Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender – part 2

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So Friday morning arrived and due to my wonderful jet-lag, I was up with the lark and on the hunt for breakfast. American breakfasts are huge and I adore breakfast so I was thrilled to find a decent huevos rancheros. Having stuffed myself to the point of bursting we decided to head to the home of rhinestones, Du Barry. We met up with of some the other UK performers, Aurora Galore, Havana Hurricane, Daisy Cutter, Ivy Wilde and Trixie Pash and after a quick cab ride in the scorching heat we arrived at a Mecca for magpies. Du Barry’s is literally groaning under the weight of so much sparkle, more sparkle than I had ever seen in one place and it gave me palpitations and I felt slightly sick! The burlesquers dashed from station to station filling baskets with sparkle, much like a BHoF Supermarket Sweep. After an hour of bedecking ourselves in gowns, necklaces, bangles and rings we all paid for our hauls and decided to head to the Burlesque Hall of Fame Museum. We stepped outside into the blistering heat and found that there were no taxis to be found. I felt sure that my time had come – I spend most of my time avoiding the sun like some sort of nosferatu. Although at least having visited Du Barry, I would sparkle like something akin to a Twilight vampire! We waited for what seemed like an age before we (I) made the decision that we would walk to the intersection to try to get a bus back to the city. We trudged along with the sun scalding us, laden down with bags of sparkly shit – we must have looked quite the sight.

Dubarry's

English girls hit Du Barry hard! From l-r Ivy Wilde, Havana Hurricane, Me, Aurora Galore and Louise (Aurora’s pal)

Having made it to the intersection my wonderful husband managed to hail a cab and we piled in and headed for ‘Old Vegas’. The cab dropped us outside the Mob Museum and we strolled down Fremont Street. It was easy, with the old buildings and the neon signs, to imagine The Rat Pack partying there.

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UK Showgirls in Fremont Street? Well, we had to take showgirl pictures.(Me, Daisy Cutter, Aurora Galore, Ivy Wilde, Havana Hurricane and Trixie Pash)

We wandered further down until we came to the Burlesque Hall of Fame Museum, we stepped through the door and paid homage at the shrine to American burlesque collected, treasured and displayed  by Dixie Evans, before her death. It was amazing to see the detailed timeline of burlesque emblazoned across the walls punctuated by artifacts and costumes. It was fascinating but time marched ever onwards and we dashed back to the hotel.

The Aussie contigent

Above: The Aussies and I on Legends Night. What a show, thanks for the tissue scraps ladies!

I managed to catch a snooze before the time came to drag myself out of bed and get myself ready for the evening’s entertainment, the much anticipated Titans of Tease Showcase, also known as Legend’s Night. It’s the heart and soul of the weekender I wore my chartreuse Vicky Butterfly gown as the theme for the evening was green. As we came downstairs, there was a sea of green and sparkles. We took our seats and the show began, it was just incredible to see these women, some of whom hadn’t performed for thirty years, absolutely owning the stage and bringing the crowd to their feet time and again. It is so important to learn from them, to watch and support them; the strings of connections go back through them to burlesque past and through us to burlesque future. It was also incredibly comforting to see that despite detractors and censors over the years, burlesque has and will endure. I wanted to load up a bus full of burlesque-antis so that they could feel the love and admiration in that room and see those incredible performances. `
We wept, we laughed, we cheered and paid homage to those who had died including an incredible tribute to Dixie Evans. The hostess of the show, The World Famous BOB was just amazing. She whipped the crowd into a frenzy with her passion for the art. The audience was left humbled and emotional after seeing these incredible burlesque stars still shaking what their mothers gave them. I loved watching Ellion Ness (The untouchable!), Lovey Goldmine and Miss Penny Starr Snr (Her bump and grind had to be seen to be believed). I think the whole audience felt honoured to be there watching our burlesque history in action. I can only hope to be so awesome as I grow older!
Elated, I dashed up to get an early night, I had a feeling that the next day was going to be enormous!

To be continued…

 

 

 

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Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender – part 1!

