Kitten von Mew and Alan Tikimask
If one of your socks suddenly became a fan of James Bond movies and started stalking round the house with a shoe string for a tie and a toy gun, how would you make sure the other one didn’t feel left out? (Institut Corsetologie)
“I would write a film part in a new Bond epic for him – ‘You Only Live Tights’ or ‘Socktopussy’ and perform it to a whole laundry basket audience to build up his confidence.”
Did your parents leave you out in the rain as a small child? (Tom Stewart)
“Im gathering so as I am only 5ft 4″ and made of 75% wool… I used to love playing outside and making dens when I was little. I lived in the middle of nowhere with not many friends, so found the joys of nature, being a Pirate Princess and listening to the rain on the leaves above me as I sheltered under a huge tree.”
Do you like Ike? (Damien Travers)
“Well, you like Ike, I like Ike, everybody likes Ike. So put out the banner, beat the drum and we’ll take Ike to Washington. Unless he wants to just stay at home.”
Do/ did you ever smoke? (Owen Lancaster)
“Noooooo, hate the stuff. I remember my best friend at high school trying to force me to smoke and I didn’t want to know. I think the only thing that was tempting was the visual glamour portrayed by old movies; the long cigarette holder or smoking a pipe. The only smoke I liked to smell was that of my Grandad’s pipe tobacco. It is the one thing I really miss. I wish I could have bottled it.”
Marlene Dietrich Smoking
Have you ever had the misfortune to taste tea AND coffee in the same cup by accident? (Jet Oswin)
“Cofftea is the WORST! I have to drink caffeine free tea and coffee because of low blood pressure, but when I treat myself to a proper cup of tea, you want it to be untainted. It’s like getting to the bottom of the cup and finding you have a mouthful of sludge from dunking biscuits. It ruins a perfectly good beverage.”
What made you be a vintage model and basically love like the 40’s in general? (Helen Knight)
“I was never a ‘normal’ child and in the 80’s I was listening to 50’s rock n roll not Madonna and the 90’s I was dressed in my Grandma’s Victorian boots, high necked blouses and themed my room for different decades. That wasn’t normal for a 13 year old girl when everyone else was jumping around to Take That. On Sunday mornings they used to show great old films like Babes on Broadway, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Duck Soup, The Square Peg…I used to love watching them as Ma made Sunday lunch and longed to be one of the curvy dancing girls or strutting around in a beautiful gown.
I got some self confidence after college and blossomed into some kind of neo-vintage in 2000 ( they called me the comic Book Girl in town as I had pink hair in victory rolls and a corset over a skirt on most days with polka-dot shoes) and progressed to vintage and repro by 2003. I always knew that I wanted an Art Deco or 1930’s house (my Grandad used to live in a beautiful 1930’s mock Tudor house with huge bay windows and original features). Although currently in a tiny rented place, I worked hard in collecting vintage bits of furniture and bric-a-brac to create quite an authentic looking living space. When Mr Mew moved in we continued this and he has helped me with the kitchen too now, which used to really bug me! It is always a joy to walk through that front door and see our creation.
I felt totally lost when I was growing up and never fitted in at school or college, but now feel completely myself.”
Have you ever had a supernatural or other worldly experience? (Tracey Cook)
“Good question and a great one to do after the previous one! I have had quite a few, but am a total wall sitter when it comes to UFO’s, ghosts and bumps in the night. Unless Ive seen it or have proof, I am more of a logic thinker. But on saying, that Ive seen so much I know things are out there.
I once worked at Warwick Castle as the receptionist in the old Victorian mansion building. The main occasions I saw/ heard things were:
I had to go and find one of the managers and rushed down the corridor and into the level with Lady Daisy’s bedroom where two large doors are open for you to see in. There was a visitor’s guide dressed as a butler (as one used to) looking out the window. All I remember thinking was “Ooh what beautifully polished shoes…wait, why aren’t the alarms going off, if he is standing over the rope?” I bumped into the rest of the guides and their manager around the corner and said “Who’s the new guy dressed as a butler? He’s over the other side of the rope but the alarms aren’t sounding?” She looked at me and then to a couple of the older guides and said there was no newbie. I just carried on as I had a chore to do but I knew I had seen him. Later she told me how there was a gentleman guide who used to work at the castle and dress up as the Earl’s butler, but he passed away 3 years previously. The weird thing is that before the news reached the castle of his passing, another guide had seen him in the kitchen reading a newspaper as he always had before work and wished him good morning.
