Gil Mantera's Party Dream / Triple Cobra /
The Go-Going-Gone Girls

May 15, 2010 - Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco

Live Show Review by Darrick Thomas @ Crawdaddy.com

People go to concerts for different reasons: Some go to appreciate the quality of sound. Some go to simply see their favorite band that can do no wrong regardless of the kind of performance they put on. And some go to be caught up in the contagious energy live music can produce, the kind of energy that, only a couple drinks in, has you dancing your ass off and jumping around like a joyful idiot. It’s the kind of shows of this last variety that are the most fun for me to attend personally and immediately have me imploring friends with, “You HAVE to see these guys live… best time ever!” Gil Mantera’s Party Dream know how earn this kind of recommendation and have been putting on killer shows for over a decade now.

But before we get to the Dream, it’s worth giving some love to the two openers who rocked the venue in their own right. While all three bands on the bill share few similarities musically, each totally commits to a sound and a concept that are infectious in the live format. The Go-Going-Gone Girls opened the night channeling ‘50s era rock and style, complete with matching go-go outfits, Bumpit hair-dos, and choreographed, retro dance moves. The three frontwomen (we were told a fourth was out sick) rotated on lead vocals throughout the set, and while all their voices contribute to an overall cohesive sound, each had her own vocal style, from the belt it out rock ‘n’ roll sound, to the sultry soul singer, to the Phil Spector girl-group inspired vocals. It all worked. Now, while someone more jaded could write this off as simply “derivative,” I tend to find that unfair and lazy. The Girls and their backing band were so committed to their sound, their style, and to having a good time that it was impossible not to get caught up in the fun and transporting nature of their performance. If an opening band leaves you wanting an encore, they’ve done something right.

Next onstage was Triple Cobra, a group made up of four dudes who all look like they belong in different bands and two female backup singers/dancers. The set belonged to these two women and the band’s frontman, who, channeling Bowie and Jagger, rocked the mic and guitar. Amps, turned to 11, blasted their brand of straight-ahead, ’80s glam influenced, sleazy (in a good way) rock ‘n’ roll. The ladies of the band, dressed in black lingerie complete with peacock feather collars and riding crops, danced, sang, and played tambourines amidst smoke and strobe lights. It was a spectacle and whether the music was your thing or not, the showmanship alone was enough to get you wrapped up in their performance.

Both Triple Cobra and the Go-Going-Gone Girls combined to leave the room with a bit of frenzy, a perfect prelude to the headlining Gil Mantera’s Party Dream. For those unfamiliar with GMPD, the band is made up of two brothers (they also had a drummer for this gig): Gil, who mans the synth, keys, and vocoder, and Ultimate Donny who plays guitar, bass, and takes lead vocals. The duo make hyperactive, party rock that’s best suited for the stage. Clad in spandex, they launched into their set full force, and it was Party time. Donny’s enthusiastically emotive vocal delivery attacks the ears while Gil’s funky beats and synth arrangements get your body moving. Although it seemed that not everyone was there to see GMPD specifically (as both openers were San Francisco natives), it didn’t take long for the crowd to lose themselves to the sheer fun that Gil and Donny produce. The Dream’s live show wouldn’t be complete without Gil’s hilarious yet contagious dance moves, Donny’s stream of consciousness rambling that, although nonsense, comes off like something extremely important, a beer toss, and a tongue-in-cheek striptease that involved leopard print man panties. For me, it’s obnoxious when a band takes themselves too seriously, which is why it’s so exciting and refreshing to come across a band like Gil Mantera’s Party Dream. Despite doing this kind of thing for the last 10 years, Gil and Donny treat every showlike it’s their first; they really care about giving the audience an amazing experience, and whatever you make of their music, you’ve gotta respect that.

It was a great time with great company and a great, eclectic audience. For all three acts, it came down to the simple fact that if the people on stage are visibly having fun, then the audience will follow twofold. If the Party Dream rolls into your town, I cannot stress enough, “You HAVE to see these guys live… best time ever!”

Live Show Review by Gordon Elgart @ Spinningplatters.com

So-called novelty bands tend to have a short shelf life. The progression tends to go something like this: you see the band open for someone else and you immediately tell your friends, then you see them again with your friends and have a great time, and then you keep going but your friends are over them. Meanwhile you’re telling the friends who have stopped going that the band is special; it’s not just a shtick. Sometimes you’re wrong, but sometimes you’re right. So am I right about Gil Mantera’s Party Dream?

The first band on the bill was The Go-Going-Gone Girls, a local band made up of a front of line of go-go girls in matching dresses doing synchronized choreography and a back-line of seasoned veteran musicians. The fact that a band like this exists is refreshing. It seems that you can have any cool musical idea you want in San Francisco and you’ll find people to join you. You can do “Leader of the Pack” in German without a tinge of irony, and people will enjoy it. Just watching them makes me want to start some sort of dream project with my friends, like a music blog or something.

