Oh YouTube! How did we ever exploit our friends without it?

Last weekend in review:

Friday was...House of Burlesque~


Cracker Jack Salteen:

Chris (aka Sailor Billy, aka Boomin' Granny):

Saturday, I got to tag along on the Bippies' video shoot for a public access program!

Russell and Maz:

That's my Brett:


Werewolf Mama

Werewolf Mama
Originally uploaded by audrawolfmann.

Hey! Pictures from Thursday's Burlesque Be'elzapalooza are surfacing! I've put some up on Flickr. For more, check out the DNA Lounge's website: http://www.dnalounge.com/gallery/2006/03-23/


I'll take advantage of the fact that I'm home sick sick sick (again) to write a little on what's been happening in Me-sville USA.

1. First, here's an interview Desmond Miller did with me for an article he's working on:

Desmond: Why and when did you become a burlesques MC?

Odessa Lil: I had been looking for a way to synthesize my writing and my need to perform. My opportunity arose in 2004 when a dear friend bought an ailing historic nightclub in a very bad part of Oakland and offered me every Tuesday night to do whatever I wanted there. It was the perfect laboratory to work out my performance experiments. I planed a night of vaudeville style variety acts, burlesque dancers, and music, and named it after one of Buster Keaton's most unfunny movies, Speak Easily (only I called my night SpeakEasily). I needed a master of ceremonies to tie the whole evening together, but there just wasn't anyone out there doing exactly what it was that I was looking fo...so I made her up myself and called her Odessa Lil, the Mistress of Ceremonies.

Odessa Lil wasn't so much born as she was coughed up like a hairball. She is the detritus of my muddled upbringing: all antiquated borscht-belt humor, nervous sexuality, female anger, and put downs. She carries a riding crop to keep the performers in order but she might use it to scold the audience if they don't laugh at the right parts. As far as I know, she is the world's only stand-up domme and prefers to enter a party while riding a man like a horse. A lot of people think that she is from somewhere in Middle or Eastern Europe (my father once explained to me that all Jews originally come from Odessa) but it is just as likely that she is from Lodi or Merced.

Desmond: What is the role of the burlesques MC?

Odessa Lil:
In a lot of ways, an MC is just a carnival barker, getting the audience to "step right up" and enjoy the show. The MC also sets the tone or the theme of the performance with their character and their introductions to the performers. An MC can make a pretty good mascot that conveys the spirit of the show.

Desmond: How many performances have you put together and done?

Odessa Lil: Oh! Too many to count. When I was producing SpeakEasily at Eli's in Oakland, I did a show every week for over 6 months! After that, I continued to produce and MC my own shows or just MC other peoples' shows on average of once a month. This past October was particularly insane. I was performing once a week again. The burlesque scene definitely has its seasons! I've produced shows for charity (The San Francisco Tenants Union, twice!), film festivals, film openings, rock shows, jazz shows...you name it.

Who are some of your favorite burlesque performers?

Odessa Lil: Anyone performing locally is going to be a favorite of mine. It takes balls for these girls to show their wears in a place as ironically inclined as San Francisco. Speaking of balls, I'd have to say that one of my favorite local performers is Roky Roulette, male burlesque sin-sation. He's got a rock and roll sensibility and an extreme take on dancing. There are often wounded audience members after he performs. I call that audience participation. For MCs...I gotta say Kingfish, carnival barker extraordinaire.
From the good old days...I'm influence a lot by the spirit of turn-of-the-century Yiddish theater and vaudeville, and 1950's comedians who opened for strip shows. Lenny Bruce, Jackie Kannon, Woody Allen...they are my breads and butters. Can butter be plural?

Desmond: What are a few of your favorite venues to perform in and around San Francisco?

Odessa Lil: Odessa Lil has told jokes in her underwear on the stages of the Castro Theater, the Victoria Theater, the DNA Lounge, Benders Bar, Club Deluxe, Eli's Mile High, 330 Ritch, The Warepad, Thee Parkside...I'm probably forgetting a few places. My favorite stages are the ones with history like the Victoria Theater and the Castro Theater and even Eli's Mile High. But dive bars are not without merit. When the audience is drunk and in my face...well, that's my particular specialty.

Desmond: Where do you feel San Francisco burlesque is going in the near future?

Odessa Lil: Well, the SpeakEasily crew and I are currently working on a TV show called Basement Burlesque, so we're taking burlesque to TV! It is the brain child of Chris France (aka Sailor Billy). He's got video know-how. He and I want to bottle and distribute the chaotic magic that we created on the stage. What better place to do that then where no one will see it...public access TV! Ha ha. The rest of SF? As with most scenes built on retro-worship, there is an impending danger of stagnation. The performers and the audiences alike may tire of nostalgia and the scene may disintegrate if we're not careful. Burlesque needs to continue to go forward. This can be done while maintaining nods and winks to the past. It's just a challenge and you have to be creative enough to meet that challenge. I'm going to get all Nostradamus here for a second and say that we're going to see a lot of fusion in burlesque, as that is the most obvious way people try to make things new. We may me seeing more dancing singers or stripping poets or something. But it would be really exciting to see someone take the format and rip it a new one.

2. Speaking of "Basement Burlesque," our shoot last weekend was a blast! Chris has been filtering a few "choice" moments over to YouTube, which I will post below. Otherwise, you all may have to wait a couple of months to see the completed show...but it's big laffs! I promise. Ok, so here's a few teasers (more like inside jokes):

Chris as Tom in "Tall Tales of the Purple Onion":


And, of course, here are a few pictures...

David Copenhafer took this one of me directing the infamous Purple Onion sketch. Caitlin on camers. Dig my schmatta.

Odessa Lil and David Copenhafer. Photo by Desmond Miller.

Chris as Jackie K. Photo by Desmond Miller.

Odessa Lil, worried as usual. Photo by Desmond.

3. Sick? Yeah sick. Next week I'm back to the ENT and we'll probably schedule the dreaded sinus surgery. Maybe he can throw in a face lift while he's in there? No? How about Lipo? I mean, the sinuses aren't that far from the gut, are they?