#120. WTF w/ Tiffy Twister and Brandy Snifter (Season 4 Finale)

1 hour, 18 minutes

Released: December 28, 2020
Recorded: December 8, 2020

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In this episode of WEBurlesque The Podcast, Viktor chats with Tiffy Twister and Brandy Snifter, the two co-producers behind LA’s most bizarre neo burlesque outfit: WTFlesque.

The two start by recounting how they met through the larger SoCal Rocky Horror Picture Show community and what it was like to be a shadow cast member when you are way too young to be up on that stage:

BS: “My first cast was the Malibu cast. We played three shows- I played Janet at 14 years old, that is not legal!”

TT: “I did not play main roles. I either played a Transylvanian or they hid me away doing spotlight up in the rafters like Phantom of the Opera.”

Eventually, their RHPS and eventual burlesque colleague, Blanche Dubois, roped them into doing a showgirl number for her circus themed wedding and the rest was history:

BS: “We did ‘I Enjoy Being A Girl’…and it was super cute and we all tore our clothes off each other….All of us had a really good time and Blanche decided to start the Hollywood Jane Review because of her wedding.”

TT: “It was really weird doing that in front of wedding guests.”

From there, they talk about their personal styles of burlesque:

TT: “I’ll make a storyline out of my acts and I’ll dance to that…comedy stories that are burlesque.”

BS: “I think my thing is making people feel an emotion that is unexpected…Because I feel that the sexiness comes with selling the shit out of that kind of thing. Because sexiness is obvious… it’s gotta have more than one layer.”

TT: “It gets a little tiresome when either her or I are the only one in the entire show that is not the pretty princess burlesque.”

And the challenges of trying to make a show that can be niche and shocking, but also accessible to a wider audience:

BS: “For me, it’s important that even if you are doing the deep cuts it’s kind of accessible…that even if you have no clue…you can still watch the acts and go damn that’s really well done.”

TT: “Even if someone didn’t understand what was happening, they were still entertained by it.”

Unlike some of their peers, both Brandy and Tiffy have decided to stay away from the realm of digital burlesque as they feel it does not match the character and aesthetic of WTFlesque:

BS:”This whole high production thing is not really us…I Know Tiffy has a lot of ideas, I just have some kind of weird mental block. Like how can we do this and give it the same spirit and the same spontaneity.” 

TT: “We have to find the right way to do it.”

Despite the pandemic putting WTFlesque on pause, both women would say they have actually learned a lot about themselves in quarantine:

TT: “I’m a lonely person…before I thought I had no social life, but it’s even worse now so I just need to be a social whore…when Covid goes away.”

BS: “I have a pretty low self esteem and a lot of confidence problems and codependency type things… and weirdly enough I’ve learned to be ok with being by myself…I’ve never been forced to be with myself so much and I think it has helped me a lot.”

And like the majority of us, both are waiting impatiently to get back to producing at their homebase venue, the Canby:

BS: “The moment I realized this was our home…I didn’t ask the venue beforehand (if we could do fire)…I was like it’s better to ask forgiveness….and I look over at the owner (as the fire starts)…and she has the hugest smile on her face.”

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#119. Throwing the Wig w/ Renaissance Noir

1 hour, 16 minutes

Released: December 22, 2020
Recorded: December 13, 2020

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On this episode of WEBurlesque The Podcast, Viktor Devonne interviews Renaissance Noir, a Philadelphia based nerdlesquer, video production artist, and BTS superfan. 

The podcast starts by Renaissance sharing a little of their background in various physical disciplines and how this gave them the opportunity to do several numbers for one of their favorite fandoms: Black Panther: 

RN: “I have a background in dance and stage combat and martial arts…so when Black Panther came out it was actually the most interesting conflict of what character can I do…I finally have a dilemma in choosing the characters… not to say (certain experiences) couldn’t be particular to me but…. white people get to have those stories all the time.” 

This leads them into talking about what it’s like to be a black burlesque performer and how they feel that their experience of race is constantly in conversation with how they create their pieces: 

RN: “When black people do art, its black art….like when you draw, if I’m not drawing a black character I’m still a black artist…it’s a choice, and it’s something we need to do to still make it ours. Because the experience these characters get is supposed to be universal…but the default is still white.” 

