Kool Kat of the Week: School of Va-Va-Voom: Ursula Undress Teaches Atlanta a Tassel or Two About Burlesque

Posted on: Sep 5th, 2013 By:

Photo courtesy of Ursula Undress. Credit: Derek Johnson.

Curious if you have what it takes to tease? This Saturday Sept. 7, the Atlanta School of Burlesque is offering a sneak peek behind its doors for a Grand Opening Launch Event Day with a chance from 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. to sample a variety of classes for just $5 each (see list of classes and times at the end of this article) followed by a party from 2:30-5 p.m. with refreshments, prizes, vendors and discounts on School merchandise. The burlesque revival has been thriving here for over 15 years now, but unlike other major cities, Atlanta has not had its own academy for this art form until Studio Burlesque opened last winter. Unofrtunately, it was shortlived but the demand was so great that The Atlanta School of Burlesque has quickly taken its place, and veteran performers have a place where they can share their techniques, both classic and contemporary, with aspiring dancers and anyone who just wants to spice up their love life or enjoy a fun, different exercise program.

ATLRetro wasn’t surprised to learn that the headmistress and founder was none other than the dynamic Ursula Undress, regular performer with Syrens of the South Productions and co-consprirator at the first Southern Fried Burlesque Festival, which will celebrate its fourth year next spring. We’ve been eyeing Ursula as a Kool Kat for a very long time, so this week seemed like the purr-fect time to check in with this self-proclaimed “naughty girl next door” to find out more about the school, as well as her own secret origin story and what else she has up her sexy sleeves.

What drew you personally to the burlesque revival and when/what was your first performance?

I was a performer in musical and dramatic theatre for about 15 years. Personally, I was trying to find my identity again after returning to school and sort of immersing myself in classes and projects, etc., not to mention finding friends I could connect with when I first moved here and didn’t know anyone. So, burlesque – something I was already excited about – seemed a good fit.

Did you have any early role models, either classic or contemporary, who helped shape your approach to the art form?

Yes – Dirty Martini. The first performance I saw of hers was a YouTube video of her performance at the HOWL festival in 2007. I could not take my eyes off of her. She was the one who gave me the confidence to get on stage. But as for my performances being shaped by something, I would have to say that it was the music that did it.

Photo courtesy of Ursula Undress. Credit: Nimh.

Some said that Atlanta just wasn’t suited to an annual burlesque festival, but you helped Katherine Lashe prove them wrong. How do you feel the Southern Fried Burlesque Festival (SFBF) has changed the burlesque community here and Atlanta’s burlesque reputation around the nation?

In some ways, SFBF has pulled down some walls that divided a lot of performers here in the city and showed performers that there is a fairly strong community here. I think nationally that it has put Atlanta and burlesque in the southeast on the map, and helped to inspire other cities around us to do the same. I am continually amazed at the talent and innovation that comes from Georgia and the surrounding states, and am so glad to have a place to bring it all together on one stage.

It seems like you’re now putting the bulk of your energy into the Atlanta School of Burlesque. Why are you so passionate that we need an actual school here?

Well, I was actually running the first full-time burlesque school that had a previous owner – Studio Burlesque – and the passion for this project comes from the hordes of emails and phone calls when it closed. It was apparent that we had created this community and this amazing place for women where they could come and explore other sides of themselves and just have fun. So, I pulled my resources and did what I had to do to re-open a school for not only these students, but for all of us performers to learn from each other and keep fuel on the creative fires we tend every day.

Photo courtesy of Ursula Undress.

I understand the School’s students are a mix of aspiring performers and ladies who just want to get more fit in a flirty way. Can you talk a little about that? 

It is amazing – we don’t have a real target audience. We have women of all shapes, sizes, ages, backgrounds. Of course, we have students that want to go all the way and be performers, but I think the common thread is that they all just love feeling glamorous and graceful and sexy, and most of all – CONFIDENT. I think all of the instructors provide an environment that really fosters all of those things.

Who’s teaching at the School and how do you select your instructors?

I am very adamant about people learning the art of burlesque from actual burlesque performers who have studied the history and actively tour, compete, and perform. I select performers to teach based on their love for constantly learning and working on their craft, along with their ability to lead a class and make it fun and interesting. I am very fortunate to have performers of the caliber of Talloolah Love, Lola LeSoleil, Katherine Lashe, The Chameleon Queen, Fonda Lingue, Rebecca DeShon [hula hoop] and Sadie Hawkins [aerialist]. I also love that I have the opportunity to bring in outside talent and their knowledge and expertise in with workshops and specialty classes.

What are you teaching personally this Fall?

I am teaching both Beginning Burlesque Choreography and a class called Slow and Steamy Bedroom Burlesque that is for intermediate students.

Is this Saturday’s event for current and aspiring students only? Who should come and why?

Anyone who is interested should come – it is going to be a blast! The first class – Burlesque Fundamentals is actually co-ed, so I do mean ANYONE.

I know you don’t want to play favorites, but is there one of your students who you’d especially recommend our readers to watch out for?

Wow – I think the awesome thing is that ALL of our previous graduates from the Spring are amazing on stage, and have continued to perform regularly. Greta Von Trollop is so charismatic. Nina Charrise and Roula Roulette are both competing at the Shakespeare Follies this weekend, and then Rena Rhinestone has some incredible stuff planned for her next number. Oh! And I am really looking forward to what A to Z does next; he seems to be this glue that keeps them all wanting to work together on fun stuff. So yeah,it is impossible to play favorites!

Photo courtesy of Ursula Undress.

Will you be involved with next year’s Southern Fried, and if yes, can you share anything about it?

