Nov 8, 2012

Calamity Chang + Dakota talk Bombshell Bakers

Sep 17, 2012

Boston Fashion Week October 3, 2012

I was able to happily dodge New York Fashion Week by spending the majority of that stiletto-clad bitchy hungry women time away in Texas celebrating my mom's birthday. However, I will be smack in the middle of Boston's Fashion Week on October 3 performing with Bettina May and Medianoche at The Beehive in an event called "Undressed".

The Beehive is also where I rang in 2012 along with Stormy Leather. I love traveling and performing and this year I'm doing more and more of that. Here's a clip from my performance at The Beehive's New Year's Eve party.

As always, the proprietors of The Beehive treat us like queens. We will be spending a couple of nights at the luxury boutique hotel Revere. Any recommendations of cool speakeasies near the Boston Common neighborhood for us?

Aug 2, 2012

My Tail at Tales of The Cocktail 2012

Photo by Gabi Porter for Food Republic
Intense. Debaucherous. Stimulating. But above all SEXXXY!!! These are just some words I use to describe my first time attending Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans at the end of June. I went with Employees Only, the speakeasy restaurant bar in the West Village where I am - as Eric the GM puts it - "our in-house burlesque dancer" and as Gabi Porter of Food Republic likes to say, "EO's resident temptress." EO is not just an employer to me. They are family. I book their "Silky Sunday" one-off burlesque act, and I also have my monthly "Drunken Dragon Nights" burlesque party at their sister restaurant Macao Trading Company. But they are also the hot brothers you can't have sex with! LOL. Every burlesque performer who I send on a regular basis to EO have a crush on someone there. We all have our special crushes and we compare notes. Think of it as the "Secret Girls Club of EO's Boys Club" Ha! So it was a great honor for me to be invited to go along with them this year to celebrate their big win at Tales 2011 ("Best Cocktail Bar in the World) with a pop-up party at One Eyed Jack's in New Orleans.

For those who are not familiar with the world of mixology, Tales is an annual event held in New Orleans, the birthplace of the cocktail. The week long event is attended by national and international bars, restaurants, brand ambassadors, and cocktail enthusiasts to learn about the history of cocktails (for instance, the origin of the blue drink, where the marischino cherry came from, etc), to compete for various titles, and also, to partake in the sampling of many, many, many glasses of specialty drinks and eat the complimentary Nola food! It is definitely not for the inexperienced drinker or the inexperienced late-night-stay-upper. I can only compare it to Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend but on a much, much larger scale and with ALL guys and not show girls. The typical guy attending Tales? Moustache, tattoos, straw Fedora hat. Pretty appetizing, I say, even at 7AM as I boarded my flight at LGA. And like all industries, there are rock stars. The boys of EO are indeed rock stars in their field. I knew a bit about each of the 5 owners' credentials already. You don't get to where they are without a fine ass list of accomplishments from before. (See Dushan Zaric's books on Amazon).

Bar Room Brawl competition on Friday where EO won "People's Choice". This happened after the win!

EO's Pop-up party at One Eyed Jack's - at some point in the night, they all took their tops off

And I should say I've heard about various bartenders' "credentials" as well from the burlesque vine (wink wink). But here, I was experiencing firsthand their rock star status as I danced, sat, writhed, got wet, got bathed, (fill in the blank) on top of the bar watching many a starstruck groupie (male AND female alike) come by to say hello and do a shot with their chosen one. And who could blame them? I was once also on the other side of the bar in the early 20s and had a bartender crush on every block south of Houston. These godlike figures who poured me measured amounts of happiness, flirted with me, and made me feel pretty. Then I dated one (not from EO mind you, a bartender who was far less fun, good looking, and inferior) for eight months, and well, that cured the hangover to say the least. But that's my tail in another tale for another time.

I was on the same flight leaving NYC as the rest of the crew from EO. It felt really weird to see everyone (and to have them see me) at so early in the morning. I feel like if they were going to see me that early at 7am, it better be the walk of shame! When we checked in the hotel, my room wasn't ready and Nikki Le Villain, who met me there, hasn't arrived either so I changed into my bikini and went to chill out by the pool. It was a gorgeous pool overlooking the famous Byzantine-esque cathedral next door. There were two other people by the pool and it was a gorgeous day. I ordered room service and had it delivered to me poolside, and by then Nikki had arrived and we set out on the town before tech/sound run-thru. Nikki knew all the places to go. This was only my second time in NoLa. My first time was last year for the New Orleans Burlesque Festival (read entry). We grabbed a bite at Muriel's and had our first drink. Then we went wandering around through the French Quarter shopping at Trashy Diva, a couple of voodoo shops Nikki knew about, drank some more, hid from a thunderstorm in a bar, drank some more again, went in somewhere famous and peed, drank again, bought tickets to hear jazz at Preservation Hall but we only sat through two songs because it was really late and it was hot as Satan's balls in there.
Nikki belongs in New Orleans
pre-storm afternoon
I really fell in love with the pedicabs this time

