I also spoke to the women performing at HMS Pin-up before and after their acts, in an effort to find out a little bit more about their individual experiences on and off stage.
Violet Voom: I got my stage name through my teacher who I spent last summer working with, along with some other girls. She asked us to come up with some words that we felt represented our personalities, what we liked about life, what we liked about burlesque, and then because she is deeply involved in the burlesque scene herself, she knew what names were already in use by other performers. She then tried to come up with something creative and new for each of her tutees, and that’s how I became Violet Va Voom! Va
Violet Voom: I happened to pick up a flyer that was advertising classes whilst in a fetish-y shop in Va . I thought ‘that sounds like a good idea…’- something new, something to get me out of the house, something a bit of fun and something that would help me get a little bit fitter. I wanted to build my confidence, to try something completely different, and so I took classes once a week (I think it was a ten-week course). Manchester
Violet Voom: I think in all performance there has to be an element of self because it’s about identifying with music or colours, or movements that feel comfortable, familiar and enjoyable. You would find it very difficult, I think, to try and put something together to a piece of music that you didn’t like or identify with, or to move in an unnatural way. That’s my way of thinking about it. Va
Violet Voom: My wardrobe, primarily! I’ve only just begun performing on a regular basis, so I’m not in a position as yet to create or commission pieces. I have to be creative with what I own already and find mainstream outlets for the pieces that I need (such as nipple tassels or stockings), but there are purveyors through Myspace/Facebook who are available to provide items that are a bit more bespoke. Va
Violet Voom: I think, given that I only have three acts to my repertoire so far (being fairly new on the scene), the two that I performing currently are my favourites. The first act is the act that I put together for the end of my class, and each of the other girls in the group did the same (they chose a piece of music and we worked together with our tutor to put something together). That was more of a test piece to see if I had what it takes to move forward and develop as a performer. I have two very different acts coming up this evening that represent different sides to my personality. I like that about burlesque; it’s not about having to stick to one path of expression, you can chop, change and choose to suit mood and tone. Va
Violet Voom: I think it’s about being able to identify with an audience who appreciates what you are doing, understands what you are doing and also about those little five-minutes of fame. You’re the centre of attention in a room full of people who are cheering, appreciating the gumption that you have in getting on stage and taking your clothes off, and being free to do that whilst knowing (hopefully) no one will criticise what they see from beginning to end. Va
Violet Voom: A piece of good music- that’s absolutely essential. I’ve yet to see a burlesque performer who did it in silence, but I suppose that could be one very interesting aspect of performance that could be challenged! I think that it’s important to have reliable props, so that you know what’s going to happen at each point in your routine (and hopefully nothing will malfunction), and I think that it’s important to end on a high for your audience, which means timing things well along with the piece of music so that everything flows. Va
How did you come up with your stage name, and can you perhaps choose one word to describe your on stage persona?
Tallulah Mockingbird: Funnily enough, my stage name was actually one of the first ones that I thought of myself (it’s a play on the whole ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ thing). I did sit down with some very good friends of mine over a couple of glasses of wine and have a complete brainstorm about all the burlesque names that they could think of (and one friend was actually really great at it), but in the end it still came back to the one that I’d first thought of.
And my stage persona in one word? That’s a bit tricky…Cheeky is not quite the right word, but it has a sort of cheeky pin-up kind of feel. That’s what I like to go for in my act anyway.
“The Scarlet Sta” Miss Ruby Red: I’ve always been called ‘Red’; I’m ex-army and whilst I was in the army I had bright red hair, so I was called that then. Ruby was my grandma’s name and I think ‘Ruby’ and ‘Red’ naturally go together, whereas the ‘Scarlet Sta’ bit is so that when you Google the name, I come out near the top of the results!
And I would say my stage act is very ‘cheesecake’- very fun, flirty and girly.
Miss Golden De Licious: I came up with my stage name on a boat on the way back from Bestival (on the
) last year. I’d been waitressing in a burlesque tent and got to see all these great performers; it was absolutely brilliant and I thought ‘I really, really, really want to do this now’. So, on the way back on the ferry, we were coming up with stage names to give me some inspiration for my first routine, and I decided that I wanted my first act to have a temptation/garden of Isle of Wight theme. Eden
We went through all the usual types of suggestions, with ‘Fifi’, ‘Cherry’, ‘Trixie’, ‘Sparkle’ and everything else, and nothing fitted, so I decided that the best thing to do was use the name of an apple [to link with the theme of my proposed act]. We tried ‘Miss Appley- (Whatever)’ and ‘Pink Lady’, and it didn’t really work, but then ‘Golden’ came up (and my hair’s ginger, so that worked) along with ‘De Licious’ (which is quite an apt name), and so ‘Golden De Licious’ it was!
