Legends Panel Transcript: Burlesque Hall of Fame 2010


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Foreword by Tigger!

Legend Panel, Burlesque Hall of Fame

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Plaza Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada.

I was thrilled to finally attend Exotic World (now the Burlesque Hall of Fame) in 2006. Of course I was excited that they had opened up the pageant to men — the chance to perform for that audience is incomparable. And the never-ending performances over four marathon nights were beyond dazzling. But what affected me most profoundly were the living Legends. If you’ve only read histories of the earlier decades of burlesque or ogled the old photos, then you are missing out. This is a live and lively art, and these Legends are its Living History. They blazed the trails that we are riding today and made our improbable lives possible. I had already met Dixie Evans in 2001 and Satan’s Angel in 2003 at Tease-O-Ramas and adored them both. But Exotic World was unique because this was their reunion, and we had been invited. To hear them laugh about the old days together, to experience them performing for old friends, to have the honor of performing for all of them… it was overwhelming. Then and there, I volunteered to take on a brand new job, Legend Liaison. What else could I do? The generations had melted away and everyone there was in the same big, glittery, glamorous, bawdy, naughty, outrageously loving family… together. You’re about to read the transcript of the Legends Q&A Panel (an event I never miss). It’s from 2010, four years of chatting, laughing and stripping later. Eavesdrop on their 53rd annual reunion and join the family. Welcome! Take off your clothes and make yourself comfortable.

xxx Tigger!

Download the 2010 Burlesque Hall of Fame Legends Panel transcript as a PDF. 

Check out the Burlesque Hall of Fame website for burlesque photos, stories, reviews and news. 

Get tickets to the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend.

In 2010, the creators of Burlesque Beat assigned themselves the role of recording, transcribing, and making available to the public one of the most important annual events in burlesque, the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend Legends Panel. It may take us ten months to do it, but you will find the 2013 Burlesque Hall of Fame Legends Panel Transcript on these pages, with an introduction by…

Legends Panel Transcript: Burlesque Hall of Fame 2010

Dr. Lucky: So this year, I was hoping we could have a little bit more of a casual day together – that is why I had us do this. There is still some coffee and donuts back there if anybody wants some, you can help yourself.
I think what we will do this year is ask everyone to introduce themselves and tell us about what your most memorable performance experience is, and get some of the juicy stories. Once we’ve introduced all the legends, we are going to open it up for questions. I think that is the most exciting way to do this and then what I would like to do is I would like to chat for about an hour/hour and a half. Then I want to use the rest of our time here together just to have a little bit more of just a mingle so you can get a chance to have a one on one with the legends, so without further ado…

Satan’s Angel: Please make it short, geez the last time I was here I shaved my legs twice.

Tiffany Carter: Hello, I am Tiffany Carter, Miss Nude Universe 1975. I started off in Hollywood, California and one of the most memorable moments for me of course was when I won the pageant in Toronto, Canada. We were banned in Boston… went to Toronto for the pageant and that is where I won the Miss Nude Universe pageant. In my day of that it was not like a competition like you’re doing today, it was more like a beauty pageant where you get actually a gown… it didn’t have anything to do with your act or anything like that. It was basically a beauty pageant.
(Applause)

Dusty Summers: Hello my name is Dusty Summers, sometimes better known as Las Vegas’ only nude magician. I have been very fortunate I caught the very tail end of really old-time burlesque with the comics like Monkey Kirkland and Ralph Clifford and Bob Mitchell, so I got in on all of that. I got in on it when we did the fringe gogo bikini dancing – I had to go through every single step because really and truly I get really nervous when people are looking at my nude body. As you know, or some of you know anyway if you are brand new, this was the first time I went down to pasties since I have been doing this. (Applause) Anyway it had been that long since I started dancing nude down to pasties, so I am just a slow learner.

Big Fannie Annie: I am Big Fannie Annie, (Applause) and I was the first big girl to come out of the business at 450 lbs. and I worked that way up to 650 lbs. then I went back to 300 lbs. and god knows what I am today. That is my claim to fame because you are really thin – if you are five pounds over you would have to go home – they wouldn’t take you. Thank you.
(Applause)

Tai Ping: My name is Tai Ping, (Applause) I was named as (…) in the Midwest, in 1965 in Honolulu, I worked Forbidden City and there were scandals, and then they called me and that is when I had my first experience. I love Hawaii and they call me their own and that is when I first began.
(Applause)

Dee Milo: I am Dee Milo and I actually started Burlesque because it was an easier way of making money. I didn’t really have to rehearse a lot, I didn’t have to do too much but have some pretty wardrobe and good ankles. My manager was Joe Kirskey and he had me work in Japan and Mexico, up and down the west coast – not the east coast – and it was a lot of fun for me, and yes I provided extra finances for my family and there are some families who came in from Europe that I didn’t even know about at the time… so I started in ’49 and left in about ’63 because I was repenting. I went back home to Salt Lake City, Utah and joined the dominant religion. My mother said if you really repent you will burn and destroy all of your past, so I did. I guess in 1995 Dixie was on this program and I thought I am going to go and see these other gals, so here I am.
(Applause)