The lobby of The Roosevelt. This photo doesn't do it justice.
After our picturesque and leisurely Wednesday things got truly BUSY. Starting with Thursday night's pop-up party which Serious Eats described as,

"The Employees Only Pop-Up Night will become the stuff of legend at future Tales. The West Village staple and winner of last year's Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Award for Best Cocktail Bar truly showed everyone how to throw a party. Sure, they made cocktails, but they also threw a honey of a bash, and everyone wanted to go. It's very difficult to balance gravitas and good times, and the boys from EO once again showed that you can be a "serious cocktail bar" without boring people. Or judging them. Or telling them to stop dancing on the bar-top. The Second Line escorting people out at closing time was particularly inspired. Brilliant."

The party started out with Jayna Morgan and her band - they were AMAZING. New Orleans has the best music scene. Every street corner is a talent, it seems like. I am amazed every time I hear live music in NoLa. No wonder why all the burlesque performers there prefer dancing to a live band, a luxury we New York girls rarely get to experience. Nikki opened the show with a recreation of "Silky Sunday" with Grandpa (Henri) as the birthday victim on the stage. Nikki writhed, shimmied, and seduced the audience to "I Put a Spell on You"to a very interactive Grandpa bitting his fist and hanging onto her lingerie. Another hour goes by and Perle Noire took the stage performing with Jayna's band to "Tiger Rag". Perle KILLED it. She got the crowd so amped up - they were already amped up from the open bar, amazing truffle cheese sandwiches, rock shrimp, tuna tartare floating around prepared by EO's Chef Julia The Butcher's Daughter, and along comes this vibrant, fiery, charismatic dancer in flame red and orange throwing her arms around on stage to the rhythm of the drums, and doing backward bends and splits on stage! It's no surprise why Perle is touring with Dita von Teese AGAIN this fall! Nice, friendly, and a true professional, nothing phases her. I know, because last time she performed at my show at Hotel Chantelle, there was a problem with her mp3 and her music wouldn't play. So she yelled, "Put anything on, I'll dance to it!" And the only other playlist was the house list which I was not familiar with so I hit play on a random song and it was a long ass wailing country song! But she did it anyway and knocked it out of the ballpark! Once in a lifetime experience, I tell ya, seeing Perle improvising to a country song.
Perle Noire and Jayna's band! I love the one heel on the side. Haha!
Then around 1AM my champagne bath act started. I was lucky enough to find Mattie Stillwell, a local painter who have worked with burlesque performers before to paint me as if I was wearing a corset and stockings. It took about 2 hours for her to paint me before the party started, and the paint held up quite well despite the heat and me having through a lot of people.

I flew down with my over-sized champagne glass and this is what I used to contain the baby oil/soap water mixture to wash off my "outfit" on top of the bar.  As always, Igor is my main man who helps me with all things slippery and wet on the bar (hahahahhaha) and to help me off the bar so I don't slip and kill myself. Eric made sure no one broke the glass this time (unlike last time at Macao...another story), but nevertheless, once my act was done and the brass band marched through the club and chicken soup was served (the EO tradition if you are still at the bar at closing time), I myself forgot about my glass in favor of sitting on the bar drinking with my new friend Gogo Bell and forgetting what else might have happened after that... but I did NOT wake up with a new EO tattoo although the resident tattoo artist did do 36 in total at the party! Perhaps next year. ;-)
Said glass in Eric's hands

Igor, Dushan, Eric, Jason, Rebecca bringing out the chicken soup!
The brass band closed the night!

Friday night was the Bar Room Brawl in which four of EO's principal bartenders (Dev, Steve, Milos, Vincent) made a different cocktail each as part of a competition with a bunch of other bars around the US and world for the judges to taste. Nikki, Moxie, and myself were there to do atmosphere and be the EO cheerleaders. Moxie and I each did a burlesque act with the band TribeFlow. I sat on the end of the bar where Dev was pouring so I only got to taste the Mata Hari which was amazing!!! I did taste Steve's Ginger Mash at the other end where Nikki and Moxie sat, that was really good too. EO won People's Choice Award at Bar Room Brawl. It was a lot of fun watching all these people come by station to station drinking. Some people had four cups in their hands, and by the end after the awards were given out, we were giving people cognac shots straight down their throats! I discovered that I really like given alcohol away to people while perched on top of a bar manned by handsome boys. You can never make an enemy when you give away alcohol with a smile! Words to live by!

The Win!

