Tag Archives: stripping

The joys of Glasgow when you are an 85-year-old burlesque performer

Ever-seductive Lynn Ruth Miller

Recently back from performing comedy in the Far East (as per various recent blogs here) 85 year-old American comic and late-starting burlesque performer Lynn Ruth Miller was stripping in Glasgow last week; she lives in London; she used to live in Brighton. Here she tells you what happened.


Glasgow is a unique city; much like Brighton but, in Brighton, they speak English.

People in Glasgow are positively avuncular when they see an old lady.

It started when the train pulled into Central Station. Instantly, one man took my case from the luggage rack and another hauled it off the train. As soon as I got into the station I asked a cleaner (no-one at the Information Desk) how to get to my hotel and he had a great deal to say. Sadly I could not understand one word, although I made him repeat it three times.  

I walked over to three girls in blonde wigs and asked them if they knew where Virginia Street was and they knew but insisted I take a cab because the weather was horrid. It was windy and raining. It was, after all Glasgow.

The three informed me that they were Swedish tonight because they were going to an Abba party. Did I want to go with them? I explained that I am Jewish and needed a toilet and they understood.  

They took me to the cab-stand and put me in a cab. The driver took me to the hotel, took my bag into the lobby and asked me to tell him a joke.

I did.

He laughed.

The hotel was charming. All thick, grey stone walls, dim lighting and forbidding paintings of knights on horses with spears on the walls. There was no lift and my room was on the third floor up an endless circular staircase. I felt a bit like Rapunzel and had I let my hair grow, I would have dropped it out the window and climbed down to the street. It would have been far less arduous than climbing those stairs.

One look at the size of my room and I immediately understood how it would feel to live in Japan. The good thing was I could reach EVERYTHING standing at the foot of the bed. I am 58 inches tall and the room was exactly 60 inches square.

I went out of the hotel in search of dinner and discovered that, in Glasgow, everything is open until midnight and beyond TO DRINK. Eating must be finished by ten.  

Glasgow – It is not all windy and raining

Back in the hotel, I practised my songs for the Burlesque Festival in my tiny little room at the top of the stairs. I was up so high that several birds peered in the glass to check out the caterwauling sounds coming from my open window.

The next afternoon, I lunched at Breakfast at Tiffany’s (really) and was taken by how many old couples (seventy or older) go out for lunch there. They sit at the table and never say one word to one another, eating careful and slowly lest they drop a bit of egg on their jumpers.   

I always thought I had missed so much because I don’t have a partner… no-one to share ideas with; no-one to tell my troubles to; no-one to cuddle. But, when I look at these couples who have been together for umpteen years and don’t even register the other’s presence, I wonder if I missed anything at all.  

I held my comedy class at The Riding Room for three wonderful women and talked about what makes funny.

There was one accomplished woman from New Zealand who had just come from London where she had played the Royal Vauxhall Theatre and it occurred to me that I could learn from HER not the other way around; a single mother from Glasgow who said that people consider single mothers the result of a broken relationship but the truth is they are just broke; and a wonderful young lady from Aberdeen who wants to start a burlesque venue there.

I said to them all: “Why not?”

Aberdeen could use some twirling tits to take their minds off the horny sheep; New Zealand must be thrilled to have a stripper who tells them that menopause means men are paused… and single parents really do have a lot more fun when they manage to find a baby sitter.

My big one was that night: The Saturday Evening Spectacular at The Glasgow Burlesque Festival and I was the headliner.  

Audiences in Glasgow are particularly supportive and they go wild just because you are performing. I did my song and got a huge standing ovation, which thrilled me.  

I do not think I will ever take audience appreciation for granted. It is a gift that means far more to a true performer than the money we earn. It validates us. But the sweetest thing is how very many people came up to me afterwards and THANKED ME for doing my performance.

There is a joy and a sense that humans are important and to be cherished in Glasgow. It is the underlying quality I love about all of the UK but in Glasgow (and in Brighton) it is far more apparent.  