Next up was Triple Cobra, and holy crap, this bands looks and sounds exactly like an early ’70s British glam rock band. And not some bar band or anything, but one playing to a giant arena filled with thousands of fans. They act as if they were the biggest band in the world, and the fact of the matter is that I would love to live in a world where Triple Cobra were the biggest band in the world. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing them again.

When Gil and Donny started setting up their gear for the Gil Mantera’s Party Dream headlining set, they were in their “street clothes.” My friend commented, “where are the outfits? There’d better be outfits!” This is the problem I mentioned above: for her, it’s never been about the music. Sure, the music is good, but it’s always been about the banter and the dancing. This isn’t a sustainable career, and something needed to change. Thankfully, it wasn’t the outfits; it was something else.

When GMPD first showed up on my radar, they were a two-piece project. “Party Gil” would start the beats going and then start with his modified-Chippendale dance moves, occasionally singing through a vocoder, while “Ultimate Donny” would play guitar and sing most of the leads. Between songs there would be non-sequitur banter, some fake (possibly real) arguing, and lots of weird jokes about breakfast. This has not changed.

What has changed is that they’ve added a drummer, AE Paterra, and the focus has shifted to the songs, and into making quality live music. And it works. The music has extra pop, yet none of the fun has gone away. This is not just me yelling at my friends, “but they’ve changed.” This is an actual shift. Gil Mantera’s Party Dream has definitely gone from a see-it-once novelty act to a super-fun dance band worth checking out as many times as you can.

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August 21, 2008 - SF Weekly Events

Beehive Yourself

If you saw the Go-Going-Gone Girls and the Devil-Ettes on the same night, the combined effect of all that eyeliner and shiny white boot leather would mean you'd wake up in jail for burgling vintage bikini stores. Your captors would say you just kept repeating "I need more adorable outfits that look like Nancy Sinatra's underwear. More!" So take it easy with these types of chicks. They'll mess you up, especially if you're a graying punk-rocker man. Just ask their guitar player, Klaus Fluoride, who was in some band called the Dead Kennedys a while back — clearly, he has no defense against four ladies synchronized-dancing their asses off on matching pink pedestals while wearing Nancy Sinatra's underwear. Playing great garage-bubblegum songs like "Wildman" and "Twist and Shout," the band gets audiences frugging, but not as well as the G4s. If you've been hoping for an excuse to wear your hair unnaturally high, this is definitely it. The evening is also a benefit for the veterinarian bills of one Bodie, a cute dog; all extra donations are welcome and put you in the running to win a slew of dog-related prizes including a signed copy of the Cramps' Can Your Pussy Do the Dog? LP, with the grand prize being a date with the G4 girls, who offer to teach the winner to do the Dog. (Hiya Swanhuyser)

Go-Going-Gone Girls, the Boss Martians,
Date/Time:Sat., August 23, 9:30pm
Place: the Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk (at Post), S.F.
Price: $7

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Fan letter to unnamed Go-Going-Gone Girl following the Fab Mab Reunion of the Dead Kennedys, Flipper, the Avengers, and the Mutants at the Fillmore on April 8th.

To: gogoinggonegirls@yahoo.com

Salutations [anonymous Go-Going-Gone Girl]:

I’m [name withheld] The Terrible (aka [name withheld]), whom you commended for being a Go Go Dancer, during the Flipper concert on SAT., and who commended you for having a stunningly beautiful body, and who to proved it by stroking your nipples [Ed: never happened!] after you returned from your delightful trek on stage with the DKs. Alas, my dancing was compromised by my filming Flipper with my camcorder, and later, by my handing out 30 paintings ranging from 10 x 8 to 11x 14 " to the fans which I made of the Flipper pirannah. I’d rather just groove & be euphoric, but truly I was anyway, and had the time of my life. You might inform Mr Bruce Loose of your professional opinion of my dancing, because I’d be flattered, and because several self-righteous piggies/neurotics/moralists have complained to him about it, claiming I look “too gay” or am an unwanted distraction—and all this stupid uptightness in the world of punk rock, supposedly a world of “anarchy” or freedom. Oh well. Here: [e-mail address withheld]

My sexual expressiveness and flirtation also “offended” and “scared” more than one female Flipper guest, & evidently only in Europe or NYC will I ever be tolerated; I was born and raised in Orange County, so you can deduce how crushing it is for me to be received as if by Christian-Republicans in the so-called liberal and sexually free culture of San Francisco; however, the next night at a bar called the Attic in Mission on 24th St. I was seemingly more loved. I had to leave the next morning so I never could verify such, though I made myself available & willing (with little sleep to boot), but lost to a soap-opera scenario.

Perhaps you have some suggestions? I’m also a poet and artist in over 40 literary and art journals, and some will arise if you google “[name withheld] poem.”

If you ever wanted to go out with me, I’d love to, and I’d drive all the way to SF, because you are certainly are worth the travel (contrary to popular, puss-headed prejudice I’m not gay, but I can’t see how that’s a defect if I were: apparently America will never grow up). We could go out to dinner or whatever you desire. I love the restaurants in SF: it’s a real cosmopolis, unlike this pen of yokels and their slobbering riches in OC.

