Kool Kat of the Week: Born to Tease: Retro Fatale Katherine Lashe Puts the Sizzle into Southern Fried Burlesque

Posted on: Jun 10th, 2013 By:

Katherine Lashe. Photo credit: PinUp Girl Cosmetics.

Atlanta’s burlesque scene right now is hot, hot, hot, and one lady is right at the sizzling heart of it – Kool Kat Katherine Neslund, aka Katherine Lashe. This week alone, Syrens of the South, her production company, is giving Atlanta a new monthly burlesque showcase with Tease Tuesdays at The Shelter on June 11 (specific Tuesdays will vary per month). She’s also a key player in the city’s first Debut-Tease Ball, featuring Katherine and a mix of experienced and new talent either teaching or taking classes at Studio Burlesque, Atlanta’s own burlesque school which launched just last winter.

Perhaps most of all, Katherine is the driving force behind the Southern Fried Burlesque Festival, which celebrated its third anniversary this year. Finally Atlanta has an annual event that brings together local, regional, national and even international burlesque revival stars and legends. Tease Tuesdays are fundraisers for SFBF. And that’s not even beginning to talk about Katherine’s own talents as a performer who has graced nationwide stages including the Burlesque Hall of Fame in Las Vegas.

ATLRetro caught up with Katherine recently to find out more about this week’s events; her own path to burlesque via theater; what else she has coming up, including a significant partnership between Syrens and 7 Stages theater in Little Five Points; and much more.

ATLRetro: What’s the one thing that happened to you during childhood that made it your destiny to be a burlesque performance artist?

Katherine Neslund/Lashe: When I was younger my Mom made costumes and clothing for drag queens in Knoxville, TN.  I ended up wanting to be a drag queen when I grew up because they had the best clothes! Later it was explained to me that, being a girl, I couldn’t technically be a drag queen. I was pretty disappointed  with this childhood realization. I’ve obviously since realized my passion and have been doing theater in some capacity my entire adult life. I’ve always felt pretty at home on the stage. Burlesque seemed to unite the whole drag queen dream with my theater experience.

I understand you kicked off your burlesque career in Atlanta by opening for Dita Von Teese. That’s a pretty exciting beginning. How did that happen and can you share something about that experience? Did Dita impart any words of wisdom that have stayed with you.

I used to be the head performer at The Chamber, and one day Howie, the manager, told us we were opening for Dita von Teese in two weeks and we should do something burlesquey.  I had no idea what that meant since I had very limited experience with burlesque having only seen The Doll Squad and Torchy Taboo perform a few times at that point.  We ended up putting together a Fosse-style group number that incorporated burlesque, dancing and a little bit of that Chamber touch.  It’s kind of funny that out of that group came myself, Renea’le Roux and Gia Nova as professional burlesque performers.

Katherine Lashe. Photo credit: PinUp Girl Cosmetics.

The Syrens of the South is a production company, not a troupe. A lot of people don’t know the difference, so can you clarify what this means in the burlesque world?

A troupe is traditionally a group of people that works together on a regular basis; going through routines and rehearsals, every member focused on a common vision of what the group should embody as a whole, and then also on what every member will perform exclusively.  Syrens of the South treats all of our performers as independent contractors, and I have always encouraged everyone to have their own identity – to perform whenever and with whomever they want.  Each performer creates their own personal vision of what they want to be, and they own and control their personal performance.  Syrens is like a playground on which these amazing folks can show their talent. Thanks to this freedom, performers can feel free to include everything from classic, to comedy, to just plain weird stuff.  I also try to make sure that we have a good variety of acts, including, of course, vaudeville type acts to break up the boobies, making it an interesting evening for everyone!

It’s been long overdue for Atlanta to have an annual burlesque festival, and Southern Fried really seems to be putting the city on the map. SFBF has made it to its third year and seems to be really hitting its stride. What did you personally enjoy the most at year’s festival and can you give us a little preliminary tease about your goals are for next year?