I think I will always be involved in some capacity. I really enjoy working with the legends and being a sort of liason with them and the headliners. It takes a village, and I am proud to assist Katherine with that.

What’s next for Ursula Undress performance-wise?

Well, I recently took a workshop with [burlesque legend] Gabriella Maze and am seriously in love with the cape! I have one number where I work with a large duster, and I am now looking to expand on that with what I learned from her. Combine that with some secret talks with burlesque legend Satan’s Angel, and well, that is all I am going to say. Yep, even in interviews, I have to tease!

Finally, what’s one thing about the school or about you that readers might be most surprised to find out?

Hrm….I think that people find out in our classes exactly how non-intimidating burlesque actually is.

Grand Opening Day Class and Event Schedule:

10:30 – 11:20AM – Burlesque Fundamentals with Syrens of the South & Southern Fried Burlesque Fest Producer Katherine Lashe.

This CO-ED class is designed for absolute beginners! Learn how to walk, bump, grind, and shimmy in easy, broken down steps, and then perfect them in drills and short combinations.

11:30 – 12:20PM – Classic & Glamorous Burlesque with Southern Fried Burlesque Queen Lola LeSoleil

This beginner class will help you to learn the grace and elegance of the early Burlesque style from the 1930s and 40s. This class begins with a simple, graceful warm-up, and then switches into the sultry but elegant moves of a Burlesque Queen. This class will also help you be a little more graceful in your everyday life.

12:30 – 1:20PM – Beginning Burlesque Choreography with Studio Owner & Performer Ursula Undress

This is the perfect class to get a taste of what burlesque can do for your inner and outer self while learning fun choreography to boot! Learn the basic standing and walking movements to start your journey into burlesque along with bumps, grinds, shimmies, and arm movements.

1:30 – 2:20 PM – Dance like a Mermaid with Professional Bellydancer and Mermaid Karma Karmelita.

As a professional mermaid and aquatic entertainer, Karma has gained extensive knowledge and experience in working in the water. This has given her a unique perspective on three dimensional movement when on the stage. This class focuses heavily on her original and innovative technique and teaches part of a breathtaking choreography. Recommended for people with previous dance knowledge in belly dance, but not restricted to.

2:30 – 5PM – Open Shopping and Grand Opening Soiree!

Join us for light eats, drinks, shopping, and hobnobbing with other students and performers!

Note: Wear comfortable low heels or flexible dance shoes to any class. Prices will be $5 per class, and advance reservations are not required. Due to the dramatically reduced class price, social deals will not be honored on this day. The Atlanta School of Burlesque is located at 1745 Defoor Place, Ste. D Atlanta, GA 30318. For more information, visit www.atlantaburlesqueschool.com

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Kool Kat of the Week: Rebecca Deshon On Living THE HOOPING LIFE

Posted on: Feb 21st, 2012 By:

Rebecca DeShon of HoopEssence. Photo credit: Stephanie Anderson.

Hula hoops made of willow, grapevines and stiff grasses date back all the way to prehistoric times, but most people today probably think of them as the girls’ must-have plastic toy manufactured by Wham-O starting in the late 1950s. The quintessential toy, however, has made a comeback in recent years into hoop dance, and if you missed this twisting trend, you can catch up at the Atlanta premiere of the acclaimed documentary THE HOOPING LIFE (2010) at 7 Stages in Little Five Points on Friday Feb. 24 (doors at 8 p.m.; show at 9 p.m.).

THE HOOPING LIFE not only delves into hula hoop history but also tells eight extraordinary stories of hoop enthusiasts who have embraced it as an art form, a teacher’s aid and even an instrument of redemption. The screening will be accompanied by live performances including a spectacular aerial number by Emerald Dove (Hot Toddies Flaming Cabaret); hoop dance by Maria Valentin aka Riahoopaleena all the way from New York City; stunts by Luna Trix Hoops Performance & Fire Arts of Columbia, SC; hoops and juggling by James Abele; and acts by Gesche Anneliesa of Musee du Coeur and  Ashly Connor of Imperial Opa Circus.

The entire night’s festivities have been organized by this week’s Kool Kat Rebecca DeShon, proprietress of HoopEssence, Atlanta’s own Hoop Dance performance company and school. ATLRetro recently caught up with Rebecca, to find out more about THE HOOPING LIFE, as well as how she got into hooping, how hooping has transformed her life and what it’s like to live la vida hoop dance.

ATLRetro: Hula hoops seemed to be less popular for a while, but now are enjoying a Renaissance of sorts not just with girls but grown-ups, too. Why do you think it’s back in vogue?

Rebecca DeShon: Hoop dance and hula hooping have really exploded into so many scenes. What was once thought of as just a fad in the underground club scene has really blossomed into a tool for dance, self expression, fitness, meditation and so much more. In my opinion, we are only just beginning to see this full immersion of society in hula hooping. Some hoopers like to call it a “Revolution,” if you will. I think part of the reason it is becoming so much more popular is the development of hand-crafted hula hoops which open up hooping to people of all ages and fitness levels. Besides, it just feels like a lot of fun, which is more than you can say about a lot of other fitness routines. Who doesn’t want that?

For the uninitiated, what’s the difference between hula-hooping and hoop dance

Modern hoop dance has come such a long way since the stereotypical image most people think of from hula hooping in the ‘50s. People are now completely expressing themselves in dance both inside the hoop and using the hoop as a prop to tell a story through dance. We are repurposing an object that was only to be flung around the waist in endless rotation or simply rolled on the ground into what is now a vast array of styles and forms of hooping or hoop dance. Today we see hoopers not just simply flinging dozens of hoops around their waist like you see in the circus, but truly dancing in and with the hula hoop as a dance partner. It is now such an extraordinary companion for artistic self expression.