Satan’s Angel: She burned everything, she burned all her gowns, her pictures, I mean everything, she has nothing. You know who I am – I’m Satan’s Angel. (Applause) I’m the bad girl of burlesque. Thank you very much. And I got a potty mouth to death, you know. I actually was born and raised in San Francisco and I started there in 1961 for the same reason that most of ladies did. It was for the money, because I was making $99 in a corporate company every two weeks. And I could make $350 a week. Like, I could buy a car. I think my most craziest and wildest experience that ever happened to me and of course a lot of the girls have worked Alaska… was I was on stage dancing and this grizzly bear of a man comes running down the aisle screaming “Angel, Angel” and he is carrying this huge hunting rifle that he would shoot mooses with, I thought oh my God he hates me, he is going to shoot me. He runs up on the stage and he slams it down on the stage and says “I don’t get paid for three more months because I am working the pipe line and this is the most expensive thing I got and it cost me $500, or $5,000 whatever it was” so he gave me his rifle. They will throw gold nuggets at you. (…) So Alaska was probably the craziest and wildest, I mean them boys were real horny.
(Applause)

Joan Arline: It’s funny performing and wearing my 55 year old costume, but one of my husbands, my first husband was a marvelous musician and he is the one that suggested that I am not going to make much money staying as a dancer, go into Burlesque. I was from Connecticut, I didn’t know much about Burlesque and I certainly didn’t know how to spell it. …I had studied ballet and my mother was like how could Joanie go from ballet to Burlesque. They had a big building that was marked auditions, they both begin with “B” – anyway I have enjoyed Burlesque – there have been many fun moments, exciting moments. The prop had not been out of the shipping crate for 51 years because I decided when I went into Burlesque I will work five years, I will have a baby, when that baby is three years old, I will have a second baby. I planned my life, I lived my plan. So 51 years ago I got pregnant intentionally and the prop went into a crate. And three years late—well 2 and a half weeks after the third birthday, my son was born, so I did what I had planned. However, very thrilling moment was last Wednesday when the prop was taken out of the crate, and it was assembled. And I was so moved—it was a very moving thing because I used to talk to the man’s face on the prop doing the act, they like me, or my pasty’s loose, or whatever the problem was I would tell him during the act, so last Wednesday I did a show here with my son who is a performer and he did a semi-strip and sang, “Nothing But the Radio On” and it was good. Then he introduced me, the introduction was pretty wonderful and my biggest moment was fighting back the tears when the curtain was going to open and I am on my prop with my man there greeting me and my son is saying these wonderful things, that was a very thrilling experience.
(Applause)

April March: Hello, I am April March, (Applause) I went from being copy girl for the Daily Oklahoma in Oklahoma City to being the flower and cigarette girl at a place called The Derby Club in Oklahoma City. One evening I bumped into a little gentleman coming out of the ladies room and he thought I was on the show there and I said no, I said “I wouldn’t take my clothes off.” He gave me his card and he said you should be in show business. He said if you ever decide that you want to get into Burlesque, he said you come to Dallas, Texas and I will see what I can do. So I thought about it a while and I told my grandparents I’m going to Dallas to tap dance. On I went with my little tap dance costume, off to Dallas, went to The Theater Lounge which was owned by Mr. Barney Weinstein, and he was very surprised to see me but right away he started off with rehearsing with the band and I’ll never forget a stripper by the name of Halloween gave me my very first costume. So I remained at The Theater Lounge for a while, he gave me the name of April March, and I later on added “the First Lady of Burlesque” to that. I played mostly night clubs and supper clubs in the Midwest for a good many years and then I finally got out of show business for a while by getting married to a pharmacist that owned a couple of drug stores in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and I learned how to play golf. When I reentered show business later in the years from the theater circuit, I was called in to New York City to audition for Harold Minsky for one of his shows, so I had the distinction of being the only person who ever auditioned for Minsky that didn’t audition. He signed me to a contract right away by seeing me. So the Minsky show led to a six-week stay between shows and I went into the Ann Corio show. Ann Corio threw a press party for me and I met the editor of Sports Illustrated and I told him “Just the person I wanted to see.” I said I want to get written up in your magazine, and he said, Miss March I think that is highly improbable and I said, oh no sir, and he said I just don’t see any way, I said, sir, I have an eight handicap in golf. He looked at me and he said, Miss March, you’re full of shit. After that I said no, no I can prove it. He said would you be willing to go out to the Yonker’s Country Club with an associate editor and play a round of golf, I said yes sir. Anyway that was lined up through my agent and I went out and I played a whole round of golf, I beat the associate editor. Later on at poolside, I was back in another Minsky show in Wildwood New Jersey, the Manor Hotel, and I was doing a radio show poolside with a fella by the name of Bob London, and all of a sudden people started bringing me Sports Illustrated magazines over and asking me to autograph them. And I looked inside and by God I am page 48, there’s April March. … show business, I loved every minute of it and wanted to be a movie star, turned that down, I love Burlesque, I love the people I meet, I love the people in it and it is wonderful to see it resurging again.
(Applause)

