Tuesday, June 7, 2016


Talking about your dick onstage is not edgy. It is not daring. It is not progressive. It is the most mundane thing you could possibly mention, onstage or off.

You likely have not noticed (because part of privilege means not having to notice) that this society - indeed, our entire world - is set up to accommodate your dick. Your dick takes up as many seats as it wants on the subway. Your dick has healthcare. It is up to us to avoid your mismanaged dick in bars, in public spaces, in long-term relationships, in our homes and our schools and our ‘safe’ spaces, or just walking by on the street. Your dick makes laws that apply only to our vaginas. Literally every minute of every day, we are aware of your dick: therefore rest well assured that if you host a show or ten shows or every goddamned show ever in the history of shows there is no point at which we will forget about your dick, even if you go that entire time without mentioning or referring to it even once.

You are the system. And whether consciously or not, you benefit constantly and endlessly from that – even in our own microcosmic female-dominated pussy-positive artstripper world. YOU ARE THE SYSTEM. Getting on stage in front of this gorgeous world of Strong and Opinionated Pussy and talking about your dick is basically standing up and saying, Hey. You built this. This is one small part of the largely heinous world where you could have power, you could have a voice, this could be a system of support and accountability that is potentially revolutionary but FUCK THAT AND FUCK YOU BECAUSE I HAVE THE VOICE AND I HAVE THE POWER AND EVEN AS YOUR VOICE AND YOUR REPRESENTATIVE AND YOUR PROFESSED ALLY I AM STILL GOING TO EXERCISE THAT POWER OVER YOU BY CONSTANT REMINDERS OF THE SOCIAL AND PHYSICAL POWER I HAVE OVER YOU AT ALL TIMES JUST AS YOU EXPERIENCE FROM MY GENDER IN ALL OTHER FACETS OF YOUR DAILY EXISTENCE.

I seem to recall having heard that bit before. Why don’t you call us when you have some new material and if we’re still looking for hosts at that point maybe we’ll take a look at what you’ve got.


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

My Booking Policies: In Plain Language

In the hopes of clearing up misconceptions, preconceived notions and prejudicial ideas; in an effort to maintain transparency; and with the ultimate goal of ending speculation and rumor I am now laying out - in plain language - my own personal criteria for booking shows.
All producers work with a different set of professional standards, but I do believe that similar ideas prevail within our industry. Though I don’t presume to speak for anyone else, I daresay that I am not the only person who considers any or all of the following conditions when hiring performers; regardless, to all those who wonder – internally or aloud – why so-and-so gets booked so often while they themselves do not, I offer the following considerations: 

Physical Characteristics

Do you have a rounded head which is large relative to your body size? A wide forehead and large eyes placed below the midline of your face? Rounded, protruding cheeks? In short, do you have kinderschema? As a producer it’s my job to engender in an audience feelings of protectiveness and sympathy and the desire to nurture, shelter and support. I primarily book performers with the physical traits associated with 1940’s-style animated woodland creatures, infants, and small, palm-sized rodents in order to elicit these maternal instincts in a paying audience.* 

The Casting Couch

Call it smarmy but it’s the truth: I only hire performers who won’t sleep with me - which certainly limits my casting pool. But it’s one of the perks of being a producer, and I intend to work it for all I can, without apologies. Hell, if I could get away with it’d never book anyone who I’ve ever actually spoken to, or even made eye contact with for that matter ... I’m just saying, the performer who’s freaky enough to leave the building every time I enter could go a long way in my productions, if you know what I mean. 

Ethnic Background

Listen, I don’t know how many times I have to say it: I’ve got nothing against Belgians. (Well, not the Walloons, anyway.) 

Awards and Recognition

If you look at the lineups of my last dozen or so shows, you’ll notice among the performers eleven Fulbright Scholars, one recipient of the Carnegie Award for outstanding work in literature for children or young adults, six Nobel Prize winners (2 in physics, 3 in chemistry and 1 for peace), various members of World Series and Super Bowl championship teams,** and no less than twenty-three Emmy and/or Oscar nominations (mostly in the technical and production fields, but impressive nonetheless). This should tell you something. 


