L'Amour des Sirènes

Non-Patronizing Reinforcement and Reference for Burleqsuers.

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Copycats, Stage Names, Song Hoarding, and the Undercutting Situation

These answers aren’t all of my own hand, I’ve seen these problems dealt with constantly, and here’s what we, as a whole have learned… You never know, your personal unanswered problem may be solved here, or, at least, give you some options, ammo, or a new way to look at the issue.

Choosing a Burlesque Name

There’s enough catchy names in the Burlesque World, and you have to walk a balance of getting something unique and catchy that seems familiar, and not accidentally choosing a name that someone already has. You do not necessarily need rhymes, homonyms, puns, or allusions. Get something that both describes your performance style AND your onstage appearance.

Google the name you want, it’s the quickest way to see if it exists. Search it as separate parts ( Boom Boom Machine ) and search for it as a single name in quotes, ( “Boom Boom Machine” ) that way you know you’re covered reasonably. Granted, if there are already too many too close to what you wanted, choose something else entirely. Take your time.

This seems an obvious solution, but, as time and again is proven, apparently it is not, and, no matter how far away someone is physically to their near-twin in stage-name, it creates hostility. So, now that we’ve dealt with the simple, let’s move on to the increasingly complex.

“My” Song!

Unless you wrote it, you don’t own it. Yes, it is poor taste to re-use a song as someone in close proximity as already done, unless it’s an extremely different performance… especially if it’s a very uncommon song. On that subject, avoid popular songs, unless the performance is some kind of satire or comedic act that should use it. Ask yourself if it’s absolutely necessary you use it.

Remember all of the Sookie/Vampy “Bad Things” performances?

Remember the first one you’d seen? Fifth? Tenth?

There are literally billions of songs one can use (double-check iTunes availability, and then know that’s a tiny fraction of music as a whole,) so, ask yourself if it’s imperative you should use a song, if another performer has already, recently, or, more specifically, is her trademark. Hell, use Google again, for Burlesque and the (Song Title) with and without Video. You won’t necessarily rule anything out or in, but you’ll know immediately if it’s overdone.

Speaking of songs, keep in mind a few things about two-song and three-song acts. Unless you mix it yourself on your computer (lots of software you can use,) there is either an awkward lull, or even worse, and awkward tempo-change between. It quite often snaps the crowd out of it. Sometimes, it’s unavoidable. Find longer remixes, and minimize this. If not, make sure there is something relevant, exciting, or even funny in between songs to keep the pace up. Burlesque performers in the audience, I find, never really mind this, but the general audience always beings to murmur in those pauses. Just something to consider. Now, as for THREE songs? No matter how much the crowd loves you, unless you do something very dynamic, major costume change, something, anything other than a ‘Wow’ factor to immediately raise the crowd’s undivided attention and interest, they will begin to fade. It’s most likely best to split the act into two acts at that point.

You will also have to ‘normalize’ these songs as to not need soundboard adjustment in between them, be it too high or too low, relative to the last song played. This is very important to audience engagement.

Have I seen performers get away with this? Yes, I have. Very seasoned ones. For instance, song one is a dance. Song two is a strip. Song three is an aerial act. Even then, those three songs are very short, three minutes or less each… and Normalized, even custom-mixed by themselves, or someone they’d paid. Live band? You can worry less, and they can take visual cues to change things up. Make sure you get with them on this beforehand, though.

In summation, when you do two or three songs in a row, remember, it’s far more common for it to be distracting and disorienting for the audience than it will be it for it to work correctly in your head.

Get your rehearsal videotaped or honestly appraised by an experienced performer if you’re new and insist on doing this for the first time.


Don’t be one.

If you’re doing an ode or homage, convey that plainly somehow. Otherwise, you may impress fans, but you will antagonize peers. Ask for a second opinion. Your ‘twist’ or ‘version’ of an existing act (from long ago or not,) may not convey a new change the way you think it does, nor may it be as drastically different as you think it is.

You can and will come across acts that are similar to the yet-to-be-performed ideas in your head, but you need to take that hit. Unless you can press on, and do it a million times better, again, take the hit. It happens all of the time in all arts, and not limited to performances. If you find that act existed a long, long time ago… make sure you credit the original, and ask yourself if your’e really bringing anything really new to the table. It’s fine to be jealous when you see it, or hear about it. All that means is you idea worked. Hours, days, years after the fact, you’ll wish you turned it into a learning experience and moved on, concentrating on innovation than to be accused of being a copycat.

But it can happen after the fact, post-performance, what do you do?

Immediately approach the offended/copied performer, and state your case. Come to a public understanding, so that you can both handle it with grace. It will mean a lot to the other performer, but, most importantly in the time of social media, it will greatly improve your standing in the community and set an excellent example.

This is not limited to flyer designs, troupe names, show titles, stage names, show themes, even jokes told by the emcees onstage.

