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Porn, Punk, Politics


The Suicide Girls Burlesque Tour


by Tristan Trout



I definitely used the extra ticket to the SuicideGirls burlesque tour that Spooky hooked me up with on the right person. Not only is Little Brooklyn one of Gotham's premier burlesque performers, and not only does she have the best toys (the woman has one of those new full-wireless-Web enabled mini-computers that fit in your pocket), but she kept me from getting my ass kicked by a guy who thought he'd get all West Bank on us and take the spots where we were standing, and she took the pictures for this article after the idiot bouncers kept threatening to take away my camera (despite the fact that Spooky had also told them to give me a press pass—which they seem to have run out of).

The show goes like this: First two bands play (the first reminded us of old U2 and The Cure, and we liked them; the second one was from Florida, and the only thing we liked was their clothes and the guitarist's Ashton Kutcher hair). In between sets, they show clips of old punk shows and documentaries that were made before most of the audience was conceived. Then, finally, the girls, none of whom look old enough to drink and all of whom are seriously cute, go onstage and do adorable little song-and-dance numbers, which usually result in them getting naked and kissing. Maybe I'm getting old, but I couldn't help wondering if their parents knew what they were doing.

Now, I've been, um, "reading" SuicideGirls for quite some time—I even bought a certain special someone a subscription for Christmas. Recently, though, the site's gotten huge, to the point where Playboy's even partnered with them in an attempt to keep Hef's geriatric empire relevant.

(That's not the only change that's happened at Playboy, which is starting to look like the Vatican of porn—a reminder of a glorious past that everyone speaks of reverently, but doesn't really pay attention to. Having lost ground and rack space at Wal-Mart to ever more softcore lad-mags, Playboy hired on Jim Kaminsky, Maxim's former chief editor, to revamp the fifty-year-old publication.)

If SG has affected the mainstream, the mainstream has affected SG, too. The first SucideGirls/Playboy set was of the indomitable Mary, who's probably the most popular—and beautiful—woman on the site (she looks like a Charles Dana Gibson illustration, only with tattoos). One thing I've always dug about Mary, and the SG aesthetic in general, is that not all the girls feel compelled to do the porno-chic pubic landing-strip thing. However, for the Playboy set—you guessed it—Mary looked like she was inviting George W. Bush in for a press appearance. The pubic is political.

"They're really toeing the line between burlesque and stripping," Brooklyn commented on what was happening on stage.

"Yes, but the part where the two chicks do the ear-cutting scene from Reservoir Dogs was pretty cute," I said.

"Granted," she said. "The problem is, we're living in referential times. The year 2004 is the equivalent of an Elvis impersonator. 'Burlesque' has become just another codeword for 'come see hot chicks take their clothes off!' It used to be about performance. But the frat boys in the front row"—she winced as two of the girls began spraying said frat boys with cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon—"are eating it up."

"Ever read Commodify your Dissent?" I asked. "Better yet, when I was researching my magnum opus, I came across this book, The Strawberry Statement about the 1968 riots at Columbia by this guy named James Kunen, who was a student there. He had a great line: 'If you find a good way to live or just something you like, they take it and buy and sell it and never know what it's worth, and make it worth nothing. You turn to the East, and you end up with "guru-vy Gimbels." '

"Porn has pretty much shaped this generation's entire sexual aesthetic. I mean, it's everywhere, and you can't escape it—and if you come to associate a certain thing, like shaved pussies or tattoos or body piercings or getting trampled with sex, wham, that's what 'eros' is going to mean to you. Anton LaVey called it an 'erotic crystallization moment.' I talk about it a lot in my book. It's like the Marquis de Sade—he was a total atheist, but he was sent to a school run by a bunch of sadistic Jesuits, so he used crucifixes to masturbate himself in his little SM rituals.

"Now, it's exceedingly hard to change what turns you on," I said. "But you can go one of two ways on it: You can agree with Katherine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin that what acts out and reinforces the power structure is immoral, or you can take a lead from sex-and-gender researchers like Gayle Rubin and Patrick Califia and just accept that eros is value-neutral."

So, were a half-dozen or more nubile young things covering each other with chocolate syrup and writhing around onstage burlesque? Perhaps not. Was it demeaning to women? Possibly. Was it art? Maybe. Was it hot? Uh-huh. It was damn hot, even if I know that I only think it was hot because I've been programmed that way.

But I also like watching Brooklyn perform Thursday nights at Rififi.


E-mail Especially if you're Mary

Posted February 14, 2004 4:05 AM






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