My favorite part each year is the Legends.  I have a passion for burlesque history, hence why I teach a very in-depth class on it, and have been collecting burlesque legend interviews for a very long time now.  My goal is to gather as much information as possible before the information is no longer available.  I was lucky enough to interview Tura Satana before she passed away, and I am so very grateful I was able to do so.

This particular year I was really excited with how many people from the local Atlanta burlesque community became involved.  In between volunteers, performers and even those that just showed up in the audience to come and see us, plus so many regular Syrens of the South performers, members of Hot Toddies Flaming Cabaret, The Imperial OPA Circus, Minette Magnifique and Musee du Coeur showed up both on stage and off.  The hope is that Southern Fried can help show Atlanta a taste of what goes on in the rest of the world, as well as showing the rest of the world the amazing talent we have here in Atlanta and the Southeast.  Many performers don’t travel, so this is a great way to show off all that we have to offer here!

Funding a festival must be challenging. Where does Tease Tuesday fit in?

The goal of Tease Tuesday is to help raise money so we can continue putting on this amazing festival.  It costs around $20,000 to put on each year, and we make less than half of that from ticket sales each year.  The rest of the money comes from our vendors, sponsors, application fees, Syrens of the South shows and out of my pocket.  We need approximately $2,500 to pay off the remaining bills from last year before we can start moving on to next year.  Tease Tuesday events, at 10 acts for only $10, gives us  a nice inexpensive monthly show to help us get the remaining bills paid off and then hopefully help us get the deposit for the hotel next year so we can continue going forward with the festival.

Another thing we love about Tease Tuesday is that it’s going to be monthly. In New York there are multiple monthly and even weekly burlesque events, but Atlanta audiences have had to wait several months between shows by the same troupe or producer. Can you tease our readers about the Syrens first Tease Tuesday and how you plan to keep a monthly show fresh and exciting? Will shows be themed and will you just feature local performers or regional and national performers as well?

Our first Tease Tuesday show was in May as a straight up fundraiser and test show.  We were lucky enough to have the current Southern Fried Queen, Lola le Soleiland two time SFBF winner Bourgeois Betty, Little 5 Points Rockstar Orchestra founder Rob Thompson doing an acoustic set, as well as Talloolah Love, Nipsy Tussle from Knoxville’s Salome Cabaret, Tora Torrid, Persephone Phoenix, Edie Akimbo, Tru Bliss, and my Wednesday night Beginning Burlesque class from Studio Burlesque.  Fritzengreuben was our Master of Ceremonies with Tupelo Honey as our stage kitten.

Our show on Tuesday, June 11, will have some amazing burlesque – Florida’s Tokyo Bell incorporates fire into her stripping, Atlanta favorite Ursula Undress will be there, Jed Drummond will be singing and playing his ukulele, there will be sexy juggling, some sultry singing and many more burlesque dancers.  Remember -10 acts for $10, so it’s a surprise as to who the other performers will be!  The next one on July 16 is so secret I can’t tell you anything other than it’s gonna be awesome!

Katherine Lashe. Photo credit: PinUp Girl Cosmetics.

Studio Burlesque is another milestone for the Atlanta burlesque community. How did that get started and what was your role in its fruition?

I have been teaching burlesque classes for almost six years in borrowed/rented spaces. It was really only a matter of time before someone realized the popularity of burlesque was on the rise and that there should be a studio dedicated to it.  An investor approached multiple members of the Atlanta burlesque community until he found the right fit which happened to be the valedictorian of the very first Syrens of the South graduating class: Ursula Undress.  She and I had a long talk about it after she was approached, and her mission statement was beautiful and her heart was in the right place, so I decided to move my regular classes to Studio Burlesque.  I’ve given a little advice just because of the six years of previous experience, but with the festival taking off, it’s really nice to get to just show up as a teacher rather than organizing all the classes like I used to.  Many of my former students became teachers in the Syrens of the South class series and now teach at Studio Burlesque.  I am very proud of all of them and love that there’s a home for everyone in Atlanta Burlesque to be able to come to learn and to teach.