Hoop dance just means that we are actually dancing with our hoops and at times incorporating many different “tricks.”  Hooping has expanded so far between styles that we are actually seeing entire “genres” of hoop dance styles. It is an incredible art form! With the proper hand-crafted hoop, patience, practice and determination, I know that anyone can be a hoop dancer. I, for one, have no professional dance training, so I can assure you that you don’t have to be a “dancer” to become a hoop dancer.

I understand fans from all of the Southeast are coming to Atlanta for the screening. What’s so special about THE HOOPING LIFE as a movie?

We are thrilled to report that we have fans and performers coming from all over the US for this event! They are coming from as far away as CA, NYC and Texas! Chicago, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, Alabama and all over the state of GA. THE HOOPING LIFE is a feature-length film that has been six years in the making. It is a labor of love in the form of a documentary film which has not been released for public screenings until Jan 2012. We have been waiting for this event for so long and are so super thrilled to see its final release. THE HOOPING LIFE documentary is important not just for hoopers but for those who don’t know its amazing life-changing benefits. The film has been shot all over the world by the hoopers themselves. This film covers eight story lines from eight very different aspects of just how dynamic hooping can be. It is the first film of its kind!

Will any of the filmmakers be there?

Currently the filmmakers are super busy working on the music video for “Hooping Life”, the original music by Basement Jaxx which was created just for this amazing film. While nothing has been set in stone, we have heard rumors of interest in them making the trip. Honestly, with an event like this, you really just never know who might show up! Surprise guests will be there and you just need to be present to see exactly who!

Rebecca DeShon hoop dances with fire at Hellbilly Family Reunion (Elliott Street Pub 2011). Photo credit: Erick Jara.

What else is happening Friday night at 7 Stages in addition to the screening?

We have a spectacular evening of entertainment planned for our guests!! Doors open at 8 with live entertainment right from the start! We will have hooping gifts, hoops and merchandise for your shopping pleasure, a “red carpet” photo session for guests, HUGE prize giveaways, a carnival-like atmosphere with jugglers/stilt walkers/hoopers and that is just the pre-show!! At 9 p.m., the stage shows begin with live performers for your pleasure Maria Valentin from NYC, Lunatrix Performance & Circus Arts (SC), Ashly Connor (Imperial Opa Circus), Emerald Dove on aerial silks (Hot Toddies Flaming Cabaret), Gesche Annelesia (Musee du Coeur) and many more performances. After the live performances, we have the Atlanta Premiere of THE HOOPING LIFE film. Directly following the film, we will invite all guests to come up on stage and give the hoop a twirl themselves for a huge hooper dance party. We also have visuals being projected on the screen from start to finish. This is going to be an incredible evening like no other in Atlanta.

How did you first discover that you loved to hula hoop?

I was actually gifted my first ever adult hand-crafted hula hoop in 2008 from a friend, Beki Bear, as a going away gift before embarking on a journey to New York for a while. That first northern winter, I found myself stuck indoors buried under snow and very cold with nothing but my hula hoop. I picked up my hoop, began playing with it and really found myself embracing it. I was so surprised at how much I was enjoying playing with the hoop. I felt great about learning a new skill and have always loved dancing so I was hooked right away, head over heels. I began searching online, hungry to learn more about hooping. At the time there were very few resources to learn from and, unless you lived in California or were willing to travel many miles, not many instructors around. I found a great resource called Hooping.org which I like to call “the holy grail of Hooping.” You can find endless information about hooping from this site. I didn’t realize then that I would use the hoop as a tool for self-empowerment or use it to help others to do the same.

How did you start performing professionally and what’s your favorite gig so far?

I guess you could say I just stumbled into performing during my hooping development. As a hoop dancer beginning my journey inRochester,NY, performing came pretty naturally for me. Hoop dance was so unique that people couldn’t help but stop and watch. I love what I do and want to inspire others to try it out and experience the joy, so performing just came with the part. My first gig was just a couple of months after beginning my hoop dance journey. I got to perform as part of My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult at Water Street Music Hall in Rochester, NY. At first I was terrified, but I really enjoyed the crowd’s response and the adrenaline rush of performing so after that first gig I was instantly hooked. I have been blessed with a lot of really fun gigs.

Rebecca DeShon performs at The High for College Night with Dance Truck. Photo Credit: Matt Gilbert.

Many of my gigs are corporate events, which gives me the opportunity to perform in some really exciting venues. Last year I was hired to perform at The Georgia Aquarium dressed up as a mermaid. I also loved hooping at The High Museum of Art a couple weeks ago for College Night. Next month I am particularly looking forward to a gig at Chateau Elan for Verizon Wireless (we are conducting an LED Circus of sorts). I also participate in a lot of smaller gigs in club style settings as well as my work with charity organizations such as East Atlanta Kids Club, Atlanta Streets Alive and Atlanta Women’s Foundation.

On March 3, I will be performing and doing class demos for Atlanta Dance Marathon at Zoo Atlanta – which is a benefit for Atlanta Children’s Network Hospitals. I really love community-based work and feel hooping can be used as a tool for outreach on so many levels. It is simply a joy to share what I do! I dedicate a lot of time and energy into my practice, sometimes at the cost of sleep. It brings me so much joy to share the experience of hooping that I really find it is worth the effort.

You’ve said that hula hooping has changed your life. Can you talk just a bit about how and what is it about hula-hooping that you personally find so special?

