Classic Burlesque Leaves Philly Chilly

Courtney-1-2In the interest of full disclosure, Jim Thorpe’s Pa Burlesque Festival pissed me off before the first dancer almost exposed a bare shoulder.  We were truly excited about the opportunity to review the 2 day “festival” with performers from “around the world” at the Plays and Players theater off Rittenhouse.  We were generously offered full accessability to the performers, with the sweet vantange spot of photographing the show from the backstage wings of the beautiful theater, and that if we arrived an hour before show time, could go backstage and shoot the performers as they prepared for the show.  We had planned for a real Bruce Davidson documentary style photo essay.  We arrived an hour early as we had arranged, and were directed to the dressing rooms.  It was perfect.  Backstage chaos in a maze of exposed brick dressing rooms as girls applied false eye lashes, laced each other’s corsets and wriggled into mounds of yummy fabrics.  This was going to be a truly amazing photo essay exploring the world of classic burlesque from behind the scenes.

Denied.  The organizer who had cheerfully volunteered the all access photo-op, informed us that although we were there an hour early as we had arranged with her, we weren’t allowed to photograph the girls getting ready and that we should go to the audience and shoot from there, accompanied by a stern warning not to get in the audience’s way.  Great.  An hour early to sit in the audience with my camera?  We can do that anywhere even without generously posting a free blurb before the show to help publicize the event.  Not to mention that since we didn’t have seats, if the place filled up, we were shit out of luck.  Luckily for us, it didn’t come close to selling out.

Philly is a community saturated with one of the country’s most thriving burlesque communities.  In preparation for this article we began asking the local performers about the “PA Burlesue Festival”.  Almost none of the Philly dancers knew about the event, and the one we found who did had serious issues with the contract she was sent in order to apply.   Was this the problem with the performance?  Possibly.  I find it difficult to believe that these were the best dancers Pennsylvania and “the world” has to offer.   There were two girls did stand out in the sea of mediocrity.  Scarlet Starlet was flawless.  Beautiful girl, beautiful dancer, lovely costume, cute, classic Vargas style piece.   Deana Danger did a 1920’s inspired performance that equally lovely, but in general this was an evening that was all fluff and no excitement.

Burlesque was meant to entertain.  It was a combination of comedic sketches, acrobatics, music and erotic dancers.  It’s supposed to make you laugh till you cry:  part beauty, part drink and dancing on the edge of total debauchery.   This was none of that.  The costumes were gorgeous, but most of the dancers totally unimpressive.  The MC for the evening was boring.  A Rubinesque woman in a bad wig and a beautiful costume who announced the performers with all the personality of Melba toast.  Long awkward pauses were punctuated with occasional references to some fat guy in the front row who apparently is a fan.  I’m not sure why.  The naughtiest the show ever got was the mention of a red glittery paddle which left those of us who adore Philly Neo-Burlesque craving an evening with the Rigor Mortis Review.

We’re not totally dissing the PA Burlesque Festival,  but before they decide to hang their 2 inch heels in this town, they need to reach out to our Philly girls for a little real flavor, as well as a packed house.  When a city is accustomed Burlesque bad asses like Miss Rose Burlesque, we’re gonna need a little more than a pretty face in a nice dress.  On the other hand, the scantily clad tattooed chick cleaning the stage between acts was awesome.  She’s welcome back for a cheese steak anytime!

 

 

 

Miss Wynter Heats it Up

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Find more Courtney Lapresi at Black White and Raw

We first met Miss Wynter during last year’s Fringe Festival as one of the bevy of beauties in Gunnar Montana’s “Rub“.  It seemed to be a match made in some sort of deliciously erotic hell.   Little did we know, that the stunningly beautiful dancer swinging in her giant heart shaped lyra, was none other than the winner of Delilah’s Entertainer of Year, 2012. A dark haired, fair skinned, classically trained ballet dancer, she has a wicked sense of humor which instantly reminds you that there happens to be a very bright girl hiding behind those long, elegant lines.  Enter Gunnar Montana.  Dancer, choreographer, visual artist…and lover of all things gutteral, disgusting and dirty.  Then put the two together.  Pure magic.

