Kool Kat of the Week: David Richardson, a.k.a. “Baby Doll Schultz,” Glams and Hams it up with Chris Buxbaum during Their “Schizophrenic Photogenic” Opening Party at Luckie Street Gallery!

Posted on: Jun 25th, 2014 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor/
Contributing Writer

Get dolled up in your sleaziest glam get-ups because David Richardson, a.k.a. “Baby Doll Schultz” and Kool Kat Chris (Beat) Buxbaum [December 2012; see ATLRetro’s Kool Kat feature on Chris Buxbaum, here] have a phantasmagoric ballyhoo of sizzlin’ sights, sounds and tastes awaiting your deviant little hearts at their “Schizophrenic Photogenic” opening event invading Luckie Street Gallary this Saturday, June 28, from 7 to 11 pm! So, get scandalous and strut your stuff down to the Luckie Street Gallary for a night of mischief and mayhem!

David has been rockin’ the glammed up club scene since the early ‘80s, donning provocative style and inventive transformative creations, birthing the evolution of his stage persona, “Baby Doll Schultz”!  In the late ‘80s to mid ‘90s, he was a member of Elaganza, a comedic drag troupe that performed at Atlanta hot spots: the White Dot, Blake’s, Backstreet, the Metro and various other clubs that have since closed. He’s performed with ATLRetro’s sci-fi vaudeville Burly-Q faves, Blast-Off Burlesque, was a member of The Anatomy Theatre, a band that combined electronica with performance art and even had the opportunity to portray his idol, Divine during performances at The Plaza Theatre’s screenings of John WatersFEMALE TROUBLE (1974) and PINK FLAMINGOS (1972)!

ATLRetro caught up with David for a quick interview about his love of dramatic costuming, his stimulating past performances, his love of John Waters and his upcoming rockin’ art show, “Schizophrenic Photogenic,” with Chris Buxbaum . And while you’re gettin’ voyeuristic with our little Q&A with David, experience Baby Doll Schultz in action with his former drag comedy troupe, Eleganza at the Metro, performing a parody of Tammy Faye Bakker, here.

ATLRetro: Your taste for the glamorous drag scene erupted in the early ’80s when you began getting dolled up while clubbing and performing at some infamous ATL hot spots, such as the White Dot, Blake’s, Backstreet and the Metro. What drew you to this energetic sub-culture of erotic and phantasmal proportions?

David Richardson: The fantasy and possibility that is inherent in nightlife has always had a lot of appeal for me. You can be anything or anyone you wish to be, if only for one night. You’re not required to be real or politically correct or anything. You can be a different person every night if that is your desire. The donning of makeup and dramatic attire is freeing in the sense that it allows one to play a character and inhibitions are lowered, thus allowing you to be more yourself and more the way you would like yourself to be.

Having rocked the glam club scene of the early ’80s to the ’90s, would you say the scene has changed? Any nostalgia for the old days? What would you say has improved?

The scene is definitely different now. There aren’t as many large clubs and 24-hour clubs are extinct. The average club-goer doesn’t put as much effort into their look now as back then, when everyone seemingly strived to be a fashion plate. That’s not to say it isn’t vibrant and fun today, because it is! The thing I miss most about the old days is the music; maybe because it was all new to me, but I prefer older music. Somehow it seems more meaningful. What I really dig about clubbing now is the young drag queens. They are really great. The makeup is more extreme, the looks are more fashion forward and they seem totally prepared when they hit the stage. I can’t tell you how many times I stumbled onto a stage, not knowing the words to my song and not having worked out a routine of any kind. Luckily my improvisational skills and the spontaneity of the moment saved me on more than one occasion!

You’ve shared the stage with our sci-fi punk vaudeville pals, Blast-Off Burlesque.  What was your favorite performance with them, and why?

My favorite was when we performed BARBARELLA (1968) at Dragon Con 2013 in the Glamour Geek Revue [See performance here]. It was my first time at Dragon Con and I loved it! There was such a sense of wonder and joy at Dragon Con; the dedication to costuming and achieving perfection in a look was completely evident. I got to play the “Great Tyrant”, complete with a golden unicorn horn. I made the costume for that show, which was covered with hundreds of hand-sewn feathers and took a full month to make. I am very proud of that look! I have loved every performance with Blast-Off Burlesque, but our show at Dragon Con 2013 was extra special!

