Coincidentally, the amount of time to cook a hot dog and the average burlesque routine are roughly the same.
Krystine (Noir Leather web mistress and frequent guest performer at Noir Leather events) interviewed burlesque sensation Red Hot Annie, a Chicago burlesque performer and owner of Vaudezilla. We’re very honored that she took the time to answer this long and fun interview after the break.
If you would like to be interviewed for Noir Leather’s website, email krystine [at] krystine [dot] net.
I’d like a…
1. How long been at your art? How did you get started?
I started performing burlesque in January 2008. I had a handful of girlfriends were performing burlesque, so when I finally got up enough nerve, I took the plunge and never looked back.
2. Who inspires you?
The people who inspire me most are my Vaudezilla team members. They are hard workers and they’re always learning something new and sharing it with the team. Some of the famous folks who inspire me include Lucille Ball and Charlie Chaplin.
3. What does burlesque mean to you?
To me, burlesque is very creative strip tease. Sometimes funny, sometimes sexy, always entertaining. The kind of art you would see in a theatre, not a gentlemen’s club.
4. How do you select music for your routines?
Music picks me. I find that I mostly stumble upon my favorite songs, in movies, on youtube, or just listening to my husband’s music collection.
5. Where do you get your costumes? Do you have a favorite “one stop shop” like Noir Leather, Lynch’s Theatrical Department Store or Showtime Clothing in Detroit where you could get everything from pasty glue to ruffled panties and vintage clothing in one stop?
Unfortunately, we don’t have a place like that in Chicago, I don’t think!
6. Where do you see burlesque going in say the next 5-10 years? Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
That’s a good question, and a hard one for someone like me to answer. I’m very open to experiences and hobbies outside of burlesque. I started doing theatre when I was 15, so I could see myself going back that route in another 5 years, or perhaps finding an alternative performance art. I think the only thing that is certain is that I’ll remain an exhibitionist.
7. Burlesque and performing in general to most people are expensive hobbies with some burlesque costumes costing over $4000 in materials alone (not to mention countless hours hot gluing sequins). On your FAQ, you mention that it takes about ten performances to recoup the cost of a costume. How did you manage to turn what would normally be a very, very expensive hobby into a successful career?
People have always told me I’m good at turning those things people “can’t make a living” at into successful careers, and I’d mostly attribute it to being very open to collaboration and building a strong network of folks who understand the industry. Plus, I never think of myself as being above having a mentor. Although I’ve never had a mentor in the burlesque community, I’ve had many in other facet of the entertainment industry, and their guidance and advice is why I’m able to have such great success in burlesque.
8. A lot of people erroneously confuse burlesque performers for strippers or burlesque shows for fetish theatre shows. In your own words, what do you say to people when they make that mistake?
I don’t really take it personally when people make the mistake. My first question is always, “Have you ever seen a burlesque show?” And their answer is always, “no.”
9. Can there be such a beast as a “gothic burlesque”, “steampunk burlesque” or “post apocalyptic industrial gypsy goth burlesque”?
Sure. I’ve seen goth-y burlesque. Not totally sure what the other types are, but I can imagine them!
10. A few shows boast of “family friendly burlesque”. How is that even possible?
That’s bogus. I don’t believe it. My opinion is that burlesque is absolutely, positively adult entertainment. I would never bring children to a burlesque show, “family-friendly” or otherwise.
11. What is your worst nightmare in a burlesque show?
12. How do you feel when you hear all the cat calls and whistles during a routine?
It’s always nice to hear, but I have to be honest – I don’t really take it personally because who wouldn’t cat call a lady who’s taking her top off? No brainer!
13. I noticed that you have no visible tattoos or piercings (besides your ear lobes). Is this a choice made for personal or professional reasons?
Neither, just have never gotten around to it. I would love a tattoo! A female sign and maybe a hot dog to signify this wild and crazy time in my life.
14. What do you expect the fallout on the pinup, burlesque, model and fetish communities to be like from Michelle McGee*?
Honestly, I don’t follow it – so no comment.
*Ed. note: Michelle McGee is a heavily tattooed model/stripper who was heavily involved in a scandal at the time of publication.
Pinup & Fetish
- Red Hot Annie Herself. Ketchup is forbidden on Chicago style red hots.