Age, sex, sexuality, income… no-one cares. They only get upset if you are cruel to someone else or kick a puppy (and in Brighton, of course, if you forget to recycle).

Viv Gee and Lynn Ruth are kind to puppies

My Sunday in Glasgow was spectacular. I went to lunch with Viv Gee, a superb comedian and a teacher of comedy. She met me at Singl-end, a New Age restaurant so up-to-the-minute that there were no deep-fried Mars Bars on the menu. Not even fish and chips. Just blood pudding and things like seared Kale and Spirulina fritters.  

I left to meet Frodo McDaniel and spoiled the entire nutritional effect of my lunch with Costa’s hot chocolate covered with mountains of whipped cream. We discussed the problem of achieving fame and fortune when you do cabaret… evidently no-one loves a cabaret artist.  

The burlesque scene is burgeoning however and the range of talent that we see on stage goes from mediocre and expected to wild and original. It is becoming very like comedy in that more and more people are doing it and you can actually choose how sophisticated and polished a show you prefer.

Roxy Stardust created the Glasgow Burlesque Festival. This is her fourth year of bringing artists from all over the world to Glasgow to rip off their clothes, swallow swords and climb ropes. She does not discriminate between men and women, colour or genre and it is Roxy’s patter that holds each show together. She sings, she jokes, she chats to an audience who cannot help but get her… and she fills the house every night. She has figured the whole thing out just right.

At the early show, I recreated my prize-winning cabaret AGEING IS AMAZING (the one where I throw diapers at the audience, give them condoms and put wigs on their heads). I got my second standing ovation for that one.

In the late show, we had our finale for the four-day festival and I gave them ZIP, where I zip up and zip down but never strip. The audience response was gorgeous.

The next day I dragged my case down three flights of narrow stairs and walked to the station (not ten minutes away).

As always in Glasgow, someone walked me to the entrance, someone else helped me haul my case onto the train and someone ELSE stored it in the luggage rack and promised to retrieve it when we got to Euston.

And he did.

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Lynn Ruth Miller, 84-year-old, on her striptease act at the Edinburgh Fringe

“Audiences screamed, cheered”

In the past few months, globe-trotting American comic Lynn Ruth Miller, based in London, has blogged here about her recent gigs in PragueDublinBerlin and Paris.

Now, as this year’s Edinburgh Fringe enters its final week, she tells us about her most recent gig in Scotland’s capital…


Lynn Ruth in the Best of Burlesque show (Photograph by Carole Railton)

I spent three exhilarating evenings in Edinburgh as part of Chaz Royal’s Best of Burlesque production. My audiences screamed, cheered, whistled and yelled… but I could not hear them.  

I had left my hearing aid at home.

Women often say that doing burlesque empowers you and I have always questioned that until those three stellar nights when I rocked the house in the beautiful Palais du Variété tent at George Square Gardens.  

As I removed one layer after another singing my song about women and courage, I listened to the kind of adulation I never got when I removed my nightie for either of my husbands.  

No-one ever cheers for me when I manage to climb the stairs and emerge from the tube station.

I don’t get people stamping their feet when I pay for my groceries and use my own bag to carry them home.  

But, when I take off a pair of overalls at a burlesque show, the crowd goes mad.

That, my friends, is POWER.

By the time I had completed my run for Best of Burlesque I was certain I could march into Parliament and clean up that Brexit mess or hurry over to the White House to put Donald Trump in a corner until he came to whatever senses he has left. 

I had the balls to do ANYTHING.

I went to North Berwick to do an hour’s cabaret at The Fringe by the Sea Festival the Sunday after my Edinburgh triumph and was so super-charged and confident that I managed to sing ten songs almost in tune and only forget half the words. I was a success.

The bravado, the hubris, the sense of self-importance I got from prancing around in silk and tulle during that North Berwick hour to 28 sympathetic senior citizens carried me through as if I were a shooting star illuminating the universe instead of talking about all my failed attempts at love.

I was empowered. The audience clustered around me afterwards and one lovely woman said: ”It was so refreshing to hear someone your age talk about sex.”

