In a city where words like 'scrotal' and 'perineal' are bandied about like cotton candy at a carnival, it's nice to know there are still a few places where nudity is tasteful. And tasseled. We caught up with bonafide burlesque beauty Bunny Pistol - infamous for her eye-singeing grindhouse '60s style - to see which SF 'shake-it-girl!' venues she loves best.
We also got a little advice for all you burgeoning Bay Area burlesquers out there.
SF Weekly: So where do you get your inspiration? (Other than just looking in the mirror, of course.)
Bunny Pistol: The thing is my stuff always changes, but my biggest influence is music. I'll be listening to Pandora in my car and suddenly I think, 'oh my god. That's such great song, I wonder if I can do a number to it! My acts are pretty broad -- from Louis Armstrong and the Eagles to death metal and the Cramps.
SFW: Ya gotta have a gimmick, right? Gypsie Rose Lee taught us that. But I feel like the death knell of burlesque is trying too hard ... so how do you strike a balance?
BP: I think it's important to have a 'look.' Everybody has some kind of signature 'thing' that makes them stand out. Dottie Lux is a clown burlesque performer and Lady Satan does the drag type of stuff. For me, I do the bump-and-grind kind of thing. But this is something that comes natural for us. Don't try to come up with something that isn't you.
SFW:When I'm watching burlesque I spend half the time mesmerized by the dancing and the other half by the outfits and make-up. I'm thinkin', jeepers creepers, where'd you get those peepers...and those sparkly underpants?
BP: I do a lot of shopping in thrift stores, Ross, T.J. Maxx, places like that. New York Apparel and Dollhouse Betty on Haight Street I sometimes go to, too. I can look at a dress and know I can re-purpose it for burlesque. I can augment pants, bras, panties -- I've done it all with the wonderful invention of snap tape. You can rip-off anything.
SFW: What would you say to a woman whose always thought about dancing burlesque but hasn't had the courage, or thinks her body isn't good enough?
BP: It's very empowering -- every woman should try a burlesque class at least once. For eight or nine years I thought about it and the first I took a class, I faced the challenge of facing my body in a full-length mirror with other women. It got me even more and more curious and more and more into it. And it made me a much happier well-rounded girl. I'm proud of who I am because of burlesque.
SFW: I've got to ask about the tassel-twirling -- just how hard is it? It's like Jack Lemon in Some Like It Hot says as Marilyn is walking away..."It's like it's got its own built-in motor or something!"
BP: It's not hard at all! I've got big tatas myself. But girls I know with small tatas can do it, too. I incorporate it into most of my acts. It's a great workout -- it's all in the shoulders. Ya gotta bounce that body.
Not Ready to Shake your Own Groove Thing? Leave it to the Professionals.
For a smaller, intimate feeling head to El Rio for Red Hots Burlesque. "You'll be guaranteed a close view of the performance" and all the festooned flesh along with it. Every Wednesday (from 7-9 pm) and Fridays (7:30-9 pm) a bevvy of babes and even Scotty the Blue Bunny! take the stage for kitsch, kicky lip syncs and rather raw rump shaking. There's nothing demure about this dance show. $5-$10 sliding scale.158 Mission St. at Cesar Chavez, San Francisco; 415. 282.3325
Hubba Hubba Revue, at Broadway Studios. "It's more of a big party atmosphere - people tend to do a lot of drinking at this show." While it's mostly standing room only, you'll be wow-ed by trapeze and aerial artists between stage acts. June 14, they're putting on an even juicier soiree -- the Burlesque State Fair -- with more than 20 dancers. Tickets range from $15-$160 for VIP. 435 Broadway and Rowland Street, San Francisco; 415.291.0333
Check out Barbary Coast Burlesque at Yoshi's every other month. "It's done in an old-school kind of way with cocktail and food service. It has great sound, lighting and an awesome stage -- anywhere you sit...it's a great view." If you know what we mean. The next show is TBD (rumor has it the "booker" got axed) so stay tuned for future dates with Bunny. Doors at 7, show at 8. Adv. tickets, $15, at door, $20. 330 Fillmore at Eddy Street, SF; 415.655.5600
More! More! More!
Every second Thursday of Month, get a little cheeky at Little Minsky's Burlesque and Variety show at Club Deluxe on Haight St. You'll see everything from sword swallowers to veil dancing. Next show is June 13th at 10 pm, $5 cover. 1509-1511 Haight Street, SF; 415.552.6949
Feeling naughty? Head to Mischief Burlesque at SkyLark Bar in the Mission where Hunny Bunny and her Hot Toddies twirl and tantalize every second Friday of the month. (For free!) Next show is June 14th at 8 pm. 3089 16th St., SF; 415.621.9294