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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Really Retro: Raising an AleCon: Renaissance Music Stars Three Quarter Ale Celebrate Their First Decade with a Convention and Performance Festival!

Posted on: Aug 10th, 2012 By:

Three Quarter Ale. L-R: Rivka Levin, Dolph Amick, Becky Cormier Finch.

What do you do when your popular Celtic/Renaissance rock band hits 10 years old? If you are Three Quarter Ale, you throw a convention and festival for musicians, performers and fans of history-inspired musical theater and performance art. The three-day AleCon is this weekend (Aug 10-12) at Fabrefaction Theatre Company in Midtown and features performances not just by Three Quarter Ale but a host of other Ren bands and performance artists presenting magic to bellydancing. Other activities include panels on a variety of theatre, music and even film topics from stage combat and Irish dance to prop-building and financing art projects, as well as Killer Karaoke and daily costume contests.

A while back, we made Three Quarter Ale vocalist/flutist/guitarist Ariana Pellayle, aka Becky Cormier Finch, Kool Kat of the Week for her ’80s revival band Denim Arcade, so this time we asked bandmate vocalist/harpist/percussionist Rosemary Quench, aka Rivka Levin, for the scoop on Alecon and the enduring appeal of Ren music.
ATLRetro: Ten years old is a big landmark for any band, but they don’t usually throw a convention and performance festival. How did you guys get the idea for AleCon and what inspired you to go all out?
Rivka Levin: It was my bandmate Dolph‘s [Amick, aka Wicked Pete Speakeasy] idea. We are all three actors and dancers as well as musicians, so paying tribute to all the various crafts in which we participate seemed like the thing to do! Plus, we’re kinda ambitious that way. We are so much more than just a band, and we are THRILLED to be able to do something huge to celebrate out 10th anniversary.
You’ve assembled a pretty impressive performance line-up. Was it challenging or more a matter of ask and they will come?
OHHHH yes, it was challenging. We first had to narrow down what panels might be interesting to the general population as well as professionals – AleCon is designed to appeal to any arts lover. Then we got on the horn and started talking to the many talented people we know. But being so talented, many of them were already booked! WONDERFUL for them, but it meant another round of “who would we like to hear speak or perform?” and more phone calls. On the other hand, we did have some folks who heard about what we were planning and approached us to ask if there was a way they could get in on it! So it was a bit of both, really.
AleCon also includes panels and workshops. Can you tell us a little bit about the range of programming and highlight a few cool learning opportunities?
Sure! One of the panels about which I’m most excited is the Musical Stylings panel. We’ve got three industry leaders – really AMAZING people – talking about how to take a melody and do something unique or different with it – like making a standard musical theater piece jazzy or making a jazz tune sound classical. They are so good at what they do, and I can’t wait to hear them share their knowledge!
We also have an Irish Dance workshop, a podcasting panel by some of Atlanta’s best, “Recording on a Budget” and even a Prop-making For Film panel featuring the man who does all the props for VAMPIRE DIARIES! And some of the most talented and varied performers lined up, too.
The full schedule can be seen at http://alecon.threequarterale.com.
I understand Three Quarter Ale has a secret origin story of sorts which will be revealed at AleCon. Can you divulge a bit of it or do we have to come to find out?
Oh, you’ll have to attend! Our characters are pretty malleable and timeless, so there are really many possibilities regarding their origin or story. But I have just finished an historical novel with one exciting version, which I’ll be debuting at AleCon on Sunday! Parts of it have been posted online, and it already has quite a following of readers who have been chomping at the bit for the last several chapters!

Three Quarter Ale as 2011 finalists in the Georgia Lottery All-Access Music contest.

You’re a trained opera singer and act at The New American Shakespeare Tavern, too. How do these skills inform your work with Three Quarter Ale?

As I said, all three of us are actors, and one of the most electrifying things about Three Quarter Ale is the stage show we put on. People really connect with these three characters, in part because they are so real. I think folks come to an event of ours as much to spend time with Rosemary, Ariana and Pete as they do to hear the music itself. That’s also why I’ve so enjoyed writing this novel! Watching these three lovable and imperfect people get into scrapes, lose their tempers, deal with being kidnapped by pirates, fall in love, argue with each other, comfort each other – it’s been SO much fun! And so very rewarding.
With regards to being an opera singer, Dolph (Wicked Pete) is very skilled at writing original music that makes the most of the skills Becky and I bring to the table. Much of what he writes for me, even if it’s got a heavy metal or ’60s rock chord structure, uses my classical voice. It makes for a very unique and interesting sound, and it’s something that our fans really appreciate about our music – that it’s truly OURS, and no other trio could do it quite the same way.