Like many producers I negotiate different rates with different performers, based largely on how many of my booking criteria they meet; but it is my policy to pay all of my performers and staff across the board in pre-decimalized British currency units. Therefore any performer – no matter their pay rate – who can’t convert £3 12s 6d into an understandable and contemporary monetary unit *** is simply of no use to me and won’t be booked until she can be bothered to learn how. 

Gifts go a long way.

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or expensive - but a dead bird, bit of string, piece of tinfoil or small shiny button left on the doorstep certainly knocks you up a few spots on my booking list. Really want to impress? Just drop half a mouse in my lap, lick your butthole while staring at me for a minute or two, and saunter away like you don’t care … then check your inbox for that booking email. 

A Personal Connection

I’m getting an N, an N – do you know an N? An M? Do you know an M? Someone who recently passed. An M … or a W? It’s a W, yes – I’m getting a Wanda. A Walther. A Waldo … Wendy? You had a neighbor named Wendy when you were a kid. Yes, that’s it – it’s Wendy. She’s here with me now and she wants you to know that she’s happy, and she loves you, and she’s wondering if you’re available for a 9pm show in Brooklyn on the 14th. 

What have you done for me lately?

Seriously - I know you used to do a lot of nice things for me, but what have you done for me lately?

[They’re rare cases, but please note that all of the above conditions are automatically superseded by ancient familial oaths, wizard’s curses (Level 16 or above) and any obligations of Masonic membership.]

* It’s a science fact that being subliminally reminded of cartoon bunnyrabbits makes audience members purchase on average 3.72 more drinks each – certainly something to consider when attempting to drive up bar revenue and maintain a profitable relationship with venue owners.

** The 1972 Dallas Cowboys, the 1964 St Louis Cardinals, the 1986 Chicago Bears, the 1910 Philadelphia Athletics, and the 2007 Boston Red Sox.

*** About $66

Monday, February 22, 2016

On Turning Twelve and Not Drinking The Kool-Aid

Not having felt moved to shout into the abyss of late, I haven’t been writing much - and the abyss, it appears, has been just fine without me.

But several days ago I passed my twelfth anniversary as a full-time performer, producer, writer and director within the neo-ecdystiastilogical arts. Twelve years. Big fucking deal, right? But it’s the longest I’ve had any job and, frankly, making a Life In Art – especially in New York City, and in 2016, and at no-longer-25 – is something.

So it seemed time to attempt to articulate a thing that has been sitting there taking up brainspace for a while now.

The temptation to hashtag about lacks of fucks is strong, but as we are not actually twelve years old, we resist nonetheless.

I’d like to talk about The Myth Of Community.

The Myth of Community says that we are all one amazing loving shiny sparkly supportive gilttertribe that only wants to see all our sisters (and maybe brothers but really only The Acceptable Ones) shine and sparkle like the sassy empowered amazing fierce deserving creatures we all are.

The Myth of Community says that everybody who “does” burlesque (well, but of course what we really mean is performs burlesque, or maybe also teaches it) is equal: equally experienced, equally skilled, equally respectful and professional, equally deserving of financial and artistic success. It says that the sheer fact of existing under a stage name renders one worthy of every benefit that The Community has to offer.

The Myth of Community says that the one shining goal of burlesque is To Elevate Burlesque: that we’re all working hard, and all towards this same goal; and that at all times this single, universal, Community-wide goal is at the forefront of everyone’s motivations and thoughts - to the exclusion of individual needs and desires, so that it trumps and eclipses even personal events and real-world needs.

According to The Myth of Community, we all have the same artistic goals. We agree on what “is” and “isn’t” Burlesque. We all value the same things as people and as artists. And above all and beyond everything We all like each other and love each other and like each other, all the time and in all circumstances and we act like it too and we’re all best friends with everyone else, even the people we’ve sort of never really even met.


