Kool Kat of the Week: Tease, Tempt and Toga: Vivien Laye Pledges at ROXIE ROZ’S BURLY-Q HOUSE

Posted on: Nov 1st, 2016 By:
Vivien Laye Atomic Housewife

Vivien Laye, Atomic Housewife. Used with Permission.

Let us tell you about some crazy friends we know…we think you’ll dig their show. Roxie Roz invites you to pledge to the worst fraternity on campus BURLY-Q HOUSE Friday Nov. 4 at the Star Bar. This sure-to-be-outrageous show (doors 9 p.m., show at 10 p.m.) is themed around National Lampoon’s ANIMAL HOUSE (1978), hosted by the sensational Shellie Schmals, one of our first Kool Kats, features a bevy of Atlanta’s best burlesque performers and live music by Andrew + the Disapyramids. There’s a dance party after, and it’s just a guess, but we predict TOGAS!

So for this week’s Kool Kat, get set for detention with Ms. Vivien Laye, Atlantas’s own Sashaying Saucepot and one of the lovely ladies paying temptatious tribute to Delta House this weekend.

ATLRetro: When did you start performing burlesque and what inspired you?

Vivien Laye: I first started performing burlesque back in 2009. A good friend of mine was starting the troupe Ginger Collins and the Garter Girls and was looking for classically trained dancers. She had no idea I had a dance background and I had no idea she was starting a burlesque troupe until I randomly danced a jig for her one day. I had never considered burlesque until she asked me to join the troupe. It seemed like fun, but I had no idea just how much it would come to mean to me.

Do you have a favorite classic burlesque performer whom you look up to? Why does she in particular inspire you?

She may be one of the most recognizable and oft-mentioned names of classic burlesque, but Gypsy Rose Lee was my introduction to the art form through the various film portrayals of her. I think what I find most inspiring is that in a time when more traditional shimmy & shake or bump & grind were the norm, she made her intelligence, humor and wit the key elements of her performance style. She employed full artistic control and called the shots—not just in terms of what the audience would receive from her, but when and how they received it as well.

RR BQ House SquareYou recently returned to the Atlanta burlesque stage. Where did you go and are you excited about performing again in Atlanta? 

The original troupe I was in was only around for about seven months before disbanding. At that time in my life I was in a relationship that was not very supportive of me taking my clothes off for strangers and there were other artistic pursuits that became priorities for me. I decided to step away from performing, but honestly, I always missed it. Years later, I found myself living in Washington state and in a relationship that was loving and supportive in all ways, and I had the chance to attend some really amazing burlesque shows in Seattle. I decided then to give it another shot if the opportunity presented itself, and when my husband and I relocated to Atlanta in late 2015, I reached out to a friend who runs a local troupe and who had also been involved with Ginger Collins. I’m now an independent performer and this time around is very exciting because I’m making my own decisions—from music selection and choreography, to costume construction and character portrayal. It has opened up a new world of artistic expression and offered me a really fulfilling creative outlet.

ANIMAL HOUSE. Do you have any special memories of ANIMAL HOUSE? Why do you think its popularity has endured for so long?

I honestly had only seen bits and pieces of the film over the years and just recently watched it all the way through, but I think it’s had lasting popularity because the National Lampoon brand of humor has been so hugely influential to American comedy.

Animal House is an unexpected theme for a burlesque show, and yet as a classic movie with a cult following, it’s also potentially an inspired choice. Without giving it all away, can you give a tease as to your performance?

I agree with it being a potentially inspired choice. I think any time a show has a theme with a cult following, there is a built-in opportunity to connect with the audience. I will be portraying the role of Babs Jansen, the conniving Southern Belle with a huge crush on Greg, and I’m looking forward to donning a ridiculous bouffant wig!

Vivien Laye - Lowres - Action Shot

Vivien Laye. Used with permission.

We hear you’ll be performing at The Great Southern Exposure in December. That’s major cool. Anything about that you can share?

I’m very excited that my first time performing out of state will be at GSE! I’ll be rocking my Banana Boat number at the Friday Night Flash. It’s a relatively new, comedic number. Think Carmen Miranda meets Carol Burnett.

What else is new and next for you?

