Shop Around: Atlanta’s Swankiest Retro Couple Jezebel Blue and Nathaniel Self Will Dress You Up 2the9s For the Holidays

Posted on: Nov 22nd, 2013 By:

Jezebel Blue and Nathaniel Self.

Some of Atlanta’s finest burlesque performers will be gracing the stage this Saturday night at Tits for Toys for Tots, the seventh annual holiday fundraiser for charity produced by Syrens of the South. But tassels won’t be the only reason not to miss the show, local artists/vendors Jezebel Blue and 2the9’s Retro, aka Nathaniel Self, will be selling everything you need to dress to the Retro max or wrap up under the tree for your honey this holiday season.

Jezebel crafts jewelry with vintage images from pin-up girls to movie idols to steampunk style. Nathaniel sells men’s vintage shirts, jackets and zoot suits, as well as ties, small suitcases and custom-designed Retro purses. Best of all, the couple’s prices are as sweet as they are. ATLRetro caught up with the dynamic duo to find out more about their way-cool wares, what they have planned for Tits for Toys for Tots and also where else you can find them vending this holiday season.

ATLRetro: You two are one of Atlanta’s swankiest Retro couples, hair and clothes to the 9s. There must be a swell story behind how you met, and don’t lie to me, you do own the actual cat’s pajamas, right? 

Nathaniel: First off, thanks for the compliments. I don’t know about how swank we think we are – pretty sure we consider ourselves to be two of the biggest goofy nerds in Atlanta. And as for owning the cats PJ’s, we don’t own them, but if 2the9’sRetro can find them for you, we will, and Jezebel will make the accessories to match.

How we met is sort of a trip to Jerry Springerville. A couple of years back we met at a great mutual friend’s event, The Rockabilly Lounge, put on by the wonderful Mon Cherie. We were both getting out of relationships, and I was actually sort of flirting with her sister at the time, but that didn’t work out, so I decided to step into the land of Jerry Springer and started chatting up Jezebel. Me being a photographer, I loved her look and her fun attitude, so we hit it off right away. I knew it was a good match on our first date when people at Cafe Intermezzo wouldn’t stop interrupting us to take our photo and to say how lovely she was. By the time we left, it was around the restaurant that we were professional swing dancers. Which is very entertaining, because I have two size 12 1/2 left feet and Jez has arthritis and can’t be on her feet for long periods of time, let alone swing dance.

Jewelry by Jezebel Blue.

How did each of you get started on your path to righteous Retro craftiness? 

Nathaniel: I’ve always been an artist, started out sketching as a kid, drawing fake tattoos on classmates. Then on to photography, which I do part time with my other business, Self Images Photography. After meeting Jez, I started selling clothes and vintage luggage. Her creativity rubbed off on me, so I started designing bags in sort of the same kustom kulture/pin-up vein as some of her jewelry. I’m still getting used to doing it. Jez has the hard job making her jewelry. I’m just her carnival barker. My bread and butter is getting lucky being able to find great Kustom Kulture shirts and suits for resale.

Jezebel: I actually took a beginner jewelry-making class when I was in high school, about 24 year(and now I feel old).  I had learned how to crochet from my grandmother when I was about five and always liked making things, but the minute I laid my hands on pliers, a spool of wire and some mandrels I was thoroughly addicted.

Jezebel, how do you select the images for your pieces?

Jezebel: I really have no rhyme or reason. I have a little over 3000 electronic images and folders full of old books, calendars, postcards and photographs. I look through them and wait for something to ‘strike’ me. It could be the colors or composition. It could be something as simple as I just really like the dog in it or the woman’s expression. I wish I knew myself sometimes.

Nathaniel, what are your top three tips for a man who wants to outfit himself as a true gent.

Nathaniel: If you’re serious about wanting to go all out and make an impression:

1.) Do your homework. There are so many variations on vintage style you can really stand out if you want. Make the style your own, do your own thing with it, but I’ve found if you arent comfortable in your own skin you’ll never be comfortable in a three-piece suit.

2.) Find clothing that fits you and the occasion. You don’t need your own personal tailor – it wouldnt hurt –  but you can look ace on a budget, trust me. Don’t step out in a suit that’s all bunched up at the feet and a suit jacket two sizes too large. I’m a hard fit, so I know it’s not always easy, but it can be done if you’re serious about looking ace. Nothing makes you stand taller than a good suit. Dressing for the occasion is a must. You don’t always have to be in a suit. You can look just as ace in a lounge-style button-down and jeans if i’ts a casual night out. It’s all in the details.

3.) If all else fails, go and see a couple of my friends, New Orleans Jon and Chad Sanborn as they perform and take some hints from their style. Those two fellas are the best dressed in Atlanta in my opinion. Jon was really like a mentor and not afraid to tell me what I needed to work on with my gear when I first started out with 2the9s: “Lose the creepers man, find yourself some real shoes.” Haha. He has it pegged down on every detail.

What’s a favorite piece or pieces that you have right now for sale for each of you, and why? 

Nathaniel: Hmmm, that’s a hard one. I can’t even get into all the shirts I have, because I typically like them all so much I want to keep them, but that wouldn’t bode well for my store. I’ve got a couple of pieces of vintage luggage that I have right now that I’ve never seen before. One of my best is a large round blue luggage. Those in such a large size and good condition are becoming hard as hen’s teeth to find. I recently just sold a 1950’s oxblood tuxedo jacket with gold thread throughout. It’s hard to explain, but it got a lot of looks. It was definately one of my favorites just because it was such a great showpiece.

Jezebel: For me, my absolute favorite pieces are the rings I have made with vintage chantons, a fancy word for a pointy-backed rhinestone. The sparkle is unreal; it rivals and, in my opinion, outshines Swarovski. My second favorite piece is an image I use often called “Til Death Do Us Part.”  It is a couple in Day of the Dead makeup done in a school tattoo flash style that I purchased the rights to. To me, it is just a beautiful synthesis of Victorian aesthetics with the couple facing each other but done in a modern rockabilly style – and it talks to my romantic side.

Jezebel, how much time does it take for you to make a piece of jewelry and how do you price your pieces? Always seems to us that your prices are very reasonable, so in other words, how do you do it?