I told her: “Darling I was talking about THE ABSENCE of sex… Didn’t you get it?”

But, of course, she didn’t and I haven’t either… not for years.

All those failures to impress, to make a mark, to show my mettle… all those empty moments when I hoped my charm would be noticed…  are now in the past.  

I have become a burlesque sensation. I have stripped and emerged triumphant. 

Eat your heart out Mae West 

I know a hard man is good to find, but I don’t need one.

I have balls…

Oh, and…

The trick to stripping is to come on with so many clothes that no matter how many things you take off, you still are fully covered when the music stops.

I proved that you don’t have to be naked to make people think you are taking your clothes off. 

Surprise!

(Photograph by Paul Adsett)

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Filed under Age, Burlesque, Cabaret, Comedy, Humor, Humour, Sex

Being in a video and talking tits on TV

Anna Smith hospital 2013 - CUT!

Anna Smithspent many years in very rude health

Anna Smith spent many years as a fake nurse

In yesterday’s blog, Vancouver-based occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith mentioned: “An HIV researcher has been given a $75,000 grant from the Elton John AIDS Foundation in support of his work to prevent HIV infection among Canadian sex workers. The money is going to facilitate the consultation (and possibly record a pop video of it).”

She is flying to Toronto tomorrow to take part in a discussion at the University of Toronto.

In a further email, she says:


As a long term fake nurse, I am thrilled to be involved in a real public health consultation at a university.

When in Toronto I will be collecting a copy of a short safe sex film I made in 1986. It is not online anywhere. It is  in the private collection of Martin Heath, an ex Londoner and friend of the late (eccentric comedy performer) Ian Hinchliffe. Martin is one of the founders of The Toronto International Film Festival. He is equally devoted to film and bicycles and he owns a private cinema and bicycle repair facility in downtown Toronto called Cinecycle.

In London, he worked as a film librarian for a totally eccentric wealthy left wing film collector who ordered him to destroy with an axe any film in his collection which was not in impeccable condition. Martin was supposed to document these ‘executions’ with photos. He could not bear to destroy all the imperfect films so he became adept at faking the executions and fabricating evidence of their destruction. Thus began his extraordinary collection.

I have not seen my film for over 25 years and I wasn’t even sure where it was until a year ago, so I’m looking forward to seeing it again. The last place I had seen it was at Cinecycle.

I hired a fantastic young cinematographer just out of school called Gerald Packer to do the camerawork. He is now one of the top cinematographers in Canada. He is currently doing a television comedy series called Schitts Creek.

I used the film as part of my comedy stage act which I performed dressed as a nurse at the second AIDS benefit in Toronto.

The film shows me in my World War Two nurse outfit (complete with navy blue cape) making a home visit to demonstrate the proper use of condoms. I use a gigantic plasticine penis for the demonstration. It also demonstrates why penises should not be made of plasticine. I showed the film to 200 gay men who were very excited and then gave a collective shout of No-ooooooh… when the giant penis broke in half.

I had had ten seconds of fame in a previous video in London for an Al Jarreau music video, Raging Waters.

I am the big girl, centre frame, eight seconds in,  giving the big wave, then on the left of frame, stepping towards the ship. I have vanished by 19 seconds in. The barely recognisable Sir Gideon Vein (Tony Green) is disembarking directly behind Al Jarreau. Shooting the video took hours of being on a freezing dock, for a fee of a few pounds and the opportunity to wear a snood for the first and last time ever.

I was in one other pop video in London in 1984. It was for some rock band I had never heard of. I still have no idea who they were and no idea of the song. I don’t think it was David Bowie unless he was having a really bad day.

They had rented the most amazing derelict ballroom – possibly in Bromley – that had three kinds of ceiling lights all combined on its low ceiling: mini chandeliers, those ones the mini pink lampshades and one other style, maybe fake Japanese.

