This compilation has 3 discs of some great numbers. I especially liked: -
Dr.Horse - Jack, That Cat Was Clean, and Dave Bartholomew - The Monkey.
A while back I bought a CD for its interesting mix of different older music styles.
(See below, left)
The CD put the subject of Burlesque in my mind, and when I saw this title at the library site I resolved to find out more about it.
See the library's description at left.
I enjoyed reading this, and got quite a few laughs as well. It is apparently assembled from material gathered for a documentary film of the same name.
Early on these were big shows with whole choruses and large bands. There is much mention of the comedians, who were headliners and often paid more.
The genre was killed by TV, where all the comedians found refuge, and by porn, which stole away the sexual mystery and "tease" of the girlie numbers and the striptease.
Every source on the subject seems inevitably to include a disclaimer about the legitimate "Artistry" of the genre, downplaying any notion of connection with prostitution, the sex industry, or "sleaze" in general.
Nevertheless, it does include some pretty harrowing life stories; some were sexually abused when young, some were exploited or ripped off during their careers.
The shows and even the striptease seem to have been pretty tame by modern standards, it appears a lot of performances in modern music videos would have got you arrested in Burlesque days. At one point, tableaux in the nude were legal, but if you so much as moved a muscle you could be arrested.
Performers could be arrested for very little (boom-boom), some found it shameful, others courted (boom-boom) and even staged (boom-boom) arrests as great publicity.
In a chapter on promoters, there is a story of how one night a man falls from the balcony during the show. Afterwards the manager approaches him and asks "How much do you want to come and do that every night?"
Then there was the story of the burlesque-loving Governor of Louisiana, whose wife resented his behaviour and got him committed for insanity. However, there being no law expressly forbidding it, he continued to govern by phone from the asylum. He left performer Blaze Starr money but she refused it. I was a bit sceptical about this story but you can read between the lines of this Wikipedia entry.
I got curious about what the performances were actually like. I have done some searching and gathered a selection from YouTube, prefaced by trailers from the original film and the book. At the end of the list is a longer interview with the author on a TV show.
At the second Lily St. Cyr clip, jump to halfway for Tempest Storm (who is quite calm, actually!)
The clip of the aerialist is Tiny Kline, a one-time burlesque performer who ended up hired at age 70 by Disney as the first Tinkerbell, sliding down a high wire at Disneyland.
There was little or no training, and girls often did their own choreography, using moves swiped from their colleagues, learned from parents, (a surprising number were second-generation show-business types) and their own trademark moves and gimmicks. The book mentions a girl by the name of White Fury, who painted herself with buckets of paint, and lit her tassels on fire. Wow! LOL! They had dogs, cats, panthers, balloons, fans, snakes, sofas that started smoking, giant oyster shells, giant champagne glasses, you name it!
A great and entertaining read, I would recommend it to anyone, except perhaps those who could be offended by talk of sex, which is a natural consequence of the nature of the art. (The talk that is, not the sex!)
Read as an e-book borrowed from Auckland Libraries via Overdrive, on my Kobo Touch e-reader.
This Huffington Post blog piece by the author has a gallery of illustrations from the book.