Legends Panel Transcript: Burlesque Hall of Fame 2011 With Special Introduction by Todd Vogt

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Introduction by Todd Vogt

2011 BHOF Legend Panel

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

Orleans Casino, Las Vegas, NV

Welcome!   You have a ticket in your hand and stand at the door to the theatre, pausing before entering the darkened auditorium.  Amidst the music coming through the portal you hear haughty laughter, sharp whistles and loud hoots from within and are drawn forward.  The sights, sounds and spectacle of burlesque are endlessly compelling, and the Legends attending the Burlesque Hall of Fame have seen and done it all through the arc of their careers.  Spend some time with the Legends via this transcript of their 2011 Q&A Panel and hear their tales, wisdom, love, and indomitable spirit.

My wife, Dr. Julie Vogt, worked closely with Elsa Sjunneson on coordinating and facilitating 2011’s panel — they both put their heart & souls into collecting as many interviews with the Legends as possible and enabling current and future devotees of this art form to learn from those that first lit up the stage.  Julie started attending the BHOF in 2008 and rapidly fell in with supporting the efforts to document the Legends’ stories through collecting oral histories.  Julie was honored to be able to participate and was deeply invested in helping make the BHOF a great event for the Legends and the attendees.  In Julie’s own words — from the introduction of her dissertation Woman to Woman: Ann Corio and the Rehabilitation of American Burlesque — “My passion for this topic was fueled by the women of the neo-burlesque community who have worked to preserve, document and revive the rich history of the genre.”

Unfortunately, Julie died in December, her life cut short by pancreatic cancer.  For Julie & for myself, I want to thank everyone in the burlesque community and especially those associated with the BHOF that worked with Julie and helped arouse and fuel her passions.  Being part of the burlesque community inspired and pushed Julie to new heights in her artistic and academic endeavors.  I hope that you, dear reader, are enlivened by the stories the Legends relate in this session, and that your inner fire is stoked to also burn brightly and lead in new directions.
—Todd Vogt

Download the 2011 BHOF Legend Panel as a PDF.  

Read and download the 2010 Burlesque Hall of Fame Legend Panel Transcript, with an introduction by Tigger!. 

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 2011

Julie Vogt: We would like to begin by asking all of our fantastic legends to introduce themselves by their names.

Elsa: So if you would please give us your name and the year that you began performing?

Dusty Summers: Oh, what is my name?  Dusty Summers and I began performing in 1965, I think.


Barbara Yung: Hello, I’m Barbara Yung and I would feature as a China doll.  And it’s lovely to be here and have all you beautiful people here.  Doh, je, doh je.  Thank you.


Pat Chin : Hi, my name is Pat Chin and I retired back in 1958 but I’m back dancing again starting in 2003.


Haji: Hello, I’m glad to see so many of you showed up.  Thank you for being here.  My name is Haji and I’m just here and most people know me from Faster Pussycat.  Thank you.  Thank you for showing up.


Shannon Doah: My name is Shannon Doah and I began performing in 1967.


Holly Carroll: My name is Holly Carroll, ‘the singing queen of Burlesque’ and I started performing in 1964.


Gina Bon Bon My name is Gina Bon Bon. (Laughter)  I’m from Cuba and I used to be a Rhumba dancer.  In 1962, I started Burlesque part and I quit in 1991.  Thank you.


April March: Hello.  I’m April March, ‘First Lady of Burlesque’.  I started out in show business in Dallas, Texas in 1952 and I retired in ‘78 but I came out of retirement five years ago.


Joan Arline: My name is Joan Arline, ‘the Sexquire Girl’. I started performing in the crib, my mother’s said. (Laughter)  No, I started performing in 1953 and came out of, retirement and back, from Ballet to Burlesque, three times in my life and I’m happy to be back.


Toni Elling: Good morning.  I’m Toni Elling. (Laughter) I started on this path in 1960.  I retired in 1974.  These beautiful people at Burlesque Hall of Fame have convinced me I should do it again, so, I’m doing it again.


Tai Ping: I started performing when I was nine years old.  I did character dancing and ballet.  I worked tea parties and fashion shoes and cabaret.  And then in 1960 my agents sent me to Key West and I was the ballerina that fell into burlesque. (Laughter)  It was my first burlesque experience and I had a costume on, my feature number was going to be a Calypso dance.  And I did my little Calypso number and I got off the stage and the club owner came over and he asked me, he said, “Where is your panels and your gowns?”  I said, “What’s a panel and what’s a gown?”  (Laughter)  So he went on to explain it to me.  And my name is Tai Ping by the way, and he went on to explain it to me and I said, oh, I can’t do that.  He says, we’ll have to send you back home and I said I can’t do that either.  So I said I need a couple of drinks.  I had a double shot of V.O. and Coke, and when the owner walked away, the bartender gave me another double shot.  (Laughter)  I drank that, then I went to the dressing room and I saw two girlfriends that I knew from Pennsylvania and I told them what was going on.  So one of them stripped her sequins from the bottom of her costume and she wrapped both my boobs up so it was like I had a strapless bra on and then she gave me some little net panties with the sequins in the front and the back and then she gave me like, a skirt to put with the top of my Calypso costume and that’s how I started in Burlesque. (Applause) That was back in 1960 and in ‘71 I was in a car accident on my last assignment in Pueblo, Colorado.  So that was the end of my burlesque dancing.