I always took my own stripper costumes to any audition because invariably they were better than anything provided. At the ballroom I was immediately cast as ‘The Cigarette Girl’ and given a cheap, ill-fitting costume which I discarded and put on my much nicer outfit. The costume they gave me to put on was a corset that was ten sizes too large and some frayed fishnet tights. I had the same things in my bag but the corset fit and my tights were new.

The rock band was significantly older than us healthy young extras and they looked horribly dated to us, with their big blond hair, shiny pink or blue lamé 1970s clothing and their songs were old too, like they’d been disinterred.

But they weren’t as old as the venue, which looked like it hadn’t been used since the 1920s. We wondered how such an out-of-date band could afford to make a video.

The ever interesting Anna Smith

The ever interesting Anna Smith

I was also in a couple of the first pop videos in Canada but that was because my boyfriend was a Canadian rock star who will remain nameless until further notice. He is now a recluse and lives in a forest.

I recently saw him described as a legendary blues singer. I used to strip to his recorded music. All the other strippers thought I was so cool for that reason and he recorded some songs  especially for my act… Lady Strips the Blues was one… I was on one of his albums making loon calls.

I let CBC (the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) know that, if they ever needed a stripper to appear on TV – or radio – I was available.

One day they called me up because they were doing a talk show about breasts. This was instigated by a middle aged couple from New York who were in Toronto to promote a very serious coffee table book called Breasts. It was a very boring book. Each page had a large black and white photograph of a pair of breasts on it and none of the sets of breasts were spectacular in any way.

It was meant to show the variety of shapes and sizes breasts come in.

Being a stripper, I was used to seeing all kinds of them anyway, but it was a lot nicer to be laughing with your topless coworkers and seeing your friends laugh or bitch about their breasts. The way they were presented in the book seemed terribly clinical – in black and white, all photographed at the same angle, head-on and without the faces or anything. It was like seeing a series of mugshots of breasts.

As well as the CBC lady host and the couple, there were three guests on the TV show. One was a woman who had had her breasts made larger; one was a woman who had hers made smaller; and there was me.

First, the couple were interviewed; then the other two ladies were interviewed about why they had changed their breasts; and then the hostess turned to me.

Anna Smith as her alter ego ‘Nurse Annie'

Anna Smith as her stage alter ego ‘Nurse Annie’

Now Anna, she said, You are a stripper. Why is it, do you think, that men want see your breasts?

Well, I said, lots of the men who visit strip clubs don’t get to see them that often…

The hostess nodded: Yes. And…? 

And also, I added helpfully, I think they want to suck them.

The hostess’ reaction was just to say: Thankyou Anna.

At that time, it was risqué just to say the word ‘breast’ on television. I think she was trying to be ‘modern’ and ‘with it’.

It was broadcast live across Canada.

I was pleased with being on the show, as it had seemed a very easy way to make $100. The couple said they were thinking of doing a sequel book and asked if I was interested, so I said Sure and gave them my phone number. I thought it might be good for my career. Soon I was going to be a page three girl. In the meantime, though, I went to work back at the same old strip club.

One night, not long afterwards, I got home from work and my boyfriend – who was older and normally placid – was in an extremely agitated state. He told me: Some asshole phoned up and wanted to talk to you about your tits so I told him to Fuck Off.

I had to calm him down and tell him it was just the guy from the CBC show, and then I got upset because he had wrecked my opportunity to be in Breasts: Volume Two.

Anna Smith, Chicago Virgin

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A Tale of Three Women in Showbiz

No 1: ANNA SMITH IN VANCOUVER

This morning, I got an e-mail from this blog’s occasional correspondent Anna Smith. She lives on a boat in Vancouver. The e-mail went like this:

Anna Smith last night, "after three days of sleeping on a psychiatrist’s couch"

Anna Smith – surprised by her good luck with The Penthouse

One day this week, I heard on the radio that an 80-foot fishing boat had capsized downriver from me, so I biked down to Shelter Island. The captain told me that, at four in the morning he had heard a gurgling sound. An hour later, he and his girlfriend scrambled to safety.

That is why relaxation tapes don’t work for me… They always have the sound of running water and, when I hear that, I get totally stressed and think: Oh fuck! The boat is sinking.”