Some of you are professionals. Some of you are well on your way of being professionals. Some of you are not, and really want to be professionals. All of that is fine. Act professionally, and you will be held in high consideration upon formal introduction.

Undercutting / Overcharging / Pricing Yourself

Every angry angle of this situation is rooted in truth. One thinks a lesser performer charges too much. One thinks a peer charges too little. One finds out one performer makes more than you, and another, in the same troupe and show, makes too little.

There’s no right answer. But you need to understand the factors.

Audience members are oblivious to everything to makes the show the show. Promoters and such could care less about dance school, practices, costumes, props, and their costs and time invested. Some girls work harder than others. Some girls already have a lot of practice under their belt. Some girls already have a hundred costumes. Some have better paying day-jobs than others. Some are veterans, some are newbies. Some have more cumbersome props than others. Some acts are far more involved altogether than others. All of these are good things, it provides variety. Trust your troupe leader. Talk it out with them, if need be.

Usually, the rule is ‘you get what you pay for,’ and that’s not meant as an insult or praise to anyone when the checks are handed out, but it’s not always entirely up to the troupe leader : most promoters do not care, and, ultimately, it’s usually the promoter’s budget your leader is dispensing.

How do you price yourself to a troupe leader, agent, promoter, standalone client?

The fuzzy logic of pricing yourself is something you need to be proficient in to be a troupe leader, and if you’re not a troupe leader, find one you’ve worked with and ask them. What goes into estimating your cost aside from local fame, experience, and availability?

Here is what your troupe leader sees :

  • Venue Rented by you, or Venue working WITH you.
  • Price of Admission and how it’s divided
  • Venue Capacity/Expectation
  • Provided or Self-Promotion (and the quality of)
  • Percentage (if any) of the Bar’s sales.
  • Weekend or Weeknight
  • Other possible gigs you could be working that night
  • Distance / Parking Price (if applicable) / Cargo (Props, etc)
  • Backstage available or Public Restroom
  • Doorman/Security
  • Soundguy or not, and bring CD? Laptop?
  • Quality of lights, sound, stage size… overall Quality of venue
  • Ability to dress rehearse there, with or without Sound/Lights operator
  • Drink Tickets / Discount for performers
  • Number of fellow performers on the payroll (expect larger casts to yield lesser pay)

It can not, and will not hurt your reputation to do a ‘blowoff’ cheap gig. It will if you make it a habit, especially among your peers. It will also encourage dodgy promoters to undercut everyone. You will have to negotiate, just have a margin of negotiation proportional to your trouble in mind. Be reasonable. Do not work for or with others if they are not.

The legendary Satan’s Angel will demand you to get top dollar, but times have changed, and, frankly, there’s too many options for uncaring promoters to consider for a deep discount. If there was a Union, I’d insist she run it, there is no better defender for performers than she.

Favours are fine, on occasion (don’t be taken advantage of,) but raise yourself, your brand, your legend to worth every penny when someone finally gives you what you deserve 🙂

This is Elektra-Cuete, from Minneapolis. When I met her, she already had broken in on the scene, and was working her way into being indispensable in the Twin Cities’ Burlesque Community, interested in promotion, booking, and better performances …and learned the hard way. However, it has and will continue to pay off, because, well, she’s fierce, and her performances continue to impress audiences, and her professional demeanor keeps her respected and highly-billed.


(POST SCRIPT) Handling Mannerless Fans like a Pro


Bella Blue was the first to reply when this article was released, and, instead of listing a bunch of quotes, I will take the liberty of summarizing it. Bella is a long-time, rightly famous performer who has several successful shows and productions (The Blue Room, Dirty Dime Peepshow, 101 Showcase, etc.) throughout the year in New Orleans (and elsewhere,) and is the creator of the New Orleans School of Burlesque http://www.nolaschoolofburlesque.com/ and we have worked on and off together, Burlesque and otherwise, a lot over the past 6 years. I love Bella. We love Bella. We’ve got good reasons to.

 I’m gonna have to very respectfully disagree here. I don’t feel that belittling or admonishing fans is a proper way to handle it. I can’t ever see replying back to someone with a response that cuts them down. I feel like that’s being vindictive and not solving the real issue which was feeling disrespected and having feelings hurt. I guess each scenario is different of course. And everyone will react their own way. But I just don’t see how cutting down the other person fixes the main issue.

Bella’s gotten her fair share of nasty comments from people, and, though I have not heard her directly reply to them personally, I have heard about the ordeal from her afterwards in passing, and the whole sitiuation simply rolls off of her; she doesn’t let it get to her. It’s a good strength. Bella’s confidence isn’t unjustified, she’s a solid performer and very vocal and important fixture in the community, and, if she tell you she’s seen it all, she’s seen it all. You’ve never seen ‘thick skin’ so lovely!

I would like (busy as she is) to formally chime in on this, even a paragraph that I may reprint, because again – what works for her may not work for you, or maybe it will be perfect for you… never a bad idea to learn in a discipline where we’re all learning… and you, I, and everyone else can learn a lot from Bella Blue. I need to hang out with her more.

