Last night I went to L’Etage, the famous cabaret at 6th and Bainbridge in Philadelphia, to support a friend of mine, Debra Leigh Scott—writer, university professor, activist, and publisher—who is celebrating 20 years of her small publishing house with readings from new works by various authors and some friends singing songs. When I arrived for the 9 pm celebration, I didn’t recognize a single soul, sat down in the front row, unaware that the seat had been reserved, and when nothing happened, got up and talked to a fellow at the bar who told me that it was the intermission of a burlesque show.
Well, I wasn’t going to drive back home, having searched for a parking spot for over 15 minutes, and so I waited and then two men arrived. The woman to my left created a small scene when she told me that this VIP seat cost $15 and was not my seat. Mercifully, those guys were nice and just moved a bit to the right. The man in his 30s, sitting to my right turned out to be a pleasant school teacher.
Then, after a detailed introduction by a young woman with a degree in social work who told us in great detail about her activities with men in her bedroom (I spare you nausea-inducing details), one young woman after another cat-walked in to perform a strip tease. The audience howled and screamed with delight with every move by the strippers—the more vulgar, the louder the screaming and hollering.
The event turned out to be a performance of The Philadelphia Burlesque Bombshells, featuring graduates of Fit and Fab Studios, which offers classes in burlesque dance. One of the performers did a nice belly dance, veils and all. She was a woman in her 30s with a beautiful face and smile and—as I remarked to the slender teacher beside me—an ample build suitable for the Middle Eastern dance. One of the dancers was introduced as being Austrian, just having flown in from Vienna for her first performance in the United States. When I tried to talk to her in German after the show, it turned out that she had never left the US and couldn’t speak a word of German, except “nein”.
After the performance, while the raucous crowd slowly made its way to some bar nearby, the lead dancer, the Luvely Rae—choreographer and producer of Ciona Taylor Productions—came by and talked to us. She had come from New York and trained the young women from Philadelphia for six weeks and tonight was their graduation. The weighty and sweet belly dancer joined the slim teacher and wasted no time in putting her hand on his lap. He was in heaven. It was time to go. I didn’t want the “Austrian” dominatrix who looked like an emaciated scarecrow with numerous tattoos, black hair, black lips, black finger nails, black stockings, and a tight black corset on her skinny body to get any funny ideas and try them out on me. No sir! Nein, nein, nein.
Walking many blocks to find my car, and driving home, wondering what life was all about, I returned late at night and walked Jagger, my cocker spaniel, telling him about my experience at L’Etage. His response? He just pissed up another tree on Merwood Drive. After that not so poetic response, I dashed upstairs, opened my computer and checked: the literary-musical fundraiser for Hidden River Arts takes place at L’Etage on Sunday, June 7, 2015, at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Debra Leigh Scott guarantees that it won’t be another striptease show with belly-full belly dancers and a dominatrix from Austria who can’t say more than “nein”: “I promise you that our event will be tamer—our Eludia winner, Tree Riesener, will be reading a bit from her forthcoming winning title, Sleepers Awake. Lee Colston, winner of our last Hidden River Playwrighting Award, and I will be working to put script-in-hand reading of a scene from his winning play, Solitary—and, of course, our cabaret performance, the theme (which is not about burlesque) will be about life in the arts, with some wonderful songs by Jean Brooks, Leon Carelli, Denise Shubin and Debra Leigh Scott (me)—with accompaniment by the incredibly talented Carla Mariani.”
“As you know L’Etage is a wonderful space, one of the most popular nightclub spaces in our city,” she continues. “So we anticipate a very nice night—with no hostile audience members to push you out of your seat! I’m still reeling about your burlesque adventure!”
MORAL OF THE STORY: If in doubt, check the original invitation for any literary-musical fundraiser and write it into your calendar right away: Sunday, June 7 at 7 pm. The location is the same as the stripper burlesque: L’Etage at 6th and Bainbridge in Philadelphia. If it’s sold out, Debra and her literary and theatrical artists will put on another show at 9 pm.
Wouldn’t it be funny if someone who is looking for an amateur burlesque show mixed up the date and showed up for the literary-musical event at L’Etage? If so, I’d be happy to let him have my VIP seat, even though I cannot guarantee that any literary or musical types would put their hands in his lap afterwards.
You just have to take chances in life, don’t ya? ☺
- The correct date for the Hidden River fundraiser is June 7, 2015, at L’Etage Cabaret [624 S. Sixth Street], hiddenriverarts.wordpress.com.
- You can be a burlesque “star” too. Take classes from the Luvely Rae with Fit and Fab Studios: fitfabandsexy.com.
- Want more burlesque? Check out the Philadelphia Burlesque Festival May 28-31, 2015. thephiladelphiaburlesquefestival.com.