Can you tell our readers a little about your glory days as a drag performer with the troupe, Eleganza?

We (Eleganza) lampooned the ‘70s and ‘80s, with our best shows being thematic. For example, we had a “Fashionquake,” where each member made a mini-collection with two models sporting fashions made of trash and disposable materials. All of our fabulous fashions were destroyed in the finale when an “earthquake” hit the club. We also had a STAR WARS night where all of the numbers were of a sci-fi nature. That night culminated in me wrestling a heckler, who was a collaborating performer planted in the audience, in a kiddie pool full of pork and beans, no less. We also had “The Joey Heatherton Bleach Marathon”, a new-wave night, a show that was a homage to the LOVE BOAT and our “Beautify America” night, where we did makeovers on audience members who we then attacked with cans of shaving cream. The troupe even created a feature length video, directed by David A. Moore, called HAVE YOU SEEN KRYSTLE LITE?, which premiered at Backstreet. The other members of Eleganza were Trina Saxxon, Clive Jackson, Superchic, Krystle Lite, Lurleen and Judy La Grange. We even had Lady Bunny as a special guest one night. Our performances were all pretty irreverent and unpolished, but we had a blast and did it with enthusiasm.

What can you tell our readers about your ’90s band, “The Anatomy Theatre”? And your rock opera play, “The Asylum” that you’d perform at the Masquerade?

The Anatomy Theatre was the brain child of my friend Myron, blending electronic music with performance-art theater. “The Asylum was an electronic rock opera of sorts set in an insane asylum. Myron was “Dr. Boris” and another friend, Carla, was “Nurse Needles”. They cured the patients by killing them. I played “Harold”, a psychosexual. My cure was electro shock therapy in an electric chair. Stacy, another friend, got a lobotomy with a power drill in the show while our friend Scott was given a scalpel to eviscerate himself. It was replete with gore and black humor. We performed the play three times at the Masquerade. Myron released two self-produced cassettes and performed numerous times, even opening for The Legendary Pink Dots and Frontline Assembly.

You’ve stated that you had the opportunity to play your favorite idol, “Divine”, on a few occasions during The Plaza’s screenings of FEMALE TROUBLE and PINK FLAMINGOS. What about her do you admire? Are there other drag queens you’d like to impersonate?

When I was a kid, I remember reading a review of PINK FLAMINGOS (1972) in the newspaper and it really fascinated me. I didn’t get to see the film until a decade later, on home video, and it got me hooked on John Waters and Divine. What inspires me most about Divine is the absolute fearlessness and ferocity she projected. She also showed me that big girls don’t have to hide in the shadows but can shake it up there with the best of them. I was really honored to play “Dawn Davenport” and “Babs Johnson” with Blast-Off Burlesque. It would be fun to impersonate Lady Bunny because her look is so iconic and recognizable.

You stated that in the late ’90s you withdrew from the rowdy nightlife and became ‘domesticated’.  It seems you’re back, and better than ever! What was the catalyst that drew you back into the fabulously raucous flame of female impersonation?

(It was a) Midlife crisis, I guess. I was wondering if my best years were behind me and decided not to withdraw quietly into seclusion. I returned to my passion, dressing up. I believe that my looks now are more accomplished and thoughtful, and I find inspiration everywhere. I even dream of outfits and concepts to hybridize into my collection of characters.

How did you and Chris (Beat) Buxbaum meet? You two seem to have a vibrant artistic relationship; one that screams out in the wicked art you two create. How did you become Chris’ saucy and sinister subject?

I met Chris Buxbaum back in the late 1980s. We had a ton of mutual friends. We didn’t actually start working together until about three years ago when he was photographing the fabulous performers of “Sukeban, a very creative group of individuals performing at My Sisters Room in East Atlanta Village [FENUXE, November 2010]. His photographs at “Sukeban eventually became his “Transformers show. From there, he approached me with the “Schizophrenic Photogenic project and naturally, I was intrigued. It doesn’t hurt that I’m a big old camera hog and a ham! It all seemed so natural and easy.

