This is where the title goes. (Sometime’s the old wit fails me.)

It hasn’t been a quiet few weeks since my last post, but they haven’t been crazily eventful either.  At least not for me.  Really, my life has been pretty quiet and good.  I’ve been doing some writing about burlesque shows — something that I’m very pleased about.  I’ve been building a couple of new numbers which feels like just the thing for me right now.  I’m acclimating to a new company and I’m happy to be there.  I finally watched the last season of Mad Men (holy shit!!!) And I got out to a few non-burlesque shows for a change.  A couple of plays, a rad rap show at one of my favorite (hidden) venues in the city, and last night White Mystery and Shonen Knife at the Empty Bottle.  I love White Mystery.  They’re all red, frizzy hair and ROCK.  And Shonen Knife is still awesome and punk and adorable after — what? — like 20 years?

So, yeah.  I’m not saying I was expecting it not to be quiet.  But I wasn’t expecting that last post to be viewed over 300 times, either. (Who?  Where?  Why? Crazy.)  And there have been some repercussions from it.  Sure.  Some I know about.  Probably some I don’t.     But do you care?  You probably shouldn’t.  I do a little.  Well, care isn’t the right word.  It’s something more akin to a Venn diagram of interest, incredulity, and amusement.  But, look it.  I’m only even addressing it at all because of the amount of views that post generated.  I feel like it needed some sort of follow-up.  But I’m afraid it’s kind of a boring one.  I wrote that because I wanted to shake off some great big piles of negativity.  I needed to.  It would have made me a bitter and suspicious person if I didn’t.  And writing it out and giving it away is just my way of release.  I’m not trying to draw any lines, but at the same time, I’m pretty philosophical about those that have been drawn.  A little clarity ain’t so bad.  It keeps you on your toes.

But don’t expect any more posts like that one.  At least until I write that book…

Just kidding.

No, I’m not.

I am.

Nope.

😉

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A glue stick is a window to the soul.

I was just taking a break from writing to browse through my friend Mark’s collage party website.  I really love it.  Apparently, you discover a lot about a person when you hand them a blank page, scissors, and a glue stick.  Check it out.

Oriental Picture Factory

Here’s one I did the last time I was over.  It’s the only one, actually, after many false starts and hemming and hawing. I don’t know if it’s art, but it’s something.

My yoga instructor told me to live and connect, so I guess that means I have to.

Because by nature I’m a shy and reserved sort of wall-flowerish girl, I told myself a long time ago to knock it off with all the weenieness and get the fuck out there and live.  Make some stories happen.  Expose yourself.  Literally and figuratively.  Meet people.  Listen to them.  Experience life.  Fucking live.  And I replied to myself, I said “Hey, Self.  You’re right.  I don’t want to be ho-hum.  Let’s see what we got out there.”

And that’s what I’ve been doing these last few weeks.

I’m not going to regale you with my pretentious tales of world travel, or with anecdotes about this barbecue sauce I made, or tell you about this ahead-of-the-trend cocktail I’ve discovered and how that should make you think I’m cool.  Cooler than you.  Nope.  None of that.  No fanciness.  I haven’t left the city and I rarely visit that hipster artisanal cocktail smugness masturbation bar down the street.  My burlesque isn’t better than yours and I’m not elite.

For the last year or so, I’ve been living with… rose-tinted glasses isn’t exactly the phrase I’m searching but something along those lines.  Only ever so tempered by judgement and smugness.  Whatever the corresponding shade for slightly biased bitchiness is, I’ve decided to smash those glasses.  They never quite fit right and I never should have accepted them in the first place.  But, well, they were just so damn pretty and they made me feel so special.  I kind of couldn’t help myself.

I speak in riddles, I know, but here’s the point.  I’m opening my eyes up to see what’s out there.  There’s a lot.  Here’s where I’ve seen recently:

A Gay Pride Parade from the inside.  FYI: it’s fucking hot in there.  And exhausting.

Love.  Just joyous love from my new Samba Mama, Dill Costa.  (I mean that in the maternal sense, not the she’s my hot sexy lady sense.  Though she is those things.)  I’m inspired by this woman.  She is a thing of beauty and she’s gotten me to do things I never thought I could do.

A different side of a person.  And not in a good way.  In a really bad way.   Like my mother just said to me the other day, “Honey, people will always surprise you.”

A new performance experience.  I brought a number out that I kind of hated and gave it a facelift for my first performance with a new company.  The positive experience contributed to it, but now I kind of love it.  That the audience was losing their shit for it felt pretty nice, too.

