(A.K.A.: How my friends put on an anniversary Burlesque show in Brooklyn).
So I went to the two-year anniversary of the Bushwick Burlesque show (the one I was talking about in my Two Cents on Twerking post) at Bizarre last Tuesday and it fucking killed. I mean, they always kill. But somehow they manage to kill even more each time. It’s a variety show, granted, but I haven’t seen range quite like theirs at many other shows. Having gone there religiously for most of the past two years. I have seen some of the best burlesque, creepiest sideshow acts, ridiculous absurdity and gorgeous dirt there. Scary Ben, who in his expertly moustached clown get-up runs the show with New York burlesque queen (and his fiancée) Darlinda Just Darlinda, was once describing the spectacle to a friend as “exuberant filth.”
I completely agree. “I LOVE exuberant filth!” I squealed at the time (and then proceeded to add it as a fetish on FetLife. Hey guys, you should join me!) It’s that and then some. TimeOut New York billed the show as, “inspired alt-ecdysiast shenanigans.” The Village Voice has previously dubbed Darlinda Just Darlinda, who I’ve been watching perform (read: stalking) since 2006, as “the mastermind of bizarre extravaganza,” a title she proudly and rightfully wears.
And as if their own acts of absurdist revelry weren’t enough, the show usually brings together international burlesque stars, boylesque eye candy, sideshow performers, clowns, drag queens, blues singers, comedians, fire performers, sword swallowers and other stage delights that don’t even lend themselves to classification.
Just last week I watched Darlinda dance and prance around the audience in her 70’s jumpsuit to the tune of Diane Ross’s disco, strip to reveal a butt covered in used condom wrappers (that slut, I love her so!) and proceed to pull a loooooong string of condoms tied together out of her vagina. Except this time, the act, which I’ve seen a few times before (note: the stalking), had a surprise ending; she later got herself off with a dildo to another 70’s disco/porn tune.
The dildo (presumably a different one?) made a second appearance in the show, when Jo “Boobs” Weldon did her sexy flight attendant act, in which she felates a dildo and later undresses out of her flight attendant uniform and prepares for takeoff by strapping herself to a chair with bondage rope. (Don’t try this at home, kids! Or if you do, go to school first).
Jo Boobs is the headmistress of the New York School of Burlesque, where I took classes a few years back. During one of the intermissions, I met one of her current students who had performed in her Student Showcase the night before and couldn’t stop gushing about how talented and smart Jo is (yep, I know). We proceeded to compare notes on the Burlesque Handbook, Jo’s ultimate guide on the art of the tease and where to get all your rhinestones, feathers and fringe on the cheap in New York.
Speaking of the audience, there were some 200 people there. The show usually gets some of the best turnouts I’ve seen in burlesque, except for maybe the famous venues like The Slipper Room or The Box, which is impressive considering that it’s tucked away deep in Bushwick at a kitschy new venue called Bizarre (cause where else would the Mastermind of Bizarre Extravaganza host a show?) The audience is also extremely diverse: local hipsters, the gay, straight, bi, queer and confused, other burlesque dancers, aspiring performers, men that look like they walked off a Mad Men set, women that look like they came straight from a pin-up catalogue, local black and Latino kids, etc. It’s the perfect mix of Brooklyn intelligentsia and local riff-raff.
Comedienne Adrienne Truscott later took the stage and informed us that merkins were invented in the 1450’s (learn something new every day!) for hookers to hide their syphilis, as most everyone had it back then (you know, the black plague and all that jazz). She then launched into a dance, stripped down to a dress made entirely of merkins and picked a bloody fight with a crow. Yep!
Darlinda did a second patriotism-cum-horror act, in which she lovingly danced with a pair of American flags in a red gown, which she later stripped out of, pulled a piece of paper out of her vagina (in case you haven’t noticed, she likes to pull things out of her vagina) that revealed the party-divided elephant. She broke into tears at the sight of this, but later ripped the paper to shreds, tossed it into the audience and resumed her doting dance with the flags. All was well in America again!
Oh, Walt Whitman was there, too (what? If you can resurrect Jesus, you can resurrect Walt Whitman, too, right?), complete with a sizeable beard and his own book. He read some excerpts from his work on stage and was as pretentious and stuck-up as you’d expect a Walt Whitman to be. I told him after the show how much I admired his work, but I doubt he needed the extra ego boost.
And there was another clown (in addition to Scary Ben). Rush “the sadomasochistic indestructible elastic clown,” who runs his own Mystic Circus sideshow. Now, he was truly a freak. He had elastic skin, he seemingly had no limbs. His fingers and hands would bend every which way. His arm spun 360 degrees and back. He put syringes completely through his skin without drawing any blood. Some of my friends and other onlookers averted their eyes. People that I know have seen and done some intense shit at sex parties cringed and looked away. But I kept watching cause I just couldn’t believe my eyes. I asked him later how he does it. “A lot of meditation,” he said. Right. He also has a rare disease called the Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which makes your joints and skin extremely flexible.
The various acts of absurdity, terror and gore were juxtaposed against the gorgeous gowns and classic burlesque stylings of Italian burlesque queens Albadoro Gala and Dixie Ramone, as well as U.K.’s Kitty Bang Bang. The sultry blues songstress Queen Esther also took the stage several times to lull the audience into silent awe. Perle Noire, who came from New Orleans and has previously performed with Dita Von Teese, did one of the most sensual acts I’ve ever seen, in a leopard cat suit.
The show closed, as it often does, with Ben and Darlinda’s signature lap dance for a birthday girl in the audience. The comedic dance involves them stripping and “dancing” on top of the birthday person (or several) to the tune of Birthday Sex, while falling all over themselves, each other and the dance’s recipient. The lap dance is actually a tribute to how they met: one night at a show a few years ago where Ben won a cartwheel contest and his prize was this dance from Darlinda. The rest was (New York art) history, ladies and gents. And now they’re here together to dance, entertain and blow your minds every third Tuesday of the month at Bizarre.