People throw the term "bipolar" around a lot these days. It's been a label I have worn for thirty years. I'm calm enough now to articulate what it feels like to be so brilliant that you can't describe it. Which is pretty goddamn ironic, if you ask me. I write down what I think instead of saying it out loud so that I don't cause harm to myself or others.
You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. Oh wait, that’s me.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Guest Blog! Frenchie, the Burlesque Diva
I have more online friends than real ones. Mostly because I am terrified of social situations. Delusions of grandeur at the keyboard, massive insecurity anywhere else. But I have met some awesome people online. Some I have known for over a decade. Like Frenchie Renard. She has graciously agreed to give us a peep into her life as a burlesque queen. She wouldn't do this for just anyone, you know. But she loves me. And of course, I'm kind of a big deal.
(That's really her in the photo. Real. And fabulous.)
Alors, ladies and gentlemen, mesdames et messieurs! Permittez-moi de vous présenter la belle française--Frenchie!
There’s only one stand-up mirror backstage, so we either take turns or try to cram two-at-a-time to administer glitter lipstick or check the positioning of a pastie. Brashly flouting the warning in capital letters on the bottles, we share mascara, spirit gum, body glitter and various props.
LPM stretches out on the floor behind the queue of burlesque performers at the mirror, while CPPP checks the tackiness of the glue spread over her nipples. It’s cold backstage, and it takes the adhesive awhile to stick to her pasties. For this routine they are heart-shaped and bedazzled within an inch. Every performer is her own costume designer and choreographer and most of their creations are simply breathtaking. Tricks and tips are traded and coos of appreciation for other’s handiwork are liberally offered. It’s some kind of craft fair, I tell you.
I unpack my suitcase of its be-sequined and beaded and be-fringed contents, changing from my street clothes into a red thong ($3 at Target!) onto which I’d painstakingly sewed rhinestone loops and black fringe only the night before. There are many clever tricks in burlesque costuming we use to frame our best features and for our “problem areas”, to distract from while delighting the eye.
CPPP, who is a size 20, wears a corset that emphasizes her generous curves. VV wears heavy jewels and other accessories up top to de-emphasize her pear-ish figure. My issue is my belly, but with my aged dancer’s legs and enormous-yet-perky breasts, a little distraction goes a long way. I apply my pasties and wait for the glue to dry, looking around at the other performers in their various costuming stages.
Confidence is sexy.
Every age is represented here, every body shape and level of fitness. Each performer has her own look, her own style, and her own portion of a captive and worshipful audience. Our emcee this evening, CV, is a veteran of Vegas shows, Broadway and the theater life that goes along with that background. She personifies the word “vivacious” in a manner rarely seen in real life. Resplendent in a hot pink corset and tutu ensemble, she warms up her vocals while checking the set-list.
I sort of backed-in to the world of burlesque, if you’re wondering how a 43-year old fat mother of five with a broken back ended up on stage in a 6 -foot samba headdress, clad in only a thong and strategically-placed stretch sequin, shaking her ample behind.
Earlier this year I held a breast cancer fundraiser and hired drag queens, burlesque queens and roller derby girls to entertain. It was Heaven. The head burlesque queen, VV, mentioned that beginner burlesque classes were being offered the next month. As a birthday present to myself, I signed up. Six months later, I am samba dancing on stage, everything jiggling and heaving in a way that elicits whistles and cheers from the (mostly female) audience. I have a FB page and a little over 300 “fans” of my character. I fucking love it. My teenaged girls were a little embarrassed at first, but once they got a load of the costumes, they were all-in. They’ve accompanied me to several photo shoots and have hatched plans for their future burlesque routines.
What is the appeal of burlesque? It’s more than a free boob show, for starters. It’s a completely DIY, freelance hobby that boasts a wonderfully supportive and non-competitive female community. Everyone is welcome and massively encouraged. Stripping is rarely considered an empowering activity, unless it’s more tease than strip (no technical nudity is allowed in burlesque) and no money changes hands. As CV likes to say, we’re involved in illegitimate theater, but theater nonetheless.
Bachelorette parties and birthdays are regular (and especially rowdy) audience members. The men present are almost always accompanied by females, no lone creeps that I’ve seen so far. Most of the performers are married or in relationships, their significant others are usually helping out with the show in some capacity, or sitting together in the VIP section setting up video cameras, or fetching whiskey for their lady.
The stage kitten, who picks up the burlesque droppings on stage and has ardent fans of her own, helps me into my corset and zips up my dress. I’m going full classic burlesque for this act: long black gloves, a beehive wig, a gorgeous red formal gown, Cuban heel stockings, glitter heels and a heaving black boa. I feel amazing and can’t wait to get on stage.