Here’s my cell phone: [number withheld]

I’m a great lover but you likely already perceived so in my musical hips.

I’m just going going gone to waste here in the “OC”, land of avarice and puritan morals.

I think you’re just wonderful. Bye.

In Venerea Veritas, 

[Name withheld]

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December 5, 2005
www.fleshtones.org
THE FLESHTONE HALL OF FAME

Well, I got to the venue early, 12 Galaxies Club, maybe 45 minutes before the show began. The club reminded me of the Makeout Room and the DNA Lounge (both in SF, too). It was small like the other clubs, basically a stage and a small dance floor. Like the DNA, there is a second level and a balcony where you can watch the stage from above. I was happy to be able to chat with the band before and after the show, and caught them doing their sound check. It sounded awesome and was a good precursor of what was to come.

I met another big Fleshtones fan there, Jim (a really cool guy), and we watched the show. The opening acts were good, particularly the first one. Their name escapes me at the moment, but it was a 60s covers band with three female vocalists. They had the whole psychedelia thing going: their clothes, hairstyles, etc. We watched the opening bands from the balcony, then, when the Fleshtones arrived, we went down to the dance floor in front of the stage. They played for about an hour and a half, and were fantastic!! Still awesome and still a kick ass band. The only complaint I had was the poor quality of the sound system at the venue. I couldn’t hear Peter’s vocals very clearly, nor for the second opening act’s. But the instruments came rocking through.

The turnout for the show was small but the people were enthusiastic and excited. You could tell they were really having a good time. And I was right there with them: dancing and jumping along to every track! It was a very positive, energetic vibe, and this was all due to the Fleshtones’s very lively, animated show, where they often interact with the audience by going into the audience and dancing on the bar top. It was great to hear all the new songs live, like Bigger and Better, Pretty Pretty Pretty, Do Something For Me, Serious, and I Want the Answers. I was happy to hear the title cut of the last, Do You Swing?, again, along with the opening song Hard Lovin’ Man. And of course they did a mixture of classic stuff and more recent songs. The encore was great: I’m Not a Sissy and the Girl From Baltimore, they sounded excellent live and were a good way to end the show. (Posted By Derek Muk)

I, too, was at the 12 Galaxies for a fun filled evening. It was a fab bonus to get the Go Going Gone Girls as an opener. Great tun es, choreography and costume changes to boot! I enjoyed seeing the GGGGirls critiquing the dance steps of the Fleshtones.

I could have easily done without the painfully loud second act, Th’Losin’Streaks. I did enjoy their matching guitar cables, but they were so damn loud that you couldn’t even hear them. I was pleased that the Fleshtones brought it back down to a sane level.

It was nice to see the Tones on a bigger stage than I’ve seen them in a while. Much more space for the Keith & Ken shenanigans. Ken was wired this evening which did cut into the off stage hijinx, but that didn’t stop Keith. And I loved it when Pete made the crowd do pushups during Push Up Man. Sweet!
Posted By Belinda

OK some weeks ago I had pledged to write up the 12 Galaxies show, but Derek beat me to it right away and summed it up well - yup that’s what happened. And Belinda hit the other parts including the fine opening set by the Go Going Gone Girls, they were fun with fine girl group harmonies, moves, and a good backing band.

The FTs were, once again to quote the French, the best rockandroll band in the past 25 years. Pushup man was cool, and I thought all the new tunes sounded way boss live. Pickin’, I’m Back Again, and Let it Rip were a few personal highlights for meself. Girl from Baltimore was a total lineof scrimmage audible by Peter. I didn’t get thrown out of the bar by some shithead punk bouncer this time!

The 12 Galaxies gets my vote as the best SF venue played by the Fleshtones in the last few v isits - nice stage, good people, and at least one bartender that was pretty and funny... (Posted By dizzy)

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November 12, 2004 - SF Weekly
Night & Day-This Week’s Day-by-Day Picks

With their psychedelic sensibility wafting over some reallyreallyfast drumming and guitar strumming, the Hut Dwellers seem a good fit for the Russ Meyer Tribute, a musical and cinematic homage to the director of Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill! Ditto for Sacramento’s totally fuzzed-out Th’ Losin Streaks, whose cool-cat garage rock and polyester bell-bottoms wouldn’t be out of place in any of the master’s buxom babe flicks. But the real pull here is something no Meyer event should be without: buxom babes, in the form of the Go Going Gone Girls. These three chicks have big hair and slutty outfits, and best of all, they stand on pedestals so that everyone in the audience can hear them singing Shangri-Las covers and see them doing every kind of dance that had a name in the 1950s and ’60s, including the Madison. Come dressed as your favorite Russ Meyer character: Anyone want to bet on how many Tura Satanas to expect? The shebang starts at 9 p.m. at 12 Galaxies, 2565 Mission (at 22nd St.), S.F. Admission is $8; call 970-9777 or visit www.12galaxies.com.

