Jun 7, 2011

Forbidden City Burlesque, My First Sex Scene, New Orleans!

The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind! Although I did not go to Vegas for Burlesque Hall of Fame (it's like the Oscars of burlesque) like everyone else it seems, I feel like I've been away because all I've been doing is work, work, work. What beautiful, sunny NYC day? I've been in-doors either working on new costumes, repairing older ones, or doing stuff online to promote and produce my new show "Forbidden City Burlesque" premiering this Saturday, June 11 at Tammany Hall in LES. I am really excited about this show and my new relationship with the venue. One main reason being the theme is Asian-inspired, and now I get to indulge and lose myself in all the music that my grandparents listened to in the 30s and 40s. I've discovered so many singers and amazing imagery from that era. I'm proving my parents right (yet again) because they used to tell me that one day I will want to learn more about Chinese history. Haha! When I was younger I rejected all of that "chinky chonky" shit. Unfortunately it is one of the pitfalls about being an immigrant. You want to assimilate and blend in so bad you don't want to know anything about your background. Especially growing up in non-urban, culturally diverse cities such as Tampa, Florida, and then parts of Texas. I certainly did NOT want to stand out. How I longed for blonde hair and blue eyes in elementary school and I even wished my parents went to church like normal Americans. Any one who grew up in non-urban cities know what I'm talking about. People used to ask me, "Do you know kung fu?" Anyway so now I'm "celebrating" all that "chinky chonky" shit!

The promotional photo for the show was taken on the famous Doyers Street in Chinatown. Michael, who photographs ALL my promotional material, did the shoot super-guerilla style with his friend Adam who is also a photographer. We had to do it really efficiently because you are not allowed to put a light stand on the street unless you have a permit. It was really funny because when you shoot in Chinatown, EVERYONE stops and stares and takes pictures of you and pictures of the photographer taking pictures of you. Of course it was impossible to not have people in the background but when I reviewed the photos, my favorite ones were the ones where bystanders are reacting to me. I love the way he lit me in these outtakes below.
A select from the shoot on Doyers Street, Chinatown. Photographer Michael Webb.
Doyers Street shoot for "Forbidden City Burlesque" at Tammany Hall LES. Photographer Michael Webb.
Doyers Street shoot out take by Dan Kim.
The other exciting thing that I did recently was appear in a new film by Steve McQueen called SHAME (IMDB info). Runaround Sue sent out an email saying that her Burlesque Agency was helping cast a couple of roles for this film so I submitted myself. Why not, right? I'm not afraid of rejection. I have a folder of rejection letters from art schools, art competitions, bank loans, just a myriad of rejection letters of all types. For some reason keeping a catalogue of rejection letters and notices has had the opposite effect for me. It makes me less fearful. A few hours go by and, surprisingly, Sue called me and said the director wanted to meet me in person the next day. I was made aware from the get that the role required nudity, and it would be for a sex scene with the lead actor MICHAEL FASSBENDER!! YES! He was one of the bad Nazi officers in Inglorious Bastards and most recently was Erik (MAGNETO) in X-Men (personally, I prefer the Nazi look. Doh!).

Sue gave me some advice about going in and listening to what they had to say and if asked to talk about my theater experience. What theater experience? Aside from my three years of improv comedy in college and burlesque, I don't have any formal training. Oh there was that one AT&T ad campaign that my casting friend sent me to years ago and I made it to the final three but didn't get the job. Non-SAG probably. But I had to do all these stupid things like hold a phone prop and act like I'm talking on the phone and now I'm surprised! Now I'm laughing! Now I'm worried. Now I'm wistful. It felt very silly to me.