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Once a year, at the beginning of June, the burlesque world converges on Las Vegas for a convention quite unlike any other, The Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender. Now, as everyone knows, I have been a longtime advocate and supporter of the art of burlesque and I was thrilled and honoured to be invited this year to host the big competition night on the Saturday. Now, when I say big competition night, I mean big. It’s the night when the panel of judges decide who should be crowned Best Debut, Best Group, Best Troupe, Best Boylesque (The King of Burlesque) and finally The Queen of Burlesque, also known as Miss Exotic World. It’s no mean feat, even to get through to Las Vegas, the performers have gone through a stringent judging process. So it’s the best of the best, being judged by the best.

The Orleans

We arrived in Vegas on Wednesday night with three suitcases stuffed to the brim with sequinned gowns, high heels, Swarovski crystals and enough lashes to make a broom. After a short limo ride we arrived at The Orleans, where the conference was being held, and I had just enough time to sling on a frock and some heels before we dashed out to catch Piff the Magic Dragon, Laurie Hagan and Nate Cooper in ‘Rose Rabbit Lie‘ at the Cosmopolitan.

Rose. Rabbit. Lie

It was a great show, some things weren’t where I would have put them, but hey, it isn’t my show. The acts were all phenomenally talented and I appreciate that in a variety show. By the time the show had finished and we stumbled out, bumping into many old friends on the way (including David Ladderman and Lizzie Tollemache who we have known for years in New Zealand. Big world, small world!) I was shattered and we returned to the hotel to sleep.

The Orleans

Thursday was registration day, we went along and I got my special wristband and a medal. I’m not sure why I got a medal but it was very nice to have one. Then it was time to rehearse for Saturday, I had never met my co-host before and it is terribly hard to create a rapport with someone you don’t know. However, Kingfish was a complete gentleman and put me at my ease and we put the opening of the show together. There were dancing girls, The Fishnet Follies, and Kingfish even had his own reverse striptease to do! After rehearsal I just had time to dash upstairs, sling on a frock and come back down for the first night’s festivities. The first show was the Burlesque Movers, Shakers and Innovators, a show jam packed with people doing new and creative things and for the stars of tomorrow, it also featured step-down performances from Swing Time (featuring Russell Bruner – a fabulous swing dancer and King of Burlesque 2012!) and King of Burlesque 2013 Ray Gunn. It was also hosted hilariously by Blanche DeBris and Jonny Porkpie. Their interplay and banter absolutely stole the show and I appreciated the hard work that had gone into their double act. Blanche, in particular, stole my heart with her cutesy voice and hilarious clowning. The red carpet was amazing, I have never had the honour of being surrounded by so much haute glam – it was a complete delight to see how much effort everyone made. There were lashes, wigs and sequins like you have never seen. The highest of heels, the most sparkly rhinestones – it was almost too much for the eye to take in. The audience response to the show was immense with standing ovation after standing ovation. I was completely overwhelmed by the number of people, the sheer glamour, the excitement of meeting people I admire and I decided to have an early night as I knew what the following days held in store for me.

To be continued…

 

 

Lili goes to Glasgow for a Wild time.

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Let me share a story with you.

Way back in 2008, I was doing the Edinburgh Fringe, guesting one evening at a late night cabaret show run by Paul L Martin. I was on the bill alongside some silent comedy chap, the man with sticky tape on his head, or something and also a can-can troupe. Now, I was done and getting dressed backstage, (at that time I was doing my operatic burlesque routine, La Butterfly Deshabille) and the can-can troupe were on. Halfway through their routine, it all goes west. The chap is supposed to catch one of the girls and instead, his leg makes contact with her face. Blood running from her nose, she tries to carry on the routine hoping that the audience won’t notice. Sadly, it’s hard to ignore plumes of blood flying horizontally on every spin. She calls time and makes a dash for the dressing room.
“My fucking nose” she shrieks, “Do you have any idea how much this fucking nose cost me?”. As blood streams from her nose, I lean over and wrapping some ice cubes in my vest top, I offer it to her to stem the flow. “Your father’s a surgeon,” she yelled at the terribly apologetic chap “He better have a fucking good plastic surgeon friend if my nose is fucking broken!!”.After twenty minutes, we’d stopped the bleeding, ascertained that the nose was not broken and she gave me back my soggy, bloodstained top.
I packed up my costume and slipped out of the venue, sans top!

Fast forward six years.