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October 6, 2004 - SF Gate
Special magical-booking high-five goes to the organizers for getting the Go Going Gone Girls to provide their sweaty, shagtastic dance-party music between rounds
and the two geniuses from Killing My Lobster to emcee the show as a failed game-show host and his mustachioed sidekick, the Admiral. By the way, KML launches a new politically minded show,”Killing My Lobster Goes to the Polls,” Oct. 14 at ODC Theater. (Beth Lisick)

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September 25, 2002 - SF Weekly
SOPHISTICATED BOOM BOOM
S.F.’s Famous Burlesque Orchestra provides a safe haven for punks, gorillas, and other odd characters
Burlesque is back in a big way – and we’re not just talking bra size. The bawdy theatrical form, which disappeared after the advent of topless bars and porno flicks in the ’60s, was originally considered high art (or at least high lowbrow art). Striptease icons such as Lili St. Cyr, Sally Rand, and Gypsy Rose Lee were on a par with movie stars. They wore elaborate costumes, performed intricate dance numbers, and often took very little off – a far cry from today’s strippers, who wander aimlessly across the stage before bursting free of whatever bits of fabric they have on.

But thanks to a growing number of former punks and disillusioned swing kids, burlesque has been resurrected with a postmodern, DIY spin. Michelle Carr fired the first shot, starting up the Velvet Hammer dance troupe in Lo s Angeles in 1995, with swing combo Royal Crown Revue often providing tunes. Soon after, one-time S.F. resident Lorelei Fuller formed the Shim Shamettes, a 15-member”beauty chorus” based out of New Orleans’ Shim Sham Club, named after a similar Big Easy venue from the ’30s. Along with its backing band the Shim Sham Revue, the company re-creates vintage routines from past legends, includi ng Kitty West’s famed Evangeline the Oyster Girl number.

As you’d expect, the Bay Area overflows with burlesque talent. There are the Devil-Ettes, a constantly growing ensemble of kitschily coiffed hoofers led by Baby Doe, the co-founder of America’s first burlesque convention, Tease-O-Rama. (The second annual Tease-O-Rama takes place in San Francisco this week at Bimbo’s and Broadway Studios, featuring over 200 performers.) There are Dane’s Dames, the vaudeville slap(stick)-and-tickle outfit of ex-swing maven Eddie Dane; the Go-Going Gone Girls, a ’60s song-and-dance troupe; and the Cantankerous Lollies, a trio of showgirls with a taste for French cancan and slinky cabaret. The glue that holds these acts together is S.F.’s Famous Burlesque Orchestra, a bunch of lapsed piano punks, warped accordionists, acid-jazzers, and horny gorillas who happily put the ring in ring-a-ding-ding.

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S.F.’s Famous Burlesque Orchestra grew out of Fisherman’s Famous Burlesque, a group started by Brian Lease in 1998 to provide sophisticated boom boom for the Cantankerous Lollies. Fi sherman’s Burlesque quickly became a repository for members of the local rock scene, including East Bay Ray, the Dead Kennedys guitarist who’d played with Lease in the saucy lounge group Frenchy; ex-Thinking Fellers drummer Paul Bergmann; and one-time Courtney Love bandmate Suzanne Ramsey.

In the mid-’80s Ramsey played with Love and future members of Babes in Toyland and L7 in a band called both Sugar Baby Doll and Sugar Babylon. “We were heavily influenced by the Cocteau Twins,” she laughs, comparing the act with the wimpy, ethereal ’80s altrockers.”I was the floweriest pianist you ever heard – I [played] like a fairy running through the woods.”

Not surprisingly, Sugar Baby Doll didn’t last long. After the group broke up in 1987, Ramsey dropped out of the music scene, taking a job at a San Francisco antique store and working the occasional wedding and bar mitzvah. Ten years later, a customer introduced her to 80-year-old Bob Grimes, who supplies cabaret stars the world over with sheet music. After he gave Ramsey some “racy, naughty, silly stuff,” her musical career was reborn. Calling herself “Kitten on the Keys,” Ramsey began performing lascivious tunes from the ’20s and ’30s, numbers like Fats Waller’s”Honeysuckle Rose,” which she says is –a song about pussy, honey.”

“I’ve always had a fascination for it,” Ramsey says of the old-time style.”I used to skip school and stay home and watch old movies, especially Shirley Temple, Laurel & Hardy, and the Little Rascals.”

“[The music’s] gosh-darn fun,” she continues.”It took a lot of intellect – there’s all this veiled naughtiness going on. They actually had to be very clever and very witty, and I don’t think a lot of songwriters are very clever and witty today.”

Ramsey’s singing voice – a hilarious Betty Boop coo that seems to wiggle as it leaves her lips – is perfect for the songs. She has a terrific sense of phrasing as well, going from move-that-hand-just-don’t-remove-that-hand flirtation to brassy give-me-what-I-need oomph. Her piano playing travels from jaunty to delicate to lurid with the grace of a cat.

And just when you think you’ve seen all of Ramsey’s talents, she’ll bust out with her Shirley Temple striptease, in which she sheds her threads to a lewd version of “On the Good Ship Lollipop.”