I also participated in a MODA (Museum of Design Atlanta) event with Chris and Kool Kat Caryn Grossman titled, “The South’s Next Wave: Design Challenge” [December 2012; see ATLRetro’s Kool Kat feature on Chris Buxbaum and Caryn Grossman, here]. During this event, an interior designer was paired with an object-maker and given a color theme to produce a vignette installation. They (Chris and Caryn) were paired with a fabulous cake-maker and given the color blue. The vignette was inspired by Marie Antoinette in a futuristic rococo boudoir setting. Our team went on to win the challenge, which was decided by patron’s votes for their favorite vignette.

What can our readers expect when they come to ‘Schizophrenic Photogenic’ at the LUCKIE STREET GALLERY?

A Happening! A Warhol Factory-style event is the goal of our opening. I’m very pleased and proud of what we have accomplished. The photos are stunning and hopefully each character depicted tells a story. We are encouraging patrons to attend decked out in the most extreme glamour-sleaze looks they can get their hands on. The best look will win a prize!

Do you have anything special planned for ‘Schizophrenic Photogenic’? A little rockin’ hell-raising and deviant shenanigans, maybe? Give our readers a little taste of what mischief and mahhh-velous mayhem they may find themselves mixed up in!

I will be getting into face for the bulk of the opening at a pink satin vanity, adding and layering more and more until my face is completely covered. I plan to be a cross between Liz Taylor in the film BOOM (1968) and Incan Princess Yma Sumac. A silent film, LA BOITE DE BIJOUTERIE, shot by Milford Earl Thomas, will be playing on loop for the duration of the night. There will also be live music performed by Weary Heads, featuring Chris’ son Henry Buxbaum on vocals and bass along with his band mate Andrew Boehnlein. Usually a very feedback noisy band, they are doing a special unplugged set that may include some glamorous and sexy covers. Drinks will be provided by Jennifer Betowt and Deep Eddy Vodka will be featuring four different flavored vodka cocktails!

What’s next for Baby Doll Schultz?

I fully expect the world to entertain me with experiences not yet anticipated! Foregoing such, I will create my own experiences, continuing to explore the magic of transformational costuming. There are many upcoming events which I will attend in order to support the creative efforts of others, but, as of now (for me) I am in the hands of vagabond winds and will set sail to whatever destination they take me.

What question do you wish somebody would ask you? And what’s the answer?

I wish someone would ask, “Are you bringing Disco back?” to which I would reply, “I’m bringing sexy back!”, but really, just kidding (I am bringing Disco back)! But seriously, to answer the question, I wish someone would ask me if I enjoy what I do. Too often I get asked where my ideas come from and how I come up with what I do. The answer is innate to who I am, so my looks and outfits come out of my experiences and what I want to portray. And the answer to whether if I enjoy what I do is a resounding, “Yes, yes, yes!”

Can you tell folks something about you that they don’t know already?

I am a big time movie buff; my favorites are the Italian Giallos of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Anything by Dario Argento of course, and there are also some wonderful offerings from Mario Bava. Any of the Giallos starring Edwige Fenech are stand outs for me!

All photos courtesy of Chris Buxbaum and used with permission.

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Kool Kats of the Week: A Romance by Design: Artists Caryn Grossman and Chris Buxbaum Collaborate in Life and at MODA

Posted on: Dec 7th, 2012 By:

Chris Buxbaum and Caryn Grossman.

By Torchy Taboo
Contributing Writer

Have you ever known two people from utterly separate times and places in your life, and then one day you learn that your worlds collided and they have become a couple, and it’s one of those rare “aha” moments? It happened right before my eyes. Caryn Grossman and Chris Buxbaum are two wonderfully creative and fascinating people. Then suddenly BANG! They are collaborating on an installation as part of “The South’s Next Wave: Design Challenge” at the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA). The special exhibit  began November 11, 2012 and runs though March 31, 2013

The sum of Caryn’s and Chris’ creative energy is formidable, making them the perfect candidates for Kool Kats of the Week. So I took the opportunity to chat with them about their dynamic cross-pollination

Torchy Taboo/ATLRetro: Chris, when I first met you, you were a DJ with an amazing record collection and a lifelong David Bowie fan. Is there a fave Bowie period? How have his styles influenced you creatively?