Three Quarter Ale plays coy. L-R: Becky, Dolph and Rivka.

Do you have a personal highlight/favorite moment in 10 years of Three Quarter Ale?

I think one we all share was our first CD release concert for our second CD, INTERTWINED. We always start each set or concert with our theme song, in which we shout a toast, “Drink Hail!” and the audience is cued to toast us back by shouting, “Wassail!”  We’d been doing the theme song for two or three years, and we knew our fans knew the cue…but still, when we shouted that first “Drink Hail!” and an entire theater full of people shouted back “Wassail!”, it was so loud and so enthusiastic that it literally rocked all three of us back on our heels! The sheer volume! The love that was pouring forth from folks who had driven all the way out just to celebrate with us! It was honestly elating, humbling, and beyond anything we expected. But who knows – maybe something at AleCon will top even that!!
After AleCon, what’s next for you and Three Quarter Ale?
Oh, heavens! Dolph’s working on a screenplay that gives an alternative version to the novel. We’ve got lots of new material not yet on a CD. We’ve even talked with some sequential artists about a Three Quarter Ale comic book or animated video. AAAAAND if you come to AleCon on Saturday night, you’ll see the surprise secret project we’ve been working on, too! Honestly, the possibilities are endless.
Note: All photographs are courtesy of Three Quarter Ale.

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Really Retro: Tidings of Comfort and Joy: The Toast of Christmas Past Revives Traditional Caroling in Vintage Victorian Style

Posted on: Dec 13th, 2011 By:

A trio of carolers in The Toast of Christmas Past, including left to right: Rivka Levin, Geoffrey Brown and Fiona Leonard.

Other Atlanta vocal ensembles may sing carols, but local acapella group The Toast of Christmas Past is reviving the tradition just as it was performed in 19th century England by wandering groups of singing Samaritans dressed in bustles and bonnets, frock coats and top hats. All of which reminds that while some may consider Charles Dickens’ A CHRISTMAS CAROL a great ghost story, but one need look no further than the title to see that the popular Victorian storyteller saw music as synonymous with the spirit of the season. Apparently contemporary audiences also long for simpler Dickensian customs as The Toast of Christmas Past tends to be booked almost every night during the holidays.

The Toast of Christmas Past is led by Fiona Leonard, an eclectic and energetic actress, singer, costumer, make-up artist and mistress of many trades well-known for her work with local theatre companies, film productions and attractions such as the Georgia Renaissance Festival where she sang in a rollicking pub band called Wine, Woman and Song. As a costumer, she started sewing and designing as a teenager and has won numerous awards and attained master class status at science fiction and costuming conventions. In recent years, however, Fiona has focused her creative energies more towards recreating the look of past eras than fantasy ones, and her caroling venture seems perfectly suited to a lady increasingly seen dressed in exquisite Victorian attire.

Curious about the origins of caroling, we asked Fiona if she would tell us what she knew about its link to Medieval wassailing and how the practice evolved into a mainstay of Victorian times. She also shared the story behind her own journey into caroling and Victoriana, as well as a bit about how listening to traditional holiday melodies seems to bring “tidings of comfort and joy” in this time of giving.

Geoffrey Brown, Fiona Leonard in red, and two other members of The Toast of Christmas Past.

ATLRetro: How did you first get the idea to start up an acapella caroling group, who are the group’s members, and why keep caroling alive in the 21st century?

Fiona Leonard: My dad [Al Leonard] and I worked at the Georgia Renaissance Festival for a number of years, and someone contacted them one year looking for carolers. They passed that on to my Dad and he put together a little quartet to do it. I replaced someone the next year, and we had several people ask us for cards at the event. So the next year I came up with a name and had cards printed up. We got three more bookings and The Toast of Christmas Past was born. From that point in 1994, we grew and in our best year had 55 bookings!

