Tag Archives: Kansas City Society of Burlesque

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.

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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.


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!



Your Guide to KC Burlesque at KC Fringe Fest THIS WEEK!

The Kansas City Society of Burlesque by Vixen Pinup Photography

First of all, a blatant plug for the KCSOB’s My Girdle is Killing Me: A Burlesque Murder Mystery!  Find out who did whom with what where in this titillating murderous romp with a different ending each show…  This show will slay you!  And now, on to the schedule:

Here is your concise guide to the 2010 Fringe Festival’s multiple Burlesque shows and films!

Monday, July 26th

  • Fanning the Passions: the Sally Rand Story    by Amber DiGiovanni   7pm   Arts Incubator

Tuesday, July 27th

  • Behind the Pasties: Kansas City’s Burlesque Downtown Underground Revealed (film)   by Antonym Films   6pm   Screenland Crown Center
  • Vaudeville’s Dirty Cousin (short documentary film featuring the KCSOB)   by Ariel Tilson  7pm   Arts Tech Building
  • Boobs, Burlesque, and the Bard   by Bee’s Knees Burlesque   8pm   Just Off Broadway Theater
  • The Good Book Variety Revue   by Lucky DeLuxe and Friends  8pm   Unicorn Theater Main Stage
  • KC Cabaret Goes to the Movies   by Kansas City Cabaret   8pm   Arts Incubator
  • Fanning the Passions: the Sally Rand Story    by Amber DiGiovanni   8:30pm   Arts Incubator
  • Brawny Britches BOYlesque   by Madame of BDU   10pm   Off Center Theater

Wednesday, July 28th

  • Boobs, Burlesque, and the Bard   by Bee’s Knees Burlesque   6:30pm   Just Off Broadway Theater
  • The Good Book Variety Revue   by Lucky DeLuxe and Friends   6:30pm   Unicorn Theater Main Stage
  • Fanning the Passions: the Sally Rand Story    by Amber DiGiovanni   7pm   Arts Incubator

Thursday, July 29th

  • Boobs, Burlesque, and the Bard   by Bee’s Knees Burlesque   8pm   Just Off Broadway Theater
  • Fanning the Passions: the Sally Rand Story    by Amber DiGiovanni   8:30pm   Arts Incubator
  • My Girdle is Killing Me   by the Kansas City Society of Burlesque   8:30pm   Crosstown Station
  • KC Cabaret Goes to the Movies   by Kansas City Cabaret   9:30pm   Arts Incubator

Friday, July 30th

  • The Good Book Variety Revue   by Lucky DeLuxe and Friends   6:30pm   Unicorn Theater Main Stage
  • My Girdle is Killing Me   by the Kansas City Society of Burlesque   7pm   Crosstown Station
  • Behind the Pasties: Kansas City’s Burlesque Downtown Underground Revealed (film)   by Antonym Films   9:30pm   Screenland Crown Center
  • Boobs, Burlesque, and the Bard   by Bee’s Knees Burlesque   9:30pm   Just Off Broadway Theater
  • KC Cabaret Goes to the Movies   by Kansas City Cabaret   9:30pm   Arts Incubator
  • Fanning the Passions: the Sally Rand Story    by Amber DiGiovanni   10pm   Arts Incubator
  • Brawny Britches BOYlesque   by Madame of BDU   11:30pm   Off Center Theater
  • My Girdle is Killing Me   by the Kansas City Society of Burlesque   11:30pm   Crosstown Station

Saturday, July 30th

  • Fanning the Passions: the Sally Rand Story    by Amber DiGiovanni   7pm   Arts Incubator
  • Boobs, Burlesque, and the Bard   by Bee’s Knees Burlesque   9:30pm   Just Off Broadway Theater
  • My Girdle is Killing Me   by the Kansas City Society of Burlesque   10pm   Crosstown Station
  • Behind the Pasties: Kansas City’s Burlesque Downtown Underground Revealed (film)   by Antonym Films   11pm   Screenland Crown Center
  • Boobs, Burlesque, and the Bard   by Bee’s Knees Burlesque   11pm   Just Off Broadway Theater
  • KC Cabaret Goes to the Movies   by Kansas City Cabaret   11pm   Arts Incubator
  • Brawny Britches BOYlesque   by Madame of BDU   11:30pm   Off Center Theater
  • The Good Book Variety Revue   by Lucky DeLuxe and Friends   12am   Unicorn Theater Main Stage

Sunday, August 1st

  • The Good Book Variety Revue   by Lucky DeLuxe and Friends   2pm   Unicorn Theater Main Stage
  • Fanning the Passions: the Sally Rand Story    by Amber DiGiovanni   2:30pm   Arts Incubator

For more information, and advance tickets, please visit http://www.kcfringe.org.  See you at the festival!!!