Chris: If pushed, I would say my favorite period was the “Berlin Era” (Low/Heroes/The Idiot/Lust for Life) – all that angst and faded glamor. Other than the “lost decade” (most of the ’80s), I love all Bowie’s work. The fact that it varies wildly in sound and vision is what attracts me to it. And never sticking to one look or genre – borrowing like a magpie from a wild variety of sources, both high and low art, is the most important thing I took away from it.

I see Glam-rock influences in the MODA installation….

Chris: Everything I did as a young fashionista in London (glam/early punk/ club kid/fetish pioneer) informs what I do now – an obsession with androgyny and fluid identity being the main thing that carried into this project. The photos in the installation, from a yearlong collaboration with supermodel David Richardson, are actually from another project that is nearing completion called “Schizophrenic Photogenic.” We are in talks with some galleries with a view to presenting these early next year.

You’ve both been shop keepers and lived the retail life. Thoughts on that?

Caryn: I think we both really miss it – I know I do. There’s something about the hunt for a fantastic mix of things, and then watching and interacting as people come through. We’re about to open a little retail space in Paris on Ponce, and I can easily see it growing into something more.

Chris: What I learned from being a shopkeeper is that while I am very good at creating a “look” and an atmosphere, I am no business man.

Chris and Caryn's installation "Darkly Deeply Beautifully Blue" at MODA's South's Next Wave exhibition.

Chris, when did photography become part of your picture?

Chris: I have always carried a camera since i was a teen, but originally just to document what I was doing. It stemmed from having such a bad memory – just so I could remember where I had been. I only started getting “arty” about it when I had my Gallery “Boho Luxe.” The advent of digital really freed me up to experiment and learn -not so much for the ease of manipulation, but because you could now afford to make lots of mistakes and learn by trial and error, which is the only way for me. I don’t think I have ever read an instruction manual in my life. Meeting Caryn was the final ingredient. She pushes me to achieve and then is wonderful in helping me collate and publicize the work. She really is the magical final ingredient.

Caryn, tell us a little about how cross-pollinating your fantastic interior design skills with Chris’s photography. Talk to me about the mixing of your styles.

Caryn: On a job, there’s actually this wonderful synergistic flow; we both have an eye for color, shape and form, so the projects we do for our clients come together really easily – and beautifully. As far as a personal style, I love a sense of irony in design, a surprise tucked around a corner. It’s really evident in the MODA installation, and pretty much the same here at home.

My space is always a reflection of how I feel, and when I met Chris I was in a very melancholy, introspective kind of place. The loft I was living and working in really reflected that – lots of soft tones and heavy drapes to envelop me. Some things were overly lush, others were worn by time, but overall the space had a very soothing vibe, which was exactly what I needed it to be. I’d had a number of artists come through, so there was a lot of graffiti on the walls, so I think the sense of color and joy was there, it was just tucked away a bit more.

When Chris and I moved into our first loft together, the space was quite a bit smaller, and things had to condense. All of a sudden the graffiti wall was center-stage and Chris’ leopard bar was kind of integral to the mix. We still have a pretty soft surround, with the heavy drapes, but the space is much livelier, much more colorful, and much more in keeping with the boldness of Chris’ photos. I love it – it’s a happy space, really filled with a lot of laughter and love.

Caryn and David Richardson at MODA's opening night party.

I know that you are both versed in the organizing of unique events. It’s apparent that projects like this huge MODA event are second nature for you as a couple.

Chris: Before I discovered photography as an art form, I would say that putting together events, club nights, parties was my only talent – it’s like cooking – you have to have the right balance of ingredients and a pinch of magic. Caryn moved in very different circles from me, and she has a knack for publicity and finessing the right people. She can really write, and she has the education, technical skills and connections to make crazy ideas become reality. “Darkly Deeply Beautifully Blue” was a true collaboration in every sense of the word. We worked shoulder to shoulder for five months to make that happen. Then we called in all our amazingly talented friends to make it real:  Milford Earl Thomas to make the film, Timo Evon and James Hoback for their artisan skills.

Caryn: I’ve always believed a collaborative process is the best, so even when I was working alone I always had other artists in and out of the space. Sometimes we shared the space and produced events together, sometimes it was just me inviting an artist in to show or play. It always brought me joy, and I loved seeing the creative process of others. It’s what makes my own work thrive, so producing events just came naturally. For a number of years I did it quarterly, opening my space up for all kinds of works, and all kinds of people, and I know my own creativity grew exponentially.