Another occasion was when I was on ‘Concert Switchboard Duty.’ This was when we had the classical or pop concerts with fireworks and I had 4 security radios around me and would put out the call for an ambulance or answer the phones etc. The security guard was constantly walking around the grounds and buildings, but had radioed me to say he was locking up the house (where I was), so the tower security camera would go black when he turned the light off. Then I was alone in the house. I said it was fine and saw him wave at the camera and it went black, so I switched the screen off. About an hour later I heard him scuffing up the tower’s stone spiral staircase and radioed him asking whether he could pop in as I needed a toilet break and he said he was over in the Peacock Garden. I said I could hear him coming up the stairs, but he said that every door was locked over that side so no one could get in. I heard the footsteps come right down the hall and passed the door. I looked out and there was nothing there. I crossed my legs for a good 30 minutes before venturing out!
I also went on a Ghost Hunt at the castle as one of my guide friends was part of the paranormal group. i was just fascinated to see behind the ropes and snoop around the artifacts and bits you can’t usually see! We were in the gallery just after the main hall when the spiritualist stopped and said “Is anyone here called Catherine?” We all shook out heads and carried on. “I’m sorry, I have this firey old lady in my ear saying that it is definitely Catherine.” Well my mother’s name is Catherine and I look a lot like her when we was younger and to say my Grandma Davis was a firecracker was an understatement. She literally used her big old handbag as nunchucks if my dad’s father said the wrong thing. She also used to have firey red hair. “She had something wrong with her chest, pain and coughing?” Yes, she died because of smoking. She woke up coughing and then passed away. “She says she left you a ruby ring and gold watch?” Yup, I didn’t know about the watch, but I had seen it in my mother’s jewellery box. “You’ve taken all her photos down and she isn’t happy about it…” Well bugger me, there used to be some kind of cruise portrait up in the living room but that had been taken down. I phoned dad asap and said “Dad, Grandma Betty is cross, get those pictures up pronto!” He did put a little one up for a while then in December it was popped in a drawer. That week my Christmas tree fell down. I keep a Polaroid of Grandma on my dressing table now!
I did a spot of work at a Pagan shop in Stratford for a while. I loved it as I got to dress up as Mab, queen of the fairies on the odd occasion and talk to the children! I did another ghost hunt there and the owner was a little like Derek Acorah; loveable but you knew he was completely acting up sometimes. Anyway. I decided to test the night vision on my video camera and picked up an awful lot of things. At first we sat or stood in the main shop and were asked to close our eyes and visualise. I thought it was all very ridiculous and all I could visualise were my tiny feet hovering over stone slabs with watery smoke. I listened to the usual ‘There was a dark figure over there’ and mentally rolled my eyes.
We went up to the lavender room to do some table tipping and I set up the camera on a sideboard in the corner of the attic room. We all stood around a little table, inside a lavender circle, with a bowl in the centre of it. Each placing our fingers on the bowl, various questions were asked and it would go left for one answer and right for another. I could feel when people were pushing or pulling, but it did sometimes feel as if we were all being led. Anyway, A girl called Laura and I were stood next to each other to begin with, but we couldn’t seem to fill the gap between us, like something was there. I also kept feeling a weight on the side of my skirt and then realised it felt like a little child clinging to me. I told the others and we tried asking questions but he wouldn’t speak. Apparently there were 2 men who wouldn’t allow him to answer and they were NOT nice people, the oppression in the room was crazy. We carried on with questions and asked the men’s names. We came up with T.B., so assumed this was how one of the died, but as we carried on, we found out it was T.P. one of the men’s names began with T and the other P. “Is it Philip?”…table turned to no…”Is it Peter?”…no again…”Is it Paul?” The table turned to yes.
When we looked back at the video footage a chill ran up our spines, for there was another voice on the tape: “Is it Philip?”…no…”Is it Peter?”…no…”PAUL”..”Is it Paul?” The booming man’s voice came from the other side of the camera to us and was clear as day.
We went down a flight of stairs to the Romanov room, which was set up like an old dining room and was always cosy. We sat at the big oak table for the seance and immediately you could smell pipe tobacco and something like custard! I had set up the camera in the hallway looking through the door. There was a little wooden rocking horse in the room and we tried to beacon the little boy to come in, but he was scared of something. Nothing else spiritual would come in, but there was this annoying ‘guy’ dressed in Civil War military attire (wool jacket, breaches, tall boots) that I could see leaned up against the door frame with his arms crossed smirking.
Little did I know that every time I would say I saw him again, the camera would go in and out of focus as if something was standing in front of it in the corridor.