Judith Stein My name is Judith Stein, Canada’s golden gift to burlesque, (Laughter) otherwise known as the ‘Grand Beaver’. (Laughter)  Yes, I do like hockey.  I started dancing in 1974.  I was a topless go-go girl, no experience necessary, and I guess for 17 years on the road, across Canada, internationally and I retired 23 years ago.  Two or three years ago, I don’t know.  It’s all a blur.  Thank you.  The Vancouver kids dragged me out of the closet and said it’s time to go and I went My God, where are the eyelashes and I have to shave my armpits. (Laughter)  So I am so honored and I want to say that you guys, you young women, it’s some of the best burlesque I have ever seen.  Thank you.


Lottie the Body: Thank you.  I’m Lottie the Body.  I started in 1948. …

But I say to you, all of you, those of you that hit the stage, stick it on the stage.  You hit it.  Thank you.


Kitten Natividad: Hi, I’m Francesca Kitten Natividad, and I started off in 1969 as a nude bottomless, well bottomless (Laughter) go-go girl and it was very boring. (Laughter)  So I wanted to put some clothes on, so I met a wonderful dressmaker, Bobby Kirsten and he got me to do burlesque.


Camille 2000: My name is Camille 2000.  I was known as ‘the girl for yesterday, today and tomorrow’ and I started in 1968.


Holiday O’Hara: My name is Holiday O’Hara. I was known as ‘the lady who loves to love you’. (Laughter)  I started also as a bottomless go-go dancer in San Francesco and, exactly, it was boring. (Laughter)  And the owner of the club told me I was the most overdressed go-go dancer he had ever seen (Laughter) and that I should go to the Chez Paree in the Tenderloin7:52-7:53 because that’s where I could learn how to strip, and he was right and I haven’t looked back.  In 1980 I became manager of the last burlesque theater in San Francisco, which was the Sutter Theater (Applause) and previously it had been the Forbidden City. And so it’s got a wonderful history, that piece of land.  And I retired in 1983 because they changed the format.  We had a new manager and they turned it into New York Live and my girls were not to crawl around for a dollar. (Laughter)  So I retired and then Tigger called me in 2007 and here I am.

Madame E: Hi.  I’m Madame E and I started as Pearl Devine sp? in 1970 in Honolulu, worked through Honolulu, Guam, Los Angeles and when strip clubs became “strip clubs”, (Laughter), I switched over to belly dancing, so I continued for a while.  And I’m now working in burlesque in San Francesco and Oakland on a regular basis.  I perform a few times a month and I do workshops and teach.  And so I’ve continued it over the years and I love it.  I love the life and I love that you youngsters have brought it back to us, given it back to us.


Tammi True My name is Tammi True, known as Miss Excitement (Laughter) and I started dancing in late 1959.  It was by accident.  My first costume; I had no clue, my girlfriend made it, we did not know about zippers. (Laughter)  She put little hooks and eyes all over it. (Laughter)  And I go in there for the first time and I’m scared to death, trying to get those hooks on… (Laughter)  But soon after that, Jack Ruby called me and asked me if I would come and work at the Carousel Club.  He had just opened it up and he needed strippers and he hired us sight unseen. And after about three of four weeks, I became his headliner.  And I retired in 1968 and if I had known I was going to make a comeback eight years later (Laughter), trust me, I would not have not had all that Blue Bell [ice cream]. 


Viva LaFever: Hi, my name is Viva LaFever, my tagline was ‘vicious but fair’.  I started with hippie stripping. (Laughter)  Accidentally went to San Francisco on vacation and got into it. And I later managed the Follies Theatre in San Francesco and then I decided I got bored and went on the road and got back into it.  They had burlesque bevivals and they sent a whole lot of pros up to San Francisco and I was chosen to do some of the revivals and taken under the wings of some of the people and did stand up and things with the comedians too.  And I went on the road with this with my friend Camille.  And so I totally got away from… this was like 1971 when I started, and really got into the burlesque there after the hippy stripping. (Laughter)  Then in the early eighties, I went to work for the San Francesco Chronicle driving a truck and became a ±  I got involved in Teamster Local and became the president of my Teamster Local, totally away from anything to do with burlesque.  Then Camille calls me one day and drags me down to the desert sp?(Laughter) and this was my introduction to the goat farm  and I’m back.


Julie : Thank you so much.  And joining us, the fabulous Ellion Ness. (Applause).  And so we’ll ask just a few questions before opening up the floor.  Elsa and I will be the microphone wranglers, since there are 20 of you fabulous ladies. (Applause)  First question I wanted to ask, some of you have already spoken about how you found out about the Burlesque Hall of Fame, or Miss Exotic World at the time, and what inspired you.  But maybe some of you are here for the first time, or haven’t touched on that yet.  How did you hear about it?  What inspired you to come back to attend and for some of you, what keeps you coming back?  How did you hear about it?  How did you hear about the Burlesque Hall of Fame?

