Kool Kat of the Week: Ooh-la-Love! Talloolah Love Embraces Her Inner Geek Girl Power and Finds It Gloriously Glamorous at Dragoncon 2013

Posted on: Aug 27th, 2013 By:

Hair, makeup and photography by Pin Up Girl Cosmetics.

By Gretchen Jacobsen
Contributing Writer

Burlesque and pin-up culture have been a part of Dragoncon back to the Bettie Page Contests of the 1990s. But this week’s Kool Kat, Talloolah Love, is taking it to another level as producer of DragonCon Burlesque, A Glamour Geek Revue and other titillating events throughout the weekend.

Talloolah has long been a force in Atlanta’s burlesque revival, cabaret and Retro scenes. Known across the United States and even internationally, for her burlesque performances, the “Sweetest T in the South” is an instructor at the newly opened Atlanta School of Burlesque. She is also one of the founders of the retro arts organization, The Artifice Club, known for splendid steampunk events extraordinaire including Mechanical Masquerade: The Retropolis, Sunday Aug. 31 at 8:30 p.m. at the Westin Peachtree Plaza, as well as bringing the growing electro-swing movement to Atlanta.

The lovely Ms. Love somehow managed to find time out of her crazy schedule this week to talk to ATLRetro and share a bit about her fascinating career, her perspective on the burlesque revival today, and how she’ll be entertaining us this weekend at Dragoncon. We couldn’t be happier!

ATLRetro:What drew you to burlesque?

Talloolah Love: I grew up watching musicals, blue comedy, Carol Burnett and THE MUPPET SHOW.  My idols were Betty Grable, Rosemary Clooney, Mae West and, of course, Marilyn Monroe. But it all started with belly dancing. I had taken classes in Colorado, but when I moved here, I found the community difficult to move around in as a newcomer. Burlesque embraced me with both arms, and I haven’t looked back since.

Who inspires you as a performer?

Besides the aforementioned stars of yesteryear, my modern inspirations are Amber Ray, Immodesty Blaize and Russell Bruner [Editor’s note: read our Kool Kat on Russell, the 2012 King of Burlesque here]  All three are ferocious on stage. They leave indelible marks of inspiration on my soul when I watch them. Amber and Immodesty both for their fierce stage presence and mind-blowing costumes. Russell for his incredible timing, charisma and musicality. All of them have a devotion to their craft that really takes my breath away.

What is your philosophy as a performer?

To me, it doesn’t matter what style of burlesque you do. It doesn’t matter what size, shape, color, sex or race you are. As long as what you bring to the stage is polished, cared for, speaks from the heart, and makes you happy to do it, I call it burlesque.

Hair, makeup and photography by Pin Up Girl Cosmetics.

Does it look like they are having fun? Does it look polished? Are you having fun watching them? Burlesque is so subjective. What I love about it is you cannot like that first act, but the second one lives with you for years. All you have to do is wait five minutes, and the channel gets switched to something new and different. You may love it, you may hate it, but wait till you see what’s going on in the next five minutes. Variety is the spice of life, you know?

Do you think burlesque is “girl power”?

I do. I grew up being told I wasn’t right for one part or the next. Burlesque gives me the power to say, “Oh yeah? Well, I think I was stellar for that show, so I am going to do it and there’s no one who can tell me I can’t.” You have to have some brass balls to get up on stage and own everything you do in spite of the fact that not everyone will love you. Burlesque has given me the ability to say, “Well, I hope some of you liked my form of art.” It’s how I express myself. When I am on stage, or even rehearsing a number in my unitard, I feel empowered because I make the decisions on my hair, my costume, song, choreography, absolutely everything. Sure I want opinions on things, but I have the final say on what goes on stage. There’s something exhilarating and very empowering about that.

You’re the one of the founders of The Artifice Club. What is the club all about?

The Artifice Club is a group that DJ Doctor Q and I founded together. It’s a coalition of artists who support artists. Besides my need for passion in one’s art, I believe in collaboration of minds. In the past, the Club did this by doing shows and displays of peoples’ art in hopes for exposure. Now, it is so much more than that. It is a not-for-profit organization that facilitates grants, helps promote, donates back to the community, and holds fundraisers to assist artists in keeping their mind on their creations rather than how they are going to pay for their space, or for a trip to the next festival to show their wares.  It is now an organization with a board of directors and will be doing more good on a bigger scale for anyone who applies to the guidelines of the club.