New people.  New approaches to burlesque.  New ideas.  New values.  It’s all made me feel very fresh and energized.

And, well, barbecue.  Yeah.  My husband’s been grilling a lot.  It makes me hungry and horny.  I’m digging it.  It’s just so manly.

And tonight I have two tickets to see a burlesque show that I most likely would never have seen.  And I have those tickets because I’m interviewing the director and writing a piece about it for the new online burlesque magazine, Chicago Burlesque. And I have two more to write in the next month.  Golly gee, I always wanted to be a writer.

It’s all just so good.  Even with the shitty shit part.  I’m really fucking happy.  I love this life thing.  It’s got some real potential.

Oh, and Happy Birthday, Alex and May.  I’m loading up a bazooka with love and firing two shots in both of your directions.

The rabbit done died.

Dear Chicago,

It is my deepest regret to inform you that there has been a death in the family.  I extend to you my sympathies and, furthermore, my most sincere apologies that I have been unable to deliver, or even make mention of, this sad news until now due to an extreme heart-wrenching, tit-twisting depression over this tragic event.  The sadness over this loss has all but crippled me and my family.  The extent to which it will be felt on our pornography collection and my husband’s liver is almost immeasurable.  Even as I type this, my collection of tacky athletic wear is dwindling, never to be replenished.  The daily anecdotes of dildo beatings and cocktail slamming are now nothing but whispers on the wind.  A gloom has settled over our household like a cold mist coming in with the evening tide.  And bunny-shaped shadows flit about in the corner of my eye.  Ghosts.  Tanned, breast-implanted specters haunting us, never again to be seen in the radiant light of a Chicago winter morning.

Or something like that.

Playboy is dead.

Well, not dead exactly.  It’s more like a zombie.  A resurrected West Coast version of it’s once cosmopolitan self.  After 59 years in Chicago, Playboy yanked out it’s roots and moved to L.A. (the city we left almost three years ago) leaving me and my husband, Mike, throwing our hands up in the air and asking ”What the fuck, Universe?”

It was a dream job for him.  But almost as soon as Mike got the job at Playboy, the ship started to sink.  He wasn’t even in the digital content department for a month before some mysterious Germans came into the office nosing around and asking questions.  Soon after the online division of Playboy was given over to online pornography company, Manwin, to manage and Mike was lucky enough to jump onto the lifeboat that was the IT department — the department that ended up turning the lights out in the deserted building that had been the epicenter of Playboy Enterprises.

Based on anecdotes, photos, and even videos, I’m still undecided as to whether or not he did any actual work at this job.  But he came home happy every night (even if sometimes he smelled as if he had fought, and lost, a few rounds with Jose Cuervo and his sidekick, Mr. Schlitz.)

The IT Dept. was drinky headquarters. They had a hotline you could call to find out what the cocktail of the day was.

After working for several cruel years in educational publishing, during which he frequently came home in rotten, rotten moods (I can hardly blame him.  The only thing I loved about writing for textbooks was the money,) it was a fantastic change to see him actually liking his job and the people he worked with.  It was a great job and we’re both sad to see it go.

But we got a lot of ridiculous and awesome shit as consolation prizes.  Books, tons of new and vintage magazines, artwork, tacky clothing, booze, barware, porno movies (one of which, Burnin’ Love — an Elvis porno starring Ron Jeremy — made for a fun and emotionally scarring girls’ night,) Jesus nightlight, comics, two jade rhinoceroses, a poker set, a fez, and Christy Hefner’s crystal rocks glass engraved with her initials (now my special Scotch drinkin’ glass.)  Like anyone moving across country, they were giving away everything they didn’t want to move.  And Mike snatched up a lot of it, much to the dismay of our already overcrowded bookcases.

It was great while it lasted.  I don’t know if Chicago will miss you, Playboy, but we will.  So long and thanks for all the porn.

Modeling some truly awful active wear Mike brought home from a sample giveaway.  This awesome ensemble promptly went to Salvation Army to brighten some old lady’s day.

Taking down the Bunny sign.

Clang clang clang went the trolley, ding ding ding went the Elvis Clown

My apartment looks like shit right now.

It looks like a glitter-crusted monster came stomping through it with the sole intention of throwing clothing and shoes everywhere in a state of iced coffee-induced ecstasy and once exhausted from the havoc wreaking, barfed up sewing supplies, laundry, and dust bunnies across three rooms.