More Press about EO in NoLa:

Photo by Rick Delaup

Jul 9, 2012

Roger Waters The Wall!

This past weekend my friend and fellow performer DeeDee Luxe invited me to be her plus+1 to Roger Waters' The Wall Live at Yankee Stadium! DeeDee and I were both in SHAME and now she's also in Roger Waters' music video "Young Lust" which was projected in giant size during the show. She got us VIP seats (Row 14), backstage passes, and Hospitality entry (on the side away from all the norms). I've never been to Yankee Stadium and I also didn't even know who Roger Waters was! I know, it's blasphemous. I know who Pink Floyd is and I'm aware of their cultural significance especially in the US, but I couldn't tell you any song titles or names of the band members. When I tell people this, they are shocked but it's really not that shocking considering that I didn't grow up in this country and although I spent my teenage years in Texas, no one I knew or hung out with listened to Pink Floyd. My parents certainly have never heard of them. What people don't understand is that although I "blend in", there are HUGE gaps in my popular cultural knowledge especially when it comes to music and television from particular eras. During my parent's time in Taiwan, they only got the most mainstream influence from the West like The Beatles, Madonna, Michael Jackson, etc. They wouldn't know who Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix were.  

So go ahead and hate away! Ha!

Lots of giant puppets - made me think of Basil Twist
Local choir performed during "The Wall"
Amazing video and animation work. Super tight. Flawlessly synched. Fireworks. EVERYTHING.
There's Dee Dee on the giant screen!

More DeeDee
I loved their use of fascist symbology throughout the show. As one of the backup singers mentioned during break its a commentary of passive entertainment culture as a form of control and imprisonment of oneself from a personal to state-level. 
Clowning around with the backup singers during intermission
Dave the guitarist who killed it with this amazing guitar solo at the end. He was high up on the wall with a smoke machine and hair blowing around. He looked like Jesus. No, Mr. Waters never came out to the Hospitality room.
Roger Waters The Wall at Yankee Stadium 2012 from calamity chang on Vimeo.
A snippet of the amazing visuals at the concert. My friend DeeDee Luxe appears in their "Young Lust" video so we had VIP seats, backstage access & all that jazz! What an experience & I'm so proud of her!

Jun 26, 2012

Some Stuff for Your Eyeballs While I Entertain the Family

Yes, I am so far behind on blogging several things. I see all the "drafts" but I have yet to find time to sit down and write them. I took 3 months off from my "day job", and after the Vegas trip which turned out to be quite costly AND sickly, I have thrown myself back into the fray of commuting along with the plebs at 9am then again around 6pm Monday through Friday. The first night in Vegas I felt like my left eyelid was extra tender when I was applying makeup. The tenderness got worse and worse, and finally I got an eye infection which blossomed into a full on, evil & painfully swollen stye on my left eye the morning after I performed on Sunday! That really ruined the rest of my trip I have to admit. I couldn't wear makeup or my power lashes, and my eye was so sensitive and sore I could not enjoy the sun by the pool. So awful.

Anyway so here are some things to look at until things get quieter here back in nyc in another week!
First: Awesome coverage by Burlesque Beat of Saturday night at Burlesque Hall of Fame. I love the way J.D. Oxblood writes the reviews. He sees a lot of burlesque nationally and internationally, and he won't hesitate to express his dislike of something either. Did I mention that I had to open Saturday night's show!? I was extremely nervous to say the least.

Photo by Melody Mudd for Burlesque Beat

Second: Macao Trading Company released the offical trailer for their annual "Drunken Dragon Festival" in which I host and perform in with other performers. This year we had Shien Lee and Night Fragrance band come sing a couple of classic Chinese hits from the 30s and 40s, and we also had Her Darkness, Nikki Le Villain with Izili, her albino python snake. People always ask me what this party is about, well, I wrote about it on Asiance Magazine where I posted lots of photos. 

Since Drunken Dragon is such a cultural tradition on the island of Macau, that is why we created my monthly show "Drunken Dragon Nights" which happens on random Mondays. You'll have to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or subscribe to my email newsletter to find out when the party happens. It is always accompanied by a two-hour open bar before the burlesque performances. Here are some of my favorite photos from this month's show taken by Gabi Porter.

Me with Minx Arcana (my Macao stage kitten) who always get mistaken for me. See? We are two different people. She's taller. I'm shorter. We both have bangs though...Memory game, memory game!

With the two biggest troublemakers! Dev on the left and Dushan on the right. Dushan teaches the mixology classes before the show. He's quite famous in the cocktail world. He also co-wrote "You Didn't Hear It from Us: Two Bartenders Serve Women the Truth About Men, Making an Impression, and Getting What You Want" and "Speakeasy: The Employees Only Guide to Classic Cocktails Reimagined"

This is always MY view when I do this show. I sit on the bar and act as OVERLORD. WA HAHA!