From there, they recount the events of summer 2020 in the Philadelphia burlesque and drag scene and how trying to bring performers together on the subject of racial equality was such a struggle: 

RN: “It was a little bit of a mess to be perfectly honest. (Black performers) were calling for apologies and actionable solutions, but a lot of the people who were called in had a lot more to say than was necessary. Like they were going through mental illness, they had alcohol problems, or something like that. But, we are not asking about your mental history, we are asking for you to take responsibility…Some people’s responses were to up and quit which is not what we were looking for. We are looking for you to shift power to give resources to the people of color who need it. Don’t center this around whiteness. People up and leaving means they are not gonna take responsibility or fix the things they’ve done.” 

Further into the interview, Renaissance talks about their digital performances and how they have used this shift of burlesque online during the pandemic to create very prolifically: 

RN: “I’ve made at least 12 videos this year…I’ve been thriving on the video scene. Some of them are almost excuses to have videos…and some of them I’ve put a lot into it.” 

Still, while they have done their best to stay ahead of the shooting and editing curve, creating new content with executive dysfunction can often be a struggle:

RN: “The back of my brain is like, when do I get to go home?…. When I have (medication) that voice isn’t so loud…Sometimes at the end of the day, especially at crunch time, it will get done….but I don’t like (dealing with) that.” 

Finally, Viktor and Renaissance wrap up their chat by discussing their myriad of fandoms and their genuine love for KPop band BTS which they have created several acts for : 

RN: “I shit talk the idea of me liking kpop because of all the dumb politics behind it and I have spent so much money on these boys…I want them to see my videos but that’s just a wish.”

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#118. Resilience w/ Jimmie Swagger

1 hour, 12 minutes

Released: December 14, 2020
Recorded: December 6, 2020

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For this edition of WEBurlesque the podcast, Viktor has a chat with Chicago’s own Jimmie Swagger, burlesque performer and producer of Boy Toy’s Pocket Cabaret.

The interview starts with Jimmie talking about how despite the pandemic, he has actually had a whirlwind year of buying a home and getting engaged and then married. He actually credits his spouse, Whimsy Swift, with being his inspiration for not leaving the burlesque scene:

JS: “ I’m so happy to be married to another artist which is something I said I’d never do. Sometimes dating within the industry can be discouraged or it can seem like it becomes a competition and we actually compliment each other really well. I was on my way out of the industry actually to focus on work and focus on other things. I was really only going to produce and stop performing and when I met them…they were a new performer so I started going to shows just to support them…and started to see all the faces that I hadn’t seen for a little bit…and it got me re-excited about performing.”

While many performers have interesting burlesque origin stories, Jimmie’s starts with a certain infamous movie most artists aren’t even willing to talk about:

JS: “ I started burlesque in March of 2014…I was inspired to do burlesque through the movie which is the worst way to be inspired but also the best way. Christina Aguilera and Cher, they are great. But it’s not burlesque….I was an international cheerleader, I did choreography and I loved dancing and performing but that was like it…in February of 2014 my partner at the time took me to a burlesque show…and I was like oh my gosh, I could perform too. But also, oh my gosh, they are naked.”

From there, Jimmie eventually started what would become Boy Toy’s Pocket Cabaret through the most unlikely of connections, familial ones:

JS: “ We were asked by a show in the suburb I grew up in by a venue that was a sober bar. And my cousin actually worked there. They said we want something different… would you be interested in doing a burlesque show?… I remember my first show doing half a strip tease and being like you’ll have to come to the next one to see more! But the truth of it was there wasn’t more yet and also it was like 18 and over and most of the audience was my family members. So it was like Hi mom! I’m a stripper now!”