Bob Rubberlegs: I’m Bob, some people know me as Rubberlegs, I am very fortunate because I am a novelty act. After I got out of the army I had taken a Go-Go routine. …unique costumes while I was in the army… They started booking me as a novelty act on Burlesque shows, one day the tape broke and I ended up doing comedy and killing a half hour before they got it ready. Dick Richards the MC said you’re funny, and he started teaching me Burlesque sketches, so I became a Burlesque comic. But the way I got started is my favorite, I was working – I was in high school about 1963 and I was working at a place called McDonald’s. A dollar an hour. That was minimum wage then and I worked all week long and I would take home a rip-roaring check of $36. We would go out to these clubs and just for fun I would get up on stage and goof around, dance a little bit. One club, this girl was making fun of me and said if you could do better get up and try it. I got up and danced and the owner liked it and hired me. They didn’t have just Go-Go girls then, they were Go-Go dancers. There were no male or female. I was getting paid—he hired me—$10 a night, I would dance five hours, I get free drinks, some girl would pick me up. (Applause) The good clubs, the really big ones started paying $15 an hour to get the good dancers, so I moved into a couple of those. But there was one club in Hoboken, New Jersey – Anybody from Jersey? There is a place called Augie Delanos’s. Augie Delano’s paid $20 a night. We worked five nights and on Friday and Saturday night, if it was a good night, he would tip us an extra $20. That is like making $2,000 a week today. I bought a car—I was making over $100 a week. I was working there for about three months, I show up, the place is all boarded up, police tape on it, Augie Delano was printing $20 bills in the back room. (Applause/Laughter) Anyway I worked everything from kids’ shows to stags, I remember one time the Boundary at Monticello, a totally nude club and I am doing all my comedy, I went from there at 3:00 in the morning, I drove down to Jersey and I am on a telethon with Ronald McDonald. I had to flip flop. Being a novelty act, you girls were legend, you’re in one venue and that was it. I went from different venues, day by day, which was fun. But I have had a ball and I have met the most wonderful people in the business. I am going to write a book one day it’s going to say, “I have never been rich, I have never been famous, but I have had a hell of a good time staying that way.”
(Applause)

Toni Elling: My name is Toni Elling. I am from Detroit, Michigan. I got in the business rather late – I was 32 when I started which I understand is when everybody else was getting out of it because their bodies had begun to go. (Laughter) But, no, that is what happened I started at 32. I worked in it from 1960 until 1974 when I did my last show, so when I was asked to work here in the pageant, I thought well I haven’t been on stage in 40 some years, I can’t do this. But Dixie asked me to and I said well I’ll think about it, if I do, it will be for you. So I did it and it was fine, I felt like I never had left. These people are the great—don’t get me started on that, let me tell you. I will be in tears in a minute, but this is the finest group of people, they really are wonderful. But I’ll tell you a funny thing that happened to me. I sang in my act, so I was working in the northwest territories and I had done my singing and then I did my strip, and the people were saying sing some more. I thought sing some more I am standing up here naked you know. I said what – we want to hear some more singing. I said but I am through, I am naked… pasties, stockings and shoes. They said well that’s alright, it wasn’t alright with me… but you have to give them what they want. Find out what they want, how they want it, and give it to ‘em just like that. So I put my boa around me, I had to have something, what do you want to call it, a crutch. And I sang in the nude, and then I had to sing in the nude the rest of the engagement because it got all over town, all my audiences demanded it every night. It was fun, but I thought that was the funniest thing in the world to sing with no clothes on.
(Applause)

Viva LaFever: Hi, I’m Viva LaFever. (Applause) I am originally from western Pennsylvania and I went to San Francisco on a 2-week vacation in 1971 during my last semester in college and decided to stay. I got into Burlesque within a month and I got on the road within two weeks and I traveled around and met a lot of people. I told you the stories over the years that were probably my most memorable and I don’t want to repeat myself. I think I told you about putting out a fire on stage when Camille was on—and about trying to knock some guy out who had grabbed me from behind and ended up hitting the wrong guy. (Laughter) And a few other things, but I would have to say, that when I left the business I became a newspaper driver, driving a little newspaper truck. Then within a few years I ran for teamster office and became a Teamster Official and then I moved up to President. I totally left this behind me, and one year Camille 2000 called me from Florida and we drove down to the desert and she introduced me to this. A few years later the Devilettes cornered me and they said we are going to get you on stage, and I said no not me I am too out of shape. I don’t do that anymore, you know. I went back to Pennsylvania to help with my sick father and they called me and wanted to know my measurements, I come back and they had made me a dress. They slapped on a pair of boots and teach me the routine, I had never Go-Go’d before. And we opened the show at The Orleans last year. (Applause)

Dinah Might: This is my first time here and my name is Dinah Might. (Applause) I started out at the Follies in San Francisco, which I just thoroughly loved. I did… my claim to fame there was falling off into the orchestra pit which I guess is no longer there. One real funny thing that happened to us was we got raided, I was taken to jail for lewd and lascivious behavior and I remember the girl that I was in the cell with, she was working there and we left our false eyelashes stuck to the wall in the jail cell. So we left our mark.
(Applause)

Gypsy Louise: This is my first time here. I am not as famous as all these ladies.
Satan’s Angel: Sure you are.
Gypsy: No I am not.
Off: What is your name, give us your name.
Gypsy: This is an introduction to all the people that I have been talking to back stage, I started as a topless dancer.
Off: What’s your name?