Holly Carroll: I heard about the Burlesque Hall of Fame when they called me up.  Dusty and Bambi La Fleur, Dusty Summers and Bambi La Fleur  and Angie Carter and they all call me and I go, “You’re in the Burlesque Hall of Fame?  I didn’t even know they had a Hall Of Fame!” (Laughter)  I said, excuse me, but is that a nice way to tell someone they’re old? (Laughter)  And she said no, that’s because you’ve accomplished something.  I said, oh, well that sounds better. (Laughter)  And she said, it’s four days and I said, I’m going to dance for four days? (Laughter) She said no, just one.  They’re going to have all kinds of stuff going on and you’re going to love it when you see the new girls on the block coming in with their costumes.  And I’ve got say I was impressed last night.  Wasn’t that great?  They worked.  Come on. (Applause).  I think that they should bring the Follies Brassiere back to Vegas (Laughter) and I think that some of us, we could do different nights, you know, maybe have a different night.  Don’t you think that would be good at the Orleans?  Even one show a night would be great.  So we can all see it all.  It would be fabulous.  Anyway I guess, I got that call and they said to come to Vegas, and I went, okay.  So Dusty called me and I worked with Dusty at the Palomino and Gina Bon Bon and Lulu was there and Lulu and I worked at the Ball in Santa Monica.  And then Shannon Doah here was the other Ball in San Gabriel.  And Kitten, we worked at the Phone Booth, you remember that?

Kitten: Yeah.

Holly Carroll: When I did the New Centurions, coming out of the thing…

Kitten: We did  a movie together.

Holly Carroll: We did a movie together, right?  Okay.  And then I worked at the Losers, that Haji Baba, sp? we called her Haji Baba because this girl!  I remember this costume it was strips of pearls and, holy manoli! (Laughter) And she did this act on the-  what is it?  Remember you climbed the spider web thing?  She climbed walls! (Laughter) In a great way I might add.  Anyway, and I got to work at Ebenezer’s with some of the most gorgeous women and we worked with the Bobby Paris Trio.  And I had to say, Stella, last night, played the trumpet and I have a feature … and I would open the number with Satin Doll.  And Toni Duke Ellington, huh? That’s my favorite too, I got to tell you.  And would open Satin Doll and then I would dance, and we had a great time at the Losers.  And my best friend who was a dancer there for six months, Melba, she married the owner and then she quit.  (Laughter)  But she’s still my friend for 42 years.  Anyways, and then they got me to go up to Canada.  Carrie Starr called me and asked me to come to Vegas to work the Palomino.  I did that six years and then I got a job to do singing at the Sahara, The Maxim and The Union Plaza.  And I got on the cover of Viva Las Vegas and the Supreme Diana Ross was there the week before.  So I feel really privileged and they called me and wanted to know if I was going to go to Canada with Angel Carter who I worked with, too, and we got to the Penthouse and then we worked all over to Canada.  And I have to tell you that the Legends of Burlesque help bring the hotels out of receivership at that time because they had stars, the features and then they had the table dancers and it was just a wonderful time.  And then I went down to Miami to visit a friend in ‘87 for a vacation and she said, “Did you ever go to the Showgirl or Tootsies over here?  They’ve never had a feature.  So I went there and I became the first feature.  And then from there I had an agent heard me sing there and asked me to do the condo circuit.  So now I’ve become the ‘singing queen of burlesque’, I now became the ‘singing queen of the condos’.  (Applause)  And I’m so glad to be here.  Thank you so, much.  Thank you.  God bless you.

Julie: It seems the great answer to that question is there is a large sisterhood that almost all of you know one another through different circuits and stayed in touch, and it seems we have your relationships you built as dancers together in the venues for this ever growing network.

Dusty Summers: The Burlesque Hall of Fame has helped us get back in touch would be more accurate.

Many of us lost touch with each other for twenty or thirty years but Burlesque Hall of Fame has brought us back together and brought you to us.  Fantastic.


Julie: Everybody, Dusty’s books are fabulous.  I’ve read them and I encourage you to learn your historythrough her fabulous writing.  Elsa, you want to put your next question?

Elsa: Our next question is do you have any pieces of memorabilia that you cherish from your time performing and if you could share with us what that is?

Holly Carroll: The pieces of memorabilia that I have are, kept my tits.  (Applause)  I mean I have the music that I used for my [acts]…and I’d like to contribute that music.

Holiday O’Hara : When Tigger called me I had actually kept some of the costumes, all of the jewelry and my boas and what fit were the jewelry and my boas (Laughter), nothing else. Actually that’s not true, some of you have may see me on stage with a big huge white duster and that actually, because all I have to worry about is the armpits, still fits.  And I also had the privilege of working for a talent agency for a while, the Horizon Talent Agency in San Francisco and they had a bunch of photos, and back in the day we used to trade our publicity photos with each other.  And so I have a number of publicity photos from back in the day and I also have pictures of people that I admired who went before me.  So I had a picture of Gina Bon Bon.  I had a picture of La Sevona. I had a picture of Shelly Ray.  And they inspired me and so some of us up here are almost eighty or pushing that and some of us are sixty and I think it’s really interesting there’s nobody in the seventies mostly.  (Laughter).