Happy Blue Family Chris Buxbaum, Caryn Grossman and Henry Jack Buxbaum!

What exactly is the MODA event?

Caryn: The exhibit, called “The South’s Next Wave,” is actually a design contest:  each design group chose or was assigned a color (ours was blue) and then assigned an object.  Ours was cake.  The only directive the curators gave was to design a monochromatic setting for the object. I envisioned ours as a room.

I thought it’d be great for Chris and I to do the space together. Chris had the idea to have a silent film made so that the “set” would remain animated after the opening. The film was shot on black and white 8 mm with a handheld camera and then tinted blue, frame by frame.

There were actually three openings: one for the press, one black-tie for wealthy patrons, and then the grand opening night.  The first two were so serious we decided to go all out on the third night and have David in the space as Marie Antoinette.  People loved it – they went nuts!  The event was sold out.

And how did you get involved?

Caryn: Sixteen designers from across the Southeast were chosen by the curators, Tim Hobby and David Goodrowe of a firm called Goodrowe/Hobby.  They had put out a call for entries for the object designers, so I approached Tim Hobby and asked him how the set designers were going to be chosen. I knew Tim from some design work we had done together years ago. He said the designers were going to be individually selected based on innovative style and merit – I presented him with some of my more recent work, and we were in.

David Bowie and a young Chris Buxbaum.

Give us more of the juicy details and logistics about the MODA installation.

Caryn: Creating the space for MODA was an amazing process. I had a vision of something over-the-top, kind of an ironic play on Marie Antoinette, and Chris’ photos were just a natural fit. Glam, punk, drag and my vision for design all came together almost seamlessly. Chris’ work and aesthetic was the perfect irony and surprise I was looking for, and the rest of the project kind of rolled on from there. I’ll let Chris tell most of this one, as once the vision came together, he really took it that step further by assembling this amazing team that ultimately included a filmmaker, drag performer, artistic finisher, Chris’ photos of course, and some pretty over-the-top furnishings and these unbelievable cakes by a company called Couture Cakes Inc. The museum crowd went nuts over it, especially the second opening night, which was the night we had our own Marie Antoinette – all seven-plus feet of him in platform heels, in the space.

I guess MODA is the perfect example of how our styles mix, and how we work together. I’m hoping it’s the start of a lot of great things.

Chris: “Darkly Deeply Beautifully Blue” came together really organically. We went with blue because we were in the middle of a big project for CG CreativeInteriors [Caryn’s interior design firm]. When we have a project, we cover the walls of the loft in paint chips, fabric samples, inspiring pictures, etc, so we literally have to look at it all day. Since we were loving the colors we had chosen for this residential project, we decided to pull them over into the MODA one. We decided to use my pics of David Richardson to pull it out of being just decorative and give it an edge (and also to get them a wider audience). When we learned that our featured product was to be high-end designer cakes, the Marie Antoinette theme seemed the obvious way to go. Caryn worked tirelessly to find fantastic furniture and architectural products – the floor alone took almost a month to sort out [and] our first two ideas (mirrorball tiles/glitter wall paper) would not come together. In the end she sourced 40,000 silver rose petals. We drained six whole wedding stores of their supplies.

Tell me more about your crew selection and how they fit together.

Chris: The final thing that helped separate us from the pack was having David in the vignette live on opening night. It’s hard to ignore seven-and-a-half feet of drag queen with a Marie Antoinette wig and a birdcage on her head. And the cake maker, Lisa Humphreys, of Couture Cakes Inc.,  did an amazing job – even those shoes are cake.

We were also very honored to have Milford Earl Thomas (CLAIRE: A SILENT MOVIE) make a short film for us also featuring David. It turned out so beautifully and was designed to hold the viewers’ attention when David himself was not in the installation. I would love to work with him again in the future.

Caryn Grossman.

Share your vision of the future five or 10 years from now.

Chris: Vision for the future: an April wedding on the rooftop of the Telephone Factory, a solo gallery show for “Schizophrenic Photogenic” early 2013;  a group show with Rose Riot at Cherrylion and, last but not least, to grow CG Creative into a flourishing modern design firm.