Along with being a producer and a performer, Jimmie is also an advocate for HIV positive individuals and believes in having an open and honest dialogue about what it is like to live with HIV: 

JS: “I actually got a tattoo in May of 2015 which was shortly after my HIV diagnosis in my mom’s handwriting that says ‘Resilience’ and I think the more people get to know me they realize I am one of the most resilient people. I’m used to adversity and i’m used to chaos and I just keep going…My HIV status, there’s nothing I can do, so all I can do is be loud and proud and be visible and be strong because if I’m not then what good is it? I could either let this kill me or I could become a survivor and thrive so I’m very vocal about it…and actually about a week ago I accepted a position as a Grants and Contracts Manager at Aids Foundation Chicago. So for the first time in my life I’m able to take the advocacy I tried to do in my free time…and make it a full time job.”

Besides the advocacy work, Jimmie is also a  website coding programmer and has started his own agency to do coding with a cause:

JS: “I started a company called Queer Coded…our slogan is ‘Resisting the Binary in a Binary Language.’ But really the purpose for me was taking a skill that I love and enjoy and turning it into a business not so that I could profit, but so that I could take these skills and I can make them monetized so that I can donate my services to people who don’t have 

these resources…One of the things our company focuses on outside of web development and being a digital design agency is actually providing opportunities for young queer people to kinda step under our wing and begin training and learning development and put them on a path for a career they may not have had because learning coding is expensive.” 

At the end of the day even with all of this going on in his life, Jimmie wants to continue performing and putting on a show. He isn’t ready to call it quits just yet:

JS: “We just had our six year anniversary for Boy Toy… it kind of lit a fire under my ass…and I think once the new Newport opens up we are going to bring back Boy Toy in this virtual space.”

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#117. Spray Paint the Bubble Wrap! w/ Nasty Canasta

1 hour, 27 minutes

Released: December 7, 2020
Recorded: December 4, 2020

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#116. Everyday Showgirl w/ Rosie Cheeks

64 minutes

Released: November 30, 2020
Recorded: October 28, 2020

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On this episode of WEBurlesque The Podcast, Viktor Devonne has a talk with producer, performer, actress, and costume designer Rosie Cheeks.

Like many people before her, Rosie came to New York with a dream:

RC (4:28) “So I went to college for fashion design. When I came up to New York I kind of had the idea of I’ll either go into fashion design or musical theater. I’ll do whatever happens first. I have a very good friend who is in the fashion industry and I went to a lot of parties with him and I realized pretty quickly that was not my scene… and I went to a couple of auditions and booked something from that and just took that path. “

After living the life of an auditioning actress for several years,  Rosie felt that maybe it was time to go in a different direction and try something new. It was then that she found burlesque:

RC (7:25-11:00) “I got really jaded by auditioning. I wasn’t naive anymore….auditions became the end all be all. I either get this or I don’t have work. I put a lot of pressure on myself.  And so I decided to take some time off… I had always thought about burlesque so I decided to sign up for Jo Boobs Coney Island Masterclass… I felt like if I could get over my hurdle of being onstage by myself that I would be really good at it. And I always had this feeling deep inside that I could be good at burlesque. It was almost what I was doing in musical theater. I was always playing showgirls. “

The pandemic may have put her live performance career on hold, but that hasn’t stopped Rosie from pursuing other projects. By using social media, she realized she could use her show girl expertise to put a little sparkle in other people’s day to day lives:

RC (22:20) “I recently started an Instagram called Everyday Showgirl. I had a friend recently ask me what I was an expert at….the more I thought about it I realized I’m pretty expert at being a showgirl. And I’d love for more people to embrace that in themselves….taking little things everyday and being encouraging and supportive of a community of show girls….I would love to have an army of them all over.”

Before quarantine, Rosie spent little under year producing Burlesk at Birdland, a famous midtown club for music and entertainment. While getting the show on it’s feet took some work, Rosie is really looking forward to getting back to it and making the show a well oiled machine that she can be proud of:

RC (37:15) “It came into my life because my husband has been doing graphics for Birdland for many many years. And when they opened up the theater space and wanted something other than just jazz, we were there. Started out as a weekly show which is so much work as a producer.  Those first few months I felt I couldn’t get my head above water…to make it what I wanted to be. I also felt pressure to get people in seats…especially in Midtown which is not really known for burlesque anymore. But, I absolutely loved producing that show.”