Gypsy: I am sorry, my name is Gypsy Louise. (Applause) I started as a topless dancer and I auditioned for Shirley MacLaine two times, for two movies, and I thought, man I am good, I am going to Las Vegas. So I came to Las Vegas and I thought I was going to be a showgirl and the showgirls were so tall, so I asked around and they told me go to the Palomino, they’ll give you a job there, but I was underage. So Paul Merritt gave me a job as a cashier, so I’m watching the girls and I was like wow, and then I started doing it and I started meeting all these people and working with all these famous people and everything. All of the stuff that I learned I learned off these ladies, and they are my idols.
(Applause)

Shannon Doah: Hi, my name is Shannon Doah. (Applause) I am really happy to be here, this is my first time performing here at Exotic World. I got my start in San Francisco in North Beach and I was an exotic dancer and I thought it was a great job, I got to exercise and make better money than I could working in a regular job so it was fun. I met a lot of fans, singers, show acts and one night Rudolph Nureyev, who was a famous ballet dancer, came in with a friend of his, Anne Bancroft, another famous actress, and I thought this is it, I love this. I can’t even imagine. So then I thought well I am going to go to Hollywood because that is probably where it is all happening so I went there, I was working in a club and someone came in one day and said, we are putting a show on. Do you want to come and work at our club? I said sure. I found out that what they were doing was they were bringing in The Crazy Horse from Paris show and they were doing a revue. It was in Hollywood, California near Beverly Hills, and they did a whole production show. Tiffany Carter and I met at that time and we worked together. That was the most memorable I would say, doing those revues and production numbers and our own shows at that club, it was an amazing experience. Then I went on tour and traveled with an agent and had a wonderful time and when I found out about this Neo-Burlesque movement, I was just so excited for all of you to be doing this because I know how it feels to get out there and do what you want to do and wear beautiful things, and just be yourself and enjoy yourself and love what you are doing. So thank you so much.
(Applause)

Athena: My heart, first of all, is beating like, like a drums. Thanks to Bob Rubberlegs. I was in the park not for long when I met him again and I was in carnivals in Georgia, that was to me precious. I thought that was it for me until I saw Bob again. They say that you can take the club out of a girl, but you cannot take the girl out of the club. I was born….
Off: Tell us your name.
Athena: I am so sorry, my name is Athena. (Applause) I was named Athena from a guy that came from the east and it was crazy because I was married to him for the first time. He said to me, my name was [Marietta Del Frio], I come from Puerto Rico and he said to me, your name is going to be Athena, the goddess of love. I went to Nashville, Tennessee and I was working at a club, and he said to me you are going to be the little pearl of the Caribbean. So he put on the big marquee, Athena, the little pearl of the Caribbean. Anyway, I started in New York, I had a boyfriend at that time. After my first marriage, he said to me who is going to look at your skinny ass? Because I said to him I have to make some money for my girls, and I found out that somebody said to—I was in a club, and a guy said to me let’s dance because it was a competition and we were dancing some kind of a Mambo, and we won $50 and a bottle of champagne and that was fantastic. So when I went to the dressing room, this lady went to me and said to me you know what, you should go and start dancing. So I did not really, like okay, I took it. But the next I thought about it, with hangover and all. They said to me, I was living in the Bronx, and I went downtown, it was beautiful. This guy was very short and limping, but he started teaching me how to dance and I was doing at that time the snake dance, where you go up around the legs and stuff like that. From there I met a beautiful girl, she was Eunice Mercado, and she was… she introduced me Pérez Prado, I am sure you know him which I danced with him with the orchestra. … One of my experiences with Pérez Prado was (31.08), […]. it is one of the guest is dancing and you can see their shadow, I was so nervous. In my house they said to me, you know what, Pérez Prado is your father and I was like huh, he is my father? When I met Pérez Prado I said they told me you were my father, because my father was a fisherman, it was illegal, and all the time he got fish he would go “oh”. So he was laughing and says okay there goes my daughter on the stage. Then I went to the Village in New York. I did not know nothing about Burlesque, I was just dancing, Cumbias and Mambos and things like that. They said if you want to really make money you have to take your clothes off. So I went and did my show, but then went to the audition they said no no no, you have to take your clothes off. I had no clothes for taking my clothes off so these two big girls took paddles, and wrapped them around my body and pushed me on the stage, here I am half naked, skinny ass, thing around my body, and these people felt sorry for me because I was crying, I didn’t know what to do. And the people were from Hawaii, and they gave me a 50 dollar tip and that turned my life around.
(Applause)

Ellion Ness: Hello, my name is Ellion Ness. (Applause) I want to tell you how I have come to Exotic World to begin with. I went to Target and was roaming around and bumped into Viva LaFever and she was telling me about this, Exotic World, and so I said oh yeah that sounds good. And so we didn’t see each other for another year. Later, in Target, we met again and she said you got to come, we’re like queens, you’re treated really good, this and that, and everything is just so wonderful, I said okay. That is how… I first got here. I am eternally grateful to you. And she’s also my musical director…. So, anyway I started in North New Jersey, I worked for Minsky, I started at the Empire Burlesque, it took about a month, and got fired, and before that I worked as a cashier and got fired. I took in this $20 from this guy… and bought a ticket and it was as bad as monopoly money. (Laughter) The manager found the money and said what is this and that was the end of that job. Then the next day I was out looking for a job and I walked by this Burlesque house and I was looking at all these pictures of these gorgeous ladies outside, and this guy sweeping up says, are you looking for a job? I said yeah well maybe, so he said they are rehearsing now, come on in. I was kind of hesitating, he talked me into it, and I went down there and got on stage, was hired right away and that’s when I lasted about a month and got fired. And then Mary Ireland worked there and she was one of the most gorgeous ladies I had ever seen, tall with long dark hair and gorgeous. She said go on over to Minsky’s – I have a friend who works there, Nancy Drew, and just go in and apply for a job. So I went over and talked to Chuck Gregory, the producer, the director, choreographer and got hired. It was a lot harder than a lot of people think because they hired a lot of women. Coming in once or twice and that was it. We started at like 12:30 and we worked until about 11:30 at night, on the weekends it was late shows so we went until 2:00 and then in between shows from Monday or Tuesday on depending on how difficult the routine was we rehearsed and on Wednesday sometimes Thursday nights we would be there until like 2:00 in the morning. It was not an easy job. I loved it, I wanted to be in show business from the time I was really little. There was some song “Taking if off” or something when I was about 5 or 6 and I was taking it off. I started really young. Anyway, I am just really, truly, thrilled to be here and I have the best escorts in the world and thank you so much.
(Applause)