The most relaxing place to me is a shitty hotel room. Because I worked for so many years as a stripper in places like that. So, when I’m in a place like that I feel relaxed as if I am going to be paid a bunch of money at the end of the week for lying around reading and eating well and getting dressed up sexy and taking my clothes off a few times a day to my favourite music.

I danced at The Penthouse here in the 1980s and will be doing a striptease dance there again tomorrow night. The show is a fundraiser for The Vancouver Dyke March.  There are fifteen strippers and drag kings on the bill.

My friends are all amazed that I am doing a show at The Penthouse and are asking me: “How did you swing that?” and congratulating me, even though I haven’t done it yet!

It was just a lucky circumstance that I was asked to do it.

A friend was going to the 15th anniversary of Crema and her partner. Crema is a Vancouver drag king. She came out of retirement last year to do a show at Celebrities Night Club, at the celebration of life for Jim Deva.

She did a fantastic  show, lip-syncing to Tom Jones’ Delilah and I was amazed that scores of women were rushing up and tipping her with bills.

Penthouse_Vancouver_CUT

The Penthouse: site of a triumphant return

So, when my friend invited me to the anniversary party I tagged along. because I had never met Crema. The other guests were all dykes wearing hockey jerseys – half were in Vancouver Canucks jerseys and the other half in Calgary Flames ones.

I got into conversation with one of the Flames and I mentioned having been a stripper and, straight away, she asked if I could perform at The Penthouse. So, of course I said Yes

She quickly said “Its for dykes…” and I said “That’s alright!”

So that is what I am doing tomorrow night.

No 2 & No 3: JULIETTE BURTON IN LONDON

Yesterday afternoon, I had tea with actress and former BBC Broadcast Journalist Juliette Burton. She moved down from Edinburgh to London in January and, yesterday, had just come from a meeting at a TV station to discuss a new project. This is what she told me:

Juliette burton - coming soon as supreme

Juliette Burton – coming to the screen soon as Supermum

The whole point of being closer to London was to get more screen opportunities. I’m missing Edinburgh a lot, but it would be great to get more screen roles. I’m actively seeking more film roles – short film roles, screen roles of any kind.

So pimp me out, John, please! Pimp me for film roles only… nothing else… yet. We need to see how bad things get before we resort to that.

Anyway… I had this very important TV meeting today and I fell over going into the building. My toe has now doubled in size and is turning blue. A part of my anatomy doubling in size and turning blue. Is that attractive?

I was late for the meeting today – I never am normally – so I grabbed a taxi… I pushed the boat out and grabbed a cab. I know the metaphor doesn’t make sense in a landlocked city like London. I was nowhere near the Thames but anyway… The taxi driver was a chatty one and he told me he had had another woman in his cab recently.

He took her and her friends around London and chatted to her and she asked whether he could take her to the airport the next morning. So he did.

On that journey, he asked what she was doing here.

“I’m in London and Paris shooting for a commercial,” she told him.

Apparently she was very pretty – he told me that a few times.

He thought maybe she was a model as well as an actress.

Charlize Theron Wikipedia Photo By Gage Skidmore

The woman in the back of the London cab (Photograph by Gage Skidmore)

She was getting her plane home to LA.

“What do you do in LA?” he asked.

“I’m an actress.”

So then he spent the entire journey slagging off actors he didn’t like and telling her who was shit and overpaid. Apparently she was giggling away in the back.

At the airport he told her: “Good luck with the acting career. What’s your name? I’ll look out for you.”

Charlize Theron,” she told him.

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Live forest sex in Canada amid massage parlours and marijuana plantations

After reading yesterday’s blog about live sex on-stage at a rock festival in Norway, this blog’s occasional correspondent Anna Smith sent me the following from Vancouver.


The ever interesting Anna Smith

Anna Smith: woman with a past

It’s not that unusual for people to have sex in the forest here. It’s a bit less crowded than the beach.