1. Who buys used stockings and your 8x10s?
2. Are there any photographers you want to work with or themes you really want to explore?
I’d really love to find a photographer I trust to do some bondage-light images. I would love to explore this theme, but it would have to be with someone I trust to get really artistically BEAUTIFUL images. Nothing too raunchy and definitely nothing that’s simply jerk-off material. My goal through all these years of doing pinup and glamour modeling has been to create images that have artistic merit.
3. Name one theme that you absolutely love and explain why it works for you.
I love anything involving stockings and garters.
4. What do you do to prepare for a shoot? Do you plan to take 500 photos hoping that five turn out good and one is simply amazing?
I prepare for a shoot by coming up with a couple different costumes that I think will photograph well – these days, it’s a lot of burlesque costumes, partially because of all the money that goes into them. I like to shoot a lot of images so I can end up with a handful that are especially good and require minimal retouching!
5. What is the most absolutely bizarre stunt you’ve ever pulled for a show or photoshoot?
The most bizarre stunt is when I shot with Drew Orrin-Brown in Kansas City. We snuck into an abandoned seminary and had to be super careful when walking around – it had been abandoned in the 50′s or 60′s and parts of the floors and walls were rotted. It could have been very dangerous. Add on top of that that it was 15 degrees outside and I was in shorts and a bra for most of it, and I’d say that’s pretty damn bizarre!
6. For what reasons do you most frequently refuse to shoot?
The main reason I refuse to shoot is if a person’s work is awful. I usually refuse to work or simply send a rate that’s far too expensive for them to pay!
7. Who is your favorite retro pinup star that you impersonate the most?
I don’t really have one.
8. Best and worst fetish material/theme to work with for costuming?
Annie's weekly burlesque class
1. What typically goes on in your weekly burlesque class?
We typically run through a short act, focusing on different moves and emotions that are associated with them.
2. How do you know a good burlesque instructor from a bad burlesque instructor?
3. What are your policies and advice for the transsexual/gender queer burlesque student? How could a transsexual burlesque performer differentiate themselves from drag queens without quoting Monty Python?
LOL. If you know any transsexual/gender queer burlesque students, send’m my way…I don’t think I have any! My policies and advice for any person, regardless of their orientation/sexual status is simply to be honest and true to yourself, and don’t sacrifice your art for money.
4. Is there really no such thing as a “burlesque body”?
Absolutely not! Even in my troupe, we have curvier girls and we have very fit girls.
5. What is your advice to up and coming starlets on getting noticed by troupes like Vaudezilla in their own towns?
Work your ass off. Be open to the idea that a team can give you things that you can’t get from being a soloist, but always be cautious of teams that don’t let you have artistic and personal freedom.
Stick With Us -- A Vaudezilla production
1. How did Vaudezilla get started?
Vaudezilla got started in June 2008 and was born out of a need for more performance opportunities and a desire to have a team to create larger scale projects with.
2. Did you ever expect to be the owner and star performer of your own troupe?
I’m not the star performer of my troupe, all of the performers in our troupe are stars! And no, I never expected to be a part of such a great team – but I’m really grateful I am. I have found fulfillment in our accomplishments that I could never have found on my own.
3. Many of your burlesque stars have many other talents than their clothes accidentally falling off on purpose in time with music. Do you encourage your performers to cross train?
Absolutely. Vaudezilla isn’t about pretty faces and pretty costumes, it’s about competent women who are experts at their fields. In addition to being awesome performers, each member of the team has additional specialities that help support the team. Donna Touch is our head choreographer – she does all the choreography for the group acts. Wham Bam Pam is our social networking genuis. Maria May I is a wonderful illustrator and fashion designer. Dick Dijon takes care of everything tech related. Barrett All is our brilliant fan dancer, RenZena our bellydancer, and even our newest member, Trixie Sparx is contributing new ideas each week.
Windy City Burlesque
4. What are the odds of Vaudezilla coming to Detroit for, oh, say the People’s Art Festival in August, Theatre Bizarre in October, or the internationally known Dirty Show every February?
Done and done. Send me dates and a budget and we’ll make it happen!
5. Some people find that a little water helps them loosen up while others prefer the au natural crazy of pure sober. What does Vaudezilla prefer of its performers regarding drinking and performing? Why?