When Gunnar called saying he needed some photos of a dancer he was working with, we had no idea who he was about to show up with.  The pair arrived, bundled up for the much publicized “winter storm”.  Even in her earmuffs and sneakers, we were thrilled to get the duo to the dirtiest, non windy spot we could think of.

After trudging through the pitch black darkness and filthy debris, terrified of running into anyone else stupid enough to be there, Miss Wynter didn’t miss a beat.  She strapped on her 9 inch glittery stilettos, wriggled into her feathers, kicked aside a gas can and suddenly became a sexy, winged creature which instantly warmed the very air around us.

In “RISE OF PHOENIX”, Gunnar Montana has transformed his muse for this year’s Entertainer of the Year competition at Delilah’s with feathers, rhinestones and fire, in what she promises to be dangerously sensuous.   Can she retain her title?  We’re sure of it.  Don’t miss this one.  We’ve seen her up close and in filth.  She’s the real deal.

 

Tattooed Pin Up at Tattooed Mom

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It was cold.  Seriously cold.  For those who don’t know, Paul and I don’t just cover “all things Philly”.  We have a Photography Studio, Black, White and Raw Photography, in which we photograph everyone from models to psycho sideshow clown babes.  One of the models we’ve photographed several times is Philly Pin Up Model, Nikki Doll.  We had photographed Nikki in our studio, and in Laurel Hill Cemetary.  But where to go on a cold day with a scantily clad pin-up?    I wanted to do something a little different with Nikki.  Most of the photographers who shoot her tend to go for the cheese.  I understand that.  Adorable pin-up girls with tattoos doing retro shoots.  Bright colors, cutesy themes, it’s a win win.  But one of things I love about Nikki, is her dark side.  The punk kid under the pink hair.  The girl who’s probably lived a life that’s not all roses and baking cookies.  I wanted to make retro cool.

Enter Tattooed Mom.  The local bar on South Street with a jaw dropping collection of street art.  A diverse community of tattoo artists, musicians and models who get together for food, drinks and…candy.  A dive bar where you can drop in and catch a group of punks drinking local brew and making Valentine’s day cards.  With a kitchen that’s open till 1:30 am and a calendar that’s packed full with everything from book readings, to zombie crawls to Beard and Mustache competitions, we found the bar to be more welcoming than any venue we’ve been to in a long time.

As huge fans of graffiti, the upstairs was perfect.  With it’s 2 pool tables, bright red bar and rooms covered from floor to ceiling in graffiti, our only problem was having the time to photograph our model in every nook and cranny we could find.  We can’t wait to go back for a late night snack and a drink.  I know we’ll be warmly welcomed, even without a half-dressed pin up model!

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2013 Tattoo Convention

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Was it really only 2 years ago that we were sitting on the floor of the Sheraton  Hotel for Troy Timpel’s Tattoo Arts Convention, close enough to photograph the sword as it slipped past Betty Bloomerz’s uvula?  It was.  And what a difference 2 years and the Pennsylvania Convention Center makes.

This past weekend marked Troy and his Villian Art’s 15th Annual Tattoo Arts Convention, and it was truly spectacular.  With it’s thriving tattoo community, the Philly convention has become a virtual Who’s Who of tattoo artists.   Philly convention regulars like Don “MF’ Juan, Permanent Mark, Myke Chambers and Chris Torres were joined by an array of reality tattoo show hotties like  Meghan Massacre, Amy Nicoletta, and Sarah Miller.

Entertainment was above and beyond anything we’ve seen at the past shows.  Tattoo contests were huge this year.  Our favorite Clown Babe Reverend Mackenzie Moltov and her fellow babes were on hand for arials, and general sideshow awesomeness.  Suspensions, burlesque and pin-ups, oh my!  I did miss the Rigor Mortis Review this year, and that made me sad, but Scarlett Storm managed to walk around naked all night, and that’s never a bad thing.   Somehow I also missed my favorite throw back to the days of Coney Island tattoos, Crazy Philadelphia Eddie, but that’s ok.  I still have my signed copy of “Tattooing, The Life and Times of Crazy Philadelphia Eddie” from last year, in case I forget about his trials and tribulations punctuated by bouts of Syphilis.