Are classes just for aspiring burlesque performers? Could any of them be an alternative to a conventional boring exercise class?

The regular weekly classes are for anyone at any level of dance experience.  My Beginning Burlesque class on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. has people who have never danced before and a few seasoned performers, however, they all work great together in learning the new choreography we do each month.  For those who want to try performing, I’ve been offering a performance spot for that class at each of the Tease Tuesdays.  Students get a little firsthand taste of the performance experience and can then decide if it’s something they want to try.  The performance track classes are for those that are interested in becoming burlesque performers or at least getting a solo opportunity on stage.  It consists of three months of classes; we focus on getting them on stage for a student showcase at the end of the three months.  The next performance track series will be starting in July after July 4th.

Debut-Tease is coming up this Saturday. Some people might be reluctant to come to a beginners’ show. Tell us why they’re wrong.

I love student showcases!  There is that excitement of it being their first time, and you can see the nerves, the joy, the fear and the overwhelming feeling of accomplishment when they walk off the stage.  It’s like watching someone be born without all the gross parts!  However, even if you’re not a big fan of watching newbies, myself and many of the other teachers will be performing as in this show, so many professional performers will be gracing the stage as well as all the newbies.  Ursula Undress, Talloolah Love, Fonda Lingue and The Chameleon Queen will be performing, just to name a few!

Are any of your students performing? Any star student in particular to watch out for?

Every student that is debuting on the 15th is part of the Studio Burlesque Performance Track Classe Series so I have gotten to teach them all as I teach the History of Burlesque and Tassels and Gloves classes in that series.  Many of them also come to my Wednesday night class so I’ve gotten to know a few of them fairly well.  If I had to pick one to watch I’m going to have to say A to Zee as he is the only boy making his debut that night.  I’ve seen his work in progress, and I think everyone will have fun with it. Being the only guy, I think he’ll succeed in inspiring other gentlemen to come out and learn the art of boylesque!

Finally, burlesque is just one of your talents. You have a background in theater and were heavily involved with 7 Stages‘ hit DRACULA: THE ROCK OPERA. Anything you’d like to share about that experience and what’s next for that production? Or anything else you’re up to?

Yes, I was honored to be the stage manager for DRACULA: THE ROCK OPERA!  The finished recording of the awesome soundtrack from our show will be finalized and out for sale on CD sometime soon.  We’ll be doing a concert version in February so do keep your eyes peeled for that!  I went to school for musical theater and am now finishing up a degree in technical theater to balance out my onstage and off-stage experience, which is good since I was just the lighting designer for LADY LAY, a great play at 7 Stages Theater that closed out the 2012-13 season.  I’ve also been a stage manager for The Imperial OPA Circus for a few years, and look forward to continuing at 7 Stages in the 2013-14 season.  After Dracula, I really just found my home at 7 Stages as I love everyone who works there and what they are trying to do through art and community building.

Katherine Lashe. Photo credit: PinUp Girl Cosmetics.

I’ve recently been made a member of their fundraising committee and am helping to put together a brunch at Our Way Cafe on June 23.  Brunch will include a concert by the awesome local band Till Someone Loses an Eye, and benefits will go to 7 Stages.  Mark your calendars!  Also, our Syrens of the South 6th year anniversary show will be held on the main stage at 7 Stages on Aug 3.  I’m splitting the profits with the theater to help them with their fundraising goals.  As 7 Stages is now going to be our new home for our big shows, for instance our Anniversary, Tits for Toys for Tots (Nov 23) and our Vixen’s Valentease show, we want to make sure to start our new marriage by giving them a decent dowry!

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

Posted on: Feb 15th, 2013 By:

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

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

ATLRetro: How did you discover burlesque? 

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

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

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

Why the name Darcy Lemmonier?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why is Crown your favorite cocktail?

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

What do you do when you are not Darcy?

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

What else would you like folks to know about you?

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

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

Posted on: Jul 11th, 2012 By:

Nicolette Valdespino

By Torchy Taboo
Contributing Writer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What historical era of design is your personal favorite?