What events are you involved in at Dragoncon? 

Thursday Aug. 29, 8:30 p.m. at the Pulse Lounge in the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, I will be strutting out in my bunny ears with the ladies at The Annual Bunny Hutch. This isn’t my event, but I am very excited about it.

Hair, makeup and photography by Pin Up Girl Cosmetics.

Friday Aug. 30 8:30 p.m. The Sheraton Atlanta pool will be the location for the Second Annual Pin-ups by the Pool Party. Presiding over the show will be the returning and illustrious New Orleans Jon (see his recent Kool Kat profile here). There will be a pin-up competition and a mermaid competition, so please come see and be seen. I expect it to be quite a spectacle.

Saturday Aug. 31 11:59 p.m. in the Regency Ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta is DragonCon Burlesque, a Glamor Geek Revue. This is the second year I have been in charge of the show, and I couldn’t be more elated! This year has some really out-of-the-park acts. For example, fresh off his world tour the KING of Steampunk Funk, Montague Jacques Fromage, will be the Master of Ceremonies weaving a story of intrigue and sexy interludes throughout the entire show, along with the 2013 Queen of the Southern Fried Burlesque Festival, Lola Lesoleil, and other prestigious award-winning performers. This promises to be the show not to miss!

What is unique about Atlanta’s burlesque scene?

I feel like the scene has changed so much in the past ten years. When I first started out, Atlanta was unique because the troupes were really the only way anyone could perform regularly, and there really wasn’t a lot of cross-pollination.  Each troupe did what they did and that was it. It’s so different now. We all work together, and the independents seem to outnumber the troupe members. Personally, I think that is a great thing. It means a patron can go to a show and really not know who they are going to see. I think that a golden age in Atlanta Burlesque really is on the horizon thanks to Ursula Undress and the efforts being made with The Atlanta Burlesque Alliance and The Atlanta School of Burlesque. Plus, with social events like my Atlanta Burlesque and Cabaret Society and Sadie HawkinsCougar Crawl, we all have a real good time with each other. Kind of like a burlesque SEX IN THE CITY, only we get high on E-6000 rather than sip cosmos together.

What do you think about Atlanta being named the nerdiest city in America?

Oh, I love it. It’s appropriate too. DragonCon is huge, and it’s run privately for geeks by geeks. Besides DCon, Atlanta plays host to at least five other major fan fueled conventions. Add to that the vast LARPing communities and bookstores/comic book shops out here, then throw in that Cartoon Network is deep in the heart of Atlanta’s arteries, and you have a cultural cornucopia of Nerd-dom! I think it’s great.

What are you working on for the future?

I am always looking for what’s next. Fascination was an [electro-swing] event the good DoctorQ and I worked on together this past year, and I really loved the format. The venue was just an issue. Venues tend to be the big issue when it comes to producing big shows. My hope is that we find the RIGHT venue and that we start doing one big bang-out show – a little of the Fascination format with a few other big ideas I have cooking on the back-burner. Otherwise, I plan to do a Midwest tour next year. It’s still in the planning stages, but once it gets off the ground, you can bet I am going to social network the bajeezus out of it!

Who would you like to perform for or with?

I started to list them all out, but that would take all day. I want to perform with everybody. Then perform with them again because once is never enough!

Hair, makeup and photography by Pin Up Girl Cosmetics.

Where can we see you next?

After Dragoncon, I am going on a much deserved vacation, but I will be back at the beginning of October at The Shelter. I am going to be shaking it up as an airship pirate for this new mash-up music club night called Bootie Atlanta on October 5 – $5 admission before 11 and $10 after that.

Anything you’d like to add?

If you are interested in getting into burlesque, I have a few suggestions for you. If you already have an act and just need a venue to perform it in, I suggest auditioning. There are  a lot of troupes and even a production company in Atlanta where you can audition, and then, you’re there!  The best way to get involved in the Atlanta Burlesque community is to come out to Atlanta Burlesque and Cabaret Society meetings at The Elliott Street Pub in Atlanta. We meet the first Thursday of the month at 8 p.m., we go till 10, and at these meetings, you will meet other burlesque performers, photographers and fans of the local scene, you may even get to catch an act on the stage down there for a workshop on new and established performers. It’s a great way to market yourself. Speaking of marketing yourself, you will want to do your research and attend burlesque shows, figure out who the important people are and make sure you let them know you are serious. All of the troupes are very different and have a lot to offer the right person if they fit into their dynamic. If you don’t like how one show runs, that’s ok, check out another troupe!