The month of November is busy. I’ll be attending my very first Burlycon in Seattle and performing for the November edition of the Speakeasy Electro Swing [Nov. 18] and Sadie HawkinsCheap Thrills [Nov. 19]. The holidays are going to offer a welcome break and a chance to regroup.

What do you do when you are not performing burlesque?

In muggle life I’m a photographer, and I also run the office for a graphic design studio in town. I stay pretty busy, but these days I really enjoy a little Netflix & Chill with my husband and our fur baby, Ruby.

Vivien Laye_Richard Caywood Photo

Vivien Laye. Photo credit: Richard Caywood. Used with permission.

Finally, what’s your top tip to a gal who’s just getting her start in burlesque?

If she’s in Atlanta, she should definitely check out the new and fabulous Metropolitan Studios, which is run by the ladies of the Candybox Revue and the Atlanta School of Burlesque. There is also a monthly [Burlesque Atlanta Society] meet-up for existing or prospective members of the community on the first Thursday evening of every month at Elliott Street Pub. If she’s not in Atlanta, she should look into any local classes that might be available to her.

What’s the most surprising thing about you that no one would guess?

I’ve been to 46 different countries at last count and I’m double-jointed in my elbows. Sounds simple enough, but it looks like my arm is broken if you’re not prepared for it.

Tickets to Roxy Roz Presents: Burly-Q House are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. VIP tables available. Purchase here.

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Kool Kitten of the Week: One Gorgeous Gamble: Roula Roulette Puts Theater Back Into Tease in PASSIONS: A BURLESQUE DEVOTIONAL and Beyond

Posted on: Jul 30th, 2014 By:

Roula Roulette. Photo credit: Ginger Snaps Photography. Hair and make-up by Roula Roulette.

At PASSIONS: A BURLESQUE DEVOTIONAL this Saturday Aug. 2 at  11:30 p.m. at the New American Shakespeare Tavern, audiences will have the opportunity to worship the female body through the lens of a divine Retro art form. The show is the first production from Hearts Ablaze Entertainment, a collaboration between two of the Atlanta burlesque scene’s most notorious stars, Talloolah Love and Persephone Phoenix (read their own Kool Kat profiles here and here). The line-up also includes Kool Kats Southern Fried Burlesque Fest Queen of 2013 Lola LeSoleil (check out her Kool Kat here) and Ursula Undress, headmistress of the Atlanta School of Burlesque (Kool Kat here), and Roula Roulette, this week’s Kool Kitten. Yes, so much happening this weekend in ATLRetro that we couldn’t resist double trouble in Kool Katland!

Roula is a great example of the new talent graduating from The Atlanta School of Burlesque. But she’s no stranger to live performance. Prior to moving to Atlanta in 2013, she earned an MA in theatrical production and traveled the East Coast working behind the scenes at well known Opera houses and theater festivals. Her burlesque resume already includes acts for Kool Kat Katherine Lashe‘s Syrens of the South Productions, Glittering Moon Productions and Southern Fried Burlesque Fest, as well as teaching at the Atlanta School of Burlesque. And she also will be gracing the stages of the Syrens’ 7th Anniversary Show on Sunday Aug. 3 at 7 Stages and at DragonCon this year!

ATLRetro caught up with her recently to find out more about her own passion for burlesque, as well as what she has planned for PASSIONS and beyond!

ATLRetro: What’s your secret origin story and how did you get your name?

Roula Roulette: I’ve always been involved in the theater community and what is burlesque if not theater? I traveled a lot after I got out of grad school, so when I moved to Atlanta I really wanted to create but on my own terms. I work, so joining a theater and doing live shows was not something that I wanted to commit my time to. I remember telling my friends that I was really interested in trying to get into burlesque. Then a few weeks later the school opened literally across the street from me. It was kismet!

My name is really a conglomeration. I’ve always loved alliteration, and I also wanted to be cognizant of picking a name that defined me without labeling me. Roulette was perfect for obvious reasons, it gives me the freedom to explore all facets of my art, it’s a game of chance for my audiences. Roula is akin to Mary, which was my mother’s name and so it holds a special place for me. Depending on the translation, it can also mean rebellious. And we’re all here to defy the norm, right?

Who are three burlesque performers, legends and/or contemporary, who inspire you and why?