I can see some hardcore feminists jumping on you for writing a blog, as a male, offering advice to female performers. Get ready for that!

Well, I can see that apprehension, before one gets into why I’m doing this. But first. Feminism, hardcore and not, has far, far too many measured branches, it’s hard to know what one’s disposition is, even which specifically named categorically. So, I keep it simple : That inequality is ridiculous, and a woman has, by birth, every damn right to do everything a man can and will do – whatever they want to – without being considered one iota less of a woman, much less a human being. Everything goes both ways, and we can’t forget that women are still fighting for that. How can anyone really argue with that? I’ve studied a lot of Religion, Anthropology, Sociology, etc, so I know the details that are relevant to Feminism today, and how the Patriarchy took over and why. I’m not an Academic Feminism Major by far, but I do take far more interest in the subject than your average man. I would be disappointed if any Feminist of some specification (or anyone, really) was upset about my insistence that Performers realize their rights, power, and myself attempting to contribute to the Burlesque family as a whole. If I fail, it’s on me, not my plumbing.

However, Burlesque, though primarily female-centric, extends to both (or more, if you will) genders, and to more than dancers : Magicians, Emcees, Comedians, Stage Kittens, even the Merch-person and photographers. We’re in this together because we’re supposed to be.

Secondly, I don’t consider this a vain, authoritative blog. Sure, I laid out ‘rules’ for Photographer Etiquette, and gave solid advice to Performers, but these posts are collective information, not mine alone. I invite contributions, questions, all to provoke constructive dialogue. We need this, I need this, maybe even you do. I have the unique position of hearing everything at once (see http://fortheloveofsirens.tumblr.com/post/75844760436/introduction for reference.) That’s all.

This blog, the more you read it, is myself waxing poetic about collective support. It comes from a good place, and I thank those that appreciate it.

Elena Boudreaux was a performer for a few years here in New Orleans, and keeps up with the scene, despite an indefinite hiatus. She writes :

…Oh, I agree in theory. Unfortunately, if it is in an attempt to prevent further hurt, I have just never encountered good results except when someone else was backing me. Otherwise, the offender seemed to feel entitled to sling the insults even more strongly.


…But, I can say that I genuinely like seeing this dialogue, as I dropped out of performing in ALL aspects for many years from this very thing. Whether fat or thin, when your size precludes even people’s statements of how talented they found you, it wears away at you. I would hate to see other performers drop their art for the same reasons I did.

Sad to hear, but we welcome her back to the stage with open arms and for admitting her reasons for leaving and hopefully returning are important to us all.

Harlow Queen (my love) writes :

…This doesn’t just apply to women, it applies to men too. It may happen to one more than the other, but I know plenty of male performers who get scrutiny for what ever reason from some asshole. Because even if you are not underweight or overweight some asshole is going to find something to not like about you. Its what people do. Friend or stranger. But it happens too often. Jian endures this first hand with many ladies in this town, myself included. You don’t have to be female to have these things affect you. Its not all about us. Its about everyone. And what the whole thing comes down to do is don’t really thing about it as what should we say it how we should react. It comes down to don’t be a dick. Be kind. Its not a difficult task.

Not only true, but it reminded me of something I forgot to initially mention : that through some twisted supposed camaraderie, occasional male audience members say some very uncalled-for things about performers that are not true, excessively sexist, or much worse, and I usually immediately put them in their place, without ever mentioning it to performers (why worry them?)  The only positive thing in that whole situation is that I conveyed to the offender that what they’d said was a very rude, stupid thing to say… but more venomous than I’m posting here. I may be an only child, but I find myself quick to defend you all as my sisters (and brothers) without realizing what I did, and how I did it. Apparently it’s in my nature.

…because picking on any of our immediate and extended family unprovoked is simply not okay. Go about it how you will, but please, do your best to convey that, and let it get around. Be well, be strong, be brave, be proud. Goodnight for now!

P.S. Bella may be civil, but don’t mess with her too much, she will chew you up, and spit you out, boy.


Handling Mannerless Fans like a Pro

Yeah, I know… this could go on forever.

But I won’t keep you terribly long, I just want to show my support. This isn’t so much an opinion as an encouragement piece.

(Edit : proofreading it now, sorry, it’s not as short as I planned)

When one finally gets to the stage in the infancy of their Burlesquing tenure, one usually is euphoric. Drama slips off of you like teflon, missed cues are instantly forgiven by end-of-act applause, and carefully planning everything to watch it go nearly all go to shit, and having it mostly work out with one second to spare with success, all contribute to that good feeling that won’t go away in your early days.

Soon, something unexpected comes, and no-one’s ever ready for it.

No-one prepares you for the Fan without Manners. You knew some audience-performer relations would happen, for better, and hopefully not for worse, but even the best-meaning fans (in their own twisted way,) are more likely to hurl contradictory compliments than roses at your feet.

So, recently I was traveling out of country with several performers who I know personally and professionally very well, and three other performers I’d just met. We were all mostly business the whole time, and I didn’t really get to know the new girls until after the shows were over, and nearly heading home. One of the new girls, Vita DeVoid, began making small talk with me, and we got along fabulously. In truth, she reminded me a lot of one of my favourite performers ever (as well as one of my favourite people,) Musette, who is based out of Minneapolis. Anyways, I found her very friendly, very charming, very professional and personable. She’s good with people. She’s also built rather well, and not what I would consider ‘skinny,’ and certainly not ‘unhealthy.’ These unusually-mentioned observations will be relevant soon enough.

Vita had performed a show soon after that in her native Florida, and had an unexpected encounter with a fan. While apparently trying to be ‘nice’ and ‘complimentary,’ in addition to his kind words of encouragement, he said something to the effect of ‘you could use a sandwich.’

…and this poor girl, though still quite healthy-looking by my book, recently lost 10 pounds in two weeks, because she had to change her diet due to a very recent Diabetes diagnosis. Bit of a sore spot, not that he knew. Not that should forgive his ignorance.

Now, you ladies know there is no limit to the cluelessness of the average Joe trying to compliment a woman and failing miserably. You want to get mad, get angry, have some sort of quick-reply rehearsed, and deep-down you know you’ll never be 100% fully prepared every single time. So, what to do?

Well, there’s two issues here, let’s tackle the first.

“Real Women Have Curves”

…so says women with curves, as the story goes. All women are real women, and right now a man is having to remind some of you that. That’s fucked up, given the “Pater” in the Patricarchal society we’re slowly working out our social thinking out of. Guess what – you can’t go on hailing all women as beautifully varied and goddess-like and shame a skinny (or what you think is skinny) girl at the same time. It doesn’t work like that. Larger girl blames genetics and/or health issues for her weight? Very possibly true, of course, but the same can be said for the thinner girl. Skinny girl shamed with accusations of anorexia and bulimia? About as fair as assuming all larger girls are lazy, and can’t stop eating cake. Stop this nonsense, seriously. You’re supposed to support each other. You wouldn’t tolerate this about race, height, gender, or anything else, in this day and age – why is this thin-shaming okay?

My girlfriend is 4’11” and 103 pounds, tiny-framed. Think Audrey Hepburn. I’m almost a foot taller and about twice her weight, stocky-framed. She eats more than I do. She’s not a vegetarian or vegan, and she’s not exactly a health-nut, so, yes, she gets her calories. However, thanks to the birth-control Mirena, even a year after its removal her hormones are all out of whack, which effects her the most in lack of weight gain. She expects the occasional concern from friends who momentarily forget her plight. She begrudgingly endures faux-concern from well-meaning strangers who think they’re doing a favour by informing her that she’s skinny. She even has Burlesque friends of ours say this to her, but in the scant moments of intermissions and after curtain calls, may not realize those words of concern may not sound so sincere or gentle. She does not tolerate stupid-boy punters who try to manage to hit on her and insult her unwittingly in the same sentence. She’s a bit of a spitfire. Red hair, you know. But, she’s right in her vitriol, when warranted. I love hearing her replies.

So, yes, we all have our body issues; but before you rage against Cosmopolitan for instilling impossibly high beauty standards, especially in the sisterhood of Burlesque, stop perpetuating it, and call out those that do, but do it with a particular grace – which brings us to my second diatribe you’ll have fun with.

How to best handle a non-self-aware jerk.

First off, you have to consider a few things.

  1. You’re angry, and want to get a point across that satiates you, without getting out of line.
  2. You recognize there was (usually) no ill intent, but ignorance and lack of tact, and, again, don’t want to overdo your reply.
  3. You know you may see this person again, and as mad as you are now, you know you will NOT want to deal with them again in this manner, be it another juvenile, twisted-well-meaning quote from them, or a backlash to an over-firery retort of expletives you want to say to them right here, right now.

Well, I have to tell you, I’m not the “kill him with kindness” kind of person. It is my opinion that’s borderline enabling. People who can do this effectively, like the legendary Perle Noire, has executed this move right in front of me, with great success, but… we can’t all be Perle Noire, much less when we want to be, when we need to be.

But, hidden in her kindness, she does successfully what we all can manage to do in our own way. You see, making the accidental-insulter angry will erase the cause-effect scenario, meaning they will just be insulted in kind, and will think it warranted, because you will most likely not reply in a manner that points out his error, specifically. What you need to do, in effect, is to make them feel stupid, responsible for the retort, and delayed-apologetic, that is, once they figure it out… you’ll already be across the room.

Vita was caught off-guard, and, as best prepared as you can be, you will still be caught off-guard on occasion, but why not be armed?

No, I’m not over-thinking this, let me give you an example.

Clueless man approaches Vita. Gives her a compliment, and ends it with, as it happened, “You could use a sandwich.”

Here’s the spirit of replying in turn (as per your gauged level of their intent:)

  • Respond by looking at their belly, and back up : “…and you could use one Sandwich less, have your people call my people.” 
  • “Oh, don’t worry, I won’t be this thin when I reach your age.”
  • “Apparently, bad manners are loaded with calories, aren’t they, sport?”
  • “…and you could use some exercise.”
  • “To each their own,” you should say, then pause, “Whereas I like good-looking men with manners.”
  • “The difference is, I look good on stage and film, and people pay to see me naked. Always looking for good advice, though. What’re you packing, then?”

…and leave them with a wink, a swish of the hips, whatever you like. Add your feisty side to your legend. Clever. Quick-witted. Unattainable.

Hell, you can even spell it out for them: “That wasn’t very nice” or “You really have no idea you just insulted me, did you? How does that make you feel?”

The point is, you want to tear their eyes out. You don’t want it reflecting badly on you, the troupe, or the venue. But lines like these? It teaches them a lesson, and, if anyone overhears, or they have the balls to retell it, there will be laughter. Good, old fashioned, out-witting coquettishness in action (I love that word.)

Now, of course, you’re under no obligation to handle this any way over another, and heaven knows you don’t deserve to be put in that position in the first place. Have a little fun with it. Instead of that awkward encounter bugging you for the rest of the night, have a bawdy laugh over a backstage cocktail with the girls. Get a good bar-story out of an unfortunate situation, and add to your legend.

Granted, you may still miss the moment you have for a savvy reply, you’re only human. I know I still do. However, delivering such a line that’s brag-worthy is worth all the ones I’d missed over the years. Also, the snide compliment by your ‘fan’ may not even be about weight. It could be about anything. Your age, sex, color, etc, I’ve heard them all. The reason I address weight, is because I’ve heard this all too often (more than others,) in the past few years. Thanks, Facebook.

So, as a good last resort, regardless the line you’re given, and you can’t think of anything clever, and too taken aback at that moment, just give a pitied laugh as if you saw him naked in a pool of cold water, and simply tell him something to the effect of, “Oh, honey, you have no idea how to speak to women, do you?”

Who wouldn’t back you up on that?

Worst case scenario is that they’ll apologize at a future show, and maybe you get a drink out of it (make sure the bartender hands it to you directly, by the way.) Maybe you’ll never see them again. Maybe you actually taught them something. Maybe those who overhear will give you the most sincere compliments of all compliments.

Hell, even thinking about this is pretty fun, isn’t it?

Make them realize why you’re the unattainable showgirl. Because, to a person like that, you really, really are. Be proud of that. Act like that.

Here’s a very recent photo of Vita, not on the day we technically met, but on the day we came to be new friends. 

Too skinny, huh? Would you say no to this if you had the chance, sir? I think not, sandwich nonwithstanding.


…and this is the lovely Musette :


…and finally, my very beautiful girlfriend. (Do you trust my taste NOW?)


(Apologies I have no photos of mine of Perle Noire, due to a hard-drive crash last year. But look her up, she’s a five-star performer and living legend.)

USE YOUR WORDS: WRITING IN BURLESQUE – at The Playful Peacock Showgirl Academy | Facebook

USE YOUR WORDS: WRITING IN BURLESQUE – at The Playful Peacock Showgirl Academy | Facebook

Hanging up the Tiara? Consider this…

There’s one big secret in Burlesque, and it’s not a kept one, it’s something that’s said over and over that no-one believes : There’s really no money in it. Yes, I know some very successful, busy performers. Still, I would by no means call them rich. If they’re ‘comfortable,’ it’s because their heart’s still in it, they have other means of support, and/or they’re living within their means, and those means are acceptable. 

Burlesque in the past eight years has become what Bellydancing was in the mid 2000s – something watered down by soccer moms and young hopefuls that has been practically taught in strip-malls, and told that “you can be one too, in a few weeks!” Well, yes and no. Let me explain.

I have friends that run Burlesque schools, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, I think it’s wonderful. Some of them even have student showcases, and they are rightfully popular, and well worth watching… but let’s be real for a second. You won’t be an overnight success, and quitting your day job. Those big-time Burlesquers you know? Most likely years of ballet, assorted dance classes, lots of day-to-day discipline, heavy personal marketing, and, for the first few years, if not forever, spending more than you make at it (costumes, flyers, etc.) I also have no problem with some of the former students getting into it seriously, or half-seriously, just follow your heart, but be real about your expectations. 

…just remember there’s really no money in it, something many a seasoned dancer knows.

Well within the performers with the most longetivity in the business, are the same things in the girl that first signs up for classes on day one – their heart is in it.

But, we forget that sometimes.

Should I quit? I’m going broke!

Nothing wrong with putting it on hiatus. Get your shit together, come back anytime. Don’t worry about the competition – do not think of others as competition, that would defeat the purpose of getting involved in the first place. Go to shows, get the gears in your head working about routines for when you return, keep seen in the scene. Don’t forget how much you loved it, to keep the door open when you come back.

Should I quit? My boyfriend and I are having problems, because of this!

It’s hard to diagnose a wide variety of relationships with such a small statement, but I can tell you this : whatever is in your personality that is manifesting as wanting to do Burlesque, will resurface in different ways, even if you quit. You need to, for better or worse, address this with him. (I say ‘him,’ because I’ve yet to meet a male performer, or gay/lesbian couple who has had a problem with their partner doing burlesque, though I’m sure it exists, but the vast majority of these situations are performer-girl and jealous-guy.) The problem isn’t Burlesque, the problem is an incongruent mutual interest in the way you want to express yourself, a red flag for a bigger problem. The rest is up to you.

DRAMA makes me want to drop out forever!

Yes, with the influx of a bunch of performers who never had years of group or private training, there will be lots that have not learned the common discipline of working well with others. Despite how much ‘better’ they may be than you, prettier, longer-working, and such, everyone knows their deal. The newbies with attitude are even worse, because they haven’t even earned a good talent versus attitude ratio. There’s only so much tolerance a scene will take before they simply won’t get booked anymore, the span of them phasing out is variable.

Also, it’s a highly incestuous circle, cliquish, and such. It also can be a major support group, source of camaraderie, and a new source of friends in general.

If you’re not liking the smell in the air, a greener pasture is but a venue or two away.

If it’s really getting to you, take some time off, let the bad ones flush themselves out while you’re not around. You’ll hear about it soon enough, just because performers (generally) do not engage in obvious gossip publicly, doesn’t mean it won’t trickle down to you quickly.

Should I give up now, how will I ever be like Dita?

No, you will not ever be like Dita. She was a fetish model at the right place at the right time, and dated someone at the top of their game, got noticed internationally, and has exquisite financial backers. You may think (and may be right) that you’re technically better than she, and would be as famous if you could afford the costumes, but she made her mark strong when people were still using Netscape to look up the definition of Burlesque. Statistically, you’re probably better off writing a hit song for fame and fortune. If this is your only goal, maybe you should reflect on it, and run your course gracefully.

What about Cher’s movie Burles-

If i have to answer any questions dignifying that hell-borne movie, you do not know what Burlesque means. 

Am I too old, should I give it up?

No, but don’t start too late if you’re already thinking this – make sure you have something long-practiced and original to offer a crowd, otherwise most will think of you as just a novelty. That may not be fair, but that’s what’s on the table at the moment. I know dancers in their 40s who are the show-stoppers and award-holders because of their ingenuity, not just because of their looks. That doesn’t mean they’ve been on the scene for a decade (though some are,) it means they really put on a fucking show, and are creative and mature enough to know simple exhibitionism (the wrong reason to join Burlesque) is worthless.

What should I do if I want to move on?

Get great photos done. Get good video of your favourite performances taped. Get a lot of group shots. Keep in touch with your Burlesque ‘family.’ Whether you feel you made your mark or not down the road, have something exquisite to reflect on, and to share with others.

The point of Burlesque

Is simple. The age of XXX theaters killed the original shows, because the tease was over. Such venues became pedestrian stripper clubs, and the art was lost. When it was resurrected, it had a solid foundation of what was expected, and a line of credit to redefinition. It’s no longer a primary income source, as it once was, for most. It is costly. It is cumbersome. It is demanding. It is (unfortunately) competitive at times.

It’s also a matter of love.

That’s the main gist.

If you feel out of love with it, take a break. If the love doesn’t come back, kiss it goodbye. Keep mementos. Keep the associated friends. Treat it as an on-again, off-again lover. Always let the memory keep a smile on your face.

Make sure you get out of it what you put in it, not in dollars or fame, but in satisfaction.

But never forget what you’ve learned, and why you loved it.

About the photo : This is my good friend Trixie Minx (Creative Director/Founder of New Orleans’ Fleur de Tease) that I’ve worked with for about 7 years. She’s the busiest, most-booked, most-respected Burlesque performer I know. One day we’d realized she may or may not be at the apex of her career, as busy as she was. I wanted to make something eternal for her. Something she’d be proud about when she was 50, 60, 75 years old, taken when she was arguable at the top of her game. She’s also the one who got me back into Burlesque. On the counter are our cigarette butts, her favourite shoes, dresses she loves, a very heavy antique headdress, a bottle from her wedding reception. The curious shadow is my leg and torso, a shadow from reversing the flash nearly behind me, against a mirror. The patterned shadow is the same light coming through the feathers of her headdress. The only retouching in this photo is the color was reduced to 50%. Color was too much, Black and White was too bland. This is the best example I have of everything I’ve talked about, down to the memento, and, as it was, our friendship personally and professionally. Her up front, me nearly invisible behind the scenes, but a part of the glamour, nonetheless.


Photographer Etiquette and What Showgirls Should Realize

First off, pretend you’re the average punter with a camera.

You can’t take photos in a strip club, can’t take photos at a play, cinema, or such. You may take them at concerts, but you know you shouldn’t. Why do you feel so damn comfortable taking them at a Burlesque Show?

You shouldn’t.

Every Burlesque Show should have a sign : No photography allowed without permission. Certainly no video of any kind without permission, either. This is very important.

Ladies : if your average unknown-to-you photographer asks, make a deal with them : You get the final social-media publishable veto, and they will be credited. They’re offering, you don’t owe them anything else. That is, of course, if you want to allow them to shoot at all. No pressure.

Photographers : always ask. You’ll most likely get a yes, especially if you’re a regular, and your face is known, or you know a girl in the troupe personally.

Legally, the rule is that it’s the venue’s call if you can or cannot shoot, and is final, despite who else says you may. That falls onto the manager on duty. With Burlesque, this never really happens this way. The venues are usually fine with whatever the troupe endorses. You need to find the Troupe leader. If the Troupe Leader doesn’t know about each and all of the performers’ wishes, they’ll ask them. Very most likely, this is your point of contact, and should be until you get to know the troupe. Pay to get in, no squabbling, THEN find Troupe Leader. Go early. Get a good seat. Do not block any of the audience’s views. Be polite if you accidentally do. Don’t barge into anywhere a common audience member cannot go. If you get a ‘no’ to anything, comply. Seriously, comply.

…and ask to use your flash, for many a reason. Most prominently, it can affect those around you more than you know, antagonistically. It is usually unflattering at the angle you’ll be shooting.  Any kind of juggling act, or act that requires split-second timing? NEVER use your flash, even if allowed. I don’t think I have to tell you why.

When it comes to quality of photographs of burlesque live shows, there’s quite a stereotype that’s largely accurate : Females take better photos than Males do. The reason is Women are more intuitive to what makes a good Burlesque photo : Good face, then body, then overall composition. Most (amateur) Men mix it up a bit. Good body, then face, then composition. Most men want the good body shot, and think they’re done, most women know the girl in question will hate it if everything’s wonderful, except the face. Herein lies a secret. Blurry? Delete on the fly. Bad face? Delete on the fly. The rest, wait until you get home to enlarge and sort them out. Never forget the pecking order of what you think is a good burlesque photo.

Shot the show with success?

When starting off, show the troupe leader BEFORE putting them anywhere. You want to be invited to shoot again, right? Publish them responsibly, and you should never have a problem with being allowed to shoot them again; you may even get paid one day!

Performers : Be picky. They are using your face, your name, your brand to represent you and themselves. Make sure you’re fine with the pic. People who have never seen your show will see it. People who did see your show will see it, and always have that reference photo, more prominent than any memory of your act.

Is your face acceptable in the photo? I don’t care how gorgeous you are, the camera can and will catch you unflatteringly. A good photographer will never have them saved on his card – instantly deleted, so you’ll never know. How is your body? Have a slim waist, and somehow, between twist, light, and shadow you have rolls? Did the light give you faux-cellulite you don’t remember having, and you don’t have now? Does a harsh spotlight make you look mannish or even unrecognizable? Did you have a nipple slip? A ‘side-saddle?’ (fixable with a photoshop labiectomy,) A ‘peek?’ (do I have to go into string backs not covering much during a bend-over facing the crowd?) Does a shadow strategically place itself under your lip where you look like you have a cracked tooth? DO YOU WANT PROSPECTIVE FANS TO THINK THIS IS YOUR PROFESSIONAL PRESENCE? Remember, 99% of them will wind up on Facebook, and you will be tagged.

A good photographer may have the occasional slip-up, but can fix it. A learning amateur needs this to be gently pointed out. An unreasonable one offended by your tactful comments on their shoddy work of YOUR body need not be invited (or even admitted,) ever again.

Also, unless he’s the kind of person you’d invite over for Thanksgiving, and has at least met ALL of the girls in your show with some familiarity, DO NOT let them backstage. That is your area.

Note the tone of mutual respect.

Dancers, be flattered and understanding, but you are under no obligation to say yes to anything you do not want to, and have the right to censor your own image (brand.)

Photographers, despite your level of professionalism, these ladies are swamped with creepers, be Clark fucking Gable, and be reasonable and understanding.

Credit each other plainly (including tagging.) To not do so is very poor form.

But what about cell-phone pics?

In the unlikely event someone takes a recognizable cell-phone pic, and posts it on Facebook, it’s useless to admonish them for taking it, and no-one expects it to be quality; however, if it offends you, ask them to remove it, but do so graciously. If not removed, report it. Pass the word around, because you will now know who this person is. Don’t de-friend them, keep a look-out on their profile for the future.

What about video?

Zero-tolerance should be used unless expressly permitted. If it’s taken with a cell phone, be the judge on a case-to-case basis. It will most likely come out terribly, anyway, and doubtfully clear enough to even be recognized as you.

What about real photo-creepers?

Much like the guy I caught leaning into and in front of the crowd to take ultra-close up shots of the girls’ asses as they bent over for the audience (yet no-one saw him?) and then, during fully-lit intermission, leaning over and taking close-ups of the audience ladies’ feet, stop and confront him. …especially if he has a zoom lens and all in your faces (in this case, asses and feet.) You have the right to eject him. You may not have the right to take his camera/card, but he probably doesn’t know that, get the Burlesque Boyfriend Brigade and Bouncers to corner him, and delete them. Take a cell-phone pic of his face. Take several. Text that pic to everyone in the local community, and your usual door-guy. If you’re gracious enough to ever let him back in (or he slips in past a not-in-the-loop doorman,) and you’re reluctant to kick him out, put a trusted person on him, to see if he has a camera. If so, eject him. If not, give him a short leash.

What if they use the photo in a manner we have not discussed?

Find them, question them. Regardless of the permission of the troupe leader, there is no bail-out “no expectation of privacy” in a club, especially if they pay to get in; therefore, you have the legal right to take that as far as you want to.

Professional photographer wants to formally shoot us, any different rules for them?

While they’re more likely to re-use the image for their own purposes aside from portfolio, they will rarely do so without explicit permission of the subject. They (should) know better. Regardless, ask to have certain information embedded into the metadata in post production, and make sure you tell him what you do and don’t want in there. They most likely will end up on a photography site, and, if all goes well, will be good photos, and (with good metadata,) be searchable outside of the site.

Any questions?


Well, I was raised around women, a lot of them, in fact.

It wasn’t long before I sketched them, painted them, which led to a nearly innate task of photographing them.

In 1999, I photographed a few friends of mine who started a Burlesque Troupe in New Orleans, resurrecting a nearly-dead stage art in a city whose culture was both ripe for it since its founding, and would most likely sustain a new generation’s shot at it. The Calendar I shot, for better or worse, produced some well-known iconic images, some proto-Nouveau-Burlesque drama, and a lot of lessons to be learned for myself, the girls, the venue, and for many to come. One part common sense, one part courtesy.

Being Grandfathered in nearly any scene since the now-reknown Shim-Shamettes association carries weight, there is not only a responsibility to practice what I preach to newcomer photographers, but to advise Burlesque girls and Showgirls of any kind, from a different perspective.

I have the best seat in the house.

I hear the blaring soundtrack, and the soft footsteps of the dance moves.

I hear the comments of the audience, and the concerns of those backstage.

I know the stage names, and the birth names.

I see the girls in Showgirl battlegear in the venues, I see the girls at home in baggy sweatpants, hanging up their clothes.

I know the official biographies, and I know their personal confessions.

Most importantly, before the show, and after the curtain closes, what I do is representative of their craft, and I show the world how they wish to see themselves, and how the world wants them to be seen.

In a world of cell-phone photos, cheap digital cameras, photoshop, lightroom, and costless, material-less practicing, nearly everyone takes such things for granted.

From the audience, photographers, venues, entourages, and even the girls themselves – there are simple manners, techniques, and ceremony (if you will,) that one side sees that the others do not.

I will address this quite often; in fact, it will be the primary aim of this blog.

For the most part, sit back and enjoy the show.

For the rest, feel free to ask.


Quotes I Like (some of them my own)

Si vis amara, para bellum.” – 2011, my twist on a cliche.

You could be the worst of the wicked, Arjuna, but Knowledge is the boat that will carry you across the sea of sin.” – Bhagivad-Gita 4/36

When a woman weeps, she is setting traps with her tears.” –Dionysus Cato

Of all sexual aberrations, perhaps the most peculiar is chastity.” –Rimy de Gourmont

I weep for Narcissus, but I never noticed that Narcissus was beautiful. I weep because, each time he knelt beside my banks, I could see, in the depths of his eyes, my own beauty reflected…” –The Lake, “The Alchemist,” by Paulo Coelho

What is more beautiful than a beautiful woman?” – A.Vargas

My method is different. I do not rush into actual work. When I get a new idea, I start at once building it up in my imagination, and make improvements and operate the device in my mind. When I have gone so far as to embody everything in my invention, every possible improvement I can think of, and when I see no fault anywhere, I put into concrete form the final product of my brain.” – N.Tesla

All are not cooks who walk with long knives.” – Russian proverb

Who has never tasted what is bitter does not know what is sweet.” –German proverb

Just say : ‘In the Name of En Esch, I would like another pitcher please.’” – En Esch (KMFDM/Pigface/Slick Idiot) skewing English a bit in his explanation on how to convey to the bartender that he has a running a tab.

Qui Amicus est amat, qui amat non utique amicus est” – “One who is your friend always loves you, one who loves you is not always your friend.” –Lucius Annaeus Seneca