If you do not have an act, and just really want to be involved, then I suggest classes at The Atlanta School of Burlesque. Check out their teaching schedule and come to a few classes. There’s a fundamentals class for the very very basic, and then beginning choreography classes. I recommend that you look at videos of the different teachers. They are also active performers in the scene; go catch them out at a show. I guarantee you that going up to a teacher after they have performed to tell them that you will be taking a class from them in the near future is better than bringing an apple to them any day!

 

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Really Retro: STEAMPUNK BIBLE Co-Author S.J. Chambers Muses on the Appeal of Alt-History & A Paranormal Fantasy at This Saturday’s Mechanical Masquerade

Posted on: Nov 10th, 2011 By:

When The Artifice Club presents the 2nd annual Mechanical Masquerade: A Paranormal Fantasy this Saturday Nov. 12 at Blue Mark Studios, a renovated 110-year-old church, they couldn’t have picked a better judge for their ghost story contest than S. J. Chambers, co-author with Jeff VanderMeer of the critically acclaimed THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE (published by Abrams Image this spring). S.J., you see, suffers from Poepathy, a dread affliction whose symptoms include “daydreaming…reveries that include black birds, scents of an unseen censor or aberrant alliterative applications.”  She contracted it, she says mournfully (or enthusiastically, depending on your point of view), from excessive contact with the works of  seminal American horror author, Edgar Allan Poe, on whose works she has penned a frightful quantity of essays and journalistic works.

Lately though, S.J.’s journalistic adventures have sailed towards Steampunk, a fast-growing international movement whose participants dream of an alternate world powered by steam technology and resplendent with airships, corsets, goggles, mad scientists and other fantastical wonders of a Jules Verne-ian nature. Lavishly illustrated, THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE is the first definitive guide to the wildly, weirdly imaginative literature, art and costuming of the subculture, which has a vibrant chapter here in Atlanta. A Tallahassee resident (she also treated us to the Cute and Creepy art exhibit review here), SJ also will be signing that esteemed tome at the Mechanical Masquerade, The Artifice Club’s most elaborate event yet—planned to play out like a story itself in which a supernatural-themed masquerade ball is staged on a magical rift accidentally created by one infamous Montague Jacques Fromage whle experimenting with a curious invention in service of her majesty Queen Victoria. And yes, masks are not just encouraged but required (come unfashionably without one, and we’re told you may be asked to leave or to purchase one from the lovely Dread Sisters). The fantastical festivities start with afternoon seminars on topics such as Steampunk Burlesque (see this week’s Kool Kat feature on Indigo Blue here). Then the main event runs from 5 p.m. to way past midnight and features a bazaar, libations, costume contest and performances by an eclectic ensemble of talent including the Mezmer SocietyDoc Volz and his Steampunk TrunkThe Ghosts ProjectVauxhall Garden Variety Players and the Fantasia de Mode Fashion Show presented by The Steampunk Chronicle.

ATLRETRO asked S.J. to demystify steampunk for the uninitiated, tell us what she learned about steampunk abroad on her recent book tour to England and France, and tease us with a sneak peek into her role in the Paranormal Fantasy. She not only kindly obliged, but then some…

What’s the origin story behind THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE (Abrams Image) and how you personally became involved? 

It did some editorial work for Ann and Jeff VanderMeer with [surrealist flash-fiction anthology] LAST DRINK BIRD HEAD and some other miscellaneous projects, so my role with THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE began as an editorial assistant. However, Jeff loved what I was doing, and saw how much I was getting into the project, that he asked me to contribute to the writing. One thing lead to another and we were co-authors. I can’t say enough what a great experience it has been to work side-by-side with Jeff. He’s full of wisdom and one of the best writers alive, imho.

Why are you excited to be attending THE MECHANICAL MASQUERADE: A PARANORMAL FANTASY and what will you be up to while you’re here?

There are several reasons why I am excited about this event.  First, I have an extreme case of Dance Party deficiency, so I can’t wait for DJ Doctor Q to start spinning at midnight. Second, I’m excited about wearing a costume, which I don’t usually do.  The clothes I wore on tour are pretty much what I wear normally, even the more Pre-Raphaeliteish pieces, so this is my first true sojourn into Steampunk chic. Not sure how great it’ll be, as everything I touch seems to turn Regency, but it should be fun.