We do not have a preference as far as this goes. Everyone is different.
A weekly show produced by Vaudezilla
1. Greyhound? No, really, Greyhound? How do you meet their highly restrictive baggage restrictions and still put on an amazing show out of town?
No Greyhound, not ever again! A horrible experience!!
2. Plane, train, automobile, bus, foot, hoof or thumb?
Planes for speed, trains for comfort, automobiles for convenience.
3. Best and worst accommodations on the road?
My worst experience was with Greyhound. It was cramped, noisy, inconvenient, and full of questionable characters. I was definitely out of my element. My best was when I took the train to Kansas City earlier this year – very cozy, especially with a little half-bottle of red wine!
4. Ever get run out on a rail for going too far?
1. Have you ever worked in a circus sideshow?
No, but damn I’d love to!
2. Do you or any of your performers have any circus or circus sideshow skills?
3. Geeking… because you might secretly be one since you can
maintain your own website. Was your Amazonian wild woman show one of your favorites? If so, would you spend an entire evening in a pit with a
snake just like the wild women of the carnival midway would have?
Would you try to bite the head of a rose or do something gross on
purpose for the shock value?
1. What do you think of Pinch Bottom Burlesque producing a burlesqueshow about 1930s Coney Island as it was facing redevelopment like it is in the present time? The show also included a parody of a circussideshow where all the performers were either dismissed by the doctor or accidentally killed off on purpose (e.g. chopped up in the blade box).
I didn’t know about it. Will have to google and form an opinion, clearly!
2. When Noir Leather celebrated its 25th anniversary, the Hellbound stage show ended with a mock ballot since the presidential election in 2008 was only a few weeks away. Have you produced burlesque shows with a contemporaneous sociopolitical undertone?
Not yet. I generally steer clear of sociopolitical undertones for my burlesque stuff. My forte is more in making people laugh. Having said that, I would definitely be part of a show that had a political message I agreed with, if it was creative and entertaining, too!
3. Since burlesque often incorporates satire and parody with a high degree of free expression, do you find yourself tempted to freely speak your mind about current events or hot button issues through your performance art?
Absolutely. I contemplate a lot of different ways to make a parody of the strife I encounter in this crazy world of burlesque, and sometimes it makes it onto the stage, but rarely for more than a performance or two. I think that it’s cathartic, but it makes it me feel to selfish as a performer – I simply don’t think my “message” acts are as engaging to the audience.
For the burlesque version of the hot dog story, go to http://redhotannie.com/videos/balladofredhotannie.htm
1. A Detroit club (City Club) once sold hotdogs inside the club after 2 AM to meet some weird technical requirements to remain open until 4:30 AM. Did you really start off selling hot dogs?
2. Why does preparing a hot dog take about the same amount of time as a burlesque routine?
It’s quite the coincidence, isn’t it?
3. Are Chicago style hot dogs with 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 toppings still a big influence on you?
Absolutely, although these days I’d like to think I’ve graduated to a full 10 toppings! Pile it on, pile it in!
4. Do you prefer Chicago style hot dogs to other hot dogs around the country like Nathan’s Famous (the Coney Island original stolen from Feltman) or a coney dog at a Detroit, MI coney island restaurant?
I love Nathans! To tell the truth, I don’t eat much meat, but if someone put a Chicago style hot dog with a poppyseed bun down in front of me, I’d be hard-pressed to resist!
5. Have you seen anyone joyously partake of a hotdog on a Friday while rambling about the number 5, Eris and no hot dog buns?
Yes. wasn’t that you?
Red Hot Annie hosts weekly burlesque nights in Chicago and classes in Oak Park, IL (the OTHER Oak Park). For details, please visit http://www.redhotannie.com and http://www.vaudezilla.com . And should you wish to follow her travel advice, you can call Amtrak at 1-800-USA-RAIL. At the time of publication, you could travel in comfort there and back, with your own half full bottle of red wine for around $64 with just an ounce of planning.
Krystine specialized in a variety of sideshow acts. She has seen more clothes accidentally fall off on purpose than there are in Noir Leather. She has received training at the Coney Island Sideshow By The Seashore Sideshow School and in the tall grass. Current projects include shoving coat hangers down her throat for fun and profit and tattooing herself from head to toe.