The Burlesque Bullshit Detective. How Mass Media makes us all feel like shit

(How Mass marketing makes us all feel like shit)

Take a look at any Burlesque dancer’s body. It is far from perfect. The neo burlesque dancer celebrates womanhood and femininity, not the ideal physique. Modern day Burlesque is about enjoying the female form in all forms. The burlesque body is not about achieving perfection. It’s already perfect with all of it’s imperfections. The burlesque art form is about dancing as if the body is already seductive weather the dancer is a size 8 or a size 14. But if you are like most women you have learned to find your own body full of deficits. It isn’t the perfect size 2 then forget about a man falling for you. You aren’t good enough. Or so society and TV shows imply all the time. In magazines, a beautiful model is with a beautiful man and the ad tells us that because she is wearing a certain perfume she has successfully won his affection. To add to this myth, all the male movie stars and every sports star out there seem to be with a gorgeous model or a woman able to pull off looking like one. If your body doesn’t look like one of them, than you probably feel undesirable, unattractive. UN everything. We learn to see that every imperfection in our body is one more feature that makes us UN-loveable to anyone decent. The “ugly” women of the world will just have to content themselves with a fat, bald, wife beating asshole because that is the best we’re going to get unless we can be more beautiful on the outside.
The mainstream media will sell you images of a model wearing a skin tight dress seducing the perfect man if she wears the right make-up or the right clothes or shoes. Let’s get this strait. The gorgeous perfect looking guy in that commercial is probably gay, so no matter how good you look, you’re not going to be end up with that guy. The guy in the perfume ad is going to end up with another guy. But commercials use this technique to sell their products. Guess what? It works. We all believe it. In fact commercials have three ways to manipulate us into buying what they are selling. They scare us, they seduce us, or they humor us. It has been done successfully for years and advertisers know it. The best technique is to scare us. Commercials imply that we won’t be able to keep our man if we don’t use this particular deodorant. The commercial might imply we’re not an attractive wife to our husband unless we eat this low fat cereal to help us loose weight. It’s time to call this for what it is:BULLSHIT! All a commercial will do is scare or seduce a woman into being a better consumer. Buying products won’t make anyone more desirable or more attractive. Nor will these products help us attain our goals. We all want to fit in and be loved by our family and surrounding community. But at some point we all get manipulated into believing that if only we buy products to make us better looking, will we attain these goals. And the message doesn’t just stop with magazine ads or television commercials.
We constantly see film and sports stars with their arm around the swim suit model on the red carpet. Yep. There they are marching around with twenty-something arm candy-it-girl- flavor of the month. We take in those images and feel like shit about ourselves. We also get sold the whole beauty myth notion. If said sport star or popular movie star only wants to be with that kind of a woman and would never be seen in public by anyone over the age of thirty, than it must be our fault that we let ourselves turn 31. But there he is in an interview after interview with the gorgeous woman right next to him. He must be right and we’re all just not good enough. But here is an insight not always considered by many of us: if he is only into model types he probably has a superficial view of beauty. The modern day burlesque dancer does not allow for that limited view of what is beautiful and sensual. A burlesque dancer dances with the knowledge that sensuality is in the spirit and energy of her movements and attitude about herself. She isn’t wearing a designer dress to make herself more alluring she is dancing as if she is ALREADY alluring and beautiful. Still we’ll believe the superficial views of the sports star or the movie actor over our the real truth. Those guys are successful at what they do so they must be have the right idea. Right? Maybe not.
What really makes people attractive is not the products they buy, but rather his or her life force, energy, talent, humor and intelligence. The neo burlesque dancer is proud of her body and shows it off. The truth is sexy in the neo burlesque world is not defined by any number. This means on a scale or in birthdays. Nor does sexy have an age cut off point in the neo burlesque world. But television and movies will not allow us to believe or relate to that concept at all. That idea doesn’t make money. So the media relentlessly hammers away at us on a daily basis. We end up making judgments of ourselves every day based on a viscous lie. We are trapped by this lie and we hate ourselves despite it being a lie. Women are especially vulnerable and so we keep buying cosmetics and clothes and diet plans hoping to make ourselves more attractive and younger looking. We keep buying. but we do so little work on ourselves on the inside. The truth is skinny does not really always equal sexy. It might make a woman more desirable by a film maker or advertising commercial, but it really doesn’t mean that woman has any real sex appeal in real life. Still we can’t help but get caught up in the terrible lie that only skinny women get the sports stars. It really isn’t our fault we believe this lie. Most of us grew up watching television, and we’ve been manipulated since childhood to believe that what we buy or what we eat or don’t eat will make a difference in our lives and will have the potential to make us more desirable people. It’s to bad we keep believing the lies as adults. It’s too bad a magazine add can’t have a warning label like a surgeon general’s on a carton of cigarettes that says: “This advertisement is bullshit and you shouldn’t believe a word of what you read or an image that is displayed.” It would also be nice if an announcer’s voice could be heard right before the commercial ends warning of us of the dangers to our personal moral if we continue to watch and believe the advertisement. What we all need is our own bullshit detective built into our personal hard drive. Until that day, we have two choices. We can keep believing the stupid deceptions we are inundated with over and over again, or we can all scream BULLSHIT at every advertisement on television and in magazines. A better idea might be to stop buying the products they are pitching at us. We can stop buying clothes that are advertised featuring a model like Kate Moss in it. It might not hurt to hurl some of our own advice at the Victoria Secret Model we see on television with her overactive thyroid to eat some cheese and fuck off! She’ll have a 31st birthday herself one day.

