The experience of performing is something I am well familiar with. I loved being in school plays as a child, and loved theater so much that in high school I was a part of every production, even if I wasn’t cast in a role. I became President of the Drama Club my senior year, and tried to pursue acting in college. I don’t have stage fright, per se. I got over that a long time ago. I do have terrible anxiety though, and I am always nervous before a performance. This was no exception. I hurried through one section of my choreography like I always do, and ended up making a mistake that manifests on stage but never in rehearsal when I’m calm. I couldn’t get my stocking off because I hadn’t pulled it down far enough. This led to a struggle the audience probably didn’t notice, but the bruise on my knee for days after was a constant reminder not to put it with all my weight on the hard wooden seat for any length of time. By the time the act was over, I was just happy that I got through it with all my nerves. After the show I was bombarded with praise from fans and performers alike. I felt like a million bucks. I had impressed despite the stress, and all my hard work had paid off. One fan told me the following night that she was surprised I wasn’t selected to compete for the title, that I was that good. It had me beaming for sure.
After the show I was told of an after party, which I am all about. My friend Tracy (from conventions) helped me back to my room with my heavy chair and luggage, I quickly changed and we headed out to The Outburst owned by one of my favorite emcees and comedians, Lucky DeLuxe. I was so excited to ride the modern streetcar at 1am that we ended up waiting way longer than it would have taken to drive there. There was a man at the stop with us who was either schizophrenic or on some very heavy drugs. I was somewhat starting to regret my choice, but eventually the streetcar came and we were whisked the nine or so blocks down to the cross street of the venue, walking a couple more blocks over. When we arrived it seemed the party was starting to wind down. While low key, it was filled with great conversation, a lot of delicious pizza, and booze. I got to hang out with some of the local movers and shakers in the KC scene, which was exactly what I’d set out to do. Networking is so very important in our industry, and very difficult at times for introverts like myself. Since there were leftover whole pizzas, I was offered to take one back to the room with me. Tracy, myself, Mother Earf, and her husband piled into their car to take us back to the hotel where some truly hilarious times ensued.
It was maybe 3am at that point, and I had enough to drink in a short period of time that I was much more animated than usual. Being that this was a four-star hotel, I took full advantage of that and sauntered up to the Concierge desk saying something along the lines of “Hello, I was gifted this delicious pizza, but I know the box won’t fit in the fridge in my room, do you know where I can obtain some foil or something to wrap this in?” Probably not the strangest request he’s received from a drunk person late at night. So he kindly went into the hotel bar that the staff was cleaning up after closing for the night, reappearing a few minutes later with a stack of go-boxes which were perfect for keeping my pizza fresh in the mini fridge. I should mention at this point in the night my phone had been dead for some time. When I parked my car initially upon checking in, I forgot my charging cord. I had taken photos of where I was parked and looked at them before it died so I had a vague idea of where it was in the maze of three connected garages beneath the hotel and Crown Center. Tracy was nice enough to accompany me on this quest, as he was also parked in one of the garages. we spent a good half an hour getting lost trying to find it. Up the stairs, down the ramp, back up the elevator, around the corner, does this look familiar? Maybe it’s over here? The sign says maybe it is this way. He delightfully referred to it as the Garages of Mordor, as the tunnels are surely perilous should you lose your way. Finally we located it, his car as well, and I found my way back to my room safe and sound. I plugged in my phone, took off my make up, and climbed into bed around 4am.
The next morning, awaking only six hours later, I of course had tasty cold pizza for breakfast. This was not the type of hotel that includes breakfast, so Cheeseburger Minsky’s was a choice meal. I was dead set on getting in the hot tub, as I had brought my swimsuit. I didn’t realize until my arrival that the outdoor pool was heated and open all year round. It was rather warm for early May, and I decided to give the pool a try. I didn’t bring any sunscreen however, and the prices at the gift shop were exactly what you’d expect the markup to be. I headed outside after a nice walk through the fitness area and found a spot on up a set of stairs overlooking the rest of the pool area. I scanned the area for anyone applying sunscreen and spotted a group of people with multiple bottles of it. I walked over to one of the women and said “hello random stranger, I did not bring any sunscreen as I didn’t know the pool would be open, may I please use yours?” She didn’t mind being called random stranger, thankfully, and was very gracious to allow me to use what I needed. I didn’t want to be greedy, so I only applied it to my face so that wouldn’t get burned. Oh that was a mistake. I was wearing swim shorts due to not planning on swimming outdoors, and ended up with a nice lobster line across my thighs. That tan line would end up sticking with me the rest of the summer. I spent over an hour outside because it was just so nice, and it felt magical to be floating while sleep deprived and slightly hungover. I still couldn’t believe I was on this adventure, and still had another performance to do that night! The hot tub was a short stay, and after showering off in the luxurious locker room, I headed back to my room. My big, comfy, empty room. More pizza, yes, and a nap. Exactly what I needed.
