BEHIND THE G-STRING puts the talents and perspectives of burlesque producers, promotors, designers, and everyone else who contributes behind the scenes, into the spotlight. Is there someone we should feature? Is it you? Drop us a line at email@example.com!
What shows/venues/extravaganzas are you best known for?
I’m thrilled to be best known for being part of the fantastic team Sign of the Beast Burlesque. Our heavy metal burlesque troupe has been performing since 2010. We also started doing Metalesque Fest, the heavy metal Burlesque Festival, in 2016. My co-producers are Wanda Bones, Dee Dee Pepper and Rummy Rose.
How did you discover burlesque?
I’ve been a club stripper since I was 23, and in the early 2000s I was asked to be in Portland Oregon’s longest running weekly cabaret show, called Sinferno Cabaret, which happens at a rock club called Dantes. That’s when I started seeing burlesque. There was this fantastic performer at that time who went by Lucy Furr. She’d come out and do these really inventive and fun numbers. As an audience member I was completely engaged. That’s when I started putting together my own routines, but I didn’t take it seriously until Sign of the Beast started in 2010.
What made you decide to start producing burlesque?
By 2010 I’d seen a lot of classic burlesque. I absolutely love to watch other people do classic burlesque, but it does not move me personally to perform to ‘classic burlesque music”…it just doesn’t light my fire as a performer when I’m the one on stage. In 2009 or 2010 I met Vera Mysteria, who was the DJ at one of the strip clubs I was working at. She wanted me to be part of a Metal Burlesque or “metalesque” show. That’s when I started producing. I felt like I’d found my group of people.
What did you do before you got into producing burlesque?
I’d already been a club stripper for a few years. I’ve always had multiple jobs, but club stripping has been my most long and rewarding career. I guess I just love the naked arts.
Do you ever produce “regular” entertainment?
I have in the past! I did a short stint as an art gallery coordinator. I found that I was always trying to incorporate burlesque and performance art into the events at the gallery. Before long I just returned to burlesque production only, since that’s where my passion is.
What is your first step in producing a show?
I get a hold of the venue to secure a date. Based on that date and fees involved, I run the numbers and decide what the financial risk is. I decide how many performers and staff can be booked at what pay rate. Coming from a career stripping background that has often been my sole source of income, the financial aspect is very important to me. If you can’t pay your people, you shouldn’t be doing shows.
Fortunately, now I am part of a team that produces shows. We work really well together, and I never have to make decisions alone. The Sign of the Beast Burlesque team is awesome.
What is your favorite venue?
My favorite venue is the Star Theater in Portland Oregon. It was once owned by Tempest Storm and a has a rich burlesque history, plus I’ve done A LOT of shows there and it feels like a second home. The owner of the venue really values its historical significance. One of my favorite sort of hidden things in the theater is the collection of burlesque related local news articles on display in the balcony stairwell and the balcony itself. If you’re ever there you must check out these framed articles…there’s some spicy stuff!
What do you think is the ideal size venue for burlesque and why?
I think it’s great when the performers can get close to the audience. As a performer I want to go to the people. When a venue is too big, the people in the back may feel like they are missing out. I want them to see me up close, I want to make eye contact with as many people as possible; it’s about making a connection. As a producer, finding a venue that is large enough to make a profit but small enough to feel intimate is a challenge! About 400 person capacity is a good limit for me personally, but I’d do a bigger venue if I got the chance. Different sized venues just call for different types of shows.
Do you have any pet peeves when it comes to performers or venues?
My only real pet peeve with performers is when I’m getting questions via text/email/social media the day before the show or day of the show that have already been answered. Producers can get very busy and very stressed on the day of a show. Please check your performer info email before you text me. Besides that, I just love sparkly people, they’re my people!
With venues, I don’t really have any pet peeves except for surprises that weren’t covered in the contract. Everything should be in the contract. I want to know all of the fees and rules of the place before I go in. I want to know how many seats I can sell, where the VIP is, aerial rigging specs, how many bartenders will be on staff, if I can let a performer squirt fake blood all over the stage, ALL THAT. Now that I’m an experienced producer, I’ve learned to just ask all of the questions way beforehand. I’m also fortunate to have long established good relationships with venues in my city.