Anyway. I went to meet the director after work in total daytime face. Hardly any makeup, my hair was up in a stick, I think I wore a t-shirt and jeans and biker boots that day. I arrive and the co-producer show me in to a tiny little room where Steve McQueen was. He's British and had this awkward-shy way about him. He talked about the film and what the story was about, I asked questions. I was curious about when this sex/nude scene occurs in terms of the character development. He asked several times to make sure that I understood there would be full nudity in the film and if I was okay with that. I said yes, as long as there would be no penetration of fingers or genitals. He vehemently shook his head and said something like, "I hope I'm not offending you but Michael would never do that. Nothing against you. But he's a real gentleman. That would not happen. He wouldn't want it to happen. No offense..." I was like, okay I get it. I'm repulsive and he won't get a hard-on. Haha. This is not "Casting Couch Porn Volume 1". Then he very politely asked if I would disrobe down to nothing to see my body. He even turned around to put his back to me while I was changing! I had to reassure him that we burlesque performers are quite accustomed to being naked around strangers. Then I turned around in circles, round and round, while he inspected me from a respectful distance, all the way from the other corner of the tiny room. When I left the building I seriously did not think I would get it. I was not "Calamity" in there, but just my off-stage self. In my mind, I was not dynamic, social-able, or energetic. Like what I picture you are supposed to be when you walk into an audition. I didn't think I was "on". Obviously in the back of my mind I wanted the experience and opportunity, but for some reason and this is just my own personal superstition, when I think about wanting something really bad, I NEVER get it. Like if I start doing "scenario building" in my head and playing, "It would be so cool if..." I never get what I wish for. So I made myself stop thinking about it and put it out of my mind. I was really shocked when Sue called me back the next day and congratulated me! That was on Wednesday. Filming was on Friday night.

I was very lucky to be cast with Dee Dee Luxe who is another burlesque performer and is a regular performer at The Box. She and I met up Thursday night after my show at Nurse Bettie to meet each other beforehand. The script had said Caucasian and Asian female (25-30 years old) so Steve is obviously casting for some kind of hetero-normative sexual fantasy archetypes. Well he certainly got that with Dee Dee and I. Dee Dee is petite and blonde and in superior curvy shape. I've never been with a girl before (fake or real), and I confessed that to her that so she wouldn't laugh at me on Friday when we do our threesome sex scene with Fassbender. Lol. To make a long story short, I knew Dee Dee and I would get along famously when she busted out the same pair of boots that I have on Friday at wardrobe! I'm not sure how much I should recount the experience of the shoot itself because I had tweeted a few things which were scooped up and re-posted on IndieWire about Steve's film. Thank god I didn't tweet anything overtly sexual about any members on set (get it, members? hahahahah).

I don't want to give away the plot or spoilers about the film, but it's pretty intense. At least, our scenes with Michael were totally intense! I'll just say that whoever he is dating (I heard its Zoe Kravitz), is most definitely not disappointed with his...er, manliness. Steve also had me do another scene that's not a sex scene where I open the door and let the main character in. It read easy enough in the script - all of one sentence - but holy shit it was hard to be "natural" and "myself" doing something as inane as opening the door! I had to do it over and over again like ten times. And every time I had to do it again I felt more and more apologetic and kept telling Steve that maybe he should get someone else to do this scene. I had signed up for the sex scenes. I didn't claim to be an actress. I ain't frontin. And I certainly wasn't foolin no one. But god bless Steve, he was so patient with me and explained what emotion my face should show in countless ways. I even made him be my character to show me what I'm supposed to "emote". But that didn't work either. First, I was too stern. Then I was too smiley. Then too mean. Too stiff. In the bathroom, Steve said I was acting too much and I had to be more myself. Who the hell is that? At that moment I wanted to go home and I haven't even seen Michael Fassbender naked yet! Finally, Steve told me to "make the scene my own" so I asked myself a few seconds before they shouted "action!" what I would do in real life if someone with a complex relationship to me rang the doorbell and how I would feel knowing he was coming over for sex and only sex (naturally of course, I don't have any real life experiences like this to draw from...)

