The Top 5 things I’ve learned in Burlesque

I am currently “starring” in a wonderful production entitled “Santa’s Naughty & Nice Burlesque”.  It is a magical musical revue inspired by the golden age of Hollywood musicals from the 30’s and 40’s.  We still have 6 more shows to go- so I’m sure I’ll learn much more along the way, but here are a few items I’ve learned thus far:

1. Burlesque does not = g-string and pasties.  I know!  Who knew??  It doesn’t even have to include stripping of any kind.  Its an off-shoot of vaudeville and did not take on the stripping conatation until the 60’s.  Thank goodness, because after two c-sections, breastfeeding and well… pushing 40, I’m pretty sure me stripping would’ve cleared the room faster than someone yelling, “FIRE!” 

2. Show Girl Make Up:  This means lots of it!  Far more than you can ever imagine.  If you’re a woman, you’ll look as good as any trannie, in fact, if you go anywhere in public outside of the theatre, most people will mistake you for a man.

3.  False Eyelashes:  A MUST for all show girls.  And a major pain in the ass.  You must apply glue, wait 30 seconds for it to become gummy then apply the lashes directly to lash line.  Sounds easy, right?  Wrong!  The lashes inevitably end up lopsided, upside down, eyelids glued together and you looking like a drunken whore.  Then taking them off is a real treat.  As you peel them off your eyelids, taking several of your real lashes with them, your left with a lovely line of glue stuck to your eyelid.  You MUST remove the glue before going to sleep- or you may never be able to open your eyes again.  So, to remove them you must ever so carefully pluck said glue from you eyelid with tweezers- and it hurts like bitch, no not a bitch, a motherfucker (and that’s exactly what you’ll be saying the entire time you’re doing it, “fucking, motherfucker”)- especially when you accidentally (and this is everytime) pinch your lid with the tweezers instead of just the glue. 

4. Show Girl Pose:  This is a beautiful pose that is meant to accentuate the hour-glass figure and the long line of your leg…when done properly.  You stand with one leg bent in front pointed down, all weight on your back leg, hands on hips, waist twisted with your tummy looking to the side and your shoulders facing forward, chin up and looking elegant and relaxed.  Easy peasy!  Standing in this position for anyone over the age of 35 for more than 5 minutes will cause major back strain, leg cramps and loss of blood flow to your lower extremeties.   But, man, the truth is you will look great!

5.  Uncle Ben’s Boobs:  I’m a D cup.  I always thought that was the ideal size, big even.  Boy was I wrong.  Just a few days before opening, our two directors pulled me aside and said, “We need to talk about your boobs.  You need to get some.”  They kindly suggested I wear a push up bra- I was wearing one.  Then they gave me the inside secret all drag queens know but aren’t telling.  Fill two stockings full of rice and stuff them in your bra right up under your tit and lo and behold you’ve got cleavage as good as any silicone filled slut jogging down the beach on Baywatch.  I’ve even had friends stop me after the show and say, “I never knew you had those things hiding under there!”  And here’s a bonus,  if you get hot and sweaty enough, it works like a slow cooker and you’ll have a nice snack for after the show.  

BTW- I’ve decided to refer to my boobs from here on out as “the rice bags.”  For example, at my next mammogram…”time to flatten the old rice bags.”  Or when old Hef finally gets me my Playboy centerfold…”turn ons include playing with my rice bags.”

Jazz Hands

Since the day I was born I have had one ambition in life: to be an actor.  Okay, I’ll admit, I don’t remember my exact thoughts on the moment I left the warmth of my mother’s vagina.  I’m sure my ambitions at that moment were something more like, “I need a boob to suck on, ASAP!” and “Someone please wipe my ass!”  In fact, I’m sure I know more than a few guys who that’s still their prime ambition.

I am certain though, that as soon as they brought me home from the hospital, I looked around that crap hole and thought, “there has got to be something better.”  And as I got older, I found myself more and more in the land of make believe- which is the essence of acting.  Thus began my lifelong love affair with the theatre (that sounds so gay- and I don’t mean that in a homophobic way- I mean it in my 4th grade mind sort of way…ugh, you know what I mean!!).