Most of British Columbia is conveniently covered in forest. Forestry is a major industry, it may even provide more jobs than massage parlours, but not as many as the marijuana plantations. Work in the orchards, fishing and mushroom-picking industries is more seasonal. Tree planting, logging, sawmills, pulp & paper and forest fires provide a lot of work year round and excitement every summer. Fire fighters pour in from across the continent, livening up small towns and dumping toxic water bombs from helicopters onto burning railway trestles to the delight of intoxicated teenage ferry passengers.

I have always turned down any job that involves having sex on stage. So I did find it hilarious that, when I was dancing in the Belgian Porno cinemas (which was not quite the same thing as the Belgian Congo, although the cinemas could be described as conflict zones), the signs outside the cinemas advertised Live Sex Show but it was just me doing a striptease. We had to sign lengthy contracts in quadruplicate stating that, if we were performing with wild animals or on the trapeze, we were responsible for our own insurance.


Anna’s father sounds interesting. She also sent me this:


Anna Smith last night, "after three days of sleeping on a psychiatrist’s couch"

A photo taken last night of Anna Smith, “after three days of sleeping on a psychiatrist’s couch, not wearing any make-up.”

My father is asleep right now, which I am glad of as he has a large hole on the top of his head. He looks like he has been hit by shrapnel and I am very glad he did not remove his cap at the concert on Saturday, although he did threaten to.

His friend, a languages professor from Manchester, pleaded that he not remove his cap.

I asked the professor: “What’s the matter? Don’t you have a hole in your head?”

He said he did not, so I asked him where he did have holes – a question which did not displease him.

We were in a church. There was an announcement over the PA system that someone had left their headlights on and that they should be turned off.

My father pretended that it was an announcement that someone had left their cap on and, again, threatened to remove his.

After the concert, we noticed two spooky effigies against the wall. One represented a refugee and the other a homeless person with angel’s wings.


I have no explanation for the above.


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Edinburgh Fringe comedy performer Juliette Burton explains why she will be stripping at an erotic night in London

Juliette in Melbourne this weekend

Juliette this weekend, preparing for her shows in Melbourne

Last time British performer Juliette Burton appeared in this blog, she was heading from Adelaide to Melbourne. Now she has arrived. I talked to her via Skype this morning in an English-themed bar with Frankie Lowe, her composer-sound technician-cameraman.

“When we arrived in Melbourne,” Juliette told me, “we went to a restaurant and someone working there was from Edinburgh. He’s going back in May, so I told him Oh! You’ve got to come and see my new Edinburgh Fringe show in August; I’m writing it with Janey Godley! So I’ve started promoting it already!”

Juliette is preparing her new Look At Me show for the Edinburgh Fringe in August while still performing her When I Grow Up shows in Australia.

Juliette Burton, both below and on top of Kevin Bridges

Juliette on top of Kevin Bridges down under

“I’m performing When I Grow Up at the Trade Hall in Melbourne from Thursday onwards,” she told me, “and there’s a huge poster on the side of the building. My name is listed just above Kevin Bridges. So I’m currently ‘on top of Kevin Bridges’ and I’m very happy about that position. I’m wearing a tartan skirt.”

There was a piece in The Scotsman today,” I said, “which reckons a 5% swing would mean a Yes vote for Scottish independence in September. The Fringe in August is going to be full of references to the Scottish independence vote in September.”

“Well, Look At Me is not going to have much about Scottish independence!” laughed Juliet. “Just independence from the voices in my head, maybe. We arrived in Melbourne last Thursday and I’m not performing When I Grow Up until this coming Thursday so, every single day, I’ve been able to get up and think about the new show.”

“And Look At Me is about…” I prompted.

“It’s about whether who we appear to be is who we actually are – and whether we can change who we are on the inside by changing who we appear to be on the outside.”

I usually hate video clips dropped into live stage shows but, in When I Grow Up, Juliette managed to integrate and interact with them flawlessly. She is also using extensive video clips in Look At Me.

“All the ones I’m going to use in the Look At Me,” she told me, “I shot before I left for Australia. Frankie is sitting here in this bar transcribing the video interviews and I’ve been highlighting them, trying to get ready for the edit.

