Chiara: Well, I guess you’re right. The hurricane is going to hit regardless of whether you’re there, so let’s still plan on you being here Friday night.
Mom: Okay, honey. Living in South Florida makes one a fatalist. I’ll just take it as it comes.
Chiara: Probably a good way to look at it. Okay, Mom, I gotta go. I’m going out and I need to get dressed. I just made an emergency run to Target for guess what item?
Mom: Tell me!
Chiara: Fishnets! My very first pair!
Mom: FISHNETS! I love fishnets!
Chiara: You love fishnets?
Mom: I love fishnets! The only reason I don’t wear fishnets every day is so I don’t blow my cover as a pillar of my very conservative community. [My mom has been a kindergarden teacher on the island basically since I was in kindergarden myself. Her teaching philosophy is “Velvet Glove, Iron Fist” and all the parents of her students openly worship her as she bikes around the island, which is, indeed, very politically conservative.]
Chiara: [Stunned silence]
Mom: Fishnets are so great! They are very flattering and they don’t make you too sweaty and if you want to you can stick your finger right through them!
Chiara: I had no idea, Mom.
Mom: I am so proud of you, honey, for wearing fishnets! It’s like when you decided to become a social worker…you’re truly my child!
Chiara: You’re proud of me for becoming a social worker?
Mom: Yes, very. And for wearing fishnets.
Now, the reason I was wearing fishnets at all, let alone on a Tuesday night when I’d just spent a very hot and sweaty hour on the bus for traffic-related reasons, is because my beloved bellydance teacher had decided that she was going to celebrate her thirtieth birthday by performing a burlesque act at a local supposedly fetish club. It wasn’t too fetish-y that I could see, frankly, but it was a Tuesday night and anyway I don’t really know from fetish so whatever. Anyway, she invited her students to come out and see her and my duty was clear. When your bellydance teacher tells you she’s going to be doing burlesque, you don’t question, you just go.
After some intense fretting (Stirrup pants? Sweatshirt with a kitten appliqu頯n it?) about What To Wear I decided on Gothy Librarian and wore the Gorey outfit, complete with square-toed shoes. I hoped that no one at the FETISH CLUB would know that half my outfit came from the Gap and the other half came from Target.
Sharon and her husband and their friend picked me up and we went to Capitol Hill and got parking pretty near and went on in to the club. We were the first people there because Sharon needed to get set up and get into her costume and everything, so we sat around and listened to the band set up. I felt old because it was very loud. More people started to trickle in, including a lot of bellydancers, and it was fun to see the people in my class in their non-bellydance clothes. I stuck to my strict requirements of hanging out only with beautiful women and we all sat around and wondered what burlesque would be like. I’d never seen it before but I was pretty sure it involved naked boobies but was somehow not stripping.
The band played a couple of songs. It went like this:
Drummer: BLAM BLAM BLAM BLAM!! BLAM BLAM BLA-BLAM!
Keyboard Guy: Ree ree ree! Ree ree ree ree ree ree!
Lead Guitar: Ah wow wow wow wow ah wow wow.
Lead Singer: Eh oh ehh ehh eee ehhh oooohhh oh eh eeeeehhhhhh aaaahhhhh oh ah eh eh.
The lead singer was wearing a sparkly shirt and smudgy eyeshadow and he made amusing hand gestures so I guess it wasn’t all bad but all in all I was glad when that portion of the evening’s entertainment was over.
Now, the whole idea of this thing was that it was a talent night and anyone could get up there and perform and it was run by two drag queens of the old school named, I think, Dominatrix Roxie and Miss Jessie, or something. They were every clich頹ou can think of concerning drag queens, and they talked for about forever. There were only four acts that night so I guess they had to fill in a little bit, which they did by doing about three or four very campy lip-synch things, which you know all about if you’ve seen Priscilla. They made me a little tired. I don’t know if it was because there really were not that many people out that night and so the energy in the club was rather subdued or just because their musical stylings looked suspiciously like what I do in my socks and underwear in front of my bedroom mirror whenever Bizarre Love Triangle comes on. The audience clapped politely but I think most of us were just there to see Sharon and we wanted to see her already!