Hooping or hoop dance has changed my life in dramatic ways and I continue to grow daily through what I learn inside the hoop. Initially I saw the physical benefits of hooping right away. My body is more fit and trim with great muscle tone – all from what I once thought of as just a simple child’s toy. Later, I noticed my stress being melted away from hooping, anxiety being relieved, and, of course, exercising produces endorphins that helped to naturally chase away any blues or depression.

Rebecca DeShon. Body paint & photo by Stephanie Anderson (Neon Armour).

Hooping gives me a great feeling of accomplishment, even when I am not performing for others. It is nice to feel good about yourself and what you are doing. Hooping has led me to make some of the most incredible friends and expanded into what is today a global community of hoop dancers. My life suddenly had direction and purpose once I began hooping. I found myself thinking and living more positively and healthier. The list goes on and on… I could speak for days about how hooping has changed my life: from the most simple things to complexities even I find hard to believe at times. Hoop dance has literally caused a chain reaction of positivity and prosperity in my life.

The hoop has a way of changing your attitude. Once you get the hang of hooping and get past the initial learning curve – this only takes a few minutes with the proper hoop and instruction – it is so unbelievably difficult to not be happy and giggle while hooping. You will find that if you are in the presence of hoopers, we are generally pretty happy and positive. I feel most of us work hard to spread that love to others. I am so fortunate to have found an outlet in hooping that lets me get past the miseries and frustrations that life puts in our way, and focus that energy towards something positive for myself and for those around me.

How did hula hooping grow from a hobby into you founding Hoopessence? 

Hooping began as a hobby that I discovered I just couldn’t keep to myself. I wanted to share the love and joy with everyone I met. So I learned how to hand-craft hoops and began teaching everyone who would listen. I found it is not hard to get others excited about hooping once they see you hoop and hear/see the magical benefits of it all; they want to try it too. I found that hooping and sharing the benefits was a calling for me. I became a certified hoop dance instructor within my first year of hooping and since then have built my own teaching style.

Now, my own HoopEssence teacher trainings are in the works. I just want to share the love with as many people as possible. So it comes pretty easy for me. Turning any hobby into a business is very challenging however. What you once did for fun can feel forced and unnatural once you try to earn a living from your hobby. It is a very delicate balance. I love what I do so much that I am willing to work hard and make sacrifices to do what I do. I am also really fortunate to be married to an amazingly supportive man who assists in any way he can with my business. He is constantly empowering me to excel and grow. For that I am thankful. If it was just me on my own, I’m not sure could not make a living from hooping; a business needs the support of a great team.

Rebecca DeShon. Photo credit: Stephanie Anderson.

What types of classes do you offer at HoopEssence?

I offer classes in all things hoop at HoopEssence. Beginner basics, intermediate hooping, specialty hooping classes (i.e. minis, isolations, multiple hoops), workshops, hoop crafting workshops, private lessons, dancing in and out of your hoop, children classes and community jams. You name it, I hoop it! If you are just getting into hooping, I teach you all the basics of this great hobby in my Hooping 101 Series. Hooping 101 is four Sunday classes from 1-2:30pm with my next series starting March 4. You may find all the info about my next Hooping 101 series here.

I am also teaching intermediate and advance hoop dance classes at various locations throughout the Metro Atlanta area. You may find all the information and more through my website www.hoopessence.com. I am always looking out for new venues and private lesson students as well. If you would like to book a lesson or want to see hoop dance in your neighborhood, drop me a line and say hello. I am always here to help. With the upcoming spring and summer months, I have a lot of free outdoor events (called Hoop Jams) where I bring hoops, tunes and people can come join in on the fun with no obligations.

Any secrets to buying a great hula hoop?

A great hula hoop is a hand-crafted adult hula hoop. The hoops that you find in the dollar store just don’t cut it and can leave you feeling hopeless as a hooper. You can find hoops of all sizes and all the colors of the rainbow through my website  www.hoopessence.com/products-page. I hand-craft each hoop and fancy myself as somewhat of a “hoop sizing expert”. If you find yourself in the market for a new hoop or are just simply curious to what its all about, please feel free to call or drop a line with your questions. I would be more than happy to assist you in choosing. It can be a bit overwhelming for the beginner with all the options available from sizes, weight, colors, material, LED and even fire hoops. Check out my website and also be sure to sign up for my email newsletter where I send out coupons for deep discounts on all things hoop!

Tickets for THE HOOPING LIFE are just $15 when purchased online in advance before midnight on Feb. 21.  Any remaining tickets will be available at the door only for $20 each, but be warned, at press time, there were only 50 seats left so we highly recommend purchasing in advance here.

Find HoopEssence on Facebook and Twitter.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Hanging Ten with Wayne Foster at the 5th Annual Clarkston Surf Fest

Posted on: Sep 21st, 2011 By:

“Surfing is very much like making love. It always feels good, no matter how many times you’ve done it,” legendary ‘60s surfer Paul Strauch once famously declared. This Saturday’s Clarkston Surf Fest 2011 is too far inland for attendees to ride any waves literally, but with 10 of the Southeast’s top surf bands playing from noon into night, it’s sure to satisfy any lover of the fast-strumming oceanic music genre. The fifth annual event, held Sat. Sept. 24 in the playing field of the Clarkston Community Center, features local faves The Mystery Men?, The Surge!Stratogeezer and El Fossil, as well as regional favorites Daikaiju(AL), Aqualads (NC), The Intoxicators (FL), The Necronomikids (AL), Kill, Baby…Kill (AL) and The Monterreys (NC). Best of all, it’s FREE and family-friendly, so you even can introduce the kids to some great music without shelling out big bucks.

