THE BIGGEST FAN! ED BARNAS
All photos courtesy of Ed Barnas – Photography
Name: Ed Barnas
Location: Borough of Brooklyn, City of New York
How long have you been a fan of burlesque?
Since May 2003 – when I attended the first night of the 1st New York Burlesque Festival at the old Slipper Room.
When did you know you had crossed the line from “appreciative” to “super fan”?
Probably in January 2005, when I started an online calendar of New York City Burlesque Shows on my website. Later that year I attended my first Tease-O-Rama in SF and then in 2006 my first Exotic World Pageant (now known as the BHoF Weekender) in Vegas.
What or who first turned you on to burlesque?
Around 2000 I started to photograph adult costume/masking events which allowed people to break away from their everyday roles, even if only for a brief period of time and usually as a predetermined character (Halloween, the Mermaid Parade, early SantaCon etc.). When I saw a newspaper ad for the 2003 NYBF, I decided to check it out and got hooked by the diversity of bodies and performance styles on stage. I followed up with visits to Coney Island’s Burlesque at the Beach and various other shows/venues around NYC. I’ve been documenting performers on stage ever since.
What is your favorite hometown venue and why?
I go more for the show than the venue. Over the years I have been to a lot of local venues and still miss Rififi, the old Galapagos Art Space in Williamsburg, and the original Slipper Room. If I had to choose a regular recent burlesque venue (pre-Covid), it would be a toss-up between Burlesque at the Beach at Coney Island USA and the Slipper Room. Both have actual stages, offer seating, and host a variety of shows. While the light levels can be challenging for photography, I have been able to capture memorable images at both venues.
Do you have a regular table/seat? What makes it special?
Since I usually photograph the performance, an unobstructed sightline is important. At Burlesque at the Beach, I like to sit on the third row of the bleachers slightly off center. This raises me above Norman, Allen and the other photogs in the front row and puts me more on eye-level with the performers. At the Slipper Room, I prefer a seat off center or at the end of the second row OR I stand by the wall of the DJ booth in line with the second or third row. I find these locations give me a good view of the performers on stage and avoid the distortion that sometimes arises with front-row seats when performers work close to the edge of the stage.
What’s your libation of choice?
I’m not much of a drinker these days but will usually have a drink or two at a show, usually a rum & coke or a gin & tonic.
What was your most memorable night of burlesque?
That is a difficult question to answer given the number of shows I have seen over the past eighteen years. There are many scripted shows from Pinchbottom and Hotsy Totsy as well as themed shows from BadAss, Starshine and other troupes that I would not mind re-experiencing.
The Titans of Tease Reunion and the Movers, Shakers & Innovators showcases at BHoF offer memorable nights as well.
There are a number of nights that really stick in my memory: the night I saw Julie Atlas Muz perform to Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” at Exotic World, World Famous BOB’s reverse strip to The Velvet Underground’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties” at Coney, Little Brooklyn’s King Kong half-n-half complete with Empire State Building & airplanes, Jo Weldon’s shibari to Prince’s “International Lover,” Dirty Martini’s Patriot Act, the first time I saw Perle Noir in NO, the Brown Girls Burlesque diaspora can-can on the Orleans stage, Harlem Shake at ToR, Ms Tickle’s “Wings of Desire” at the Box, Tigger’s “I Love New York” number, Tangerine Jones at the 2006 NYBF, Bambi the Mermaid’s lobster, Nasty Canasta’s car alarm number, … and I haven’t even touched on the Legends or anything from the past decade yet (such as Little Brooklyn’s iPad virtual strip).
The shift to virtual shows due to the pandemic has certainly challenged performers and raised the bar for video production. Three videos from VHoF 2020 struck me in particular: a monochrome noir number from Lídia Café da Manhã, Tigger!’s at-home rendition of “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” and the #blackpussypower street performance led by RedBone – all distinctly different but each memorable.
I should mention that there can also be memorable afternoons of burlesque as those of us old enough to recall the Sunday afternoon cruises on the Queen of Hearts for the early Golden Pastie Awards can attest.
What is the most exhilarating element for you? The costumes? The skills? The skin?
While I prefer acts that have a story or gimmick rather than a simple strip, there is no one element that I find most exhilarating. Rather, it is the total experience of a live performance that I appreciate. I enjoy seeing how the performer can take a concept and create a persona on stage, molding it into something that captures the attention of the audience and subtly inverts/subverts their expectations. Over the years I have seen many acts a number of times and continue to enjoy them. There is always the potential for something to go wrong during a live performance and how a performer responds/recovers can be memorable.
Have you ever dated a performer?
Do you generally go with friends? Or fly solo?
It varies: For some shows I’ll go solo, for others Maria will join me. And on occasion we have brought friends to specific shows.
Do you travel specifically for burlesque?
Yes, pre-Covid we regularly traveled to Las Vegas for the BHoF Weekender and went to SF for Tease-O-Rama a couple of times. We have also visited Toronto and Boston for festivals and try to catch local shows whenever we visit New Orleans.
Do you ever NOT tip? Why?
Well, if there is no tip bucket …. We generally tip and/or buy raffles at shows; at festivals we’ll pick up some merch. I prefer a general tip bucket to performers having to circulate after each act (especially if the ticket/cover is high). With the move to virtual shows due to the pandemic, I’ve added a variety of cash transfer Apps to my phone.
Have you ever introduced someone to burlesque and it didn’t go well?
Most of the people we’ve introduced to burlesque have enjoyed the experience greatly. However, the inversive/transgressive nature of some acts and/or performers can be a challenge and some of the people we’ve introduced to burlesque have not always appreciated each of the numbers/performers in the show.
Have you ever performed yourself? Or wanted to?
No. But I have assisted as a “prop” a couple of times, providing a paparazzi “flash” shower or doing a walk-on at the start of a number to help set up the gag.
If you were a performer, what would your burlesque name be?
I guess I’d default to the sobriquet I used to title my online burlesque calendar – Brooklyn Ed.
If you were curating your ideal evening of burlesque, who would perform? No time or geographic boundaries…go wild!
When I was starting in photography, I dabbled a little bit with a movie camera – and soon learned that my forte was in the still image or a brief sequence of images rather than the longer form of cinema. Consequently, I do not think I’m the optimal candidate to curate an evening of burlesque. Were I to take up the challenge, however, I’d take my cue from the annual “Hot Mama Burlesque” shows that Raven Snook produced over a decade ago. These featured not only performers who were biological mothers but also “figurative mothers”, performer/producers who had “mothered” many younger performers over their careers. Given that I am now in my 70’s, I’ve known some of these mothers long enough for some of them to become grandmothers so I’d expand the cast to include both hot mamas and hotter grandmas (literal and figurative) and maybe some Daddies! And maybe add in some of the Legends, our “fore-mothers” as well.