Attention men of Indianapolis: Internationally touring burlesque dancer “go-go Amy” wants you to get lucky. And she’s willing to help.
The 31-year-old co-founder of Pretty Things Peepshow has taken her combined burlesque/sideshow on the road, spreading the word that, “it’s all right to be sexy and classy at the same time.
“Some ladies need to see that. I’m sure we’ve created many a happy night for boyfriends who get brought along to see our show. I know there are private shows that end spectacularly back at home.”
Consisting of Amy (whose go-go career took flight after stints dancing at Ozzfest and the Warped Tour) and former Suicide Girl Bettina May, the New York-based show also features a rotating cast of sideshow performers. Performing March 25 at the Vollrath Tavern, 118 E. Palmer St., will be sword-swallower Heather Holliday and human blockhead Donny Vomit.
Somewhere between a striptease and a variety show, Pretty Things celebrates the same bar-friendly culture crystallized in movies such as “Chicago” and “Cabaret” with one key difference: It’s real, and happening right in front of your eyes.
But while a Pretty Things movie might be rated R, Amy insists, “it’s a strip show that you can take your mom to. Our show is more about the tease and less about the strip. We end up in very small and sparkly garments, but it’s all about what we don’t show.”
Recreating a cultural phenomenon that developed out of the early 20th-century circus scene, the Pretty Things show is nothing new. But burlesque and sideshow acts have resurged in recent years, with historians, collectors, filmmakers and performers all jumping in.
On March 27, Indy’s own Bottom’s Up Burlesque will present a guest-star appearance of Michelle L’amour and her Chicago Starlets at the CTI Theatre, 7435 N. Keystone Ave. Earlier that afternoon, L’amour will offer an “art of the tease” workshop at Brickhouse Fitness Studio, 4202 W. 56th St.
To Amy, the second coming of cabaret is a grasp for something real.
“People are just sick and tired of sitting on the Internet all day long,” she said. “People always want to be fascinated and amazed, and technology just isn’t doing it anymore. Sure, any time you go to a bar, you’re going for escapism from that. If there’s swords and boobs involved, that’s just our added bonus.”
Still, burlesque and sideshow acts remain a small, but vibrant, subculture. Don’t expect to see 1920s-era lingerie showing up at Walmart; every outfit in Pretty Things’ show is specially made for the performers by costume designers, seamstresses and the cast. For those wanting to bring burlesque home, the Pretty Things spend long van rides on the road creating hand-made pasties to sell at their shows.
Ultimately, though, the power of Pretty Things Peepshow lies in the minds of the crowd members, often largely liquored up but polite.
“You can see somebody completely naked and you’re eventually desensitized to it,” Amy said. “But if you don’t get to see them, and all you have to do is think about how you want to — who’ll stay in your mind more?”
The secrets to safe and crowd-pleasing sword swallowing:
Pretty Things’ Heather Holliday lays down, in a few easily digestible steps, how to swallow swords and thereby be the hit of every party, business conference or bar mitzvah you attend for the rest of time.
1. Start small. Size does matter: “You’ve got to relax your gag reflex. That’s the longest and hardest step. It’s terrible. Your eyes will be bloodshot, you’ll dry heave. I started by gagging myself with a toothbrush everyday.”
2. Maintain a steadily growing practice regimen: “I practiced every day, teaching my body to accept that this is now what’s happening all the time.”
3. Got a show? Eat up first: “The biggest sword I do is a little shy of two feet. When you eat, it stretches your stomach lining. You’ll feel the sword leaning on your stomach lining; the more I eat, the farther it can stick down.”
4. Have a sense of humor: “Sometimes you’ll get, like, a piece of lettuce on the sword. Laugh it off. At least that way people know it’s real.”
5. Ask for an audience volunteer: “I pull up a volunteer and allow him to pull the sword out of my body. He’ll feel my insides clenching. But I don’t just let anybody pull it out. I can tell if they’re really drunk.”