Just Another Thursday Night in NYC
By J.D. Oxblood
Thursday, May 10
I love this time of year. The days are getting longer—which makes it easier to stay out late—the weather is warm and the skirts are short. Best of all is the electric thrill in the air; Vegas is right around the corner. A week in the City of Sin, shooting craps and lounging by the pool, and running around from one burlesque event to the other. I truly look forward to it—it’s the ultimate vacation. Just fun, crazy, exciting people and none of the boring grind.
On a recent Thursday night I dropped into Teany which is some kind of fancy tea shop owned by Moby, I think, to get a quick and long-overdue interview with Lou Lou D’Vil. I first met her outside the opening of the new Burlesque Hall of Fame Museum on Fremont Street—she was pulled up to shoot pictures with Tempest Storm, since she has a tattoo of Tempest on her arm. I’d been wanting to get a few words with Lou Lou since she won Best Debut last year, and we just kept missing each other (if she lived in New York it would be easier). Lou Lou was having tea with Bettina May, who turns out to be Canadian AND vegan, and yet, super cool and charming. Go figure. And no, I didn’t ask Lou Lou about her sex life. I know—I’m an idiot.
Thing is we all had places to be—Lou Lou and Bettina were off to perform at Calamity Chang’s Nurse Bettie show—BTW, Calamity is competing for Best Debut this year, along with other Nurse Bettie favorite Tansy—and I dropped in for a moment to meet my bride before bouncing over to the Legend Challenge (read: fundraiser) for the stunning Camille 2000.
Nurse Bettie has become a well-loved institution in its own prickly way. It’s still a cesspit, it’s still a tiny wart of a stage, and yes, ladies, you still have to change behind the bar or in the bathroom. But somehow it manages to be a good time. And it’s an even better time when lovelies like Bettina May and Lou Lou D’Vil are dancing on the stage AFTER the show is over, and elbowing their way up to the bar through the crowd. The fact that the joint is so tiny erases the line between performer and audience, so if you like rubbing up next to your favorite burlesque stars—and don’t mind rubbing up next to total strangers like it’s 9am on the L train—this is your show.
Onstage, Bettina swooped her skirt to old-timey, almost country, music, eliciting major whoops from the crowd just inches from her hem line. Her timing is impeccable, and she had the crowd eating out of her hand without revealing anything. Then the music changed, and she revealed almost everything, really working a shimmy on the smallest shimmy stage in the land.
But my favorite thing about Nurse Bettie is watching the ladies lounge by the side wall while someone else is on stage—tonight, Calamity herself was on stage shaking to the Hawaii 5.0 theme song—I assume she was shaking, but I couldn’t see her at all, but that’s Nurse Bettie for ya. What I could see was the luscious Stella Chu, hanging back, leaning like a teenager at the mall, topless but for black electrician’s tape Xs over her nipples, watching Calamity perform with an equal measure of fascination and ennui. Why is watching women watch women so damned electrifying? Wait—don’t’ tell me—I don’t need to know why, just let me enjoy this.
AND—off to the Slipper Room in Exile (is the Slipper Room ever going to reopen? And does it matter anymore?) in the basement of Casa Mescal, a totally bizarre subterranean den where a traditional wooden Mayan jaguar mask stares at a giant butterflied alligator skin on the opposing wall. Behind a scalloped-curtained stage, Mat Fraser is doing his fake-arm strip tease. It’s true, Mat Fraser really does look like Brad Pitt, with one major difference: Mat isn’t toting around some skanky anorexic wife—Mat’s new wife is smokin’ hot. That’s her, actually, gogo-ing fully topless and… wearing a pig mask. There’s nothing like love, really, and I love this fucking scene.