Dr. Lucky: Next we are going to have two announcements from Deirdre and from the World Famous *BOB*. Deirdre has been visiting with Tempest this weekend, she is going to give us an official update, because I know we’re all very concerned about her, so thank you, Deirdre.

Deirdre Brennan: (…) If everyone hasn’t heard yet what happened, she broke her hip, and she is in surgery right now as we speak, it was scheduled for 11:00 a.m. And when she left, the thing she was worried about was she was most embarrassed that she fell, she wasn’t worried about any pain or anything. She was disappointed that she couldn’t continue her routine, because she had planned on taking her bra off, the first time in years, down to her pasties. And… I saw it and let me tell you when they are released from their tether they are quite impressive. Unfortunately… it may change, but as of now she doesn’t think that she will ever get back up on stage again, so you are very fortunate to have seen her last performance. Unfortunately maybe it wasn’t all captured on tape, but hopefully someone does have it. I know that she wishes that she could be here and I will visit her tomorrow morning and I will let her know that you all send your best wishes.
(Applause)

World Famous *BOB*: I am not going to take too long, but I just left Dixie’s trailer, I spent the whole weekend with Dixie and she wanted to come here today for the Legend’s Panel to see her friends and to thank everyone, but she is also recovering from a fractured shoulder, so if you approached her and I yelled at you, I apologize. But she would not wear a sling because it did not match her outfit. That is fierce, so I am not a raging bitch – I was trying to protect her broken arm. She just wanted me to tell you that she had a really wonderful time and in Dixie’s words “I just can’t believe how far it has come from out there at the Goat shed.” She is really impressed with all the acts and she just sat there giggling and cheering…

I know because of her injury, she didn’t have as much energy as she usually has but she was out until 2:00 every night if you didn’t see that on Friday and Saturday, and normally she is able to visit with people a lot more. But I was with her every second of the weekend and I just have to tell you guys, she went home and cried because she was so happy about how far the pageant has come from out on the ranch. She said I just can’t believe the girls put all that money into their outfits and they shipped themselves out here and they are all just so gorgeous. She just went on and on and on about how much she loved each and every act and about how great and sexy the Legends were Friday.

Dr. Lucky: I think we have time for a few questions if anyone has anything they would like to ask the Legends; we will see how this microphone works.

Q: Hi beautiful ladies, my question for you guys is I wanted to know about your signature acts, what were they and how did they come about being concieved and did they include a prop or was it just you in a gown or what was the thing that summed you up that you always wanted to put out to the audience and why was it important to you, and was it something you chose or was it something somebody else chose?

Dr. Lucky: All right, in five words or less.
Q: I’m sorry, I’m sorry.

Tiffany Carter: I changed to several different acts, I was a Raggedy Ann doll, I’ve done cats, a black panther and a leopard cat, with the headdress. I had gloves made for me… that flipped up into my fingers like claws… I would come in camouflage…
I also did a bathtub act. All my shows that I did, I dreamt.
(This segment has jumpy audio 43:00). I wanted to do something different this year – I said I haven’t seen a Cleopatra act in years, so I wanted to do that.
(Applause)

Q: I wanted to get to the question about how your process of creating is what you think or anything about your signature acts.

Bob Rubberlegs: Mine was very simple. I went to jail. I was working in my club in Ozark, Alabama and I did this thing where I pulled my jacket off… and the law in Ozark, Alabama says that all performers in an adult clubs were required to wear pasties. I was arrested for lewd and obscene conduct for not wearing pasties. Yeah! I got on stage, just to goof around and I was in bars and in night clubs and there were lots of other Go-Go dancers, well I am a conceited egomaniac and I wanted people to watch me, so instead of just moving around I started exaggerating what I was doing. This morphed into being an exaggerated act and that is how I became an eccentric dancer instead of just a dancer, which goes back to the girls, you don’t want to just walk, you want to take your movements, exaggerate them, create your little character and then exaggerate it, make it bigger than life. In Burlesque, the girls know, the comics had the stupidest, dumbest lines possible, right? (Fields a phone call. Laughter) But it wasn’t the lines, it was the facial expression, and exaggerated movements, bigger than life. So when you get on stage, find your character that you are portraying and then with your costumes and your facial expressions, with your hands, exaggerate it and make it bigger than the character you were starting to create. That is how it makes it more than just somebody being on stage. The way I learned was that way and you can — girls can do the same thing, just take it and make it bigger and better than the average.
(Applause)