The idea of a surf music festival in Clarkston, at first glance, sounds both improbable and absolutely awesome. But then we never expected Thursday night concerts by some of Atlanta’s best retrobilly/Redneck underground bands at an Asian restaurant (Kathmandu, formerly Pho Truc) in Clarkston either. That got us thinking there must be some pretty cool folks hanging ten in what’s not often dubbed Atlanta’s hippest suburb. Turns out Clarkston Surf Fest co-founder Wayne Foster doesn’t actually live there any more, but this beach party has become a labor of love for him and everyone else involved and losing a few good surf music friends has just inflamed his passion even more.

Seems like there must be a great story about how the Clarkston Surf Fest got started?
I guess it was 2004 or 2005 when my friend Randy Duke asked me to go to a surf music show at Under The Couch over at Georgia Tech. It was a band called The Penetrators. I figured with a name like that what could be bad? Wow! what a show. These guys were like modern day 1960s secret agents of rock. In between sets Randy introduced me to John McCorvey AKA “Eddie Katcher” who plays guitar in a band called The Surge! The three of us talked about how cool the music is and wouldn’t it be great if a bunch of surf bands could get together for an all-day show somewhere. Well, a light bulb went off in my head…… I was a freelance sound guy with a big PA. I also lived in Clarkston and was serving on the city council.

In 2006, I made arrangements to use the historic Woman’s Club cottage, and John lined up as many surf bands as he could. It was one of those Our Gang “hey, let’s put on a show right here in the barn” kind of events. Local advertising agency, MLT Creative, designed and printed our signs for free after I told owner, Billy Mitchell, about our plan. He’s a surf music fan. Stratogeezer, Big Ray & The Futuras, The Broken Spokes, El Capitan, The Penetrators and The Surge! played that first Surf Fest. What an experience. The Clarkston Community Center then offered us a bigger venue.

I understand this year is both special and bittersweet to you after the passing of your good friend and festival co-founder Randy Duke, as well as Spanky Twangler of the Penetrators. Can you talk a little about what both contributed to this festival and what you have planned to honor them.

We didn’t have Surf Fest in 2010 because of some personal issues in my life that were beyond my control. My best friend Randy Duke’s health had been deteriorating for some time. He passed away right around the time Surf Fest would have been going on. My girlfriend and I had also just bought a new house 30 miles away from Clarkston. I was apprehensive about doing Surf Fest again since I no longer live in Clarkston and am not involved in city government. I want to honor Randy and Spanky by not letting Surf Fest fade away. Both of these remarkable men were super musicians and both were instrumental in turning me on to the surf genre.

This year’s 10-band line-up is pretty incredible including not just some great local surf bands but terrific bands from across the region. Who’s new this year and how did you decide who would play this year?

The Monterreys, Kill, Baby… Kill!, The Intoxicators!, Aqualads, and El Fossil will be at Surf Fest for the first time. We decided who would play this year by finding bands willing to drive hundreds of miles to sleep on my vinyl couch, eat cold pizza, drink cheep beer, and work for gas money. There’s a lot of great surf bands out there and not enough venues for them to play. I wish we could have 30 bands and play all weekend! ………. (need more sponsors, need bigger venue)…… end of subliminal message.

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Surf’s Up at the Plaza Saturday as Blast-Off Burlesque Throws a Taboo-La-La BEACH PARTY

Posted on: Jul 22nd, 2011 By:

BEACH PARTY (1963); Dir: William Asher; Writer: Lou Rusoff; Starring Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Robert Cummings, Dorothy Malone; Taboo-La-La Series hosted by Blast-Off  Burlesque at Plaza Theatre, Sat. July 23; 10 PM; pre-show antics include Twister in the lobby, live music by Grinder Nova, cupcakes by The Sugar Dolls, guest star The Chameleon Queen; age 18 & over only; trailer here.

Before Blast-Off Burlesque take off on their World Tour Sept. 9 and 10, these crazy kats are heading to the beach for some Twister, hula-hooping, surfing and flirting. Yes, it’s Taboo-La-La time once again Sat. night July 23 at the Plaza Theatre, and keeping in the summer spirit, the movie is BEACH PARTY (1963) starring Sixties America’s favorite surf couple Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. And per usual, it’s not just a rare chance to see a cult classic in 35 mm on the big screen, it’ll be a party like only Blast-Off can throw. We checked in with the sensational Sadie Hawkins for a sneak preview of the fun they have in store…

BEACH PARTY seems pretty tame for a Taboo-La-La after SHOWGIRLS and FASTER PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!, but I’m guessing you’re thinking behind all that semi-bare flesh and adolescent hormones, there’s some sexy behind-the-scenes actiongoing on. How did Blast-Off decide on this movie?

Well, it’s summertime, and what better time for a beach movie? And BEACH PARTY is the one that started the whole beach movie craze. It may seem tame, but really, it’s a pretty weird movie that spends a lot of time lingering on adolescent/post-adolescent sexuality.

When did you first see BEACH PARTY and what do you personally love about it?

I first saw it on teevee when I was a kid. I loved Frankie and Annette. Seeing it as an adult, though, I’ve come to love the completely strange fabricated world in BEACH PARTY. It’s a lot of fun. It’s totally goofy—I mean, the motorcycle gang is astoundingly white bread.

Without spoiling any surprises, what can you share about the pre-show and how did you pick this month’s guest stars?

The pre-show is kind of Blast-Off’s take on a Beach Party, only inside the Plaza. We’ve got a couple acts of our own and some fun contests in the theme of the movie—hula hooping, twisting. We’re really excited to have Grinder Nova back for another show—this time, they’ll be playing a larger part of the pre-show. And we’re absolutely delighted to welcome our good friend, The Chameleon Queen, who will be performing as A’Lotta Wood. That act is awesome.

