Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Behind the Pastie Pop

With my good friend Jason Kamimura. We did a few like this.
If you've been in the burlesque game long enough, chances are you've popped at least one pastie. I've popped a single onstage at least twice, a double onstage once, and a double backstage last night. I'm sure you all know I have nipples by now. You've probably even seen them. I think the restrictions on the right to bare lady nipples are stupid. Whatever. I work in an industry that requires pasties.

I like getting booked and I recognize producers don't want to lose their venues. It's my responsibility to do my best to keep my pasties from popping. Some of you don't want the world to know about your secret nipples, so you can follow this ol' dancer's discoveries to find tips to hide your nips.

Inspect your pasties. Are they slick inside? Plastic or starchy buckram isn't very tacky. I think most pasties I've popped were untreated buckram inside. The pasties were new and didn't have a bunch of residue built up around the edges. The tape doesn't stick to slick very well. Glue a layer of fabric or felt inside the pastie. You can treat the inside edges with Mod Podge or glue so your spirit gum doesn't bleed through the outside surface of a fabric-covered pastie. Try your adhesive on the lining and see if it helps.

Check your nipples. If you lotion yourself up when you're getting ready for a show, don't lotion your nipples. Are you sweaty or oily? Pasties don't stick to sweat, oil or lotion. Get some alcohol wipes and use them before you put on pasties. Clean off the entire nipple and the area around your areola. Let it dry before applying your pasties. Make sure your hands aren't covered in lotion before applying the pasties because that will get all over your adhesive and keep it from sticking. Use an alcohol wipe on your fingers.

Examine your adhesive. What works for your burlesque best friend may not work for you. I used spirit gum in my early days. I found out I had a pine allergy and stopped using spirit gum. I can't use liquid latex or eyelash glue for my pasties because I sweat and laugh/cry my lashes off all the time. I use toupee tape or garment tape. Some folks use medical adhesive. Give yourself enough curing time for any adhesive you use. I have the best success with tape when I press it into the pastie lining before applying it to my nipples. Is your adhesive working for you? Try something else. I advise against spray adhesive (used for crafting and school displays) and carpet tape.

Feel the inside of your bra and the outside of your pasties. Anything catchy inside that bra that wants to hold onto your pasties more than your adhesive does? Any embellishment on the pasties that acts like a hook on the inside of your garment? The first time I lost two pasties, they were embellished with glitter and had direct contact with a ribbed undershirt. I was screwed. I didn't wear fancy pasties because the act had fake blood. The glitter and shirt stuck together better than the pasties stuck to my nipples. You may have to line your bra with something that isn't catchy or invest in embellishments that won't catch on your bra.

After you've popped or almost popped a pastie, examine how it happened so you can take preventative measures for your next performance. Check it against the above and remedy so you feel confident when you perform and keep your producers happy.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Golden Legends Championship Challenge

I'm like a song by the Go-Go's for most of the goings on of the Golden Legends Championship Challenge-- my lips are sealed. I can't share the content of the mentoring between me and Matt Finish. I can't share strategies or smack talk the other contestants. (Why would I want to smack talk them? I know many of them and look forward to meeting the others.)

But, I want you to get excited about the event and you're used to me sharing my journeys with you.

Here's what I can share:

  • I've been working on this new costume for months. I have four more pieces to build and one to complete. I'm far better at managing big projects now than I was in college. I knew this would take work and I'm proud of my progress. This costume is gorgeous. You only get glimpses of it on my Facebook and Instagram for now.
  • I'm working on addressing my shortcomings as a performer while leaning into my strengths. My first ever burlesque performance was nine years ago, and I'm months away from wrapping my eighth complete year as a burlesque professional. It takes time, successes and failures to really sort out who you are and what you want.
  • I'm really excited about the ways I've challenged myself in this new number.
  • It helps to have other people on your team. Even an old broad like me benefits from having a sounding board. Mr. Snapper is an awesome sounding board but sometimes I need a different viewpoint.
  • Competitions should serve as motivation to be something greater than you are. The chance at a prize is exciting but I'm in this industry for the long haul. I'm pushing to create a damn fine act that will delight audiences in ways they never expected. The next challenge will be to make a different act that is this rich.
  • I'm really looking forward to returning to New Orleans. I haven't been there since 2010. If I lived closer, I'd visit with more frequency. It's a delightful place.
Two other things I can share about it.
  1. Travel costs money. I'm not asking for donations but I am selling stuff to make money. Visit my website and see what I have to offer right now. I'm also teaching corsetry in Los Angeles before I leave for the event. If you know someone who wants to learn to make a corset, send them my way to sign up for class. Every sale helps. :)
  2. Events cost money. GLCC is raising funds through sponsorship and vending. They have sponsorship packages for as little as $45. You can check out details here. There are several package levels.
That's about all I can share for now. If you're in New Orleans on October 21st, I'd love to entertain you.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Repair, Rebuild or Retire

Featured in our June issue of the Snapperama Newsletter. Subscribe at www.snapperburlesque.com.