Muse Control: The special people who inspire us

There is a card I have framed on my wall that quotes H. Jackson Brown Jr. It reads: “Never let the odds keep you from doing what you know in your heart you were meant to do.” The entertainment profession is difficult and heartbreaking but there is something deep inside many of us that won’t give up despite a convincing argument we should. But while there are many people who can discourage us, it is the people who encourage us who also bring us inspiration and enlightenment. In my case, these were honest to God true heroes and superstars. They were and continue to be my artistic inspiration. They are my muses. The first of those heroes for me were two dance teachers I met while growing up in Houston Texas. I met them both as a young teenager studying musical theater at an after school program. Gary ‘B’ and Bill ‘H’. Not only did they have incredible skill as actors, dancers and singers, they had incredible generosity of spirit and kindness. They had tremendous passion for their craft and real ability for passing their knowledge on to their students with wit, charm, and humor. It made the experience for many of us that much more heightened. It also translated into enhancing our work as performers and artists. Gary ‘B’ and Bill ‘H; really taught all of their pupils in two ways. Along with being instructed in the classes they taught, the students had the added benefit of seeing the shows they were in and observe them in the roles they played. It was not only their skill that had such a profound impression on us, it was their charisma and stage presence. I would be so excited the day I was set to take a class with one or both of them, I would have butterflies in my belly all day in school knowing I would be spending time with these incredible men. I know I was not the only one who felt this excitement. There was an electricity in the air among all the pupils the second they walked into the room. Both of them got jobs in Broadway tours and later original Broadway shows. While all their students were extremely excited for their career and artistic accomplishments, many of us ached to see them go. It was their life force and amazing energy that touched us in many ways. Life felt a little empty after they left.
Still, I personally would go on to find additional heroes in my life. One in particular touched my life in a profound and memorable way. While attending the High School for the performing and Visual Arts in Houston Texas, an extremely talented actor was hired in my junior year of high school to teach acting and musical theater studies in the drama department. He had moved from New York to Houston after having a career as an actor and musical theater performer in several original Broadway shows. Mr ‘B’ had insight and knowledge not only as a professional actor but as a human being. He knew of the hardships and the humiliation of working as an actor both personally and professionally. Yet he shared those experiences with humor and without bitterness. He knew that every experience good or bad, made him a wiser, more compassionate, and well rounded human being. The experiences he shared with his students demonstrated how every life experience he encountered made him a better artist and a better teacher. He led by example. He never discouraged any of us. The insights he gained and passed on made us laugh, smile and more informed. He had that kind of love and devotion for the craftsmanship as well as those who aspired to be a part of it. Mr. ‘B’ had a way of making us all feel that we were all a part of something bigger than ourselves. Even if it would not be our choice to go further with our pursuits as actors, we were in his view artists just the same for having the dicipline and the inclination to study the work. For this feeling alone, I am truly grateful to Mr. ‘B’ as well as the institution that allowed him to enrich my life along with my drama classmates.
At home, I was rarely treated with that kind of respect and encouragement. Along with my dreams to be as successful a musical theater performer as Gary ‘B’, Bill ‘H’ and Mr. ‘B’, my parents were demanding other things of me. My father wanted me to be a star athlete to make up for the fact that my brother had severe develpmental and learning disabilites. Among his tutoring me in other sports, he used to give me tennis lessons. I sensed during our tennis lessons that the reason why he was so loud in his instructions on the tennis court was so that players in near by courts could overhear. I realize now that he arrogantly thought others could benefit from his instructions to me. Really the tennis lesson was his way of gaining attention for himself. It’s also evident now that his intention of developing my skills as a tennis player would be so that if I played well, he could take credit for it. My father taught from a place of complete narcissism rather than from a place of passing along a real love of the game. The result was his instructions were confusing. In the end his tutoring was a complete setback to the real progress I was making when I studied the game with a professional tennis coach. The experience of my Dad teaching me tennis weakened my game as well as my enjoyment of it. His judgments of me were often so brutal that it hurt my confidence in other sports and artistic pursuits. However for all my father’s incredible narcissism, and relentlessness, he at least had a sense of responsibility as a parent. Of the two parents, my father was the more even minded and reasonable one. This applied to me only. My brother’s relationship with my father was a different story all together. My father ignored the advice of therapists and specialists in the mental health profession and acted with severe and selfish