How did your stage name come about?

I was trying to think of something clever, but just wasn’t coming up with anything I really liked. I know cat-related names are kind of over-done in burlesque, but I am truly a crazy cat lady, and “Kitty” was the first word I ever spoke, so it holds a special place in my heart. From there I played around with several different names following the formula, “Kitty the Blank,” and finally decided to go with the Marlene Dietrich inspired “von Minx.”

It’s got a great ring to it, a perfect combination of irreverence and nobility.

Thank you! There are times I wish I’d chosen a more original type name, but this one seems to fit me well.

Kitty von Minx by Vixen Pinup Photography

What attracted you to burlesque?

When I was a kid there was a special on HBO called, “Here it is, Burlesque!” and I watched that over and over and over again. I was hooked. The glamor, the comedy, I knew that was what I wanted to do. I’d love to find a copy of that and watch it again.

I’d love to see that, too.

I’ve found VHS copies, but they want around $100 for them. When I locate a reasonably priced copy, I say we make a night out of viewing it!

Who makes your costumes?

I do, although I’d love to have a full-time costumer.

What do YOU like to see on stage?  What entertains you and inspires you as a performer?

I love to see performers having a good time. I am entertained by a show where it is obvious the performers love what they do, and put time and effort into their acts. I find myself inspired by many things, but honestly I am most inspired by watching drag queens. The confidence and the allure are so uplifting as a performer. Whenever I need a boost of confidence or a bit of inspiration, I’ll watch Divine. She’s my muse.

I’m the same way.  I used to attend at least one drag show a week.  It was the most inspiring thing on stage to me!  That combination of glamour and irreverence is irresistible.

Absolutely!

What’s your pet peeve, on-stage or backstage?

I don’t have many big ones, just several small ones not really worth mentioning. One thing that does set me off backstage is when a performer thinks their time and space is more important than any of the other performers. Everything all of the performers do backstage affects everyone working in the same space. It’s not the place for divas or temper tantrums.

Agreed. Do you have a favorite memorable burlesque moment or story you’d like to share?

I can’t think of any one particular thing, but I love performing with everyone in the Kansas City Society of Burlesque. By keeping our sense of humor we have turned many potentially horrible performance situations into funny anecdotes.

Truer words were never spoken, Ms. von Minx! Who are your favorite performers, both vintage and contemporary (burlesque or not)?

Bob Hope is one of my all time favorites. Other people I love are Betty Hutton, Donald O’Connor, Jerry Lewis, Eddie Bracken, Milton Berle, Madeline Kahn… I could go on and on.

What’s an interesting fact about yourself that you don’t think your fans would guess?

Kitty von Minx by Vixen Pinup Photography

I’m pretty much an open book, so there isn’t a whole lot most people don’t know. I am a paranormal researcher, and co-host of the internet radio program/podcast “Darker Side of the Moon.”

Do you have any advice for burlesque performers just starting out?

Do what you love. Life is too short to put things off. Don’t be discouraged by your age or body type. One of the wonderful things about burlesque is variety! As long as you are having a good time, the audience is going to have a good time.

Wonderful advice!

You can see Kitty von Minx in the Kansas City Society of Burlesque’s monthly revue at Korruption, as well as many other shows throughout the Midwest.  Find her at www.kcsob.com!



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