Tammi True: Oh, I thought you were sixty.

Holiday O’Hara: Yeah, I think I’m the youngest legend, 62.  And I just want to thank the women on this panel and the woman who aren’t on this panel because without them, used to say without us, but without them I wouldn’t be here.


Joan Arline: I have, not to be donated yet, but I have the original Sexquire Prop.  I have my burlesque trunk, thank God it can’t talk.  (Laughter).  I also have the original blowup that went to the theaters.  And one of my first costumes that I still wear, the corselet, the gown, the headdress, the jewelry.  And I posed next to a picture of myself in that corselet, wearing the corselet.  The picture was when I was 22 and the last time I wore the costume was a week ago (Applause) at 78.  Still got it.  And when I pose with the prop, the Sexquire prop, and strike the identical pose, usually I get a standing ovation.


Julie: I think we’ll move on so we can go through.  The next question actually comes from Sydney Devereaux who can’t be here because she’s getting married in two weeks.  But she sends her love and I asked her for some questions and she wanted to know if anybody had favorite backstage memories?

Elsa: A favorite backstage memory that you can share.


Shannon Doah: I was working at a club that had a very small dressing room and we had a mirror in the front and it was long and just some chairs and to the back of us was our rack where we hung all our gowns and all our wardrobe and it was at the Losers.  Thank you Holly.  It was at the Losers.  No, it wasn’t at the Losers, this was at the other ball, this was the other ball.  And we were all in there doing our thing, getting ready for our show and chitchatting like we do and whatever we were doing, and all of a sudden I looked down and I saw two pairs of men’s shoes.  And I looked and I said look, look at these.  Do you girls have any men’s shoes in here?  And they said no, what are you talking about?  And we pulled the clothing aside and there was a guy lying there, completely underneath the wardrobe, hidden and all you could see were his shoes.  (Laughter)  And this was small!  I thought that was pretty good.


Holliday O’Hara: I have lots of memories, most of which I won’t share (Laughter) but I had two very special memories.  One is just a kind of group memory, which was that everywhere I went when I was on tour I knew at least one person and it did become this family.  It was this traveling family that was enormous, it’s kind of like meeting your cousins everywhere and we’d work for a week and then we wouldn’t see each other maybe for months.  And then we’d meet each other and it waslike oh, hi!  It was like this.  It’s that feeling again of being part of something that’s almost bigger than you are.  And the second memory I have is of working.  I was not a feature, I was a co-feature a lot, I wasn’t a feature.  I went very far for a woman  with little tits (Laughter)  and I had the pleasure of working with Blaze Starr in a very, very small theater.  It was the Palace Theater at 55 Turk Street, San Francisco.  It was a two-lane bowling alley of a theater and a teeny little stage and there were two dressing rooms, they were really offices and there were five of us.  Okay, and these two teeny rooms, and one was for the feature and the rest for us four girls.  And Blaze invited two of us into her room and she was one of the most gracious and generous human beings I’ve ever worked with.  She wore a complete bra, garter belt, panties and stockings.  Every show she threw all of that to the audience.  She didn’t throw her rhinestone tops, of course, but black lingerie.  She traveled with it, she must have bought it by the lot, but she threw all of that, every show to the audience.  I just remember her kindness; she was one of the girls.

Julie: Any other backstage memories before we move on?

Rubberlegs: If you also remember the Follies ran five shows a day normally and could barely fill it.  When Blaze came in that two weeks they bumped it up to six shows and they had lines of people waiting every day, and here’s a girl who hadn’t worked San Francesco what, like 30 years.

Holiday O’Hara: She had big surprises.

Rubberlegs: They came from all over California.  You legends don’t realize that you

work your city and you disappear.  The people will come back and see you, once you put your name up again.  She packed that place, six shows a night for two weeks.


Ellion Ness This is a long, long time ago memory. I had just started at Minsky’s.  I was in the chorus line and I had just got out of eighth grade.  This was like that the second week I’m working there.  And so somebody said, you know it’s your turn to get the key to the curtain and open the curtain and I said oh, where is it?  And they said well, it’s over by [her], she probably has it.  So I ran over there and they didn’t have it, and then they sent me down to the musicians and they didn’t have it, the comics and they didn’t have it.  So somebody sent me out to the front office and said Ruthie the secretary has it.  So I go out there and she said what can I do for you tonight?  And I said well I need the key to the curtain, and just then Mr. Minsky opens the door to his office and he comes out.  He says, what brings you here?  I said, I’m looking for the key to the curtain.  I’ve been looking all over and I can’t find the key to the curtain and I ‘m supposed to open the curtain.  He just looked at me and he said, you go back and get ready for the show.  (Laughter)  We all laughed.  (Laughter)


Julie: Next question.