Every act has a shelf life. Costumes get worn down. Bodies get injured. Concepts are no longer part of contemporary pop culture. The time comes when you must ask what to do with each act: repair, rebuild or retire?
Repairing an act means just fixing the things that are wrong with it. You can repair a new act if it's not working out by replacing a costume piece or tweaking the choreography. I frequently repair pieces by replacing rhinestones or closures, making small modifications to the fit of the garments, creating custom pasties for that act, and trying to find more nuances in the number. Can it be fixed in a few hours without tearing everything apart? Will those repairs make it more pleasing for the audience, making it more viable and valuable?
Rebuilding an act means overhauling more than half of the components. A few repairs will not do the trick. My first truly glamorous costume ("mega costume") is showing wear and tear. Beads are coming off, the shoes are uncomfortable, and the bra has always wanted to be a belt. I built this costume with assistance in 2010 and I've taken it so many places. I love the colors and I love the silhouette. I made this costume before I gained a ton of sewing knowledge. I didn't fully recognize what would work best for me. It was a very transitional act in my early burlesque years. I won't sell this costume because I love it, but I can't just repair it. I now have the knowledge and experience to do it better from the beginning. I'm going to rebuild it over the course of the next year. Audience and producer response to the act tells me it's worth the investment.
Retiring an act means putting the baby to bed. Not every act works out. Conceptually it's really interesting but it just doesn't earn its keep when it hits the stage. Technical things go wrong, and they can't be remedied well enough to salvage the number. Reworking the act, revamping the costume, revising the concept don't cut the mustard. It could also be an act that's past its prime. The Hannah Montana act I performed in 2008 and 2009 was a fun act, but it's severely outdated as a cultural reference. You can resell the costume and props or keep them in storage as treasures. Don't consider it a failure if you have to retire an act. Treasure your experiences with that act and take the lessons it gave.
You do have two more options available for an act that needs something: repurposing and recycling.
Repurposing the act gives the components new life. This is where you take large parts of the whole and use them for other things. You add a red nose and now you have a clown act. You wear the gown to a friend's wedding. You turn the prop into a tomato planter.
Recycling the act cuts it into smaller parts to use. Think of repurposing as eating last night's dinner leftovers as today's lunch or throwing them in an omelet for breakfast. Recycling would be taking those leftovers and putting them in soup or grinding them into a paste for pâté. When you recycle the act, you pull the best jokes and use them elsewhere. You cut off the appliqués you can use and pitch what you don't want. It's like the scene in Pretty in Pink where she takes apart two pretty dresses to make one homely prom dress, only your goal is not to make a homely prom dress.
Go through your performer props and wardrobes (and the rest of your life) and use these guidelines to handle your well-loved stuff. Repair, rebuild or retire acts. If you want to keep some of the parts, repurpose or recycle. The decisions may be challenging at first, but the space in your closet is freeing.

Monday, June 13, 2016

As Promised to my Facebook Followers

Dear Facebook friend,

I promised you that I would share a naked photo if I reached the next milestone of followers. Here you go.

WARNING: I like cupcakes.

Photo (C) Modern Noir

Monday, May 23, 2016

Dear Light Operator

Dear Light Operator,

Thank you for making sure I'm well lit during my performance. A nice wash that makes my skin look good would be fantastic. I work hard to select my costume colors and I want the audience to see the hues I selected. I make many of my items from scratch because these colors don't exist in off-the-rack stripper wear. There's no need to show off your lighting skills by cycling through all the colors you have. My peach gown doesn't need to look black. I would've selected a black gown from Amazon if I wanted a black gown. My skin doesn't need to look green. My blue dress doesn't need to be lit with blue light because it's already blue. But you already know that, right?

That nice wash that makes my skin look good would be great. If you're lighting me with gels, I recommend a soft peach or a bastard amber. As a matter of fact, I DID study lighting design in college. We had to light all sorts of shows, and I collaborated with designers to make the entire production look as good as possible. The lighting designers lit my costumes with presentational lighting when we did presentational plays. They didn't decide to hit the strobes during a musical number because they thought people should have seizures during that song. The song was exciting enough.