Caryn: Wow. I have no idea, expect I know it will include the two of us, and some amazing intriguing happenings going on. I can easily see what we created at MODA taking on a life of its own. Whatever it is, and wherever we’ll be, I’m sure it will be fascinating – and happy.

Visitors to MODA get to vote on their favorite vignette and object. Chris and Caryn’s installation, “Darkly Deeply Beautifully Blue” is #6. The voting ends February 15.  Each vignette is set up with the Skovr app, so that viewers can access facts and video about the designers while in the galleries or from home.  More info on the museum hours, etc., can be found at www.museumofdesign.org.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Let Her Entertain You: Fonda Lingue Teases Us With a Snow-Glamorous Fan Dance and Embarks on a Grand European Tour

Posted on: Nov 28th, 2011 By:

Fonda Lingue. Photo credit: Rah Benton.

Place a wide ostrich feather fan in the hand of Fonda Lingue, and she’ll tease you with an act that captures the classic beauty of vintage  Sally Rand. She’s mastered “Let Me Entertain You,” the signature striptease number of Gypsy Rose Lee, and she’s even developing a tribute to Lili St. Cyr. But as you watch her graceful moves that recapture the glamour of burlesque’s golden era, chances are it may take you a while to realize Fonda’s ultimate tease. While burlesque has its share of boys, Fonda is one of the very few who dances as a woman and not just that, but as the awards and accolades she’s accrued in just a few years of professional performance in the field attest, with all the skill and sex appeal of today’s top female burlesque revival performers.

Atlanta’s burlesque scene has had its share of rising stars, but when we heard that Fonda was heading to Europe to compete against some of the best international performers for the prestigious Milan Burlesque Awardas well as a whirlwind performance tour through England, France and Italy, we knew it was high time to declare her Kool Kat of the Week. This Fri. Dec. 2, she’ll also be one of the Snow Queens of Burlesque in Santa Baby, a special wintry holiday edition of Mon Cherie‘s Va-Va Voom series at The Shelter featuring special guest celebrity emcee Devin Liquor and Stormy KnightBiloxi BrownKatherine LasheScarlett Page and more of Atlanta’s best dancers. Then on Sat. Dec. 17, she’ll be performing in the Syrens of the South-produced Tits for Toys for Tots show at The Five Spot. Headlined by burlesque legend Gabriella Maze, returning after almost 30 years, that holiday-themed spectacular features a glitzy all-star line-up of local performers including Talloolah Love, Katherine Lashe, Ruby Redmayne, Kittie Katrina, Kisa Von Teasa and Lola Lesoleil.

ATLRetro caught up with Fonda to find out what flamed her passion for classic burlesque and to see what we could tease out of her about her December performances and that upcoming European tour!

ATLRetro: Before you became a classic burlesque performer, you were a ballet dancer and female impersonator for 20 years. How did you get started in burlesque and what captivated you to embrace recreating the golden era of burlesque?

Fonda Lingue: I got started in burlesque when Devin Liquor and I had a show at The Stage Door in Tucker called “The Dirty South Dukes and Dolls Show.” It was primarily a drag king show, and I was the only “female” in the show. I never wanted to do traditional drag acts of just standing there and lipsyncing to popular songs so I would create these dance numbers to use all of my talents. I did a number to “Let Me Entertain You” from GYPSY where I did the first part as the young Gypsy, then ran off the stage, quickly changed and became Gypsy in her striptease years and stripped down to pasties and panties. The audience loved it! I began adding those numbers more and more into my act and was asked by The Lady Miss Vagina Jenkins to participate in one of her burlesque shows. That was the start.

Fonda Lingue. Photo credit: Derek Jackson.

As far as the Golden Era of Burlesque, I am a purist, almost to an OCD extent. I figure if I am going to do it, I am going to do it right and do it accurately. I have studied videos, read books—I am reading GILDED LILI [about] the life of Lili St. Cyr right now—and talked to legends, and to me, that time was the height of what burlesque used to be. You were a star back then and you were paid well to do your craft. You were taken care of and respected for what you did as an artist. I love the glamour, and I love the social aspects of the burlesque scene. I also think it is important to keep that part of our history alive. Right now there is a more contemporary approach to burlesque throughout the country, and my goal is to keep classic burlesque alive. There is room for both and many performers do both styles. For me, it is a preference, and I think it suits my movement style and my look.