disregard for my brother’s illness. His refusal to really understand and accept my brothers’ limitations might have actually worsened my brother’s mental condition. His relationship to me however was far more reasonable. He appreciated the dedication I gave to my musical theater and dance studies and supported my endeavors. My mother was not always so predictable. As a teenager, Mom unfairly expected me to be the emotional support she couldn’t get from my father during their marriage or from her boyfriends after the divorce. Both my parents expected me to compensate somehow for my mentally ill brother. My brother was diagnosed with autism at a very early age. My father expected me to be the shining protege child since it was evident my brother would be faced with mental health challenges. My Mother on the other hand, expected me to make up for her personal disappointments about my brother. It was also up to me to make up for her lack of personal happiness. She often relied on me to act as her therapist, best friend, boyfriend, and personal assistant. If I couldn’t meet these demands, I was made to feel like I was a self-centered, emotionally retarded teen who was the root cause of her incredible unhappiness. My mother was an expert blamer. Nothing was ever her fault. It was always someone else s behavior in her view that caused her bitterness. My Mother drank heavily after the divorce. The drinking was a huge factor in her emotional problems, but looking back, I can see it may not have been the main cause. I couldn’t articulate it as a teenager, but I realize now that my mom was unstable. When she would tell me she “loved” me, I sensed it was not genuine love but a need on her part for me to love her back and adore her as a lover not as a normal daughter. I understand now that this was due to a certain amount of narcissism and unresolved emotional needs on her part. However, I didn’t or couldn’t understand this concept at the time, so I continued to believe that my uneasiness around her was my own fault. I didn’t have the vocabulary or the right deductions to reason to myself why I was uncomfortable and depressed around her, so it must be something wrong with me. My mother’s instability was something she hid very well from her friends and other family members. In fact most of her friends and family never or rarely saw the unstable side to her. My father was so obvious in his emotional abuse to her that most of my friends’ parents, neighbors and family members felt extremely sorry for what he put her through during the marriage. However my father might have had many problems but I realize now that Mom might have been equally to blame for the failed marriage. She could be equally as verbally abusive and manipulative. Yet it was the verbal abuse on my Dad’s side that was more visible to people and my Mother knew how to play the victim frequently and to her advantage. Doing this would give her more attention and sympathy from people. However when she was not engaging in plays for sympathy, she actually showed a different side to her all together. To most people in her life, she was charming, fun, sexy, and extremely supportive. Nevertheless those close to her like myself really could sense her instability and meanness. Part of her instability was her intense rage issues which I was the victim of quite often. I am convinced her attacks on me were partly the result of years of emotional and physical abuse from my father. Yelling and criticizing me might have been a helpful emotional release for her, but it traumatized me. Her anger and depression manifested itself in many passive aggressive ways as well. Once while traveling with me and my brother through Spain, we all had to share one room together for a night. I had turned around to put on my pajamas and my brother saw this and started touching himself inappropriately. Instead of explaining to my brother that this behavior wasn’t fair to me and he should stop behaving like that, my mother did very little to make him stop while explaining to me that he was attracted to me sexually. Her explanation I sensed put her in a power position and Mom seemed to enjoy it. In fact, she allowed my brother a lot of freedoms that other children wouldn’t have using the justification he was mentally ill and he “couldn’t help it” or didn’t understand. In reality, she unfairly and needlessly allowed for his developmental disorder to infringe on the rights of everyone else because she didn’t think it was fair that she should have to shoulder all the responsibility for his mental illness. To be fair to my mother, it was probably very difficult in the decades of the late sixties and early nineteen seventies to find the right kind of support and insight for parents who had mentally ill children. However it didn’t seem fair to me that others had to have their rights violated just because my mother was unprepared to handle this incredible emotional stress. What’s more, the infringement of personal space and emotional boundaries applied to everyone except my mother. When it came to my Mom’s personal happiness, she had no problem setting boundaries with my brother. Really what she was doing was making me and others compensate for his being mentally ill rather than having the presence of mind, sense of responsibility and maturity to work with my brothers limitations to help him understand and better adopt to situations in normal society. It’s too bad that my mother did not have a strong sense of responsibility to help my brother. It might have eased some of the relationships with his teachers and therapists. Like the trip in Spain, these experiences left me humiliated and incredibly uneasy. My Mother still insists to this day that we all had such a “fun” time during that trip. It might have been fun for her but it left me with a permanent feeling of disgust. From then on, I took with me my invisible Muse crown. It was my way of keeping myself emotionally insulated from the discomfort and alienation I felt around her. The invisible crown comprised the cherished real experiences I had with my dance and acting teachers as well as day dreams of meeting the same level of talent and spirit they had. I considered them my real family and role models even though I didn’t socialize with them much beyond classes and briefly after the shows they were in. Their presence in my life lifted me up and soothed my soul during a turbulent home life.