Jezebel: Simple pieces like my $8 anchor earrings take about 20 to 30 mins. Some of the more elaborate pieces can take three to 18 hours depending on the techniques used. The jewellers grade resin I use takes three to four days to fully cur,e and that is after a minimum of three hours work. I try to keep my prices down by not overly marking up the pieces. I know jewelry is a luxury for most of us, as a single mom, even $10 can make a difference and I would rather make a little and make someone happy, than mark up a piece and put it out of reach of someone who would really truly appreciate it. It drives my family and Nathaniel insane. They constantly tell me I am under-pricing based on the amount of work I do.

Nathaniel, vintage luggage is making a comeback. Why do you think that is, and how do you select your pieces? 

Nathaniel: All things pin-up and Burlesque are making a comeback or so I find. Thanks to the tattoo shows, suicide girls and rockabilly hitting the mainstream, everyone is looking for that little something extra to set themselves apart in a group of girls trying to ape the Bettie Page style. For some it’s just nostalgia. I can’t count the number of times I hear “Ohhh my grandmother had one exactly like that!” when I’m vending at shows.

I try to stay away from the plain Jane pieces. I like a lot of character. Sometimes I have to pay more than I want to get them, but it’s worth it when you know that what you have is a cut above the ordinary. Whatever I can do to keep them from being turned into a boombox speakers.

Nathaniel Self and Jezebel Blue.

What can we expect to find at your tables this weekend at Tits for Toys For Tots?

Nathaniel: I’ve gotten a few more shirts and suits, from high-end Valentino suits to vintage double-breasted pinstripe gangster suits and an eclectic mix of shirts from garage, lounge, western and even some Hawaiian and tiki stuff. I still have the great vintage luggage and train cases, as well as a few hand-decorated bags with pin-ups and tattoo graphics and maybe even a couple of new Lux DeVilles if I can find the room.

Jezebel: I will have a little bit of everything: vintage chanton rings, negligee necklaces, pin-up and steampunk-inspired pieces, locker tag bracelets, honestly you never know.

Where can we expect to see you next, and also where can we find your products online? 

Jezebel: The easiest place to find me online is Facebook.  Single mommy-dom is time-consuming, but I can throw things up on FB and answer any questions as needed and it makes it more personal. I will be at Hayes Elementary on Dec 7 from 9-11 a.m. for a breakfast with Santa. I am not sure of anything after that, but I do post my itinerary on Facebook.

Nathaniel: We’re going to be at the Tits for Toys for Tots obviously. After that I’m looking into being a vendor at some of the East Atlanta Village craft shows and the EAV Santa Parade. After that, the future is unwritten. Matter of fact we’re open to anyone who might want to have us at their concerts, car shows or craft festivals. We don’t discriminate, so feel free to get in touch with us. The best place to find me is on 2the9’s Retro on Etsy.com or 2the9’s Retro on Facebook. We look forward to seeing you out and about. Stop on by our booth and say hello.

All photographs are courtesy of Jezebel Blue and 2the9s Retro and used with permission.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Darcy Lemmonier and Minette Magnifique Invite You and Your Lover to Cupid’s Pajama Party

Posted on: Feb 15th, 2013 By:

Atlanta burlesque beauties Minette Magnifique shimmy into something more comfortable during Cupid’s Pajama Party, their Valentine’s Day show Fri. Feb. 15 and Sat. Feb. 16. This time we have to say we are extra tempted by the location, which is the beautiful Le Maison Rouge at Paris on Ponce. In addition to performances by this tempestuous troupe known for their creative playful interpretations of the Retro art form, special guest stars include magic by our favorite zoot-suited man of ATLRetro fashion Chad Sanborn and an act by Ninja Puppet Theatre.

For an advance peek behind the curtain, we tracked down the delicious Darcy Lemonnier, who kindly agreed to be our Kool Kat of the Week.

ATLRetro: How did you discover burlesque? 

Darcy Lemmonier: I never knew much about burlesque till I started doing a little research. The whole idea of it made me a little scared.

When did you start performing and what was your first act/show?

It was about 2.5 years ago at a restaurant and lounge called Ziba’s in Grant Park. My very first piece I did was very European-inspired about the art of smoking and I was lounging around waiting for my lover.

Why the name Darcy Lemmonier?

I’ve always loved the name,  “Darcy.” The name was actually one of my favorite characters in a show I grew up watching. She played the part of a sweet young girl, but she had a dark side and she portrayed a big tease in the show.

Is there any story about how you become part of Minette Magnifique? 

Well the story itself is pretty short. I was a model for Pin Up Girl Cosmetics first and eventually became a performer. the owner of the company who happens to be a dear friend of mine said I had a great face burlesque and she roped me in to becoming part of the troupe.

In your opinion, what makes Minette Magnifique stand out/different from other local burlesque troupes/groups?

Minette is a group of fun, easy-going girls. I think our style along with our comedic edge helps to set us apart. We love to have fun and show our crowds a good time.

Who are a few of your burlesque role models, both classic and revival era? And of course, why?

Josephine Baker hands down. Shes was amazingly talented and dazzling to watch. I also love Dita Von Teese. Her take of classic burlesque I love and admire and shes beautiful with some of the most fabulous costumes.

Do you consider yourself to have a certain look/style? If yes, what is that and how did you develop it?

At first, I found myself trying to pinpoint my style, but after some time, I found that Darcy’s style tends to be more vintage with a lot of mod colors. Lots of black, silvers, and whites with a bit of Josephine’s richness thrown in.

How do you prepare a new act? Does the idea for the act come first or are you given a theme for a show and then come up with an act?

Our troupe usually goes with a theme for each show and we work around that,. It helps to give the pieces we create a story.

Without giving away any major spoilers, can you tease a little about your routine for the Valentine Showcase?

Let’s just say I find love, but I find it leaving me alone at the altar, hahaha. That’s all I’m going to say.

Why is watching burlesque together the perfect date night for a couple?

Burlesque is sexy, and it gets the blood pumping. It’ll give her some new ideas of teasing, and men love to be teased,  ha! But truly it’s a great time and should will be enjoyed by both.

Why is Crown your favorite cocktail?

I’m a girl who loves her whiskey, and Crown is the smoothest going down.