It strikes me that the burlesque world is very open-minded and embracing, but did you have any challenges as a boylesque performer among your fellow performers or with audiences?

I can’t believe how well I have been received in the burlesque world. Much more than in the drag world. I am one of only a few males that perform as a woman. In fact, I know of no one else who does what I do. That’s not saying there isn’t someone, I just don’t know of anybody. I am different in that my goal is to fool the audience until the final reveal, then they realize I am a man. Really, I am the definition of the word “Burlesque.” I love to challenge people’s sensibilities and prove to them that they can enjoy my performances from an entertainment standpoint and not necessarily a sexual one. I also like the fact that I may challenge their sexual tendencies as well. The only real problem I have is when I apply to a festival or competition, they don’t always know where to put me. They want me, but they just don’t know if I am to be placed with the boys or the girls. In the Great Southern Exposure pageant last year, I won King of Burlesque. Some other competition might place me as a female. If it is not a competition, there is no problem.  I don’t care myself where I go, i just want to be able to perform.

Who are a few of the performers—both classic and from the contemporary burlesque revival—who most inspire you?

Lili St. Cyr is my absolute favorite. I have been compared to her in my performances, and I take that as the highest compliment. I have been inspired the most by Kisa Von Teasa, Sally Rand, Gypsy Rose Lee, Dirty Martini, Catherine D’Lish and Michelle L’Amour. Each of them inspire me in different ways.

You’ve won quite a few honors in just a few years in the profession, including King of Burlesque in the Great Southern Exposure Burlesque Competition. Do you feel that ballet and drag experience gave you a leg up, so to speak?

Drag not so much. I would like to say that it had, but I have to be honest. Other queens told me my make-up was wrong, my numbers weren’t current, and they all tried to “correct” me. Even my partner at the time tried to change my make-up. It was only when I went back to following my own instincts that I got any recognition. Plus, it’s all too political in Atlanta, but that is another interview!

Ballet has definitely helped me with my burlesque career. I would not have the carriage and vocabulary I have if it weren’t for my experience as a ballet dancer. Also my ability to portray different characters can be attributed to my ballet training. In ballet, you have to convey the story to your audience through your movements. Your voice is your body. It’s the same in burlesque. Burlesque is just another form of dance. People argue with me on that, but aren’t we called burlesque DANCERS?

Without giving away too much, what can you tease us with about your performance in this Friday’s winter-themed Va-Va-Voom?

Well, I have been asked to do a fan dance by Mon Cherie herself, so that I will do. It will be set to classical music, it will be very sparkly—of course—and I hope it will be very beautiful!

You’ve done a lot of performances at Mon Cherie’s events, including the Rockabilly Lounge. She’s really gone a long way towards making burlesque a regular activity in Atlanta and nurturing so many performers. Can you talk a bit about Mon Cherie’s impact on the local burlesque scene and why folks should come out to her events?

Well, Mon Cherie has done a lot for me personally as far as my performing here in Atlanta. She has allowed me to perform in front of audiences that I didn’t know if they were going to like me or hate me. Fortunately they have all been favorable experiences, and I have opened some peoples eyes through her. Mon brings in performers from all over the south and also tries to give “Newbies”—that’s a term I have learned through my dealings overseas—a chance to perform as well.

Money is tight these days, and there are not a lot of outlets for burlesque performers right now. I am very lucky I perform as much as I do. She has had a HUGE impact on Atlanta’s burlesque scene in that she makes it possible for us to work consistently. Just about every independent burlesque performer in Atlanta has graced her stages at one time or another. I admire the fact that she tries to keep us employed and often reaps no benefits herself. I know her day will come. You can’t give of yourself like she does and not be rewarded somehow. Her events are professional, she has high standards, and the atmosphere is that of those early years of burlesque when it was just as social as it was performance. I always feel like I have stepped back in time!

We just heard the exciting news that you’re about to set off on a European tour. Where are you going and what acts are you taking on the road?

