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Burlesque, Post III – Conclusion (or Not), and a Brad Spurgeon Burlesque Curmudgeon FAQ

April 25, 2013



Last night as I prepared to go to the Vieux Léon open mic and then the Highlander open mic and then maybe the Cavern open vocal jam, I received an SMS from a friend inviting me to go see a burlesque show at the Manufacture Bar Rock in Paris near Pigalle. Starring the inimitable American, Paris expat, Louise de ville, who calls herself a feminist, and puts a sarcastic and humorous edge on her patter, it would actually be the third time that I join my friend to see a Louise de ville burlesque (and this time her crew of various other burlesque acts). And the third time I write about it here. I suspect it will be the last time.

That conclusion has nothing to do with the quality of the show, Louise’s talents (she’s very smart, works an audience well, and she’s provocative), or the friendliness of my friend. It has everything to do with my lack of understanding of what today’s Burlesque is all about. I withheld coming to any conclusions on the first two times I saw Louise’s show, and actually, I will not really conclude anything today, since I don’t feel I can conclude anything. Nor, in fact, does it call for or require or need any concluding. Either you appreciate it, get it, and like it – this burlesque thing – or you don’t. And I am in the latter category!

I think Louise could see that herself when during the break between the first part of the evening and the second part she came up to me in my corner nursing my beer while looking at all the women (the spectators) – including Louise – jumping around on the dance floor in a moment of relaxation, and she said: “You look like a dad!” “Huh?” She said it was the way a father would look with a kind of judgmental air over the actions of the young people partying…. Well, all I could say to her was that, yes, actually, “I AM a dad….” She left with no comment!

If that made me feel like I was over-the-hill, old and a stick-in-the-mud, I took no offense to the comment at all – I kind of liked it. But it did make me reflect on my own reactions to the rest of the evening’s show, my reactions to which DID make me uneasy over just how much of a “dad” I might be. I just do not “get” what this modern Burlesque movement is all about. It doesn’t do anything for me. I mean, here, in a nutshell, are my observations, the way this stick-in-the-mud dad sees the thing:

    – So first of all, Burlesque for me was always the old fashioned, naive step before hard-core stripping of the kind you have all over North America and in a few other parts of the world was allowed after a change in mores: IE, burlesque was naive, and really limited by the old fashioned mores of society: So the women had pasties on their nipples and their shows were really watered down until society changed and they went completely naked. Today, the new mores, changed mores are still accepted and “hardcore” strip clubs and strippers still exist. Those places make these burlesque shows look coy, naive, and like strange games-playing. As far as the sexy element goes, really, you see more of a woman’s body on a beach in the south of France than on the burlesque stage in Paris….

    – Right, so if it is not about the woman’s body… but wait… one of the burlesque women last night wore panties that when she turned around, it was written: “Haze Me.” Louise pointed out to the audience – and whether this was tongue-in-cheek or whether it was real, I cannot fathom, that such a statement was actually a kind of reverse feminism, and that it was not the statement that it apparently said – IE, my body is yours, and I’m hot for you – but rather it was a way of putting men off the idea of hazing a woman in first year college. Listen, I do not buy this at all. Before she kindly explained that, the only thought going through my mind was, “Holy crap, this woman is asking for it???” It almost made the hazing seem desirable. (I have the same opinion of all these women who have been stripping down around the world to bare their breasts for women’s rights…. No, no. I don’t believe in that reverse psychology.)

    – It seemed to me that this super naive approach to burlesque was of more fun, enjoyment and hip-coolness to the women in the crowd than to the men. Of course, there appeared to be quite a few lesbians, so perhaps that was normal. But like one of the other shows I saw, it seems designed almost more for the women than for the men.

    – I really did feel like a dad when I found a large percentage of the audience clapping, cheering, shouting approval and making other manifestations of pleasure and encouragement at the same time – when I really didn’t know what all the fuss was about. I mean, again, in terms of the nudity, we ARE living in the age of YouPorn.

    – So if this is NOT about the nudity, what IS it about? Sketches that did not wring my emotions dry in the way a good song at an open mic by a talented singer does. Again, naive stuff – or faux naive. Sarcastic, etc.

    – Whereas I genuinely have a great time attending open mics and listening to musicians and playing music myself, and I genuinely understand and accept the good cheer and encouragement and praise – or looks of disbelief at something bad – of my fellow open mic spectators, I really felt as if much of the audience reaction in the burlesque show was disingenuous. What was all the fuss about!!!???

Conclusion in the form of a Brad Spurgeon and Burlesque FAQ:

Was it a fun night? Well, yes, I enjoyed myself. It was diverting. Distracting. Made me think.

Should there have been more to it than that? Well, yes. More emotion, and more understanding. More self-identification, perhaps – or rather, fantasizing.

So was it a success? I would say it was a great success, as the room was cramped tight with people, all apparently having a great time and buying beer.

Will I go again? No, I see no reason why I would go again. I probably would not write this post if I intended to go again, since I’ll have myself strung up and whipped with a leather horse whip no doubt, if I show up again.

What will I do instead? Continue doing what I love doing, which is going to open mics – even if I seem to have lived every kind of open mic on earth – but also keep on going out to try to discover other forms of entertainment and community get together…. (Any suggestions are welcome.)

Do I think burlesque is morally depraved? No way. I just DON’T get it!!!!

Do I understand how modern burlesque is supposed to empower women, whereas stripping is supposed to debase them? Not at all. Please help explain it to me.

Am I really a dad? Absolutely!

Am I really an old geezer who just doesn’t get it? Well, at least as regards burlesque, yes, I guess I am….

Am I politically incorrect? I hope so….

While all of this may sound like ultra-conservative curmudgeon stuff, do I consider myself a conservative?
Absolutely not!

Do I apologize to my friend who invited me and to Louise? Absolutely.

Should readers go to see Louise de ville and her gang in their show on Wednesdays at the Manufacture in Paris?
Darn right!

Do I want readers to enlighten me as to what it is that I miss in the point of today’s burlesque? Please do!!!!

PS: The women were beautiful, but the other problem with this thing for me is that since I like making videos so much for my blog…I was frustrated in that I did not feel like it was right for me to make videos of this show! 🙁

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