What do you do when you are not Darcy?

Hide in my bedroom till she is ready to come out and play.

What else would you like folks to know about you?

Darcy has big plans for Atlanta and she hopes everyone is ready for the ride.

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Kool Kat of the Week: It Ain’t Rockabilly If You Don’t Have the Right Pair of Shoes; Talking Smart, Sassy and Southern with Miss Mason of Mon Cherie’s Rockabilly Lounge

Posted on: Feb 6th, 2013 By:

Every other month for more than five years – that’s half a decade – Atlanta’s Retro hostess with the mostest Mon Cherie gathers her friends and throws a Rockabilly Lounge at The Masquerade. And we’re tickled pink that her Valentine’s Lounge this Saturday Feb. 9 features a bunch of Kool Kat alums. First off, Mon Cherie is one. Then shake rattlin and rollin’ will be one of our favorite Atlanta bands The Stumblers, featuring Kool Kat Keith Martin. The Sweetheart Burlesque Show includes performances by Stormy Knight and the magic of Chad Sanborn, not to mention Scarlett PageHada Pixie, and debuting for the first time anywhere: Sunshine Divine. Wear your jitterbug’ shoes because The Right Reverend Andy will be spinning swing, rockabilly and psychobilly favorites. And that’s not to mention the Ragin’ Raffle and vendors aplenty to help you find that perfect gift for your Retro-lovin’ Valentine. Doors are at 9 p.m. but it’s no exaggeration to say the fun always runs well past midnight, making it just about the best way to get a bang out of 10 bucks.

In the midst of all this Koolness, we realized there’s one kool kitty we hadn’t gotten to profile yet, the Rockabilly Lounge’s gorgeous, charming and dangerously clever emcee, Miss Mason. Not wanting to get stung by Cupid’s arrow in our rear, we decided we’d better remedy that situation right quick.

ATLRetro: Why Miss Mason? 

Miss Mason: It’s my maiden name. Incidentally it’s also the name I was often referred to when I was at trouble at school. Went like this: THEM: “Do you think you’re being funny, Miss Mason?” ME: “I KNOW I’m bein’ funny.”

Miss Mason and the Right Reverend Andy Hawley. Photo credit: Shawn Doughtie.

How did you get the nickname “The Mouth of the South”?

Ha, that one is courtesy of my parents, as I had – have! – the proclivity for talking when I shouldn’t, talking back, talking loud. Seemed a perfect fit for a tag line for a big-mouthed shit-talker!

To us, emceeing seems like an absolute art. How much of what you do is pre-scripted and how much is improvised?

I don’t fancy myself much of an artist. I’m just not afraid of crowds, not afraid to talk in front of one. As for scripting, information about the artists is something I collect so they can get a proper introduction. The artists work very hard at building their brand, and the last thing I want to do is mess that up. Sometimes they have developed intros to use for each performance, but there are plenty of artists who trust me to come up with something silly and fun. As time goes by and we all get to know each other better, the introductions get more and more clever. I rather enjoy it, and I hope it endears the artists to me.  So a little is scripted, but for the most part I just get up there and roll with the punches.

What do you love most about emceeing?

That’s easy: I love to make people laugh.

How did you get your start performing?

A little over five years ago I attended a birthday party for my friend’s son and Mon Cherie was there. She was just about to give birth to Rockabilly Lounge and asked if I’d like to be one of her Burlesque Beauties and give out Jell-O shots. Not long after our first Rockabilly Lounge, Mon Cherie asked if I’d introduce the band. I mentioned that I was surprised she wasn’t doing it on account of her history of being on stage and performing at The Chamber, and she said, “Believe it or not, I’m kinda shy!” – which cracks me up that THE Kitten With A Whip of Atlanta was too shy to say a few words on the mic! She tickles me like that. Anyhow, I did get up and intro the band, and she liked it, so the next time there were band intros, burlesque intros and much more. It was a happy accident. The rest is history.

How did you meet Mon Cherie and how long have you been collaborating with her?

I was introduced to Mon Cherie by Phil Solomon (AntiHeroes, Impotent Sea Snakes) for the first time at The Chamber in the early 90s. She had just come off stage. She was thrilling to watch. And I mean RAWR! We met again maybe a year or so later when she and Philip were touring with Impotent Sea Snakes in Miami. But it wasn’t until six years ago that we became reacquainted at a kid’s birthday party. There we were, grown up. HAHAHAHAHA! I’m kidding. We’re never growing up.

What’s so special about Mon Cherie’s Rockabilly Lounge and especially about this month’s Valentine-themed event?

Well, first off, there is something special about a promoter who puts her heart and soul in her work, and that is bound to translate into a great show. And this month’s edition features The Stumblers! Aaaaaand we have fresh meat debuting in the burlesque set! Aaaaaand I’m wearing my favorite red heels! I’m excited. Can we go there now?

What’s the best pair of shoes you’ve bought lately, where did you buy them, and why did you just have to have them?

Oh,man, I’ve been a good girl lately with the shoe shopping, but the last pair I bought are a fierce pair of black leather ankle booties with an architectural heel and a zipper up the back. Once I found them, it was love, and when it’s love I don’t care about the price. They’re absolutely more fetish/rock than they are anything, but I am that girl, too. Sigh, I love shoes. I have a closet full.

Miss Mason shows off her favorite pair of rocket red Betsey Johnson Mary Janes. Photo credit: Shawn Doughtie.

What’s your favorite cocktail and who in Atlanta makes it the best?

Oooooh, my favorite cocktail? That’s like asking which pair of shoes is my favorite pair!!!!  I love so many. Damn. Honestly my favorite cocktail, The Pink Lady, is made by meeeeeeee. It’s Smooth Ambler Spirits Gin and Cherry Limeade. But then I have vodka moods, SoCo moods, and I’m always in the mood for a frosty PBR.

What do you do when you aren’t being the fabulous hostess of Mon Cherie’s Rockabilly Lounge? 