Well, she was fantastic. She wore a great black wig and the cutest, cutest little ruffled panties and a corset and a bra and sparkly pasties and a feather boa and we were all just so proud. Her dance training and awareness of the music and her audience were apparent and later we all agreed that she was in her body the way good bellydancers almost always are. The other burlesque dancer was, frankly, stunning, and she really knew her stuff and she had a beautiful costume plus some big feather fans, but it was a completely different feel. I don’t know if it’s because I know Sharon when she’s not in her pasties…I found the fact that she wasn’t wearing her tribal gear weirder than the fact that she was topless for a couple of seconds there at the end, if that makes any sense…but I really felt the connection she had with the audience in a way I didn’t with any of the other performers, even if every single one of them except the singer did the thing where they go the front row and get all up in peoples’ faces. In fact the other burlesque dancer threw me…me, a Goth librarian!…her gorgeous blue elbow-length glove when she took it off and I felt a little flutter when she did so, but I still was very aware that, like, she was taking her clothes off specifically to titillate us, where it felt more like Sharon just happened to be dancing around in this adorable outfit, and she just felt so awesome that she just had to take parts of it off, and we happened to be watching. There was a sense that she’d be doing the same thing even if there was no audience, which made her audience love her even more.
So it was her, the other burlesque dancer whose name I totally cannot remember except it ended in LaRouge, a girl who sang an a capella Natalie Merchant song, and then another person in drag who did a couple of “diva acts.” He was quite an amazing dancer and he did several splits and also did a bunch of lascivicious movements to several members of the audience. We liked a lot of his moves and the fact that he wasn’t dancing to any song made in the seventies.
Sharon: [over a song by Pink, I think] YOU CAN TOTALLY TELL HE’S GOT CLASSICAL DANCE TRAINING.
Chiara: YEAH. LOOK AT HIS TURNS. HE’S TOTALLY SPOTTING.
Sharon: I THINK WE’RE GOING TO GET ANOTHER SPLIT HERE.
Chiara: VERY FLEXIBLE.
The thing about that person, that very flexible person, was although he did do a lot of the over-the-top drag thing, he also played around with gender a little in a manner that was vastly more interesting and entertaining than Roxie and Jessie. At one point he was wearing kind of camouflage pants but the kind that have toggles on them so they turn into capris, with a sheer black tank top into which his falsies were precariously stuffed. He pulled those out and threw them at the audience, which, whatever, but then! He took his pants off in a good slinky way and then it turned out that his tank top was actually a slinky dress! And he got that all situated and then he took his wig off and did the rest of his piece in a short buzz cut and a diamond choker and that was excellent, that was much better than the sky-high wigs and faux-diva posturings of the other drag queens, with their platform shoes and sparkly gowns. It’s like when I used to go to this drag beauty pageant in college, and several times lent dresses of mine to contestants, like regular black dresses that a normal girl would wear, because it’s much more interesting and certainly more difficult to try to emulate normal girls instead of some ridiculous fake ideal that’s not even really an ideal. I’d rather see a guy pretending to be the type of girl who wears braids and tights and a sweater than a guy mincing around with huge overdone breasts and an evening gown. In fact I don’t even know any women who wear evening gowns, just drag queens.
Well. Anyway. After a while of watching all this, picking falsies off the floor, knocking back cranberry juice after cranberry juice, and loudly explicating the above theories to my table, it was time to select a winner. LaRouge won, which she totally deserved because she was awesome, but which Sharon also deserved because she was totally awesome and because her outfit with the ruffled panties was so so cute. And then it was time to go home because I have a day job, fishnets or no fishnets.
To sum up, here’s what I learned about my Very First Burlesque Show:
1) When your bellydance teacher tells you to come out and see her perform, do as you’re told.
2) Whatever you do onstage, you’ve got to OWN it.
3) I prefer music with words in it.
4) I am tired of old style drag queens.
5) I like it when pretty girls wear pretty clothes and then take some of them off, looking just cute as the dickens.
6) I am interested in people who play around with gender in their performances. I especially like boys who wear makeup.
7) I am probably too chicken to full-on order a Shirley Temple at a bar like I secretly want to.
8) Fishnets are indeed excellent, and I come by that honest.