Each year I have anywhere from 12-24 carolers on call, who sing in trios and quartets. Most of my singers are musical theatre performers, so they have lots of personality and are good at engaging strangers. Although it is a great way to make extra money for the holidays, it is also a really great feeling to have people come up and tell you that your singing has put them in the holiday spirit. Making people feel something is really what performing is all about, and we really do get to spread joy wherever we sing. 

How did Christmas caroling door to door (or in public places) get started? 

Caroling comes out of several traditions, some going back over a thousand years. Religious songs composed for the common man to sing first started appearing around the 10th century, but really caught on as Protestantism began to spread around the world. But I think the most direct ancestor of our style of caroling is wassailing. This was basically legitimate begging. During winter holidays—whether solstice, Christmas or yuletide—groups of peasants or other poor would go from door to door, singing blessings on each house and demanding compensation in return. This was usually in the form of drink (hard cider, mulled wine or spiced ale), food (sweets, figgy puddings, cakes), money or at the very least a spot by the fire to warm up.

Everyone in The Toast of Christmas Past wears Victorian clothes and embraces that era. Why was caroling so popular in Victorian times, who did it, who did they sing for and how did Victorian caroling compare to caroling in previous and later times?

There was a great trend in the Victorian Era to romanticize things of the past and things from other cultures outside the Empire. Christmas trees as we know them became popular at this time, and the beginnings of Christmas as a commercial holiday come from that period as well. What was a fairly small celebration started adopting traditions from older times (wassailers, Morris dancers and pantomimes); strangers with gifts (magi, St Nicholas, Norse gods); sacrifices to older gods of meat, drink and produce (geese, roasts, horns of plenty, trees hung with fruit or even game); and evergreen boughs, holly and mistletoe hung to repel evil spirits in the dark of winter. All of these combined to make Christmas the celebration we know today.

Caroling or wassailing is fun, it’s something the whole family can do, [and] it’s much more acceptable than straight begging, since you at least offer entertainment. Victorians did it for all those reasons, and Dickens set the practice in the public mind with his caroling urchins in A CHRISTMAS CAROL. The story itself has become such a classic that we tend to think of Christmas as described by Dickens to be “classic” Christmas, something to hark back to and try to achieve. Really, this era has just as much tendency to romanticize the past as the Victorians.

Fiona Leonard dressed to carol.

What were some of the greatest hits of Victorian caroling, and do you limit yourself to songs dating from that era or do you throw in some more recent seasonal favorites, too?

We do not limit ourselves to Victorian carols, but some of the songs we sing that were popular then include: “Good King Wenceslas,” “Here We Come A-Wassailing,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “We Three Kings,” “Twelve Days of Christmas” and “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas.”

When you were interviewed for PBS Radio [listen to it here], you talked about one of the reasons you enjoy caroling being actually turning around someone’s mood. Do you think caroling has a therapeutic effect on either the listener or the caroler or both?

I have always found singing to be therapeutic and cathartic. I think live carolers invite listeners to feel the music in a way that recorded music can never truly achieve, which makes the emotional impact very intense.

How do children react to your caroling in costume?

I get called a princess a lot! Kids really seem to like us and often want to join us, which we encourage.

Who hires a Victorian caroling group and at what kind of events do you perform? How can we hire you?

You can hire us by going through our website: www.toastofchristmaspast.com. We have been hired by malls, entertainment venues, museums, townships, business associations, property management, the airport and, of course, for plenty of private holiday parties. If you are traveling through [Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport] Monday Dec. 19 or Tues. Dec. 20, look for us between 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.

Is it correct that you made your Victorian caroling dress? Did you make all the costumes for the group? If yes, how far did you go to ensure the clothes were period-accurate, and can you recommend a few online resources for Victorian costumers?

I do make my dresses and many of the other costumes we wear. Some of the other ladies have made their own dresses, and even one or two of the gentlemen have put together their outfits. My preferred period is 1878-1882, a brief window when the bustle was still present but very small. I just think the dresses from that period are very pretty and graceful. You can get away with a little lower neckline and 3/4 sleeves for that period as well, which I find more comfortable. Most of the ladies do wear corsets and petticoats with their costumes. There are all kinds of resources online, but mostly I just order corset supplies online, usually from Farthingales or dealers on etsy.com.