“And then, as soon as I get back to the UK in May, I’m going to be working with the prosthetic make-up artist to film all the days when I’ll be transformed into different guises. There will be a Lady Gaga-esque day; a day when I will be transformed into a man; there will be an ‘old’ day, an ‘obese’ day, the hijab day and the ‘nude’ day.”

“Ah!” I said. “the nude day.”

Gypsy Wood will be giving Juliette advice

Burlesque performer Gypsy Wood will give Juliette advice

“This Wednesday in Melbourne,” Juliette told me, “I’m going to be meeting Gypsy Wood, who is an amazing burlesque performer out here. She is going to talk to me about my nude performance for Mat Fraser at Sleaze, the erotica night he runs in London. I’m going to be performing there on 4th June. That’s exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time.

“It’s not really going to be a burlesque performance. I don’t know what to call it. Mat Fraser has kind-of erotica pieces. It’s not quite that; it’s not quite theatre. It’s been quite a difficult thing to start doing. That bit of Look At Me is definitely not comedy.

“Frankie’s going to be composing a soundtrack for this 2-3 minute sequence of me stripping in defiance of The Voices in My Head – Society’s voice, my eating disorder voices, my body dysmorphic disorder voices – all the voices that tell me I’m wrong and bad and disgusting and my body’s not nice and not good enough. I’m going to be stripping to defy them and to spite them. So it’s not stripping for sex’s sake; it’s stripping for equality and… and… for independence,” Juliette laughed, “…for Scottish independence!”

“At the Edinburgh Fringe, you’re going to be performing at the Gilded Balloon,” I said.

“Yes. I had to decide if I was going to tick a box that said This Show Contains Nudity. I ticked the box that said it contains swearing, but not the one that said it contains nudity even though, in effect, it will do.”

“Defining nudity is an odd thing,” I said. “I watched Cliff Richard’s 1959 film Expresso Bongo the other night and it’s set in Soho with strippers involved. This is 1959, a fairly mainstream British film and full breasts were visible – only tassels on the nipples. It looked like some French sex film of the 1950s, but it was acceptable in suburban British cinemas in 1959. I guess back then you could see breasts provided the nipples were covered. Maybe if you saw a bit of nipple it was ‘nude’; but if you saw a naked breast with no nipple visible it was not ‘nude’.”

Juliette Burton (Photo by Helena G Anderson)

Juliette Burton prepares for Look At Me
(Photo by Helena G Anderson)

“Yes,” said Juliette, “if you have nipple tassels on it’s not really nude and if you have a c-string – the gusset of a g-string – then I don’t think that’s counted as fully-nude either. I’m going to have to do a lot of research to make sure I really am above-board. I guess it’s the tone, the intention that matters, like a lot of the things being discussed recently about comedy in the UK. It’s the intention of the words that are used. Whether it’s about rape or race. In any of those ‘taboo’ subjects, you have to be accountable. If you say something intelligently with the right intention, then I think anyone can surely artistically be allowed to do anything.

“It’s really important for me to take Look At Me to a crowd that’s under 18 years old – I want the message of the show to be about body confidence and celebrating body diversity in a way that will make people laugh and feel included and happy – I want to make sure the nudity that is included is not sexual or grotesque. It will be part of the over-all story of body celebration… That doesn’t sound very funny, but it’s going to be hilarious!… But I’m still terrified about the idea of me being nude… It’s going to be difficult.”

“I’ll post this blog today,” I told Juliette

“Me on top of Kevin Bridges is the most important thing,” she said.

“Ah,” I replied, “that’s your BBC News training coming out.”

(Juliette used to be a BBC broadcast journalist.)

“I do love a Reithian Lecture,” said Juliette.

“A Reithian lecher?” I asked.

“A Reithian Lecture,” Juliette said. “The Reithian ideals of the BBC are very important to me. I would love all my shows to adhere to them – to educate, inform and entertain all at the same time. That would be the ultimate goal.”