I get a very exciting email about a new cabaret club opening in Glasgow and would I like to come up and host a weekend. Now, I’m not great with a) leaving home and b) new people or places. Being a creature of habit, I’m very happy to reside comfortably in my comfort zone. So the day comes and I hop on the plane at Southend Airport bound for Edinburgh. I’m met at Edinburgh by the completely delightful Gypsy Charms, whose world has revolved around mine for years. We’ve met briefly here and there but never managed to share a stage. Until now.

We drove through to Glasgow and got to Wild Cabaret, an amazing purpose designed cabaret club right in the heart of the Merchant City. I sound checked and then Gypsy sat down beside me on the floor of the dressing room to go through the running orders for the night. As we chuckled together, I glanced at her profile and a memory sparked. I asked if perhaps she had once been kicked in the face in a can-can in a late night show in a drippy cave? She burst out laughing and we cackled together about that ‘bloody’ show. The laughter continued throughout the weekend, through two shows and one hilarious drive back to Edinburgh where I was regaled with tales of strippers for the whole drive. If you haven’t had the pleasure of Gypsy’s company, you have missed out, she is one funny lady. I haven’t laughed so hard in an age.

The shows were amazing, the venue glamorous, the crowds were warm and welcoming and to top it all, the gorgeous Frank Sanazi left me some strawberries in my hotel room for a late night, post show snack. After a long day and a late show, I have never been so happy to see strawbs! I even got to meet a very affectionate dove called Athena.

Athena the Dove

I’m back up for more fun on the 27th and the 28th June, so Glasgow, get your tickets here and join Gypsy and I and a host of glorious cabarati for a hilarious evening of fantastic variety.

Love Lili

 

 

The Oscar Wilde Bar rehomes a Stray Cat…

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Now I know I have written about the Black Cat Cabaret before, but there has been an evolution for this kitten. After slipping away from the gaudy Cafe de Paris last year, the Black Cat has been rehomed by the gorgeous Cafe Royal Hotel, in the historic Oscar Wilde Bar (formally the Grill Room). The room is an extravaganza of gold leaf and mirrors with a baby grand piano in its centre and it is there where we set our stage.

The Oscar Wilde Bar
As a singer, it is always a treat to be given the chance to interpret lesser known gems and as a regular attendee of the ‘Salon’ I get the chance to sing songs that would normally see the light of stage in a more conventional recital, as well as interpretations of other favourite songs of mine that I have hoarded in my collection. In many cabaret clubs we all slip into our comfortable staples, (normally those songs for which we can find the backing tracks) but the joy and delight of the ‘Salon des Artistes’ is the addition of the musicians; and what musicians they are! We are regularly graced by Michael Roulston, Nicola Enigma, Duncan Walsh Atkins and fabulous bass players like Tom Mansi. They enable us singers to perform music which is not normally found loitering around in other cabaret haunts.

La Butterfly and I
We have also been lucky enough to have had some of the world’s top cabaret singers through the doors of the ‘Salon’ including Frisky (of Frisky and Mannish fame) is a regular and so is the amazing ‘La Poule Plombée’ with her carer, West End star Sarah-Louise Young. Lady Rizo stopped by when she was in town, Ali McGregor came along (avec enfant), Marcella Puppini (the founding Puppini Sister) and even Alfie Boe, (OK, he may not have sung a song, but he definitely was in the room – we’ll get him next time!)

Alfie Boe and a Ceil Chapman Gown

Dusty Limits is the compere and director, although yours truly steps in on occasion. Otherwise, I get the chance to pull more unusual songs from my repertoire, soak them liberally in Tattinger (pink Tatty on occasion) and unleash them on our intimate and adoring audience. At the moment, I’m enjoying Lizst and Léhar as well as a little Radiohead. I’m contemplating some Mozart and some Poulenc for later in the year. Add to the mix, the muse – a gilded Vicky Butterfly, a devastating hand balancer, (you can count Reuben Kuan and Sammy Dineen amongst our guests!), resident danseurs ‘Cabaret Rouge’ and the best looking bar keeps in town (do make sure to look out for the heart-achingly gorgeous Tiago – Dusty’s particular favourite – although Tiago himself prefers a little Lili in his life, I’m sure!)