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

How does this inform you as a professional designer?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you see yourself doing five years from now?

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

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

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

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Kool Kat of the Week: Celebrating Cinema, One Tassel at a Time with Vyolet Venom as Minette Magnifique Goes to the Movies

Posted on: May 29th, 2012 By:

Summer may officially still be a few weeks away, but things are sure to get hot and steamy Thursday, May 31, when Atlanta’s youngest and most Paris-inspired burlesque troupe Minette Magnifique presents Minette Magnifique Goes to the Movies at the Warren City Club in Virginia-Highland. So we thought there couldn’t be a more marvelous time to celebrate the rising temperatures by declaring the vivacious and voluptuous Vyolet Venom as Kool Kat of the Week. She sweetly agreed to a sneak preview of what she and the other lovely ladies will be doing once the lights go down and the curtain goes up for this cinema-tacular evening of evocative entertainment.

How did you get started in burlesque and how did you come to join Minette Magnifique?

Being someone whose life has always revolved around the stage, and also someone who has never really been a big fan of wearing clothes. Two years ago when I was approached by our Madame [Kellyn Willey] and Baroness [VonSchmalhausen, aka Shellie Schmalsabout a new burlesque troupe they were creating, I didn’t hesitate for even a moment to accept.

Why the name Vyolet Venom and how does that name embody your personal approach to the art of burlesque?

Oh, man, finding the perfect name… one of the most trying things I’ve ever experienced in my burlesque life! To be honest, and as strange as it may seem, my approach and personal style of performance is what ultimately led to the name Vyolet Venom. I’m not really sure how to explain how or why that makes sense, but when you come to the show I promise you’ll understand. (winks)

Photo credit: Jason Travis.

Minette Magnifique is very young, feisty, sexy and most importantly – classic! Every member of Minette has very different and unique talents to offer, but as a whole, it’s very important to us that we stay true to our original, French, classic burlesque roots. And our greatest strength? We are madly in love with every audience member we’ve ever had.

What can you reveal about this week’s show and why folks should come out?

There will be an overwhelming amount of glitter, feathers, rhinestones and beautiful women taking off their clothes. Need I say more?

Without giving too much away, can you give us a gentle tease about Minette Magnifique Goes to The Movies and what you’ll be doing personally?

A perfect blend of the “art of the tease,” and the “magic of the movies.” And as for my piece personally, it’s got a little something for everyone; the sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies, dickheads – they’ll all adore it.

Photo credit: Jason Travis.

What’s your favorite burlesque memory so far?

July 2010, our very first Hot and Sticky show at Eastside Lounge, I performed to “Pour Some Sugar On Me” by Def Leppard. And after filling an entire venue full of icing, glitter and countless beyond coundless amounts of sprinkles… I truly feel that was the night Vyolet was born.

Who are your biggest burlesque icons and role models and why?

There are so many talented people in the burlesque world it’s hard to say. Immodesty Blaize is my current obsession, but the people I have always looked up to the most are not really a part of the burlesque world – Ann Margaret, Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe and (above all) Barbie! Because of who they are, what they did and the sparkle that just their names hold.

When you’re not doing burlesque, what do you do for work and play?

It’s honestly hard to differentiate between the two.  I love to play, and I refuse to work on or for anything that I don’t love. Plain and simple: You will always find me singing and dancing, laughing about absolutely nothing, eating Skittles and drinking Cherry 7UP.

What question did I not ask that I should have? And what’s the answer?

What question should you have asked… “Should we be afraid?” My answer… “Terrified.” 😉

Minette Magnifique Goes to the Movies has doors at 8 pm with Act I at 9 p.m. and Act II at 10:15 p.m. Regular and VIP tickets are available here

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A Burlesque Guide to Dragon*Con

Posted on: Aug 31st, 2011 By:

Shellie Schmals. Photo credit: Billy Gilbert.