Clams Casino teaches in Kansas City

Legendary New York burlesque performer Clams Casino teaches ‘Classic Moves of New York School of Burlesque’ in Kansas City

The Kansas City Society of Burlesque is proud to present, in cooperation with the New York School of Burlesque and the Dangerous Curves Ahead tour, a rare opportunity to learn some “Classic Moves” from one of the hottest contemporary burlesque stars in the country, Miss Clams Casino!

The class takes place at Korruption in Kansas City’s West Bottoms Area at 1717 w 9th Street at 5pm on Thursday, May 27th, 2010.  The workshop cost is $35.
Pre-register with Annie Cherry at anniecherryburlesquechanteuse@gmail.com.  The class will be followed at 9pm by Dangerous Curves Ahead: Burlesque on the Go-Go, a burlesque show at the Conspiracy Room of the Uptown Theater.  The show will feature Clams, Anita Cookie, Minnie Tonka, and Gigi Lafemme, all from New York City, as well as local favorites, including the KCSOB.

About the class: Learn the moves that make burlesque so much fun! You’ll be shimmying, peeling, and rocking it in no time! Learn AUTHENTIC burlesque! New York School of Burlesque Headmistress Jo Weldon has learned directly from the ladies who performed during the golden age of twentieth century striptease, and taught these movements, principles and styles to NYSB instructor Clams Casino. Just to give you an idea of what there is to learn, you’ll begin with “Classic Moves”. Learn the sexy shimmy, the tantalizing glove peel, the devastating bump n grind, and the dazzling tassel-twirl from an internationally recognized striptease expert with decades of performing experience.

About Clams Casino:  Burlesque star Clams Casino is the daughter that Dolly Parton and Charles Nelson Reilly never had! Called “spectacular” on the New York Post’s Page Six, an “NYC Culturemaker” by Time Out New York and a “tassel-twirling sensation” by Flavorpill, Clams is a nationally recognized performer and one of New York’s favorite stars of the bump ‘n’ grind. As both a performer and producer, she can be seen every week bringing her unique mix of sexy hilarity and curvaceous glam to a wide variety of stages around New York City, across the country and internationally. In summer 2008 Clams was the winner of two coveted trophies, for “Most Innovative” and “Most Comedic” at the Miss Exotic World Pageant, sponsored by the Burlesque Hall of Fame. She is also a Golden Pastie Award winner at the New York Burlesque Festival.  “Everybody digs Clams!”


About the KCSOB:  The Kansas City Society of Burlesque is Kansas City’s premiere traditional burlesque troupe.  Celebrating the ribald heritage of classic burlesque, the KCSOB blends comedy, glamour, and innovative performance art to create shows that entertain and titillate their audience every time.  In addition to monthly shows in Kansas City, the KCSOB takes to the road whenever possible. We also offers classes, workshops, and many other burlesque-infused ventures.


For more info:
or
Contact:
Annie Cherry
Kansas City Society Of Burlesque
816-806-0304

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Gypsies, Tramps, and Queens

Annie Cherry & Daisy Buckët Present

GYPSIES, TRAMPS, and QUEENS:

One Night Only All-Star Cabaret Burlesque Revue

BURLESQUE • DRAG • COMEDY • AERIAL • BELLY DANCING

Kansas City, Missouri – March 28th, 2010, at 7pm

at CROSSTOWN STATION

1522 McGee St., Kansas City, Missouri

Live show will be followed by a screening of the 1993 TV Movie

“Gypsy”

starring Bette Midler & Cynthia Gibb

$10 admission

Proceeds go to

AIDS Walk Kansas City:

A Benefit for AIDS Services Foundation of Greater Kansas City

21 & Over

Featuring, FOR THE FIRST TIME ALL ON ONE STAGE:

Hosted by:

•Daisy Buckët

From the Kansas City Society of Burlesque:

•Annie Cherry

•Bindlestiff Willy

•Lucky Deluxe

•Veronica Voodoo

•Honey Valentine

From Burlesque Downtown Underground:

•Sweet Louise

•Miss Kitty

From Kansas City Cabaret:

•Wicholas Grimm

•Mary Magdalene

And also featuring:

•Ron Megee

•Beth Byrd

•Satowi & M’chelle of Anahita Bellydance

•Eartha Delights

•Dolly De Maul

•Bijou Merlot

•Voler, Thieves of Flight, Aerial Fabrics Acrobats

•Lethal Lily, visiting from Germany

AND a SLEW of fun giveaways & prizes!


March 28th, 2010


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