When I’m not on stage, I’m a wife to The Mister and a mom to The Boy – who’s got a big old case of The Show Biz bug! – and puppet to Lily and Ginger, better known as Puggy Goodness, LLC . We love entertaining at Chateau Mason! I love to make a wicked cocktail, bake anything under the sun, make weird ice creams, and especially enjoy creating things with bacon, cayenne, Nutella, and/or bourbon. Ask around.  My skills are that of local legend! I’m a fledgling cyclist. I’ve committed to riding two centuries (that’s 100 miles! eek!) this year. Oh! And sometimes I hoop! I love to hoop!

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Kool Kat of the Week: Sexual Healing: Kitty Love Celebrates the Goddess in Every Woman at Monthly Burlesque Sultry Sundays at Red Light Cafe

Posted on: Jan 9th, 2013 By:
Step right up to Kitty Love’s Sultry Sunday at Red Light Cafe. Atlanta finally has a monthly burlesque event again, which means that January is suddenly a lot warmer and less boring. This lovely Kitty is rustling up some mighty fine national and local performers for her next show this Sunday January 13 at 7 p.m. Headlining will be Russell Bruner, the Reigning King of Burlesque from the Burlesque Hall of Fame, plus the exotic Mistress Kali of New Orleans performing fire dance, Ursula Undress, Talloolah Love, recent Kool Kat Stormy Knight, bellydancer Haideh of Jahara Phoenix Dance Company, Madame X and Kitty Love herself. Syrens of the South‘s Katherine Lashe will be emcee, and also on the bill are song stylings from Lah Lah Luscious and magic from Chad Sanborn.

 

But what really jazzes us about Sultry Sundays and her other creative burlesque outlet, Cheeky Belles, is Kitty Love ‘s spiritual side. She reads Tarot cards and has been teaching sacred rituals and goddess mysteries since 2000. Given that she believes that “the healing of the world depends on the celebrating the goddess in every woman,” it kind of sounds like a church in celebration of the female body and spirit! Which makes her sound like the purr-fect Kool Kat of the Week!

 

ATLRetro: What’s Kitty Love’s Sultry Sunday? How did you get the idea, how does it differ from other local burlesque shows and how often is it going to happen?

Kitty Love’s Sultry Sunday is a monthly burlesque show on Second Sundays. I met the owner of the Red Light Cafe who invited me to produce burlesque shows on Sunday nights. Sultry Sunday is different in that it is in a cafe and intended to replace dinner and a movie. We are also an early show and hoping to appeal to people that can’t necessarily go out late night or on Friday and Saturday.

How did you personally get into burlesque, and what appeals to you about the art form?

I started as an exotic dancer in 1991. I have always loved to dance. I was not allowed to dance or have any dance training as a child, and stripping was the only dance career that was open to me.

My favorite part of a show is seeing excited women in the audience. I love burlesque because it is so empowering for women and not just the performers. I believe that a woman owning her sexual power in public is a revolutionary act! In 2007, I met Katherine Lashe and Talloolah Love at a burlesque meet-up and soon after attended every burlesque show that  I could find. I admired that Syrens of the South was so inclusive and fun, so I joined their first burlesque classes.  I made my debut with Syrens of the South in August 2008 as my comedic character Rosie Palms.

Can you name a favorite classic and a favorite contemporary performer who inspires you, and why?

My favorite classic performer is Gypsy Rose Lee because of her wit and sophistication. My favorite contemporary performer is The Lady Miss Vagina Jenkins.  She exudes sensuality and power.  She makes the audience feel the heat all the way to the back row.

What’s the story behind the stage name of Kitty Love?

“Kitty Love” is a metaphor for female pleasure.  I am a passionate advocate for female self pleasure. I have coached women as an “orgasm coach,” and my first advice is to practice!

This week’s performance features Reigning King of Burlesque Russell Bruner, Mistress Kali and an all-star cast of local performers. How do you decide who’s on the roster and can you share anything about what they’ll be doing?

I do not travel much, so this will be first time seeing Russell live and I am really looking forward to it!  It only took one video to convince me that he would create an amazing experience for our audience. Soon after I changed the date to January 13, Mistress Kali contacted me about performing in the show because she would be traveling this way with Russell. That’s why I am calling it my “Lucky 13” show.  Mistress Kali will be giving up the fire show.

I choose acts according to how they fit together to make a well-balanced show. But it’s not easy for me to decide; I’m a Pisces! In this show I am showcasing a lot my local friends that I met through Syrens of the South. For Cheeky Belles shows, which will be back in February, I like to showcase new performers from my classes and independent performers who really bring the heat!

Will you be performing yourself? If yes, without giving too much away, can you give us a tease of what your act will be like?

I will be performing.  I hope that my act inspires a lot of female pleasure!

What’s your favorite performance to date and why? 

My favorite performance to date was at the first Sultry Sunday. I did an improv with Paul Mercer and Regeana Campbell [The Changelings] performing live music. I love performing with Paul Mercer because it is always magical. I made my burlesque stage debut with Paul at an event in 2008.

At the last show, I had a very memorable moment! I love my mind and stepped onto a table and started dancing up there! Then I realized that I didn’t have a plan on how to get down. Fortunately, I picked a table full of friends and a gentlemen stood up to help me.

You also have been teaching sacred rituals and goddess mysteries since 2000 and believe that the healing of the world depends on celebrating the goddess in every woman. Have you always been drawn to this way of thinking or was there a specific incident or aha moment?

I have always been unconventional. In 1997, I read a book called APHRODITE’S DAUGHTERS about temple dancers in ancient India. Shortly after that, I dedicated my life to service of the sacred feminine.

How does this spiritual side dovetail with your burlesque?

I feel the most spiritually connected when I am dancing. Dance has been used in worship for thousands of years. I hope that I represent that Goddess energy when I am performing. I try to bring out the inner Goddess of my students so that they can learn to access that energy when they want.

Kitty Love. Photo credit: Kellyn Willey, PinUp Girl Cosmetics.

I teach my students to use the elemental energy in their bodies to enjoy their dancing. There are no choreographed routines or required dance moves. I call it sensual dance because it is about feeling good, not just looking good. My next classes start on January 13 at the Red Light Cafe. To register, contact me at misskittylove@gmail.com.

You also read Tarot cards. What’s your philosophy of approaching the cards, and how can someone get a reading from you?