Ramsey soon disco vered that there were plenty of like-minded folks around town. Besides her solo show, she began playing smutty duets with Daddy Frank & the Uke You Can’t Refute, accompanying the high-flying kicks of the Cantankerous Lollies, and tickling the ivories with Fisherman’s Famous Burlesque, which originally featured one of her musical heroes, East Bay Ray.

“I tried to pay [Ray] off for sexual favors but ended up with autographed pink ruffle-y panties,” Ramsey says.”I wear ’em to shows for good luck – a peek is only a quarter.”

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Like Ramsey, Paul Bergmann, leader and bassist of S.F.’s Famous Burlesque Orchestra, began his musical career far from the dance halls of burlesque. He drummed for local art-rock combo Thinking Fellers in the late ’80s, and later played with Barbara Manning’s SF Seals, Mingo 2000, and other area indie bands. By 1997, however, he’d changed his focus and was performing with Brian Lease in what Bergmann describes as a “tiki bebop band.” When the group was asked to play a one-off show called “Tease-O-Rama” at the Cocodrie, the members rounded up some dancers and learned some “raunchy ’40s to ’60s” tunes.

After hooking up with the Cantankerous Lollies the following year, the combo morphed into Fisherman’s Famous Burlesque, a group that played with one foot on the Sunset Strip and the other in the gutter. Last August, Lease moved to New York City, and Bergmann changed the band’s moniker and took over the reins. Currently, the ensemble includes Polkacide leader and saxophonist Ward Abronski (who blew on Flipper’s punk classic “Sex Bomb”), trumpeter Andy DeGiovanni, one-time acid-jazz star Paul Scriver, ex-punk guitarist Frank Novicki, and former Jumbo Shrimp drummer Dana Burt, along with Kitten on the Keys.

Why are so many punks and rockers drawn to this sound? “It’s still lowbrow sort of stuff,” Bergmann explains with a laugh. “It’s artistic but it’s not high art.”

Burlesque may not be high art, but it has provided the band with some unusual live gigs. Earlier this year, the troupe headed to L.A., where it played the famed Brown Derby as Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and five of his blond girlfriends watched. Then the collective traveled to Exotic World, the museum owned by the 70-year-old self-proclaimed “Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque,” Dixie Evans. Out in the Mojave Desert, the group delivered backup music for routines by old-time queens Te mpest Storm and Dee Milo and participated in accordion jams, fire-breathing contests, and Spin the Bottle games with former light technicians for ELO.

Burlesque Orchestra shows can take many forms. While the band supplies everything from sleazy noir-jazz to bopping pop-crunch to sultry spy-lounge, MC Mad V. Dog offers up comedic chestnuts that are funny because they’re completely unfunny. The Cantankerous Lollies always kick up a storm, as do the Go-Going Gone Girls. Molotov and Felicity may swallow swords or breath fire, Simone de la Getto might sing “Zing Went the Strings of My Petticoat,” and the Boing Boing Boy occasionally doffs his clothes while hopping on a pogo stick. If things get a little stale, there’s always Gorilla X, who has practiced his banana-and-Red Bull-fueled hijinks onstage with No Doubt and on screen on TV’s Maury.

“It’s funny, it’s mirthful, with a real powerful sense of humor, a real shtick, naughty and playful,” pianist Ramsey says.

“The appeal for me in all burlesque is the creative titillation,” says Novicki, who replaced guitarist Ray six months ago. “It’s not pornographic, but it is pretty nasty, depending on how dirty your mind is. And it’s not just a bunch of good-loo king girls running around the stage taking their clothes off.”

As for why the burlesque revival has been such a success, Novicki postulates, “This isn’t a bunch of hacks trying to get a record deal or trying to be the next big thing -- it’s people trying to put on a really good show.”

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Oddly enough, most folks go to Tease-O-Rama for the tease, not the tunes. Here are some of the highlights of the convention – from solo sirens to tawdry troupes, horny honkers to hot how-tos.

Dance Workshop S.F.’s Brazilian burlesque group Hot Pink Feathers offers tips on how to shake and shimmy with the best of them.

The Gun St. Girls While this Seattle/Portland troupe dresses old-fashioned, it dances only to modern sounds -- punk, punk, and more punk. Using whips and guns onstage, Miss A. Sphyxia, Hangman Lola, and the other vixens drag glitter through the gutter.

Harvest Moon (featuring Fisherman) Having started the Cantankerous Lollies in San Francisco in 1995, Harvest Moon danced off to New York with multi-instrumentalist Brian Lease (ex-Fisherman’s Famous Burlesque) last year. The c ouple’s act, which they still perform in the Big Apple, includes hula hoops, contortions, and a mean-sounding xylophone.

The History of Burlesque New Orleans-based filmmaker Rick Delaup unveils the naked truth about old-time burlesque. Complete with guest commentary from icon Kitty West and film clips from the ’50s.