Have you ever blacklisted a performer? Or a venue?
I have blacklisted a performer. This person was booked in one of my shows years ago. They were accused of sexual assault by other performance community members, including other performers in that particular show. I had to call them and have a discussion about it. It wasn’t easy. They were dismissive, flippant, even arrogant about the accusations and actually attempted to gaslight me. I was glad I could blacklist them from future shows and help their victims feel safer. I’ve definitely had some experiences with venues that made me think twice about booking again, but thankfully nothing too bad. I’ve learned that going into a show with a venue with a solid contract in place beforehand is key. That way there are no surprises. I’ve also learned that management at venues can change, so you may love a venue’s layout and aesthetic, but not really like the people who run it. That can change and you may want to go back to booking at that place when management changes.
What is the biggest challenge in producing burlesque?
Budget is a big one for me, especially when it comes to Sign of the Beast shows. We always want big ridiculous props and sets. We want it to feel like you are at an Alice Cooper stadium show. I wish we could all ride in on motorcycles or drop from the ceiling shredding guitars that are on fire. Getting an audience is also hard now, given that anything even remotely sexual gets shadow banned on social media these days, unless it’s a corporate entity posting of course!
How have you seen the industry change? And if you could wave your producer wand and change anything…what would it be?
In the Portland scene and on a more national level as well, I’ve seen the parameters of what is considered “burlesque” blur, which I think is great. One of the coolest things about burlesque is its ability to change. Now you can go to a burlesque show and see things like aerial, clowning, ballet, etcetera and different music incorporated, and still see “classic burlesque”…all in the same show. As a performer, I remember when I first began that producers would hesitate to book me because they were afraid that my style was too “strip club”. Now those types of acts are encouraged. It’s great. Variety is great. Showcasing all bodies is great. This is definitely what the audience wants and needs, we have to give it to them!
If I could wave a magical producer wand and change anything, more venues would book burlesque. It’s acceptance as an art form really varies by location. Where it’s more broadly accepted as an art form, more funding is available.
What was the greatest mishap on your watch? How did you recover?
Oh my gosh there are so many! Life is a learning process, isn’t it?! I had a miscommunication with a performer that really hurt them, and their response hurt me. I had to acknowledge that I’d hurt someone, call them, and talk it out. Communication helped me recover. I also remember a funnier incident where a venue manager didn’t realize a performer’s approved confetti cannon explosion would be quite so…explosive…and he was really peeved. I stayed late and helped with the cleanup until every last piece of confetti was accounted for. It was a very late night.
What has been your proudest moment as a producer?
I’m proud that I’ve been able to maintain a reputation as someone who is approachable, fair and professional. Selling out venues and getting rave reviews is great, but if you can be a good human on a personal level that’s even better. On a lighter note, at one of our 2016 Sign of the Beast Burlesque shows, Meghan Mayhem bathed in this giant skull goblet of blood. As a producer I was watching and just thinking ‘I’m so proud I get to bring this type of show to the stage. People need to see metal babes dancing in giant goblets of blood. Hell yes.’
What would your dream lineup be…no restrictions….any time, any place…
I’ve always thought Betty White would be an incredible burlesque show host! She’d be there, plus I’d have departed legends like Camille 2000 and Marinka…those are two women who really just knocked my socks off. I’m totally blown away watching Egypt Blaque Knyle and Lou Lou la Duchesse De Riere…and so many others…the show would be TOO LONG! Then the show support staff would all be baby burlesquers. I can imagine how thrilled I would have been when I was new to burlesque, to be able to work a show with so many stars.
What is your biggest strength as a producer?
Saying no. Knowing my limits, and not overloading myself with work. I’ve had to train myself to do this over the years. I’m super lucky to be on a production team now, so we try to keep each other sane! We have a really good work flow.
What do you have in the pipeline that we should know about?
The next Sign of the Beast Burlesque Show is EVIL EASTER! It’s available for on demand download & viewing starting April 1st. Our guest performers are Red Rum (Chicago, Illinois)
Destiny Smokez (Portland, Oregon) and Mone’t Ha-Sidi (Sacramento, California). Personally, I am continuing to record more classes to add to my website. Go check it out!