By J.D. Oxblood
Parkside Lounge, New York, July 23rd, 2011
It’s almost unfair for me to talk about D20 Burlesque, because it wasn’t created for me. Not that I didn’t enjoy the show—I did—I just didn’t GET a lot of it, and I certainly didn’t get the audience.
Since I was 15 or 16, I haven’t played any Dungeons and Dragons, or read any comic books. I have indulged in the occasional video game, but I lumped them in the category of “things you do butt-ass wasted when there are no chicks around,” like eating sloppy nachos and lighting your farts. I don’t really understand computers now, and definitely didn’t understand them at 16. Computers were not cool. Computers were not going to get you laid. I’ll admit to being a dork in high school—a total Brian who dreamed of becoming a Bender, which I achieved in college—but I have never considered myself a nerd. Because since I was 16, I’ve spent all my free time—and most of my disposable income—chasing women.
Which is why I didn’t understand the audience at D20.
Anja Keister has neatly tapped a unique demographic, tonguing the zeitgeist in what may not be an all-out stroke of genius, but is certainly a minor aneurysm. Build a show for, by and about nerds, and nerds will come in droves. It’s burlesque for the truly unattractive. Not the performers—they’re still hot—but seriously, don’t look too closely at the audience. (When you come, come stoned on cough syrup or ether; it’ll raise your tolerance.) It was explained to me that nerds invented the term “troll,” which apparently means something on the internet, and has nothing to do with surviving on raw mutton.
When I arrived at the Parkside—the new downtown clubhouse of the NYC burlesque scene, no matter how cranky the staff seem to be about it—the line was through the bar, out the door, and down the block. That’s a lot of nerds. And I’ll give them some credit—they got up to tip the gogo, Stella Chuu, a smokin’ hot Asian dynamo with pixie-short black hair and a bouncy caboose, who rocked the crowd out in over-the-knee vinyl boots and a corset, her shoulders glimmering with sweat, shaking to android binary cover versions of pop songs, her body decorated with symbols that represented the Konami Code—whatever the fuck that is. Not that I need to know. Stella Chuu is as hot as Lucy Liu was, back before we found out she’s an idiot.
It was packed like a Radiohead song in that back room, SRO three-nerds deep, hot as bejeezus and AGRO. Anja herself opened up with her version of “Paperboy,” in a baseball cap and jeans, tossing papers while Iris Explosion threw inflatable inner tubes at her from the audience. I haven’t seen such a reaction from the removal of a sweatshirt since my freshman year of college. Her zip-leg jeans exposed white fishnets, and a nice circular hipshake move got us to a newsprint bra, and a paper used as a fan.
Sizzle Dizzle invoked Ms. Pac Man with simple painted disks hung on each side of her body, a Pac-sandwich board, if you will, and shades and a blonde wig, pursing her red lips and giving us the Pac puck munch by stutterstepping across the stage in square moves. You just had to see it. She Gaga-d it up, with truly excellent pacing, leading up to an ass slap and blue ghost pasties. This would top my night as being the act that I most understood. I’ve played Ms. Pac Man. I get it.
Lugo did a cups-and-balls variation using a Luigi doll, and kept getting crucified by the crowd. I particularly enjoyed his entreating his volunteer, “do not upstage me or I will fucking murder you.” I would have paid extra to see that. Really, I’ve never seen a host get heckled as bad as Nelson Lugo was taking it. For the second act, when he had enough and ripped off his tie and vest and shirt, a girl actually yelled out, “Do the truffle shuffle!” Lugo asked, “Was that a fat joke?” All I’m sayin’, He who is without extra pounds may cast the first stone.
But more tits. Or at least Dr. Flux, doing a Mario-variation game. Something about power pills (his pasties) and a creepy dragon-looking fellow, with hot stripping and ass jiggles. The crowd was enchanted—this was DEFINITELY the hottest dude they’d ever seen naked. Flux—love the thigh highs, man.
Luna Chase, a cute blonde, looked very much the part as Zelda. Thin and alluringly pale, Luna gave us some nice ass tease by bending upstage. Cheekie Lane followed her with a balloon act—it was Cheekie’s birthday, and we got to see most of her birthday suit. Again, I don’t know the game—Bubbles? Baubles? I’ll leave it to the trolls to berate my ignorance. It was a crowd participation act, though, as she started to run out of time and the crowd clapped along to the beat. Cheekie charmed them all.
Anja came back out with something about “All your base now belong to us,” a sentence that takes me back to my crack-smokin’ days and makes me angry. But it came with cool strobe light effects, handled by the alluring Stella Chuu, and I love it when a half-naked sweaty gorgeous girl kneels next to me in the audience. I also liked Anja’s use of eyepatch as final reveal.
Winding it all up was Dangrr Doll, who is simply smoking. Thin yet statuesque, the girl looks like she could actually kick your ass and probably will, with those Bjorky almond eyes and a row of tattooed suit symbols climbing both sides of her torso. Doll’s Sonic the Hedgehog was a spinning umbrella, and her royal blue skirt, corset, and pale blue wig took me to another world, where sex with hedgehogs is not only possible, but isn’t even pervy. So maybe I can commune with these nerds, after all.
Or could I? After seeing Nelson Lugo take such a beating, I almost want to host this thing, in the same way that people want to run a marathon or appear on a reality show. Not because it would be fun, but because you just want to see if you can DO it. If you can survive, keeping the nerds in check and keeping yourself from losing it completely and cracking into the crowd with a crowbar. A test of manhood, endurance, and nerd-esque interface skills.
D20 Burlesque returns on August 20, 2011.
All photos ©Alex Usticke, and used here with express permission by Burlesque Beat. Please respect photography copyrights and do not use images without obtaining explicit permission.