Did I mention a nice wash? It's okay if it's a little pink. I'm not dancing to "Roxanne" so there's no need to put on the red light. For most of my numbers I don't really need a change in the lighting. You can tell me the options for a disco ball and rotating lights before the number and I can easily give you a decision then. You don't have to wait until I'm in the middle of my performance to remember you have those options available. If you don't remember to discuss the lighting choices with me before the show, you can just stick with that nice wash and forget about those lighting options for the three to six minutes I'm on that stage.

I know you typically work with lighting bands. That's cool. My brother was in a band. He wore jeans and t-shirts for his performances. My husband was in a band back in the '90s. He wore flannel shirts and whatever jeans he could find. I'm pretty sure I just want a nice wash of lighting on my mint costume. No, it's mint on purpose. The green flannel my husband wore was less intentional since his shows were all about the music. It was okay if he was bathed in green and red light. Nice wash for me, thanks. Just want that skin to look good and my costume to look like the color that it actually is.

Oh, you have a spotlight? Do you have someone who operates it regularly? If so, I'll take some wash and a spotlight. Oh, your cousin's going to do it to help you out because the spotlight is new. Let's just do the wash. It'll be easier. Yes, I'm sure.

Thanks so much for chatting with me before the show. That peachy wash really will look great on my skin and my costume.

Thank you so much. I studied some lighting design in college, so I appreciate all the work that goes into what you do.

Peach Wash,

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Next Frontier

It's been spring cleaning time in our lives, and we're shuffling off the old garments and acts that we don't need. We're also going through our fabric stock as I work on the next big thing.

I tend to buy at least one yard more fabric than I need when I build a new costume for myself. I like to have enough in case I screw up.

My next new act is going to be built from leftover fabric of acts past. The rigging will probably be complicated with this act, but I have lessons of many years to help me on my quest.

Pez Photograpy 2011
One of the layers will be built from the apricot fabric I used on the gown for my mega costume. The gown is on the floor in this photo.

The lining will be made from the peach fabric that covers my bra and comprises my panties and garter belt.

I learned so many lessons making this costume. I would rebuild it completely, but the current version is fine for doing the act still.

SH Photo 2015
The outer layer of the outer piece is made of the fabric on this corset. I learned many lessons while making this costume. My plan was to have different pieces light up with LEDs when I triggered them as I stripped. I did a great job rigging the LEDs myself, and I have a tiny, programmable device in the panties to make them flash.

The biggest issue I faced when I debuted the number was the stage lights. I lit the costume with pink lights because they look better with the color palette. Throw some nice stage lights on the costume and the pink LEDs are washed out. You could only see the LEDs when I stepped into darkness. White lights against this color palette might have also been a problem because there wouldn't be enough contrast between the light and fabric. I might add lights to this new costume, but I'm definitely using this fabric.
This act isn't being performed any more. This was my project that incorporated magnets. I may sell the gown, or I may hoard it. More lessons learned here.

I believe I'll use the fabric you see on the skirt yoke (and also in the gown near my feet) for the undergarments. I haven't decided if there will be a bustier, corset or bra made from the fabric yet.

I'm also using leftover embellishments and adding new ones. I've danced to the song I'm using for the new act a couple times, but it's getting its own official costume instead of being performed with pieces from a few other costumes.

I feel like I'm really creating a signature number, something people will remember. I can do classic burlesque, but people want to see me as the fun gal. This project will be the sum of me and my former parts. I'm really excited.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Broken Hearted?

I had a bit of a quandry, and I'm guilty of oversharing. Buckle up, because this is a lengthy tale of heart breaking.

I was ready to take the world by storm in January. I had pushed past some health issues and was about to start a new job. Life was amazing! I was in dance classes and working out all the time.

Photo by Markus Alias 2016
I debuted a more rehearsed version of "Yakkity Sax" at WTF-lesque on January 24th. It's an active number and I needed a new inhaler for my anaerobic asthma, and I'd suffered an asthma attack a month prior. I still bested the number and had a great time, hit the spare inhaler I got from a friend, and was ready for curtain call.

February 1st I started my new job, absolutely loving it. I went to my ballet conditioning class, arriving in plenty of time because I was working from home. Two weeks prior, I had to step out of class because I was so worked up I almost barfed up the apple I had for an afternoon snack. I didn't snack before this class, but wasn't hungry in class. As we alternated strength training with light cardio, I felt like my heart was beating out of my chest. I had shortness of breath and needed my inhaler. I grabbed my second-hand inhaler and stepped into the hallway. Having studied exercise and cardio workouts, I knew that the body could be shocked by not warming up or cooling down properly. I paced in the hall as I waited for my breathing to slow up enough to hit the inhaler. It wasn't slowing as much as I would have liked, but it did seem to slow a little. I felt okay to sit down and try to catch my breath a little better. After a moment, I lifted the inhaler and primed it so I could take a fresh puff when I could hold the mist in my lungs.