Seriously, look around—that’s Jo Weldon sitting on the edge of the stage, propping up Little Brooklyn, and that’s renowned photographer Ed Barnas getting a serious ass-whupping by, um, a friend of the scene who, I wouldn’t be surprised, may have beat people professionally. And there’s Tigger—naked, of course—and Darlinda Just Darlinda coming in with her bike chain, and here’s Minnie Tonka stopping to tell my new bride “Mazel Tov,” and onstage, the infamous Mel Frye tells truly awful jokes.
It’s fucking old school in here and I’m as happy as a naked girl in a pig mask dancing on stage for weirdos.
Yes, this is a fundraiser for Camille 2000, and all the NYC luminaries are here. Neil O’Fortune hosts a game of “real or fake stripper name,” and Bunny Love takes the stage to B-grade rock music in a giant pink skirt and proceeds to get freaky deaky: pulls a knife, cuts off her wig, grabs a camera to film her own coochie, rubs lipstick all over her face—and then on her downstairs lips—starts screaming with a gun, rubs herself with said gun—and then, as Buckcherry screams “crazy bitch,” pulls out a roll of electrical tape and wraps it around her face, hard and fast, twisting the features—before fucking herself. Violent, depraved, yet strangely hot. Or hot, and strangely disturbing, depending on your bent. Welcome home, freaks.
Camille—the other Camille—does a wicked DJ set and proves herself a more-than-capable announcer, and Mel Frye hosts a “joke-off” with Pinkie Special, Tigger and Sincerely Yours (and whoever else feels like jumping up there), where the best “groaner” wins. The crowd can’t stay on point, though, and want to give the prize to an actually funny joke. I’m with ya, Mel, no one appreciates a good groaner anymore. I will say that Tigger told the second best necrophiliac joke I’ve ever heard. Hey Tigger, I have a joke for you.
Minnie Tonka—scrumptiously nekkid—takes the stage in a black wig—man, I love that girl as a brunette—slow, almost still, scratching herself up the side of her body… shudder. Explodes into a tassel twirl; freezes. This is called a reverse strip in some circles, but what Tonka is doing should be called illegal. That girl’s watched a lot of music videos. Dripping in body glitter, she puts on her panties—and I’ll TELL you why that’s hot. Usually you only see it AFTER you’ve already fucked the girl, when just about anything she does is endearing. It’s the endorphins. Minnie spins with a cape, and ends with her arms up, victorious and batlike, while Prince wails on his guitar, like a god.
Darlinda knocks the house completely on its ass with her now-legendary “Moby Dick” act (tassel twirl marathon), and Mel Frye… I can’t believe I’m going to put this into print. It actually… kind of hurts me. Sigh. Ok, here it goes. Mel Frye… tells a really funny joke. I know, right? It’s like that old story about the million monkeys on typewriters—sooner or later, it was bound to happen. (If you were there, I’m talking about the one about the young girl out on Coney Island.)
Amber Ray, who still does glamour like it’s a controlled substance, ate the stage as an appetizer while showing off her glorious purple ensemble, walking with a tenor sax hidden in each stiletto. Ripping off her outfit as the crowd literally hooted, she psyched us out, unzipping her dress just to zip it back up again. Hiding behind a purple boa, she touches her tongue to her upper lip and the entire front row melts. A ballbusting backbend tassel twirl, and then, in stillness, a single flip of the tassel, one muscle moving and nothing else. And while tossing a boa in the air and catching it on your shoulders may not be difficult (though I bet it is), it’s certainly knock-down drag-out sexy.
God bless, Camille 2000—look at what your family will do for you.
See you all in Vegas—
PS: If you’re coming to Vegas, don’t miss Amber Ray’s wonderful accoutrements on sale, PLUS she’s sharing her boutique with Iva Handful, whose incredible sparkly neckties were such a hit last year (yes, I bought one).
All photos ©2011 Melody Mudd for Burlesque Beat. Please respect copyrights and contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permissions. Performers may use shots for promotional purposes, but please credit properly with photographer’s full name and a link to this piece in all instances. Performers who would like hi-rez images, get in touch.