My mother was not always mean spirited with me. At times she could be sensible, caring, and a good responsible parent. She also managed to get her college degree after the divorce and I was not only proud of her accomplishments but I also enjoyed hearing about some of the courses she was taking. She could also be extremely supportive of my career goals. She came to see me and cheer me on in all the shows I performed in throughout junior high and high school. She told me how proud she was of me and told me what a beautiful performer she thought I was. She also got me into modeling classes and paid for them and encouraged my modeling career. She really had the intention of being supportive to both her children. It was because she could be so genuine in her support and could show such concern for my well being, that I would be thrown and confused for days when she would rage at me for some infraction like forgetting to tell her when one of her boyfriends called. If I caused a problem for her life, all of the sudden her view of me was that I was the most irresponsible person on the planet and she might as well disown me because I didn’t deserve to live in her home. One night she came back from a date to find I had left a careless note about one of her boyfriends who called while she was out. To be fair and truthful, the note was not very kind and it was a bit thoughtless. Her reaction however was beyond rage. She threw my record albums in one of her dramatic shows of anger and then told me she “almost hated” me. She looked at me with such hatred that I believed her and was really frightened. I often tried to anticipate when she might be angry but I was not always successful. Hurtful accusations would come when I would least expect them. Because I was an impressionable teenager, I would find that because I couldn’t articulate a counter argument towards my mother’s emotional thrashings, her anger must be all my fault. It was during those periods I would feel further away from really accomplishing anything. It was also during those times that I felt alienated, scared and alone. If I couldn’t be a decent human being as my mother implied, then I guessed I would never qualify to be part of any other community including the respected theatrical community. It took me well into my fifties to realize how toxic and poisonous a lot of my Mother’s actions were. Additionally, I didn’t realize how much I was poisoning myself every time I considered and agreed with my mother’s point of view about my worth or limitations as a human being. My mother seemed more comfortable around me if I made a self-deprecating joke about myself. I got myself into this habit in hopes it would appease her anger towards me. It worked but unfortunately it became a bad habit around other people and it continued through high school, college and into my first twenty years of living in New York. Continually putting myself down might have helped ease my Moms resentment towards me, but it began to hinder my progress in my career. This habit also encouraged mediocre talent to agree with my self put downs and the two fed off each other. It also did not garner any healthy respect among my more successful peers and associates in the entertainment industry. In fact, it really held me back in so many areas of my life.
In everything I went through with my family, I have always looked to these teachers as the real role models in shaping who I aspired to be personally and professionally. I am so grateful to Gary ‘B’, Bill ‘H’ and Mr. ‘B.
As a showgirl in Nevada I had the great fortune of working with a popular entertainer at the time. Jim Nabors. He had a booming baritone voice, magnanimous stage presence, along with great comic timing. He was also one of the nicest men I ever met. He and I developed a nice friendship and I was grateful to get to work with such a charismatic and generous entertainer. Jim encouraged my pursuits of moving to New York after college and would often ask me how I was doing in my courses. Jim was my Muse long after I had moved to New York. All of these gentlemen made that strong of an impression on me. I would go on to have many different muses in my life but there were common qualities they all had. They were gracious, insightful passionate and talented. They were also nothing like my parents. These men had the talent, presence of mind, and insight that my parents never had. They had humility and character that my parents never had. Most of all, they had a love and devotion to the craftsmanship of music and entertainment.
I really wanted love and acceptance in my life. But the acceptance I got from both my parents came with ugly or unreasonable expectations. My muses never had such restrictions. While they never loved me in a way that I would often day dream about, they were kind, compassionate, caring and incredibly encouraging. Plus my muses possessed emotional intelligence that neither of my parents had or will ever have in this life time. They had/have character that I fashioned myself upon. I am grateful for their presence in my life because my life might have been unbearable without them.