I woke up on the floor with my inhaler in my hand. My mouth didn't taste like I got a successful puff. I was disoriented. How the hell did I get on the floor and how long was I there? Students who were waiting for class rushed to help and called 911. I was breathing fine at that point. I called off the ambulance and tried to get my bearings. There was so much noise and I just needed to process what happened. I had someone call Andrew because he would be pissed if he collected me at the end of class and I casually mentioned I had fainted. He's also the best person to handle me. There would be less noise if he was there. He could make the decision to take me to the emergency room based on his observations. He knows me almost as well as I know myself. I was in good spirits but missed the last part of class.

When I got in the car after the episode, I felt like I needed to just lay down, have no more motion, and not consume anything. Since my breathing was fine, we didn't hit the hospital or urgent care. I would see a doctor in the morning, and I would get some protein in my body right away. I had two chicken nuggets and some chocolate cake. I wanted comfort, so that cake was necessary.

I got up the next morning, made my early editorial conference call, and ate a bowl of sugary cereal with marshmallows. I made an appointment to see a nurse practitioner at my doctor's office. (I've seen another specialist in that office before, so I thought they'd be familiar with my history.) I had some soup and arrived for my 2:30pm visit. Yes, I was slightly anemic, but why did I faint? WTF? I got a prescription for a new inhaler and they took some blood.

February 3rd I was awakened from an afternoon nap by the nurse practitioner. She said I was diabetic and had high blood pressure and high cholesterol. I couldn't process. I just woke up and the week had already been far too exciting. She set an appointment for me to come in and discuss the results the next afternoon.

I was told I was diabetic and had high blood pressure and high cholesterol and a ridiculously high platelet count and had to make some changes or I'd have to go on all kinds of medication after a fasting blood test in a month. As dramatic as the week was, I took some time to educate myself. My family has a cholesterol history, so that could be legitimate. The rest made no sense to me until I read the indications on a hormone that doctor's office had given me a few months before.  The hormone was supposed to help address some other issue, but the package said it shouldn't be given to someone with high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, or a family history of stroke. BOOM! My grandmother and aunt both died of stroke in their old age. My dad had a stroke at 69. Sure, they're older, but there is a history. If the package says not to prescribe to someone who has these symptoms, wouldn't that suggest it would elevate those levels to an unsafe level in some bodies?

I asked the NP if I should stop taking the hormone because of these indications and my family history. Four months on this drug and I had so many platelets that my blood clotted far too easily. Don't blood clots cause stroke? Is this thing on? Hello, nurse practitioner, are you hearing me? You don't think I should stop taking the drug? You did hear me when I said I don't eat a lot of fatty foods and I don't drink that much and I eat green leafy vegetables and drink lots of water and I bake my french fries instead of frying them?

I paid my co-pay for the eight minute consultation, got my blood test results and left. I was told no more exercise (something that's good for the heart) and no dancing (something that's good for the heart and soul) until my fasting blood test in a month. I had to make dietary changes, take my blood sugar and pressure daily. Great.

I stopped eating as much food as I did before fainting. It's been sort of a forced anorexia. I'm terrified of eating and having anything I eat kill me, so I eat half to two-thirds of what I would for a meal. Snacks are small if I have them. I've lost some weight, but I'm not gaining muscle. I recently started jogging in my living room with supervision. I also stopped taking the drug that would've elevated all of my numbers, even though the NP thought I should keep taking it.

Photo by Tim Hunter Photography 2016
I didn't cancel one single gig for this bullshit. In fact, I'm trying to get more gigs. Fuck it. I don't need
to alienate the producers who will book me by calling in with heart disease or whatever nonsense. I just had to be smart with my performances and keep Andrew abreast of my physical symptoms after each performance.

February 5th, four nights after blacking out, I did my Superman Lucy act. Andrew was backstage to help me with my costume bits, but mostly to make sure I was okay after the number.

I've performed a few more times since the incident. Some of the producers knew about the blackout, some didn't. I'm feeling better and I've changed doctors. I should have news about my fasting blood test from the new guy next week, and I see a cardiologist the following week.

Maybe I have heart disease, or maybe my body was just responding too strongly to the drug. We'll see how things change as I purge the drug from my body. Either way, I'm not dead yet. I plan on entertaining people as long as I possibly can, and then pivoting so I can continue to entertain with whatever limitations life gives me. My heart may be broken, but I refuse to be brokenhearted.