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Showbiz Talk Once More
Girls, Girls, Girls! I love being one – wearing high heels, playing with makeup, changing my hair color. It’s about flaunting all you’ve got. Women in the late ‘20s turned their womanly assets into an art form when Burlesque became a primo form of entertainment and stars such as Dixie Evans shook up theatre stages around the world.
One modern Grrrl who longs for that past era of teasin’ and pleasin’, is Liz Goldwyn whose documentary “Pretty Things,” screened during the Egyptian Theatre’s Burlesque Tribute Weekend. The film follows Goldwyn as she tracks down Burlesque stars including Sherry Britton and Lois de Fee, and tries to find out how they became the glamour queens of their day.
While Goldwyn set up the film’s climax to be her own little burlesque number at the end, the real scene stealers were the ladies she interviewed, especially ballsy, sailor-mouthed Zorita, known for her snake dances and slinking out of the closet with no shame. Her responses and rebuttals to stories from other ladies of the scene were show-stopping hilarious.
The movie would satisfy any fan of burlesque. And it was fun to see one of the stars, flame-haired “Ball of Fire” Betty Rowland, right in the audience (now in her 90’s!) and signing autographs after the film.
For more on Pretty Things, go here.
The previous night, the Egyptian screened the film “Gypsy,” starring Natalie Wood as the famous Gypsy Rose Lee. Opening the film was some absolutely dreadful live vaudeville-style comedy (which I guess is appropriate), terrible singers, and little live burlesque tease from Bonnie Delight whose bubbly, bouncy disposition seemed more Vegas showgirl than vintage burlesque.
Truly nobody can put on a show like LA’s own rock ‘n’ roll Burlesque Troupe, the Velvet Hammer whose era of sell-out shows during their ten-year-run had this town buzzing each time they performed. These rowdy, tattooed, voluptuous babes, many who came from the punk and rockabilly scenes, truly brought back the art of the tease as they did in the ‘50s, strutting their stuff in a flurry of feather boas, fringed thongs, rhinestone-studded brassieres, and tasseled pasties.
I had the great pleasure of featuring the Velvet Hammer girls in a profile I did on the lively burlesque scene from LA to NYC a few years ago. Check it out: HERE
Though the Hammer girls have disbanded, you can still catch them in book form. Founder Michelle Carr recently released a coffeetable photography book that is as gorgeous as the girls themselves. Filled with full-color pictures of their glittering glam slam scenes onstage and backstage, as well as grainy, high-contrast black ‘n’ white candid shots full of attitude, it made me want to go back to those shows RIGHT NOW!
But alas, we could only get sampling of the fun that was had when Carr held a book release party at the La Luz Gallery. Many of the Hammer girls were on hand as well as club scenesters I hadn’t seen in years. As always, good times were had by all. Viva la babes!
During movie award season, “I’m Not There” drew accolades for the many Bob Dylan portrayals by the likes of Cate Blanchett and Heath Ledger. I personally hated the movie. If I want to see Dylan, I’ll rent “Don’t Look Back” or go to an excellent Dylan memorabilia exhibit like Bob Dylan’s American Journey, 1956-1966 at the Skirball Cultural Center. The exhibit featured 160 artifacts from Dylan’s early career, including a few non-musical personal items such as a classmate’s yearbook where he wrote, “I always thought you had nice hair.” The homage follows Dylan from his humble beginnings being inspired by Woody Guthrie to various video clips showing his rise to folk pop icon, including some nonsensical poetic beat ramblings from the young Dylan caught as he wonders down the street. You can also simulate singing or playing instruments along to his songs in a special music room, which will make your realize why there is only one Bob Dylan! Check it out through June 8th.
I discovered the most civilized way to see a big concert without going to a big ol’ arena, dealing with traffic, and being annoyed by the drunk guy in front of you. I went to see “Shine a Light,” the Rolling Stones concert film directed by Martin Scorsese that proves rock ‘n’ roll never grows old. Although the creases in their faces run as deep as their history, the Stones are no worse for the wear and tear. Mick Jagger still has the body of the 30-year-old and more energy than a teenager. His undeniable moves and voice really come across on film as well as his “I’m always ready for my close-up” presence. While the live footage is intercut with interviews from the band’s ‘60s and ‘70s heyday, the most interesting footage is the opening segments of Scorsese in director-mode freaking out about getting the show on film and dealing with the stars’ last minute decisions. More Marty! We want to see this legendary filmmaker at work in contrast with one of the most amazing rollicking rock bands of all time. Now that’s drama!
A few weeks prior, I caught another concert movie, this time with U2 and they weren’t just bigger than life, they were in 3D! I’ve been a U2 fan since my teens. They have been one of those bands that have moved me like no other. I’ve cried at their concerts, I’ve been inspired by their words, and I’ve been in awe of how Bono has risen from a punk kid to a world class humanitarian. Yes, music can change the world. With U23D, suddenly Bono was right in front of me, and the jumping, waving crowds also seemed to be there too. It was like being in the front row without getting tousled, squashed and having beer spilt on me! I wish I could go to concerts like this all the time!