I had been one of the go-go dancers earlier in the evening. I sweated my soul out dancing onstage with the other go-go dancers to warm up the space. I had never been a go-go dancer before that night (so it was a double first night). Man! It is hard work. I must have sweated in parts I didn’t know sweat was possible. Not only was this a warm up for the crowd, it was a warm up for me going on stage later.
We were in the famous Slipper Room home of several nights of Burlesque in New York City. The event was Sara Jenny & Rachel Grinstein’s first Sex Worker Cabaret. The cabaret is in homage to Annie Oakley’s Sex Workers Art Show (1997-2009) and took place during LGBTQ Pride month of 2010. When it got close to the time for me to perform, I went backstage to change and catch my breath. My stomach had butterflies. I always get so nervous before I perform. I had been on this stage only moments before so I knew the room was packed. Yikes!
I put on a burgundy dress and wide-brimmed hat. I had on transparent gloves that had rhinestones along the sides. This was the only thing with any kind of bedazzlement. I decided my name would be the same as the memoir play I’d written, Essence Revealed. I didn’t want to use my stripper name, well, because this wasn’t stripping… Well, maybe it was because I knew I knew how to do that. This was the first time I was attempting to do burlesque. I was scared to call it burlesque so I told the producer that I had coined the term “stripper-lesque” to explain what I was doing. I didn’t want anyone to call me out for doing burlesque “wrong”. Now I know that what is burlesque can be answered in wide and various ways, categories, styles, etc.
I get on stage and back the audience as I wait for the music to start. I had gone through an extra long list of songs about sex workers. I almost picked Sting’s Roxanne but decided on Michael Jackson’s Dirty Diana. The music began and I started to dance. I didn’t have choreography per say, so I was going on feeling what would come off next. I wanted it to be a slow tease. I made eye contact with one of the photogs in the front. She became one of the main focuses of my tease. She just seemed so friendly from behind her camera and really calmed my nerves while I was onstage.
The hat came off with a head turn. One glove and then the other. Oops, I took my dress halfway down and my pasties were already exposed through the sheer tank camisole I had over them. Hmmm, I think the pasties are supposed to be seen last. It hadn’t dawned on me until right then. I made it down to the short shorts which were sheer in the back and silver sequins in the front. I had on a pair of plain black thongs under the shorts. I only put them on because the shorts were sheer in the back. I hadn’t planned on revealing them. Yes, that one thin strip of fabric made the sheerness seem not so bare in my stripper mind’s eye. However, since the pasties had already been seen, I decided, last-minute, that the tiny thongs with a booty wink on top would be the final reveal of the act. So, off went the shorts. Bounce, bounce went the right cheek and I was done when the song ended.
Performance out of the way, I was able to meet the nice photog who turned out to be Syd London who shoots often for Time Out New York and The Village Voice online. So, the picture of me with the big rimmed burgundy hat was from my first time attempting to do burlesque. I actually bought the picture from Syd (ya know, to show the niece & nephew when I’m 90). The Slipper Room closed for renovations shortly after that. It is slated to re-open soon. I’ve seen pictures of the renovations (complete with aerial rigging ) and it looks beautiful.
I think it’s kinda cool that the first time I did burlesque was at the Slipper Room even if I had no idea what I was doing.
**Full Disclosure: Keeping my word means much to me. That I have posted on Wed instead of Tues the past two weeks may only be a big deal to me. Still I apologize. I have been trying to climb out of the grips of depression. It has been a struggle to write about happy things. My brain wants to lead me away from the light but I am fighting the good fight. The sunshine is under there. I can still feel it even when dressed in cloud cover.**
- Sex Worker’s Art Show by Chris Kraus
- Book Notes – David Henry Sterry (Ho’s, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys)