"Burlesque: A Living
By Jane Briggeman
BearManor Media, 2009
There are a lot of things
to like in Burlesque: A Living History. Jane Briggeman
has made connections with a lot of performers who worked the circuit during
the 50ís and 60ísówhat many consider the Golden Age of Burlesque. These
are not necessarily the stars everyone knows. These were the working men
and women who worked night after night, show after show to entertain the
Everyman of America.
This is more a reference
book than everything else. This book is well supplied with vintage photos.
This is more than just the standard promotional photo (although there are
plenty of those in here). There are loads of candidsóan intimate look into
what burlesque really looked like.
The list of classic
performers (both dancers and comedians) is extensive. And there is more
of a history of the theaters and venues than Iíve seen in any other book
The saddest part of
this book is the realization these guys and gals are getting up there in
age and many have passed on. There is an earnest need to chronicle these
stories before itís too late.
Burlesque: A Living
History also features personal histories from many modern burlesque
performers as well. I point this out with a bit of pride since all the
gals featured in this segment have either appeared in Bachelor
Pad Magazine (Ava Garter & Orchid Mei)
or have been part of a Javaís Bachelor Pad show or event
(Ravenna Black & Kitty Baby).
There are a couple of
things missing. Personally, Iím a fan of narrative histories. I like to
read how all these individual stories fit together. There are a few great
stories about life on stage sprinkled in the book. I would have liked to
seen more of that. Sometimes, entries just come off as a list of who people
performed with and places they danced. And it also seems most of the correspondence
was via e-mail. It would have been nice to see more one-on-one interviews.
And when it comes to
modern burlesque, besides the present-day gals featured, the rest of neo-burlesque
is skimmed over. You would think that after 15 years, the modern wave of
burlesque has enough history to warrant more than a casual mention.
Those criticisms aside,
there are a lot of hidden gems in this book. Usually, the baggy-pants comics
get short shrift when it comes to modern histories of burlesque. Here,
there are pages and pages of promotional shots and stage shots of these
fellows. There are even a couple of scripts for modern performers (if they
are brave enough) to work from.
This book is a great
resource for the burlesque scholar. There is a lot to learn here and hopefully
it will spur others to gather up the histories of these performers before
itís too late.
|Recent Book Shelf selections:
Book Shelf Archives>>>