I love the Philadelphia Tattoo Arts Convention.  I love seeing the art.  I love watching the artists.  I love the colors of the ink and the tools for sale.  I love the glares sometimes get when we get when we photograph the artists.  I love being surrounded by thousands of people who agree that every one looks hotter with ink.  When I got my first tattoo, my artist said “Welcome to the Club”.  Gotta say, this is the greatest membership ever!

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Back to the Sea in South Carolina

The irony of having a successful blog about Philadelphia when you’re not a native of this town, doesn’t escape me.  In fact, I think it helps.  I look at Philly with fresh eyes every day, and am able to find joy in all of her hidden treasures and overt weirdness that the natives may be stepping over.  But I’ve been here over a year now, and it was time to take advantage of some free time and head back with my mother to the state of my childhood, South Carolina.

Why is my little trip back home featured in our food section, you may ask?  Because in 4 days I consumed shrimp and grits with fried flounder, crab and artichoke dip, boiled peanuts, homemade chili, freshly baked date bread, freshly baked raisin bread, blackened salmon wrap with fried green tomatoes and bacon, she-crab soup, apple pie moonshine and Piggly Wiggly fried chicken.  But we’re not here to talk about Piggly Wiggly (although I gotta say, I’m now “Big on the Pig”)  We’re here to talk about the real jewels of the South Carolina low country.

My family owns Crosby’s Seafood and Fish Company in Charleston, South Carolina.  where the Crosby’s have been fishing and selling and serving their shrimp, crab, oysters and fish for over 30 years.  We were fortunate enough to be on the dock when one of the Shrimp boats came in with hundreds of pounds of the most beautiful shrimp I’ve ever seen, and watched as they unloaded it all from the boats.  Crosby’s is run by serious chick power, as twins Ellie and Joanie  run all aspects of the business, from meticulously sorting through the shrimpers trawls to select only the most perfect shrimp, to packing everything up for selling,  running the store (complete with the spices and grits you may need for your seafood dinner) to their famous Dock parties, where you can fill up on the delights of the sea, grilled right before your eyes.  Just don’t try to fish off their dock without paying.  I’ve seen it, and it ain’t pretty!

The Crosby girls were also kind enough to arrange a boat tour for us.  Capt Gresham Meggett of Absolute Reel Screeming Charters took us for a tour of the Folly Beach area, overloaded with Oyster Beds, Shrimp, Crab, and bottlenose dolphin, who are famous for “strand feeding”, the world’s only dolphin population who feed by pushing their dinner up onto the shores.  We were taken out to Morris Island, with it’s view of the Morris Island lighthouse, the sixth oldest in the nation.  The tidal pools are not to be believed.  Crabs scamper about on a deserted island where civil war soldiers fought, died and are still buried.  The beach is carpeted with oyster shells, sand dollars and bones, a real walking paradise.

Plane fare round trip from Philly is about $200.00.  Or take a road trip.  But see where your food really comes from, while we still have oceans and beaches teaming with life.  And when you get home, make shrimp grits.  You won’t regret it.

Video of Dolphins beaching fish: Dolphins Strand Feeding on Folly Beach

SHRIMP GRITS

Grits:

  • 1 cup yellow grits (not instant)
  • 1 cup grated sharp white cheddar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded, diced
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper

Shrimp:

  • 1/2 cup 1/3″ cubes tasso, andouille sausage, or bacon
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (optional)
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, divided
  • 16 large shrimp (about 1 pound), peeled, deveined
  • 1/4 cup (or more) beer
  • 1/4 cup low-salt chicken stock
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

For grits:
Bring 3 cups water to a simmer in a large saucepan. Gradually whisk in grits. Turn heat to low; gently simmer until grits begin to thicken. Continue cooking, stirring often and adding water by 1/4 cupfuls if too thick, until tender, about 1 hour. Stir in cheese, butter, and jalapeño, then cream. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

For shrimp:
Meanwhile, heat a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add tasso; sauté until fat begins to render, about 5 minutes (if tasso is very lean, add 1 tablespoon oil to skillet). Add garlic and 1 tablespoon butter; stir until butter melts. Add shrimp. When garlic begins to brown, add beer and chicken stock. Simmer until shrimp is cooked through, about 2 minutes. Remove skillet from heat; set aside.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoom butter to skillet; swirl to melt and cover bottom of pan. Crack eggs into pan and cook until whites are just set but yolks are still runny, about 3 minutes.

