A Burlesque Mother’s Day Special

Stage Door Johnny Bazuka Joe presents a burlesque Mother’s Day special…

“My mother had a great deal of trouble with me… but I think she enjoyed it.”

Mark Twain

In honour of Mother’s Day (at least in the US), I’d like to pay tribute to all the women out there who shot you out of their womb into a giant pile of glitter, fed you a healthy diet of breast milk and, much later, booze, and proudly raised a damn fine stripper!

Rearing a child isn’t easy, particularly when that child is a depraved and notorious flirt! (You know what I mean!)  It takes a special kind of woman – one with a delicate balance of modesty and insanity – to withstand the tests of motherhood, and gently push you from behind.

SO, this is to all the mothers who stood by their sons and daughters – sewing costumes, baking backstage goodies, and cheering the loudest. Mothers – we salute you!

“I want my children to have all the things I couldn’t afford. Then I want to move in with them.”

Phyllis Diller

Bazuka Joe

Chicago, Illinois, USA. One third of The Stage Door Johnnies.

My own mom’s history could be taken straight from a daytime soap opera: born in Bangkok into a large family, converted to Mormonism, ran off with my dad who she met on an Airforce base (refuting an arranged marriage to an older man with one golden tooth), and raised four children, during which time she accidentally cut off part of her thumb working in a factory to support them.

Bazuka Joe with his mother and father.  ©Bazuka Joe  (Burlesque Mother's Day special)
Bazuka Joe with his mother and father. ©Bazuka Joe (Burlesque Mother’s Day special)

Though she didn’t see it coming that I’d become a burlesque performer, she has never once faltered in supporting me. In fact, she has, on a number of occasions, helped build costumes and coached me on choreography for an act taken from her experience as a classically trained Thai dancer!

For my very first burlesque show, she and my sister were in Chicago visiting.  Hot Toddy had just put Ray Gunn, Jett Adore and I together, and in a matter of weeks we were showing off our first solo acts in a humbling performance as part of a liquor promotion. We were all ridiculously nervous and our acts were less than stellar, but there were my mom and sister right up in the front row taking pictures! They stuck through the whole show and the only big disappointment my mom expressed was that her camera ran out of batteries halfway through Ray’s act! Ray was mortified, but I couldn’t have been happier to have the support. ESPECIALLY coming from a woman who was devoutly Mormon for thirty years!

Since then she’s been to as many shows as she can get to, collects all my posters and programs, and has been scrapbooking the postcards I send from every city we play at! I’ll be the first to admit I’m a really lucky son!

Lola Van Ella

St. Louis, Missouri, USA.  Co-Producer of the Show-Me Burlesque Festival and Beggar’s Carnivale, and Director of Van Ella Studios.

The very first burlesque show I ever produced, many years ago, was, of course, very exciting for me. The show was going really well, and the audience was having a great time. During one performance, while the rest of the performers hung out backstage and prepared for the next acts, we heard a whole lot of action in the crowd. The dame on stage was killing it, apparently, and the crowd was cheering enthusiastically.

Lola Van Ella and her mother.  ©Lola Van Ella  (Burlesque Mother's Day special)
Lola Van Ella and her mother. ©Lola Van Ella (Burlesque Mother’s Day special)

One particular woman was cheering and yelling extra loudly, and shouting, ‘That’s right honey! Work it! Don’t give it all away for free!’ The performers backstage started laughing, and one said, ‘Wow. Who is that woman?’  After a pause, I replied, ‘That… is my mom.’  It was the first show she ever came to, and it was the start of a long, enthusiastic and outspoken adventure with ‘Mama Van Ella’ in the audience.

She LOVES coming to shows, making friends with other burlesque family members (she thinks Mama Loueez, Jeez Loueez’s mother, is the bee’s knees) and making friends with all my favorite strippers and carnies on Facebook. It’s hilarious, and a little crazy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother.”

Oprah Winfrey

Imogen Kelly

Sydney, Australia.  Miss Exotic World 2012 and Australian Queen of Burlesque.

When it comes down to it, I got into this game because of my mother. She died when I was nine of breast cancer. When she got very ill, my way of taking her mind off her pain was to do little shows for her. There was the play about the doggy that urinated on the President’s leg, the chenille bedspread Chinese dragon that danced to Boney M, and, of course, an act that I still perform – my nude magic act. I didn’t mean to end up nude! My costume didn’t survive its debut due to a bit of bad planning on my part. In fact, you could safely say it was my first costume malfunction and the only time my dad cheered at all. (And he wonders why I became a stripper!)

Miss Polly Rae

London, England, UK.  Creator of ‘The Hurly Burly Show’ and ‘Between the Sheets’.

Both my parents (and my Stepdad) have always been super supportive of my burlesque career. At ten years old, my mother let me watch In Bed With Madonna (the edited version I might add, without the masturbation and fellatio scenes!). From that moment on I was hooked, and I knew that is what I wanted to do. Dad, at the time, went to great lengths to record the live audio (the album versions were not right, you see!) onto cassette from the overused videotape that I would watch over and over again, learning the routines down to a ‘T’, complete with cardboard ‘cones’ that I shoved down my vest and a wire clothes hanger bent into the shape of a head set microphone.

Polly Rae's mother with Rupert Everett.  ©Polly Rae  (Burlesque Mother's Day special)
Polly Rae’s mother with Rupert Everett. ©Polly Rae (Burlesque Mother’s Day special)

I’m sure it came as no surprise to them that I chose burlesque as my career; I actually have them to blame! They regularly come to my shows and help out where they can. Just last week, my stepdad, Shaun, was helping me stick crystals on my gorge new leopard print gown! My father, Phil, is an avid collector and has proceeded to collect every last article, image and video he can find of me, many of which I haven’t even seen before. I do get told off, though, if he finds out about something I have done online before I tell him about it.

My mother, Heather, and I are very close; she is my biggest fan, and she would have loved to be a performer herself, and is so proud of me. She loves to get dressed up and attend all the fancy press parties where she gets to mingle with the stars. Kylie Minogue once told her she looked “fabulous” which went down extremely well, and she now considers Rupert Everett her best friend.

To my Mum, Dad, Stepdad and to all my gorgeous family: thank you for all your support. I couldn’t do it without you! I LOVE YOU! Happy Mother’s Day! Happy Father’s Day!

“Nobody loves me but my mother. And she could be jivin’ too.”

B. B. King

Let me close this by acknowledging that many of you have parents who don’t know, or don’t approve, of your involvement in burlesque.  And beyond that, many of you have parents who are no longer with us. For this I am truly sorry and sympathetic. The only consolation I can give you is that you have a whole family of burlesque brothers and sisters at your side, cheering you on!

Please feel free to comment below with your stories about your own mothers…

Visit Bazuka Joe, Polly Rae, Lola van Ella and Imogen Kelly

 

21st Century Burlesque
21st Century Burlesque

Quoted in major international newspapers and held in high esteem and affection by the international burlesque community, 21st Century Burlesque Magazine has documented the contemporary burlesque scene since 2007. Founded and edited by Holli-Mae Johnson.

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