Joan Arline: I was a dancer and a showgirl and when I went into Burlesque I wanted a gimmick. Well I had two Russian Wolfhounds and I trained them and they were wonderful, I would like to say my body made money but the Wolfhounds made more I think. I wanted a title, I wanted to be the Esquire Girl and Esquire wouldn’t allow it of course, so we came up with the name Sexsquire, I had it copyrighted, the prop, the whole bit and it worked out just great. That is how I got the Sexsquire thing. When I worked the Golden Girl Follies, when I was 60 years old, they wanted me to do the Gypsy strip from “Let Me Entertain You” so that meant he was going to build the prop. So he built it and it said Esquire. Oh well the reason was he knew if he had a permanent prop that said Sexsquire nobody else could use it, I owned it. I did the Palm Spring Follies, he had me do it in the bathtub, so the career has gone on and I just recently did Gypsy. So it’s type casting. I was a stripper again, it was a continuation. That was the gimmick, first the Russian Wolfhounds then the Sexsquire prop.
(Applause)

Tai Ping: I didn’t have a prop for this number but I think my props were mainly my wardrobe. The first write-up I ever got was for the Philadelphia Daily news when I first started working in night clubs, I would work in fashion shows, the cabarets, stuff like that, so my first night club act I always liked character dancing. My first was a flamenco, but I did my costume and instead of having the cummerbund up high like the guys wear it, I had it go around my hips and it was in red Chantilly lace, the rest of the costume was a beige Chantilly and it had the top you could see through, and I had sequins and stocking. I had my hair pulled back in a bun, and I wore high heels. This one guy, he was Hispanic, gave me this record and said if you really want to get into it, he showed me the body movements and said you can dance right in to this record. I did that and after I finished my number, the owner of the club said there are a couple of fellows over there that would like to buy you a drink, would you mind? I said not at all. I went over and was talking to these guys and they were from the … and they said, “Are you the feature of the show?” I said no Robin is, they said you should be the feature and they asked me about my background and I told them about my background, my ballet and stuff. He said you should be in Jerry Yagen’s, we are going to tell him about you, I thought to myself yeah sure okay. Anyway, I read the paper Friday and I looked up and ran down the list and it started out with Joey, Rita Watson, Anna Maria Alberghetti and me. I thought wow. I ended up working at all the clubs, got membership honorary that year, the American-Spanish club gave me an honorary membership, I worked at the VFW, the American Legion and then all the bigger ones started coming out of the woods. I went to Florida and that is when I fell into Burlesque, I got this call and I had never taken anything off before because in Philadelphia what you go onto stage with is what you come off with. I am down there and this one lady was on stage and was like “sweesh”, I thought wow she just took her bra off. I nudged this lady next to me and said did you see what she did, and she smiled. That is how I got into Burlesque. That was my start in Burlesque and then I stayed on the east coast, from Key West, I went to Tampa, I worked in North Miami Beach….

[END OF PART I]

Dr. Lucky:
[Tempest] She is out of her surgery and she is doing well and it went well. (Applause) She welcomes cards and flowers is what the text message said. (Laughter) She is at Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas. Great. Another question?

JD Oxblood: I have a question for Dee Milo. First of all you were just fantastic in New York last month. Thank you so much for coming out.
Dee Milo: Thank you it was a great experience. And my cohort over there—
Off: (…)
JD Oxblood: Toni, Toni Elling was there too. What I wanted to ask you is I am very fascinated by your story of repentance, I think so many performers struggle between what society thinks they should do and what they want to do and what I would really like to know is what’s your relationship now with the church and also specifically, was there trouble with friends or family that you had who are more devout Saints when you decided to come back into performing?

Dee Milo: That is going to be a difficult one to answer, my daughter is wide open, I mean she poses and rides motorcycles and she says go for it, and my sons are goody-two-shoes. Don’t let them know my last name. It is too late. The people in the church which would be the dominant one in Salt Lake City, Utah, it’s okay, they really are not that judgmental and when Roger Bennington did burlesque… what’s the gal’s name, it was a real good performance in Salt Lake City. We had a great turnout. People said well I didn’t think we had these kinds of people in Salt Lake City, we’re doing a Burlesque show in a very well known theater. I think it is a person’s belief system, and where I would be coming from right now is, hey, whatever works.

Q: This is a question for all the ladies that are still performing – and gentlemen – where is your next gig?

Satan’s Angel: San Francisco.

Dr. Lucky: I also wanted to announce that the bar is open if anyone wants a drink. We are having a casual day. Does anyone else have upcoming shows that they would like to announce to everybody? Do you perform in Montreal?

Tiffany Carter: I would love to work in Montreal. I would also like to go to New York.
(Applause)
Dr. Lucky: Does anyone have any upcoming shows they would like to announce?
Satan’s Angel: I am actually from here going to San Francisco for two weeks, I am then going to Toronto. (Applause) Most of us girls worked Toronto at the old Victory Theatre. I am also going to Vancouver…and I am also sneaking Philadelphia in. I love Philly. I love those pretzels they sell on the corners. Then from there I go to Paris, France, Sweden and Helsinki, Finland. And I don’t know what I’m doing after that. …

April March: Since “Behind the Burly Q” came out I have been doing a lot of radio and newspaper interviews, I go every year to the Boston Burlesque expo. I am going to the Montreal Burlesque expo which I am looking forward to so much because I have only been to Montreal one time and it was such a beautiful city and I am really looking forward to going again and I thank Scarlet so much for inviting me. (Applause)