Divide grits among bowls, forming a well in center. Spoon shrimp mixture into center of grits. Top with egg. Sprinkle tarragon over.

 

 

Stayin’ Weird

Since the mid 1980’s the South St area has been slowly trending to corporate retail and food.   Seemingly to edge closer and closer to a suburban mall.  I figured at some point they would put a roof on and then populate with seniors in big white sneakers doing exercise laps.  The days of places like Zipperhead are long gone.    The funk the punk and the art slowly ground down.  Jim’s Steaks and few others have survived and just when you thought all was lost Tattoo Eddies 621’s own Professor Ouch takes it in another direction.   What makes things “cool”?  What makes things “collectible”?  It’s hard to put into words, but Professor Ouch has put together art, toys and many many odd objects into a store called Bizarre Bazaar Odditorium at 720 S 5th St that I would describe as a bunch of pretty cool shit.   Many items brought in on consignment are interesting but the real weird items are from his own collections, conjoined twin baby skeletons, a real mummy and the ever elusive as well as legendary inaccurate beauty of a mermaid.  It’s only about 18 inches long damn damn ugly.   There’s a headless Hummel collection, sideshow canvases, toys from all eras, weird figurines, aliens in jars, all kinds of pig statues, vintage Playboys and Popular Mechanics, circus posters and much much more cool shit.

I’m heading back in a few days to haggle over some vintage sideshow canvases.  Don’t know why I like them so much but I must have one or maybe two.   Is this where it starts?  Anyway the South St area just got several notches more interesting  and it’s going to be a blast to stop in regularly and see what his latest offerings are.

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Guerrilla Art Bomb

It was a good day to have camera.  With a genius stroke of Philly weirdness, Montreal based circus company, 7 Fingers, kicked off their American premiere of “Sequence 8″ with 2 5-10 minute pop-up demonstrations at Reading Terminal Market and at Comcast Center Plaza, much to the awe and delight of the unsuspecting lunch crowds.  As part of this year’s Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe, 7 Fingers brings circus arts to an extremely human and realistic level, presenting a daring display of jaw dropping Chinese acrobatics, aerials, juggling and an array of extraordinary feats, in ordinary human contexts every one can relate to.

And we just love the fact that they brought a smile and some wonderment to the not easily impressed Philly lunch folks.

Sequence 8 will be performing through Sunday

httlivearts-fringe.ticketleap.com/sequence-8/dates/Sep-18-2012_at_0700PMp://

 

Pure Tacos- Pure Awesome

That title is probably the nicest thing I’ve ever said on this blog.

I’m an active Yelper and will review this place accordingly, however I felt that Pure Tacos deserved a special sort of shout out to highlight that there are still good places after my previous post about places who lie about food.

People compare Pure Tacos to the many other fast casual places floating around Center City, but I beg to differ.

The thing I like so much about Pure Tacos is that they don’t make any outrageous claims about their food.  Sure, they say it is gluten free (which makes sense because they only use corn tortillas). But aside from that, all they’re saying is “this food taste good and is better for you than most fast food chains”.

And those things are true.  Although I agree that the prices are not “cheap” ($8 for two tacos and tortilla chips) it isn’t expensive either.

I went with the boyfriend and we both got the flank steak tacos.  When our food arrived, at first we both looked at the contents of our boxes like “what?  why was this $8?”  But after biting into the tacos and tasting the delicious medium cooked steak our minds were changed.  I have never gone to a cheap Mexican themed place before and received beef cook any other way except overcooked.

The meat actually reminded me a lot of a dish a had once at El Rey (which I’m sure I paid more than $8 for).

This place is surely not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is mine.  Food that tastes good, isn’t killing me as fast a 5 Guys or Wendy’s (or even Qdoba with their queso sauce). It’s no Jar Bar (vegan, raw food place in Market East), but then again if it was, I wouldn’t eat it.

Pretty much all I’m saying is like it or not (I do), think it is worth the price or not (I do), you have to respect their honesty.  The worst honest swindling (restaurants are all swindlers) is better than the best dishonest swindling any day in my book.