And my on-stage persona? After tonight’s show, I think it’ll have to be ‘crazy’ (in the best possible way!) ‘Unique’ possibly…I’m going to say ‘unique’.
How did you get into burlesque, and how long have you been performing?
Tallulah Mockingbird: I’ve been performing for about three years now. I did a course with a woman called Jo King (aka ‘Good Time Mama Jojo’) up in
a few years ago, as I thought it was something that I kind of had in me, but didn’t ever have the confidence to express by myself. I was lucky enough on that course to meet six other women [whom, along with Tallulah, would later become ‘The Teasemaids’] who at the end of it all, all thought ‘I wonder if we could actually get on stage and do something like that?’ London
So, Jo King worked with us to choreograph an act, and we eventually got to perform at Bethnal Green Working Men’s’ Club. We did it once, but then we thought ‘Ooh hang on, we were all a bit nervous that time. Was it just a fluke [that it all went smoothly]? Maybe we should actually get up and give it another go?’
That was three years ago, and we kind of haven’t stopped since!
It was probably about two years ago that I sort of said to myself, ‘Well, that was all really good fun. These women have become my best friends and they’re really great people, but I need to challenge myself a bit more and get up on stage by myself sometimes and see what happens.’
I have been performing since the beginning of this year, finding gigs in my home area (
) and now this evening in Manchester . Portsmouth
“The Scarlet Sta” Miss Ruby Red: I’ve been performing for about a year and a half. I actually got into burlesque when I was heavily pregnant with my second daughter, after my husband bought me a book on Dita Von Teese, but it’s something I’ve always been interested in. I also saw the ‘Faking It’ special with Immodesty Blaize and Scarlet Fever (who I’ve actually worked with) and thought ‘well if someone off the street who’s a cleaner can do something like that, why can’t I? Let’s go for it and see how it goes!’ And we are here, a year and a half on, so there you go!
How much of your burlesque identity is actually ‘you’, and how much of it is a stage persona that only comes out when you step out in front of the audience?
Tallulah Mockingbird: That’s a good question, as I think the line has got blurred. There is a certain amount of truth in saying that now, my stage persona is actually the real me in a way. I was really quite shy for many years; I liked to make people laugh and knew that this was inside, but didn’t know how to express it.
I’d say that through becoming more confident (burlesque has definitely given me so much more confidence; I feel self assured and certainly not degraded in any way),the person that I am on stage, when I’m giving you a nod and a wink, is actually more ‘Tallulah’ than the Tallulah at her desk job sometimes. More of that has now fed into my personal life really, than my personal life feeding back into my act. It’s very much a positive thing, yeah.
“The Scarlet Sta” Miss Ruby Red: What you see is what you get I’m afraid! I’m like this most of the time, so I don’t see myself as having two different sides.
Miss Golden De Licious: Ah, that’s a good question. A lot of it is purely stage: I’m not really like my very over the top girly-girl act, but then again, I don’t go around holding my crotch constantly either! I do think that because burlesque builds your confidence so much, you tend to have more confidence everyday as well. A lot of [my stage persona] has reflected back into my day-to-day [life] as well now, which is positive because I am more confident now as a result of being on stage.
Where do you get your costumes from?
Tallulah Mockingbird: Ah, bit of a mixed bag. I’ve now got the most fantastic corset maker in the world- love her to bits and she does an excellent job. I’m wearing a sailor costume tonight that I’ve made myself, so part of the joy of it for me is actually creating costumes and other bits and pieces too. I’ve also got a fabulous pasty maker who makes great nipple tassels- so yeah, a bit of a mixture, but sometimes it’s better left to the experts!
“The Scarlet Sta” Miss Ruby Red: I usually make them or find them in shops and alter them a little. EBay is always good too!
Miss Golden De Licious: Ah, dropping names here! Adora Belle- she’s got to be my number one for costumes, she is absolutely wonderful. I’ve got a couple that have been sort of EBay magical finds that I’ve glue-gunned to death with sequins, but I have to say, Adora Belle will make you a fabulous costume.
