Twirling tassels at the Mill

BY TOMMY MORGAN JR. | MARCH 11, 2010 7:30 AM

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Once the stuff of national tours, vaudeville acts and tricks are now often relegated to circuses and county-fair sideshows.

Sword-swallowing, fire-juggling, and glass-eating will make their way out of the circus tent and into the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St., when the Pretty Things Peepshow performs at 9 p.m. March 16. Admission is $8.

“We’ve got a little something for everybody there,” said Go-Go Amy, a founder of the group.

That “little something” includes sword-swallowing, contortionist stunts, burlesque performances, and other dance and sideshow acts. Amy and co-founder Bettina May began producing shows together four years ago, and they created Pretty Things to bring together a combination of vaudeville-type sideshow acts and burlesque dancing.

“Ever since I got into burlesque, I’ve been interested in creating a real, authentic variety show,” May said.

The four performers in the Pretty Things Peepshow travel together in an RV that also houses their equipment and costumes, she said, a throwback to the days of the traveling vaudeville show. The troupe also maintains authenticity when it travels, seeking to perform in places that don’t have established burlesque or sideshow scenes.

“Our best reception is in places where this type of show just doesn’t come very often,” Amy said. “There’s obviously a want and a need for this type of entertainment. We’re just the ones crazy enough to put it in a van and bring it to everybody.”

The hardest part of the act isn’t dancing or travel, though, May said. It’s creating the costumes.
“I have so many ideas in my head, and I can never decide and narrow it down just to one,” she said.

The style and costumes are what attracted May to the idea of burlesque and its vintage qualities. She began her career as a pinup model and photographer with a flair for the dress and style of the ’30s.

“I think people looked more stylish than they are now,” she said.

Amy and May, who both perform burlesque numbers during the shows, will be joined by performers Heather Holliday and Donny Vomit. In addition to working with the Pretty Things Peepshow, both performers also do their acts at the Coney Island Sideshow in New York during the summer.

Holliday, a sword-swallower, glass-eater, and fire-dancer, has appeared in music videos for songs by rappers Rick Ross and 50 Cent. Vomit, who is billed as “The Dapper Dan of Danger,” incorporates cracking whips and machete and fire juggling into his act.

The sideshow stunts of Holliday and Vomit add their own element to the show and also complement the burlesque dancing of May and Amy to keep the show fresh, Amy said.

“A show is long. If you watch two and a half hours of burlesque, you kind of know the girl is going to take her clothes off,” Amy said. “There’s only so many ways you can twirl a tassle.”

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