Despite mostly being known as a classical performer, Rosie does have a guilty pleasure of occasionally performing nerdlesque. Specifically, nerdlesque as male characters:

RC (45:20) “When I was asked to do Game of Thrones I had never even seen Game of Thrones. And I did end up watching it and loving it until the final season like everyone else. I think it’s just more the characters. Who I think I could have fun doing…it’s more the attitude…which is why I think it’s fun and ridiculous…if I’m getting ready to do one of the guys, I’m definitely different backstage…I kind of just hang back into me.”

Though nerdlesque is often considered much more niche than the classical showgirl performance, Rosie does her best to get inside a character’s head and do an act even the truly committed fans will appreciate. No matter what kind of burlesque you do, at the end of the day it is always about the story you are trying to convey to the audience:

RC (49:40) “Because the nerdlesque community is such a special community and they have something invested usually to whatever theme it is I really want to do it justice…What I try to do is (ask) how does this character take off their clothes? How does this character do burlesque? I think that’s more what my style is.” 

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#115. So Many Intersections w/ Tas Al-Ghul

1 hour, 43 minutes

Released: November 23, 2020
Recorded: October 27, 2020

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#114. Highs and Lows w/ Sweet n’ Lo

1 hour, 4 minutes

Released: November 16, 2020
Recorded: November 2, 2020

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On this edition of WEBurlesque The Podcast Viktor talks to NYC burlesque performer Sweet N’ Lo.

Though Lo had been attempting to get on the podcast for several weeks, her health unfortunately had other ideas:

SNL (11:05) : “In March my mom got Covid and was in the hospital for six weeks and almost died. But she is not dead! So I feel it’s better than it could have been? I also got Covid but it was mild. But it turns out it might have exacerbated some health issues I didn’t know I had…due to some combination of my mild covid, the fact that I’ve been working at home and not walking as much as I usually do, and the fact that I’m a woman who has been on oral contraceptives I have hilarious amounts of blood clots in my legs and lungs.”

Thankfully, she is doing much better and has been able to recuperate in no small part thanks to having a steady job with income and health insurance she can depend on: 

SNL (19:40) “I’m not a full time burlesque performer…I’m happy with my day job and I like that a steady income allows me to buy lots of rhinestones and occasionally get up in front of an audience and sing a show tune. That’s a good balance for me.”

While burlesque is a passion Lo has had for many years, her style and focus has definitely changed as she has matured as a performer. No matter what though, she still likes to keep it weird:

SNL (25:20- 29:10) “When I started burlesque I used to go a lot to the nerdlesque shows and I was very geeky. I still am, but I was being geek as a lifestyle choice for a long time in the early 2010s and was like yeah I’m going to be a nerdlesquer. I found out I like watching other people do nerdlesque but it is very involved and in order to cosplay correctly and be faithful to the properties you are doing an homage of I think it took a little bit more time and money than I thought it was going to…..(Now,) I would say comedic ridiculousness on one end of the spectrum and just really theater geeky show tune rhinestone sparkle on the other end.”

Lo may have not yet joined the digital bandwagon that many performers are jumping on, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have any plans to. For her, she recognizes that making a new video based act is something that will need time and effort to reach its best potential:

SNL (48:50- 51:00) “I’ve really been riding the ‘I have barely enough energy to keep my shit together on a day to day basis train’…I have ideas specifically for two acts I wanted to do this year…the rhinestones are there and the trim is there so it’s gonna happen, I just have to get off my ass and do it…I’m coming to terms with the fact I’m not as media and tech savvy as I want to be….I gotta get better at it, but it’s also going to be very hard to get me over the hump….I do very much want to return to burlesque and if that has to be digital for a while that’s fine too. And ya know what? Then it won’t be ‘oh I don’t have videos of my acts.’ All of my acts just are videos.”

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#113. Manifesting Abundance w/ Miss Poison Ivory

1 hour, 19 minutes

Released: November 9, 2020
Recorded: September 26, 2020

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#112. On Pins and Needles w/ Miss Vivian

59 minutes

Released: November 2, 2020
Recorded: September 23, 2020

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