Third: I experienced my first "Midnight Brunch" event last weekend. It is one of the hip underground foodie events created by Emily Cavalier. So it's a secret location every month when she does it, and the menu is usually a 4-5 course dinner with an all night open bar. This past weekend it was at a cool photo studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I was told to look for a grafitti picture of a gorilla (or was it a monkey...? I don't know) and enter via the docking entrance. There were some COOL ass shit in this space. Lots of stuffed animals mounted on the wall. The event was totally sold out and by the time I arrived after my first show up at the Triad Theater, everyone was pretty stuffed on the amazing looking and beautifully plated food and drunk on Pam's handmade cocktails. Just in time for me to shake it for the diners! Now, my BIGGEST pet peeve about performing is when people do the "hand to ear" gesture to get applause. But for events like this where its NOT a show but an one-off entertainment bit amongst a sea of faces who do not seem like they knew how to react, I found myself doing the very gesture. And I have to say, it felt okay to me to do it in this context where the majority of people are not at a show and don't know whether to feel awkward or enjoy oogling me. So when I did the hand-to-ear, they all cheered and loosened up after that. Phew! See the photo recap >

Photo by Clay Williams

Lastly: My weekly Friday show "Room 69" at Hotel Chantelle get an amazing photo gallery coverage by Time Out NY! I am extra excited because I love every single picture from this set taken by Francine Daveta. Time Out say:

Burlesque is all about spectacle—but sometimes the most fun is had when
that spectacle is delivered in up-close-and-personal, and that’s what Calamity Chang’s
Room 69: The Hotel Chantelle Way is all about. Friday, June 22’s
edition featured burly-Q contributions from an all-star cast that
included Stormy Leather, Dame Cuchifrita, Hazel Honeysuckle, Ruby
Valentine, Mr. Gorgeous and Nikki Le Villain; you can catch more stars
of the local scene every Friday night.

Here are some of my favs but you can see the whole set here >

More TimeOut NY's Photo Coverage >

Photo by Francine Daveta for Time Out NY

I LOVE this picture even though my bangs are sticking straight up. I had just done the "sexy hair thrown back" move.

Photo by Francine Daveta for Time Out NY

So that's the roundup from the ranch, folks! Tomorrow night I'll be performing at "Les Fleurs de Shanghai" with Shien, Nikki Le Villain and the band at Duane Park. I'm excited to have my mom and aunt in attendance because of the Chinese music we do there!

May 27, 2012

Spiegeltent Empire

Last night I saw Spiegeltent Empire in Times Square. They are the same people who produce the hugely popular & successful Absinthe show in MGM Las Vegas where NYC's own Melody Sweets stars in. I have been a long time Spiegeltent fan ever since they made their NYC appearance many summers ago in South Street Seaport. I went every year and have seen Julie Atlaz Muz there among many other performers who have now become regulars in the Spiegelworld family. My boyfriend at the time was from New Zealand and he used to be flatmates with one of the guys from "Flight of the Concords" (I think it was Jermaine) so we all went once together as a group along with other Kiwis. This was right before Jermaine and Brett hit it huge on HBO. I think they were in NYC for the "One Night Stand" show. Another time at Spiegeltent I saw Julian Lennon hanging out in the beer garden. Spiegel certainly transformed the seaport into a destination point for us locals and added an element of artistic entertainment and magic to an otherwise dismal tourist attraction.

Empire did not disappoint like all Spiegeltent production. It was a packed full house. A mix of artsy looking people and Times Square tourist people. I didn't know what Empire was going to be and it was hard to explain to my friends who are non-Spiegel-ers what kind of show it was. It was not vaudeville or cabaret or theater or burlesque. Although there are elements of everything, well no burlesque at all, there were little kids there. Empire seemed to have a storyline in the beginning with a song about New York's old name "New Amsterdam" so I realized the show is called "Empire" for NYC and perhaps an homage to NYC. The host character and his show wife established that they were showing us what was left of their "empire" so I think that was the loose narrative of the show. But the acts were so tight and the lighting production so dramatic, I didn't care if there was a storyline or not. I was really pleased to see a few Chinese acrobats in the show along with a duet featuring two black gymnasts who got a standing-O for their act. It's not that I go to every show "on the lookout" for minority representation but it's just so damn unusual to see Asians in show business! And I do identify with them so it did make me feel proud to see the Chinese duet do their thing. Many mainland Chinese go into circus training for acrobatics or gymnastics from a young age. If they don't make it into the national Olympics, they often go on world tours with people like Cirque du Soleil and in this instance, The Gazillionaire snatched them up for Empire.
Chinese acrobats
All the acts were amazing. I am not going to describe them all. If you have the opportunity to see it while it's still here or next time, I highly recommend it. There was one particular act that was astonishing. It was an older guy whose costume reminded me of "sand people" from something like Mad-Max-Meets-David-Caradine from Kung Fu. He did a balance act that I have NEVER seen before in my life. He started out holding one feather plume. Then he added another single plume and balanced it on top of the first one. From there, he gradually added bigger and bigger objects like LONG petrified wood or bone pieces until he had a huge strange & surreal nomadic sculptural piece all balanced precariously and cosmically on top of each other. The entire tent was so silent while he took his time to build this sculpture. You could see the amount of concentration and meditation trickling down his face and body in sweat and labored breathing. His movements were so slow and calculated, reminded me of the older Chinese doing tai chi'. In the end he rested the entire thing on the top of the largest piece of bone and with a deliberate gentle move, he removed the original single feather plume and the entire sculpture collapsed with a feeling of enlightened release that was palpable in the tent.