Klimt Alive in Butterfly Hands
If you haven’t yet had the chance to come along to the ‘Salon des Artistes’, I suggest you unleash your inner artist, dress elegantly, slip through our door and wallow in the champagne-soaked decadence of our stunning home. It is a privilege to perform in such splendour and you’ll feel equally as astounded as the performers envelope you in their demi-monde of Parisian chic right in the heart of Piccadilly. I thought I’d leave you with a scattering of my favourite pictures taken by Clive Holland, one of modern cabaret’s greatest supporters.

A Maison Butterfly Gown

Our dark and deviant host...

The Mirror Dance from Cabaret Rouge

And once you have finished gazing in wonder at the pictures, maybe you should stop by here and buy a ticket, go on, we’d love to see you.

Love Lili.

The Show’s The Thing (or how Adelaide Fringe created a Siren)

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When I started to gather songs for ‘Siren’, I wasn’t sure what I was creating. I knew I had to create a new show, ‘War Notes‘ and ‘Songs to Make You Smile‘ have both almost had their day (although, they are open for booking should you be so inclined!). So I knew I had to create something. Now, I work well under pressure, so given a year of procrastinating, moving sheet music from pile to pile and then arranging the piles into alphabetical order and then rearranging them chronologically I started to form the basis of an idea.

My life has been in a state of flux over the last year, I think that many cabaret performers sometimes feel the same. The work is neither consistent nor assured and although I’m often lucky to be busy and in demand, that could change tomorrow. I also had a baby, with all the added pressures and responsibility that he brings along with his toddling and giggling. My husband is often away on tour and marriage is sometimes really tough. No one tells you that when it’s all hearts, flowers and engagement rings.

So I haven’t been in the most creative frame of mind, and yet this show was booked into Adelaide Fringe way back in September. So I had to create something. Anything. I sensed a theme amongst my chosen songs, they were eclectic, but all vaguely nautical. I wanted to do something deeper, more mysterious and more enchanting. It wasn’t easy, but nothing that is worth something comes easy to you. I couldn’t find the flow, I couldn’t find the links and so a very dear friend of mine, Ralph Bogard offered to help me find my way in the darkness. And boy, did he. We worked intensively for two days and it was exhausting both emotionally and physically. We explored the song choices and the reasoning behind them and therein lay the links. Some funny, some feminist and some just plain painful. He forced me to delve deeper and share those locked away emotions and hurts that make the songs real.

Siren Flyer

I originally wanted a costume that would come apart as the show progressed and my fabulous costumier, Jema Hewitt made me the most amazing disintergrating ‘sea wraith’ dress but once I rehearsed with it, it felt contrived and I couldn’t find the truth in it. So I ditched that idea, grudgingly, let me tell you! So I was costumeless. It was a problem, as one of my techniques to bringing a show together is building from the costume. You find the perfect visual aesthetic and everything else seems to fall into place. I happened to be browsing a vintage store in Auckland and I came across this deep sea blue and green 1940’s gown. It was glamorous but a little tatty, a little fragile, coming apart at the seams – much like me (under the bravado). As soon as I put it on, ‘Siren’ was born.

Siren onstage

Now, I’ve spent a month here at the Adelaide Fringe, it’s been really hard work but I have had good friends around to counsel. My ‘work spouse’, Mat Ricardo, has been an absolute rock. He’s been a shoulder to lean on and an ear when I needed to rant, cry or talk and we have also laughed. I think it is always hard when the material you are doing drags up from the depths of your soul the past hurts and emotions that you had locked away in a little box and buried deep. What is the quote from ‘The Go-Between’? – ‘the past is a foreign country, they do things differently there’. The past was a different country, I was a different person. In a way, ‘Siren’ has been a gift of closure of some open wounds which I had just packed with glitter and tit tape – like a cabaret war wound! It’s shown me that emotional honesty onstage can be an incredibly terrifying thing but to be able to share that with an audience and take them on that journey with you is an exhilaration. Through the show, I’ve confronted, literally, those weights laying heavy within me and reaffirmed that in my life that I have made the right decisions, no matter how painful they were at the time.

Ferris Wheel at dusk.

So my message this morning is don’t be afraid to use your hurts and emotional weak spots to create art. Use them, share them, allow your audience the privilege of seeing deep inside you to where those cuts are still raw. It both hurts more and hurts less as time goes on. We are so caught up in our own fear to fail, our unwillingness to commit, our emotional baggage; how freeing it is to take control of it, harness it and say “Bitch, you work for me now”.  It’s working for me, (so far, I’ve evaded the men in white coats) ‘Siren’ has grown into a fully fledged show and has been incredibly received by audiences (who have bought me gifts of songs and vintage brooches!) and critics alike and for that, I give thanks for my multiple broken hearts and wounded pride.