You can read more from our Philly food vixen “sheepgo2heaven” at http://caponshavemorefun.wordpress.com/

Orange Chili Fish Taco.  Photos by YDC

Rub

Upon entering the Latvian Society searching for what was billed as “an erotic performance that’s geared to get you hot, sexy and hard”, it’s easy to feel like you may be in the wrong place.  But once you stumble upon the space which Gunnar Montana has painstakingly transformed into a post-apocalyptic world, you may just forget that there is anything or anyone else on the outside.

Choreographed and directed by Jazmin Zieroff and Gunnar Montana, “Rub” is an avant garde sexual romp in a fantasy world inhabited by 4 stunningly beautiful and wonderfully depraved women who remind us not only of the power and beauty of the female body, but how the erotic world may evolve in a world without men.  The universe itself is an artistic wonderland of dirty grunge found from Philly garbage.  Walls are plastered with cigarette boxes, creepy barbies, wheels and textures.  Battered and exposed chandeliers are hung with the shells of decapitated beauty school practice heads.  The floor, which is littered with milk crates and junk, makes you pause to wonder if this is a part of the show, or just random chaos.  Gunnar’s talents as a visual artist is second only to his wit and creativity as a choreographer and director.

And then there are the girls.  Jazmin and Gunnar’s cast of women are nothing short of astonishing.  I’m reticent to refer to “Rub” as burlesque, which conjurers images of cutesy, dolled up pin-up girls prancing about in antiquated corsets.  The Rub girls aren’t afraid to get dirty as they run the gamut of real world fantasies and fetishes.  In the opening scene they climb, dance, spin and flip on scaffolding in work boots and denim cut-offs in what can only be described as erotic gymnastics which climaxes in an acrobatic pole dance by athletic beauty Maureen Lynch on a diagonal pole which lays haphazardly against seemingly precarious scaffolding.

The cast of “Rub” are not your typical hip swaying, gum chewing strippers, although some do perform in local clubs.  These are trained dancers, several of whom met as dance majors at the University of the Arts with backgrounds in ballet and modern dance.  Even in pieces as blatantly hot and sexual as as the doctor/patient lesbian romp in which Maureen  and Courtney Lapresi tumble, roll and spin atop a gurney, their training is evident.  Every hand, every foot, every arch of a back is a study in classical dance, even while wrapped in cellophane with neon painted nipples.

This is not to say that the show is without humor.  In one piece, Ann-Marie Gover dances a love-hate affair with a giant 6 foot penis constructed of what appears to be a kick boxing practice bag.  Ms Gover  is not only a beautiful dancer, her comic timing is flawless, as she seemingly struggles to climb to climb the giant, silver veined cock, only to ride the giant swaying phallic like a bucking bronco, love it, slap it and kick it around a bit.  In a school scene that goes awry, a very naughty teacher played by Fatima Kargbo straddles and climbs atop an unruly class, before eventually being bound and tied up with school chairs.  In the most classic of the strip numbers Courtney Lapresi does an sweet aerial dance in a neon g-string and stripper shoes in a giant heart.

But the final piece is where Gunnar’s visual art and modern dance training collide in an amazing work.  Milk crates transform from dancer’s heads to seats in which a tea party with Jack Daniels gets wet and dirty as the entire casts drenches themselves and each other as they slide and slither on the ground and with each other in a steaming hot sea of oily naked bodies.

As Gunnar’s debut show, “Rub” is a shining achievement in a multi-artistic eroticism.  And as a former dancer, I would personally like to thank him for giving us a combination of beautiful sexy bodies, dirty sexy art, and for understanding the importance of pretty stripper feet as opposed to ugly porn feet.  “Rub” is a must see at this year’s Fringe Festival.

Link to the 2012 Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe

All Photos by Lori Foxworth and Paul Gentile at Black White and Raw Photography

 

 

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Hotrod Hoedown 2012

This Saturday and Sunday, Hot Rods, music, swap meet, flea market, vintage, art crafts, tattoo, pin-up contest, yes it has it all.  Pre-1975 cars, trucks, bikes and cycles.  More info here: hotrodhoedown.com

***UPDATE***

Well crap!  We got to the Hoe Down on Saturday just before the skies opened up and people started moving their pride and joys to drier ground.  We did manage to snap a few photos though…great event we’ll always brave the weather for!

 

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