Empire was heavy on acrobatic acts, and although it is really impressive to see what other people can do with their bodies that I can't, it got a bit repetitive in certain spots. I hesitate to compare Empire to the dreaded Quebecian-creation Cirque du Soleil, but if I had to explain it to non-users, I would say it it is an edgier and darker version of Cirque minus the awful music and faux-language plus a side of naughty humour and fun. There was something with bananas that was really amazing. In terms of seating, I would get the cabaret tables or the booths. Those have the best sightline. It was muggy last night so the tent was a bit stuffy. I saw a few tourists who can't handle the heat leave early and many people were fanning themselves with napkins and paper towels. If there was air conditioning, it wasn't very cool. So dress cool!

I can't wait to see Absinthe though next Sunday when I'm in Las Vegas! I must go pack!

Beautiful blonde aerial dancer inside a huge plastic bubble

The chanteuse of Empire. I liked her Chinese qipao a lot and a pair of long fringe gloves she wore later on.
Another crazy acrobatic performance by a guy wearing grizzly bear johpurs

May 21, 2012

Busy Week Before Vegas!

Here's one of my favorite photos from the series I did with David Bowles at the Hudson Opera House. I love it for many reasons, but as my favorite blogger and THE expert on all vintage Asian cinema historical information, Durian Dave commented and perfectly encapsulated, "The shoot powerfully evokes the enduring vitality of burlesque from the 19th century to the 21st."

What he said has been on my mind a lot lately along with asking myself questions like where do I want to go with burlesque? What is my goal? And what is that feeling and voice I am hearing in the back of my head about something... (I swear it's not the devil talking although that might be interesting). I recently watched the PBS documentary called "Hollywood Chinese"  and it had a profound effect on me. It was inspiring to say the least but it also gave a really good overall sweep of the history of Chinese people in the acting/entertaining world. There were tons of interviews with Chinese actors which basically were almost everyone who appeared in "Joy Luck Club" - and tons of interviews with famous Chinese directors like Ang Lee, Wayne Wang, etc. They were focused on the Chinese in Hollywood only, not Japanese, Korean, or Southeast Asians. Over and over again in almost every interview, they talked about the difficulty of representing a real experience and a real character  when there were no scripts written for Chinese actors. The documentary showed a clip of Justin Lin's Q&A session at The Sundance for his film A Better Luck Tomorrow and how one audience member stood up and asked why he made such a sad, horrible film showing all these Asian American youths as violent and angry. Then Roger Ebert stood up and basically condemned that guy's comment as offensive and asked why should this film "represent" any particular "model minority" experience? He then said that this film has a right to exist as it is because it represents an individual experience. I don't have any articulated thoughts about myself yet, but it is an enthralling documentary that I highly recommend!

This is my last week before I leave for Las Vegas' Burlesque Hall of Fame! I am getting more and more excited but also really paranoid that the airline will lost my luggage and my fans. I'm going to try to cram as much as I can in my carry-on so, in the worst case scenario, my costume will still be with me, just no fans. Everyone is neck deep in planning their outfits by day, outfits by night. That's all I've been seeing on Twitter and Facebook. I haven't even started planning because I have to get through this week with several meetings and rehearsals, then next Monday is Macao Trading Company's annual Drunken Dragon Festival party in which Shanghai Foxtrot (Shien, Jesse, Blanca) will be performing at and I will be hosting and performing with Nikki Le Villain ("snake girl" - lol). Then I have "Les Fleurs de Shanghai" show on Wednesday, May 30 at Duane Park! Then I'll pack....I hope to see you there!

Photo by David Bowles

May 20, 2012

"Les Fleurs de Shanghai" Trailer - Chinese jazz, dinner & burlesque!

