Real women do burlesque

By SARA FAITH ALTERMAN  |  February 17, 2007

Which brings us to the near-naked ladies of Boston.

For all its Puritanical shrouds, Boston actually has a rich history of burlesque. Scollay Square (now Government Center, where all the politicos roam) was, in the early 1900s, the hub of all things burlesque, most notably, the legendary Old Howard theater. The original Howard Athenaeum building was a temple built by an ultimately disappointed sect of doomsday cultists and then converted to a theater in 1845. Over its long history as a legit theater, a music hall, a burlesque house, and a seedy movie theater, the Howard hosted everyone in show biz from John Wilkes Booth to Phil Silvers and Lou Costello to Minsky’s Burlesque star Ann Corio to an “exotic Indian dancer” named Princess Lahoma. After a few fires, some reconstruction, and several vice raids, the place was torn down in the name of urban renewal, in 1962.

Nearly a century after Boston’s burlesque heyday began, the city is now home to several burlesque troupes; each with its own vision of what burlesque revival should look like. There’s a purist troupe; a band of kitschy, rockabilly chicks; a troupe inspired by the scream queens of B-movies; a bevy of socially relevant modernists led by a former ballerina; and a collection of self-described “fatties” whose dance moves are larger than life. Most of these troupes will be shaking their thangs at the upcoming Great Boston Burlesque Exposition, a four-day public-invited convention, held February 16 to 19 at the John Hancock Hotel and Conference Center (see burlesque-expo.com).

(GIRLIE-Q: Meet the women of Boston's burlesque scene | SLIDESHOWS:Babes in Boinkland | Through the Keyhole Burlesque | Thick & Boston Babydolls)

burlesque_glove
A sliver of black fishnet peeks out from under a chaste coverlet of chiffon and sequins and lace, criss-crossing her legs like sinful tic-tac-toe.

When the Boston Babydolls’ Miss Mina (a lot of burlesque artists insist upon revealing only their stage names) takes the stage, you can sense that her coy strut is the calm before a tempest. A demure-looking redhead with a delicate frame, she’s actually a bumping, grinding powerhouse.

“I’m really very, very shy,” she says, “and, as a lot of people have noticed, I don’t smile very often. The easiest way for me to be on stage is to be remote and aloof. It draws on my actual personality, but it’s a little bit bigger. More aristocratic.”

070216_burlesque_main5
Devilicia of Black Cat Burlesque. Click the image to learn more about the burlesque stars of Boston.
With a background in acting and Middle Eastern, Renaissance, and belly dancing, Miss Mina can slice through that self-proclaimed shyness with a single swivel of her hips. One act she’s perfected is the Film Noir Detective: draped in a trench coat that nearly swallows her whole, she wiggles out of a Humphrey Bogart–type uniform to reveal herself in all her femme-fatale glory, twirling the tassels on sparkly pasties with a hand thrust triumphantly in the air, still clutching her fedora.

According to Babydoll co-founder and manager, Scratch (his stage name), the troupe takes a page from the olden days, but is still au courant enough to be considered relevant, even borderline taboo. “We recreate a golden age of burlesque that is retro flavored,” he says. “It’s reminiscent of an age of innocence.”

< prev  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6  |  7  |   next >
  Topics: Lifestyle Features , Entertainment, Culture and Lifestyle, Sugar Dish,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY SARA FAITH ALTERMAN
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   INTERVIEW: ANDY RICHTER  |  November 25, 2009
    We have a chub for Andy Barker, P.I. (just released out on DVD), because we have a major chub for the show’s star, Andy Richter. Richter plays an accountant who is mistaken for a detective-for-hire and decides to just roll with it. 
  •   REVIEW: SPREAD  |  August 19, 2009
    If only there were some way to watch a con-artist houseboy give his cougar sugar mama a squirming reach-around, charm the pants off a candy-necklace string of countless empty-eyed Hollywood stick figures, lose his heart to an untouchable social chameleon, and, in the process, find himself .
  •   NORTHERN EXPOSURE  |  July 29, 2009
    While New York is grittier, Los Angeles juicier, and Boston is wicked smahter, for some odd reason it is Montreal that, for two weeks every summer, becomes the epicenter of the comedy universe.
  •   JUST FOR LAUGHS  |  July 27, 2009
    Blogs, Tweets, and comedy video direct from moose country
  •   BEAT THE TWEET  |  July 22, 2009
    Warm weather is supposed to be accessorized by lackaday, by a breezy sensibility best enjoyed with a frosty tall boy in one hand, the sloppy product of a back-yard barbecue in the other. Instead, I find myself struggling to balance my beer between my knees and my overstocked paper plate on my thigh as I furiously poke at my BlackBerry.

 See all articles by: SARA FAITH ALTERMAN