Sparkly’s BHOF Survival Guide v2.0

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Rule #1 of BHOF: Be prepared for anything. Including pool monsters. 

It’s almost here! Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend countdown has begun, as glitterati from across the globe test the limits of their suitcases and prepare to descend on Las Vegas for four (or more) days of jam-packed glamour, showcases, classes and parties.

Last year I wrote my first-ever BHOF Survival Guide; there have been some exciting new additions to the Weekender, so I’ve put together an amended and improved version for 2013. So, without further ado:

The BHOF Survival Guide v2.0

In just a few days, hundreds of performers and fans from across the globe will descend upon Las Vegas for the largest and oldest burlesque competition — which is also the primary fundraiser for the world’s ONLY non-profit museum dedicated to preserving the history of  burlesque as an art form.

In addition to a reunion and four nights of jaw-dropping performances, there are daytime activities, group outings, pre-parties, after-parties, and hob-nobbing galore. This is one big crazy weekend overflowing with glitz, glam, glitter and sensory overload.

And although BHOF is a delight for the soul, it can also wreak havoc on your body. I’ve been going since 2003; and I still haven’t learned how to pack properly or bring the right shoes. (Edit: this will be the year I conquer the fucking shoe issue, I swear) However, here are a few bits of wisdom that I’ve accumulated over the years, which will hopefully guide you through the next few days, whether you’re a BHOF virgin or a veteran of Helendale.

 

DRINK WATER

No, seriously. Drink WAY more water than you think you need, all day, all night. Do not skimp on the water. Pretend you’re at Burning Man. Pee clear at all times.

Dehydration is the #1 cause of BHOF crankiness and exhaustion. It’s hot as hell in Vegas in June, you’re in the desert, and going from the pavement-melting indoors to the brisk chill of the A/C in the casino is going to affect you. Bling a water bottle, and carry it with you all day. If you’re drinking alcohol, have a glass of water in between each drink. Even if you’re not drinking alcohol, hit that H2O hard.

BRING COMFY SHOES

I CANNOT STRESS THIS ONE ENOUGH! Last year I was publicly busted for flagrantly ignoring my own advice, and wound up paying the price dearly: I had to fill the tub in my room with ice and shove my feet in while howling in pain, for a few days in a row. I vow to not repeat this in 2013!

Here’s the thing: you’re either a foot sweller, or you’re not. If you’re a sweller, you probably already have an inclination: if you have trouble removing your rings after a tough workout or when you’re dehydrated, you’re a sweller. Add to that the combination of air travel + desert & dehydration + impractical heels, and you will wind up with the curse of Las Vegas Blimp Foot (or, as my husband lovingly calls them, Eggplant Feet.)

If you’re a sweller: bring kitten heels, open-toed shoes, strappy sandals made of stretchy material – anything that will accommodate for swelling. If you can stand it, give your feet daily ice baths (or just soak them in the Orleans pool first thing in the morning, which will be pretty much the same temperature.)

If you’re not a sweller: you’re still not scott-free! Don’t wind up with crippling foot pain or searing blisters; make sure you have moleskin and Dr. Scholl’s inserts on hand. And for cripes sake, don’t break in a new pair of shoes in Vegas!

 

MEET THE LEGENDS

Again, I can’t emphasize this enough! Seek out the legends and strike up a conversation. Offer to buy them a drink, a cup of coffee, or a meal. Some of them may be a little shy, just like you – so just introduce yourself with a big smile, tell them where you’re from, and ask them a question or two. This is your chance to hear the stories of how it used to be firsthand from the ladies who lived it. And you can learn a trick or two from them at the BHOF Finishing School classes.

SEE THE MUSEUM

New this year: The Shimmy Shuttle will bring you to the The Burlesque Hall of Fame Museum and back for a mere $10. The shuttle runs on Friday and Saturday only, and you must buy advance tickets, which you can do at the link above. If there is a one must not miss off-site event of the weekend, it’s this. Remember the entire Weekender is the primary fundraiser for the museum, so this is why we’re all here, folks!

The museum is located inside the Emergency Arts building, in historic downtown Las Vegas on Fremont Street. This area is commonly known as “Old Vegas” and is a lot of fun to wander around. Each shuttle will give you a 90-minute window between arrival and departure, so you’ll have plenty of time to hit the museum and do a little exploring of the area, too.  Here’s a description of the current exhibition, from Executive Director Dustin Wax:

“Not-So-Hidden Histories: Performers of Color in Burlesque”

“The history of burlesque is full of women (and some men) of color. Black, Asian, Latina, South Pacific Islander, and Native American dancers were very much a part of burlesque history, and not just as chorus girls for white headliners. They were integral players in the history of burlesque. Among the first to shamelessly bump and grind, performers of color left an indelible mark on burlesque history. Many achieved enough fame to work on the Minsky circuit, earn $1000 or more a week, insure their bodies, tour the US and Europe, and work with (and date) prominent entertainers such as Dizzy Gillespie, Sammy Davis Jr., and Little Richard. These performers not only existed but, in many cases, they thrived.”

 

TWEET IT UP

Use the official hashtag of #BHOF when Tweeting & Instagramming your adventures – this helps drive awareness for the museum, and your enthusiasm will be infectious! We’re trying to achieve critical mass and get #BHOF trending on Twitter during the Weekender, so the more you Tweet, the better!

 

BE KIND TO YOUR BODY

Take multi-vitamins daily, drink that water, and try to get a minimum of 5 hours of sleep a night.

If you’re a vegetarian, on a budget, a fussy eater or just not a fan of the buffet, you can rent a fridge from the Orleans for $15 a day and hit up the local grocery store for supplies. Alternately, you can grab a big styrofoam cooler from the liquor store around the corner and keep it filled with ice, for both your carrot sticks and your booze.

If you’re looking to exercise something other than the fortitude of your liver: there’s the Orleans gym, a 24-Hour Fitness down the road, and there will be a room set aside for group fitness every morning from 9-10:30am, in Big Al’s Comedy Club. More details TBA!

BHOF is notorious for the all-day-into-late-night parties; it’s tempting to go balls-out for the first day or two, but you don’t want to crash-and-burn by Saturday afternoon. It’s a mini-marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself, you’re in it for the long haul!

But if you don’t drink or recently stopped, don’t fret – you’re not alone! Plenty of people who don’t drink go to BHOF and have an amazing time. If you’d like to meet up with some of them, there will be some on-site meetings for those in recovery who are attending BHOF. Follow @bhofbill on Twitter for more information.

BOOK DATE TIME

If you’re traveling with your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner/spouse, make sure your S.O. is attended to and has what s/he needs to stay entertained and happy. Try to book something alone time for just the two of you, whether it’s watching the fountains at the Bellagio or enjoying a nice meal together away from the hustle & bustle of festival.

 

HIT THE STRIP

The Orleans offers a free shuttle to the main drag of Las Vegas, known as “the Strip.” Here’s where you’ll find clusters of big casinos, tourist traps, mile-high plastic cups in silly shapes, and all of the other delightfully tacky glitz that Vegas is known for. Check out these free attractions for more great stuff to do and see that won’t cost you a dime.

 

GO SHOPPING

Don’t forget to hit the BHOF Bazaar! Beyond that, if you’ve got the bling bug and you’re looking to get your shop on, here are a couple of great spots: 

Fantastik Indoor Swap Meet – Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 10am – 6pm. This isn’t a swap meet, but a huge indoor flea market that’s like heaven for drag queens and burlesque chicks. You’ll find $1 lashes, cheap hair flowers, wigs, sparkly heels, costume jewelry, dresses, knives, churros, and god knows what else. This is also where you can find the customized rhinestone name necklaces that now serve as the defacto BHOF nametag – you can get them in the DuBarry’s booth. Get a group to share a cab over; be warned that it’s easy to catch a cab there, but pickup will take a lot longer, so keep that in mind if you need to be back at a specific time.

DuBarry’s – DuBarry’s has a huge booth at Fantastik, but if you still want even more rhinestoned bling, check out their brick & mortar store. It’s packed to the bursting point with costume jewelry, accessories and fabulousness.  There’s also free music and champagne on Sundays.

William’s Costume Company. Outstanding collection of unique trims, chainette fringe, and a large selection of rhinestones, plus lots of assorted costumes, props and ridiculousness.  Ask for Glenda the Rhinestone Lady, and tell her you want to see her collection of rhinestone handiwork.

 

REMEMBER TO PACK

-Your ID! You need it to pick up your tickets!

-Lotion, moisturizer, chapstick, and baby powder if you’re prone to chafing. You will feel like a lizard come Sunday.

-Sunscreen, parasols and floppy hats; shade is limited at the Orleans pool.

-Waterproof mascara & Kleenex for the Friday night Legends showcase. You will cry.

-Your business cards & flyers.

-Light cardigans and shawls to cover up in the cold casino.

JUST BREATHE

If you’re performing during the weekend, you might be a little stressed. Or freaked out. Or you might be in full-blown meltdown mode….so just take a minute to breathe. It’s natural to be a little stressed out, so set aside some just-you time to unwind and relax before your performance: take a quiet bubble bath in your room, find a secluded part of the pool to get in some reading, or book some time at the spa. Remember, you’re here to have FUN, right? Just go with the flow, don’t sweat the little shit, slap on another layer of sparkle, and be fucking fabulous!

I’ll see all of you in VEGAS, BABY! And if you catch me in uncomfortable shoes, you have my permission to document it and publicly shame me via social media. Game on.

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Coping with Burlesque Rejection

So you didn't get into the burlesque festival of your dreams - now what?

So you didn’t get into the burlesque festival of your dreams – now what?

Burlesque festival season is upon us, and the sheer number of events happening across the globe these days is staggering — check out this fantastic resource of international festivals compiled by Ri Ri SynCyr.

Thousands of performers are huddling over laptops filling out applications, and will wait with bated breath to see if they’re accepted to perform in the festival of their choice. It’s amazing to see how festivals have grown over the past few years, and delightful to see them thriving in regional areas – but the downside is that demand now outweighs availability, and many a performer will wind up crestfallen when she opens her email to find the form letter she’s been dreading.

Dude, rejection sucks. There’s no way around it – and it’s particularly painful when it comes to burlesque, because what we do is so incredibly personal. We are literally stripped naked, making ourselves deeply vulnerable by inviting (often anonymous) strangers to evaluate our stage worthiness. Our acts our so intrinsically personal: it’s a mini one woman/man show, which you wrote, directed, costumed and choreographed.  You poured hours of, blood, sweat, passion and layers of E-6000 into your baby – and when someone tells you that you didn’t make the cut? It fucking HURTS.

That said, rejection is inevitable aspect of any creative art, whether it’s pitching movie scripts, getting a grant, or auditioning for a play.

It also happens to everyone – I guarantee that the performer you idolize the most has gotten rejected at some point. Any artist who is worth their salt knows that you must take risks in order to attain greatness, and part of that risk involves getting turned down for a show, role, opportunity, job, or partnership that you really, really, REALLY wanted.

Rejection sucks – but it can also be the catalyst for us to work harder, think bigger, and better our craft… both individually and as a whole.

So what do you do when it happens to you? Here’s a triage guide to help ease the ouch and find the silver lining in the email you never wanted to open.

Breathe

It’s not the end of the world, even though it feels like it in this moment. Take a deep breath, and take as much time as you need collect yourself. It’s natural to be overcome with a storm of emotions — hurt, anger, self-doubt — but don’t let those raw feelings take control over you, or dictate your next actions.

Take It Offline

When we’re hurt, we seek solace — but this gets sticky in the age of social media, when sometimes our first reaction is to vent in a public forum. If you get rejected, you need to think very carefully about how to react to your news publicly – and whether you should do so at all.

Friends don’t let friends Facebook when they’re drunk or hella pissed. If you lash out in anger on social media — at best, you’ll be exposing your very personal disappointment in a very public manner which you might regret later; at worst, you could do serious damage to your professional reputation, lose future bookings, and burn bridges.

I absolutely encourage you to seek comfort in your friends — but do it one-to-one: a phone call, a text, a private email, or face-to-face.

And speaking of friends — most of your performer pals know that trashing a festival on Facebook is bad business for all involved… but your non-burlesque friends may not think of this aspect. This is another drawback to posting publicly; say you post a polite and friendly note, like “Well, I didn’t get into  ____ Fest but I’m really happy for everyone who did!” Your non-burlesque friends may pipe in with a well-meaning but misguided attempt to soothe you, something along the lines of: “Fuck ____Fest! I guess they just didn’t want any GOOD acts! Those losers are stupid if they turned you down!! ANGRY CAPS LOCK RAGE!!”

Your friends’ words – no matter how well-intended – will reflect poorly on you.

While we’re at it, it would be a great idea to stay off of social media in general — performers who’ve just been accepted will likely be gleefully posting the news, and you don’t need extra salt rubbed in your wound right now. Close the laptop and practice some good self-care:  watch your favorite goofy movie, cuddle your pets and/or significant other, get outside for a walk, etc.

Re-evaluate

Someone once told me not to take rejection personally. Impossible when your act is such a personal creation, right? But it’s not about you as a person (unless you have a reputation for peeing in your enemies’ gig bags backstage – in that case, it is you, and you might do well with a career on reality TV.)