So I looked through the peephole, unlocked the door, and did my thing, and voila it was done. I told Steve later that the sex scenes were way easier than opening the door, closing the door. I felt embarassed and was telling Michael about how mortifying it was and he shared an anecdote about his first time acting on a real film set. He said he wanted the floor to open up and swallow him whole. I thought that was really nice of him to tell me that to make me feel better even if he was making it up. He's very down to earth. The three of us did the sex scenes a few times with the aide of a bottle of silver Patron tequila and Jamesons. Michael was a pro and a gent, and man, that guy can act. He really poured himself into all the scenes. And I mean that quite literally. (Wink wink). We shot the sex scenes six or eight times from various angles and configurations. DeeDee and I mainly took control of what to do with Steve giving us direction every now and then about blocking and lighting. When we took "lunch" which was at 11pm, I had a chance to ask all my film geek questions like who was Steve's favorite director (Terence Malick), what they thought of the whole "Apatow Syndrome" and the Ridley Scott film Michael was just working on (Prometheus), and what David Cronenberg is like. Michael said the Scott set was incredible and felt like you really were on a spaceship. He also played Carl Jung in Cronenberg's new film about Freud. It really made me miss my college film theory classes.

We finally wrapped around 1am. Steve seemed very happy with how the sex scenes turned out. He said it's quite the pivotal moment in the film and he thinks it'll be an "stand out" moment. I hope he's right cause if I look fat, I'm gonna be so mad at him!! It was really great making out with Dee Dee too. We really had a great time bonding - I mean, it's kinda hard not to bond with someone when you've spent hours kissing and caressing each other. ALL VERY SISTERLY, OF COURSE! SHAME is scheduled to premiere at the Venice Biennial in the fall. Hopefully they will invite us extras to it. Ha!
Aaand it's a wrap! From L to R: Nick London (MUA), Steve McQueen, Me, DeeDee, Michael Fassbender
I was also in a recent interview for a French Photography Blog called Project 752. If you can read French, it's a great interview. I don't say that lightly because I do many written interviews where it's often just a series of questions that were quickly put together with no real sense of trying to get to know someone. But this one is different. I could tell he's an artist himself because many of his questions involve process and inspiration. This is one interview I really enjoyed thinking and responding to: http://monsieur752.blogspot.com/2011/06/dont-dream-it-be-it.html

In another VERY exciting news, I found out today that I was accepted in the 3rd Annual New Orleans Burlesque Festival! Again, I put it out of my mind because when I think about something too much, I don't get it. This festival is notorious for only accepting big, glamorous acts and presentations like Amber Ray's work. I submitted my black fan dance to a 1930's Japanese cover of "St Louis Blues". This is my oldest act (not counting my debut act "China Girl" by my fellow birthday rockstar Iggy Pop) and it has evolved tremendously in two years. I will be performing on Friday night's "Bad Girls of Burlesque" showcase, a night for the newcomers. Saturday night is the seriously MAJOR Queen of Burlesque show with lots of performers from NYC! I am BEYOND excited because I have NEVER BEEN TO NEW ORLEANS! And I'm a spicy food fanatic and Cajun cuisine is up there in my top 5 favorites! (Mexican, Indian, Sizuan Chinese, Korean being the other four).

I am also excited to debut my new act "Night Train" by Alvino Trey this week. I know it's a popular song, one of those stripper classics, but I need a "classic classic" number besides my fan dance and the Blue Vegas sparkler act, and I rather do this song which every jazz band knows so I can use it to perform live if that opportunity comes my way. No, I am NOT dressing anything like a train conductor. All I will say is that the dress is designed by Nasty Canasta and when I put it on, its like a dream. I end up rehearsing for hours instead of half an hour simply because it's DIVINE. I've spent all last weekend and the majority of this week sewing, fixing, and making minor alterations to it in time for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

By the way, Forbidden City Burlesque is only $5 if you buy pre-sale here. It'll be $10 at the door on the night of. Here's an image to whet your imagination of what to expect Saturday night:


  1. At the Venice Film Festival press conference, Steve McQueen specifically mentioned you and Dee Dee Myers by name to reiterate how fantastic a job he thinks you three did. Bravo!


  2. Oops... Dee Dee Luxe, I meant.