Vintage brooch gift!

If you are reading this in Adelaide, you have three more chances to catch the show, get your tickets here. If you are in London, I’m coming to London Wonderground in June and you can get your tickets here.

Love.
Lili. x

la Scala’s Singers Advice

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The other day here in Adelaide, I had a young singer come to my show, (Siren, 6.30pm, Garden of Unearthly Delights: tickets here!)After the show she waited outside to talk to me. She said that she hoped to be able to perform like that, one day. She was just starting out on her training at the Conservatoire here in Adelaide and hoped to study in Germany in the future. I had so much advice that I wanted to give, too much to say on a first meeting with a stranger. It left me thinking, what would my advice be to my younger self, to that young opera trainee with stars in her eyes and the confidence and immortality of youth?
So I thought I’d write it down and share it with you all, maybe a young singer out there will read it and it might help them.

Music college is hard. You might be a high flyer, you might not. If you are, there is always pressure to be the best, if you aren’t then you may find yourself sidelined. Both positions are difficult, be kind to yourself.
You will try to sound like Callas, or Gheorghiu or Petibon. Don’t. Enjoy your gloriously young sound. Don’t darken or deepen or over-brighten in the hope of developing vocal richness or lightness. Your voice is as individual as you are. It is also young. You may not know who you are until you hit your mid twenties, late twenties or early thirties, let your voice develop the same way. Find repertoire that suits you now. You have years to sing Norma, Queen of the Night or Don Giovanni.

Be dedicated to music that inspires you. If you love Poulenc, learn all the Poulenc you can. Research unusual material, find songs that your peers aren’t singing. There is a world of music out there that people aren’t singing, gorgeous rare songs which are desperate to be heard. Don’t be afraid to sing in your native tongue. For me, I adore English song. Be pedantic with your diction. You have a duty to the poet in question to allow the audience to hear his or her words. Now, I’d prefer a sacrifice of line to words, any day. Listen to your tutors, but don’t always listen to your tutors.

Don’t be a diva. One day, you can be a diva. Just don’t be a diva now. It’s annoying. When you get to the day when you can be a diva, be a diva about the important things. Don’t make someone else feel bad with your diva-ness. Be grand, be self confident, be assertive but not to the detriment of those around you. As a diva now, I need water, a dressing room, a quiet performance space and a mic that works. I can work around anything else. I don’t have any weird or wonderful backstage rituals or needing peace for ten hours before a show. Be respectful, though, of those other performers who might have complex needs.

You don’t have to follow any diet plans. If you want to drink coffee before you sing, do it. If you want to drink Champagne before you sing, do it. If you want to drink milk you can. If you come back at me saying that it will coat your vocal folds, then I suggest you take yourself to a hospital because if it is coating your vocal folds, you are in danger of drowning. Milk may create mucus, but it will not pass your vocal folds. That’s just biology.
Don’t be disappointed, (OK, you can be a bit disappointed for a while, I cried for a month) if your first operatic dream doesn’t pan out, it’s ok, there is more than one path and as someone once told me, ‘it’s a dance, not a race’. Find what you are good at, if not opera, why not musical theatre, why not classical song, why not cabaret? Be passionate about something and find your path by way of meander. Some people will be Glyndebourne stars at 22, most won’t. It’s ok. There are other paths. Create shows, market them, be different, be proactive. If you have something to say musically, there are heaps of theatrical spaces all over the country. Create art your way.

Be a fearless performer and take artistic risks. The stage is not always the place for subtlety. Feel each musical emotion keenly and make sure that your audience feels it too. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain but being completely emotionally honest with your music. Learn your words, not just by heart but by meaning. Know each inflection and each insinuation. Don’t just sing words and hope to get some meaning across. Fundamentally, singers are storytellers, tell your stories with passion and intensity. There are some wonderful artists who have managed to forge a career that veers away from but alongside traditional opera, the gorgeous Ali McGregor and the devastatingly fabulous le Gateau Chocolat spring to mind, and of course, yours truly.