The next show is Wednesday, May 30 featuring guest performer Ruby Valentine - The Alabaster Beauty. You may have seen in cameo in a little known TV series called "Mad Men". She played herself as a burlesque siren in the pilot episode.

May 15, 2012

It's All in the Presentation & Other Tips

I get many emails from performers visiting NYC who are interested in getting booked so I've compiled some of the best and worst practices I've seen and in doing so I hope this will provide some tips for anyone who is seeking for future bookings.

Introduce Yourself & Familiarize Yourself
If you are a local performer the best way to get your face familiarized is to attend one of the shows you hope to be booked in. Stay for the show and approach the producer afterwards, introduce yourself and express your interest in performing there. Follow up with an email and send video clips and descriptions of your act (I will go into this in more detail later). When a performer introduces themselves to me in person, it helps solidify who they are to me in my mind among a sea of faceless emails and complicated burlesque names. It also helps me to know that the performer already knows what the venue and the venue's clientele are like, and more importantly, what type of acts are booked and what type of stage (or lack of) she will be dealing with.

For instance my Thursday night show "Spanking the Lower East Side" at Nurse Bettie is extremely space-challenged. The bar is small with a maximum capacity of 70. There is a tiny small square stage that measures maybe 4' x 4' and to further complicate things, there is no dressing room. We have the back corner of the bar and pull close two curtains as a makeshift "private" area for ourselves. There is only one bathroom so using that to get oneself ready is out of the question. I even had to create a Do's & Don'ts document with critical information such as, "Don't bring your roller to this show" for new performers.
Nurse Bettie - tight squeeze on the stage
Friday night's show "Room69" at Hotel Chantelle offers another set of challenges. For one, there is no stage. The show is "in the round" and audience interaction is highly encouraged. Not always the best place for newer performers who are not comfortable improvising part of their act or need to be in position before the music starts otherwise it throws them completely off, or engaging with the crowd and owning the bigger floor space.

Hotel Chantelle - no stage, in the round. Photo by Francine Daveta.
Obviously all of the above applies only to local performers. I personally like it when traveling performers contact me and show that they know which shows I am currently producing. It's always good to show the producer that you are familiar with the shows they produce and that you did your homework to familiarize yourself with their work. Make it easy for me and I'll make it easy for you.

Make It Easy
Speaking of making it easy, a short and sweet PDF of performer information goes a LONG way in getting booked. What I dislike most is receiving emails with no pictures, no video links, and simply, "I really would like to perform at your show etc etc. My acts are XYZ." One can talk the talk, but I need to see you walk that walk! Images and clips are critical. I DO look at everything everyone sends me, and video clips are especially important. It doesn't need to be fancy or lit magnificently. I look for the following qualities:
  • Stage Presence (Does the performer command the room? Does she exude confidence, joy, playfulness or intrigue the moment she's on stage? Does she say "Look at me" with her body?)
  • Movement (Fluidity in movement, hand gestures, eye contact with the audience)
  • Costume (There are some shows where I can be more lenient about costume quality, but some venues ask for more - and for those places I will NEVER book civilian clothes with some rhinestones passing as a costume)
  • Overall Presentation (Does her hair, makeup, shoes, costume all work together?)
Also please don't write a lengthy email, just 2-3 short paragraphs will suffice. And 3 good video links that represent your best work are better than 20 links. Make it easy for me to watch your clips or visit your web site. Embed your links in your email. Please don't say, "You can find me on Facebook where I have pictures and videos." If I have to go on your Facebook and dig around to find a clip or comb through a million pictures to figure out what your act looks like, you are not making it easy when I have 20 other inquiry emails to read through.

Spell & Grammar Check Your Email
English is my third language. My native language is Chinese Mandarin. My second language is Spanish when we lived in Bolivia. So if I can spell correctly and type with proper punctuation marks and sentence breaks, there is no reason a native English speaker can't especially when we all have access to spell and grammar check.

Sending out an email with misspelled words, long run on sentences that read like visual diarrhea, no sentence breaks, train of thought derailed and wrecked, oh and my favorite, using ghetto ass slang in the email all reflect poorly on the sender. It makes me think they are stupid. If not stupid then it makes me think they are unorganized (perhaps they will show up late?), messy (does she know how to do her hair and makeup?), and a hot mess (is her tampon string hanging out? is she going to be a handful backstage and flip out on stage?). When in doubt ask yourself, would I use this tone of voice or these choice of words at a prospective job interview? When in doubt, err on the professional side. You don't need to say "Holla!" or "Hit me back" to people you've never met before. Your personality will shine through your professionalism.

