By Mike Tofin
Burlesque, pubic wigs, Golden Girls and vacuum cleaner-sized vibrators. What do these things have in common? Humour, obviously, but sex appeal? Yes, thanks to the creative thinking only possible by The Garter Girls Burly-Q Revue.
Burlesque is humorous theatrical entertainment involving parody and sometimes-grotesque exaggeration — a common sentiment among The Garter Girls as their humor and sex appeal smack you right in the face. In 20th century America, the form became associated with a variety show where striptease was the chief attraction. The neo-burlesque genre developed in the early ’90s.
The Garter Girls are composed of seven members, including two University of Calgary students. With three shows at Club Paradiso in June, the Girls were excited to reveal the highlights of their Summer Sizzler set.
The girls will present an interactive performance, drawing audience members in and providing immediacy to their show — offering something you can’t find in the comfort of your own home.
“Neo-burlesque wouldn’t survive if you could get the same effect from video or in photographs,” says Sasha Barry, who studies theatre at the U of C. “What we do is different than what the big name Vegas shows do, like the cabaret style show.”
“We are all so different, each of us performs differently and thinks about everything differently and that’s what gives our show variety,” explains Amanda Fabrig, a U of C communication and culture student.
Another strength of the show lies in its diversity. All the girls bring different ideas and backgrounds to the table for their performances.
“Arielle [Rombough] and Sasha do have drama and theatre backgrounds, where as Chelsea and I don’t,” says Fabrig. “Rebecca has intense dance training and you really see that in her stuff. Also, Chelsea has her [hula] hoops and I have funny stuff. I really don’t know what my specialty is, but everyone is different.”
The girls say these qualities help present a performance that embodies respect and empowerment. The Garter Girls also focus on the smallest details to bring a touch of class to their show.
“We always need someone to pick up after us, there is nothing worse then having to pick up your own clothes after you take them off,” says Barry. “There is a veil of luxury to having somebody pick those clothes up, which brings an allusion of luxury and glamour, that in turn makes us look like queens.”
These queens definitely aren’t afraid to discuss their own take on the Golden Girls, which might see the light of day in their future performances.
“Rue McClanahan — of the golden girls — had a burlesque routine. I watched it online and she danced topless,” says Fabrig.
“Blanche taught me the word slut,” adds Rombough. “She was an odd broad.”
“We really want to do a Golden Girls skit where we come on as old women and suddenly we hear music, and then we start walking with our walkers and canes and rip off our nighties,” says Barry, initiating an impromptu brainstorming session.
“We could use [pubic wigs], we could make that our merkin skit,” laughs Fabrig.
The brainstorming sadly came to an end and the girls continued on with what was already in the works.
“I do work a lot with traditional fans instead of feather fans. I use Chinese fans, Japanese fans and stuff like that in my dancing,” explains Fabrig.
Joining the girls, while listening to their ideas percolate, was certainly a swell experience. Their skits seem to come from any odd fact or story they can find.
“I read that women in the ’50s were being prescribed vibrators for depression — Prozac and vibrators basically.” explains Rombough. “I’ve seen pictures of old vibrators and they look like vacuum cleaners. They had this big giant engine and then a tube with this big bulbous metal thing.”
That was all it took for Rombough and the group to write a skit.
“It’s a skit about this one particular woman, who has been married for like 40 years and she fucking hates her husband, so she’s miserable and depressed and she hates everybody. At a point during the show, she comes into the club with her vacuum and starts yelling at everybody to ‘lift up their fucking feet.’ Then finally her vacuum touches up against her crotch and suddenly it’s like her sexuality is awakened. She then she starts dancing with the vacuum. Then she rips off her muumuu, revealing a lot of pink fringe underneath.”