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Modern Femme Fatale: Ava Garter

Ava Garter
     At the Java's Bachelor Pad Cocktails and Cheesecake Party 2008, we met a gal by the name of Ava Garter. And we have to tell you, she blew us away. She is relatively new to the burlesque and pin-up scene, but we can tell it won't be long before she's a household name. We wanted to find out a little more about her. Here now is an exclusive interview with the lovely Miss Ava Garter.

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(Interview from May 2008)

Java's Bachelor Pad: Ava , you appeared on my radar screen about six months ago when I put out the call for pin-ups for Bachelor Pad Magazine 3. A photographer you worked with showed me photos of you and I was just  floored.  Even more so since I hadn't heard of you. Tell a little  about yourself. How did you get started in burlesque and pin-up?

Ava Garter: The first time I saw a picture of a feather fan, I was hooked. I was about ten and it was a picture of Sally Rand on TV.  It never occurred to me that what Sally was doing could be considered provocative. I only saw the majesty and the glamour. It seemed to be the most beautiful and elegant way to be that I had ever seen. I knew that one day I would try to emulate her. I was always the quiet and weird girl when I was growing up in  suburbia. I preferred to spend my weekends inside watching "The Family Film Festival" with Tom Hatten rather than going outside to  play. I was way more interested in Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour going on the road to ANYWHERE, to step outside to play with the other kids. I marveled at any movie featuring a Zigfield montage and wished that I could grow up to be as classy and beautiful as Ava Gardner in "Showboat" or Rita Hayworth in "Gilda." Visions of the greats and their style burned into my head while other kids bothered with outdoor activities. Looking back, its obvious that I would one day follow the path that I have chosen.

JBP: Its obvious that your name is a nod to the great actress Ava Gardner. Tell us about the connection you have with her?

AG: Where do I start with Ava Gardner? We have so much in common in our lives. Ava was strong and independent, she was sexy and fierce. No apologies, she was who she was (this was even said at her funeral!) Her presence in pictures and in film was a force to be reckoned with for sure. But still...Ava was also a woman who longed to be loved and love in return. She was no stranger to heartache. I can relate. I would have to say that some of these qualities have 
definitely found their way into my personality and my life.

JBP: What other influences do you have? Who, both classic and modern, inspires you? why?

AG: I'm greatly inspired by all of my friends. I come from a close knit group of people who have a lot in common. We were all considered the weirdoes at one point or another for sure until we finally found the comfort of others  that knew and understood what was so important to us: Continuing on the tradition of Glamour and preserving the memories of the old movie greats. Of these friends of course would be the legendary Dita Von Teese whom I have had the pleasure of knowing since I was 19 and she was 18 years old. She has always been the most loyal friend to me throughout all of the good times and especially the bad times in my life. She and our wonderful friend Stacia together with Catherine D' Lish have inspired me to take my ideas and make them into reality. They encourage me to make them as BIG as I like and to never shy away from shooting for the moon. I know that having there help makes me the luckiest girl in burlesque, and I thank them for all that they do for me.

I'm also inspired by the idea of trying to look my best at all times. I know that it may sound silly but I feel that when I take the time to look glamorous every day, it makes me feel so much better about myself and starts the day off in the best way. Everything seems to go a girls way when she puts her best face forward!

JBP: As someone who has seen your burlesque act up-close (see the photos here), you are really all about the glamour. Corsets, stockings, high heels....the works! And during the Cocktails and Cheesecake Party, when you switched to a classic fan dance, I heard gasps of delight from the audience. It seems that sometimes classic glamour gets lost in  neo-burlesque. Talk to us about this idea of glamour. Why is it important to you?

AG: Glamour could be the biggest word in my life. I have always aspired to do everything that needs to be done with a touch of old MGM glamour. How I wish that old studio would come back to life and turn out stars the way they used too! Nowadays, it seems to me that the world has gotten a lot less fantastic and is in need of those of us who wish to go the extra mile for the cause. I am a woman who as gone into the maternity ward wearing a pink lace dressing gown (a' la Judy Garland and Joan Crawford) with a pair of Jimmy Choo heels on! (I am not kidding!) I think that when you look back at the old burlesque stars of the days gone by, you will find a myriad of different types. Their were women of Lili St. Cyr, Gypsy Rose Lee, and the fantastic Dixie Evans that gave you glamour to the 10th power and then you had women like Zorita who wanted to entertain you with maybe a little raunch but still no less wonderful. Their were so many different fashions in the field of burlesque. This is not unlike today at all, we have glitz and glamour in women like Dita and Catherine and then we also have women who are humorous like Lili Von Schtupp. Not to mention the trend of political humor we see in the burlesque on the east coast. I wouldn't say that the glamour gets lost in the neo-burlesque movement, I would just say that it is evolving into something new and different in every city across the world. It's exciting to see all of the different performers and their acts, and think of where we might be just 5 years from now.

