Saturday, July 26, 2008

Call a duck a duck, even if it's naked.

There's something known as a True Austin Day. Anyone who's ever had one knows it on sight.

I had a True Austin Day my first weekend in college, when a friend I'd literally just met invited me to hitch a ride with her from San Antonio, where we (1) met up with some friends of hers, (2) saw that Princess Diana had been killed via a newspaper box on the Drag but didn't have any quarters to find out more, (3) watched a bizarre bunch of people we didn't know rehearsing in their living room for a Rocky Horror show that night at the Alamo Drafthouse, (4) were witness to a meltdown over a Key Lime Pie involving a long-haired, goateed fellow in a broomstick skirt, argyle socks, and a chef's hat, and then (5) fell asleep on someone's floor as more people we'd just met watched Ghost in the Shell with the volume on high.

That's a True Austin Day.

It's impossible to define in specifics because the major identifying characteristic is its sheer unpredictability. (Bonus points if you wind up sleeping on a stranger's couch.) Essentially, a True Austin Day is the kind of day where you wind up somewhere you could never have predicted when you woke up that morning. One guy I know wound up at three different parties one New Year's Eve, including a biker bar, a barbeque, and then a political pow-wow at a state senator's mansion. Hard to say which was roudiest. A dear friend had a True Austin Day recently when she and her husband went to pick up a used drum set only to find themselves the recipients of much free booze, and you can imagine where that's going.

Having said all that, I'll admit that yesterday wasn't really a True Austin Day. I mean, I slept in my own bed and went to work, so already I'm out. But I had a glimmer in the evening, when I went to see Girls Girls Girls, a friend's improv troupe, perform.

After they were done, another group took the "stage" (in fact the back patio of an Eastside bar, next to the dumpster). They were called Kitty Kitty Bang Bang. As I learned shortly, they are a burlesque group.

Now check this out: when you say "burlesque," the French linguistic roots apparently make it different than stripping. I had no idea the power of language.

First there was a song by a short girl in skimpy lingerie and pincurled hair who flashed her parts (rather clumsily, if you ask me) at the audience, which happened to be made up of actors, singers, writers, and musicians (it was a theater party). They all watched very politely, but I wonder if I wasn't the only one who was thinking, "Damn, if I only took my clothes off then I wouldn't have had to spend all that money on voice lessons."

Then there was another woman in a wig and I think she was African-American, but she was dressed up in a purposely cheesy Native American getup -- faux skins (very tight across the bust), doofy headdress, mini-tomahawks, a few feathers, and a dinky fake fire on the ground. She did a little dance that mostly involved arching her back and spinning the tomahawks on strings around in the air.

Uh.

Okay, part of me wants to get into the problem of whether that's considered disrespectful or not to Native American peoples, and whether or not the fact that the dancer was something other than Caucasian gets her a free pass... but really, I'm just kind of stuck on the fact that there was a nine-year-old boy in the front row who looked like he wanted to be ANYWHERE ELSE.

I'm told that these ladies perform in respectable venues -- coffeeshops, famous 6th Street music clubs, and so on. And I'm really working up a sweat trying to see how them calling it "burlesque" means they don't need a nudie bar permit.

At first I thought this was the second sign of the week that I'm getting old. (The first was the serious pain in my right knee while roller skating, thank you college track and field.) But no, I would have thought this was ridiculous even when I was that 18-year-old college freshman wandering around the Drag in a haze of confusion over the fate of Princess Di.

Man. Artistic sensibilities apparently go out the window once you find a group of girls who like showing off their boobs in public. Because look, they weren't even good. (The girls, not the boobs.) If they were really good performers, or if they'd found some great, interesting way to appropriate the burlesque formula or whatnot, then maybe I'd go along with it.

But really. Call a duck a duck, and don't use its feathers to hide your hoo-has unless you can really back it up.

So to speak.

Cross-posted at Letters from the Orchard

1 comment:

del said...

I think true burlesque performers would've found it funny. The real burlesquers (real word? probably not) made it into high art. Not that I would know anything about that. lol