I look at the cards as postcards from God. Everyone is here to learn on their journey, and the cards are like a map of what lessons are coming next and how to best approach them. I do readings at The Shelter for the monthly Ritual parties [the next, themed Gangster Speakeasy, is this Fri. Jan. 11] and at the Georgia Renaissance Festival in the spring. I am also available for private readings by appointment and at special events.

What’s next for Kitty Love?

I am developing Cheeky Belles into a community of like-minded performers that use dance as a spiritual expression.

Admission to Kitty Love’s Sultry Sunday is $20 at the door or $15 in advance (available on the Red Light Cafe website. And in case you wondered, the Red Light Cafe just got their liquor license!

Editor’s Note: The first photo also should be credited to Kellyn Willey, PinUp Girl Cosmetics. All artwork is courtesy of Kitty Love.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Nicolette Valdespino Fashions a “Bohemian Playground” at Paris on Ponce

Posted on: Jul 11th, 2012 By:

Nicolette Valdespino

By Torchy Taboo
Contributing Writer

A visit to Paris on Ponce always feels like stepping into New Orleans or indeed – Paris – in the middle of Midtown Atlanta. I adore its historical, yet timeless French aesthetic. The unique antique shop will be celebrating that French flavor with their first annual free Bastille Day Festival, Saturday, July 14 from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday, July 15 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday evening from 6-9 is the Party Fantastique with Baton Bob, Minette Manifique burlesque, magician Chad Sanborn, All Hands Productions puppetering and film premieres from Escobar Productions.

In the early 21st century I dreamed of having my own event there. However, the owners at that time shied away from getting into the complexities of running and renting a true event space and only did so sporadically. The year 2011 saw a change, however, with new owners, a new manager named Nicolette Valdespino and a fresh new take on sharing the space with the public.

Le Maison Rouge is the 4,200 square foot event space that is over-the-top Moulin Rouge-themed within the heart of the store….In this last year, we have hosted two public auctions, participated in ‘The Next Cool Event,’ hosted the Atlanta Film Festival, made a film, been named the ‘Best Antique Store in ATL’ by Jezebel Magazine, and now we are kicking off a whole flush of new remodels with the Bastille Day Festival,” bubbled Nicolette. In a way chatting with her is like a conversation with the evolving space itself. Meaning of course, that ATLRetro could not resist making her Kool Kat of the Week.

ATLRetro: My first visit to PoP was to perform at an event in 2002. I walked in the front and was enchanted, but had to ask, “Why are we performing at an antique store?” Tell us how you first came there.

Nicolette: [While] shopping for a couch I walked into Paris on Ponce for the first time. I had my own interior design business [in Portland, OR] for eight years and then decided one day that it was time to try to be a East Coast girl. So I packed up the pug and drove across country in search of design adventures. When I walked into the shop in April 2011, I met Skip [Engelbrecht] and Dennis [Baker] [the new owners] and immediately recognized and respected their vision for the new Paris on Ponce. They had worked for the previous owners, George and Judi, for 11 and eight years respectively and had just bought the business weeks before.

Tell us a story about yourself as a budding designer. Did you rearrange your mother’s furniture and redecorate your bedroom seasonally?

Well, I was always described as a “busy child” and was constantly trying to build/sew/create something. At about four to five years old, my mother began hauling home large boxes from the San Francisco Children’s Hospital where she was a nurse, and I would build go-carts, furniture and once a sink complete with plastic bags of water and turn screws for faucets. Hard lesson there – water + cardboard = Not as much fun as you’d think.

I think the first interior design project that I really did was when I was seven – I wanted a canopy bed. My mother nixed that so I just took down my curtains and rods and staple-gunned them to the ceiling around my bed. Done.

You’re from Portland. What experiences there shaped your creative vision?

Portland is very DIY, very vintage, re-purposed, locally made and handcrafted – which is why I moved there in the first place. There is an easy sense of community that involves musicians, artists and philanthropy. But after 11 years, I had created what I needed to there in the arts/music/design/fund-raising scene.

What is the arts scene like  in Atlanta compared to Portland?

Frankly, the art scene [here] is just like Atlanta [itself]: bigger, bolder and from many more perspectives and mediums. It tends to be a louder and more high-minded scene and gets the attention it deserves.

Nicolette Valdespino with Paris on Ponce co-owner Skip Englebrecht.

What drew you toward Atlanta and were there other cities that you considered moving to?

I was actually plotting my new life in New Orleans when I got sidetracked to Atlanta by a girlfriend who lives here, suggesting that the original California kid might want to put her toe in the water in a large Southern city before I went “deep south” as she called it. The sense of history, craftsmanship and ornamentation that is on the streets, in the air, in the architecture and the culture on the East Coast as opposed to the West eases my soul and inspires me. I don’t know that I’ll have children in this lifetime, and when you start thinking that way, you start wondering who exactly is going to remember you. That leads me to start thinking about all of the hands and stories that created these cities and furnishings that were interesting, emotional and forgotten. By re-purposing, valuing, and preserving these artifacts, I feel more involved with those lives and more a part of humanity in general. Perhaps someday I will be distantly remembered for my interpretations as well.

What historical era of design is your personal favorite?

I should have been born in the 1930s. While I am delighted and really enjoy modern shapes and styles of clothing and furnishings, my personal aesthetic is and always has been a sort of twist on 1940s couture. My father used to refer to pocket money as “hat money” because that is exactly what I would spend my jingle on as a child. I love toppers, circle skirts and pin-up styles. They just feel the most natural to me. Feminine, timeless, and they seem to make people happy. My personal style in decor is greatly influenced by all of the traveling I did as a young person with my French grandmother. If it’s gilded, baroque, velvet, marbleized and slightly decaying, I’ll immediately start to squeal.

How does this inform you as a professional designer?

When I design someone else’s space, it has nothing to do with what I personally like. It is all about the interpretation of that person’s background, personality and resources. Style doesn’t have anything to do with expense as well. Often times, revamping what a client has and custom, locally crafted pieces are much less expensive than just purchasing ready-made items. Plus, you are fostering money within your community and really customizing a space towards the haven that everyone deserves to call home.

In what ways have you influenced the “new PoP”? In other words, when I walk into the venue, where will I see your fingerprint?