Dee Milo Now in her 70s, this legendary hoofer began her career in 1949 as”the Venus of Dance.” Hopefully, she’ll perform her famous tease routines like”Sentimental Journey,” in which she depicts a lovers’ reunion after wartime, and”I Married an Angel,” which provides a glimpse at what happens after the ceremony.

Pasty-making Workshop When not singing and dancing at New York’s Le Scandal cabaret, Miss Bonnie Dunn shows ladies (and men, if they like) how to fashion their very own nipple protectors. Start the holiday gift-buying season off right.

The Sophisticats & the Sophistikittens New Orleans’ answer to the Devil-Ettes, the Sophistikittens shake, rattle, and roll to the vintage sounds of the Sophisticats. Anything from surfy rumble to rumba lounge to bluesy swagger is fair game, as long as the horns are honking and the dames are dancing dir ty.

Dita Von Teese This pinup girl is often called”The Modern-Day Bettie Page.” On her Web site, www.dita.net, she proudly declares that she wears only vintage clothing and drives around in a 1939 Chrysler New Yorker. She’s scheduled to be on the cover of Playboy in December, and Bizarre magazine once declared her the third”most sexiest woman.”

The World Famous Bob This New Yorker’s claim to fame is her ability to mix martinis in her cleavage. Who says burlesque ain’t high art?

The World Famous Pontani Sisters While Helen, Tara, and Angie are indeed sisters, there’s no way to know if they are, in fact, world famous. (Well, they have appeared in Dutch and Italian magazines.) Still, the trio proves that the family that strips together stays together -- especially when reviving old vaudeville, MGM musical, and Tin Pan Alley numbers. As seen on Late Night With Conan O’Brien. (Dan Strachota)

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TEASE-O-RAMA 2002
Sep. 29, 2002- Bimbo’s (San Francisco)
Bimbo’ ;s 365 was the site of the second annual Tease-O-Rama, featuring three nights of dirty dancing, vaudeville comedy and Girls! Girls! Girls! Over 40 acts from across the USA invoked the spirit of classic burlesque to a soundtrack of the century’s sleaziest music. Local legends like The Devil-ettes, The Cantankerous Lollies and The Go Going Gone Girls were joined by SoCal sexpots including Dames In Dis’Dress and Kiki DeVille and a bevy of East Coast performers including Dirty Martini, Trixie Little and the World Famous Pontani Sisters as they shook their money makers and inflamed the imaginations of the sharply dressed crowd. Dancers representing every part of the country strutted their stuff to the feverish sounds of New Orleans’ Sophisticats and San Francisco’s own Famous Burlesque Orchestra. Fetish pinups like Dita Von Teese and Catherine D’Lish made eyes pop and jaws drop with their mesmerizing moves, and even the notoriously icy staff at Bimbo’s couldn’t keep their eyes off the stage as these sirens of smut teased, taunted and almost took it all off, all night long. Vintage comedy from the Baggy Pants Comedy Revue and Kappy Kaplan gave the girls time to slip into something more comfortable, like a giant champagne glass or an outfit made entirely of balloons. MCs Luigi Scorcia and Monic a the Tiki Goddess kept things rolling with snappy repartee as lounge legend Connie Champagne showed off an able pair of lungs. Tease-O-Rama promises to change cities each year, but the San Francisco edition is going to be hard to beat. (Blag Dahlia)