On YouTube, there is an 8-minute mini-documentary about one day in the shooting schedule for the Look At Me video interviews.

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Filed under Comedy, Performance, Sex

Great Sexpectations – a successful stab at some 21st century divine decadence

Grace Gelder & Mat Fraser on stage last night

Grace Gelder & Mat Fraser on stage last night

I remember asking the late godfather of British alternative comedy Malcolm Hardee why The Greatest Show of Legs had come up with their idea of the naked balloon dance in the 1970s.

Why naked?

“There was an awful lot of it about then,” he told me. “Nudity.” And there was. The Romans in Britain causing outrage with simulated sodomy at the National Theatre in 1980. And people were streaking at, it seemed, every public event under the… well, not under the sun… this was and is Britain.

In 1969, I saw Hair on stage in London’s West End and it seemed like you couldn’t go to any fringe play anywhere – be it Greek drama, kitchen sink or a play about Serbo-Croatian pottery of the 13th century – without people stripping off and jiggling their boobs or balls at you two feet from your face. Every naff suburban pub seemed to have lunchtime strippers. And then there was Paul Raymond.

Bush Hall - OTT scene of last night’s Great Sexpectations

Bush Hall – OTT scene of last night’s Great Sexpectations

I was reminded of this last night when I went to Great Sexpectations – the semi-finals of the performance section of the annual Erotic Awards, held at the wonderfully OTT Bush Hall in London. The event was a cross between a classy Venetian masked ball and a strip club run by Paul Raymond when he was claiming he was in the business of art not tart.

Last night was a successful stab at some glamorous 21st century divine decadence, just as co-organiser Grace Gelder had promised when I chatted to her for a blog a week ago.

She organised the charity fundraising event with Lianne Coop under the banner of Juicy Productions.

During the interval at the Great Sexpectations show last night

During the interval at the Great Sexpectations show last night

The fundraising was for The Outsiders’ Trust and this was the event’s 25th year, but Grace & Lianne’s first after taking over event production from originator Tuppy Owens

The Erotic Awards sign on stage last night had, as its subtitle, a quote from English artist Grayson Perry who, in The Times, described Tuppy Owens and her helpers as “the good people in a gloriously mucky business”.

Last night’s performers were divided into Stripping and Performance Art. Personally, I couldn’t see the difference. There was also a high element of Mime going on too and the whole thing reminded me of the newly-added section of the Edinburgh Fringe devoted to Cabaret – though with added nudity and expensive costumes.

One former venue for the event was London’s ICA – the Institute of Contemporary Arts – and, as last night’s stonkingly excellent compere Mat Fraser said: “We are contemporary and we are artistic.”

The craft of compering is always under-recognised and Mat seamlessly brought together audience and performers into a party atmosphere… with, among delights too numerous to fully mention, Rubyyy Jones &?!’ (pronounced And What?!) singing the Dead Kennedys’ Too Drunk To Fuck song and stripteaser Tiny Tim bringing up-to-date 1960s TV’s Musical Muscle Man Tony Holland’s act with added sex and back-flips off a large stage speaker.

A highly coveted Erotic Award - the Golden Flying Penis

A highly coveted Erotic Award – the Golden Flying Penis

Other highlights for me included Aurora Galore debuting a new act. She was winner of the Miss Paris Burlesque Festival 2012 and says her influences range “from Lady GaGa to Haute Couture and a wide range of dance styles”. That rather understates the act.

Then there was Mynxie Monroe with an act which only incidentally included a wig, two bras, two panties and a dog being beheaded. Now, for me, that’s top class, well-structured entertainment.

There’s a special mention for (from Norfolk) gender bending MissCairo Mascara doing a striptease as Pinocchio with creative use of the nose.

But let’s not mention or even hint at what MisSa Blue did with the lit candles.

All this was merely a ‘taster’ for the much larger Night of The Senses event in May.

If Mat Fraser’s description last night was a true reflection of what has happened at that event in previous years, it’s going to be… well, quite a lot of things are better left unsaid.

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Filed under Burlesque, Sex, Theatre