Have you had any favourite performances so far that particularly stood out?
Tallulah Mockingbird: Ooh gee, that’s a good question. Some of my favourite performances have been with ‘The Teasemaids’ as a troupe because you do get a really good reaction to the troupe. We did a performance at The London Burlesque Festival this year (we were actually the very first act on and so we sort of opened the festival), and we did an act where we dressed up as ponies and did a kind of dressage number. The reaction to that was great and we all came off the stage with a real buzz, feeling really empowered. The audience were fantastic.
“The Scarlet Sta” Miss Ruby Red: My ‘Forces Sweetheart’ routine where I perform en pointe (I quite like that one), and just the classic striptease to ‘The Stripper’ as everybody knows the music and so they get involved more!
Do you have a favourite pin-up girl/ performer who inspires you or that you aspire to be like?
Tallulah Mockingbird: Well, Immodesty Blaize is the reason why I started out, so I would probably say her. I’ve never had the opportunity to watch Dita Von Teese perform, but Immodesty is billed as the queen of
burlesque and I went to see some of her shows (probably about four years ago) with some friends. We had a few drinks, and I was sat there saying ‘I could do that!’ and they were going ‘Yeah, yeah you could’, so I’d blame her! But she is great; she’s very sexy and she’s not a skinny little minx either. She’s a really curvy, fulsome woman which I think is very, very sexy. UK
Violet Va Voom: There are women in pin-up and burlesque who I certainly admire, but it’s not so much aspiring to be like them, but more what they have done and knowing that there is a place for my own style within that greater spectrum. An obvious name that would come to anyone’s mind when they hear ‘burlesque’ would be Dita Von Teese, and she’s probably been a bit of a trailblazer for burlesque across the western world. However, it’s not about wanting to emulate or reach the same heights, it’s about admiring what she does, appreciating her look and feeling a certain level of identification with that.
“The Scarlet Sta” Miss Ruby Red: I have a few: Dita Von Teese, Immodesty Blaize- they’re obviously the ‘new’ ones [in terms of burlesque/pin-up history]-, Bettie Page was always a good one for photo work (pin-up and whatnot), but performance-wise perhaps not that interesting. Everybody seems to like her more than everybody else, but I don’t know whether that’s because she’s one of the icons for fetish!
Miss Golden De Licious: Good Time Mama Jojo has got to be my big inspiration because if she can do it, anyone can do it and she is fantastic. She’s got gall, she’s got guts, comedy by the brimful and she’s just a larger than life personality. You go to one of her nights and watch her, and just go ‘Jesus! I really want to do this…I can do this.’ She’s inspirational and she’s fantastic.
Do you have a favourite element of burlesque or a favourite part of your act?
Tallulah Mockingbird: Anything that gets a laugh out of people. I like it when you actually manage to surprise people so they are not quite sure what’s going to happen next.
I’ve got a spot in a balloon act that I do, where I turn around, bend over and there’s a balloon there on my bottom that wasn’t there before, so I pop that…moments like that are really good fun. There’s also a moment in my sailor act where I- Let’s just say I pull out a prop that people weren’t expecting to see and it makes people laugh. It’s the element of surprise!
“The Scarlet Sta” Miss Ruby Red: I just like the whole glamorous aspect of it; being able to get dressed up and not having to hide behind your control pants and your jeans!
Miss Golden De Licious: I always like a change in my music. Most of my acts tend to start with a beginning where I’m one person and a second half where I’m a completely different persona. That minute when the music changes- my tummy starts to swirl and I think ‘Yeah, this is it now! This is the bit that everybody likes’- that’s my favourite bit.
And finally: what three things could you not do without on stage?
Tallulah Mockingbird: Ooh…tassels, high heels and a cheeky wink!
“The Scarlet Sta” Miss Ruby Red: Makeup, music and a decent audience. Then again, you’ve got to work it and see how it goes anyway!
Miss Golden De Licious: A nude thong (because it covers a multitude of sins), heavy duty, industrial double-sided sticky tape (because I have big knockers and a lot of my pasties are quiet heavy as well, so you need them really gelled on) and a third thing…I would never go on without a pair of false eyelashes because I think once you stick them on, that’s it- you are that different persona. It’s all in the false eyelashes!