Beyond Boundries: How Marilyn Monroe and singing telegrams improved my self worth

My singing teacher once asked me: “…if you’re in an audition and you aren’t sure of yourself, how can the people behind the table be sure of you?” For years in my struggles in New York, I came off very unsure. I was incredibly insecure and full of self doubt. Of course that lack of self esteem held me back in so many areas of my life not just my career. I was my own worst enemy at auditions and casting calls, but I was a huge hit doing singing and strip-tease telegrams. Why was I told so many times that I was extremely talented after performing a singing telegram and dismissed so quickly from a casting call? Of course there are many factors that determine why an actor is considered for a role and all of those factors can’t all be covered now. However low self esteem and lack of self respect are two important factors that held me back a lot. It took me years to realize that many important experiences from my childhood shaped me into the insecure person I was for most of my life.

I grew up in Houston Texas but I was born in Dallas. Dallas is my earliest childhood memory. I was two years old and terrified of the dark. I learned to adopt to this terror by telling myself that my doll would protect me. One night the doll was lost and I cried out hoping someone would find her for me. My Dad came in and whipped me for waking him up. I never cried out again and from then on, the doll (found the next day by our maid.) stayed by my side and I kept a tight grip on the dolls’ arm through out the night.

My father had a military background. He was in the ROTC in high school and later joined the Navy as a junior grade Lieutenant. As much as my father liked GIVING orders he hated taking them from his superiors. This was not a good quality to have in the armed services and eventually he was asked to resign. In fact, my father hated taking orders from any employer and lost several jobs. Loosing job after job never stopped my father from giving orders. In fact he felt it was his divine right to give orders to almost anyone. This was especially true for his family. He spent his free time ordering his family with bizarre expectations and demanding discipline and strict attention from both me and my brother. Spankings and punishment were a ritual if we failed to measure up to his standards. My brother was diagnosed with autism., but my father believed he could literally beat the illness out of my brother and I am convinced the trauma of these regular spankings, punishments and demands of personal sacrifice made his illness worse. After the family’s move to Houston, the diagnosis of my brother’s illness changed from autism to schizophrenia. The beatings and stern discipline did not change for my brother. My father’s regular punishments forced my brother to withdraw into another world and he has stayed there ever since. My brother has lived in a living center that treats clients with schizophrenia for over thirty years and is incapable of living on his own. He has a reading and writing ability of a six year old and he is unable to care for himself beyond the basic living habits. I am convinced that his early childhood had a tremendous impact on him and it contributed to the way he is today. He simply feels much safer in his own imaginary world. Little of the outside world is of interest to him.