Your Burlesque CV/Resume
You don't need a big fancy web site to get booked, but I will address the most cost efficient way to create a web site for yourself with some working knowledge of the publishing software in the next section. For now, a good CV is all you need just like applying to any job. When I was in college I made some extra pocket money helping people put together their resumes so here is a general template for a solid burlesque CV's (Curriculum Vitae) that is a combination of the best ones I've seen for their information organization and communication efficiency. Don't forget to keep the PDF under 4mbs! Most servers will kick back file attachments that are too big. And you never know where the receiver will be when trying to download an extremely large document.

Your Name 
(Include your tag line if any, phone number, email address, web site URL or other social media presence)
Burlesque Bio/Statement
(This is the place to write your witty repartee. Three to four sentences that quickly describes your background such as "...with a BA in Theater and ten years of dance experience" or "armed with a self-taught passion for performance and theater", and then describe your style is such as, "Calamity Chang can be seen on stage covered with rhinestones and lush feathers stripteasing to vintage Asian music and other exotic classics...")
Solo Acts
(List all your solo acts one by one, paragraph by paragraph. Describe the style, the song/band name and length of song, costume appearance, props used, set up required, and final reveal costume. 
If you have pictures of each of the acts, include them along with the video URL)

Duet/Group Acts
(Same as above and please credit other performers and troupes where credit is due in these acts especially if the original concept is not yours)

 Press (optional)
(List up to 5 most recent press mentions. If it's something that you didn't scan, just pull the quote from the publication, list the publication name, writer's name, and date of publication. Like the bibliography information you used to do for college papers)

Performance History
(If you have performed in festivals, list them here. Or if you are a newer performer, list the shows and producers you have performed with thus far. This acts as the "reference" section in a typical resume)
Performance Images (optional)
(I personally like to see on the last page a big montage of the performer's live action photos. These are not professional photos but snap shots taken during shows. It makes the resume come to live, and who doesn't like seeing a ton of photos of the same thing all together?

The good news is, once you have this done you can send it out to a lot of people over and over until you need to update it. It is especially good to have when you are doing a private gig or a big holiday gig and the venue wants to approve the acts first. For example, here are two one-pagers that Stormy Leather and I submitted to The Beehive's New Year's Eve party in Boston, MA.

A sample of how to present your solo acts in CV-form for burlesque performers

A sample of how to present your solo acts in CV-form for burlesque performers

Your Burlesque Web Site
As I said before, you do not need to have a fancy web site to get booked. It's nice to have it because you can compile all your work in one place. But it's expensive to have a good web site that represents your style and aesthetic properly. It almost always mean you need to work with a good art director who can truly reflect your sensibility online. My background is in digital media. I've spent all my 13 years in NYC working as an art director in major advertising agencies. I design everything from logos (my least favorite), to full blown out web sites, Facebook applications, iPhone/iPad apps, to banner ads. The cost of having a web site is NOT cheap. Many people have asked me if I would be interested in designing their burlesque sites. It is not that I am not interested in helping but I know what burlesque performers can afford, and $200-800 is not going to get you a good web site. Especially since once the site is up, you have no way to update it on your own.

This is the most important advice I want to give on this subject. If you decide to get yourself a web site and trust me, you will at some point, don't dig yourself in a hole with a designer who is going to leave the country and leave you no way of updating the information on your own.

This is why I advice performers to look into a myriad of other online options out there where you pay a minimal monthly fee to pick a template you like, upload your pictures, write your information, and make other customization choices to your site where you can edit, change, or revise it whenever you want from your own computer with your own password and log-in name. People are visiting your site to A) look at pictures of you B) find out more about you C) want to see where you perform next. You don't need a "cinematic experience" or an "immersive sound environment" - burlesque sites are what we in the industry call, "brochure sites." Information. Information. Information.

Lastly, do NOT get a full Flash web site. Flash is becoming obsolete because smart phones don't support Flash. The only time I create anything for Flash now-a-days at my day job is for banner ads and the face of online advertising is changing as I write. Who knows where Flash will be used in the next fiscal year? Based on my own web site's statistics, many people are looking at my site on smart phones (probably hiding from their wives or work people) so it is absolutely essential for your site to be smart phone-friendly. If anyone tries to convince you to get a Flash site cause it moves and makes noises, just say NO.

So some of the DIY sites I recommend are:
  • - a big favorite among photographers who want their photos to be showcased XL much like burlesque performers. This site requires more advanced knowledge of how to use their software like customization your own site. But its WORTH it!
  • - just discovered this group, comes highly recommended by my photographer and blogging fanatics
  • - WordPress remains the most accessible and powerful free platform to me for our purposes
  • - another new one that I just started poking around in out of curiousity
Anyway, so that concludes this post. I love booking out-of-town performers so hopefully this post will help expedite the booking process so everyone is happy!