The Toast of Christmas Past performs at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

You’ve done a lot of Victorian costuming and performing. You’ve won awards for your work and regularly are a costume judge at Oakland Cemetery‘s Sunday in the Park annual event in October. In broad terms, what appeals to you personally about the Victorian era, and if there was one aspects of it that you wish had survived to the 21st century, what would it be?

Honestly, I just love how decorative things were. I love ruffles and fringe, and curlicues and flowers, and men in well-tailored clothing. Also I read way too much Barbara Cartland, and I am just sure some tail-coated dandy is going to sweep me off my feet if I have enough ringlets in my hair! If there was one aspect of the era I wish had survived, it would be the practice of giving dances and balls as standard social gatherings. I love a good waltz!

What’s up with Wine, Woman and Song?

We retired from the Georgia Renaissance Festival in 2002. We still perform together occasionally, usually for St. Patrick’s Day or historical re-enactments. We can still be booked through the Toast website.

What else are you up to performance and costuming-wise when it’s not the caroling season? Anything exciting coming up in 2012? 

I work full-time at Costumes, Etc…, which is a family owned business in Midtown off Cheshire Bridge Rd.They do rentals and retail, but they also take on a certain number of special commissions which I get to make a lot of. I will be costuming GUYS AND DOLLS for Habima Theatre at the MJCCA at the beginning of the year. I am hoping to actually get out and perform in a show or two next year, time permitting.

In 2012 I  hope to record a CD of The Toast of Christmas Past to make available for purchase. I am also considering putting on a Toast concert early in the season next year for the public.

Editor’s Note: All photographs are courtesy of The Toast of Christmas Past and Fiona Leonard.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Back to the Eighties with Becky Cormier Finch of Denim Arcade

Posted on: Jun 8th, 2011 By:

Photo credit: Jayne Cormier.

Today many people make fun of music in the Eighties when pop stars sported ultra-teased mullets, super-wide shoulderpads, leg warmers and cut sweatshirts. Coming after the hard edge of punk, the sugary exuberance of Top of the Pops UK bands today seems quaint and something we sometimes like to forget we actually thought was rebellious at the time. Yet it’s easy to forget that for a lot of the ‘80s, only handful of Brit hits makers made the US Top 40, like Flock of Haircuts—excuse me Seagulls—, The Police, Human League, Soft Cell and Tears for Fears before John Hughes movies made at least one song by Simple Minds and a de-angrified Psychedelic Furs temporarily cool.

On the other hand, our charts were loaded with big-haired hard rock and metal bands from Van Halen to Bon Jovi, Cinderella to Motley Crue. Michael Jackson was the King of Pop. Billy Ocean crooned “Caribbean Queen,” Rick James undulated to “Super Freak,” Huey Lewis claimed the “Heart of Rock n Roll, Prince spawned an fleet of protégées, and Madonna seemed to spawn an entire genre to herself.

While many cover bands play ‘80s music, Atlanta’s Denim Arcade tries to capture both the decade’s sense of fun and unique sound using similar equipment from guitars to keyboards—the signature instrument of synth pop. Made up of seasoned musicians out to have some fun, Denim Arcade includes Wade Finch (lead and rhythm guitar) and John Christopher (bass), who first played together in the alternative band Noise Dot Com; Andy Womack, who has drummed in a wide variety of bands for more than 20 years including Atlanta-based Renaissance Festival phenomenon, The Lost Boys; and lead vocalist Becky Cormier Finch, best known for Three Quarter Ale, a fast-growing popular Celtic rock band that was a finalist recently on the GEORGIA  LOTTERY’S ALL-ACCESS MUSIC SEARCH show.

ATLRetro caught up with Becky to find out why these talented musicians decided to go back to the Eighties, what to expect at their next show this Saturday starting at 10 PM at @tmosphere, and what’s up next for Three Quarter Ale.

I understand Denim Arcade actually grew out of another ‘80s cover band called Great Scott. How did the band get started and get its name?

Both bands got started because of friends with a shared love of ‘80s music and a love of performing. “Great Scott,” of course, is Doc Brown’s signature phrase in BACK TO THE FUTURE. We had a line-up change, and decided that with a female lead singer, “Great Scott” didn’t really fit. No one in the band is named Scott, anyway! I believe a group of friends was at Manuel’s Tavern, having a conversation about quintessential ‘80s things, and my friend Bettina just blurted out “Denim Arcade” and it stuck!

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