Finally, have confidence in who you are and what you do. Don’t be afraid to do something unusual and unexpected, as hard as it will inevitably seem sometimes. Take that road less travelled and enjoy the journey.

Love Lili.x

Feminist Burlesque? Don’t make me laugh.

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This morning I woke up to a video from the Huffington Post claiming to be “hilarious” and “feminist burlesque”. I thought, how fabulous and clicked gleefully on the video. Imagine my disappointment when it turned out to be an average comedian taking a cheap shot at an art form at which many of my (feminist) friends excel so wonderfully. I’m not posting it here, but you can easily look it up. I adore burlesque, it was a scene that made me feel so welcome when I was just an opera singer seeking to send up opera by mixing it with striptease. Now, having evolved, I frequently host shows with some of the best strippers, ecdysiasts and showgirls that the business has to offer. Women so at home, so comfortable with their bodies and their sexualities that nakedness and nudity is not even slightly taboo. What could be more feminist than that?

So, Nadia Kamil, let’s look in detail at your ‘feminist burlesque’ for a second, shall we? Let me first explain the meaning of burlesque to you, since when you created your ‘routine’ you obviously didn’t seek to explore the rich history of the art form which you feel is ‘shaming’. Burlesque at its very purest means to send up, to take the piss out of something, to make people look at role models or people deemed important and laugh at them. Very much like your stand up comedy. Although, being a women, you wouldn’t know about funny, would you? Whoops, a hack cliché slipped in there, how silly of me. Not something you’d expect from someone with a degree…but more of that later. So, by sending up a burlesque routine, you are almost the pure distillation of burlesque itself. Well done you.
You start with your explanation of how someone’s routine made you feel icky. Was it her comedy? Was it her comfort with her own body? That a woman can be both sexy and funny? That must have stung you a bit, as many female comedians struggle with being sexy and funny. Lucky that in the burlesque world, that isn’t an issue we struggle with, it’s so liberated over on the dark side. I draw your attention to the fabulous Kiki Kaboom if you need an example. Hilarious. Sexy. Liberated.
Then you go on to give away her punchline. Just like that. So the gag that she so carefully sets up over the five or so minutes of her act, you give away. Just. Like. That. Intrinsically, that laugh that you got when you revealed her reveal. That was hers. You are basically a joke thief.

Then, taking off your glasses, so we “can’t see your shame”, you start your routine. Using The Stripper. A piece that has been used to parody stripping routines since it was written. How original of you. How funny. How multi-layered. I say routine, but that would imply some level of choreography or skill. Do you know how long and hard burlesquers work to make what they do look effortless? Hours and hours and hours of rehearsal and self discipline. Hours of watching the greats from the forties and fifties, the mothers of our craft, watching them to discern how they get each bump and grind absolutely perfect. Studying hand positions and leg angles so that it shows our feminine curves off to the most perfect advantage. The hours spent gluing crystals (and the accompanying E-6000 headache that goes with it) to costumes, the bleeding hands and blisters from fans (like the amazing twerking Aurora Galore who frequently cuts her fingers to ribbons, she goes so hard with those fans!) and pointe shoes, the bad backs and necks from hauling heavy costumes from one end of town to the other, (for burlesquers, like comedians, also do a double – or sometimes even a triple)

If you had done a little research into the art form you were parodying, you’d know that 90% of our audiences are female or couples. It’s very hard to do a sleazy show designed to titillate men when the majority of the audience are women (with degrees – that’s important, apparently). That must mean that burlesque is for girls? No, surely not? Women with degrees, watching other women with degrees, bump, grind and sparkle? Could there be anything more feminist in the world? Stand up comedy perhaps? Ha. Don’t make me laugh.

Then your reveal, it’s ok for me to reveal your reveal isn’t it?  You have hack feminist statements. The obvious ones. Equal pay? Hilariously, burlesque and variety are probably the only professions where women command equal (if not more) money than the boys and frequently top the bill above the men. It is the only profession that is almost solely produced, promoted, paid for and performed by women. Women, paying women, to perform for women.

No mention of the more monstrous feminist issues. FGM, forced marriage, corporal punishments and gang rapes in Africa and India among many others. Surely, a more satisfying pay off would have been to shock your audience as well as making them laugh? After all, many burlesquers succeed incredibly at this. There is nothing more satisfying than shocking and bewitching your audience all at once.

