The name on the marquee -- "SuicideGirls Burlesque Tour" -- should attract attention on its own. After all, what red-blooded American consumer in the coveted 18-to-26-year-old demographic isn't drawn to the sorrowful/beautiful plight of messed-up chicks? From the voguishness of junkie-chic models to films like The Virgin Suicides and Girl, Interrupted, contemporary popular culture is all about fetishizing the tragic young heroine. The Web site's name even comes from a passage in Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk's Survivor, in which he conjures up images of "these suicide girls ... crying with their hair wet down in the rain at a public telephone. ... It's so perfect some nights to hear them in the dark."
Despite appearances, co-founder and photographer Missy Suicide insists that SG.com is not about capitalizing on the erotic pathos of down-on-their-luck teens and women in their early 20s. "It's girls expressing themselves in a way that they feel sexy," she says in a promotional video on the Web site, which mostly features pinup poses of the girls' own choosing -- and no hard-core porn whatsoever. "It's pure empowered female sexuality."
At the live show, what Missy calls the concept's "difference" lies more in the performers' appearance than in the onstage routine. Yes, it's lithe bodies writhing to sultry lounge and rock music -- not an uncommon event in this town. And yes, stripping down from leather and frilly outerwear to garters, pasties, and lacy undergarments is not so unusual in the city that brought the world Good Vibrations and the Mitchell Brothers. But the SuicideGirls aren't your typical silicone-stuffed, peroxide blond, Playboy Channel-style airheads. They're brazen (but adorable) altrock, goth, punk, and emo girls with blue and pink coifs, copious body ink, and silver rings in noses, nipples, navels, and more covert places. "The site was created to show women who didn't fit into the beauty-magazine stereotypes," says Missy. Of course, tats and piercings are also not unheard-of in the Bay Area, but they're always a welcome addition to bare flesh. And there's something to be said for taking SuicideGirls on the road and giving fans of the online fantasy a steamy glimpse of reality.