… You do realize that this is pathological, right? It runs counter to almost every facet of basic human nature - which somehow and subconsciously we know, we realize and understand. But the Myth is so pervasive (and glittery and attractive and unicorns and butts omg yay!!!) that we all buy into it  - we pretty much have to, in order to Succeed At Burlesque. (Remember: you’re never going to Be Voted Number One if you put yourself first without also putting The Community first too.)

The Myth feeds and fuels all the feelings of entitlement, butthurtédness and persecution, the lack mentality, the competition hysteria and zero-sum mentality, the climbing and posing and starfucking and cutting down and backbiting and shade-throwing and simple basic lying that creates such a wildly unpleasant and constant undercurrent to everything that we do.

Because of course we’re human: and it is in the nature of humans to be selfish. Not grab-all-the-candy, tax-the-poor, kick-the-orphans-out-of-the-hospital Gordon Gekko greedy, but we all have our individual needs, desires, likes and dislikes, goals, values and opinions. Sometimes these synch up with other people’s, and sometimes they do not; but either way truly and honestly our only obligation is to seeing that serving our own goals doesn’t actively hurt or intentionally deprive others. And that is called Existing In Society.

When we Exist in Society, we get to make the decision to collaborate artistically or financially or personally with this individual rather than that one. When someone hurts or is unkind to us – deliberately or by accident - we are allowed to speak up about it to that person. Artistic opinions can be expressed and discussed without personal attack or reprisal. We get to spend our leisure time with people whose company we enjoy, with no implied obligations on our professional time and relationships (and vice versa). We get to work towards goals that are meaningful to us personally, to not participate in events that are uncomfortable or unpleasant or uninteresting to us, to avoid situations that would mean interacting with people that hurt us, or disrespect us, or who we simply and for no particular reason just kinda don’t like. WE ARE ALLOWED TO JUST KINDA OR ACTUALLY AND IN FACT NOT LIKE PEOPLE, FOR NO PARTICULAR REASON OR FOR ACTUAL REASONS TOO.


And so.

In rejecting the Myth, we’re not instituting a self-centered free-for-all. We’re simply freeing ourselves of these self-imposed obligations of behavior and interaction that constantly butt up against the nature of humans in general and Us Sensitive Artist Types in particular:

When we reject The Myth of Community we’re acknowledging that we’re not one giant hydra-headed single-minded “glittertribe,” but countless self-created, geographically-convenient, interest- or circumstance-based groups, cliques, families, companies, troupes and organizations, some of which overlap in a giant Venn Diagram and others of which exist as independent satellites - and that is alright.

When we reject The Myth of Community we’re acknowledging that not everyone is at the same place in their artistic journey, that not everyone has the same level of experience or training or talent, and that opportunity, compensation and recognition are based at least in part on these factors - and that is okay.

When we reject The Myth of Community we’re acknowledging that the reasons for which people participate in burlesque are varied and infinite; that one person can have several or many different reasons and that these can change over time and with personal experience; that often different people’s goals are complementary but many times they are not - and that is acceptable. 

When we reject The Myth of Community we’re acknowledging that “art” has as many definitions as the people who create it - and that is as it should be.

When we reject The Myth of Community we’re acknowledging that humans are just that – human – with different personalities and experiences and outlooks and intellectual responses and emotional responses and likes and dislikes and relationships and attractions, that everyone is owed basic human respect and that that is the only thing everyone is owed - and that is, simply, what existing as human beings means.


So when we reject this Myth what, practically, happens?


The idea that there is one single “definition” of burlesque finally being discarded as ludicrous, no show or performer is any longer dismissed by others as being “just classic” or “only doing weird shit” – or indeed is required to define it- or herself in any way. The fucking pointless Is burlesque stripping? non-discussion finally just stops. If people want to perform or produce or teach solely as a lucrative and early-retirement-friendly career, they are free to do so to the best of their ability and the limit the market will allow. If people want to create performances or shows simply for the sheer artistic exhilaration of it and never charge a dime, they are free to collaborate with like-minded individuals and organizations to do so. Other artists will agree or decline to work under these conditions as they so choose. If people want more than anything only to re-create historical striptease with absolute accuracy, or just to perform neo-burlesque based on pop culture references, or solely to be recognized with a particular title or crown, they are free to work towards these goals with as much or as little energy, focus, money and time as they choose to expend.