I hope that this has given you an insight into our world, maybe you can understand why many of us are upset at your cheap joke. I’d hope that, if it doesn’t offend your feminist ideals too much, you would go and see some burlesque, see some of the best. There are heaps of feminist burlesque routines out there. Burlesquers who aren’t afraid to play with the idea of expected norms, or to appear both sexy and funny at the same time. Maybe look up the amazing Audacity Chutzpah and her ‘100 years of Women’s Liberation‘ or the utterly incredible Queen of Burlesque, Julie Atlas Muz or the amazingly gorgeous, liberated, confrontational and multi-talented Wau Wau Sisters. Hey, one of them even won a coveted Foster’s Comedy Panel Prize talking about rape. Did you Nadia? Try harder, lady, try harder.

So maybe you could stop bashing other women doing what other women gotta do, artistically or otherwise. Surely that is the very meat and bones of our modern feminism? And don’t give away the punchlines….!

 

Lili says hello, waves goodbye and says hello.

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I have just spent a glorious 10 ten days in the company of some of my favourite people in the world here at the World Buskers Festival. My street performer past has gifted me a global family of wanderers whom I see here and there around the globe at various festivals. It’s wonderful, but try organising a dinner party at home!

The Gang's All Here

from left: Derek Derek, Janet Guenther, Lisa Lottie, Reuben Dot Dot Dot and Sam Wills

I adore these people, I adore their creativity, their quick wit and our ability to pick up a friendship, parted by months or years, as though we had simply popped out for milk. As time moves on and we have married (each other, sometimes) and some of us now have children, it is a heart-warming thought that the village that raises my child is full of some of the most hard working, disciplined and funny people I have ever met. Already he has learned that if you do something funny, people will applaud and laugh. Maybe that is a slippery slope.

Reuben and Rafferty-Baz

Reuben Dot Dot Dot and Rafferty-Baz backstage

Also this festival, I have met new friends, who already feel like old friends because they are old friends of my old friends which basically makes them family. I’m proud of my friends, old and new. I’m proud that they are clever, funny and big hearted people. I’m proud because they work so hard to improve their shows and their skills to make everything even more impressive. I’m proud that despite the pain that some of them are in because of injuries caused by the job they do, they still push harder to do more. I always say ‘go hard or go home’ and that couldn’t be more appropriate for my glorious street performing family. They make me smile, they make me hoot with laughter, they make me feel safe and they are quite simply some of the dearest people in the world to me.
And so, to some, see you soon. To others, it’s be fun, see you somewhere and until that day comes, my darlings, fat hats to you all.

Now onward, to Adelaide Fringe.
Love Lili.

In Praise of the Pube

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This is a blog I have been planning to write for ages, but it’s quite a personal topic, and the idea of a hirsute female does rather get people worked up. However, I think it is important and relevant, so I am damn well writing it and you can read it, or not and approve of it, or not. I’m not terribly bothered about what people think of me.

When I was pregnant, I made the decision to grow my muff out. After years of doing burlesque and striving for modern beauty ideals, I decided that enough was enough. I reasoned that if I couldn’t see it, then I shouldn’t have to wax, shave or strim it. By the time the baby arrived, I realised that I had become quite attached, no pun intended, to my glorious pubic triangle and I decided to just let it be.

We live in a society where many women strive for childlike bodies, devoid of flesh and hair. As the mother of a son, I want him to grow up knowing that women have the right to do whatever they wish with their bodies and their bodily hair. I want him to respect a girl’s right to be as hairy or as hairless as they wish and as skinny or as curvy as they like. I’m incredibly lucky as I have a husband who is deeply dedicated to my happiness and incredibly respectful of my body and I hope to bring my son up the same way.

Recently, I’ve see the stirrings of the beginning of a tidal turn where pubic hair is concerned. Seemingly the last modern taboo of the female body, pubic hair seems to be making something of a come back. The mannequins in American Apparel in New York have recently developed pubes and I have seen a resurgence in pubic hair on female performers of late, most recently at the World Buskers Festival in Christchurch. I’m convinced that it is a trend set to continue.

I hope that in time, more women will lay aside their razors and allow Mother Nature to re-bestow upon them the bush which she always intended. On my part, I intend to cultivate my lady garden with the fervour of an obsessive horticulturalist.