Annual Bettie Page lookalike contests were a sexy staple of early Dragon*Cons. While those were replaced with the Dawn contest in more recent years, that enthusiasm for pin-up and burlesque culture has found new ways of expression in the midst of one of the nation’s biggest pop culture celebration. With so much going on, we asked Minette Magnifique’s beautiful Shellie Schmals, aka Baroness von Schmalhausen, to sort through the schedule to see what some of Atlanta’s burlesque ladies are up to for your Retro entertainment…

By Shellie Schmals
Contributing Blogger

Seriously, I can hardly wait! It’s my first official DragonCon (Sept. 1-5, 2011). Alas, Labor Day is a pretty popular time to get hitched and I’ve found myself out of town every year up to now and unable to attend this glorious tribute to everything pop culture, historical + science fictional. But now watch out world – there’s so much to do + see, especially for those who LOVE and adore everything vintage and retro. These are just a few little things I have on my MUST DO list …

Kessel & ATLRetro's Philip Nutman.

To Learn: If you’re a fan of burlesque and want to learn a background of the undergarments that slip off so gracefully, then Costumes of History is for you!! Enjoy a panel discussion, which includes Atlanta’s MUAH extraordinaire, Andrea Mast-Kessel.
Day + Time: Sun 11:30am-12:30pm
Where: Costume Track, M103-M105 (Marriott Marquis)

To Spend: Now that you know about the bustles, corsets, + petticoats, you’ll want to spend your money with Delicious Boutique. Delicious Boutique specializes in edgy and unique men’s and women’s independent designer lines such as Skingraft, Junker, Wild Card Leather and, of course, their own line of Delicious Corsets! Where: Dealers’ Exhibit Hall, Marquis Ballroom (Marriott Marquis)

Talloolah Love. Photo credit: Mark Turnley.

To Party: Hosted by none other than Voltaire and Atlanta’s own Talloolah Love, The Grand Pirate and Time Traveler’s Ball will be THE event to attend for the distinguished and refined person at Dragon*Con! So grab your first mate and biggest sword.
Day + Time: Sunday 8:30pm – Mon 1:00am
Where: Westin Peachtree Ballroom

To Dress Up: Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, was the first horror host ever to be syndicated nationally. It only makes sense that she’s the host of Dragon*Con’s very first Comic Book Babes Costume Contest. She’s a legend, and if your costume makes the cut – you will be legendary!!
Day + Time: Sat 8:30pm
Where: Centennial Ballroom I-III (Hyatt Regency)

Stormy Knight.

To Watch: Well, ladies, you’ll want to keep your comic book costumes on for Dragon*Con Cabaret. Produced by Stormy Knight, a leading lady in Syrens of the South Productions, this show features a bevy of burlesque honeys from across the nation performing classic-style burlesque acts as your favorite superheroes and villains! Harley Quinn! Poison Ivy! Dark Phoenix! Oh, my!  I’m way over-the-top excited to place a top hat on my head, as Mistress of Ceremonies, Zatanna Zatara!!
Day + Time: Sat 11:30pm – Sun 1:30am
Where: Regency Ballrooms 5 & 6 (Hyatt Regency)

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Kool Kat of the Week: Pin-Up Girl Cosmetics Owner Kellyn Willey Talks Sexy Eye-Liner and Sells Lemonade for a Great Cause

Posted on: Jul 6th, 2011 By:

Kellyn Willey, owner of Pin-Up Girl Cosmetics. All photos courtesy of Kellyn Willey.

Warning. If you drive down Boulevard near Grant Park on Friday between 2 and 9 p.m., Kellyn Willey doesn’t want you to get distracted by the bevy of beauties selling lemonade in front of the red storefront of Pin-Up Girl Cosmetics and wreck the car. Instead, stay safe and beat the heat by stopping a while to sip some refreshing juice and support animal shelters and nonprofit rescue groups.

