Monday, December 31, 2012

Part I: Unbridled Enthusiasm or, Things I Liked A Lot In 2012

--> Last night kind of sucked, for reasons that are none of your damn business. And so, as is my wont, in my consequent insomniac state I managed to transfer that suckiness to every aspect of my life, work, art and career, such that by 4:30 this morning I had retired from showbusiness, dyed my hair brown, adopted three cats, moved back to New England and gotten a job at a strip-mall Circuit City. And then I realized several things:

One, Circuit City went bankrupt years ago;
Two, I really, really dislike cats; and
Three, It’s up to me to choose to end this year on a positive note.

Complaining is easier than praise: that’s why the bad Yelp reviews run to sixteen paragraphs of ungrammatical vitriol, while the good ones are three words long (“That was awesome!!!”). And while we all love a good razor-sharp Dorothy Parker-style evisceration*, today - for once - before that magical transformation that happens at the stroke of midnight apparently, I choose to defy that instinct and talk about a few of the things that impressed, delighted and inspired me this past year.

In no particular order, and without anyone having had to solicit website votes to be included, here are Some Things I Liked A Lot This Year:

Penny Wren’s ‘Horny Penguin’ act (Brooklyn)

I’ve seen a lot of stupid stuff in my time, and this might just be one of the most brilliantly stupidest: a spheniscid** striptease that combines the pathos of the lonely penguin traversing the arctic wastes (to Morgan Freeman’s March Of The Penguins narration) with some very happy tapdancing feet, all mixed with flirtatious and exuberant breakdance moves (I defy you to watch footage of penguins belly-sliding on the ice and not see a Deadman Float) to 2 Live Crew’s immortal classic, “Me So Horny.” This act was everything I love: silly, surprising, technically stunning, completely joyous, and utterly idiotic. ***

Photos: Mo Pitz
Also I don’t know if Penny already owned the full-body penguin suit before she created this act, and I don’t want to know. 

Flirty Sanchez’s performance at rePRODUCTION (Seattle)

I don’t know if this act has a title, and I’m hesitant to attempt to describe it in detail as I don’t think I can do it any justice. It is an incredibly, almost devastatingly personal piece that to me (I can’t and won’t attempt to speak to whatever inspired Flirty to create the act, or what statement she might personally intend it to make) is a meditation on the physical and emotional effects of abuse, and the possibility of transcending those effects. Conceptually it was incredible, and beautifully executed: there was a tremendous strength and an almost deceptive calm to the performance that seemed exactly right to me. It pushed the boundaries of “burlesque” in an absolutely inspiring way - the word “stunning” applies all over the place in relation to this act.

Also I had to perform myself shortly after watching it … which meant completely re-doing my sobbed-off makeup on the fly. Thanks a lot, Sanchez.

Bathtub Gin (Manhattan)

I’ve had the privilege of performing regularly at Bathtub Gin with Wasabassco for almost exactly a year now, and it has become one of my absolute favorite venues of, like, ever. Not a performance space per se, it’s rather an intimate, immaculately-decorated back-room speakeasy. (The entrance is through a coffee shop so deceptively perfect that it’s easy to miss the venue entirely.) (And the coffee is damn good, too.) The fancy-ass cocktails are delicious, there are big squooshy couches, you can order s’mores for dessert, and yes, there’s a bathtub - all of which is fantastic for the audience. From the performers’ and producer’s point of view, it has been an utter delight to work in such a lovely space with a staff that is across the board pleasant, thoughtful, and eager to work with us to create the best evening of entertainment possible.

And the fancy-ass cocktails are delicious.

Mr. Gorgeous (NYC)

Another of the great joys of this past year was getting to perform more often with Mr. Gorgeous, who has become one of my absolute favorite people both to work with and to watch. His acts are splendid, from concept (often ‘masculinizing’ traditional elements of burlesque in wonderfully effective ways) to execution (he’s a fantastic prop- and costume-builder) to performance (not only a skilled acrobat, he also acts the hell out of every character he performs).

Also he’s lovely to share a backstage with and has an idiotic streak a mile wide. ***

Photo: Edgar Delacroix
St. Stella & James and The Giant Pasty’s ‘Statue’ act (Toronto)

St. Stella is a delightfully dreamy art student and James is a (well-cast) Classical sculpture whose worlds collide … this act is smart, loving, wry, visually beautiful, and again tremendously joyous (as much as utter idiocy, I am eternally inspired and energized by performers who take the stage with such a radiant joy). I’ve seen James and St. Stella perform together and individually, I’ve shared several backstages (and, for a weekend, their lovely apartment) with these folks, and I can’t wait for more.

(… And while I’m on the subject, a brief bit of sloppy love to Boylesque T.O. and the Toronto burlesque scene in general. Holy crap is there some fabulous stuff happening up there.)

Amanda Whip (NYC)

It is difficult to describe Amanda Whip without resorting to inarticulate drool … but it is a drool based on extreme professional respect, I assure you. To say that she is a fantastic “stage manager” or “stage kitten” doesn’t do justice to her amazing ability to pull just enough order from the surrounding chaos to make a show run smoothly, while still leaving room for the unexpected to happen. She is utterly fearless, truly gorgeous yet always willing to look like a complete idiot ***, amazingly bendy, and one of the most utterly warped and depraved souls I have ever met in such a deceptively sweet and innocent body.

Also she lets me bite her pasties off in a professional capacity on a monthly basis.

Also and in brief:

• I first met photographer Ben Trivett when I woke up to find him asleep on the floor of my Orlando hotel room a few years ago, but I didn’t get a chance to shoot with him until this summer. He’s incredible. Seriously: interweb-stalk him. 

• Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret made me want to move to Denver (and share a clubhouse with, among other people, Midnite Martini and Naughty Pierre). Rarely have I experienced such tremendous architectural envy.

Polesque 's yearly pole-dancing-burlesque-hybrid competition is one of the most literally jaw-dropping shows I have ever seen. I look forward to the next one.

... I’m leaving it there, even though (happily) the list keeps expanding even as I write it. But I invite everyone to reflect on the people, performances, places (and other p-words) that inspired, surprised or delighted you this year – whether or not you choose to share it somewhere (and I hope you do), it’s helpful to take a minute at the end of what has been for many of us a professionally vexatious season and head into the next year with the good stuff close behind us.

* While forgetting that for all her vermouth-soaked snark, Dorothy Parker was both a genius and a skilled and thoughtful critic. Your average FaceTube comment-troll is neither.
** Look it up.
*** This is, for the record, pretty much my highest term of praise.

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