Big thanks to Angie Pontani for her love. She must have liked our ridiculously thorough coverage of the burlesque festival, and invited us to come and see her show at Corio (Weekly, Thurs.-Sat.). And by “invite,” I mean free tickets, which is a big deal considering how completely broke I am these days. Congrats to Murry & Angie: this recession-proof extravaganza was sold out for both the 7:30 and 9:30 shows!
It took Murray Hill less than two minutes to single me out of the crowd and start calling me a homosexual, but it took me less than a minute to fantasize about banging him in the ass. Does that make me gay? What is it about a middle-aged man with a mustache wearing a “Don Knotts jacket” that just makes me want to bend him over backstage? He’s given out his phone number and his address so many times, I’m sorely tempted to stop by, get some polyester burns, snort a fat rail off his double chin and let him take me out for some corned beef hash. Then again, even if I could reconcile the opposing factions of my own sexuality, it doesn’t change the fact that being called a homo by a square dressed like THAT is, like, totally a compliment. Yes, Murray, this is one of my nicest shirts. Thanks for noticing.
(To the uninitiated, who may not be aware that Murry Hill is a drag king, yes, you are missing the best part of this routine.)
I gotta give a double helping of the dirty for two reasons: 1) Murray is one dirty old man, and 2) he’s the dirtiest part of this show. If you love burlesque—and who doesn’t—but your girlfriend is a little shy, or your boyfriend is a little boner-phobic in public, or your parents are in town, or you’re about to get married, or the Marketing VP from the Mid-Atlantic Region is in town and you’re not sure how a strip club will go over, or, if you’re just with a gang of Burlesque virgins with money to burn, “This is Burlesque” is the only game in town. “Family show,” Murray oft repeated throughout the eve, and ‘tis true. Good, clean, wholesome family entertainment, with exorbitantly lovely ladies getting 99% naked. Clean, but still hot. The lovely ladies are offset by Murray’s filthy mouth and insouciant come-ons; like a PG-13 movie, the talk is dirtier than the sex.
Corio’s upstairs is a small, intimate space, with low tables, square, cushiony seats, and low lighting, not unlike sitting in a sunken living room and waiting for the make-out session to begin. The waitresses are acceptably sexy, in tight pants and black corsets. We were escorted to our seats by stage kitten Lil’ Miss Lixx (insert sound of J.D. biting his own fist). Warning: if you want to sit with your friends, make sure you buy all your tickets together. As the space slowly began to fill up, I was struck by the crowd—groups of girls, including a bachelorette party, mixed groups of men and women, an entire family (Murray’s fodder), and more than anything, couples on dates. Not a single group of horny male bastards out for titillation. Family show.
Murray opened with his signature “Show Biz,” and immediately started busting chops. The kid is quick. My editor and I were deemed homosexuals, the bachelorette party was invited to do a couple lines, the family was lambasted for perversion, and an older man on a date was eviscerated for his body language. Oh, Murray, that red and yellow tapestry jacket looks like it was cut out of the cushions of a ‘70s couch that even Traci Lords wouldn’t have fucked on.
Angie Pontani got the party started in a zebra-striped two-piece with sparkles, busting that slow ass-grind turn that’s made her famous. Revealing an African drum, she straddled it and banged out a beat along with the music, giving a whole new interpretation to “Bang the Drum Slowly.” She stripped down to striped gold pasties and the audience was officially initiated. Angie is able to strip down to near-nudity while keeping an innocent air about her better than any performer this side of Bangkok.
Peekaboo Pointe entered in a short top, bare midriff, a long skirt open at the front and independent of the gossamer white fabric descending from her behind. She executed a quick disrobe and—BAM! The entire place blacked out. No lights, no sound. You know a girl’s hot when simply taking a few clothes off can blow a fuse. Well, that’s showbiz in the off-off-off-off-off-Broadway world, so Murray vamped, the house crew recovered, and we got to see the act AGAIN. This time it was easier to notice that, yes, Peekaboo’s short top is riding up on purpose—allowing her the supernova move of slowly pulling it back down over her breasts—and I wasn’t busy taking notes when the gossamer white back piece was removed by being pulled tightly and roughly up across her—ahem—lady parts. The “fastest tassel twirler” did not disappoint, executing a furious backbend with face upside-down to the crowd, tassels spinning in Doppler-defying fury.