Every chance I got, I’d be in the school play, take acting classes, go to drama camp; I was and still am a total Drama Club Nerd.  I even went on to major in Theatre in college.  One semester, my dear old Dad asked me what classes I was taking.  So I told him: Acting, Voice, Movement, Ballet, Yoga, Feminist Theatre, African American Theatre and Spanish.  “Jesus Christ, what the hell am I paying for?” was his supportive reply.  But, he paid the bills and continued to let me pursue my pie in the sky dream.  Despite all his shortcomings, he has always believed in me.

Well, as every former and current Theatre major knows, directors only cast their favorites.  And guess what?  I was not a favorite.  I am proud of the work my alma mater pursued, many avant garde pieces featuring people covering themselves in oatmeal and swinging from giant rings.  I would have LOVED to be in these productions, but alas I was never chosen.  They did very little traditional theatre.  However, they did do one musical while I was there, West Side Story.  And no, I was not in that one either.  Not that I’m bitter or anything (well maybe a little).

However, one of my dearest friends, Brady, was cast as the starring role of Tony!  Brady was born for musical theatre.  He could dance, sing and act.  He made me laugh to no end and we got into trouble in many an acting class for giggling.  Brady was also gay.  I know, a man in musical theatre being gay is really just too shocking to believe, but its true.  My best girlfriend, Brady and I were quite the trio and when he took to the stage as the macho Tony, she and I could barely contain ourselves.  It was just too funny to see our flamboyantly gay friend in such a macho role.

Gay men truly are a girl’s dream come true.  They can charm the pants off of you.  And the best part is, the last thing they want is for your pants to come off at all.  They tell you your beautiful, they’re supportive, they listen, laugh and gossip with you just a like a girlfriend- except better.  Now, just the other day I had a girlfriend argue that they can be very bitchy too.  But, in my experience, I’ve found some of the greatest support and love from the gay men in my life.

Brady was definitely one of those men.  Brady was not only a talented stage dancer, but he could ballroom dance like nobody’s business.  When you danced with Brady, he would twist and turn you in all the right directions.  Even if you’d never danced a step in your life, he could make you feel like the belle of the ball.  In my experience, most straight men cannot lead at all.  I guess its because they just don’t teach boys to dance properly anymore.  However, I am lucky to have married a man who loves to dance and can trot me around the dance floor as good as any gay guy.

This idea that gay men are just better dance partners struck me the other night as a gay man lead me around the dance floor.  His arms were strong and his stance commanding.  It reminded me so much of dancing with my dear friend Brady.  BTW, I was rehearsing for a play- I know- I finally convinced someone I was good enough to cast.  Its only taken 39 years, but hey, at least I’m persistent.  (God, please don’t let me fuck this up).

The play I am so blessed to be a part of now is a burlesque musical revue in the style of 1930’s and 40’s Hollywood movies.  Brady would have eaten this shit up with a spoon and licked the bowl!!  The directors have truly inspired me and reignited my love for theatre, which I had been sorely missing for too long.  And guess what?  They’re gay too.  Like I said, musical theatre….gay men, shocking I know.

The day I auditioned, I had two major signs from God, Allah, the universe or whatever you believe in.  The first signal I got was my audtion time: 4:20.  Now, for those of you that know the significance of that time then you know what my favorite past time used to be.  For those of you that don’t, well I’m not going to be the one to fill you in.  Suffice it to say, it is a lucky time of day for me.  I even have a clock on my desk that has no battery in it and I have it set for 4:20 all the time.

The second big NEON SIGN that came at me, was from my best friend.  She called to wish me luck at the audition and remind me that that day was the 3rd anniversary of Brady’s death.  Brady joined the army to help pay off student loans.  He served valiantly in Iraq and Afghanistan. And I believe he fell victim to PTSD.

Now Brady always loved to drink and party.  He was the life of every party.  But after returning from the war, alcohol and drugs became his best friend.  Even after suffering from pancreatiis and being told by every doctor that if he continued to drink he would die, he did.  He was in a toxic relationship with a man who took full advantage of every penny Brady had saved.  He went AWOL on more than one occasion and was punished by his hire ups.  But still he could not put down the bottle and that is what finally killed him.

When she reminded me about that, I knew this was it.  I knew Brady was smiling down on me from heaven and I channeled every bit of his Jazz Hands into my audition.  I am so blessed to have had him in my life and am reminded of him now every day in rehearsal.  I feel his support, and dry sense of humor coming out in all kinds of ways.  Thank God for Brady and his beautiful Jazz Hands.