Because my brothers’ learning and development was so impaired from early childhood, it was thought that there must be something wrong with my development as well. I was put in slower learning groups as a child and I was singled out as a slow learner. I believed others assessment of my abilities and grew up believing that I was a slower learner than my peers. My fathers punishments did not stop with my brother. I realize now that I was supposed to make up for my brothers short comings by fulfilling my fathers unrealistic expectations. For instance at six years old I was taking swimming lessons and when I had mastered the basic overhead crawl my father was not impressed. He insisted that I learn to swim the entire length of a standard racing pool without taking a breath. I worked hard but I could only swim that length by allowing myself one breath. My father was pleased but not thrilled. At least it didn’t get me berated or put down for falling short of his expectations.

I would soon learn that my Mother also had expectations of me. If I let her down, she would imply that she couldn’t stand to have me live with her and might disown me. Because I wasn’t mentally ill, I was supposed to be the kid who didn’t make any trouble for her. My mother in many ways expected me to compensate for her disillusionment with my father and be her emotional support. When I fell short of that, she would become angry and short tempered with me. My mother would often berate me condemn me or put me down. It was also expected of me to anticipate when she was going to be upset or sick. She needed me to understand her signals when she was unhappy or angry. When I fell short of those expectations, she derided me as being the most selfish person in the world. My mother was arrogant and angry. She derided our housekeeper as being too fat She criticized her friends and neighbors for being sloppy or being unattractive. I was suppose to agree and go along with those criticisms. When I disagreed, I was made to feel like I was intentionally being disagreeable and insensitive.

Write in your diary that you’re a shit!” She once told me. Her behavior was erratic and unpredictable and I would be attacked or criticized when I would least expect it. Only recently have I been able to understand that this behavior was unfair and hurtful. Much of my life I went along with my Mother’s assessment of my constant short comings. My Mother’s erratic behavior was exacerbated by her drinking after my parent’s divorce. It was after I had graduated from college that I learned she was also doing a lot of drugs along with her drinking. I knew she was seeing a lot of different men but she successfully hid the drug use. Because she was successful at it, it was easier to deny she had a problem. Even after she got sober, her rage and anger still manifested itself on me. Once when I came home for Christmas she told me “ God! I’m glad you’re seeing a shrink! You are the most selfish person in the world! You really need a shrink!” Her justification for this tirade was because she accused me of taking something and when I argued that it was not at all the way she saw it, she attacked me with those hurtful comments. She continued her personal attacks on me and they became so hurtful that I left the holidays early. I never again went home for Christmas. To this day, I would rather be on my own than be with my Mother during the holidays. The most difficult quality about my Mother that I‘ve had to reconcile myself with is her lack of humility. She continually blames others for her shortcomings rather than take responsibility for herself. For most of my life she would admit she was wrong only when there was a convincing argument for it but it was always difficult to get these points across to her without also taking part of the blame. Many times she convinced me that I was totally wrong and she was faultless in the matter. Most of my life I berated myself for my shortcomings and took my Mother at her word that I was often shortsighted and selfish. It took me many years to come to the conclusion that my Mom was often mean spirited and shortsighted herself. In the mean time I grew up feeling alienated, alone and incredibly insecure.

My real family was the entertainment community. In fact I consider the world of theater and burlesque and singing telegrams my true family. It was singing and strip-tease telegrams that gave me a sense of belonging that I never got at home. More importantly, was the belief from the owners of these telegram agencies that I could do a lot more than I thought I could. My favorite example is my very first singing telegram impersonating Marilyn Monroe. I don’t look anything like Marilyn Monroe. I have an oblong face and a long body. I thought no way I could pull this off. But Jon the owner of Big Apple Singing Telegrams convinced me I could.