As a writer, I have a difficult time separating professional rejection of my articles or pitches from my worthiness as an author, because my writing is such an incredibly personal reflection of who I am. But it’s not about me, the person — it’s about my work. And sometimes, I have to go back and re-evaluate the work I submitted with fresh eyes.

Cheesy but true: there’s a learning experience in everything if you look hard enough. After you’ve given yourself a couple of days time, look back through your application and try to evaluate it as a stranger would — was your video kinda crappy? I despise watching burlesque on video — I feel it sucks the life and soul out of the performance – but we are visual artists, and it’s important for us to nail down a video that really captures the essence of our act, as much as a soulless computer-machine can.

Consider this an opportunity to contract a professional videographer to film your act – if you want to shop it around the big festivals, this is a good investment. A two-camera edit is even better.

Think About the Big Picture

“Gee, I am going to channel hours of my personal time, epic amounts of stress, and possibly major personal financial loss into creating a burlesque festival just so I can get drunk on my self-imposed power as I reject performers and crush their hopes and dreams!”….. said no one ever.

You don’t like getting the rejection email… but the festival producers aren’t happy about sending them either. It’s the shittiest part of the job, and NO ONE enjoys it. Producers have many different factors to weigh, and their ultimate goal is to curate a consistently outstanding lineup with enough variety to create a smooth flow. A show with 45-minutes straight of slow songs? Not good flow. Seven fan dances back-to-back? Not good flow. The all-red revue? No bueno.

As the bar continues to be raised, festival producers find themselves in the unenviable position of having to turn down really damn good acts. Much like a thriving job market, sometimes you find yourself burdened by a wealth of riches, and employers wind up turning away incredibly qualified candidates, because there are only so many desks available.

Did you apply to an all-classic fest with a blood-and-gore heavy metal number? Or if you applied to an all-classic showcase — perhaps your music choice was a little well-worn, and dozens of other applicants applied with the same piece? One of the most interesting facets of burlesque is the “collision of like-minded coincidences” that I so often see — performers on opposite sides of the country, developing similar acts without ever knowing about the other’s existence. Maybe a dozen other performers applied with a similar concept — you just never know. But you shouldn’t make yourself crazy guessing, either.

While it’s always good to pop the hood on an act and look for areas where you can refine and improve, you shouldn’t take a festival rejection as a sign that your act is crap and needs to be completely tossed. The act that didn’t get accepted to _____Festival could go down like a house on fire at The _th Annual ____ Fest. Which brings me to my next point…

Don’t Get Discouraged

This is just a tiny little speedbump on your Highway of Awesome — so don’t get sidetracked. After you’ve allowed yourself to feel all of the emotions you’re entitled to feel, wrap it all up, put it away, and move on. There’s always another festival, another year, and another opportunity around the corner. Don’t stop applying because you got rejected once – if I’d done that, my burlesque career would have ended in 2003!

When you get knocked down, you gotta get back up – and usually after you’ve dusted yourself off, you find yourself even stronger for it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve experience crippling disappointment in my professional, personal and performance lives — only to have it shortly followed up with a huge success and epic win.

Give yourself some much deserved props for even applying in the first place – it’s a nerve-wracking process, and putting yourself out there for evaluation is a tough but necessary part of being a public performance artist and pushing yourself to the next level.

Repeat to yourself: this experience does not define my worth.

And then get back up on that sparkle pony and back to what you love to do most: create and perform.

You got this, girl.

Now, go get ‘em tiger.

Burlesquer Homes & Gardens

I’ve been slugging through the dreadful process of purging & re-organizing my costume room, which has got me thinking about burlesque-centric tips & tricks for organization, costume maintenance, etc.

I’d love to pull together a Martha Stewart burlesque post – with advice & tips from burlesque performers on how they cope with the day-to-day maintenance of their costumes, storage area, etc.

Do you store your pasties in plastic jewelry organizers? How do you launder your most delicate Swarovksi-encrusted gloves when they get stained with lipstick or smudges? How do you transport your costumes? What’s your secret to keeping your wigs shiny and bouncy? How do you get spilled liquid latex out of a costume?

Stuff like that!

If you’d like to share your Martha Stewart burlesque tips, please email them to me at sparkly.devil@gmail.com along with your stage name and website, so I can link back to you. I will compile all of the tips and post them here, and hopefully we’ll have a handy little resource guide for future use!