There’ll also be beach party action in the lobby, right? Did I hear something about Twister?

Yep! We’ll have Twister in the lobby and cupcakes from The Sugar Dolls [Read a scrumptious sneak preview of the delicious delights they’ll be bringing here].

When should beach partiers arrive at the Plaza and what should they wear have maximum fun in the sun?

The show starts at 10, so if folks get there a bit before that, they’ll have time to play a little Twister and have some cupcakes and chat a bit. We always encourage people to dress to the theme—we’ve got our swimsuits ready, and I know there will be some Hawaiian shirts on display.

What can we tease out of you about Blast-Off’s WORLD TOUR?

It’s shaping up to be a totally insane trip. Seriously, there’s some kooky stuff in this show. I think this may be my favorite Blast-Off show so far. Well, every one is my favorite, but really: it’s going to be a lot of fun. So, we’re really excited to share it with people. It’s going to be September 9 and 10 at 7 Stages. Tickets are available at blastoffburlesque.com.

Finally, gotta ask what’s new with the lovely Miss Sadie Hawkins and where else can we see you hanging around this summer?

Well, I teach lyra classes four days a week and I’m performing quite a bit. After Taboo-La-La, the next burlesque event at which I’m performing is Bellissitease: Film Noir, July 29 at Bellissima. I tend to keep myself pretty busy, between private events and fundraisers, regular aerial/fire work at night clubs and myriad other stuff. Also, the second weekend in August, I’ll be at the Pinups for Pitbulls fundraiser at The Graveyard, Man Day at Twain’s and Mon Cherie’s Burlesque With A Hitch at Masquerade. I try to keep my Website (www.sadiehawkins.net) pretty up to date with what I’m up to.

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Weekend Update, June 17-19, 2011

Posted on: Jun 17th, 2011 By:

Friday, June 17

Libby Whittemore

It’s an all-around jazzy evening at three Atlanta theaters, attractions and museums. Beloved Atlanta chanteuse Libby Whittemore returns to Actor’s Express for the second show in a four-day run (June 16-19) of LISA & LIBBY’S SUMMER CAMP, joining singer Lisa Paige and musical director/accompanist Robert Strickland for a summer-themed new installment to the Libby’s at the Express series. The show combines standards, Broadway tunes, and more, and in the second act, the 31st Ladyof Country Music Connie Sue Day. Shows start at 7:30 PM. Vocalist Marsha DuPree sings sweet, soulful cabaret and musical revue favorites at Callanwolde Jazz on the Lawn. Or head to the halls of the High Museum of Art for a night of art and Friday Jazz with Kevin BalesJoe Gransden brings his big band style of jazz to Jazz Journeys at Georgia Aquarium. If swingin’ blues is more your mood tonight, Jump’n Jukes are at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack. Or catch an IMAX movie and merengue the night away during Salsa Night with Salsambo Dance Studio at Fernbank Museum of Natural History’s Martinis and IMAX.

Saturday June 18

What could be more retro than the first annual Rockabilly Luau at the Masquerade Music Park from noon to 8 PM, featuring a mix of rockabilly, psychobilly, surf and psycho-surf music by Hot Rod Walt and the Psycho DeVillesDaikaijuThe Pelvis BreastliesThe Mystery Men?The Rebel Surfers,The Go DevilsThe Atomic Rockets and C.N.I. COW. More performers include Blast-off BurlesqueDavina and the HarlotsThe Spinderellas and authentic Polynesian dancers and fire dancers. The total tiki day also promises Hawaiian BBQ and beer, a pre-1968 car show, Hawaiian pin-up girl and swimsuit contest, live tiki carving, lei greeters, a worst Hawaiian shirt contest, vendors and classic tropical drinks. All ticket sales support two local animal rescues. Catch ATLRetro‘s sneak preview with founders and this week’s Kool Kats Chris Mattox and Jessica Vega here and an exclusive interview with The Rebel Surfers here.

Papa Said Knock You Out and that’s exactly what Atlanta Rollergirls plan to do today in their monthly double-header at the Yaraab Shrine Center. First bout between the Sake Tuyas and Toxic Shocks is sold out, we hear, but tickets were still available at press time for the second match at 7:30 PM between Atlanta Rumble B‘s and visiting team Fort Myers Derby Girls. Then take the Highway to Hellbilly as world-famous mountain Dancing Outlaw Jesco White and country singer-songwriter Roger Alan Wade burn up Atlanta at 529 Club in East Atlanta. DJ Romeo Cologne transforms the sensationally seedy Clermont Lounge into a ’70s disco/funk inferno. And of course, ’80s metalheads/rockers will want to head to Lakewood Amphitheatre for Heart and Def Leppard.

Sunday June 19

Blake Rainey & His Demons headlines blues “dunch” between 1 and 4 PM at The EarlHall & Oates play Chastain Park Amphitheatre.

Closing this weekend

Ray Harryhausen's interpretation of the Cyclops in THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958)

Sun. June 19 is the last day to see the original images which inspired Ray Harryhausen‘s amazing stop-motion cyclops, centaurs and other mythological beasts in the special exhibition, MONSTERS, DEMONS AND WINGED BEASTS: COMPOSITE CREATURES IN THE ANCIENT WORLD at the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University through June 19. The exhibition of monstrous art, drawn from the museum’s permanent collections, shows how the ancient Greeks were inspired by other Middle Eastern cultures in developing a vast repertoire of richly imagined creatures.