Joan Arline: I am going to a matinee this afternoon – I am not performing in it. My son is one of the boys singing. I have to go that one. I am available. (Applause)

Rubberlegs: Ever since I stamped my knee, I don’t dance very much anymore, instead of doing one show for a couple hundred people I travel around fairs and I sell toe rings and I have a computer that reads palms. I do one show for one person at a time a hundred times a day. You can see me in Placerville, Petaluma, San Rafael, Billings, Sydney, Pueblo, Albuquerque, Tucson and Phoenix this year. I have been to all the fairs. If you are at any of those fairs, come and say hello and I’ll insult you.
(Applause)

Toni Elling: The young lady wanted to know how we came up with our acts, yes? When I got into this I hadn’t but seen two strippers in my life. Funny thing about seeing either one of them is my mother wanted to see her because she was advertised as having 52 inch boobs. My mother said that was impossible. Let’s go see that! So we went and that was Virginia Belle by the way. The only other stripper I saw before I started was when my girlfriend talked me into this in the first place, and I saw one show of hers. When I got ready to do it, there was a producer, a choreographer in town and she wanted to give me an act and I told her, I said I don’t want anybody to give me an act—well not give, they wanted money—but anyway I wanted to be myself, whatever that was. She said well you don’t know how to dance, I said I know what to do when I get on stage. She said I never heard of such a thing. She said why don’t you go to down to Alveto’s? That was a bar, DIVE, capital letters. I told her listen, I don’t even go by Alveto’s and I wouldn’t go in there and try to work. She said he would let you work and you could learn and practice. No. So she said I guess you could work at the Plane the first time, that’s the best club in town. I said well I’m not gonna do anything different, may as well go to the best one. As it turned out to make it short, I worked it for Jackie Wilson, my first show. But I wanted to tell you about the acts. Sometimes we do one act, and we would hear somebody say something, or you see something… and if you want to be different you are always looking for something and I was different enough. But I did an oriental act, I did a Spanish act, a flamenco type thing, and I tried anything, so everybody started being Miss Toni Elling, they had this thing about I am so elegant and blah blah blah, and they were—I was all over town. I thought what the heck, I have to find something to do they can’t do, so I did an Afro, and that was so far removed from what I had ever done and everybody came… “Toni Elling’s doing an afro,” and no one believed it so in between their shows their performers were coming to see. I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. I had a costume made, I had a drum. It went over well and no one could do it but me. I was the blackest, tallest one. […] I had fun with that act but it was just something different, and you strive to be different and you strive to be… what is the word I’m looking for?
Off: Unique?
Toni Elling: No that is different. Versatile is the word I was thinking. So therefore, you do all kinds of different things.
(Applause)

Dr. Lucky: For all of you who are producers or organizing festivals, please introduce yourself to these ladies and book them in your shows.

Dusty Summers: When you guys asked us about how we would put a signature act together or whatever for most of us we had to have more than one show, we didn’t just do an Egyptian show or just do a belly-dance show. I did a belly-dance show, a western show, a magic show, a fire show — so being versatile as Toni said, that is the key to success. Being unique. If you have that going for you and the versatility, you will work anywhere, anytime, anyplace.
(Applause)

Dr. Lucky: We have time for one more question.
Q: Hi I would like to know, is there any constructive criticism you would like to give, in a nutshell? Is there something that we are doing wrong?
(Laughter)

Satan’s Angel: You got your own names, Amore, Kitten, Pearl, Lolita –there’s a dictionary out there. You don’t see any of us with even close to the same.

Dr. Lucky: Okay, Candy is not here but we know she would say to “elevate the woman.” Since she is not here, we will hear from Tiffany.

Tiffany: I know this my personal opinion and I don’t know if you will all agree with me, that you are cutting yourself off right here with G-strings and T-straps, … it makes you a lot longer, leaner and we always wore them up. Tight pull, all on the sides. If you have a little bit of a belly it cuts that off. That is what I noticed.
(Applause)

(Laughter)
Fannie: I think you girls need to smile, project yourselves more and entertain the people not just entertain yourself. That is very important and let them know you and feel you, that is really important. Thank you.
(Applause)

Tai Ping: When you are on stage one thing that you should do is use all of it instead of hang out in one corner, you should come in, go center point, go to the other wing. And don’t walk it, dance it, have movement going on and full body movement. Use your face, you don’t always have to smile with your teeth, you can smile with your eyes and let them know that you are enjoying. If you are enjoying, your audience will enjoy too.
(Applause)

Dee Milo: I have met such beautiful people here, young and old alike. (Laughter) You youngsters, you’ve got it, just believe in yourself, put it out there, swing it and like she says, smile, let the audience know that you are part of it in the way you present yourself and you’ve got it. I like every one of you. I can’t find any fault about you.

