Full disclosure: My publisher, HarperCollins, is also Liz Goldwyn‘s publisher, as well as Dita Von Teese’s. HarperCollins KNOWS burlesque! But I bought Liz’s book before I ever had a book contract, and it is spectacular. It is one of the most amazing books you’ll find on the subject of mid-20th century burlesque striptease.
If you are a burlesque fan and you haven’t gotten this book, you are missing out. If you know a burlesque fan, get it for them for Christmas. The memorabilia and stories will fascinate anyone, whether or not they are a fan of burlesque, with their display of artistry and charm and human interest.
You also don’t want to miss her documentary film, Pretty Things, featuring astonishing and entertaining interviews with the great Zorita and my dear departed friend (who I always miss particularly at this time of year–kisses and pasties to you, sweet one) Sherry Britton.
I just did a brief interview with Liz to announce tomorrow’s book signing in NYC, and I apologize for the all-caps–she used them to differentiate her answers from my questions, and I won’t be able to edit them before tomorrow, when the release party happens. I hope to get that fixed soon! For now, enjoy, and if you can’t make it to the signing please add her book, paperback or hardback, to your wish and gift lists. I’ll post more images from the book shortly.
Liz Goldwyn Book Signing:
WEDNESDAY, DEC. 8
7:00 – 9:00pm ET
The Power House Arena
37 Main Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
How did you become interested in burlesque costumes?
I STARTED COLLECTING BURLESQUE COSTUMES IN THE MID ’90S. I WAS IN ART SCHOOL AT SCHOOL OF VISUAL ARTS IN NEW YORK, GETTING A BFA IN PHOTOGRAPHY. AS PART OF A THESIS PROJECT, I BEGAN PHOTOGRAPHING MYSELF IN THE COSTUMES I WAS COLLECTING, ATTEMPTING TO EMULATE THE GLAMOUR POSES OF GYPSE ROSE LEE, LILY ST. CYR, ANN CORIO—THE GREAT OLD TIME QUEENS. IN THEIR PHOTOGRAPHS I WAS ATTRACTED TO THIS IDEA OF A STRONG WOMAN, WHO TEASED YET WAS IN CONTROL OF HER POSTURING AND SEXUALITY. WHILE IN COLLEGE, I WAS ALSO WORKING AT SOTHEBY’S AUCTION HOUSE, WHERE I HELPED TO FOUND THE FASHION DEPARTMENT. BECAUSE OF MY PROXIMITY TO MUSEUMS AND DEALERS WORKING WITH COSTUMES, I STARTED TO RESEARCH BURLESQUE COSTUMES AND FOUND THAT NOT ONLY HAD THERE BEEN NO DEFINITIVE BOOK ON 20TH CENTURY BURLESQUE QUEENS OR THEIR COSTUMES, BUT THERE WAS NO COMPREHENSIVE COLLECTION IN ANY MAJOR MUSEUM WORLDWIDE! I WAS SHOCKED AS THE BURLESQUE PIECES I WAS SEEING WERE AS INTRICATE AND EMBELLISHED AS THE FINEST COUTURE GOWNS WE WERE SELLING AT AUCTION. I DECIDED THEN, AT AGE 19, THAT I WOULD SPEND THE NEXT DECADE CREATING AN ARCHIVE OF THESE WOMEN, THEIR COSTUMES AND THEIR CONTRIBUTION TO PERFORMANCE/ ENTERTAINMENT HISTORY. IT MADE ME VERY SAD TO THINK THAT THIER WORK AND THEIR STORIES MIGHT NOT BE REMEMBERED, WHILE THEIR MALE (MOSTLY COMIC) COUNTERPARTS WENT ON TO FAME AND FORTUNE IN TV, RADIO AND MOVIES; AND THEIR FEMALE COUNTERPARTS IN “LEGITIMATE” ENTERTAINMENT (FILM, TV, STAGE) WERE CELEBRATED AS ICONS. I THINK BURLESQUE QUEENS CONTRIBUTED JUST AS MUCH TO 20TH CENTURY ENTERTAINMENT AND POP CULTURE.
How long have you collected? Are you still collecting?