My mother would be tsk-tsking and shaking her head at the state of my home is what I’m saying.  It’s gross.  My house is so covered in fabric remnants and bits of burlesque shit that my poor lupus-afflicted, roided-out geriatric cat, Moki, had this situation happening last night:

I swear, SWEAR, that we didn’t put that bit of feather there. It got stuck under her nose and then she ate it right after this picture was taken.

But who has time to not be a secret slob?  Not me.  Not me.  (And go ahead and judge me, by the way.  The fact that I’m sitting here writing this and not dealing with the pile of unfolded laundry that’s been sitting on my couch for three days is not lost on me.  I don’t wanna.  I just don’t wanna.  So fuck that laundry.  We’ll wear through the pile eventually.)  Normally, when my life gets this hectic it’s due to a barrage of costume work that has me taking anger breaks to morosely stare at evidence of other people’s fun on Facebook before I go back to hunching over my sewing machine and cursing.  (I love what I do, but there’s a certain amount of pissed-offedness that’s essential to the work.  Ask any designer, seamstress, draper, pattern maker.  They’re a grumpy bunch.  And a vindictive bunch.  Be nice to the people who make you look good, people.  Years in the theatre have provided me with stories that will make you clench your ass cheeks in discomfort.)  There’s been a fair share of that lately — but hey! life improvement!– I’ve actually been doing some fun stuff, too.

Like taking a road trip to St. Louis with my gal pal, May Oui, to perform at the Show-Me Burlesque Festival.  We were only there for one night because May has a real job, but it was super duper fun.  Especially the part where we got 4 hours of sleep before getting up at 5:30 AM to drive back to Chicago in time for May to get to work.  But really, we had so much fun we hardly noticed.  The five hour drive there went by in a flash (funny, how that can work out when you’re in a car with people you really like.)  The bulk of the time was spent in swerve-inducing giggle fits thanks to this internet meme.  (My husband does the the Derp voice the best.  He had practice, though.  Apparently drinking and looking at shit on the internet was all he did at Playboy.  God rest it’s Chicago-based soul.) A reference, out of nowhere, to Kenny Rodgers prompted the creation of this variation when we got back home.  (We’re dorks, ok?  Not even nerds.  Dorks.  It’s best you realize that now.)

And you know you have a real friend when they’re willing to feed you cheetoes while you drive.  We made it there with just enough time to throw our shit into the hotel room, sigh over the pool we didn’t have time to swim in, throw some gyros into our faces, and get to the venue to find a corner to get ready in.  This great shot was the result, though:

Taken by Virginia Harold at The Coliseum

Everyone in the St. Louis burlesque scene was SO friendly and awesome.  I wanted to just lay them all out on my bed and make a big comfort, love, cuddle, awesome, sexy blanket out of them to sleep in.  (What?  Is that weird, or something?)  Here’s a few of them awesome folks:  Nadine Du Bois.  Damn, that lady is fab.  Mister Junior.  Check this guy out, please.  His number was so killer that May was compelled to actually run back stage immediately after he finished to high five him.  Whiskey Kiss.  Awesome number.  Fantastic, friendly lady.  Dewey De Cimalle had me slapping May on the arm in delight.  Kind of hard.  Queenie Von Curves, Victoria Deville … oh, there’s too many.  Too many.  See?

That’s a fuck ton of sexy, right there.

It was a great array of talent with inspiring approaches to the art form.  I loved it.  Lola van Ella and Sammich the Tramp, producers of the festival, were warm and welcoming, and super fun and sexy on stage.  I can’t wait to get back to see more of them.  And they ran a brilliant show with a Johnny-on-the-spot stage crew.  I can not say enough good things about Blue Barber, the stage manager.  Solid.  That’s just a smidgy little bit.  We only saw one night.  I can only imagine how fantastic the rest of the festival was.

And our performance was pretty good, too.

Oh!  And Clownvis.  Clownvis!!  CLOWNVIS!!!!!!  Holy fuck balls.  I love him.  I want to have his sneering clown babies.

And, apparently, so does May.

I got your business right here, y’all.

Check out the press coverage of the Crash the Gala party!  I told you those were some fabulously dressed people.

Crain’s Chicago Business  Be sure to check out the slideshow.  The third photo on page four is of Tommy Walton (well, his shoes anyway,) with whom I had a delightful conversation.  Apparently, he met Sally Rand (much later in life, of course) when he was a teenager.  I was dying over his suit and shoes.  The man had style.

The Chicago Reader  “My breasts are now your art!”