Elsa: Our next question, is the last one that we’ll ask before we open the panel to the floor, is what do you want to be remembered by in this community. What is the thing you want to attach your name to?.

Camille 2000: My tribute to Marquis de Sade.


Judith Stein: My kitten act coming out of a garbage can that came on a fork lift, remember, Holly?  And it was to What’s New Pussycat, la, la ,la, la, la.  And also for my bath tubs, splish splash I was taking a bath. And for my big tits.  (Applause) After this morning, I think I’m going to be remembered for being able to blow my titties up.  (Laughter).  I think after this weekend I am going to be remembered by — I think I was the ‘last legend standing’ both nights.  (Applause)

Toni Elling: Please remember me as a good entertainer, that’s what I wanted to achieve when I started this.  I don’t think of myself necessarily as a stripper, I consider myself an entertainer.  (Applause).

Holiday O’Hara: I started stripping in 1968 and I was kind of a hippie stripper, meaning that I was a hippie. (Laughter) But on stage I was into the rhinestones and the velvet and boas, which means that I learned how to not arrive the first time as a feature, looking like a hippie, because they didn’t believe I was Holiday O’Hara at all.  (Laughter)  But my tagline initially, I was known as “Holiday Heart, Every Man’s Valentine.”  And the truth is that I’m still a hippie, you know?  (Laughter). Camille and I worked in Guam together, so we  can rib each other a lot. And I still believe in love, and I’m now known as “The Lady Who Loves to Love You” and that’s what I want to be remembered by.


Julie: Ladies, I would like to respectfully request that somebody offer a course next year in Hippie Stripping.  We need that course.


Haji: The name ‘the Losers’ has come up I think in all these girls’ conversations.  I just want to say, this has been such a great experience for me.  I’ve come from a background, my family were Europeans, so we have artists. I watched my uncle paint nudes as I was a young girl, so I have a different outlook on nudity and I’ve always been raised that…When I was a little girl, my mother took me, believe it or not, and I was very, very young eight, nine years old to see “God Created Woman”, that’s what my mother took me to see with Brigitte Bardot.  And I learned at a very early age I was very lucky to be gifted, was carved, was created as a healthy, nice figured woman.  And through my years I ended up getting into burlesque and I thought it was a wonderful thing to be in.  And a lot of people were always putting it down and I’m glad to see its coming to the surface of that.  It’s a gift, it’s a beautiful art I must say. (Laughter).  This weekend I have seen more shows, I wasn’t able to see a lot of the shows that I was in.  I caught a few peeks here and there.  But last night I saw the contest show, and I saw some of the girls I’d worked with behind stage and peeped through the curtains and it was so beautiful.  There’s rules and regulations and everything, and I want to say this is an art and I just hope that…I saw girls that when I was young, you wouldn’t really work, because some were little overweight in the shows I saw this week.  But you were so beautiful, you were so entertaining, you were alive, you just came alive with sparkliness, as you could say and I just want to say I enjoy seeing this beautiful new outlook.  But getting back to the Losers. (Laughter) I want to say something about, the club is calledthe Losers.  They had the most beautiful handpicked women there and the reason why they’re called the Losers is because they did like the news of the week, like Nixon, loser of the week.  So they would advertise the news of the week.  And they had the most beautiful girls on La Cienega, which was where all the supper clubs were, people would eat dinner, come and see these beautiful shows we had, it was like the Las Vegas Review.  Rusty worked there, Kitten worked there.  And I have a friend of mine that I’ve known back many years.  They called her the “Texas Tumbleweed”.  My friend Whitney here (Applause) …  and so many old friends I got to see here and it’s been such wonderful experience and I just hope that they take burlesque,   like I said, you always have rules, be fun with it, be free with it, be exotic, be loving but don’t make it vulgar. (Applause).  Have a beautiful ending.

Julie: All right, well Dusty had the wonderful idea that perhaps we could start by a legend asking a legend a question.

Dusty Summers: I often think that whatever field you’re known for, in our case burlesque or in

mine, burlesque and magic, is only part of the story.  The other part of the story is what did you go into?  What is now you career?  What do you do for a living now?  (Applause).  And I think anybody could volunteer because we’ve all obviously went into something else or most of us anyway, and I think that would be a good question.

Julie: What did you do after Burlesque?

Gina Bon Bon: After I retired burlesque, I became an artist.  I paint.  I just did one of Camille 2000 and she has it here.  (Applause).  And right now I’m doing a collection of all these stars of burlesque.

Joan Arline: I got out of burlesque, had two children, had a very successful dance school, classical, russian, ballet, ballroom, tap and jazz and no stripping.  And then a total change of career, I became a commodities broker.  Did very well, did that for about ten years and then I went into the Golden Girl Follies, at the age of sixty in Atlantic City and they had me doing the Gypsy Strip, and now I was back in burlesque.  (Applause).  And now I’m in burlesque.  Then the Palm Springs Follies and the Branson Follies and now back in burlesque.


Kitten Navidad: I’ve been selling real estate.  So I have two apartment buildings and I rent them and I only rent to lesbians and gay men (Applause) because they’re so clean.