Historically I was always enamored of Gypsy Rose Lee and Lydia Thompson. Both were women who were pioneers of their own right in the theatrical arena, and I knew and loved them long before I understood burlesque in such a personal sense. But it’s hard to really label any particular legend a single inspiration as they all inspire me to some degree with their innovation, class and relentless drive to make art. Locally I find myself inspired by the women that I teach with at the Atlanta School of Burlesque. There is such a diverse community that they each inspire me in their own way. I know I cheated that question a little bit.

Photo credit: LegsUp! Pinup, Winston Jeffrey, with hair and make-up by Roula Roulette

That’s so hard! But I think up to this date my favorite performances have been the birthday parties of our local performers. Never have I felt so safe to explore my art than I do when we are doing a private party for another sparkle sister/brother. There is so much love and support in the room, it’s intoxicating!! It really provides a safe environment to really explore who you are and to give your sparkle family a glimpse at your vulnerability.

Can you tell us a little about PASSIONS this weekend and why are you personally excited to be performing in it?

The show this weekend is packed with some of the best talent that Atlanta has to offer. These women inspire me everyday to think bigger, be better and try harder. For me, a lot of  it has to do with the venue. I feel like burlesque is going back to its roots. The Shakespeare Tavern is as close as we’re going to get to what it was like to be a burlesque or variety performer in the formative years when there was still a vaudeville feel . So to be doing our art in a space that can be viewed as historical to our art is really very exciting.

What can you tease us about your own performance?

For most of the show I’ll be backstage running operations, but you will see me onstage at the end of the show. All I can say about that is that I’m so fortunate to be sharing the stage with some of the most beautiful women I know. It’s also very musical theateresque, which I LOVE. So you really don’t want to miss it. Ursula Undress is an amazing choreographer.

The burlesque revival really seems to have come of age, and there’s a very vibrant scene in Atlanta. Do you find it an dynamic and energizing time to be performing? What excites you the most?

I do! I know I’ve said it so much through this, but I am really so inspired by the creativity of my fellow artists. They push me to be a better, more expressive performer. I think what excites me the most are all the newcomers to the art. I love seeing these new girls come through the school that are so excited about the art and so expressive of their sexuality. It’s really wonderful for them and for me to be in a community where we accept women of all ages, shapes, sizes and  sexuality. But there is also something really satisfying about helping women embrace their sensual side and showing them that it’s okay to be sexy, [that] everyone can be sexy.

Where would you like to see the burlesque revival and the scene in Atlanta go in the future?

I would really love to see more male performers in Atlanta and I’d love to see more performers take advantage of the school and the collaborative advantages it has. You can never stop learning, you know? I find that some of my best work comes after I’ve immersed myself in classes for weeks at a time. It opens your vocabulary as a dancer and choreographer. I’d also love to see more love for our burlesque community in the press! We will always be fighting for the best show nights. I’d love to see more regular burlesque shows on prime weekend spots. Soon, hopefully! With every show and every fan we get, we’re that much closer to having the ability to book bigger venues and better times.

Photo credit: Pin Up Girl Cosmetics, with hair and make-up by Kellyn Wiley.

What do you do when you are not performing? I understand you also are a pin-up model?

I am! I have been dipping my toes in the modeling world for a few years now. I’m actually hoping to get published soon; you’ll have to check out my Facebook for more information on that! Outside the sparkle world, I’m in the lighting entertainment industry. I work with theaters, event spaces, schools and television production companies on their lighting. I’m all around immersed in the entertainment industry, and I really wouldn’t have it any other way!

What’s next for Roula Roulette?

There are some exciting things on the horizon for me in my burlesque life. I really can’t say too much about a lot of it right now, but I’m hoping that it comes to fruition soon. I think burlesque in Atlanta is on the cusp of something big, that can be a game changer for us as a community. But for now I’d love to see you at PASSIONS: A BURLESQUE DEVOTIONAL at the Shakespeare Tavern on Saturday. I’ll also be performing at 7 Stages on Sunday for the Syrens of the South Anniversary Show. And of course you can find me almost every evening at the Atlanta School of Burlesque teaching women to love their bodies and explore their sensuality!

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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: 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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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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