Kandace Christian as Margaret Mitchell. Photo courtesy of Melita Easters.

Find out about the headstrong, irrepressible early years and the human side of MRS. JOHN MARSH..THE WORLD KNEW HER AS MARGARET MITCHELL at the Ansley Park Playhouse. The well-reviewed hit one-woman show by Melita Easters and starring Kandace Christian has gotten some great reviews and even includes a rare perspective on her year at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts – the only time she ever left the Southeast. Friday and Saturday at 8 PM and Sunday at 2 PM.

Ongoing

MODERN BY DESIGN, the High‘s newest special exhibition opening on Sat. June 4, celebrates three key moments in modern design and also the Museum of Modern Art, New York‘s (MOMA) collection history. The works on loan from MOMA cover “Machine Art” (1934), “Good Design” (1950-55) and “Italy: The New Domestic Landscape” (1972), with the latter addressing modernism in the context of 1960s and ’70s counterculture.

The ever irreverent Dad’s Garage Theatre takes a stab at the ’80s horror genre of camp slasher films in SLAUGHTER CAMP about a homicidal maniac terrorizing a theatre camp. June 2-25 on the main stage.

Get a rare chance to view original manuscript pages from the last four chapters of ATLANTA’S BOOK: THE LOST GONE WITH THE WIND MANUSCRIPTat the Atlanta History Center. The new exhibit, which opens today and runs through Sept. 5, is part of a series of activities celebrating the 75th anniversary of the publication of the international bestseller and also includes foreign and first edition copies, the desk Margaret Mitchell used while writing it and select images.

Tune back in on Monday for This Week in Retro Atlanta. If you know of a cool vintage-inspired happening, send suggestions to ATLRetro@gmail.com.

 

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Kool Kats of the Week: Chris Mattox’s a little bit rock ‘n’ roll and Jessica Vega’s a little bit tiki—the perfect potion for a Rockabilly Luau

Posted on: Jun 15th, 2011 By:

If you, like ATLRetro, are depressed you missed the 10th anniversary Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., last weekend, a little tiki treasure is coming here to lift your spirits. Say aloha to the Rockabilly Luau, this Saturday June 18 at the Masquerade Music Park, an all-afternoon (noon to 8 PM) celebration of two of the main fuels of the Retro revival—‘50s/’60s inspired music (rockabilly, psychobilly, surf, lounge) and the Hawaiiana subculture of cocktails, tiki art, hula and a nostalgic longing for island paradise that had its heyday from the 1920s-60s.

For a first-time event, the band line-up is a stellar round-up of some of Atlanta and the Southeast’s top Retro-inspired talent including Hot Rod Walt and the Psycho Devilles, Daikaiju (Huntsville, AL), The Mystery Men?, The Go Devils (Asheville, NC), Rebel Surfers (Nashville, TN), C.N.i. COW, Atomic Rockets and the lovely Pelvis Breastlies, as well as Nashville’s hula-hooping Spinderellas and burlesque troupes Blast-Off Burlesque, Dames Aflame and Davina and the Harlots. Hosts are Tyler Atomic (Atomic Rockets, Built for Speed on WRAS 88.5 FM) and lovely nationally acclaimed Retro pin-up model Ashley Croft. But Rockabilly Luau is more than just another all-day concert, true to the luau spirit, attendees will be greeted with leis,  feast on island food (including the prerequisite kalua pig), sip tropical cocktails, watch live tiki carving, have a chance to purchase tiki memorabilia, and be treated to performances by authentic Polynesian dancers and fire dancers. A variety of contests (see below), body-painting and a pre-1968 car show top off the festivities which will benefit two local animal rescue charities, Friends to the Forlorn Pitbull Rescue and Shelter Angels Pitbull Rescue.

The creators of the Rockabilly Luau are Chris Mattox, who works for Frazier Harley-Davidson, and Jessica Vega, a Polynesian college student and manager of a clothing boutique. ATLRetro recently caught up with Chris for a preview.

How did each of you come to love rockabilly and tiki/Polynesian culture respectively, and what about each appeals to you personally?

Jessica Vega makes a blue friend on a Mai Tai Monday at Smith's Olde Bar.

I grew up on rockabilly and surf music. One of my fondest childhood memories was my dad taking me to see Dick Dale at the Variety Playhouse. A love for Polynesian culture was inevitable. Jess is Polynesian, and for her, an appreciation of her culture came first. She grew into the music and tiki culture as an offshoot of that.

How did you come up with the idea for the Rockabilly Luau?

Jessica, who’s Polynesian, mentioned that while there are all kind of Polynesian events in California and Florida, there aren’t [m]any here. I thought that was a real shame given the number of great surf bands and “tiki-philes” there are in the south. We decided to put together the Luau and give any proceeds to Shelter Angels Pitbull Rescue and Friends to the Forlorn Pitbull Rescue.

How is Rockabilly Luau different from other music festivals?

Blast-Off Burlesque

The Luau is different in a number of ways. First, we made a concerted effort to include people who were working to keep Polynesian culture alive. Second, as the Website states, this is a hangover you can feel good about; 100% of the ticket price goes directly to the charities.

You’ve got an amazing entertainment line-up from bands to burlesque. When you started approaching folks, did you feel there was a real hunger for an event like this?

Yes! People kept saying, “I’ve been waiting for somebody to do this!” It was really encouraging—not to mention, the whole shebang is for charity.

Can you tell me a little about the bands. What style does each play?