In preparing for my first Marilyn Monroe singing telegram, I did several things. I followed the Marilyn Monroe make-up from a guide in the book “Making Faces” by Kevin Aucoin and I bought the white dress from “The Seven Year Itch” at a costume store in New York. I found the Marilyn Monroe blonde wig at Rockies cosmetic store. Finally, I watched a lot of Marilyn’s clips on YouTube and I emulated the Marilyn Monroe walk and the breathy vocal mannerisms. I then learned the songs she sang in many of her movies. As much as I prepared, I was still apprehensive that I could do a true Marilyn Monroe impersonation. Not only did I pull it off, I was congratulated and rewarded many times over. My Marilyn Monroe singing telegram was a huge life changer for me. Now when Jon gets a request for a Marilyn Monroe singing telegram, I am the first one he calls. Impersonating Marilyn Monroe gave me a sense of empowerment that I never got from any family member. I guess in many ways, Marilyn has been more of a Mother figure in my life than my real Mother. All my life I had placed limitations on myself because I had failed to live up to my parents expectations. Now I realize that I don’t have to let the limitations of others limit me. What if indeed I was more powerful and capable of accomplishing much more than my parents or family members thought I could? For so many years I tried to fit myself in a box meeting others narrow minded views of what it was to be an honorable human being. These confinements also included people’s narrow minded views of talent, art and entertainment. The world of singing telegrams had no such confinements for me. Instead of going in to a singing telegram worried that I wouldn’t measure up to the needs of the people behind the audition table, I would instead go to the job with the expectation that I would have fun and enjoy myself. I experimented with songs and many other costumes and comic takes for each singing telegram. I love preparing for the job as much as I love performing it. While there isn’t much money in the world of singing telegrams, it does provide an opportunity to learn and grow and continue to stretch myself as a performer. My energy and life force have become stronger because of this job and I am grateful every time I perform a singing telegram. I realize now that fame and recognition might be important but what is really more important is being able to serve in a capacity that makes me and others happy. I know I am capable of much more than singing telegrams, but for a part time job this is as good as it gets.

The most important quality I have developed in the last several years is giving myself more credit than I gave myself before. I wake up each morning knowing that my work as an actress and entertainer are good. I also wake up knowing that my qualities as a human being are valuable even if others can’t see it. I realize that it’s their loss if they can’t appreciate what I have to offer. Creating work and allowing myself to entertain without imposing worry or fear on myself has been the biggest personal growth of my life

so far.

Truths and Deceptions in the World of Entertainment

In the years I have struggled in New York for a successful career as an actress and musical theater performer, I discovered a long the way something I was passionate about: The art of the strip tease. I started doing strip-tease telegrams in the 1980s when I first came to New York and looking for a job to make ends meet. I was looking through Backstage one day and saw to the left of the non union audition listings an advertisement that read in part: “Actresses and Dancers wanted for topless strip-tease telegrams.” In smaller print it read “Non-topless OK.” I thought being a former showgirl from Nevada that if the female form can be seen as elegant artful entertainment, why couldn’t I bring that same beauty and creativity to a non-topless strip-tease telegram? While my musical theatre career had it’s up and downs,( mostly downs) my work as a strip-tease telegram performer was pretty consistent.