Right now I am going to London, Rome, Paris, and I am still waiting confirmation on Milan. There are other things in the works but not confirmed. I am taking six acts with me! Am I crazy? Yes! I am performing three nights inParis, and they want two numbers each night! I am taking “Zip Strip” (the act I won Great Southern Exposure with) my “funny fan dance,” “Cry Me A River” (my signature piece), “Moon Indigo” (a new act that is in rehearsals now), “Lili,” my tribute to Lili St. Cyr (in rehearsal now, especially created for this tour) and another new number that I have chosen the music but haven’t started yet.

Is it true that Ruby Redmayne is coming with you?

We are working on that! If she does, she will accompany me on part of my trip only. She is my best friend, and she wants to be there to celebrate with me and to help me backstage. And who wouldn’t want to go to Europe?! We can make a great time out of walking through the grocery store, so I know we will have fun. I hope it works out that she can go because I would love to share this experience with her. She has done so much for me to keep me motivated and help me get things done. I have booked this whole tour on my own—researched my own contacts, pursued producers and corresponded with all of them. It has turned into almost a full-time job, and Ruby has been invaluable in helping me get things accomplished! She needs to reap the benefits of her hard work as well! It’s not easy keeping me motivated!

It’s hard to make a living as a burlesque performer here in the US, but you’ve said that the situation is easier in Europe. I was struck, for example, at the huge burlesque scene in London—there’s so much going on that there’s even a “burlesque map.” Would you ever consider relocating to Europe?

Absolutely! In fact, that is my intention when I go over there. I am not sure where I want to live yet. Most likely it will be the UK or Paris. I want to see if it will be possible to make a living at being a burlesque artist. From what I have been told, there are not many male performers in Paris and none that perform as a woman.  The London burlesque scene has exploded. Europeans treat their Artists like Artists. And they pay them what they are worth. I have worked since I was 12 years old and never stopped. I loved my career as a ballet dancer, don’t get me wrong, but I was never a star. I was, and still am, well-known but I want more. I know it sounds cliche but that is what I want. I feel that I am on a path right now, and this is where it is leading. I have had a rough year. My relationship ended, and the day before I was to move into my new apartment I was in a car accident that has left me with some physical problems.  Everything bad that has happened has happened for a reason and has led to this tour. Far be it from me to stop listening now!

Do you have any other performances scheduled in Atlanta during the holiday season?

Yes, on December 17, I will be doing my “Suzy Snowflake” number at Syrens of the South’s Tits For Toys for Tots at the Five Spot in Little Five Points. I have also been asked to perform again at The Pond in Nashville with Ruby Redmayne for their annual New Year’s Eve Party.

You feel passionately about teaching burlesque as well. Can you talk a little bit about why even accomplished performers can benefit from classes to keep up their craft?

Your body is an instrument and it needs to be maintained. Regular movement classes keep you supple and in shape. They also keep your mind working. You are a dancer, and a dancer needs to take class at least a couple of time a week. I try to do my own class everyday. You owe it to your audience to be in the best shape both mentally and physically. The only way to do that is through constant training. People argue this with me, but the performers that do this are the ones getting the jobs and keeping them. You can always learn something from someone else. That is why I try to take as many classes as I can when someone new comes in to town or I go to a burlesque festival. It is always nice to hear someone else’s perspective on the same thing—especially someone that makes their living doing it! Ninety-nine percent of the time you get something out of it.

Finally, if I recall correctly, you recently purchased an amazing, beautiful headdress from Miss Torchy Taboo. Have you worn it yet in an act or what plans do you have for it?

I have not worn it yet. Rumor has it that I did wear it for a photo shoot, but that is not true. That beautiful piece of art will hopefully make it’s debut if I am accepted into the Southern Fried Burlesque Festival here in Atlanta the week before I go to Europe. If not, you will have to come to Europe to see it! I will be applying to the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend. Torchy and I both agree it needs to end up there. “Moon Indigo” is the music I have selected for the number. I have designed my costume with a kind of Erte feel to it, and I have matched the fabric to the headpiece. It includes a fur wrap, and it will be made of dupioni silk! My costume is being constructed by Cat Harrison, a big Steampunk costume designer, so my corset will be especially awesome. I am using vintage beads combined with non-vintage Swarovski crystals. Costuming my body is not easy because I have to create body parts and curves that I just don’t have. My hat is off to her and she is doing a great job!

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