By Colin Newman
It occurred to me as I watched a man swallow an inflated balloon surrounded by half naked women at the stroke of midnight on New Years Eve that I was having a completely new experience.
For those who aren’t familiar with it, Burlesque is a form of theater dating back to ancient Greece featuring a lighthearted lampooning of society and a playful transgression of social norms. Like any other very old artform, there are millions of ways to do burlesque. There’s good burlesque and bad burlesque, wild burlesque and mild burlesque, self consciously Victorian burlesque and pointedly modern burlesque.
Given all of this, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went to Oklahoma Contemporary on New Years for Adele Wolf’s burlesque and variety show. That isn’t entirely true: I knew that I could expect music, dancing, and women taking off their clothes, but beyond that I was pretty clueless.Adele Wolf (who I will refer to by her full stage name throughout this article, because it’s great) has been a local fixture for long enough that I had heard of her show, but I had never seen it until New Years. I’m happy to report that it lived up to all that I had heard.
I like women. A lot. I like being around them, I like having them as friends, and I find them attractive, clothed and otherwise. To quote Issac Asimov, “I want women to be free, and I hate it when they charge.” I don’t like strip clubs, however. It’s not that I’m too good for it or that I don’t like hearing “Pour Some Sugar On Me.” Def Leppard is a cultural treasure and anyone who says otherwise is an asshole. I just don’t care for the atmosphere. I have no problem with the women at strip clubs; they are making good money and that’s cool. I just don’t want to be around the guys at strip clubs. It’s sort of like if whenever you were watching porn on the internet there was a mandatory Skype session with everyone else who was watching that same porn at the same time. I would never ever watch porn if that happened.
Burlesque is a totally different experience. For one thing, there are women in the audience; about half of the audience at this particular show, (mostly but not entirely in couples). That goes a long way towards diffusing the aura of desperate sadness that surrounds so much “adult” entertainment. I actually felt a little awkward being there alone – my wife is totally coming with me for the show on Valentines Day.
It’s probably no surprise that a variety show featured a wide variety of acts; in addition to Adele Wolf, Aini Amar ruled the room with belly dancing and reminded me that women wielding instruments of death is super sexy with her sword dance. Louisville native Siobhan Atomica “put the ass in Bluegrass” and generously shared it with us Sooners. OKC musical theater stalwart Renee Anderson made sure things stayed reasonably classy. Skye Starling kept things reasonably airborne. Xander Lovecraft impailed his brain with an icepick for our entertainment and diversion, and Ruby Joule performed a set so absurdly sexy that whatever part of me is still 14 was in total amazement.
Some people are born for the stage, and I think Adele Wolf may be one of those people. Not only is she good at dancing/stripping, which I gather is actually pretty hard, she’s a natural MC. At the beginning of the night, the crowd was somewhat sedate, myself included. 30 some years of being told to be quiet while people are performing is a hard wall to knock down. Adele Wolf was having none of it. “I won’t take off shit for that!” she shouted at one point in response to a lackluster round of applause. “Maybe a glove. You get a glove for that.” By the end of the show a theater full of otherwise well behaved men and women – people who presumably have jobs and are able to function in society normally – were hooting and whistling, screaming and making howling noises. Myself included. If Lou Reed is able to look down or up from wherever he is now, I think Adele Wolf in Cleopatra garb stripping to “Vicious” off his landmark album Transformer (“1970s Glam Rock Realness”) is exactly the sort of shit he would have loved.
Basically what I’m getting at is that you have no excuse not to go to the next performance. It was perfectly calibrated to be fun, even for a crotchety bastard like myself. If you can’t find something to like about this, you probably are anhedonic and should seek help. My prescription: more stuff like this.
More of Lynne’s awesome photos HERE