Just a few short hours later the room would be filled with Bon Bons! It was nice to see familiar faces and spend some time with a group of people I absolutely adore. They had come into town just for the Saturday show to perform a group act, plus Dixie performing a solo. We went down to the food court for dinner and had a lovely time chatting about the festival, and food, and life. Soon it was time for the Queen competition, and I went up to the theater in my sparkly red gown to take it all in. Tanis Lee was competing and I was super excited for her. I saw some absolutely amazing acts, and it was such an inspiration to see the talent that our industry encompasses. I left before the winner was announced, because I still had to go back to the room to get ready for the second show I was performing in. The long night and relaxing day caught up with me, and I felt zapped of energy. “Light My Fire” is a high energy performance, and while I gave it my best, sunburn and all, it didn’t turn out quite the way I had hoped. I still got a lot of compliments from it, especially about how the the pattern of the lights cast on my silk veil fans made them look like they were actually fire. I really enjoyed being backstage with everyone, and I could definitely feel the camaraderie. Sitting in the audience with the other performers, and making new friends like Kinsey Scale was exactly what I wanted out of my festival experience. I made sure to thank everybody who helped make the festival happen, as I was so very grateful to be there. After curtain call I had significantly less stuff to drag to my room this time, and made it back to the theater just in time to catch the carpool to the after party at a swanky jazz club called The Green Lady Lounge. There was a bit of confusion about the party when we arrived, as it was extremely packed to the point I almost wanted to leave. I went back outside, asked around, then popped back in and took a detour downstairs to the Orion Room which was much less crowded – and I saw people I recognized.
I found out later that the name of the lounge comes from the owners’ love of Star Trek, which I find to be pretty badass. I had a very interesting experience at the bar downstairs. Not wanting to spend a ton of money on drinks, I ordered a simple mule (which was $10). I waited a while for it since the tiny bar was bombarded with customers and every transaction was rung out on a card. I paid with cash which seemed to confused them. My drink, served in a rustic-looking metal mug, was set down in front of some other guy at the bar, and when I walked over to it and took a sip, the bartender confirmed it was for me. He then took it away, added a straw and a lime, and handed it back to me. Since I was wearing lipstick I appreciated the straw, but it made me wonder if he added that and the lime since the drink was for a woman instead of a man as he had originally assumed. I pondered this interaction most of the night. Another thing my mind kept wandering to as the night went on was the interesting segregation at the collection of tables our party had acquired. At one end were the festival producers, the Queen competition winners this year and last, an older very nicely dressed couple, and some performers I honestly couldn’t tell apart from the others except that they weren’t wearing crowns. At the other end of the table were the local producers and fans I’d been drawn to the night before, a couple of other performers, and myself. I noticed us as being what I like to call “the artsy fartsy weirdos.” I dwelled quite a bit on this, actually. There is an interesting divide in burlesque between Classic and Neo. I’ve never seen it manifest into an actual tangible division in quite that way, however. It sort of solidified for me what I’ve known all along, that I’ll never be one of the “pretty people.” The outcasts and the weirdos are where I feel at home. I hope they don’t mind being called that, as I mean it with the utmost affection. As I mentioned in the previous post, one of my new favorite people is Frenchie, whom I spent most of the party chatting with. We bonded over the story of my physical disability, walking on my toes until I had surgery to correct it. It felt like such a life changing conversion. She told me that she’d love to have me come perform in Denver sometime, that she can tell I’m on the verge of blowing up in the burlesque scene. It literally brought me to tears that this accomplished, wonderful performer thought so highly of me just from a little over a day of knowing me. When I returned to the hotel that evening I wandered around in the peaceful quiet of the empty halls, with a waterfall calmly roaring in the background. Two women came giggling up the escalator and I briefly chatted with them, and offered to take their photo in front of the picturesque backdrop. It didn’t dawn on me until later that they were in the festival, and also at the after party. They didn’t recognize me either.
As I left Kansas City the next day, vowing to return one day for another proper vacation and to perform again, I was overwhelmed with joy and contentment for what I had accomplished that weekend. The fears of being too introverted, of embarrassing myself in front of a new crowd, of feeling alone had passed. I fully immersed myself in an unfamiliar place. Performing in my first out-of-town festival, while not my first time performing outside of St. Louis, was something I’d finally achieved. I knew now that I was an unstoppable force, and that great things were in store for me.