With producers under no perceived obligation to book anyone, backstage and online bitching about why so-and-so never books me stops, creating a far more professional and pleasant environment for everyone. Forced instead to both evaluate their own attitude and skill level and to learn to interact with peers in a businesslike and appropriate manner, performers, producers and others elevate the level of skill and professionalism across the board. With this increased level of professionalism comes independent, value-based decision-making (“Your host tells racist jokes onstage, so I will not perform with your show”) and also actual accountability (“I choose not to hire you because you speak very badly of this show to other producers and performers.”) With this transparency, rumor-mongering is no longer tolerated and thousands of social media ‘secret groups’ are disbanded. The number of Facebook-fueled pre-ulcerous conditions among artstrippers plummets. 

Without an undefined, constantly contradictory notion of “community” fueling commentary on all ideas and events people focus on their own work rather than monitoring everybody else’s. They work towards fostering meaningful real-world interactions with other living breathing beings, rather than speaking only through the comments section or vaguebooking. They work with whom they choose, for whatever personal or professional reasons they like, while expecting or requiring nothing from those with whom they do not have any relationship.

Festivals become actual ‘reunions’ around the world and celebrations of the various facets of the art form, rather than in-name-or-in-notion attendance-obligatory cookie-cutter pageants. Numerically-ranked voting lists vanish in a puff of illogic and the endless commentary on these lists is instead channeled towards proficient and informed reviews and discussions of art and of craft. Literally almost everyone never wins Miss Exotic World. There is no Next Dita, the Facebook police still crack down on stage names, bots still flag nipple pics and trolls still call us sluts and fatties in the comments section.

And because we don’t have the obligation of Community to contend with all the time, we simply deal with it all in our own individual ways, with the support of our actual friends and families, and with an actual mindfulness towards others’ journeys and the impact that our words and actions have on them beyond trite floral inspirational #myshowgirlfamily quotes on Instagram.


Most of this of course will never happen. It is the utopian fantasy of a middle-aged wiseass title-less non-numerically-important neo-ecdysiast whose goal is to create weird smart shit with like-minded, dependable and adventurous artists, and to sell enough tickets to that shit to pay her exorbitant rent and not die of scurvy in the streets of New York. Would she like to be Heralded as The Eternal Queen of What She Does? She surely would. She would like to be ensconced as Permanent Number One for A Life In Art, Flawlessly Exhibited. She would like to see her Enemies Vanquished By Fire, she would like everyone to agree with her all the time, and to Do Better, and to shut the fuck up about everyone else for a goddamned minute and live their own fucking lives. Is that gonna happen? Ain’t. After twelve years of it the best she can hope for is one single hour when all the other butthurt whiners just do their work, and leave everyone else alone to do their work too.

And so I do enter into a new era of fucklessness. I’d invite you along but really, at this point, I don’t give a fuck. I’ll be over here like an adult caring about the things and people that matter to me and that care back, and not worrying about the rest of it .

But I’m sure I’ll hear everyone’s thoughts on that through the grapevine eventually, anyway.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Desert Island Strips: Legs Malone

--> “If you were to be cast away on a desert island ... which three striptease numbers, one burlesque performer, and single act of your own would you bring along to keep yourself sane and entertained?”

Desert Island Strips: Episode 04
This month's castaway to the island is performer, producer, curator and Wu Tao teacher Legs Malone, interviewed on November 25th, 2014 in New York City.


or listen to the podcast here:

Stalker's Paradise:

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Ask The Experts: David McCullough

--> "So here we are: commencement. Life's great forward-looking ceremony …

Commencement is life's great ceremonial beginning, with its own attendant and highly appropriate symbolism.  Fitting, for example, for this auspicious rite of passage, is where we find ourselves this afternoon, the venue.  Normally, I avoid clichés like the plague, wouldn't touch them with a ten-foot pole, but here we are on a literal level playing field.  That matters.  That says something.  And your ceremonial costume… shapeless, uniform, one-size-fits-all.  Whether male or female, tall or short, scholar or slacker, spray-tanned prom queen or intergalactic X-Box assassin, each of you is dressed, you'll notice, exactly the same.  And your diploma… but for your name, exactly the same.