When we were in the room we naturally looked around to see whether anything was moving or changing. I suddenly realised that the stone slabs I had visualised earlier were those of the large fireplace in this room. It suddenly occurred to me that I had been up the chimney and smoke around my feet. I never knew that a little boy had been murdered in this building when it was once an Inn, but apparently the story says he is somewhere in the walls of the place. We managed to piece together that when the 2 boys were naughty or wanted something, their drunk uncle would force them up the chimney as punishment. As we came to this conclusion there was a ‘CHINK!’ sound. We instinctively looked up at the glass-topped candle holders on the fireplace as if someone had tapped them. We thought it may have been the little boy, but as I was in the middle of saying “It couldn’t be, it is too high up”, someone pulled open the curtains and we saw the Victorian windowpane still cracking. The lead looked as if it had been pushed from low down and the pressure had broken the window. To this day, they keep having to replace that pane of glass as it keeps cracking.
I was always fascinated with past lives and always thought mine had something to do with Egypt as I would often had dreams or daydreams of hieroglyphics and gold gilt. I was given some special incense that is supposed to help you get a stronger sense of your past life. I tried it thinking it was all a bit silly, but I couldn’t believe it! I was knelt down by some hieroglyphics as I had been before, but this time I could look around. I had paint on my hands and then turned my head and I was in a 1930’s theatre, painting the set of an Egyptian show or opera. There were gold gilt angels and red velvet drapery. I turned right round and saw a man sat on one of the theatre chairs watching me.
I was so excited about this that I rushed over to see my (then) manager and cried out “I saw my past life!” He said “I know, I was sat in the theatre watching you.” I hadn’t even told him about the vision.
Is that enough?!”
“Do you have an opinion on the progression of burlesque into the showgirl type performances as opposed to the original theatrical character-based parody format that the modern mainstream audience doesn’t seem to be aware of?” (Ann Martin)
“To fill in those who don’t know; Burlesque didn’t start out as purely a striptease type affair. It was a theatrical mix of all sorts of short skits from different people. There were musicians, singers, comedians, magicians, dancers… It was a variety show. As far as we know, burlesque as we know it started in 1860 with Lydia Thompson (British!) and her troupe of blonde beauties, who went off to America to become stage starlets. Girls would regularly be put in jail over night for ‘forgetting’ to wear their body stocking (of which were compulsory by law). It is a bit of a myth that only ankles were allowed to be shown, as they would come out in tights/ body stockings with corsets and skirts etc. It was a variety performance for everyone to enjoy!
Annnnnyway. A lot of it was cheeky, but not vile or sleazy and they would sing, dance etc. It wasn’t until around 1889 with the opening of Moulin Rouge in Paris (The Palace of Women) that a lot more was shown. This progressed and got more risque up to the 40’s when the women were forced to pose without moving if they wished to show breasts and the sets were extravagant. The women would pose as if part of a huge painting and there would often be either a rotating stage or a singer. Burlesque traveled and in WWII the troops were often entertained by patriotic and exotic Burlesque dances as morale. Some girls even made their own satin and rick rack ribbon versions of sailor suits etc with poppers down the leg so that they would strip it off. Hula girl costumes were also popular!
In 1943 Lady of Burlesque came out and it looked sexy and glamorous to younger women. The costumes were creative, the story was full of romance, daring, funny and Barbara Stanwyck was the ideal lead.
Lady of Burlesque
I don’t know when it suddenly all changed. I’m sure there were seedy strip joints in the 30’s and 40’s that aren’t talked about. The stage made these showgirls glamorous, untouchable and somehow still pure, even when discarding stockings. Suddenly pole dancing, lap dancing and ‘stripping’ became the new mask to taint burlesque. Women wore less, the moves were a lot more provocative and class went out the window.
So this new age (I usually see it as starting in the mid 50’s up) was still regarded as burlesque by some and still is. I and many others in the scene regarding it as something completely different. Theatre was not as popular, so the glamour that once was on the stage and later transferred to musicals on film was now not the fashion. Blue movies and magazines were more readily available and not hidden with such titles as ‘The Photographers Study’.