May 1, 2012

Jungle Asians

I forget which comedian it was who introduced this term to me. All you Asian peeps out there know what I'm talking about. When Asians say "so-and-so is Asian" we mean Japanese, Chinese, or Korean. "Asian" to Asians does not include Filipinos, Vietnamese, Thai, Indians, Indonesians and other Southeast Asian groups. So how do Asians describe this "other" Asian group? The comedian called them (and himself) "Jungle Asians." I thought this was the funniest shit ever when I heard it. Because it's true! I personally have the impression that "Jungle Asians" are more musical, better at dancing, eat spicy foods, and less sexually prohibited. My impressions are embarrassingly colonial.

Recently, I created a new act inspired by a vintage green dress that I found on eBay. The dress is bright green with yellow accents and a beautiful floral pattern. It has been sitting in my closet for almost 6 months because I couldn't find the right music or act to go with this beauty. So sadly it was the "Dress with No Name".
The green floral dress
Then one week at Shien's "Nuit Blanche" show at Brasserie Beaumarchais (every Wednesday from 9-11pm), the theme was "Exotic Garden of Eden". I took out the dress and added some flowers to the halter area and wore it for that night. I love the dress. It makes you feel floaty and pretty. But I still needed to find the right music to go with it. Of course, tiki culture is an obvious choice but I do not want to dress up as a hula girl with a grass skirt. That's as cliche to me as being a school girl (which I have done). I started researching vintage Hawaiian music from Hawaii and that's how I stumbled on a Facebook invitation that simply said, "Hawaiian Music - LIVE in NYC for one night only...." - and of course I went and made Michael go with me.

The event took place in the downstairs lounge of a Japanese noodle shop called Jebon on St. Marks Place. I had no idea what to expect and not knowing who the musician was either. Michael was hoping for slack steel guitar, I was just happy to be out and be entertained rather than entertaining. The space was very intimate with lots of low Japanese style tables and low ottoman-like chairs. There was a really nice hardwood floor stage in the corner, quite sizable. One would have never expected a performance space downstairs from Jebon which was populated by NYU-age students.

An ukulele player opened the show then the headliner came out. He is San Francisco’s Kawika Alfiche who is apparently the Led Zepplin of Hawaiian music, one of the organizers told me. He sang along with a very cool looking Japanese bass player with his hair slicked back in a ponytail. Actually I'm not sure if he is Japanese or not because everyone there looked like they could be Asian or Jungle Asian. It was obvious that everyone there belonged to the API community, or as the guy who sat across from me said, Asian Pacific Islanders. He too looked like he could be Filipino mixed or Japanese mix. I do love that ambiguity. Pacific Islanders have such an interesting history. I've met Hawaiian people from so many different backgrounds ranging from Chinese to Japanese to the more indigenous Polynesia background. Our lead singer Kawika looked Polynesia for sure but without the floral Hawaiian shirt, I might have thought he was Asian-Mexican mix. Anyway, as you can see, I am fascinated by racial ambiguity.

Kawika opened the show with traditional Hawaiian chants to various goddesses (there sure are a LOT of goddess in Hawaiian mythology). Then the hula dancers came out. There were two women and three men accompanying Kawika all night. Kawika played the ukulele while another accompanied him on guitar.

All the songs they sang were in Hawaiian so I don't know what the songs were about, but the melody and the drum Kawika used were very moving. 

He was really funny too in between songs. He talked about his own mixed heritage, Mexican, European, and more. He spoke about hanging out with the mariachi bands in Mexico and how much he loves mariachi music. Apparently hula is HUGE in Mexico and Tennessee! Go figure.

The hula dancers both men and women were absolutely mesmerizing. The women's dresses were pretty covered up but you would never want to see more skin as you do in burlesque, because their hip, hand, and torso movements were so fluid and so sensual. Absolutely beautiful. I spoke to a few of the musicians afterwards and found out that last year when they came to NYC, they performed at Symphony Space in the Upper West Side. Most everyone attending this show are members of the  Halawai Community. I think Michael and I were the only people there who attended carte blanche. It was inspiring to see what one can find a community for ANYTHING in NYC. Towards the end of the night many of the hula class students also joined the dancers on stage. Everyone sang along to some of the old Hawaiian songs, and I left the place in such a great mood, inspired by the sheer joy the dancers exhibited and the uplifting spirituality of the songs. Michael said he thought it was cheesy all the praying to the gods stuff and he didn't like that aspect, but I thought it was moving and made me stop for a moment in my materialistic life of rhinestones, trims, makeup, glamour, etc and think about the space I dwell in. I think its specially hard to feel connected to nature living in NYC, and I live in a giant high rise building and I am not near any parks. I have astro turf on my balcony. It was refreshing for me to experience mythology through music and dance that night.

Here's a clip from another live performance from another tour: