As I was scanning the Shepherd Express early last week I saw the headline Pasties and a G-String and got excited thinking someone was writing about the song of the same name, from my favorite Tom Waits album, Small Change. When I got to the article, I found that it had nothing to do with Tom Waits’ clever description of the going’s on at The 2 O’clock Club, but it was indeed about a burlesque show. In Milwaukee, no less. Miss Bella Sue DiVianti has created a ‘neo-burlesque’ group called The Alley Cat Revue; styled after a group she performed with in St. Louis. In addition to herself, the Revue includes Vee Valentine, Raven Nevermore and Ava Von Sweets. The Valentines Extravaganza that was held at Stonefly Brewing Co. on Friday also included some ‘first time on stage’ performances by recent students of Miss Bella Sue and Vee’s “Art of the Tease” class held at The Tool Shed on February 6th. More about the show in a little bit.
Janine, the newest Wild Goose crew member, said she wanted to do something on Friday and I suggested that we go check out The Alley Cat Revue. Now, I don’t know Janine that well, so I sent her links describing the The Revue and Stonefly, hoping she would see the adventure in it. I shouldn’t have worried; a true sailor is always up for an adventure, and Janine has proven herself a true adventurous sailor.
The show was scheduled to start at 10 o’clock so we went early to get a good seat and to have some dinner. The menu on-line looked good with lots of bacon and sausage stuff and mashed potatoes with celery root! They also have several wheat free and vegetarian options. If you must. I was really hungry by the time we got there and Janine suggested we order a few things and share. I think Janine and I are going to become good friends. We selected the fish fry, some wings and… drum roll please…deep fried BACON! The menu described “thick cut Usinger’s bacon fried in beer batter”. I could hardly wait.
Unfortunately my exhilaration was short lived. I am very sad to report that this bacon did not live up to the porcine name and I predict the Usinger elves are going to show up shortly to revoke this bacon’s porky privileges. The Stonefly brew batter was so thick I really couldn’t taste (or even see) the bacon at all. It was supposed to be served with Stonefly Stout mustard which would have been a dish saver (mustard fixes anything). What we were actually served was more like a floury tasting cheese sauce (looking at the menu I’m guessing it was the Stonefly Brown Ale Cheese sauce). Oh, well, at least I got it out of my system. Next time I can go for something more healthy like the tofu pot pie. Yea, right.
By now I figured out the on-line menu differed slightly from the one in the restaurant. No big deal, but it does make it impossible to tell what is a deliberate substitution and what is a mistake. Fortunately, the next two dishes we ordered were very good, regardless of the intention. The fish fry options were a choice of smelt or cod and thank goodness my dining partner felt the same way I did about smelt. Ick. Instead of 3 pieces of cod as listed on the on-line menu, we got two pieces (albeit, nice sized), warm sauteed apples, and cold slaw (which wasn’t mentioned on either menu). We made the deep fried fest complete and chose french fries instead of tater tots or celery root mashed potatoes. We were happy with the cold slaw instead of a 3rd piece of cod, deliberate or not, and it was a nice fish fry for under $10. Next up were the wings and we went with half BBQ and half spicy. Our server said the spicy wasn’t that spicy but I am a wuss when it comes to hot things and even the BBQ was a little spicy for me. But not too spicy I couldn’t choke a couple down. They were big wings and it was a generous portion (6-9? wings) for $6.50. Overall, it was a lot of food and Janine had the foresight to recognize that those wings would taste really good at 2 or 3 AM, devil sauce and all, so we boxed what was left. We also each had a few beers. Janine sampling some of Stonefly’s house brews, while I, a hot sauce AND beer wuss, stuck with my usual Miller product. Our total bill was under $50, before tip, for the two of us. Pretty darn good for a couple girls watching their pennies.
The crowd for the show started drifting in around 9:30 and the area near the stage started to fill up. We were in front at a 4 top. Some girls came in, and seeing our empty chairs, asked if they could share our table. I normally don’t mind this, but we were still eating and it was a little annoying to have to put down my mini drum stick, clean the BBQ sauce off my face and fingers and make room for them. Little did I know sharing a table would become a non-issue compared with asking the people who came in even later not to stand in front of us and block our view. I hate to be cranky but we went early so we could have a view. Most people got it (and were less oblivious, inebriated and rude than the ones standing in front of us), and were beginning to sit on the floor in front of the stage. The place was packed.
For some reason, the show didn’t start until almost 11:00. Maybe that is how it goes, I don’t know. The first performance included the ‘pros’ and the ‘newbies’ (about 8 dancers on stage) and I have to say the ‘newbies’ did just fine. For those of you not familiar with burlesque (and have been living under a rock), it originated as humorous theatrical entertainment usually including parody, satire and exaggerated performances. American burlesque was performed in the 19th century in music halls and vaudeville and in the early 20th century evolved as adult theater and strip tease with Gypsy Rose Lee as one of the most well known ‘Burlesque Babes’ of her time. The beauty of burlesque is that success does not require a perfect female form and it gives legitimate respect to all shapes and sizes; although all the performers on stage this night were pretty svelte. All of the costumes were clever and sexy and some of the women had body art that was beautiful and appropriate for this setting. Not sure if they could pull it off (no pun intended) working in a bank, but if you truly love your ink, this is one place that it really works. True to it’s early origins, The Alley Cats had comedic performers clear the stage of stray bustiers, stockings, gloves, lots of glitter and entertain the crowd in between performances. After the initial performance debuting the new class, there were several individual dances and costume changes performed by the more experienced Miss Bella Sue, Vee, Raven and others. We were also treated to a couple of special performances by a local belly dance artist who’s name I did not catch. She has obviously been studying her craft for a while and was very talented. Her performance was more serious and she was clad in a traditional bare midriff costume draped with veils as she moved rhythmically to middle eastern music. The crowd responded loudly with sincere sounding appreciation of her skills.
The burlesque beauties performances were more relaxed and deliberately campy matching the cat calls and mood of the crowd. Dances were choreographed to appropriate ‘bump and grind’ musical selections from the likes of Eartha Kitt and others of that era. All the burlesque dancers ended their strip teases and performances in a g-string and a bra or pasties; some with, and some without, twirling tassels. Janine and I were both wide eyed and amazed by the, uh… dexterity and athletic agility of all the dancers. We were also speculating on the specific technical skills involved in the centrifugal spin of the tassels. Some were able to spin both tassels in sync, clockwise or counter clockwise; and some could spin clockwise AND counter clockwise, at the same time. Thank goodness I was too tired by the time I got home to give it a try. I think I would have hurt myself in ways that would be difficult and really embarrassing to explain.
Miss Bella Sue announced the next performance would be at Stonefly March 13. Go see it! See the link to the Alley Cat Revue MySpace page for more information.