Judith Stein: When I retired and that was 23 years ago, I moved to the vast fullness of British Columbia and I own a cabin in the woods.  I learned how to surf.  I started skiing again and run the clip.  I needed a job and, this sounds really stupid… but anyway, I started a business that was called Coup de Kay and I made flannel night gowns.  From stripping to flannel nightgowns.  (Laughter).  I am now a palliative care worker.  I work with the dying and as someone said to me, we could die laughing.


Camille 2000: I own the Cosmic Hog Pen in Florida.  I sell motorcycle leather (Applause) and brass knuckles and switchblades. (Laughter) (Applause)

Holiday O’Hara: There is a reason Camille and I are sitting side by side.  (Laughter).

When I left the theatre because it wasn’t for me, I went into something that I been exploring in my private life from 1980.  So in 1983 in the fall, I became a professional dominatrix.  (Applause) And did that from 1983 to 2005. I created the Women Intensive to learn about how to be erotic dominant, how to be safe and how to have ethics and how to love yourself in a way that’s legal.  And she and I worked very hard to legalize.  You can’t really be going because it’s in a gray area, but to teach people how to do this without running afoul of the law.  (Laughter)  As I said, there’s a reason why Camille are sitting together.  (Laughter)  I was a hippie but we leave some things behind.  Besides, I was never… you know, a lot of people have misconceptions about us.  It’s not about being cool.  It is about being intense.  And we all know about intensity in this room, and we all know about control.  And so a great deal of what I did, like I said I wenta long way as the girl with little tits, but my ability to take the room and say, you’re mine, got narrowed down to one person.  And then I took that ability to take a room and say you’re mine and narrow it down to one person, to becoming a hypnotherapist.  And that’s what I do today.  I’m a hypnotherapist.


Lottie the Body: This is a very good story.  I’ve met a young woman in the ladies room last night and she is recovering from cancer and this struck me so hard.  I am so proud of her that she is a survivor of cancer.  So if she is in here, let’s give her a wonderful round of applause. (Applause)  When she told me the story and I was listening, we should all stand for her.  (Applause)  I love you and you’re child of the world and the sweetest person.  Bless you.

Julie: All right.  We have a question from Shannon.

Shannon Doah: No, I’d like to answer that question because when we danced we didn’t have a lot of support from people that we met when we told them.  They’d ask us what we did and we often had to make up a story about what we did.  So the point where I decided I was ready to stop performing and get a real job, I was volunteering at an animal shelter and they asked me if I’d like to work there, I had been there 10 years and I thought I needed to change careers.  So I wanted to just tell you what I did because it helped to empower me even further because I was a little insecure about if I could actually do something in the normal life, because burlesque isn’t really a normal life.  (Laughter)  It’s not.  It really isn’t.  It’s a beautiful fantasy. So I began working for the animal shelter and I ended up developing programs for domestic violence victims and their pets.  And it was a program to take in animals so that victims of domestic violence could leave the abuser and not leave their animals behind.  (Applause)  because the animal are often the first one abused and the abuser will threaten to harm the animal if the spouse or the partner doesn’t do what they want them to do and then won’t leave.  So that was one of the first programs in the nation and that was about 15 years ago.  So now there are hundreds of them across the nation and they’re growing all over the world now.  (Applause)  That helped me to build my self-esteem even further and I had to go out and do a lot of public speaking, even though I am not doing very well right now on one hour’s sleep.  (Laughter)  The fact that I got up and performed naked in front of people, helped me to get out in front of people and speak too and it helped build my self-esteem.  And also being here now, what you’ve done, has also made it okay that I was a burlesque dancer.  So thank you.


Julie: Anyone else have a question?

Speaker 3: Yes.

Julie: Stand on up.

Speaker 3: Okay.  Okay can you hear me?

Julie: Yes.

Speaker 3: Okay.  Sorry I’m a little star struck, so I’ll try not to flub my words.  I feel like Toni.  I want to be an entertainer and I hope to do this for as long as possible.  But the problem with that is there’s fads and there’s trends, and it’s hard to…  So my question to you is no matter where burlesque goes and I’m sure you saw some different stuff last night that was awesome,  what as a performer, entertainer, can I do to always be entertaining to you no matter what my schtick is ?

Tammi True: You need to be true to yourself.  (Applause) And every time you walk in on the stage, you need to be ready to bring that audience in to what you’re doing.  So no matter how you feel, no matter how bad your hangover is. (Laughter)  And music means a lot because the type of music you pick and you hit that stage with that music, that sets the mood for the audience.  So you always need to pick the right music.  Costuming is very important.  It’s about 50 percent of your act.  And then projection.  You have got to…you can’t come out like…you’ve got to look at the people and you got to…I’m a comedian, so I’ve said things to them.  I had a drum solo and when the drum wasn’t playing, I was talking.  Got in trouble a few times.  (Laughter)  Never mind what they do now.  But I would say things like, turn around and muscle my butt and I’d be looking at some guy in the audience, and I’d say you want to kiss it, it kisses back.  (Laughter)  And I hadn’t written all this stuff.  I never had an act set in stone because hell, I might feel different tonight than I do tomorrow night.  So you’ve got to go with the flow …

Speaker 3: Yeah, yeah.  I can’t seem to find a character.  I want to feel….