Skip, Dennis and I are most certainly a team when it comes to the direction of Paris on Ponce and PoP Marche. I will say though, that I am ridiculously focused on making sure that not only does our new “PoP Marche” have something for everyone, but that the individual booths are very specific to a given lifestyle. I want them to be little complete worlds unto themselves. I want PoP Marche to be startling. From space to space, you are jarred into a whole different vision. Eventually I would like a book store, a toy store, a cafe, a prop studio, an in-house upholstery shop, a gallery for local artists, even a barbershop would be fun. Come, play, experience, purchase, participate and enjoy yourself, and know that the next time you walk in, you will see whole new installations.

What event has been the most fun and exciting for you at PoP?

When we made the giant paper Marie Antoinette for “The Next Cool Event” that was a great crafting project, and the way it was received as compared to other businesses very expensive displays was really satisfying. Our aim was to show that we could make the most ordinary of mediums be extraordinary. Clever beats a dollar bill every time.

Truthfully, though, I’m most excited about the upcoming Bastille Day Festival. I’ve thrown a lot of parties, weddings and charity events before, but never a festival, and never for a guest count that I can’t even imagine. The idea of making it an annual festival is really thrilling, too. Cementing Paris on Ponce in the community as a bohemian playground for artists, writers, performers and dreamers feels like not only is it attainable, but just over the horizon.

If you hadn’t become an Interior Decorator, what might have you done?

I think that it is compulsive for me to create and interpret. Everything. I’ve been sewing and creating my own wardrobe since I was seven. I am no fine artist, but I love to sculpt. Industrial design and furniture design are fascinating to me because you genuinely get to create objects that engage people and serve practical purposes. I have built couches, tables, chairs, and the reinterpretation of leftover furniture pieces through re-upholstery and faux finishes has been a lot of fun lately.

Did you ever expect to be involved in events coordinating and what is your role in the events that take place there?

I throw parties. I love throwing parties. I love them so much I became an officiant so that I get an excuse to participate in other peoples’ parties – kidding – kind of!  Throwing an event is like a shorter, more satisfying version of designing an interior. You come up with a concept and a budget, pull it all together while trying to make it surprising and clever, and everyone has a great time. The one large drawback comparatively is that it’s all temporary. A great party is a great memory, and nothing practical that someone can utilize in the future. But, of course, one’s life is simply a collection of memories, so it is pretty important when you think of it that way. I love the idea especially of doing this Bastille Day Festival here, aligning and showcasing these artists and performers so that they can get paid for being brave and creative. In the future, I would love to make it a fundraising event for the Atlanta arts community.

As far as most of the private events in Le Maison Rouge goes, Dennis is the resident event coordinator, but concerning our previous opening gala, auctions, the upcoming Halloween party, I anticipate that my extra special brand of nonsense will be all over that.

What do you see yourself doing five years from now?

Smiling. Laughing. Building. Learning. Becoming better, brighter and more honest about everything I do. I know that I am extremely lucky to be where I’m at. In this city, in this store, with such great bosses who never red-tape my visions. And I know that I’m here because I work really hard to make this life as full as possible, and that means saying “yes’ when others say “no,” looking for the silver lining, and being creative with difficult situations. There is always a way to make things work if you just breathe, be humble about your perspectives, and take those big leaps. Kind of like when I jumped out of a plane last year on my birthday and the parachute collapsed 30 feet from the ground…Wait-that didn’t work out so well – but I’m still glad I did it.

If I can help to pull off this new vision, this bohemian playground, creating a new corner of culture, I will be a very happy girl and then maybe a whole new endeavor. I’ve been too lucky thus far to plot my future.

Note: All photos are courtesy of Nicolette Valdespino and used with permission.

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Weekend Update, Aug. 12-14, 2011

Posted on: Aug 12th, 2011 By:

Friday, August 12

Hear some great garage rock and rockabilly, pose with a pin-up girl, see burlesque acts, win raffle prizes and support a great animal charity at Little Darling’s Pinups for Pitbulls Presents: Dog Days of Summer! starting at 8 p.m. at The Basement beneath Graveyard Tavern. Check out our first-ever Kool Kitten interview with April 2001 Pinups for Pitbulls Calendar model Brook Bolen here. Performers include ’60s girl group revivalists The F’n Heartbreaks (of which Brook is a bandmember) and The Hot Rod Walt Trio (read our Kool Kat interview with Hot Rod Walt here); local burlesque stars Talloolah Love, Barbalicious and Sadie Hawkins of Blast-Off Burlesque, and Pinups for Pitbulls charity-founder Little Darling herself!

It’s another honky tonk rockabilly Friday at Star Bar with Caroline & the RamblersVillain Family and The Serenaders. It’s also always good news to hear about a too-rare Subsonics show, so we’re happy to report Buffi Aguero & Co. will be garage-rockin’ it out at The Earl tonight with Carnivores and Howlies. Bela Fleck & the Flecktones and Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers are at Classic Chastain. Swing to jazz, earthy blues and a little rock n roll by vocalist Gwen Hughes and her band The Retro Jazz Kats at Callanwolde Jazz on the Lawn tonight. Catch an IMAX movie and dance to blues, jazz and a slight bit of funk courtesy of Derryl Rivers & the Flying Circus at Fernbank Museum of Natural History’s Martinis and IMAX.  Recent Kool Kat Julea Thomerson and the BareKnuckle Betties plays The Five Spot with Midnight Revival and Silent Coyote. And CineProv pokes good-natured fun at THE ROCKETEER at Relapse Theatre.

Saturday August 13

Yet another clone-worthy day and night in Retro Atlanta. It’s almost impossible to pick just one of the vintage wonderland of activities tonight. First, the good news is a couple of things are in the afternoon. Kids and their parents are in for tricks and treats as the Silver Scream Spookshow‘s Professor Morte teaches a Monster Make-Up Class at Main Street School of Art at 1 p.m. Learn how to turn your kid and you into a werewolf or zombie using classic monster movie make-up techniques from realistic bruises and oozing wounds to deathly ghoulish faces and how to apply latex and hair.