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April 11, 2002 - SF Chronicle
FEELING DOWN?
S.F. BURLESQUE IS OVER THE TOP
I’d just been caught in a sudden shower on Haight Street after work Tuesday when a guy selling green bud broke off his sales pitch. “Smile, you’ll look better,” he said. What? Is there a comeback to remarks like these? How about,”Bathe, you’ll look better?” I mean, some grubby petty criminal, some feckless – and no doubt unprosecuted! – sidewalk dope dealer is telling me how I can improve myself? Screw that! Yes, it’s a quality of life issue, all right, though it’s also true there’s nothing like a drizzly and dismal spring evening – sodden trash in the gutters and commuters caroming heedlessly homeward – to put you at odds with the world. Luckily, I had plans: to see San Francisco’s premiere burlesque extravaganza. The Cantankero us Lollies! The Go Going Gone Girls! Molotov the Sword Swall ower! Felicity the Spanish Spitfire! And, last but not least, San Francisco’s Famous Burlesque Orchestra, featuring Kitten on the Keys! Under the mirror ball and within the smoky blue walls of the Mission’s Make- Out Room, almost everyone seemed to be smiling. Maybe it was the magic of – well, show business.”This is burlesque the way it was,” explained Mad V. Dog, the show’s emcee, who was wearing a top hat and a silver-trimmed tux, and whose cheek and shirt front sported fresh lipstick marks.“You might mention I am San Francisco’s favorite emcee,” he added. How do you measure something like that? “I say it.” In fact, one of the nice things about burlesque is that, in a world in which the redemptive power of celebrity is conferred by fiat on a select few – sort of like knighthood, only more so – burlesque performers are allowed to dub themselves “favorite,” or“lovely,” or even“famous,” just because they feel like it. Thus, San Francisco’s Famous Burlesque Orchestra will be performing on the 20th in L.A.’s Palace Theatre at a benefit for the Exotic World Burlesque Museum, alongside such stars as Dita von Teese, Kitten DeVille and Miss Exotic World 2001, Sacramento’s own Cherry Malone. Exotic World? Well, that’s a whole other explanation: The Exotic World Burlesque Museum, in the desert off I-15 in Helendale, is run by the legendary Dixie Evans – known, in the ’50s, as the Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque. While its facilities are in need of repair, it’s a repository of treasures – Sally Rand’s shoes, the pasties and G-strings of the famous, from Lili St. Cyr to Bettie Page.“It’s amazing,” said Mad Dog.“It’s like a David Lynch movie.” The orchestra, too – saxophones, trombone, horn, guitar, bass, drums, bongos and keyboard – was amazing, accompanying singer Suzanne“Kitten on the Keys” Ramsey as the Cantankerous Lollies, in black velvet hats, black bustiers and satin slips, stripped off first the bustiers – revealing black lace bras – and then the slips, revealing matching briefs and seamed nylons, to appreciative whoops from the crowd. Mad Dog claimed to have been hit hard by Milton Berle’s death: “For the last five years he had been listing me as a dependent on his taxes.” Rim shot.“Of course, when I heard the news, all I could think was, ‘One step closer to the top.’” Another rim shot, cheers, groans. Then there’s Muni:”You know those new billboards – Com-Muni-ty? The other day I asked my bus driver for a transfer. He sai d, ‘Just tell the next bus driver Joe sent you.’” The Go Going Gone Girls, in marabou and nylon peignoirs, performed “Give Him a Great Big Kiss,” as a stripper named Rocky removed his shirt and unzipped his leather pants. More cheering, and Mad Dog reappeared, this time wearing a Fujieda baseball shirt. “I love baseball,” he told the crowd. “My favorite baseball movie is the one about the support group for flashers–‘Eight Men Out.’” Then, sitting in a purportedly electrified chair, Felicity the Spanish Spitfire lit torches and illuminated fluorescent tubes with her breasts. Then there was a bump-and-grind contest, and then there was a grand finale involving the Lollies, the Going Gone Girls and a man in a gorilla suit, and – unbelievably – they’ll be doing it all again next month, May 7th at the Make-Out Room. It was past midnight and I was starving; I stopped at Mel’s for a burger and fries. Fabulous Mel’s! Home of the World Famous Repetitive Jukebox! Sometimes, it’s just how you look at things. (Laurel Wellman)

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October 13, 1999 - SF Weekly
A FLEETING REMEMBERANCE
Rosette gently pushes herself away from the graffitied wall of the Blue Bar and walks up the hill with delicate, intangible steps that seem to impose on only the tips of her toes. At the corner, she stops, avoiding all but the slightest physical brush with humanity as her eyes flit across the surfaces of Broadway, looking for a new place to light.

“I do not want to miss any thing,” she says with careful, feathery articulation, “but I also do not want to be distinct.” Originally from Manila, Rosette is small-boned and ageless, as pretty as anything North Beach has to offer. She settles onto a low sidewalk step on Kearny and stretches a languid arm into the night, staring past the neon glow, into the shadowy stars above. The balmy weather and the giddy hustle of Broadway have left Rosette feeling sentimental: Eight years ago, she fell in love with a Navy man with whom she had spent as many weeks, and after he returned to the Chicago area, she followed, aided by the substantial bit of money he had left her.

“Why else would he leave me his address and so much money?” Rosette says demurely, glancing through her false lashes with large, searching, liquid-brown irises.

“Anywho,” she says wrinkling her nose, “he tells me he’s in love with a woman woman, and he’s very angry, so I split and come here, meet some friends on Polk and do okay.” But, still, Rosette has a soft spot for men in uniform, and every year, during Fleet Week, she comes to watch the rambunctious young recruits pass by, always hoping for the off chance her man might be among them.

“It’s silly. I know. But I want to look at him, just a little,” says Rosette, lighting a long, mentholated cigarette and smoothing out her thin, summer dress. “And the men in uniform are cute to watch. But I’m done for military men.”

The landscape is littered with uniforms caught in the rosy shadow of strip clubs and adult theaters, the men loud and gunning for a good time. Some dangle out of street-level bar windows, seeming to overflow from the buildings as they heckle fellow servicemen passing by; others stop to talk too long with the exotic dancers outside their theaters, causing the ladies to roll their eyes as the men finally enter. Tak en in groups, the men are eye-catching, somehow aesthetically engaging in their solidarity; isolated, they are gangly, overloud, hormone-challenged young males let loose in a strange new city where they are expected to appear bold and dauntless... except for Rosette’s mark, a tall, square-shouldered Marine with a well-bred gait, who actually tips his hat before stepping aside to allow two women to pass by on the crowded sidewalk.

“Like Cary Grant,” coos Rosette, stepping into the stream.