Tammi True: You don’t have to have a character because I was all kinds of things.  You have to be you and no matter (Laughter).  You come out in your costume, bunny or whatever.  (Laughter) You have to bring them in, and they love it.  And so I had as many women follow me as I did men and they were If the woman don’t applaud on the weekends when we had couples, you’re dead.  So I always played to the ladies especially.  (Applause)  So it doesn’t matter.  You need to have different costumes, but you need to be yourself.  No one taught me anything.  I don’t think we had schools back then.  So I just went out on stage one night and I started doing it and then the next night I did a little something else and I tried this and I tried that and pretty soon I had an act that I didn’t even know I had.  And I had beautiful costumes, once I learned about zippers.



Holiday O’Hara: Well Tammi said about everything for us, I think.  There are a couple of things I would add.  One is, I’m always Holiday O’Hara.  I’m me.  Some of us have a projection that we put on stage and off stage — we’re not that.  That never worked for me.  What works for me is to be me; the biggest, bestest, boldest, brassiest, me.  And so what I’m going to say is, be you and find out who you really are.  (Applause)  Find out even though you may find what makes you move, what gets you passionate and then you bring that to whatever character.  I mean I did the cowboy act.  I did a valentine act of course.  But I didn’t want to be doing just the valentine act because it gets kind of limiting.  So I also did a spy act and I did a rock and roll act to Janice Joplin and The Doors.  I did a number of different acts but really I was always me.  The costume matched the music.  If I don’t have good music, I need some.  My thing is to make love to the audience (Applause) and the audience makes love to you back.  (Applause) And so the music, if the music doesn’t inspire me, it’s kind of flat for me.

Dusty Summers: My advice to you is the same advice I took myself all the years that I was entertaining.  If they said they needed an MC, I was the MC.  If they said you need to tell a joke, I told a joke.  I’m not saying everything I did turned out well.  (Laughter).  I nosed many times until I learned to get it better.  But what I am saying is don’t be afraid to learn something new, try something new.  If you don’t succeed at first, sometimes that in itself is a lesson, but just keep striving for something new and add something new everyday.  If you can, learn something new.  Also against the day that you’re no longer in show business.


Joan Arline: Your self-image is where it’s at.  How you feel about yourself will help you decide what you want to do in the act.  I entertain.  I do a one woman act.  I don’t know what makes a cancer survivor but I’ve been free of it for 13 years.  (Applause).  It’ll be 14 years.  I had two or three little cysts on the body of a dancer.  The cyst on the thighs and the Palms Spring Follies, 64 years old.  I went to three doctors, was it cancer?  And one said have a biopsy, not a biopsy.  Have it drained.  And I went and had it drained.  It wasn’t drained, did a biopsy – full-blown cancer of the leg.  And if I had listened to the three, I wouldn’t have a leg.  Then I was told they took it out of me.  I had radiation, 35 radiation treatments, 13 years ago.  Would not be able to go up and down the stairs.  Well, in the Branson Follies, a few years later, I carried a 30 pound headdress and went up and down the nine stairs and keep going.  (Applause) I kept going and then broke the leg because of the radiation, deteriorated the bone a year and a half ago, would not be able to move or dance.  I have a rod in the leg; I can think of a better place for a rod.  (Laughter) Because of the rod, the leg is an inch shorter now and I’m still dancing.  (Applause)  And I’m still stripping.  So keep it up.  Do what you love, and people will love you.


Holly Carroll: I agree with you.  Things happen.  I’ve got two hip replacements from dancing.  But you know what?  You keep on going and you find out what you like, how you like you it and do it just that way.  (Applause)  Because I got into country music and people would tell stories and jokes and all that kind of stuff when you’re on stage. So whatever you want to do, do it and do it well, and if you find out what you like, please yourself first because if you’re not happy with it then nobody else will be.  Just keep doing what you want to do and make sure that your audience is entertained.  That’s the bottom line because if you make them feel good, they’ll make you feel good.  Okay?  Thank you.


Haji: To the young lady, you’re very attractive, very attractive.  You have it all but everyone’s suggesting just be yourself. …That’s a really hard thing.  A lot of, and I don’t know who the hell they are. (Laughter)  But it goes with everybody whether or not if you applied yourself, you know who you are that’s great.  But in the meantime when you become a burlesque dancer, being a woman; it’s so beautiful.  You can become a flower, you can become a snake, you can become anything you want on stage.  So fantasize.  Just take your body and your imagination and do it.  That’s all you have to do.  Go into your own world.


Julie: One more question and then just a reminder that the ladies will be here afterwards to meet with you.

Joan Arline: There’s a gentleman back here.  He’s sat there forever.

Julie: That’s right I’m watching you, you’re watching your audience.