Social Life Chicago  There are some great shots of this sequined argyle mini dress that I was eyeing all night.  That elegant lady was lucky I didn’t meet her in the parking lot after the party and steal it from her.

It’s a Brave New World. It’s time to put on my big girl pants.

I was scared.

Scared.  Biting my nails, gurgly stomach, pacing the room, snapping at my husband and my poor little dog scared.  This was too big.  Just too big.  As I paced and chewed my nails, a CD skipping in the back of mind kept repeating “You’re a trainwreck — a disaster — a trainwreck — a disaster — YOU CAN’T DO THIS.”  But then I stopped pacing and remembered that no one listens to CDs anymore.  And I tossed that fucker out the window.

Then I went to the Art Institute and performed a striptease for a room full of the most inluential artists, designers, politicians, movers and shakers in the great city of Chicago.  And they loved it.

After I sent that resignation letter off, I texted a good friend of mine — and retired burlesque performer herself — who had been especially rock-like to me to let her know that I had taken that step for better or worse.  She must have called me within minutes.  She worked for an event company and her current client just so happened to want a burlesque performer for her after party celebrating the opening of the Roy Lichtenstein Retrospective at the Art Insitute.  The client was Ikram Goldman, legendary stylemaker and stylist to Michelle Obama.  And the event was in 11 days.  Clearly it was meant to be.  I almost peed.

I immediately hit the ground running, conceptualizing a Lichtenstein inspired number complete with thought bubbles and pixellated make-up.  I found a Devo song that was just fucking perfect.  With no time to waste, I got down to it.  I rhinestoned and choreographed like the wind.   The inspiration was hitting me and I let it do it’s thing.  The day before the event, around 4 in the afternoon, I got a chance to speak with Ikram herself.  She was terribly friendly and I liked her immediately.  As we chatted about the event and what she would like out of the performance, it became clear that a straight-up classic performance would be most appropriate.  Gear switch.  She described to me what Dita had done the last time she had hired her and how her guests had loved it.  Dita, as in Dita Von Teese, who had apparently really wanted to perform at this particular event but was already booked elsewhere.  So, I was filling in for Dita Von Teese.  Fuck.  No pressure or anything.  And as we were discussing other details, Ikram said to me, “Now, you can not be fully naked.  The mayor will be there and I can’t have you naked in front of the mayor.”  So, Rahm Emanuel would be there.  Of course he would be.  Again, no pressure.

As I ended the conversation with the most influential fashion player in the city, I realized I had approximately 29 hours to put together something fabulous.  A mixture of fear, crazy excitement, and relief zapped my body.  Fear — no explanation needed.  Excitement — likewise.  Relief — that one was unexpected, but appropriate. The concept number wasn’t quite up to the standard I wanted it yet (but I’m pumped about it and can’t wait to finish it and debut it!) and fabulous classic I can do.  I should; it had been drilled into me for two years by now.  I called my friend who told me to gather up all of my most fab shit and meet her at her house in 45.  Within the hour, her spare room was a glittery war zone full of feather shrapnel and rhinestone bras.  Together we decided on the absolute best look (After all it was her company who recommended me.  I had to deliver.  Still, no pressure.)  I chose a solid classic burlesque song that I knew inside and out and, with no time to choreograph anything (thank God, actually,) I decided to improvise it.  My first performance on my own.

The next day was a whirlwind of salon trips and last-minute rhinestoning.  I must have listened to my music two dozen times.  And during all of this — that CD skipping in the back of mind — I was remembering everything bad anyone ever said to me.  I remembered that I felt, not at all long before, that I couldn’t do this.  And that people expected me to fail.  And then I remembered that I want this.  Really badly.  And that I’m done with all of that.  And I remembered something that an amazingly talented performer said to me in an email only days before, “…please keep knowing that you can’t “do it wrong,” the only way we live life wrong is to not live fully.”  I decided to take World Famous Bob’s advice and I pressed eject on that CD.  I swallowed that fear, put on a brave and perfectly drawn-on face, and went out there and took what was being offered to me.  Because I was lucky.  Because I was talented.  And because I fucking wanted it.

And it was awwwwwwesooooooome.

Just before taking the stage. The party was so fabulous!

After performing and glitter bombing everyone’s tux as I made my way through the crowd to my changing room downstairs. Many photos were taken along the way! I felt like a celebrity; it was crazy! I realized when I got downstairs that I had lost a tassel. Damn!

Me and Ikram Goldman after my performance