While Kellyn didn’t found the boutique which aims to help any gal capture the glamorous look of the movie stars of the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s, but since 2009 when she took over as owner, she’s been living a dream come true. She was hired as a make-up artist/shop girl with little responsibility in 2007, but her talents in photography and graphic design helped persuade her boss not just to promote the then-just-23-year-old to manager but eventually to take over the entire business. In just a couple of years and proving that Retro style is timeless and recession-proof, Kellyn moved Pin-Up Girl Cosmetics to Grant Park, tripled the square footage and partnered with Christine Starr Cookus’s Lucky Starr to sell vintage clothes on site as well.

ATLRetro caught up with Kellyn recently to find out more about Ernie’s Lemonade Stand and what’s new with Pin-Up Girl Cosmetics, as well as get a few make-up tips and keep up with her upcoming misadventures in her alter-ego as Madame Willey of burlesque troupe Minette Magnifique.

What’s Ernie’s Lemonade Stand and why should ATLRetro readers be sure to drop by on Friday?

Ernie’s Lemonade Stand is the brainchild of myself, Jillian Udelson and Liz Henderson—two major advocates for rescuing animals on a local and global scale. I was just speaking with them a few weeks ago at a photo shoot I was doing with Jillian and Liz’s pit [bull], Dash, about how I have an annual lemonade stand, complete with genuine pin-up girls as servers, in front of my shop to bring in extra business. We just thought giving it an actual cause to support was an exciting way to bring new attention to it.

Is that also a good time to take a look around the shop? Anything new you’d like us to notice?

Absolutely, my newest vendor, Lucky Starr, who sells incredible vintage apparel for both men and women at unbeatable prices is having her huge SUMMER BLOWOUT SALE! It’s 25% OFF everything she has and we will also be doing the same in my shop with various vintage-inspired corsets size S-XXL, stockings, ruffle panties, hair accessories, jewelry and even cosmetics!

How’s it going having Lucky Starr as a partner? You’ve been together now for six months, rights?

I <3 Christine, owner of Lucky Starr! I can’t imagine having my business without her. She adds a flavor of authenticity to my boutique which truly gives our customers that feeling of being swept away to Paris and stumbling into a tucked away, chic yet naughty little boutique with everything you’ve been looking for as a fashionable woman, since you were a young girl.

How did you first get interested in glamorous make-up and hair? Is it a love that goes back to childhood dress-up or did someone inspire you?

My mother really. She is still the most glamorous woman I know and she takes such amazing care of herself. She taught me that you CAN have it all as a woman. You can have a career, family and be beautiful all at the same time. Her biggest secret to her success was waking up early. She always taught me to wake up early—like two to four hours earlier than wherever you have to be first in the morning—and take care of YOURSELF FIRST! Whether it’s doing your hair, makeup, working out, eating a balanced breakfast, meditating or all the above. The morning time is the best time for “me-time”.

 

 

 

Kellyn in her Madame Willey persona poses with some members of Minette Magnifique.

 

 

 

Does Pin-Up Girl Cosmetics only do appointments or are walk-ins welcome, and about how much does it cost to have a makeover?

We mainly are by appointment only, but we accept walk-ins for all beauty services. The one and only PinUpGirl! Makeover costs $85 and includes full vintage hair styling, makeup, brow sculpting, false lashes and a spa quality skin prep. During the warmer months, we also apply a flexible sealant spray to your makeup after it’s completed to hold it in place for hours and hours against perspiration, humidity and smudging at no extra charge.

What’s the most fun makeover you’ve done and why?

I love giving makeovers to people who never have the opportunity to treat themselves. I guess one of my more fun makeovers was a client in her 60s who was a teacher, a breast cancer survivor and had been growing her hair back from the numerous chemotherapy treatments. She just came out radiant, and her smile blossomed the second I got her on set. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing clients enjoying to look in the mirror at themselves and simply smile.

Who are your clients—burlesque queens, theater performers or just ordinary women who want a little glamour in their lives? Do you have a typical client?

All the above. Our most popular client, on average, is in their mid-30s and looking to glam up their life with something more unique and tailored to their personality. Unlike many other beauty bars, my staff and I really get to know our client, even if they are only with us for a few minutes. We give the client what they are looking and make them feel self-assured.

