This Thursday night, a variety show called the Millionaire Tramps Vaudeville Debut lands at Churchill's Pub with Dangerfun!'s handpicked selection of South Florida tramps. Settle in for some stand-up and sketch comedy by Skitsations, slapstick jugglers, bunnies pulled from top hats, and the wiggles and jiggles of Hellion Burlesque.
For previous shows, dancers Hellion, Daisy Harley, Betty Pickle, Lizzy Lighting, and Ginger Bardot have re-created scenes from Eyes Wide Shut and giggly séances from slumber parties -- yes, while wearing only their panties.
We talked with Betty Pickle about Miami-style grotesque burlesque, how she swallows a three-foot balloon, and why there's no such thing as sexuality without grit.
New Times: You're a classically trained ballet dancer. Have you also been schooled in burlesque?
Betty Pickle: I was educated by a local burlesque performer and national headliner
Torchy Taboo. She's bringing the
first ever Florida Burlesque Fest in Spring (Orange Blossom Burlesque
Festival) in March of 2011. I also took some classes with House of
Burlesque in New York.
How did Hellion Burlesque get started?
Hellion Burlesque was started by Hellion, Lilah Martin, a dancer from
Hollywood. She contacted me and said' I'd like to do some experimental
stuff at Churchill's.' So I said 'Yeah, let's put our brains together,
and let's have a good time.'"
You mentioned experimental. Are there genres within burlesque?
They are definitely genres of burlesque. To give you a very general
overview, L.A. is known for fringe and glamour kind of stuff, Vegas is
known for cabaret, glitzy, showgirl-y stuff, New Orleans is either very
classic traditional or spooky goth burlesque, and New York is where the
cutting edge or experimental stuff normally happens.
So Hellion follows this cutting edge genre?
It's really exciting because we have some strange things that Hellion is
bringing form California that I've never seen before. It's kinda
grotesque burlesque with blood, and I'm like this slapstick happy
comedian type of performer. So you have this class of creative minds
collaborating in the burlesque acts. I call it guerilla burlesque -
improvisational and experimental - you just don't know what's going
to happen. Is this going to flop or is this going to be awesome? There
doesn't seem to really be any in between.
Have any specific routines planned for Thursday's show?
It'll be comedy burlesque - very sketch oriented. This will be the
funniest show we've had. In our last show, I became infatuated with a
bowl of pasta. We're going to find out what happened. There'll be three
Do you have a signature routine?
I'm known for my ability to swallow a three-foot long balloon.
How do you do that?
Balloons are just really delicious. I also do some hula hoop things. I'm
not awesome at hula hoping, because I'm not a hula hooper who does
burlesque. I'm a burlesque dancer who hula hoops.
How would you define burlesque dancing as opposed to say, exotic dancing?
There are a lot of philosophies about that. I've been thinking a lot about
performance art. Some dancers are kinda heavy, some are thin, some are
old, some are blond. Everyone is very different. What I've decided
is that the common thread - for neo-burlesque, not for original burlesque -
is that we're all performance artists. It's a painful, cathartic, joyful
experience. And hopefully, you convey that to your audience so that
they can have a painful, cathartic, joyful experience. There's no
sexuality without grit.
On your web site, you have a "Betty's Boobs" PayPal donate button. What's the story?
I got some complaints about my breast size, which I think is fairly
typical, especially in South Florida. It's not uncommon that they expect
the 5'8", blond, 120-pound person. If you're like me, you're six feet
tall you don't necessarily fit a mold or type, you get a lot of
criticism. That's not what burlesque is about. It's not about fitting a
type. It's about variety. So my friend and hairdresser said if they want
you to have bigger titties, let 'em pay for it. So I set up a PayPal
account. But yeah, it's a joke.
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Betty Pickle performs with Miami's legendary and aged rapper,
Blowfly. On September 17, the two will open for Public Enemy at
Revolution, then they'll tour locally before hitting Europe. This Thursday, see her at the Millionaire Tramps Vaudeville Debut at Churchill's Pub (5501 NE Second Ave., Miami). Doors open at 8 p.m. and tickets cost $7. Call 305-757-1807 or visit churchillspub.com.