Helen Pontani did her tap act in red to the “Naughty Girl” cover, previously covered in these pages. Not that I mind seeing it again. Not that I would mind seeing it a hundred more times. Seriously, I don’t ever want to meet Helen face to face or have even the most casual conversation with her. If I accidentally found out that she didn’t like dogs, had a whiny Fran Drescher voice, or wasn’t down with receiving oral sex for hours on end, it would destroy my most pervasive masturbation fantasy. As long as I can imagine directing her in Oscar-winning roles and eclipsing Matthew Barney and Bjork as the hottest celebrity couple, not to mention practicing procreation ad infinitum, I’m happy.
Special guest Miss Saturn hooped it up to the Scissor Sisters’ cover of “Comfortably Numb” in an orange wig, orange top and short shorts, starting with 3 hoops on her hands and neck. She escalated to four, isolating them and getting them to spin in different orbits, two on each arm; then holding one in each hand while spinning the other two double-time on her elbows. Moving to five, with two on her waist, two on her neck, and one on a raised hand, she executed a step pattern, her mouth moving in “ooo” and “yeah,” alluding to sex without stepping into un-family terrain. I should add at this point that the hoops were added by Miss Lixx, who spent the majority of the show seated next to Murray, next to the stage, behind the bar dubbed “Murray’s Beaver Lodge.” From here Murray tossed out smart-ass comments during the acts themselves, giving the show a Statler and Waldorf spin.
Helen Pontani and Peekaboo Pointe did a simple ‘60s go-go act in tall boots and skimpy tops and hot pants made up of sequined (“bedazzled,” in Murray’s phrase) foreign flags. Costumes by Helen, as if I needed another reason to love her. Like her brunette wig. Or the fact that she never takes anything off. As the audience dug into their main course, Murray quipped that he “doesn’t eat here,” and I began to wonder how anyone could eat and watch this show at the same time. I don’t like to mix food and sex. I’m too easily Pavlov-ed, and would hate to find myself at a Jewish wedding getting a stiffy from the veal.
Angie debuted a new glamorous dress, doing a classic, old-school tease to Bobbie “Blue” Bland’s “36-22-36.” Truly stunning in formal 50s fashion, the copper-hued number featured an hour-glass cut with tight waist and belled bottom, with a big flower in her hair and an oversized copper and peach boa. She lost the dress, revealing a bright red corset offsetting a copper bra and panties. Her second song was “After the Lights Go Down Low”—was that the Lou Rawls version?—doing slow twirls and knee bends, using the boa as a skirt and pulling her panties off behind it, doing a back bend to lose the bra, and using the boa as a dress, agonizingly, since we all knew she was all but naked behind it. And ah, the final reveal. You just want to throw a quilt over her and snuggle up until, say, April.
At intermission, Murray fed us free shots at his Beaver Bar—some pink vodka and absinthe concoction. I could’ve had six more. He opened the second act with “I Like Chicks,” and we were treated to the Pontani Sisters’ now staple Las Vegas act, in big showgirl headdresses decorated with the faces of the Rat Pack. I particularly loved the white kid gloves with silver accents.
Miss Saturn came out again with her long blonde hair in a top knot, wearing stockings and a red dress cut just above the knee. She shook her ass like Olivia in dirty-girl garb at the end of “” to “Shake Your Money Maker,” starting with one hoop. She escalated to six hoops, lifting her dress to reveal garters—nice—and frilly red spanking shorts. She began to pull the dress up over her head and got it stuck—making her effectively blind as Murray continuously tossed hoop after hoop over her head. She caught them all flawlessly on her waist, keeping them all going while still blinded by her dress, and—wardrobe malfunction!—lost a pastie, which meant that she took her curtain call with one hand covering her nipple. Just a little bonus for those of us who’ve learned to never blink.