JBP: You have just debuted a new act--one based on bullfighting. Tell us more.

AG: Ava Gardner was no stranger to a bullfight! She had a passion for everything Latin down to the music and the traditions. She picked up and left the United States when she and Frank Sinatra were on the rocks (for the 50th time) and moved her entire life to Spain! To say the least, Ava was going to do exactly what she wanted and no one could stop her. When she got an idea into her head, man, get out of the way!  Then their followed her passion for the bullfighters themselves (a hobby I hope to emulate one day) and that's another story all together. I also love the pageantry and tradition of the bullfight. The way that the men walk with such confidence in there stride when walking into the arena. The costumery alone is a reason to watch.

Put all of this together and one day, I had an idea. How sexy is it to think of Ava trying on her longtime boyfriend Louis Miguel's bullfighting attire and doing a striptease for him in the bedroom? (Miguel was the world foremost expert and most celebrated bullfighter in the world in the early 1950's.) I'm sure, knowing the super sexual nature of Ava, that this must have happened one time or another, I mean, they didn't even speak each others languages for the year that they lived together, for god sake...SEX was why they were together! My idea was simply to give people a chance to watch a glamourous woman in a gorgeous costume pretend to fight a giant bull. Well, since I cant fight it, I may as well give it some love right? The bull represents a man in my act and Im sure you can just imagine the rest from there right? Whenever I perform this act, you can be sure that inside my head , I am seeing Ava Gardner doing this for her boyfriend.

JBP: Where do you get the ideas for your burlesque acts? What other themes do you want to explore? How about with pin-ups?

AG: I must confess that my ideas spring into my head all day long! I have so many that I have taken to handing them out to women around me. I love to help think up an act for others . Mostly what happens is that I will be watching an old movie that I have NETFLIX' ed or own and BOOM! There it is. Can I tell you how many ideas that are stuck in my head that come from an Esther Williams clip or Judy Garland being fabulous in any movie. I am currently working on two fantastic ideas for a show with my gorgeous friend Sabina Kelley. I can't tell you what they are but WOW, I promise you that you will want to see them!
     When it comes to pin-ups , I would just like to continue with classic style. I have a long long list of wonderfully talented photographers that I hope to work with in the future and we will see what comes. I do have to remind people that although I take pictures, I am first and foremost a  dancer and am happy to be considered just that. I'm a little older than most of the beauties that you will see in magazines and so I consider any picture of myself that looks good to be a wonder of the photographer!

JBP: You are on the cover of the L.A. Burlesque calendar. Tell us about that project and that amazing photo of you.

AG: The L.A. Burlesque calendar is  so close to my heart. I was so surprised and flattered to be the girl on the cover. I met Kanzo, Azul and Sam sometime around last October. They told me of the events that they had in the works and then about the idea for the calendar. I immediately responded with admiration for the idea of producing something that would celebrate the burlesque scene in Los Angeles while giving donations to a cause that is so worthy. So few people in this world actually take the time out of there lives to GIVE to good causes. L.A. Burlesque was founded with the idea of GIVING to the Aids Heathcare Foundation in order to make sure that people all across the globe are provided with the testing and medications that they need. Being inspired by the work that Dita does with M.A.C., I was excited to lend my help and pictures to the project . We took the pictures at about 9:30 at night on a cold January evening in L.A. Can I even begin to tell you of the amount of homeless that I entertained in my rhinestones and feathers that night!! Bus loads of people driving by and cars honking. Then there was even the cops that we thought would shut us down for sure but they only wanted to get a closer look and maybe a wave from me in my underwear. This is definitely one of the fondest photography memories in my life.  May I just say that whether it is with a professional camera or a point and shoot, Sam at S.H. Photo could make a girl look good even if he had one eye blind. I think that the angel picture is possibly the best picture I will take in my entire life. I'm so proud of it and so proud of what has come of the calendar.

JBP: What is in store for Ava Garter? What's next?

AG: In the future, I will be bullfighting my way across the globe in my panties and pasties, and trying to keep the dream of making Ava Gardner and Sally Rand proud. On a romantic note, I hope to meet husband number 2 or 3 someday soon. (Some things I'm sure Ava and I have too much in common and marriage may be one of them, haha.) The next time I wed, I hope its a man who owns a rhinestone or feather company, that's for sure!

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Ava's photos courtesy of: 
SH Photo
Jim Plush


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