Long live a furry muff.

Love Lili

x

ADDENDUM: I’ve been told that recently Cameron Diaz has also spoken out in defence of a furry foof, you can read her views here. What a delight that an A-lister has revealed her own hairy aspirations. Here’s hoping that young women everywhere wil listen. Until then, I’m retiring to my boudoir, armed with the Argan oil!

Lili’s Ladies of the Year 2013

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As a gender, women spend a lot of time tearing down their fellow sisters, although this trait is mostly propagated by the haridans at the Daily Mail, (wizened old prunes that they are, oops, there I go again). So as an antidote to the Moirs and the Bricks of our fair planet, I thought I’d put forward my list of women (six in total, although it will be five usually!) who I think deserve plaudits this year. Rather than celebrate celebrities, I thought I would acknowledge the women of my acquaintance who I think have really been rather marvellous this year and so without further ado and in no particular order, I give you the inaugural Lili’s Ladies 2013.

Sophie Orr.

Miss Sophie Orr

In a year which has seen family bereavement, advertising executive, (Evening Standard dontcha know!) Sophie threw her time and resources into organising quite simply the best charity ball that the City of London has seen for an age. A long time supporter of our Armed Forces, Sophie created The Poppy Rocks Ball and raised a fortune for the British Legion. The ball is returning to The City in 2014 and I strongly suggest that you fight for a ticket and support The Poppy Rocks Ball, (there are men in Mess dress, they had spurs. Spurs!!! Honestly, you could have scooped me from the floor!!). Sophie is also the Godmother to Rafferty-Baz and my husband and I couldn’t have chosen better.

Heidi Bang Tidy

Heidi Bang Tidy

This year, burlesque has come under fire from various angles and one of the most high profile was Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival being denied permission to use the town hall in Hebden for their gala show. The council deemed  that burlesque is ‘demeaning to women’. I’m not sure that the 90% female audience felt the same. Heidi gave them both barrels with protests and petitions and raised huge awareness with reach well beyond the boundary of cabaret and burlesque. The town council looked like fools and Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival now have their Gala at the Todmorden Hippodrome and have attracted a star-studded line-up including Banbury Cross and Frisky (of Frisky & Mannish fame). Hurrah for Heidi.

Jacqui Tomkins & Mal Soomessur
I had my first baby, at home, in January and I couldn’t imagine doing it without the help of these amazing wise women from the London Birth Practice. I have written extensively about Independent Midwives and the troubles they face with future Government legislation, Mal and Jacqui have been at the forefront of the fight for insurance and they are still fighting for their right to provide gold standard care to women. I will support them all the way.

Jack Monroe

Jack Monroe
Where do I start with Jack Monroe? It hardly seems worth it for her to be one of my women of the year as she has already achieved an armful of far more prestigious awards and accolades this year. I started the year reading her amazing blog (at it’s best when she gets cross – she’s like a literary hulk and she can tear the Daily Fail to shreds in 300 words) and if you haven’t read it, where have you been? Do it. Now. As the year slips away, she has written a book, appeared on various news/politics shows, presented a petition to Parliament and demanded that they debate food banks, ranked at number 19 on the Independent’s Pink List, been nominated for a Groucho Award, been invited on to a comedy panel show, been subject to at least three hate articles from the Daily mail (idiots!) and so much more. Also, like me, she comes from Essex, which is a cause for celebration in itself when 95% of the rest of the county are orange and hardly clothed. Go Miss Jack, it has been awesome watching your ascendency.

Jema Hewitt

Miss Jema Hewitt

Costumier extraordinaire. Jema has made costumes for me for the last few years, and it is always exciting to see what she creates for me. She created my lime green Chinese silk hosting dress, which is one of my favourite gowns ever. She also finds time to write books on Steampunk frippery and make tricorns and we all know how much I adore a tricorn. Such a talented lady. If you haven’t checked out her Etsy shop, you absolutely should. I’m already looking forward to seeing what Jema and I create together in 2014.

And with that, my ladies for 2013 are done. I’m looking forward to seeing more awesome stuff created, written and produced by even more ladies in 2014.

Yours, in celebration,

Lili

[photos by Deborah Selwood, Louisa Reid Russell, Neil Kendall]