“Buddy, you don’t want a burlesque show,” says a civilian to a Navy boy too young to get into the Hi-Ball Lounge. “They don’t take it off, and it’s sold-out, anyway. Go down the street.”

He goes, and misses something. Inside the Hi-Ball, surrounded by red velvet and Barbary Coast zebra skin, the burlesque bump-and-grind of the Fisherman’s Xylophonic Brass Orchestra seems to complete the evening’s queer sense of nostalgia. An up-tempo go-go number brings to stage the irrepressible Going Going Gone Girls, who shimmy and jiggle in short-shorts and go-go boots. MC Mad Dog, a man “destined to spend his life pulling on doors marked pull,” takes the stage in an ill-fitting jacket filled with worse-fitting jokes.

“Working in a burlesque show is like working in a candy store. After the first day, it’s no big deal but, oh brother, that first day!” The appropriate bad-joke drum roll is inserted by Fisherman here, and accents nearly every joke hereafter. “How do you put out hot pants? With pantyhose!” The crowd groans appreciatively, and silver-haired Felix Rowan leans over to excitedly squeeze his wife of 19 years.

San Francisco’s Tap Darlings take the stage in pink boas and seamed stockings. If not terribly talented, they exhibit an enthusiasm that could charm the cherry out of a Manhattan, and the xylophone trills, and thrills, under the direction of Fisherman and his fez. More bad jokes and booing give way to a lusty song by Toots La Rue - Marilyn Monroe - who inspires a knife fight between two suitors before being saved by a man in a gorilla suit. Then the statuesque Kaotica du Flambeau enters through a plume of stifling incense to do the “dance of the mother goddess,” an awkward, sexless belly-dance made dangerous by a flaming sword precariously balanced on her head. More bad jokes.

Forty-six-year-old Laura Ethington moans, “This is not titillating. There should be more boom-boom in burlesque,” and wipes sweat from her brow. As if on cue, Mad Dog calls for an intermission, which sends the stage crew scampering onstage to struggle with a giant white screen in a way that would make the kings of slapstick proud. A few audience members of nervous dispositions, or short attention spans, leave the club, just as San Francisco’s six-gal burlesque squad, the Cantankerous Lollies, appears in curvaceous silhouette behind the screen. Red hair, black hair, and platinum - their attributes are called out in verse as they sidle in front of the spotlight with Spanish shawls, fans, top hats, guns, and stilettos, with only their high-heeled feet revealed beneath the screen in vivid Technicolor.

“That’s a little better,” smiles Ethington as the Lollies exit and the stage crew once again struggles uproariously with the screen while the be-fezzed band continues its steady grind. After a moment, the entertainers return in fishnets and red tassels for synchronized chair dancing that requires a trollop in the audience to give up her seat. After another moment, it’s long slinky gowns in pastel colors, with matching parasols that only occasionally threaten th e dancers’ high-piled, long-tendriled wigs; then white crinolines, ruffly underwear, and a can-can line that leaves someone in the crowd roaring,”Is it the heat, or the ladies?” The Going Going Gone Girls return with bikinis and Laugh-Injubilance while we await the featured attraction, Hollywood’s Velvet Hammer Burlesque.

“Kitten Delight is a green-eyed, platinum-haired goddess who likes to listen to the Sonics while tooling around in her ’63 Dodge Dart station wagon,” reads Mad Dog. Miss Delight arrives on stage, all smooth-skinned and Hollywood-tanned. Under the grumble of Tom Waits, she quickly strips down to a beaded G-string and tassels. Ursalina follows, equally tan and blonde, in a huge pink boa and genie wrap, which she quickly loses. Then, it’s the exotic Valentina Violette, who arrives in a gorilla mask with silver cuffs on her wrists and her ankles. Taking tropical inspiration from burlesque queen Blaze Starr, Violette rips off her mask and writhes to “jungle drums” before stripping off her zebra-skin loin cloth. Lastly, Miss Exotic World 1999 Lotus Derringer takes the stage in a beaded G-string that shimmers with every slow, methodical twitch. She smiles and flirts with darting eyes and a no-effort lipstick-red smile. She balances a sword atop a fall of perfect ebony hair accented by a large white flower. She pauses and shakes, undulating slowly. For the first time in the night, the sweltering room seems silent, lit only by Derringer’s pale, luminescent skin. She slinks out of her glittery beads, down to a thin gold G-string and pasties. Within seconds, the mystique is gone and so is she.

“I bet that’s how burlesque used to look back in the old days,” says Nathan Iyer. “Like that Derringer chick. I think it’s funny how the girls from San Francisco are kind of silly and messy and cute, and the girls from L.A. are all slick and professional like strippers. I don’t know where that last girl was from, but she was pretty cool.”

Outside, Rosette has returned to her stair on Kearny.

“I’m done for military men,” she says with a breathy pout. “Good watching, only.” She indicates the seat next to her and offers me a smoke. “Were the women inside prettier than me?” A slight roll of the shoulder joins the big, liquid brown eyes.

“Not much,” I say.

“I could dance for San Francisco next time?”

Indeed. (Silke Tudor)

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