Satan’s Angel: One really quick thing I want to say is, a lot of the photographers know really well I move my face so much that 90% of the time when the picture is taken I am like—this is hanging, this is this way, eyes are crossed or whatever but as you know instead of just throwing a bump like that it’s like “Yeah, like fuck me, man.”
(Applause)

Joan Arline: How can I follow that? (Laughter)
Don’t give them everything up all at once, make them earn it! They want you to make them want to desire, they have to desire you and then you give them a little more and a little more and a little more, and enjoy it and have that enjoyment show in your face.
(Applause)

April March: You always leave a little something to the imagination, don’t let them have it all. That was one thing that Minsky liked about my act was that I left a little something to the imagination, and my thing was wanting the women to like me as well as the men. So I dressed to please the women and undressed to please the men.
(Applause)

Bob Rubberlegs: Like you said earlier, facial expression is very important, look at your audience and feel your audience. If you feel that you have done something subtle and they have missed it, do it again, repeat it. Don’t let anything go by that the audience might accidentally miss. We have another comic here—If you say a line and you don’t feel that you got the proper response, repeat it. If you make a movement and you think that it wasn’t caught by the audience, repeat it because all these subtle movements, they may miss. Exaggerate everything and feel your audience, see how they respond to what you are doing and don’t be afraid to repeat something if you feel that the audience has missed it. Don’t just shut out the audience because the audience will feed you. If they feed you and you get the feeling from them that you know what you are doing, and if you feel that something is not working, delete it. If you feel something is working, do it more, and another thing that a lot of the girls, how many people saw Flash Dance? Terrible movie. You know why? They cut every one of the dance numbers right in the middle. Every one of the shows should build to a finish and you are waiting for the final big closing, every performance should be just like a show, with a beginning, a middle, and a strong ending. Flash Dance pissed me off.

Toni Elling: One of the things I notice about some of the kids, a lot of you get choreography from someone, you pay out all that money and you’re that person instead of your person, yourself. One of the things I really notice is I see people counting. One two three of these, and oh I am supposed to be over there. Just do what you feel. I have the best time on the stage, I enjoy myself and I hope you do because I do and I try to make you feel like I feel – and you know I am playing with you. I am going to tell you a secret that I have for “getting the audience with me,” if I find out that or think that they are not just what I want them to be, I always look for someone who is receptive and then I pretend that oh, he likes me so I will play to him. But I don’t let everyone else know that, I don’t just look at this person and dance. I will include everyone but my mind says I am dancing for him because he likes me. What happened to me one time before I got into this or thought about it or anything — when I was a young person, 19, I sang because somebody called me up on the stage and made me. But anyway I was so scared because I didn’t plan to sing in this place. And I was on a stage where I could see myself in a mirror on the back wall, which made it worse. The leader of the group played violin. I got out of key, he puts the violin right in my ear. “You hear that? Stay there, dammit.” And I felt worse. And I happened to look down and there was an old man waiter. He had his tray tucked to the side and he looked at me and said to me “Just sing, baby.” And I sang to him. And that taught me what to do.
(Applause)

Viva LaFever: I never took dance lessons, I was just an athlete and I was playing tenor sax in a night club, and so my focus is really on music and moving to music. And if your music doesn’t move you, change the song. Change the arrangement. You really want something, I watch people and they will do all the facial expressions, they have no feeling. You have to feel it, let it move you, especially if you are doing something that is real sensual, don’t just go through the movements. There is phrasing in your music. Inhale with one phrase and exhale with the next one. Y’know, it will help you move through and it will help you feel that music and the audience will feel you. That really helps you sizzle.
(Applause)

Dinah Might: I would just like to say that I think all these young women are just fantastic. I am so happy to see Burlesque revived again. It is just amazing and I want to thank all of you. I would like to especially thank the young lady who was out there last night whose props didn’t show up, [referring to Perle Noire] I don’t know how she pulled it off, but Kudos to her because she did great. Thank you.
(Applause)

Gypsy Louise: I would just say the eye contact with your audience and just have fun, just have fun out there. You invest a lot in your wardrobe, your props and your show, have fun while you are out there. That is the main thing and the audience will feel that, and they will appreciate that. Connecting with the audience I think is really important and you are all doing great and I love it.
(Applause)

Athena: When you feel that music, to me, sexuality, is the music and eye contact; that was one of my biggest thing and to this day I still feel the music and I do eye contact. It is very important like everybody says, the eyes.
(Applause)

Ellion Ness: Hi. I congratulate all of you, I think you did a splendid job. I wouldn’t want to be a judge in that contest for all the tea in China. Or Trader Joe’s. The other thing is work to the last row in the theater when you are there, project to the last row, point your “girls” to the second balcony and have a great time, follow your bliss, do what is in your heart. Definitely pick music … that moves you. If music doesn’t move me I can’t move. I think you got a lot of good advice here, but you ladies are just keeping the ball rolling. Thank you.
(Applause)

Dusty Summers: I just did a horror play where I did a role, a naked role, and my job was to scare the shit out of the audience. I told Teller that there was no difference between me and a ghoul scaring the shit out of the audience and being sexy and scaring the shit out of the audience. (Applause) The people in the audience are more afraid of you than you should ever be of them. You have the power you just don’t even know you have, use it!
(Applause)

Dr. Lucky: Thank you so much, I think that was an amazing question and an amazing way to end this wonderful panel. In conclusion I would like to spend our last hour just mingling with the Legends and if we could give them a standing ovation.

END

Read and download the 2011 Burlesque Hall of Fame Legend Panel Transcript, with an introduction by Todd Vogt. 

Check out the Burlesque Hall of Fame website for burlesque photos, stories, reviews and news. 

Get tickets to the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend.

In 2010, the creators of Burlesque Beat assigned themselves the role of recording, transcribing, and making available to the public one of the most important annual events in burlesque, the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend Legends Panel. It may take us ten months to do it, but you will find the 2013 Burlesque Hall of Fame Legends Panel Transcript on these pages, with an introduction by…

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