All of this is as it should be, because none of you is special.

You are not special.  You are not exceptional.

Contrary to what your … soccer trophy suggests, your glowing seventh grade report card, despite every assurance of a certain corpulent purple dinosaur, that nice Mister Rogers and your batty Aunt Sylvia, no matter how often your maternal caped crusader has swooped in to save you: you're nothing special.

Yes, you've been pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble-wrapped.  Yes, capable adults with other things to do have held you, kissed you, fed you, wiped your mouth, wiped your bottom, trained you, taught you, tutored you, coached you, listened to you, counseled you, encouraged you, consoled you and encouraged you again.  You've been nudged, cajoled, wheedled and implored.  You've been feted and fawned over and called sweetie pie.  Yes, you have.  And, certainly, we've been to your games, your plays, your recitals, your science fairs.  Absolutely, smiles ignite when you walk into a room, and hundreds gasp with delight at your every tweet … Now you've conquered high school - and, indisputably, here we all have gathered for you, the pride and joy of this fine community …

But do not get the idea you're anything special.  Because you're not.

The empirical evidence is everywhere, numbers even an English teacher can't ignore … across the country no fewer than 3.2 million seniors are graduating about now from more than 37,000 high schools.  That's 37,000 valedictorians; 37,000 class presidents; 92,000 harmonizing altos; 340,000 swaggering jocks; 2,185,967 pairs of Uggs.  But why limit ourselves to high school?  After all, you're leaving it.  So think about this: even if you're one in a million, on a planet of 6.8 billion that means there are nearly 7,000 people just like you.  Imagine standing somewhere over there on Washington Street on Marathon Monday and watching sixty-eight hundred yous go running by …

"But, Dave," you cry, "Walt Whitman tells me I'm my own version of perfection!  Epictetus tells me I have the spark of Zeus!"  And I don't disagree.  So that makes 6.8 billion examples of perfection, 6.8 billion sparks of Zeus.  You see, if everyone is special, then no one is.  If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless.  In our unspoken but not so subtle Darwinian competition with one another - which springs, I think, from our fear of our own insignificance, a subset of our dread of mortality - we have of late, we Americans, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement.  We have come to see them as the point - and we're happy to compromise standards, or ignore reality, if we suspect that's the quickest way, or only way, to have something to put on the mantelpiece, something to pose with, crow about, something with which to leverage ourselves into a better spot on the social totem pole.  No longer is it how you play the game, no longer is it even whether you win or lose, or learn or grow, or enjoy yourself doing it. Now it's "So what does this get me?" As a consequence, we cheapen worthy endeavors, and building a Guatemalan medical clinic becomes more about the application to Bowdoin than the well-being of Guatemalans.  It's an epidemic - and in its way, not even dear old Wellesley High is immune: one of the best of the 37,000 nationwide …  I said "one of the best" so we can feel better about ourselves, so we can bask in a little easy distinction, however vague and unverifiable, and count ourselves among the elite, whoever they might be, and enjoy a perceived leg up on the perceived competition.  But the phrase defies logic.  By definition there can be only one best.  You're it or you're not.

If you've learned anything in your years here I hope it's that education should be for, rather than material advantage, the exhilaration of learning.  You've learned, too, I hope, as Sophocles assured us, that wisdom is the chief element of happiness. (Second is ice cream - just an fyi.)  I also hope you've learned enough to recognize how little you know - how little you know now, at the moment, for today is just the beginning.  It's where you go from here that matters.

