In the world of burlesque, one very important, though frequently overlooked role is the ‘Burlesque Dad’. For the sake of fairness, I’m also including all those burlesque boyfriends and husbands too, who wait for endless hours after a show while their star is greeting fans, endure countless wardrobe changes before an event, and double as pack mules, carrying loads of costumes and props. Throughout all this, they remain calm and supportive – and how they maintain their composure while their daughter/girlfriend/wife gets ogled and groped by hundreds of people every week is beyond me!
This Father’s Day, I thought it would be great to throw the spotlight on a few of the men in the community who don’t always get the credit they deserve. I invited three burlesque dads to share their perspectives regarding the roles they play in their families and in the burlesque world. Dads, here’s to you!
Lawrence Gasch (Honorary Burlesque Alias: Andy Cooks)
Cleveland, Ohio. Dad, Avid Burlesque Fan, Leading Authority in Corny Jokes.
Believe it or not, I’ve not had the opportunity to see my son perform in person, but his mother had a front row seat at his first show. (She didn’t know it was ‘burlesque’, just some kind of show. Surprise!) I’m envious and cannot wait to see him perform. When asked what she thought of seeing her son nearly naked on stage, she responded, ‘I saw him when he was born’.
Prior to Bazuka’s involvement, my knowledge of burlesque was negligible to say the least. Strip clubs and Chippendales was about all I knew, though I was aware of a long history burlesque.
His mother and I have always supported Bazuka in his various ventures. In spite of my conservative background, I’ve embraced his artistry, suggested music and even conceptualised a routine for his act. Admittedly, it is awkward discussing his career in burlesque with friends and acquaintances who are prudish about such things. My co-workers know exactly what he does and I’ve even linked them to a couple of his performance videos. They don’t talk about it. I think they’re not sure what to say. Speaking of videos, whenever I need a bit of cheering up I’ll revisit a couple of his routines. ‘Steam Heat’ is definitely a favourite. Hearing the audience cheer in appreciation is a thrill. Having done some theatre myself, I understand it’s all about the applause.
No doubt about it, we never envisioned having son as a burlesque performer, but we are surely proud of his accomplishments. He uses all of his talents, from conceiving a routine to finding appropriate music, designing and sewing a costume, choreographing the dance and, finally, staging the production. At the end of the day, he makes people happy. What more could you ask from a son?
Seattle, Washington. Producer, Husband, Connoisseur of Smoked Meats.
WTF! I followed my wife, Deirdre Timmons, into the world of burlesque when she took a class and did a few acts in Seattle. Her very first number had her dressed like a sexy Bride of Frankenstein stripping to I Want a Monster to be My Friend. Towards the end, I stood up wearing a monster mask and gloves, she pointed me out with exaggerated excitement, and brought me on stage where she finished her striptease on my lap. I was thinking, ‘how the hell did I get into this?!’ But it was SO EXCITING.
Down the Rabbit Hole. Deirdre then made the film A Wink and a Smile and it did so well at its debut showing at the Seattle Intl Film Festival that I quit my twelve year job at Microsoft and went to a ten week program at UCLA to become a film producer. We got distribution for the film, toured with it for its theatrical release, and watched it go into Netflix, Ovation, VideoOnDemand, etc. All along the way, I kept meeting more and more burlesque performers and the names in my email inbox got crazier and crazier.
Ozzie and Harriet. Our daughter was about ten years old when all of this started happening. She loved the dancing. She loved the costumes. The friends we gathered around us from the burlesque community were so sweet and so fun and happy. There is a really strong sense of community and love in the burlesque world. Our daughter knows them as her closest friends and family to this day. My daughter is also gorgeous enough to model and talented enough to act, but she has no desire to be an entertainer, even though we’ve provided her ample opportunity. She’s smart, bookish, intellectually curious, and does amazingly well in school. We feel a little like Absolutely Fabulous parents occasionally with wild, fun parties going on while she studies in her room for the next day’s exam. What can I say – we got REALLY lucky with that kid.
Going Forward. So I play the role of producer to my wife’s burlesque projects, the next one being a really fun road-trip, comedy feature film calls KINGS, kind of like a modern version of Priscilla Queen of the Desert. We’ve switched focus from the female to the male with this film and that has been a really fun process too! The difference in performance style between female and male performers is noticeable, as evidences at the all-male show KINGS of Burlesque at the Triple Door in April.
Fearless and Free! In summary, I’d say that joining the burlesque world has been an amazing life changer for me. It’s like the shackles came off and I have a license to be eccentric and try new things. I’m still have my toes in the corporate world as a consultant, but the freedom to chase my own dreams has never been stronger for me. Seriously, I want to thank the burlesque community for making my and my family’s life richer, sweeter and a helluva lot funner!
Raumati South, New Zealand. Occasional Burlesque Performer, Co-Producer of The New Zealand Burlesque Festival, Trouble-Maker.
If you’ve never seen glitter in a diaper, or wiped it from your child’s butt, you’re either not part of the burlesque world… or you’re doing something wrong!
Glitter has that amazing ability to get everywhere and follow you like a stalker to any and all social outings or events, making its presence known in the strange looks of the uninitiated or in the knowing smile of those fellow worshippers of bedazzled nudity, and the presence of glitter in vast quantities in some unusual parts of our son’s anatomy has often been the subject of curiosity and interesting conversation with his teachers and caregivers over the past five years.
People meeting me for the first time, or that haven’t known my penchant for random acts of public nudity – or as I call it, Guerrilla Burlesque – often ask how it is to be a dad in the show world… Well, it’s not really any different than being a dad in any profession; there’s still homework to be done, weekend sports to be attended, tantrums, toys and all the other assorted trappings of parenthood to be negotiated.
Right from the start, we’ve tried to normalise what we do as much as possible. We rehearse and choreograph our routines in the living room while he watches TV or does his homework, and he watches footage of us from shows, which currently, at the age of five and a half years old, he either finds hysterical or, due to his current sense of body image and development, he covers his eyes and says, ‘No, I don’t want to see that!’ ‘Dad, why have you got your butt out all the time?’ and other similar odes to the embarrassment of parental misadventure. At the same time, he is very astute at spotting flaws in what we’ve done and often points out areas where we could improve, or costume alterations that need to be made.
We’re very proud of what we do and have never hidden it from our son or his teachers, and it’s never been an issue. Monday mornings at school usually involve me giving his homeroom teacher a rundown of what the weekend’s shows were like and what we’ve been up to, some of the teachers from his school have been along to local shows and have seen us perform, and there is even a picture of my wife, MisRed Delicious, after winning Miss Burlesque NZ, hung on the wall in his classroom, which has lead some of the kids to think his mother is a princess with the huge sparkling crown and her beautiful green gown.
If anything, being involved and exposed to the burlesque community and the fun and interesting people we associate with has been beneficial to his social development. It’s great fun watching him grow into a creative, caring and open minded little human being, with a huge passion for entertaining people; his teachers have already commented that his public speaking and dramatic abilities are very advanced for his age group. It can be a juggling act sometimes after a late night show to drag ourselves from bed to attend a sports meet, or sometimes to find a babysitter to allow us to make the out of town trips that often come with being a show family, but so far, it all seems to be working out. Now we just have to hope that, as a teenager, he doesn’t decide to run away and join a law school, or experiment with politics or dentistry and thus end up as the black sheep of the family!
Feel free to share stories of your own Burlesque Dads in the comments section. Happy Father’s Day!
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.