The job served a purpose for me because I could turn down a gig if I had an audition or dance class or singing lesson to get to during the day. During that time in addition to taking classes and going on auditions, I also invested my money and time in casting seminars and classes. I thought that by attending these casting seminars there was the strong possibility of a casting director or agent seeing my work, and as a result keeping me in mind for whatever projects they were casting and filming. But this opportunity only happened for me a handful of times during the 15 or 20 years I participated in those classes. Instead of work or the possibility of work, what I got from most of those classes was a lot of misinformation about my work and indeed my worth as an actress. Let me stress something very important here that is not always admitted in the industry. MOST CASTING DIRECTORS AND SMALLER AGENTS ARE THEMSELVES FORMER ACTORS. They left the performing end of the business for a vareity of reasons. Many times it has to do with not being able to deal with the instability of the career. Living paycheck to paycheck or worse not knowing when you will find work to land the next paycheck. Finding ways to live on very little may be OK for some but for most it eventually becomes inmpossible. What ever the reason, they were more than likely envious and resentful of the actors who were still managing to hold on and keep chasing the dream. What many people don’t realize is that for every A list actor, there are several thousands of less successful actors with as much talent and dedication but with out the inner drive or the audacity or the breaks to succeed as well. I was impressionable and eager to please especially my first few years living in New York. I spent most of those first years persuing the acting profession with the very strong belief that if I could just keep adjusting my work to meet the demands of everyone in a power position (agents, casting directors and critics) I could succeed. I believed in those formative years that if people in positions of power knew what they were talking about and their critques were valid. That is where I was most wrong. Most of the time they were just imposing their own personal oppinions. Oppinions do not ever represent a universal truth. Even more, their ideas had a narrow minded and limited view of what talent and good work was. David Mamet said in his book “True and False”: “Just as it (the acting profession) attracts the dedicated, it attracts the rapacious and exploitative and these parasites can never be pleased.” I realize many agents and casting directors runnig these casting seminars were exactly who Mamet described. Oh how his words ring true now. I just wish I had come to this realizaton sooner. Most (and I stress not all)of those casting semimars were essentially masturbation exercises for casting directors to talk about themselves, prostilitize about the business and then empower themselves by using acting theory and academia to judge, critizize and condem the work of the actors and actress who presented their work to them. In short they were in the fault finding business and they certainly succeeded with me. They were not there to really look or consider talent for future projects, just look for percieved errors.

I spent so many years not only trying to meet the expectations of those people I was also allowing myself to dismiss my own work as trash. This was a huge mistake I made to myself over and over again. I also got into the nasty habit of condeming my own work because that is what I was led to believe in these classes. As much as I now regret this tragic error at least now I know better. I stress again that this was not every casting seminar or class out there. There were a few people who really did enhance my work and I will be forever grateful to them.

The successful do well in this business because they dismiss others harsh or negative judgements and do their own work. They also know how to promote themselves. The successful own an incredable ability to charm and persuade the right people into getting consideration for the kind of work they want. There is no teaching this kind of personality trait. You eather have it or you don’t. If an artist doesn’t have this kind of trait they can try to channel this kind of energy of the truly successful. I have made a vow to let the truly successful be my Muse. I will channel their charisma and charm and see if I can make it work for myself. Most importantly attending casting seminars and classes from former actors in the business are now a thing of the past. I will spend my time more productively. I will work on “Reveal”. This is a play about my experiences doing stripper-grams. Most importantly, I will continue to remind myself of the remark by Herbert Bayard Swope: “I cannot give you the formula for success but I can give you the formula for failure which is-try to please everybody.” 

Just Add Sparkle

Whether you are a burlesque dancer or not, life should never be boring—neither should your wardrobe. Whether you wear business suits or just casual slacks and sweaters, a little sparkle can go a long way in making you feel more alive and more beautiful.

Who  says we need a lover or a romantic partner to add a little spring to our step. Just add sparkle. Bling! Do it, and start creating your own signature style. My favorite example of someone very distinguished adding her own pizazz is former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and her famous pins.

New York City has a lot of stores that can help you create your own style, even on the tightest of budgets. My favorite store in New York is Earrings Plaza, located in the garment district, at 1263 Broadway, between 31st and 32nd streets. It’s a terrific little store with loads of costume jewelry. The prices are great, and there’s something for every style and color scheme. Why not add a pin or brooch to a business jacket or sweater? Another wonderful New York garment-district store is M&J Trimming, located at 1008 Sixth Avenue, between 37th and 38th streets. This fashion staple has been serving New Yorkers for over thirty years.

You don’t have to sew. Buy some new rhinestone buttons to jazz up an old black sweater or jacket. Buy some pink buttons for an old blue cardigan. Have your local cleaner sew them on. I love my glue gun. I have added sparkle to an old bra and worn it under a sexy camisole.

Adding a little creativity to her wardrobe is the first thing a burlesque dancer does in her morning routine. Putting clothes on should be just as much fun as taking them off!