You'd the think title says it all. In fact, its straightforward logic is what got me through the door: "I like this and I like that." But admittedly, I expected something more reserved and perhaps even boring from Friday night's Naked Girls Reading. While the premise might sound like a perfect night in, I was less convinced that two hours of it at Quixotic World would be an altogether entertaining Friday evening. I should have given those gals more credit.
Anyone who has been to even the most rudimentary burlesque show knows that the art is not about "nudity" so much as "getting there" in a lighthearted and mutually pleasurable manner. Caitlin Moran distinguishes between capitalistic, dead-behind-the-eyes stripping and the effervescent transcendence of burlesque by writing that "burlesque clubs feel like a place for girls ... watching good burlesque in action, you can see female sexuality; a performance constructed with the values system of a woman: beautiful lighting, glossy hair, absurd accessories (giant cocktail glasses; huge feather fans), velvet corsets, fashionable shoes, Ava Gardner eyeliner, pale skin, classy manicures, humor, and a huge round of applause at the end -- instead of an uncomfortable, half-hidden erection and silence."
I was no burlesque virgin, so why did I expect Naked Girls Reading to consist of a dour set, involving no humor, creativity or interaction with the crowd? Well, probably because the Dallas set was wildly different than what I'd read about other cities' incarnations.
In reality, Friday's show was innovative, hilarious and intellectual -- things not typically associated with "nakedness" or "girls." And those qualities are what made it not just an evening of Betty Boop caricaturing, but instead -- if I may be so dramatic -- revolutionary. Any woman who has been so fortunate as to have a man ask her thoughts on Platonic Dualism mid-coitus will appreciate the crash-of-lightning premise upon which Naked Girls Reading is built. Any man who notices the blood rushing from his head at the wistful thought of his high school English teacher will understand as well.
Among the talent onstage Friday evening -- and by talent, I truly mean it -- there was a published author who regaled the crowd with a just-penned, original short story, The Dirty Blonde; a Neil Gaiman loving redhead with the articulation of a college professor and the reading voice of an angel, Angi B. Lovely; a bilingual German fetishist with the dry impromptu wit reminiscent of a buxom Mark Twain, Courtney Crave; a thickly-brogued sexpot with a wicked sense of bawdy Scottish humor, Bonnie Lou; and the show's producer, a Dallas burlesque institution, with a larger than life personality who -- despite its grating popular use -- understands the actual definition of "pun," The Black Mariah.
With a fairy tales theme, the reading list consisted of poetry by Lewis Carroll and the aforementioned Neil Gaiman; selections from Gregory Maguire; twisted tales of vampirism, cannibalism and tentacle sex (read in funny voices with homemade mustaches) from the original German, Scottish and Japanese texts; feminist psychoanalysis of Disney's white-washed princesses, with specific attention to double entendre; and a raunchy retelling of Goldilocks penned by the Dirty Blonde and set in Dallas, replete with Uptown bitchiness and Gayborhood glitz.
So why naked? And doesn't that detract from the women's intellect?
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You don't go see Eddie Izzard because of the way he's dressed; you see him because he's hysterical. The leather pants and stilettos are just part of his "drag" -- literally, in Izzard's case, if more figuratively in the realm of burlesque. Drag, as an outward manifestation of something beautiful, absurd, funny, or broken on the inside; something human rather than object. My own thick black eyeliner, short dress shorts and bright emerald wedges were perhaps more subtle than the Dirty Blonde's pitch-perfect Marilyn coif and shimmering rhinestone chandelier necklace, but they were a performative costume no less.
Burlesque is the embodiment of daring femininity. It subverts restrictive traditionalism on one's own terms and for one's own gratification. These ladies are not naked purely for the approval of a male audience; though that might be a welcome side-effect. They are naked because they have the right to be. And because it's fun.
Admit it -- you're naked right now. I know I am.
Miss Friday night's erudite erotica? The Black Mariah tells us another NGR is in the works for October. Stay in the loop with the Dallas chapter on Facebook.