Bristol's Badass Burlesque Show
It cannot have escaped your notice, given the CoochieCrunch October make-over and no doubt masses of events going on wherever you live, that it was recently Halloween. A time when people can let loose their alter ego’s with no fear of repercussion. They can spend a weekend or two dressed up in whatever drag (figurative or literal) they desire and just go nuts!
But what about those of us who spend a good portion of our lives already living as their alter-egos? Halloween is usually a time where we are completely absorbed into those personas, and we spend up to two weeks solid in that head space, in those costumes and crunching those coochies. But what about our alter ego’s alter ego? The real people behind the costumes, the ones that come back to the fore once the Halloween schedule has come to an end? What better time to explore these other personas?
Based upon my own experiences and friends and colleagues within the burlesque world, it is clear that burlesque attracts creative people, and most of us need another job alongside our burlesque work, whether those jobs happen to be creative or just to make ends meet. Amongst the local performers of my acquaintance we count at least two piercers, one beautician, several admin folk, fulltime mums, professional dancers, a couple of nurses, a hairdresser, a vintage shop owner and at least one writer.
I’m the writer. Tiger Tiger is a burlesque performer and show promoter, but L.E. Turner works part time in an office and part time as a writer. I’ve published a novel with an independent publisher, I write for websites, and I was recently commissioned to write an article for Burlesque Bible Magazine, and hope to continue to work with them in the future. Ironically, whilst many people in my life (old friends, co-workers and even family) don’t know much, if anything, about Tiger, many of my friends and colleagues in the burlesque world have no idea about my writing, mostly because it’s just not really a subject that comes up. When we see each other we are those burlesque personas, our other lives don’t always get a look in.
For many of us, over time, our alter ego or burlesque persona becomes more and more dominant and informs much more of our lives. There are some performers, especially those who perform full time, whose persona is actually them. Local examples include Coochie Crunch’s Tuesday Laveau and the wonderful Missy Malone, who pretty much are wholly that persona, or conversely you could say that they don’t really have a persona at all. Or is it that, over time, they have been consumed and flip flopped and the personas have swapped places! The mind boggles!
When I first began performing I referred to Tiger as my evil twin, in fact I still did up until recently when it struck me that she no longer was. I have never lacked in confidence, but Tiger had the kind of swagger I didn’t have in real life. I’ve always had “balls” (metaphorical), but Tiger came with a completely different set of her own that she used in a different way (this metaphor is getting a bit weird isn’t it… crashing on…). The truth is, despite never lacking in these things Tiger had more and wasn’t afraid to use it. I have loved being her at shows and, and when occasion called for it, saying it as it is. But in the last year, I have started to realise how much of Tiger has bled into my real life. I’m taking risks I might not have done (giving up full time work to concentrate more on writing and performing), I’ve had conversations I might not have done, and I’ve stood my ground where I might not have done. All this is tempered with the diplomacy and charm inherited from L.E. Turner, and together they are making a great team!
So is Tiger still my evil twin? No, in reality she never was. She was always me, but a kind of armoured me I could slip on when needed – a super powered me, with enhanced wit and charm, a different kind of confidence and much less clothing. And now she’s more me than she was, she’s rubbed off on the “real” me as we’ve been spending so much time together. Looking back, Tiger has always been part of me and burlesque gave me a way to bring that side of me to the fore and now integrate it with my usual self.
Many of you may have routines and costumes that have totally been informed by interests in your “real” life. All of mine hark to something I have a deep interest in, whether it be 70’s Hawaii-fever (Too Hot To Hula), Sci-fi (Go Ape!), literature (Weyward Sister) or Ancient History (Medea). Velveteen Hussey performs a Clockwork Orange act with the same passion she has for the cult movie, and Ally Katte’s interest in Mexico led to the creation of her Tijuana Mama routine! We’re all thankful that these performers have let their real life interests bleed into their performance personas.
But how often do you consider that the process is not one way? That extra confidence you have, the spring in your step lasting a whole week after a really great show… you all know what I’m talking about. And more! My novel may be about a fate-ridden bad ass creature of the night, a gothic horror featuring werewolves and vampires (not the infantile sparkling kind, the scary kill you dead kind), rather than burlesquers – but the essence of Tiger is in there. She’s in everything I do now.
So where is the line? And how can we make sure we keep blurring it!
Tiger Tiger (and then some!).