Peggy de Lune shares her Texas Burlesque Festival 2013 experience…
They finally let me through security in Cleveland airport after eying up my suspicious package. When my ‘Air Hostess’ act was first conceived, I thought I was so clever when I bought a giant vintage suitcase to use as a prop, because I could pack all my costumes and stuff in that! Unfortunately, it is not sturdy enough to withstand the brutal abuse of luggage carriers, as it is only reinforced cardboard, so I need to take a half hour each trip to cover it in bubble wrap and cling film. It always causes confusion at check-in, as they suspiciously ask me, ‘What’s in there?’ and I simply don’t have the time to explain the ins and outs of burlesque costuming. Not to mention I have to try and carry it on my shoulders whilst dragging my other wheelie-bag dutifully behind me from the parking lot. I tried to balance it on my head. After all, I had seen women carry all sorts of things on their heads when I was in South Africa, but I lacked the practice and skill… Plus, I think my head is shaped funny.
I am so excited for the Texas Burlesque Festival – I have never been to Austin. I have three main goals on this trip:
1. Have an awesome time at the festival.
2. Buy Sparkly Cowboy Boots.
3. Eat as much BBQ as possible.
I am sharing a room at a nearby hotel with Red Hot Annie from Chicago. I met her last year at London Burlesque Week (World Burlesque Games, or whatever we’re calling it now) and haven’t seen her since. We are shacking up in a King bed, so I can’t promise to tell you everything that happens on this festival adventure – wink, wink, nudge, nudge (nothing happened).
I am interested to get a good feel for the Texas burlesque scene; from what I hear it is strong, thriving, and like all things Texas, BIG AND SPARKLY.
After some minor delays, I finally got to Austin and to the Orangewood Suites. The Orangewood Suites is a nice place to stay – slightly weird, but in a family way. They have ‘happy hour’ meals that are edible, but more importantly they are FREE, as well as a FREE breakfast. I enjoyed eating broccoli soup and bleached salad whilst surrounded by a troupe of Chinese teenagers. I think those that didn’t enjoy this communal mealtime experience are seriously missing out. I had just enough time to freshen up and change before we headed to the Marchesa Theatre. The Orangewood Suites is across the highway, so it takes a little while to figure out how you can get across and I kind of felt like some sort of truck stop hooker tottering across the overpass in my heels, but I can’t say I didn’t slightly enjoy it.
The Marchesa is a lovely big space with a front lobby full of booze and vendor tables; from sex toys to tacos in a bag, there were goodies to be had, although I felt bad for the surgical weight loss clinic girls that were trying to hand out flyers, as I doubt there was much interest from us burly girls. They might need to re-evaluate their target market.
Thursday night is the Nouveau Nuit, a showcase of newer performers. Frenchie Renard gets my award for best costume malfunction: she could not get that damn corset off, and instead of panicking she turned it into a brilliant comedy moment resulting in the whole crowd cheering rapturously when she finally got it off! Cora Vette was such a fabulous host (she hosted EVERY NIGHT. That is skill and stamina, and she was as fresh and funny on Saturday as she was on Thursday). A truly great addition to the festival were the American Sign Language interpreters from Austin Community College. Cora Vette may have had a little too much fun with them, but they really got into the spirit of the night.
Thursday was a great mixture of acts, and the audience favourite choice was really tough, but ultimately Lady Luck from Austin TX was chosen to perform on the Saturday night. Annie and I faded earlier than is really cool to admit, but we managed to snag a ride across the freeway and snuggle into our King bed.
Thursday Night Audience Choice Winner: Lady Luck, Austin TX.
Runners Up: Man Johnson, Sherry Bomb and Ron Dez Vous.
Up early this morning to head off to a photo shoot that Annie organised with a local photographer. We got some good shots at Barton Springs and Austin’s Botanical Gardens. ‘Oh, the glamour!’ I thought to myself as I cowered behind a barn door trying to put my g-string on as grandma and the kids lingered dangerously near, looking at the biodegradable compost containers. As always, the shoot took longer than you would expect and I regretfully missed some fantastic workshops by Bazuka Joe and Ray Gunn of The Stage Door Johnnies on movement and musicality.
Afterwards, our photographer took us to Ruby’s. At first we were dubious of eating BBQ at a gas station, but once we walked through it was a cute little picnic styled restaurant with some awesome brisket. As we finished our half a loaf of white bread, I watched a man sit down with his tray full of barbecued goodness and I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed pure contentment until now. Wiped out from the sun and the fun, I took a little catnap (missing Nacho Night Happy Hour, damn it!) and then got dressed for Night Two of fantastic shows – Night of Legends.
Another night of great acts hosted by Cora Vette and her army of Sign Language interpreters; I am pleased to say I now know how to sign ‘Pussy fart’. I also ate a taco made in a Doritos bag for dinner, which was awesome. Some acts that stood out to me were Dainty Dandridge from Washington DC, Dangrrr Doll from Ridgewood NY, Ginger Snaps from Austin TX, Jasper St. James from San Antonio TX, but ultimately the Audience Choice went to Cruel Valentine from Chicago IL with her hot money act. There were also amazing performances from Angi B. Lovely, Coco Lectric, Imogen Kelly and legend Camille 2000.
We were having so much fun that the show overran and a few performers had to dash downtown for the After Party show with the Jigglewatts. I was determined to get down to 6th Street on this trip, but when transportation fell through, we decided that maybe it wasn’t going to happen tonight. As our attempts at some sort of after party unravelled as we stood outside the Travelodge getting chatted up by unidentified stumbling drunks, we gave in and headed back across the highway.
Friday Night Audience Choice Winner: Cruel Valentine, Chicago IL.
Runner Ups: Ginger Snaps, Jasper St James, Mary Lynn Mayhem.
Texas Burlesque Festival Show Photos. Click or Use Navigation to Browse.
Annie and I got up early to go get a car. If you are not lucky enough to shack up with one of the gorgeous burly ladies of Austin, I highly recommend renting a car. So we had some time before the performer’s brunch and we hit the bizarre abandoned mall to go to the hoochy shop recommended by some of the other burly girls.
It was so lovely of the TXBF team to organise a free brunch (yes that’s right, FREE) with omelettes and as many mimosas as you like – although I was being a responsible driver and only had two. Lynn and Coco then kicked off the discussion topic for the brunch – Community. It’s a word that is thrown around a lot, but we discussed what it actually means, how can you help your local scene work together, and whether competitions good or bad for community. Lots of excellent points were brought up.
After brunch, we drove downtown to explore. This was it – my time to accomplish No. 2 on my list. My time – to find my cowboy boots! We found a fancy boot shop, where the smell of fresh leather was overwhelming my nostrils, and then there they were: a pair of Swarovski covered cowboy boots for a mere $1,500! So, with my dream of cowboy boots dashed to pieces, we hit the cupcake food truck and bought some strawberries for Annie’s act and headed back to the hotel. I foolishly missed both Camille 2000’s workshop and Imogen Kelly’s workshop that afternoon, which I do regret now, but with my nerves about the Saturday night show, I just knew it wouldn’t really work. We then headed back to grab all our shit and get ready for tech rehearsal for Saturday’s Main Event Show!
The brilliant sound guy got my microphone sounding perfect in tech rehearsal. I was ushered backstage to close the first half. Feeling a little nervous, I regrettably didn’t double check the running order, assuming I’d figure it out while I waited by the stage. I have a habit of turning off my mic pack for two reasons: I am notorious for talking shit without being aware that the mic is on and I am always worried the batteries will die on me. So I usually leave it off until last minute and then pop the rest of my costume on. As I leisurely sat watching, suddenly I heard Cora Vette intro-ing the last act before intermission. FUCK! I frantically held the button down on my mic pack, but didn’t have time to check if the red light had turned on. I threw on my suit jacket and gloves, clicked a few times into my mic, and didn’t hear anything. I had a horrific realisation that my mic pack was not on. I busted on stage anyway and once I determined it REALLY wasn’t on, I just had to suck it up and sing my face off.
I think halfway through it dawned on everyone else what was going on and all I could do was hope my years in those seemingly pointless voice classes at drama school finally kicked in. I was annoyed with myself afterwards, but luckily the wonderful Midge Grundman – showgirl and backstage extraordinaire – saw my imminent downturn and magically appeared with a whisky. Thanks to the genius backstage crew and miss Cora Vette, I managed to pull on my big girl panties and thank my parents for spending all their money on that Degree in Acting.
The second half of the Saturday night show was ace and I was so excited to get to see our judges perform, especially Imogen Kelly’s full version of her ‘Flamingo’ act and, always a favourite, Dirty Martini’s ‘Purple Haze’ act. Ray Gunn also performed a feat of strength in a daring pole act.
After my microphone drama, I seriously could not believe it when they called me out for ‘Best Solo’. Apparently, my reaction of yelling ‘Shut Up’ and ‘Fuck off’ to Lynn and Coco in disbelief is not the typical award acceptance decorum, but man, what an honour!
And y’know, some people like to win a giant cheque, but not me, I prefer altogether more unusual prizes. So you can imagine my delight when I was presented with a Barbie trophy, a vibrating egg with attachments, and a worm-shaped dildo! It made the airport security all the more eager to get into my suspicious bubble-wrapped package on the way home.
The Marchesa then turned into our own little disco with a great little photo booth that provided hours of inappropriate photos for all, like these! [Right]
Best Costume: Tiny D, Brooklyn NY
Best Use of Prop/Novelty: Bobbie Burlesque, Hollywood CA.
Best Ensemble: Queertini Time, Austin TX.
Most Original: Crimson Skye, London UK.
Best Tease Factor: Franki Markstone, St. Petersburg FL.
Best Solo: Peggy de Lune, Akron OH/London UK.
This morning we were up early to drop Annie off at the train station. I had a whole day to spend in Austin and wanted to make the most of it! I picked up Franki Markstone and we made our way out to The Salt Lick for some celebratory BBQ with Crimson Skye, Dainty Dandridge, Ginger Snap, and Nikki DaVaughn from my favourite ensemble of the whole festival, Fat Bottom Cabaret. All you can eat ribs and champagne – who says we’re not a group of classy broads?!
After stuffing ourselves to the point of gastro-explosion, there was talk of going to Chicken Shit Bingo, which consists of a bunch of people in a bar watching a chicken run around a giant bingo board, betting on what number they predict the chicken will shit upon. Brilliant. We vowed to make a showgirl trip to Chicken Shit Bingo next year and settled for a night of hanging out with some new friends at their awesome house instead – drinking and playing dress up on the back porch, driving 4x4s and shooting guns. It was Crimson’s and my first time shooting real guns and I almost ripped my arm off trying to shoot a sawed-off shotgun.
I left Austin with new friends, good memories and 5 lbs worth of extra BBQ weight. All in all, a most successful way to end a trip to Texas.
Visit the Texas Burlesque Festival Website.
Peggy de Lune and Red Hot Annie’s photo booth shots. (Texas Burlesque Festival 2013)