Who’s your favorite vintage pin-up girl and why?

The incomparable Rita Hayworth. She knew how to turn it on, and she made it all look so easy. She could either be soft and innocent with her wide eyes and bright smile making you feel so joyful and carefree like in her musical, COVER GIRL, with Gene Kelly. Or she can smolder and sizzle with her luscious curves and quick yet perfectly timed hair flips in GILDA. She really teaches us women how fun it is to be a woman, and when you are having fun, you are confident and confidence is so very sexy!

What’s the biggest make-up mistake women make when trying for a vintage look and how can you correct it?

The cursed black cat eye. The look that we see Dita wear as her signature style. So many woman don’t find the right type of liner or the curve of the wing off the eye lid is too curvy or large. My best trick to fixing this common mistake is using a felt-tip liquid eye liner. My favorite liner for the perfect cat eye is by NYX Cosmetics called “Super FAT Eye Marker” sold at ULTA. It’s around $6 and HUGE and takes me less than 30 seconds for the perfect cat eye. If you don’t like a fat line or have smaller eyes, this product also comes in a “skinny” marker. It’s the BEST felt marker liner I’ve ever used and lasts all day, even in the heat. It’s so gentle that I can even line the bottom lash-line of my eyes. It’s instant sex appeal.

Performing with Minette Magnifique.

We have a few private events this month, and next Saturday, July 16, Miss Darcy Lemmonier and Luna Lynxx are performing in the Shakespeare Follies at 7 Stages. It’s going to be a great show and the girls have some new pieces to share. Many more shows and appearances to come in the fall.

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This Week in Retro Atlanta, June 20-26, 2011

Posted on: Jun 20th, 2011 By:

Monday June 20

Swing to Joe Gransden, trumpet player extraordinaire, and his 16-piece orchestra during Big Band Night at Cafe 290 on the first and third Monday of every month. 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 21

Grab your horn and head to Twain’s in Decatur for a Joe Gransden jazz jam session starting at 9 PM. Fedora Blues is at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack. 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 22

It’s an all-star night of jazz and swing at the Star Bar with Nat King Coal Miners, a dynamic new jazz trio made up of three seasoned musicians, February ATLRetro Kool Kat Spike Fullerton (Ghost Riders Car Club) on guitar, Matt Wauchope (Blair Crimmins & the Hookers) on piano and blues man Dave Roth (Burnt Bacon). Read more about them in a sneak preview with Spike Fullerton posting soon.

Chris Isaak may not have that perfect pompadour anymore but you can see him still shaking up alt-rock with that modern Sinatra vibe tonight at in the Classic Chastain series. 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” Dudeckblues 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 23

Expect “shimmies, shakes, glitter, glamour and, of course, tassels” as the burlesque beauties of Minette Magnifique take to the stage tonight in a new show titled Prohibition Exhibition *Making the Illicit Explict* at The Warren City Club. Read the ATLRetro Kool Kat profile of Shellie Schmals, aka Baroness VONSchmalhausen here.

In Conversations with Contemporary Artists: Radcliffe Bailey, the world-renowned artist discusses his work with diverse media in the new exhibition MEMORY AS MEDICINE, which opens Sun. June 26 and runs through Sept. 11 at High Museum of Art. Take a tour with the provocative artist in this week’s Kool Kat here. Tickets to the talk at the Woodruff Arts Center’s Rich Auditorium are free but limited to two per person, and advance reservations are recommended at (404) 733-5000.

Tongo Hiti

Classic horror (James Whale’s 1931 FRANKENSTEIN featuring Boris Karloff vs Hitchcock’s 1963 THE BIRDS) is the theme for viewer’s choice night 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. Alt-country act McNary plays Kathmandu Kitchen & Grill (formerly Pho Truc) in Clarkston. All shows are no cover charge, no smoking and all ages. Party ‘70s style with DJ Romeo Cologne at Aurum LoungeBreeze Kingsand Chickenshack bring on the blues respectively at Northside Tavern and Fat Matt’s Rib Shack.Bluegrass Thursday at Red Light Cafe features Curtis Jones & Friends.

