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.**
The strangest things are not so strange to me…
I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.
― Frida Kahlo
This is a eff it why worry experiment. In my last blog I wrote about losing my friend. It left me with the question: What was the point of any things he may have been worrying about now? What if he had spent his time in a peaceful, happy space. I dunno if he did or didn’t for sure have things that were worrying him. This was just the beginning of his season home in NY so we didn’t get to catch up yet.
It is just a few days before my show happens in the DC Black Theater Festival. In addition to being the performer, I am also the producer marketing department, prop master, costume designer, etc. My wonderful director is also the sound designer, stage manager, set designer, etc. Such is the way it goes sometimes as an independent performer. It can get a bit overwhelming at times in the best of circumstances. I have had added to this numerous personal challenges.
Try as I might not to worry, I still feel worry trying to creep in. Luckily, my plate is fairly full so there isn’t much time for worry to fester and grow deep roots. The performer wants about a week or two more for rehearsal. The marketing director is feeling like she dropped a few balls that would have been extremely useful to have in play. I could go on but you get the point.
I’ll check back in with you on Monday and let you know how it went.
My mantra: Everything in life is either a blessing or a lesson…
I keep the telephone of my mind open to peace, harmony, health, love and abundance. Then, whenever doubt, anxiety or fear try to call me, they keep getting a busy signal – and soon they’ll forget my number. ~Edith Armstrong
This is a rest in peace blog…
I got news of a freak accident and senseless death of a good friend. I’ve known him since I was twelve. As a sixie, (The name given to the seventh graders because we have six years left to twelfth grade. Yeah, nerdy.com) I saw his art before I ever met him. There were several beautiful drawings of a woman on the hallway walls. Who. Made. Those? I had an instant crush on the artist sight unseen. The artist would soon be revealed to me. He became a good friend. I remember helping him plan how he could ask a girl to paint her since he was too shy to ask her out.
He lived in the art room. The art teacher was like a mother to him. He spent so much time in the art room. I wondered how he got any other class work done. Was he skipping everything else? He did graduate and get into Pratt University in Brooklyn with a handful of other visual artists from our nerdy high school. They were the crew that walked me around Greenwich Village when I was trying to decide what college to go to. They were all roommates. One of them is the big sister I never had to this day. She and he are best friends, brother and sister more accurately. Having no family, we all are his chosen family.
For the past several days memories keep flashing through my mind. My brain still can’t quite process that he’s gone. So fast. So Soon. Just like that. How many people can say they actually know someone who made good on the threat to run away with the circus? I can. He did it. He travelled doing lights for a touring circus. The circus is where he made another set of family. Like most artists, he’s had a myriad of survival jobs. He had also been a bike messenger & worked at a bike shop. I wonder if one of these gigs fostered his love of riding.
He had a motorcycle as well as a pedal bike. I keep thinking of all the times I’d hug him and warn him to be careful on that motorcycle. Like many riders, he’s been in his share of accidents. But he was always ok. There’s breath taking irony in the fact that he died on a pedal bike. He was taking a post work bike ride. Someone opens a car door and he flips to his death.
This left me with many feelings. When people close to me pass, I had gotten to a point of celebrating the fact that they are now back in the realm of spirit. I also usually feel a surge of inspiration to do all of the things that I fear or procrastinate from doing. This time though, I started feeling like I mind as well just go get a menial job, collect a pay check, find some television programs to tune into each night and bide my time till death. If it can end just that fast, what is the point?
I am reminded by my younger sister (I call her my big little sister), of a very important point. The way that I have chosen to live my life, gives me some level of joy and happiness each day. This is true. Even with the challenges, the roller coaster ride of ups and downs of being a performer if I die tomorrow, I will have died going after dreams I dreamed up for myself. I have been trying to figure out what the lesson is in loosing such an open, big-hearted friend in this way. I can say that knowing him was a lesson in being open, unconditionally loving, forever curious and always learning. I can say that if it can all be over in a second, I mind as well be doing what gives me joy.
Thank you for always being a bright light to everyone you met. Thank you for always making everyone feel great about whatever choices they made. Thank you for being LOVE. I miss you. I’m glad to have known you. I will treasure all of the memories & continue to learn from your spirit.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. ~Kahlil Gibran