But vanity aside, what I am REALLY excited about is the ghost story contest that I am judging. From 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., I am challenging guests of The Mechanical Masquerade to scare me! Contestants will have five minutes to spin a paranormal yarn—doesn’t have to be gruesome horror, but must have something of the unexplainable and strange.  If participants are reading this, I’ll give them a clue as to what endears me most.  I love stories—and this goes for any type of story really—that strike me emotionally. So, if you make me split my petticoat with laughter, or drown my veil in tears, you’ll get a lot of bonus points. Being the Poepathist that I am, some of my favorite tales involve haunted houses and dead lovers, and the more monsters the merrier.

In any case, we will have lots of prizes for winners, including a first prize of signed copies of THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE and Ann and Jeff VanderMeer’s wonderful, new anthology THACKERY T.LAMBSHEAD’S CABINET OF CURIOSITIES, which I have a sundry tale in, and a $25 gift certificate to Octane Coffee.  Not bad for five minutes.  If you don’t want to vie for a copy of THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE via the competition, they will be available for purchase and signing throughout the night.

The Mezmer Society. Photo credit: Farad Rezei of Rakadu.

THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE seems to be thriving in a time when books and authors in general are having a tough time. You even had a whirlwind signing tour which took you through New England and to England and France. What’s the secret to its success and why is steampunk so popular right now? 

I would say publishing is in a state of transition right now, thanks to e-publishing, and in trying to figure out what that means in the grand scheme of things, on top of the recession, authors and books are having to work double-time to stay afloat. I definitely know that I, Jeff, our editor Caitlin Kenney, our publicist Amy Franklin, and the wonderful people at Abrams, as well as our contributors, believed very strongly and worked really hard on promoting this book. So, I attribute a lot of the success we’ve had to our collective sweat and tears.

The fact that, in this burgeoning world of two-dimensional and grey e-books, the THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE is very tactile and visually pleasing hasn’t hurt. This is a book with a lot of textual as well as visual content, and it invites people to peruse it in both ways, which really appeals to readers.  I think this attraction ultimately ties into the same technological fatigue that is making the Steampunk spirit very resonant: the world is tired of being spoon-fed culture and knowledge. We need Steampunk in our lives because it promotes imagination and ambition, it promotes awareness of how things work and also sustainability. People think of Steampunk as a fashion fad or a science fiction trend, but it is an umbrella term for a lot of reactionary and revolutionary philosophies on modern life, which we try to touch on in the book.

Speaking of England and France. You even went to a steampunk convention over there, didn’t you? How do English and French steampunks or steampunk fans differ from the American variety?

While I did an event in London, and an event in Paris, I am afraid I didn’t make it to the Weekend at the Asylum in Lincoln.  Towards the end of planning the Europe Tour, an assignment in Paris came up, so I had to take those few extra days to make sure I had time to work on it.  I was sorry to miss it, as I had just met Jema Hewitt and Kit Cox who were going, and I would have loved to spend more time with them, as well as meet some of the U.K. Steampunk luminaries like John Naylor and Professor Elemental.

The differences between U.K., French and U. S. Steampunk are subtle. U.K. tends to be more Victorian-oriented because that’s where she reigned and that’s their direct history.  However, I think we over here in the states misunderstand U.K. Steampunk as nostalgists ignoring skeletons in the Empire closet, and I found that to not be true. At the Last Tuesday Society event, there was a lot of interest in multicultural Steampunk, and I think that dialogue is just waiting to burst through the gates there.  French Steampunk was very interesting because a lot of its participants are interested in CosPlay, but there aren’t really any venues for that. The fine folks of French Steampunk, like Morgan Guery and Franck Gouraud are trying to promote conventions around France, and I think that will contribute to a very strong and cohesive scene there. Also, just like U.K. Steampunk operates within their history, so do the French Steampunks.  Queen Victoria and the Empire is irrelevant, and while we had our Civil War, they were dealing with their own strife with the Paris Commune and the reign of Napeoleon III. It has led to a lot of beautiful and innovative art like Sam van Olffen, Futuravapeur and Anxiogene.

The “Sultan’s Elephant” at The Machines of the Isle of Nantes exhibit, Nantes, France. Photographed in 2009 by Yann Langeard - Le Chatrou Electrique.

What makes a literary work, piece of art, costume steampunk at the most basic level and do goggles have to be involved?