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Weekend Update, Feb. 17-20, 2011

Posted on: Feb 17th, 2011 By:

The weekend is so close you can almost taste it.  As usual, ATLRetro reminds you about what’s happening, including a new section at the end with ongoing events such as theater performances and exhibitions.

Thursday Feb. 17

Celebrate one of the most dynamic decades in pop music history when LIBBY’S AT THE EXPRESS PRESENTS THOSE FABULOUS FIFTIES, featuring songs made famous by Nat “King” Cole, Rosemary Clooney, The Mills Brothers, Buddy Holly, Hank Williams Sr., and the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elvis Presley. The variety show stars local chanteuses Lisa PaigeWendy Melkonian and Libby Whittemore, with musical arrangements by Robert Strickland, tonight through Sunday Feb. 20 at 7:30 PM at Actor’s Express in west Midtown.

Ghost Riders Car Club celebrates Vietnamese New Year with classic ’50s honkytonk and rockabilly every Thursday in February at Pho Truc in Clarkston. 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. The Joe Gransden Trio is at Atmosphere from 7-10 p.m. And Breeze Kings play the blues at Northside Tavern.

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This Week in Retro Atlanta, Feb. 15-20, 2011

Posted on: Feb 14th, 2011 By:

OK, lovers, it’s back to the grind. It’s too late to check out ATLRetro’s top 3 picks for Valentine’s night, so let’s get right to the rest of the week.

Tuesday Feb. 15

Joe Gransden is back at Twain’s in Decatur for a jazz jam session starting at 9 PM. Or head back in time and over there to A NOVEMBER DAY: A WAR STORY, a timeless fable about friendship set against the backdrop of World War I, presented today by Thingumajig Theatre of West Yorskshire, England, today through Sun. at The Center for Puppetry Arts. Performers use hand, rod and shadow puppets, live music and a transforming set to tell the tale of a British soldier in WWI and his unexpected friendship with a stray dog. Suitable for ages 10 and up, with a teen and adult workshop on Sat. Feb. 19.

Wednesday Feb. 16

THE RED BALLOON takes flight at Theatre du Reve in 7 Stages’ Backstage Theater from Feb. 16-27. The stage adaptation uses puppetry and live original music to bring to life the classic 1956 French movie about a boy who befriends a shiny red balloon. Suitable for ages 4 and up.

Get ready to rumba, cha-cha and jitterbug at the weekly Swing Night at The Glenwood. Catch Joe Gransden every Wednesday night at 8:30 PM at Jerry Farber’s Side Door. Alice Cooper meets Kiss Southern-fried in Red Rocket Deluxe, headlining at Star Bar. Dance to ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s hits during Retro in the Metro Wednesdays presented by Godiva Vodka, at Pub 71 in Brookhaven, starting at 8 PM.

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ATLRetro Weekend Update, Feb. 10-13, 2011

Posted on: Feb 10th, 2011 By:

Vampires, Vietnamese food & rockabilly, va-va-voom and vintage soul at the Star Bar, Valentine’s weekend promises plenty to do for lovers and anti-lovers…

Thursday Feb. 10

The Atlanta Ballet put the vampire into Valentine’s a few years ago with its seductive performance of DRACULA. Now it’s the Little 5 Points Rockstar Orchestra’s turn to go blood red with HAUS VON DRACUL, PART 1, an original rock opera by veterans of Atlanta’s underground music scene, opening tonight at 7 Stages Theatre in Little 5 Points and playing through Sun. Feb. 13. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out ATLRetro’s preview with Chris Love, aka Jonathan Harker here.

Also, Ghost Riders Car Club celebrates Vietnamese New Year with classic ’50s honkytonk and rockabilly every Thursday in February at Pho Truc in Clarkston. For a taste, see last week’s KOOL KAT OF THE WEEK with guitarist Spike Fullerton. Or 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.

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