Male Speaker: I was here in 08 at the Palms and I think it was at the last minute, the gaming commission came and you couldn’t show any underboob, and everybody was running around at the last minute (Laughter) to try and find something to go with their costumes.  I was wondering if there had been any opportunities in the past where you got to overcome a lot of extreme resistance and you possibly had to change your attitudes.

Viva La Fever: Okay.  To be burlesque.  Totally nude.  You can’t touch yourself.  You’re on a stage, you’re in a theatre where you’re totally separate from the audience but they want to see your tonsils basically, okay?  This is San Francisco.  You go on the road and the same guy who owns the theatre in Seattle but you can’t do that there.  In San Francisco the cops came in, cashier hit the button underneath, it went out to the light man, he threw a blue light on you, you kept your underwear on.  You go to Seattle and they want to change the law so they ask for volunteers who would take everything off, and we knew the cops by name and they would take you to jail, they would pay you extra. (Laughter)  So there was a room full of us.  There were probably 15 of us, I guess, in court at one time, and they had a picture of me in the paper holding up my minister certificate, and the law was eventually changed, and we didn’t need to have pasties until you had to go to these other states.  So you had a few things to change, but eventually it got too raunchy that most of us didn’t want to work, you know.  But nudity is okay.  Some of the other stuff is not.

Julie: And so we haven’t heard from Barbara Yung, or the representatives of Forbidden City.

Pat: My name is Pat.  I’m not a burlesque dancer but I’ve been a dancer in a night club since 1953 (Applause).  But I recall in 1958 when I got married and raised a family, went out and got a regular job.  But then in 2003, we started going out to dance classes and then we started meeting other people.  We got together to do performances for all the senior citizens homes and doing veteran administration hospitals and all that.  But that’s what really made these girls blossom.  Some of them are preachers’ daughters, they never danced before.  But what really made them blossom was this last dance you saw us do on the stage the other night.  It’s called “Make Love to Me.”  All their inhibitions went out the door thenthey did this dance.  They really project themselves.  Right Gloria?  And Emily Beth, the preacher’s daughter.


Tammi True: Could I add something to that?  At the Whitcomb Hotel down in San Francisco, they have a gallery there of all the former night club performers and Barbara Yung’s picture was there, and so if you are in San Francisco, that might be an interesting place to see the historical pictures of the nightclub dancers in those days.

Speaker 5: Where is it?

Tammi True: At the Whitcomb Hotel.  It’s on Market Street.

Speaker 5: Thank you.

Tammi True: Market and 8th Street.

Julie: There’s a few people that we haven’t heard from yet, April, Tai Ping, do you have anything you’d like to add before we wrap up?

April March: No, other than to repeat the same thing that Joan was saying; and I taught a class the other day, is you have to project your own personality, you have to love the audience, you have to look at the audience, work to the audience and do something a little unique.  Each person that’s dancing, each one of you can do something that makes yourself known for that one little something, whether it’s a step, a look.  It’s just projecting, projecting yourself and work to the women as well as the men.  Get the women to like you because the men already love you. (Applause)

Tai Ping: I’ve also spent my 15 years and my my partner and I, we started a foundation that’s nonprofit.  And each year we have … a festival.  And then like Christmas, we give out toys to the kids and Easter.  But it’s here for families that have problems with any type of stuff.  So I’ve been doing that for 15 years.  And on the site it’s called Voguest Galleries and I have all my paintings on there.  I have water colors and I have acrylic.  And the other thing about vertical dancers, I only think that whenever you’re on stage, just use your whole stage because there’s paying customers on both sides.  (Applause)  If you focus on one man. but the person over there. he paid his money too. and he’s getting cheated.  So you should go from one side, to the center and to the left…

Toni Elling: All these ladies have given you very good information, what I would have said, I had answered in the beginning.  But let me tell you this.  Have fun.  I know I didn’t hear that but maybe somebody said it.  Have fun.  Everybody tell me that I look as if I’m having the time of my life.  I am. (Applause)  I love you and when I get that love I can give it back easily.  And when I can’t I will stop.


Elsa: I’d like to wrap it up.  Do you have anything to share before we wrap up?

Barbara Yung: I just want to thank you all for coming and receiving me so gracefully.  Thank you.


Elsa: Thank you all so much, to our Legends.  And I have two announcements before we break.  One, the legends will be here signing autographs after the event, two, I would like to ask Sparkly Devil to stand up.  She raised $15,000.00.  (Applause)  Thank you so much.  Next I would like to ask our two volunteers Tempest Divine and Vivra to stand up.  (Applause)  Thank you so much for volunteering.  (Applause)  And thank you all for coming to the listen to our living legends because by learning from them, we honor their history and we honor our history.  Thank you so much.


Haji: I would like to thank Paula, and Paula’s beautiful daughter. (Laughter). Theevent was beautiful.  And the volunteers, They treated us like queens.  First class.  And thank you so much and good luck.  Keep going girls.


Julie: The transcript from last year’s panel is on burlesquebeat.com and they aim to have a transcript from this panel as well.  (Applause)  Thank you so much.


Read and download the 2010 Burlesque Hall of Fame Legend Panel Transcript, with an introduction by Tigger!. 

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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