Meanwhile over at The Plaza Theatre, see Sergio Leone/Clint Eastwood classic Western THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. as it was meant to be seen in glorious widescreen 35 mm. The movie is the last and best part of Leone’s “Man With No Name” trilogy, which the Plaza has been screening throughout the summer. Hurray for AM1690 for sponsoring! Be sure to hang around, come early or just stop by The Plaza at 6:35 p.m., too, for COMING SOON TO A THEATRE NEAR YOU!, 35 min. of rare 35 mm trailers from Plaza Manager Ben Ruder‘s private collection. Admission for the latter is free, but donations to support the nonprofit theatre are encouraged.

The Derby Strikes Back as the Atlanta Rollergirls‘ four teams face-off in their annual play-offs. The Apocalypstix battle the Toxic Shocks at 5 p.m. while theDenim Demons get one more shot against the undefeated Sake Tukas at 7:30 p.m. Both bouts, as always, are at the Yaarab Shrine Center on Ponce, and advance tickets are recommended for these sure-to-sell-out matches. Arrive early to browse the cool vendors.

The King may have passed away from this earth on Aug. 16, 1977, but oh, does his spirit live on in ELVIS ROYALE, an annual Vegas-style multimedia extravaganza staged by KingSized and the Dames Aflame at Variety Playhouse. Hear the one-and-only Big Mike Geier sing songs from every point in Elvis’s career and experience the glittery Cavalcade of Elvis during the fabulous finale. Read our Kool Kat exclusive interview with Big Mike here.

BURLESQUE WITH A HITCH, the latest in Mon Cherie‘s Va-Va-Voom series at Masquerade, celebrates the genius of film director Alfred Hitchcock with each act based on a different film by the master. Alabaster JuJu stars, with master of suspense and mystery Miss Mason hosting, and the all-star line-up of performers includes Sadie HawkinsRebecca DeShon (Hoop Essence)Stormy Knight, Fonda Lingue, Evil Sarah, The Chameleon Queen, magician Chad SanbornKatarina Laveaux (Birmingham, AL), Nicolette Tesla (Charlotte, NC), and Peachz de Vine (Greensboro, NC). Before and after, DJ 313 spins alternative dance, Allison Kellar offers body-painting, and there’s also a RAWKIN’ RAFFLE with lots of vintage-inspired vendors donating prizes. Cover is a bargain 5 bucks, and doors open at 9 p.m. In suspense about what’s happening? Click here for a sneak preview of this Spellbound affair from Chad Sanborn.

It’s Man Day at Twain’s starting with first-come-first-serve manly tattoos at noon, but the main event gets rolling at 5 p.m. with a night of live music, manly competitions (examples include Handyman Challenge and Best Beer Gut), aerial dance performances by Blast-Off Burlesque‘s Sadie Hawkins, boob cupcakes by Sugar Dolls, the Wheel of Destiny and much more.

And that’s not to mention Big Bad Voodoo Daddy swinging with theAtlanta Symphony Orchestra at Verizon Wireless AmphitheatrePsycho

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

DeVilles rockabilly it up at the world-famous Dixie Tavern in Marietta. Little Joey’s Big Band is at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack. Blues pianist extraordinaire Ike Stubblefield plays Northside Tavern. And of course, DJ Romeo Cologne transforms the sensationally seedy Clermont Lounge into a ’70s disco/funk inferno late into the wee hours.

Sunday August 14

Chickens and Pigs plays blues “dunch” between 1 and 4 PM at The EarlThe Whiskey Gentry bring their misfit country-to-punk twang to the Park Tavern Unplugged in the Park series at Piedmont Park. Tony Bryant reps four generations of Georgia blues at Fat Matt’s. And the Michael Hutchence-less INXS brings back the ’80s at Chastain Park Amphitheatre.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Kool Kat Of The Week: Shellie Schmals, Minette Magnifique – Atlanta’s Baroness of Burlesque

Posted on: Feb 7th, 2011 By:

Minette Magnifique may be Atlanta’s youngest burlesque troupe, but these voluptuous vixens, true to their motto “the art of delectable dance, sans the pants,” are fast forging their own ravishing reputation. Shellie Schmals, aka Baroness VONSchmalhausen, shares a few secrets about her stage and other personas, as well as a tantalizing peek behind the tassles of the House of Minette’s Valentine’s spectacular, FROM PARIS WITH LOVE, Friday Feb. 11 at Le Fais do-do in west Midtown.

Shellie Schmals of Minette Magnifique. Photo credit: Jordan Barclay

ATLRetro: How did you personally become interested in burlesque and when did you start performing?

Shellie Schmals: As a little girl, I saw the iconic image of Bettie Page and was entranced. She looked so sweet, but she was also extremely sexy in a way that wasn’t popular in 1980s mainstream media. I identified with her more than Christy Brinkley or Cindy Crawford. Living with a family of antique collectors, I was surrounded by pinup advertising of the 1940s and 50s – which I adored too. Somehow, I just always knew burlesque was there but never knew how to find it.

It wasn’t until 2008 that I was introduced to the Atlanta burlesque scene by the Syrens of the South. We collaborated on a comedy and burlesque show at Relapse Theatre, and I performed one comedic burlesque [act] under the stage name “Mrs. Velma NoHeart.” After that show, I was still very interested in performing. The right opportunity and role didn’t come along again until January 2010, when my Minette Co-Founder, Kellyn Willey (Madame Willey) was starting up another troupe and we knew we needed to combine our creative forces. Our first Minette show was on May 1, 2010 and we’ve been on fire ever since!

You dance and emcee under the show name, Baroness VONSchmalhausen? Can you share a little bit about her and how she came to join Minette Magnifique?

Photo credit: Offhand Photography

In 2006, I started my event production and marketing company VONschmalhausen, named after my family’s name before it got chopped up at Ellis Island at the turn of the century in the 1900s. My ancestors were from Poland and Hungary and I really wanted to honor my Jewish heritage. VONschmalhausen literally means “of the small house” and my tag line became “small house * BIG IDEAS” – how could it not be??!!

Since then, VONschmalhausen has grown into a brand for all my events, performance and projects. When it was time for me to name my burlesque character, Baroness VONschmalhausen seemed the obvious choice. My Baroness VONschmalhausen persona is still me, but bolder with a lot more sparkles. Although I enjoy raunchy and vulgar humor, it never sounds right when I say it. If I were to pick words that describe Baroness: elegance, innocence, sly humor, dirty innuendos with a smile, double entendres with a wink, and poetry with a little slapstick.