Helen Pontani treated us once again in a black corset, black shorts, black top hat with feathers and black gloves, busting a tap routine to ‘20s rag jazz. The end of the act culminated in a ripping Charleston and a drop to the splits. I ordered a glass of cold absinthe to splash into my eyes.
Now the audience participation. Murray Hill brought up a banker, a lawyer, and “Stephanie”—the bachelorette (also Murray’s crush of the evening)—for Murray’s Challenge. Saturday night the challenge was a Britney Spears dance-off. Needless to say, it brought the house down, as everyone enjoys watching their friends make asses of themselves. The lawyer tried, at least, doing a little shoulder shimmy and wiggling his ass; the banker had positively no sense of rhythm and made me proud to be a homosexual; and Stephanie had it in the bag simply by wearing a skirt, mouthing the lyrics, and not being afraid to wiggle with Murray. Murray took another chance to diss us—“Those fags are thinking, these are the straightest people I’ve ever seen”—which was welcome, since Angie must have clued him in during the intermission and he’d spent most of the second act referring to us as “bloggers.” I turned to my editor: “I’d rather be gay than be a blogger.” At least gay guys get laid.
Peekaboo Pointe gave us her sailor act, previously described in these pages. Her self-wedgie and attempt to fist her own mouth were certainly the most racy moments of the evening. And Angie wrapped it up with her now-classic oyster act. (If you haven’t seen it, you need to get out more. Why watching Angie make love to a giant pearl is so infinitely alluring, I just don’t understand — and don’t need to.) The entire cast came out in cutesy red-with-white-polka-dot spaghetti-strap tops and led the crowd in a rendition of “New York, New York.”
As the audience paid their tabs and tried to get out—the staircase was a Black Friday traffic jam, as the bar downstairs was mobbed with the audience for the second show and everyone coming or going was fighting for the coat check—I turned to our neighbors, who were London tourists visiting New York on a shopping spree to take advantage of the Almighty Weak Dollar: a hot blonde, a cute brunette, and their middle-aged, overweight boss. I wanted to know what three women were doing at the show. How did they find it? They were recommended by the staff at their hotel, the Soho Grand. Were any of them gay? No. So what gives? They called it fun, and said that they’d seen plenty of burlesque in the Big Smoke. The older woman called it “tongue-in-cheek,” and they all agreed that burlesque wasn’t “grubby” or “seedy,” like strip clubs, but “glamorous.” When I asked what they thought of this show in particular, I got two “fantastic”s and an “amazing.” They seemed to find the lack of silicone and the presence of tattoos (Angie, Peekaboo) “comforting,” and claimed that burlesque performers looked more like normal women than the artificiality found at topless joints. I had to call bullshit. True, there was no silicone on hand, but it’s difficult for me to excuse Angie & Helen Pontani, Peekaboo Pointe, and Miss Saturn as “normal” women. Their bodies are spectacular, and any of them would look as natural on the cover of Cosmo as they do on stage. While I appreciate the sentiment, were I a woman, these four incredible specimens would make me slightly insecure about my own body. Shit—they make me slightly insecure about the bodies I’ve been bedding lately. I had to wonder if the older Englishwoman was really on point when she called the show “harmless.” It sounded mildly insulting.
The tourists did admit to finding the women beautiful, as well as the costumes. Admiring clothes and appreciating half-naked bodies… perhaps this is an outlet for otherwise “straight” women, much in the way that watching grown men in tight clothes rub up against each other on a grassy field numbered with the basic positions of the Kama Sutra is a socially acceptable manner for supposedly “straight” males to exercise their homophilic desires. Or maybe more of them want to get down with Murray than will ever admit to yours truly.
I finally made it to the bar and sucked down a couple beers while absentmindedly flirting with the blonde, despite the fact that she was English. As the tourists donned coats to face the elements, I encouraged them to look me up the next time they were in town, and the middle-aged party pooper replied, in a crass, stringent tone, “I think we’ll go out with the gay friends that we already have.” Thanks Murray.
[Editor’s note: A big thank you to Pat McAvoy for providing the pix for this article.]