So…my opinion… It is a slippery slope when starting out with burlesque. You may topple into stripping at a bar. Just because you wear nipple pasties with your neon spandex costume, it doesn’t make you a burlesque dancer. There are many avenues of burlesque and with everything, it changes and moves with the times. When techno and cyber raving clothing (think gas masks, Victorian goggles and metal corsets but before Steampunk became popular) was in fashion at the beginning of the Millenium, you had people who would incorporate axle grinding their corsets, fire tassels, flame throwing and more. It became almost circus like and some of it was very entertaining, especially when you would have silk climbers, trapeze artists and such. Not a fan of girls bathing in pig blood myself. Then there were the obvious Dita wannabe’s; finding their feet and copying the Vegas style of g-strings, feathers and rhinestones everywhere and saving up for a martini glass. It’s a shame because Catherine D Lish was way before Dita and should have been on a greater pedestal; especially as she helped train Dita AND gave her a bunch of props and costumes when she was starting out.
There has always been quite a divide in styles and I have been through my slightly goth or neo-burlesque stage and am firmly rooted to my classic style. I still have twists in my acts, but people know me for my style. I love the thought of giving people a little taste of the 1940’s burlesque girls that you may see in a movie or on old stage footage. Just that little snippet into the past, but you get to see things in colour and close up.
I can’t really judge others and their choices. If I see them steering a little in the wrong direction I will offer my help, but some prefer the more risque take on things and that is obviously up to them! Although I love the thought of recreating the past, we have to sometimes move with the times and if girls are doing this as a business, they have to think like a business and go with what will make them money, increase their bookings and what is in fashion at the time….which is why I’m not a wealthy lady…”
What’s the best food you ever ate while visiting America? (Stephanie Pitchers)
“Guess! Pancakes stacked with chocolate sauce, strawberries and bananas. Either that or your full breakfasts. I really love crepes with crispy bacon, maple syrup and bananas too!”
What was the epiphany moment that you knew doing vintage/ pinup/ burlesque was the right move for you? (Stephanie Pitchers)
“I guess it was 2001 when I got approached by a photographer at a live music night. I had taken inspiration from Bettie Page and he was the only one that ‘got it.’ When he asked for a shoot I thought he was nuts. I may have dressed creatively and confidently, but I have always been extremely self conscious. It took me quite a few weeks of his pestering to pluck up the courage and realised that in front of the camera I just seemed to know the classic poses. Sure they needed tweaking and perfecting, but at that point it wasn’t the fashion and vintage pinup and burlesque were really only just starting to come out of the shadows. I made a few mistakes and you live and learn by them, but I always knew since that first shoot that it was the right move. I unfortunately lost a really dear friend because they didn’t want me to get into it and didn’t trust that it wasn’t a huge mistake, but I had to think of my self and stick to my guns. I was sick of seeing stick figured catwalk girls with no shape and thought it was about time that some bite-able wobble and wiggle got a little limelight. Shazzam.
My first act was Bride of Kittenstein in Sheffield and I was shaking before I went on and then as soon as it was over, I didn’t want to come off again (I had no choice though as I got carried off on a camp bed…)”
Bride of Kittenstein Burlesque, my first ever act!
What makes you purr? (Aaron Reames)
“Oooh, new shoes, the smell of old books, foot massages, melted chocolate, stumbling across a really great busking musician, hearing a baby’s belly laugh, cat’s purring, seeing people really engaged in the audience, especially when they laugh at a funny bit, the smell of the sea, bare feet on wet grass, dunking a chocolate digestive biscuit into Earl Grey and taking that first bite, putting together a costume and seeing it in the mirror for the first time thinking ‘I did that’…”
What’s the strangest request for a dance/ performance you’ve ever had? (David Burt)
“Well I did have someone asking me whether I could do my RAF Fancy and then everything I took off, people would buy whilst I was still performing. I obviously said no. You can’t just walk into Matalan and get a new one… I also got asked whether I would dance naked. I said “Sure! I would be completely naked underneath everything I won’t take off. I didn’t get the gig.”
RAF Fancy fan dance at Enchanted Burlesque, taken by James Thorpe
What do you want to be when you grow up? (Bob Toy)
“Ha! A good mum. I want to bring up children in my creative world, have them come to my shows at War and Peace etc, enjoy singing and playing with them, reading stories, introducing them to the vintage lifestyle as a completely natural thing. Then when they are teenagers they will rebel and hate until they need money for something.”
If you were asked for a question for a Q&A what would it be? (Lee Parker)
“Oh you nutcase, not this early on a Monday please! Argh! Erm… Possibly ‘ What is your favourite vintage piece that you own?’…
Oh I guess you want the answer to my own question now huh?! Well I’ve lost my favourite piece, which I’m very upset about, but I would have to say if I were to grab anything if there was a fire, it would be my 1930’s locket, which holds a picture of my Grandad with the Pipe. He was the founder of my vintage passions.”