Ha! No goggles do not need to be involved, nor necessarily cogs, nor gears. Tor editor Liz Gorinsky explained Steampunk best when she compared it to porn—“I know it when I see it”—which perfectly encapsulate the difficulties of defining this aesthetic. I know I should have an elevator pitch-like answer for this, but the real answer is too complex.  It is why we wrote a book about it.

As just flipping through the book will show, there are a lot of characteristics that bind artists together under the umbrella Steampunk—like the iconic goggles, a retro ambiance, gears, cogs, rayguns, hoop skirts, leather corsets, mecha animals, steel and steam—but it is also an ever-changing and evolving aesthetic that can feature a lot of versatile and disparate characteristics informed by cultural history, and even era. What was once a retro-futurist movement that looked only as far back as the 19th century has participants looking back even further, evaluating our present on all aspects of past failures and successes. The Steampunk of today will not be the Steampunk of tomorrow.

To the uninitiated person who wants to experience steampunk, what three authors could they read and get a good sense of what it’s all about?

Jules Verne, Cherie Priestand Scott Westerfield. I know I am cheating with Jules Verne, but I feel like if you don’t understand Verne’s world, you are missing a key part of Steampunk history and its context. Also, since I’ve already cheated once, it won’t hurt to cheat again. I would say Steampunk newcomers would find a lot of guidance in Ann and Jeff VanderMeer’s two STEAMPUNK anthologies, as they do a wonderful job of displaying the movement’s full literary spectrum.

What was your favorite part about researching THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE?

Getting to talk with artists, makers and writers about their craft, and finding contemporary work that I really identify with.  The past 10 years of my life can be characterized as observing Remodernism, but not quite understanding where I fit in with it. THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE changed that for me.

S.J. Chambers.

What did you learn about steampunk that surprised you the most?

That most people working within the Steampunk aesthetic, icons like Jake von Slatt and Libby Bulloff, did not begin doing so consciously. Steampunk adopted them. To me, the fact that all of these disparate figures were unknowingly working within a common aesthetic attests more to the aesthetic’s importance. It’s a zeitgeist, not a fad.

The art direction on the book was stunning. Were you involved with that part or what can you tell us about that side of the book’s development?

Jeff and I were very much involved with the art direction. Jeff had the wonderful idea of the Jules Verne Hetzel cover, and Abram’s designer Galen Smith did a wonderful job of that.  We were responsible for gathering the images, and organizing them with the text.  The nice nuances that really tied it all together, like the margins, the font and chapter covers were all Galen Smith’s genius.

How’s the popularity affecting you personally and your career? Do you have any time left for Poe, and where else can we read your work?

This has been one of the most stimulating and positive experiences in my writing life.  There are numerous outcomes that I am thankful for, including getting to go on tour and meet people that have quickly become kindred spirits and friends. I have been busier than I am accustomed too, but it has been a good busy, and I’ve been able to begin a few projects that I hope will really pick up steam next year. One of them does involve Poe, but on that for nonce, I’ll say nothing more.

I try to keep my blog The Flightless Philosopher updated, but lately my Twitter [@selena_jo] has become a more immediate marquee for my whereabouts and publications.  You can also find other work in the wonderful and very curious THACKERY T. LAMBSHEAD’S CABINET OF CURIOSITIES, in which I adapted my “Poe-Bug” essay into a short story, and I’ve been reviewing a lot lately for Bookslut.

Tell me more about THE STEAMPUNK BIBLE, VOLUME 2.0?

Volume 2.0 is our sister site that has been running extra content from the book, like raw interviews, dispatches and exclusive interviews.  There is a lot in our archives, and I had to construct an automaton, Mecha Underwood, to help me manage and man the helm of this beastly webship. Poor Mecha! She really has it hard since I built her with a Lachrymose 5000 chip, and seeing Jeff and I gallivant around the states last summer has made her a bit morose.  She yearns for sand in her gears, and forgets to post sometimes, but I have found that a gauntlet of oil and some Keats poems rolled into her printing case cheers her right up.

Finally, what question has nobody asked you yet which you wish they had? And what’s the answer?

Is Spongebob Steampunk taking it too far?  [The answer is] I don’t know. It would depend on whether the movie version incorporating Spongebob Steampunk, Geary Gary and Colossal Squidward in a battle against Corporate Nemo’s Krabby Patty takeover will successfully capture the Steampunk Spirit. Can’t be worse than THE THREE MUSKETEERS (2011), but you never know.

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