From the top, Hot Rod Walt and The Psycho Devilles are a psychobilly band, Daikaiju is a Japanese-inspired surf band, The Mystery Men? are a surfabilly band, The Go Devils are a psychobilly/surf/swing band, The Rebel Surfers are a rockabilly/surf/blues band, C.N.i. Cow is a rockabilly/surf/punk/metal band, The Atomic Rockets are a rockabilly band, and The Pelvis Breastlies are an all-female Elvis Tribute band.

Will you be serving mai tais and other exotic cocktails?

We will be serving exotic cocktails—Mai Tais, etc. They just won’t be served in coconuts. We have to save SOMETHING for next year. However, umbrellas are included.

What kinds of Hawaiian foods will be on the menu?

Hawaiian BBQ, veggie fried rice, smoothies, fruit lemonade, kalua pork…I’m making myself hungry.

I understand there will be contests, too. Can you give a little taste about what’s planned in that regard?

We have a hula hoop contest, a Hawaiian pin-up swimsuit contest and an ugliest Hawaiian shirt contest. You can’t say we don’t have a sense of humor.

Is the show all ages? What is the charge for parking?

The car show is all ages, and the parking is free of charge.

How did you pick the charities for this event? Do you have a special love for pitbulls?

We already knew both charities through our work at Ink for Paws, Inc. [a nonprofit organization founded by Mattox and Vega]. We knew they were both one-person charities and sorely underfunded. As for pit bulls, I own one and I think they get a bad rap. Both of these charities are trying to reshape hearts and minds about pitbulls.

Jax P. Snugglebear.

Can you tell us a little about your pit bull? What’s his name and what’s he like?

My pit bull looks like your typical, post-apocalyptic, vicious junkyard dog. His name is Jax P. Snugglebear. He’s the biggest lapdog you’ve ever seen. He’s about as dangerous  as a fluffy pillow. Unless you’re a squirrel. Then he’s like Chuck Norris’ mean older brother.

Do you hope to make this a regular, perhaps annual event?

Most definitely. The response we got was overwhelming. The Rockabilly Luau will definitely be an annual event.

Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door and can be purchased here.

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This Week in Retro Atlanta, June 13-19, 2011

Posted on: Jun 13th, 2011 By:

Monday June 13

From 3 PM on, savor tropical sounds and libations, as well as a Polynesian dinner during Mai Tai Monday at Smith’s Olde Bar. Kingsized and Tongo Hiti lead singer Big Mike Geier is Monday night’s celebrity bartender at Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong ParlorNorthside Tavern hosts its weekly Blues Jam.

Tuesday June 14

Watch Dennis Hopper battle crazed redneck cannibals as Splatter Cinema presents THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 at the Plaza Theatre tonight at 9:30 PM. Read Geoff Slade‘s bloody review here.  Hear UK ’70s hard rock band Uriah Heap at Variety Playhouse. Attend the Atlanta launch of THE SWEETEST THING, a novel about two remarkable women during the Great Depression, by award-winning writer Elizabeth Musser, author of The Swan House, at the Atlanta History Center. Grab your horn and head to Twain’s in Decatur for a Joe Gransden jazz jam session starting at 9 PM. Notorious DJ Romeo Cologne spins the best ‘70s funk and disco at 10 High in Virginia-Highland. Catch Tuesday Retro in the Metro nights at Midtown’s Deadwood Saloon, featuring live video mixes of ’80s, ’90s, and 2Ks hits.

Wednesday  June 15

It’s only halfway through the work week, but Syrens of the South Productions are ready to make it go a little faster with Hump Day Honeys, a weeknight burlesque show at The Shelter featuring both local favorites, such as Katherine Lashe and Kittie Katrina, as well as hot out-of-town guests such as Burlesque Nouveau from Greensboro, NC. Shows start promptly at 10 PM, end at midnight, and include a raffle to benefit the Southern Fried Burlesque Fest. Get ready to rumba, cha-cha and jitterbug at the weekly Swing Night at Graveyard TavernThe Hollidays bring a little soul to Fat Matt’s Rib Shack and Danny “Mudcat” Dudeck blues it down at Northside Tavern respectively. Dance to ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s hits during Retro in the Metro Wednesdays presented by Godiva Vodka, at Pub 71 in Brookhaven.

Thursday  June 16

Slim Chance & the Convicts

Slim, Dangerous Dan and Tony Drummer reunite for the first time in five years and replay their very first set from June 4, 1986 to celebrate The 25th Anniversary of Slim Chance & the Convicts at Kathmandu Kitchen & Grill (formerly Pho Truc) in Clarkston. Opening for the Redneck Underground icons is Spooky Partridge. No cover charge, no smoking and all ages!

Beloved Atlanta chanteuse Libby Whittemore returns to Actor’s Express for a four-day run (June 16-19) of LISA & LIBBY’S SUMMER CAMP, joining singer Lisa Paige and musical director/accompanist Robert Strickland for a summer-themed new installment to the Libby’s at the Express series. The show combines standards, Broadway tunes, and more, and in the second act, the 31st Lady of Country Music Connie Sue Day. Shows start at 7:30 PM. Relive the pangs and pleasures of ’80s high school romance via John Hughes’ 1984 hit SIXTEEN CANDLES at Piedmont Park‘s Screen on the Green. Listen to Tongo Hiti’s luxurious live lounge sounds, as well as some trippy takes on iconic pop songs, just about every Thursday night at Trader Vic’s. Party ‘70s style with DJ Romeo Cologne at Aurum LoungeBreeze Kings and Chickenshack bring on the blues respectively at Northside Tavern and Fat Matt’s Rib Shack.Bluegrass Thursday at Red Light Cafe features He Sang She Sang and Hopfrog.

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