I’M STILL COLLECTING VINTAGE CLOTHING (ALWAYS!) AND LINGERIE, STOCKINGS, ETC… BUT AS FOR BURLESQUE COSTUMES, IVE STOPPED COLLECTING FOR PERSONAL USE. MY COLLECTION IS ARCHIVED AND I PLAN TO DONATE IT ALL ALONG WITH THE PAPER AND PHOTOGRAPHIC COLLECTION I HAVE AMASSED… BUT I’D LIKE TO DO A MUSEUM SHOW FIRST THAT WOULD TRAVEL SO PEOPLE CAN SEE THE COSTUMES AND MATERIAL CLOSE UP, IT WAS ALWAYS MY AIM THAT THIS ART FORM BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY AS A FORM OF STUDY. IF WE CAN HAVE A VERSACE OR DIOR SHOW AT A MAJOR COSTUME MUSEUM, WHY NOT A BURLESQUE COSTUME SHOW? I THINK THAT BECAUSE OF THE ASSOCIATION WITH SEX/ SEXUALITY, BURLESQUE GETS RELEGATED TO A LESSER CATEGORY, BUT HOPEFULLY THAT IS CHANGING….
What are some of your favorite pieces?
HARD TO PICK FAVORITES BECAUSE EVERY PIECE IS ASSOCIATED WITH A MEMORY, OR SOMEONE I LOVED… MANY PIECES CAME TO ME THROUGH THE ACTUAL QUEENS THEMSELVES. BETTY ROWLAND’S COSTUMES HOLD SPECIAL MEANING; JOAN TORINO, WHOSE WARDROBE WAS DESIGNED BY REX HUNTINGTON, ONE OF THE GREAT 20TH CENTURY BURLESQUE COSTUME DESIGNERS… A G STRING THAT ZORITA MADE FOR ME… ITS REALLY SILLY WITH “GOOGLY” EYES BUT I LOVE IT BECAUSE IT REMINDS ME OF HER…
What is one of your favorite stories connected to a costume?
I LOVE THAT ZORITA USED TO DYE HER FUR G STRINGS TO MATCH HER HAIR COLOR ( BOTH ON HER HEAD AND PUBIC HAIR!)
What burlesque shows have you seen, and what are some of the strongest impressions some of them have made on you?
SADLY I WAS BORN TOO LATE TO SEE BURLESQUE SHOW AS IN THE TYPE THAT ENDED LATE 1950S…( I WOULD HAVE LOVED TO SEE GYPSY ROSE LEE OR LENNY BRUCE LIVE JUST ONCE!) BUT; I LOVE AND SUPPORT NEO-BURLESQUE, WHICH IS A DIFFERENT TYPE OF PERFORMANCE AND FOCUSES MORE ON THE INDIVIDUAL QUEEN THAN THE ENTIRE SHOW, COMICS, ORCHESTRA ETC… I’VE SEEN ALOT OF NEO BURLESQUE, SHOWGIRL REVUES, STRIP SHOWS, ETC…! AS FOR NEO -BURLESQUE—THE EARLY VELVET HAMMER SHOWS IN LOS ANGELES WERE GREAT, DITA VON TEESE, OF COURSE, IS AMAZING AND ONE OF MY CLOSEST FRIENDS, I REALLY LOVE HER ATTENTION TO DETAIL; I HAVEN’T SEEN NARCISSISTER LIVE YET BUT IM DYING TO AND THINK SHE’S SOMEONE ZORITA WOULD HAVE APPRECIATED. OTHER NEO BURLESQUE QUEENS I LIKE INCLUDE IMMODESTY BLAIZE; TRIXIE MINX; AVA GARTER, KITTEN DE VILLE….GOSH SO MANY!
JUST KNOWING THERE IS A COMMUNITY OF WOMEN DEDICATED TO THIS ART FORMAND PUTTING THEMSELVES OUT THERE ONSTAGE, IS INCREDIBLY EMPOWERING AND I ADMIRE THEIR BRAVADO! I AM A HISTORIAN, NOT A PERFORMER, THOUGH IN MY DOCUMENTARY, “PRETTY THINGS” I DO “BECOME” A QUEEN OF SORTS, BUT FOR THE STORY LINE—I DEFINITELY COULD NOT GET ON STAGE AND REVEAL MYSELF IN THAT WAY, AND I HAVE ALOT OF RESPECT FOR THOSE WHO DO!
Would you like to say something about the Burlesque Hall of Fame?
I LOVE DIXIE EVANS! SHE’S A PEACH
What is the one thing you most want readers to get from your book?
THAT TO UNDERSTAND THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND THE PAST… THE LADIES (AND MEN) THAT CAME BEFORE US HAVE ALOT TO TEACH ABOUT SEXUALITY, CREATIVITY AND ECCENTRICITY THAT IS RELEVANT AND EVEN SHOCKING TODAY!
–Jo Weldon, Daily Burlesque 12.07.10