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21 Questions with Spookey

21 Questions with Spookey

Spookey performing in Le Scandal at The Laurie Beechman Theater (42nd St NYC). Photo by Helane Blumfield

Spookey, ‘The Tiny Titan of Burlesque’, began his career in 2011 with traveling burlesque shows in the metropolitan area of the US. An acrobatic stripping specialist, Spookey’s credits include the prestigious Le Scandal, Members Only Boylesque, and The Slipper Room.

1. How would you define yourself in three words?

Ambitious, creative and talented.

2. Who would play you in a movie about your life?

I think it would be fun to see a young Jack Nicholson play me. He has just the right amount of Spookeyness. 

3. What is your biggest strength?

I’d say discipline. I was raised competing in a strict, elite level of gymnastics so I have a pretty high tolerance and strong drive to get the job done.

4. What is your biggest weakness?

Definitely my perfectionism. I am a real stickler when it comes to my art.

Spookey, self portrait.
Spookey, self portrait.

5. When are you most happy and inspired?

As my friends say, ‘When I’m booked and blessed!’ I love to create and having a platform is very important to the process.

6. What is your favourite on-screen burlesque moment from film or TV? 

There are a bunch to choose from that happen right under our noses onscreen all the time, but my favorite is from the movie Batman & Robin when Uma Thurman strips out of the gorilla costume to reveal herself as Poison Ivy.

7. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?

I’m not sure where I originally heard this but I think it is important for a performer to remember: ‘The audience wants you to succeed’. There are times when I get nit picky and then I remember that the audience is there for a good time and definitely didn’t see the tiny little mistake that only I noticed.

Bonnie Dunn and Spookey backstage in Le Scandal at The Laurie Beechman Theater (42nd St NYC).
Bonnie Dunn and Spookey backstage in Le Scandal at The Laurie Beechman Theater (42nd St NYC).

8. If you could switch lives with one person for a day, who would it be?

I would probably switch with someone like Sam Smith. I think they’re fantastic!

9. What’s the biggest myth or misconception about burlesque?

Maybe not the biggest, but a big one is that a lot of people don’t realize that we also accept tips. Often there will be some kind of bucket or QR code which is super helpful.

10. If you could only perform to one song for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Feeling Good by Nina Simone or even Michael Buble, because it just has that classic sound that never goes out of style and goes with almost everything. It’s also (importantly) full of great reveal moments.

Spookey performing.

11. What surprisingly useful things do you have in your show case?

I wear a lace blindfold, which started out as a style choice but I was surprised to find stops me getting dizzy when I spin in my Lyra (Hoop).

12. Do you have a backstage ritual?

Immediately after I perform an act and get my costume back, I have to meticulously re-snap, re-velcro, or re-zip every piece and place it perfectly tucked away in my bag. Even before I begin getting ready for my next act. 

13. What advice would you give to new performers starting out today?

If you can, get some kind of camera (I use a GoPro) and video every act/performance you do, as well as (not all but specific) rehearsals. I learned early on if I wanted pictures or video of my act, I’d have to take it myself. Producers want to see exactly what you’re going to do on stage so it’s helpful to have a video to send them. Plus when you have a video you can take screenshots and turn it into a separate photo, which comes in handy for social media promotion.

Spookey, by Evan Criscuolo.
Spookey, by Evan Criscuolo.

14. What is your proudest achievement?

I am constantly (and happily) climbing mountains and literally jumping through hoops, but what I am most proud of is my surrounding burlesque community. I wouldn’t be able to strut my stuff if not for fellow burlesque artists, many of whom paved the way, and many who I am lucky to call friends.

15. What is your biggest regret?

I don’t think I have any regrets. Have I made mistakes? Oh baby, of course, but at the end of the day I’ve always led with good intentions.

16. What is the biggest challenge facing today’s burlesque scene?

I’m going to catch you-know-what for this, but in my opinion it’s pageantry (and the politics it creates). I think it’s divisive and that it you-know-whats all over the art.  You don’t need a crown (or title) to be an incredible burlesque performer. 

17. If you could go back and tell yourself one thing when you started out in burlesque, what would it be?

I would tell myself to trust the process. When I first started out there weren’t many boylesque performers, so we pretty much had to make up our own rules. It makes me happy seeing new boylesque performers emerge on the scene.

Spookey on Trapeze, by Andrew Koenig.
Spookey on Trapeze, by Andrew Koenig.

18. What is a cause or issue that’s very important to you?

A moment in time that truly shook me was the news of Matthew Shepard, a queer kid from Wyoming whose murder was a hate crime. Matthew’s family now has the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which is geared towards combating hate crimes. Sadly our queer rights are in jeopardy in the US with our political climate.

19. What are you currently reading, watching, and listening to?

This makes me a total nerd, but I’m reading The Nine about the secret world of the US Supreme Court. I’m about to start watching season 2 of Russian Doll on Netflix. And most times when I am either sewing or creating a costume I am listening to Philip Glass radio.

20. If you could share a dressing room with one performer for the rest of your career, who would it be?

I used to share a dressing room with burlesque legend Bonnie Dunn when I was in her show, Le Scandal Cabaret, which at the time was NYC’s longest running burlesque show. Bonnie taught me everything I know about burlesque. She was my burlesque mom and I would share a dressing room with her forever if I could. I miss her greatly.

21. What would you like your life and career to look like in 10 years time?

I’d like to still be in the burlesque/boylesque scene, but probably with less acrobatics. We’ll have to see how my body holds up because a lot goes into maintaining acrobatic skills. Time will only tell on that one. Haha, the ultimate tease! 

Visit Spookey’s website and follow on Instagram.

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