 

For that matter, what’s the origin of Minette Magnifique? Did I hear right that the troupe got started in New Orleans?

In the rich tradition of vaudeville performers, we rewrote our history. Each performer scribed a bio that speaks to who their characters are, and we did the same thing for the troupe itself. Although we might not come from New Orleans, our spirit lives there.

Minette Magnifique, and/or the House of Minette, is a really creative name for a burlesque troupe. Is there a story behind how you selected it?

Naming Minette Magnifique is an example of how beautifully Madame Willey and I collaborate together. Madame Willey was enthralled with the first name “Minette”, as it has multiple identities as an girl’s name (which means “protector”) and as the French slang for a girl who is all dolled up. We didn’t want to give ourselves the traditional moniker of Minette Burlesque, because we felt it was too restrictive. Being the alliteration junkie that I am, “Magnifique” came to me almost from divine intervention.

I started calling us “The House of Minette” as a way to bring all the performers and members of Minette on stage at the end of a show. The phrase is very grand, invoking images that are regal, with a splash of bordello. Just like us!

 

Blast-Off Burlesque has a wacky pop culture edge and Dames Aflame have embraced the showgirl aesthetic. How would you describe Minette Magnifique’s unique niche in the Atlanta burlesque scene?

I would describe Minette as theatrical and comical, sexy and sultry, vintage with a contemporary appeal. We love romance, sparkles, glitter, glamour and paying homage to the golden era of performers who graced the burlesque stage, pinup calendars and golden age of the silver screen.

Minette Magnifique’s Website bills FROM PARIS WITH LOVE as “a romantic, Parisian-inspired evening of musical and magical entertainment.” Can you divulge a little bit about what audiences can expect when it comes both to music and magic?

Our venue Le Fais do-do, is the perfect setting for us. It sets the mood for the Minette routines – each dancer selects their own music, and each girl was inspired from vintage French music. Expect to see a lot of interaction between the dancers. Mimi de Milo and Portia Lynn Dahl are performing a sister act. Vyolet Venom will be singing. Expect BIG SMILES, NEW DANCE MOVES and TWIRLING TASSELS!!

Would you tantalize us with a sneak preview of your own acts this Friday?

I’m excited to be performing two routines with our guest emcee, Mr. Tonguelinguist, my dear friend and improv co-hort, Jeff Wisard. I’ll be swept off my feet and into the lap of love!!

What about your emcee persona? How do you get into character and do you script it all out in advance or play it more improv?

Getting into character starts a few hours before show time, I’m very much in my head and am pretty quiet. As soon as I hit the stage to greet the audience with my signature phrase “Good evening ladies and lords …,” I’m in there, alive and in the moment. A shot of Jager always helps, too!!

I LOVE writing our shows. Before each dancer performs, I give a little intro that sets the scene for our audience. Since all of our Minette shows are themes, it’s a fun challenge to write something saucy and unique for each dancer, that not only describes their personality but also puts a time and a place on a routine. You can be sexy and just dance, but it’s even sexier to know the inner thoughts of the performer and create the world around them.

My role as Minette emcee is more of a storyteller, so much of it is scripted. Although, I play with the audience and improv as well. Most emcees announce the dancer’s credentials. We decided collectively that we wanted something different and my role has evolved with that. I’m very versatile though, and have emceed for many events without a script or notes – just going off the cuff and enjoying the energy from the audience.

Who are the guest performers for this week’s show?

We are thrilled to have Blair Crimmins, as our musical guest. He’ll be performing with Darcy Lemmonier, as she debuts a new routine. Blair’s music embodies everything that Minette is about: whisking the audience member back to a time where romance prevailed, the music was big and bawdy, and life was, too.

Joining us also will be Chad Sanborn, as our guest magician. Chad’s charisma and creativity provide an added touch that is going to make this show special and different. We’ll also be using Chad throughout the evening to help heighten our storyline.

My guest co-host for our Paris show is Mr. Tonguelinguist, [as noted previously, otherwise known as my improv buddy, Jeff Wisard]. Jeff did a guest spot with us in December as a boy toy and we loved him so much, we asked him back in a larger role! I’m excited to work with Jeff in this new capactiy too. We’ve been improv’ing together for years.

What’s next for you and Minette Magnifique?
As a troupe, Minette feels very strongly about the importance of giving back to others. In 2010, we participated in benefits for The Rainbow Center, PinUp for Pitbulls, Living Walls and Hurricane Katrina. Our next performance will be Friday, February 18 at Carnivale: A Benefit for Actor’s Express. This is a great opportunity to support the creative endeavours of our peers in the entertainment community.

When you’re not performing, what else do you do for work and play?

I can’t gush enough about my job. I work at a fabulous organization, ART PAPERS, as the director of development + public relations. ART PAPERS exists to provide an independent and accessible forum for ideas on contemporary art. I am coming off the heels of our weekend-long Art Auction fundraiser and am still jonesing on an adrenaline rush.

My heart also belongs to Relapse Theatre. I volunteer my time as director of community affairs  [and] I manage all the social media and community service/social projects that happen within our walls and in the Atlanta area. I’m also lucky enough to perform with 2Girls3Eyes, a talented group of improv performers, every Friday night on the Relapse stage.

And I, like, LOVE to shop!!! I’ve been surrounded by antiques my whole life. As a child, I would frequent garage sales, estate sales and flea markets with my parents looking for gold amongst the ruins. I was fortunate enough to amass a collection of vintage jewelry from the 1920s-1970s called VINTAGEsparkles by VONschmalhausen that is available for rental with photo shoots by PinUpGirl! Cosmetics in Grant Park.

More Secrets About Shellie:

Favorite Retro Movie: FREAKS by Tod Browning

Favorite Retro Musicians: The Beatles, The Shangri-Las

Favorite Retro Song to Dance to: “Chantilly Lace” by The Big Bopper

Favorite Retro Book: VALLEY OF THE DOLLS by Jacqueline Susann

Inspirational Burlesque Performers (Vintage Or Present-Day): Gypsy Rose Lee, Mae West, Bettie Page, Indigo Blue

Purchase tickets for FROM PARIS WITH LOVE here.

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