Archive for the Burlesk Category

For National Bird Day: The Bird Acts of Vaudeville

Posted in Animal Acts, Burlesk, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2017 by travsd
Rosa Naynon and Her Cockatoos, circa 1907

Rosa Naynon and Her Cockatoos, circa 1907

I’m informed that it’s National Bird Day, which raises the interesting question, “Is it National BIRD Day? Or NATIONAL BIRD Day?” i.e., a day to celebrate all of our avian friends, or just a day to sing the praises of the bald eagle? Well, I know it’s the former, but it does remind me of the old Bob and Ray routine wherein the announcers mistake ground HOG meat for GROUNDHOG meat.

At any rate, I’m sure the intention of today’s observation is supposed to be about naturalism or preservation or something, but I am going to subvert it entirely by celebrating the working beast,the birds who sing for their supper strictly for human entertainment. In his book Vaudeville, Joe Laurie, Jr had this to day about bird acts:

“There were a lot of cockatoo acts (they were easy to train): Swain’s Cockatoo’s, Merle’s Cockatoo’s, Marzella’s, Lamont’s, and Wallace’s. They walked the wire, rang bells, put out a fire in a toy house, etc. Very entertaining. There were Marcelle’s Birds, Camilla’s Pigeons, Conrad’s Pigeons, and of course Olympia DesVall’s was the best bird act of them all. There was also Torcat’s and Flora D’Alizas Educated Roosters, followed by Kurtis’s Educated Roosters.”

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Watercolorist Charles Demuth painted this unidentified “Vaudeville Bird Woman” in 1917:

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Birds were an integral part of C.A. Wright’s Traveling Tent Show. 

Burlesque dancer Yvette Dare worked with macaws and parrots who were trained to undress her to music:

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Dare.

Here’s another one of Madame Marzella, circa 1896

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For more on vaudeville historyconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

An Early Holiday Junket on the L.E.S.

Posted in Burlesk, Christmas, Contemporary Variety, Magicians/ Mind Readers/ Quick Change, SOCIAL EVENTS, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 6, 2016 by travsd

Yeah, I know it’s almost three weeks away, but we needed some Christmas early this year, know’m sayin’? So when I had the opportunity to review a holiday show at Pangea last night (see below) I enjoyed the evening abroad to the full. Riding shotgun on the adventure was documentary-maker Heather Quinlan, who took some of the better pictures you see below (the uncredited ones are mine)

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The night got off to an auspicious start the instant I got off the F train; there was a vintage subway train parked in the station. The MTA pulls a couple of them out of mothballs (actually the NY Transit Museum) every year at this time.

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Stopped by the Paulaner Brauhaus on the Bowery (site of my wedding after-party/reception) for the tree trimming.

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It was nice to see this pop-up Christmas tree market at the site of the 2015 East Village Gas Leak Explosion, a little bit of festive beauty enlivening what would otherwise be a depressing black hole.

Then it was off to Pangea to see “‘Tis the Season to be Morbid”, a charming cabaret show starring Austin Pendleton (What’s Up Doc? Catch-22 etc etc etc) and Barbara Bleier (with a cameo by Barbara Maier Gustern.) See my review in Chelsea Now.

Bleier and Pendleton in concert. The lady in the red sweater in the audience is none other than Tammy Fay Starlite. Turn around, Tammy!

Bleier and Pendleton in concert. The lady in the red sweater in the audience is none other than Tammy Fay Starlite. Turn around, Tammy! Photo by Heather Quinlan

 

Barbara Maier Gustern. Photo by Heather Quinlan

Barbara Maier Gustern. Photo by Heather Quinlan

Pendleton and Trav S.D.

Pendleton and Trav S.D., lookin’ goofy

The off to Hotel Chantelle on Ludlow Street for the First Annual Repeal Day Party (honoring the anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition.) We caught several performances by the likes of Trick-the-Bastard, Lewd Alfred Douglas and several burlesque performers, but the photos didn’t come out well in the dim lighting.  Anyway, we were too busy enjoying the performances! I hope it does prove to be annual tradition, as it was a lot of fun!

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Dapper Don Spiro and Delicious Dandy Dillinger, hosts!

Dapper Don Spiro and Delicious Dandy Dillinger, hosts!

 

Nelson Lugo!

Nelson Lugo!

 

Hannah Schiff and Dan Hermann!

Hannah Schiff and Dan Hermann!

 

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Merch room. Photo by Heather Quinlan

 

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Quinlan snapped this young lady on the street as we were leaving. I love what it says: the joy of Dandy’s party is spilling out into the world and spreading.

One last stop! I’d wanted to see Cardone’s New York House of Magic ever since he launched it at the Slipper Room over a year ago. The timing was perfect to see it last night. On the bill were young Apollo Riego, mentalist Patrick Terry, and the headliner Devlin. And of course Cardone. 

 

Cardone is literally tell me good places to visit in Transylvania in this picture. Photo by Heather Quinlan

Cardone is literally telling me good places to visit in Transylvania in this picture. Photo by Heather Quinlan

 

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Cardone in performance. Photo by Heather Quinlan

Cardone in performance. Photo by Heather Quinlan

 

Curtain Call

Curtain Call

 

Quinlan. We want to make a tv show together. Please give us money!

Quinlan. We want to make a tv show together. Please give us money!

For Talk Like a Pirate Day: Trav S.D.’s “Sea of Love”

Posted in Art Models/ Bathing Beauties/ Beauty Queens/ Burlesque Dancers/ Chorines/ Pin-Ups/ Sexpots/ Vamps, Burlesk, Coney Island, Contemporary Variety, HOLIDAYS/ FESTIVALS/ MEMORIALS/ PARADES, Indie Theatre, LEGIT, EXPERIMENTAL & MUSICAL THEATRE, ME, My Shows, Summer Solstice/ Mermaid Parade with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 19, 2016 by travsd

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All things considered we give our plays short shrift here (and elsewhere,I think) and one of our New Year’s resolutions is to make amends by plugging them aggressively. The best way to make your New Year’s resolution come true is to get to work on it several months early.

Fortunately, we have a handy “way in” to talk about one of my plays today, it being INTERNATIONAL TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY and all. Trav S.D.’s Sea of Love is basically an extended “talk like a pirate” nautical riff, structured as a series of crashing ocean waves. It has had many lives.

It began as a two-hander about a couple on a date, which I began developing as a student at Trinity Rep Conservatory in 1987. It begins with the galling premise of a prudish young man rebuffing the scary advances of a highly open and sexual female co-worker whose trippy monologue provided its original title, Love Embrace at 50 Fathoms. It was a Gilligan and Ginger scenario, if you will.

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A couple of years later (1989) I attended the Coney Island Mermaid Parade for the first time, and that inspired me to take the play where it eventually went, an over the top fantasy scenario, where the date is first invaded by the young man’s equally sexual and forward mother “Mrs. Paul”, and then the ghost of his pirate father “Long John”. This version was produced at the now defunct Vortex Theatre, and featured my good friend Sarah McCord Williams as “Gidget” and her then-boyfriend Brian Price as the hero “Bildad”. Coney Island performer Sailorman Jack opened the show with a set of sea chanteys.

In the early ’90s I directed yet another version at the old Village Gate, which is now Le Poisson Rouge. I think at this stage I had the effrontery to call it Wet Dreams, which is gross, but actually fits the theme.

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Tony Millionaire designed the postcard for the 2002 edition

Then in 2002 came what I consider the definitive version of Sea of Love, at the Ohio Theatre’s Ice Factory Festival. For this one, I pulled out all the stops. I introduced a dance chorus number, choreographed by the one and only Julie Atlas Muz, and featuring several key burlesque dancers as the “Naughty Nereids”, including the legendary Bambi the Mermaid (THE Coney Island Mermaid Parade Mermaid), Kate Valentine (a.k.a Mistress Astrid), Lin Gathright (a.k.a. Miss Bunny Love) and others. The lovely Moira Stone sang my song “Love of the Ocean” for a curtain raiser.

Stone (right), with Sarah Jane Bunker, who played Gidget, backstage at the Ohio

Stone (right), with Sarah Jane Bunker, who played Gidget, backstage at the Ohio

And I added another wave of craziness in the person of the Great God Poseidon, played by Robert Pinnock wearing nothing but a thong and a green afro wig. Jeff Lewonczyk played Bildad’s mother Mrs. Paul (in drag, natch), and Bildad was to be played by the multi-talented writer-comedian (and former Fox commentator) John Devore. 

I was extremely jazzed to play the part of the pirate — in fact, that was kind of the whole point (see the publicity photo at top). But just before opening night Devore suffered a tragic death in the family, and (as I have had to do so often in the past), I had to understudy for him, re-envisioning the pirate by having Adam Swiderski and Dan Maccarone play the body (at different shows), with Pinnock supplying the voice offstage through a microphone. Then we closed out the show by having the entire cast sing the Donovan song “Atlantis”.

As too often happens when I write/direct/produce/ and star in something, little (sometimes major) things fall through the cracks. All too often it has happened that I forgot to arrange for photographs of the production! Thus there is no photographic record of this  show. I have video of it, but it’s kind of rough (at least my copy is), and so I really only have memories.

And then there was additional life. In 2007 we did a commemorative reading of the play at Coney Island USA, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the parade.

And then that terrific resource Indie Theater Now made it available to purchase! It’s yours to peruse and (hopefully) produce at this link:

http://www.indietheaternow.com/Play/sea-of-love

This Weekend: “The Black Crook”

Posted in AMERICANA, Bowery, Barbary Coast, Old New York, Saloons, Broadway, Burlesk, Indie Theatre, LEGIT, EXPERIMENTAL & MUSICAL THEATRE, PLUGS, Vaudeville etc. with tags , , , , , on September 16, 2016 by travsd

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In 1866 (150 years ago), a show called The Black Crook opened at Niblo’s Garden that has been credited with everything from being the first musical comedy, to having been the Cradle of Burlesque (the dance elements were actually closer to what we think of as ballet). The Black Crook was thus a kind of American theatrical Garden of Eden. As you can guess, I am a LITTLE excited about the fact that a version is being revived at the Abron’s Arts Center, not so very far from its original production. Previews start tomorrow night; opening night is Monday. And I will be there with bells on. Look for our review here next week. Tickets and more info are here: http://www.theblackcrook.com/

The Barrison Sisters: Don’t Call it Vaudeville

Posted in Art Models/ Bathing Beauties/ Beauty Queens/ Burlesque Dancers/ Chorines/ Pin-Ups/ Sexpots/ Vamps, Burlesk, Sister Acts, Vaudeville etc., Women with tags , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2016 by travsd

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I’ve dithered about this post for a long while, but ultimately decided it can’t go in my Stars of Vaudeville series, for the simple reason that there’s no way in hell that you could ever call this act “vaudeville”. The reason for the quandary: the word appears next to their name wherever it is rendered on the internet. In typical fashion, once an error like that gets out there in gets replicated ad infinitum, and then bounced around forever like a pinball in a machine.

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Here’s the thing: the Danish born Barrison Sisters (Lona, Sophia, Inger, Olga and Gertrude) had a dirty act. Like many sister acts of their day, they performed cute musical numbers. But the Barrison Sisters were said to have discovered the path to success through sexy double entendres. Their most notorious routine is said to have consisted of the girls asking the audience “Do you want to see my pussy?” — at which point they would flip up their skirts to reveal kittens strapped to the front of their vajayjays. In the 1890s. Though the great vaudeville circuits were just in the process of being created the tone of the industry was already well established by Tony Pastor, Keith and Albee, F.F. Proctor, Sylvester Poli, Percy Williams and others. Vaudeville was clean. If you did an act of this description in vaaudeville you’d be shown the door before your act was even finished.

So this act can only be said to have been in vaudeville in the broadest, broadest possible use of the term. Perhaps as they might use it in some place like Paris or Moscow, to mean something equivalent to “varities”. In fact, it even sounded too dirty for 1890s burlesque to me. My guess would have been saloon variety, as it might be seen at Koster and Bial’s or on the Bowery or someplace, or your local wild west saloon. But then I went to my go-to reference for early burlesque, the must-own Horrible Prettiness: Burlesque and American Culture, by Robert C. Allen. There, he mentions a strip act by Lona Barrison in burlesque, being reported on in the Police Gazette in 1896, in which she disrobed completely, which back then meant down to her underwear. And really that’s all you gotta know, friends. The Barrison Sisters were not vaudeville but burlesque, friends, and were even getting busted there. 

To learn more about vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Happy Birthday, Tempest Storm!

Posted in Art Models/ Bathing Beauties/ Beauty Queens/ Burlesque Dancers/ Chorines/ Pin-Ups/ Sexpots/ Vamps, Burlesk, Women with tags , , , on February 29, 2016 by travsd
This is the tamest picture of her I could find. Believe me -- I looked and looked and looked

This is the tamest picture of her I could find. Believe me — I looked and looked and looked. Oh, how I looked!

Today is the birthday of burlesque legend Tempest Storm (Annie Banks, b. 1928). We’ve waited so long to do a post on her because her proper birthday doesn’t roll around too often — she’s a leap year baby. And when I say baby, I mean baby!!

Originally from rural Georgia, already a twice divorced child-bride at 20, she decided to put her 44DD-25-35 measurements and fiery red hair to good use by becoming a burlesque performer. She debuted as Tempest Storm at the El Rey Club in Oakland, California around 1950 and went on to become one of the most famous of all burlesque dancers, through her nightclub appearances, pin-ups, movies, celebrity hook-ups (she was married to singer Herb Jeffries and had affairs with Elvis and JFK), and national press in places like Life Magazine.

She danced professionally until she was 67 years old, and still comes out to perform on occasion. You can see her in Leslie Zemeckis’s excellent film Behind the Burly Q. She’s the last of the living legends!

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Molly Crabapple: Drawing Blood

Posted in BOOKS & AUTHORS, Burlesk, PLUGS, VISUAL ART with tags , , , , on December 2, 2015 by travsd

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We’d say we are excited for our friend Molly Crabapple, but she doesn’t need our excitement. She is now officially an international global force of nature. Some people just tap into SOMETHING. It would be remarkable if she were just ONE of the many things that she is one of: an illustrator of genius; a visionary entrepreneur (whose franchise of burlesque drawing salons Dr. Sketchys swept the country like wildfire); and then a globe-trotting activist of a new kind. Who would think of attending earth-shaking historical events (e.g. the trial of Khalid Shiekh Mohammed) and drawing them in this day and age?

Her new memoir Drawing Blood (brilliant title) was released yesterday, and there is a launch event tonight at the Slipper Room.

Now, I often like to gloat that she is a fan of No Applause and she had even drawn me, as a character in her 2009 graphic novel Scarlet Takes Manhattan. The original is framed and hangs in our house:

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As part of the launch for that book, she and I and her collaborator John Leavitt did a joint event at the Museum of Sex.

So tonight, we will be going to the Slipper Room — I hope we can even get in! If we can’t (I tend not to be assertive about such things, because, who wants to be one of those people? I never do)…but if we can’t get in, the Marchioness has already acquired the book and we’ll review it here in a few days. Congratulations, Molly. You’re an astounding person.

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