As you commence, then, and before you scatter to the winds, I urge you to do whatever you do for no reason other than you love it and believe in its importance.  Don't bother with work you don't believe in any more than you would a spouse you're not crazy about ...  Resist the easy comforts of complacency, the specious glitter of materialism, the narcotic paralysis of self-satisfaction.  Be worthy of your advantages.  And read - read all the time, read as a matter of principle, as a matter of self-respect.  Read as a nourishing staple of life.  Develop and protect a moral sensibility and demonstrate the character to apply it.  Dream big.  Work hard.  Think for yourself.  Love everything you love, everyone you love, with all your might.  And do so, please, with a sense of urgency, for every tick of the clock subtracts from fewer and fewer; and as surely as there are commencements there are cessations, and you'll be in no condition to enjoy the ceremony attendant to that eventuality no matter how delightful the afternoon.

The fulfilling life, the distinctive life, the relevant life, is an achievement, not something that will fall into your lap because you're a nice person or mommy ordered it from the caterer.  You'll note the founding fathers took pains to secure your inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - quite an active verb, "pursuit" - which leaves, I should think, little time for lying around watching parrots roller skate on YouTube.  The first President Roosevelt, the old rough rider, advocated the strenuous life.  Mr. Thoreau wanted to drive life into a corner, to live deep and suck out all the marrow.  The poet Mary Oliver tells us to row, row into the swirl and roil … The point is the same: get busy, have at it.  Don't wait for inspiration or passion to find you.  Get up, get out, explore, find it yourself, and grab hold with both hands …

None of this day-seizing, though … should be interpreted as license for self-indulgence.  Like accolades ought to be, the fulfilled life is a consequence, a gratifying byproduct.  It's what happens when you're thinking about more important things.  Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view.  Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.  Go to Paris to be in Paris, not to cross it off your list and congratulate yourself for being worldly.  Exercise free will and creative, independent thought not for the satisfactions they will bring you, but for the good they will do others, the rest of the 6.8 billion - and those who will follow them.  And then you too will discover the great and curious truth of the human experience is that selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself.  The sweetest joys of life, then, come only with the recognition that you're not special.

Because everyone is.

Congratulations.  Good luck.  Make for yourselves, please, for your sake and for ours, extraordinary lives."

- David McCullough
2012 Commencement Speech, Wellesley High (Wellesley, MA)

Monday, April 21, 2014

Desert Island Strips: Don Spiro

--> “If you were to be cast away on a desert island ... which three striptease numbers, one burlesque performer, and single act of your own would you bring along to keep yourself sane and entertained?”

Desert Island Strips: Episode 03
This month's castaway to the island is photographer, cocktail expert and vintage style maven Don Spiro, interviewed on March 21st, 2014 in New York City.


or listen to the podcast here:

Stalker's Paradise:

Wits End
Zelda Magazine

Monday, April 7, 2014

Ask The Experts: Michael Chabon

--> “The pop artisan operates within the received formulas – gangster movie, radio-ready A-side, space opera – and then incorporates into the style, manner, and mood of the work bits and pieces derived from all the aesthetic moments he or she has ever fallen in love with, in other movies or songs or novels, whether hackwork or genius (without regard for and sometimes without consciousness of any difference between the two: the bridge in a song by the Moonglows, a James Wong Howe camera angle, a Sabatini cannonade, a Stan Getz solo, the climax of The Demolished Man, a locmotive design by Raymond Loewy, a Shecky Green routine). When it works, what you get is not a collection of references, quotes, allusions, and cribs but a whole, seamless thing, both familiar and new: a record of the consciousness that was busy falling in love with those moments in the first place. It’s that filtering consciousness, coupled with the physical ability (or whatever it is) to flat-out play or sing or write or draw, that transforms the fragments and jetsam and familiar pieces into something fresh and unheard of. If that sounds a lot like what flaming genius gods are supposed to be up to, then here’s a distinction: The pop artisan is always hoping that, in the end, the thing is going to be Huge. He is haunted by a vision of pop perfection: heartbreaking beauty that moves units.”

Introduction: Chaykin and Flagg!