Ghosts

So it has been almost a year since I last posted.  It is not that I’ve had a lack of things to write about, more of a case of writers block – finding words that do justice to the things I see.  I am also much better at communicating visually than with words.   It has been a lot easier to create and post pictures on Facebook, then write up the story behind the picture.  A picture may be worth 1000 words, but when all my pictures are just vain attempts to find my best side, they don’t really capture the thoughts and emotions in my head.

On the other hand, some people are natural writers.  For example, Alexis Alexandra who also recently reemerged from her wordpress exile.   Sometimes she may despair that her her stories are full of angst and drama, but that is what makes great stories.  And she has a great sense of humor.  I can’t write that on her blog, but I really hope she keeps going.

And I will try to do the same.

 

Hamburger Mary’s Long Beach

Hamburger Mary's

Hamburger Mary herself

This New Year’s, I headed down to the party at Hamburger Mary’s in Long Beach.   Jamie Jameson hosts a girl’s night on the first Saturday of each month, but this one was particularly big as the first event of 2015.  The club is usually packed with mostly girls but a few guys show up hoping to get lucky (just try to avoid the creeps).  Unlike Hamburger Mary’s in West Hollywood, the focus is on the music and the dancing.   This is also my one chance every month to meet up with all the girls around Southern California, as Mindy drives up from San Diego and Diana drives over from Anaheim.

Besides the dance floor, there is always an official photographer taking red carpet photos.   All the party goers line up to show their best side.  The photographer is really friendly and provides tips on how to pose.  One suggestion is that if you ever put your hand on your waist, make sure your fingers face down.   This creates a sharper angle at the elbow, and somehow slims your waist.  Since I tried every arm position, you can decide if it looks better.

There isn’t any video from January yet, but there is one from when I visited Mary’s last June.  It is a little like solving a “Where’s Waldo” or “Where’s Wilma” puzzle.  Can you spot me?  Clue: I am out on the dance floor.

More pictures can be found on Jamie’s Facebook page.

My new year’s resolution: Get my ass to the ground

Almost as far back as I can remember, I have been inflexible. I have a vague memory that before puberty I could even put my leg over my head. By the time I was in high school, the only part of the Presidential Fitness Test that I would always fail was the Sit’n Reach – the test where you sit over a tape measure and try to reach beyond your toes. I used to blame it on my long legs. As my body was growing like crazy so now when I try a fold forward, I struggle even sit up straight, let alone lean forward. It doesn’t help that my dad’s side of the family also has a genetic history of bad hips joints or that I spend my days sitting at a computer desk.

Yet over the last year, I have become more flexible with help from weekly yoga classes with Lara, and stretching classes with Janet and Candace at the Secret Dance Studio. I can already feel stretch muscles now that I didn’t even know existed. For 2015, one of my new years resolutions is to do the splits. Not a cheater split, but a real split with both legs straight and ass on the ground. I am sure the ONLY way I can do this is if (1) I start stretching EVERY day and (2) I start quantifying my progress.

For my daily routine, I am following a website that I found (http://www.unique-bodyweight-exercises.com/splits.html), which claims ANYONE can learn to do the splits in only SIX weeks. The daily routine consists of 6 stretches: a forward hang, a supine hamstring stretch, a forward lunge, a karate-style side lunge, a standing quadriceps stretch, and finally the splits. The entire routine takes about 5-10 minutes, but I need to do it EVERY day. I will also keep stretching in my regular yoga and classes. The website claims that the biggest challenge is in Week 4, when you really have to start pushing your limits. Yet, I expect the biggest challenge will be continuing to stretch even when my work gets hectic and stressful.

That’s where this blog come in. If I start documenting this journey, perhaps I will have more incentive to continue. Here, I am going to take inspiration from my friend Alexis, who last fall set a crazy weight loss goal – 45 pounds in 10 weeks (that is over 20% of her weight). Honestly I didn’t think she had a chance. Yet she exercised every day, changed her diet, wrote about it on her blog, and she did it. (and she looks great!). But the best part was she graphed everything, weight loss, calorie intake, and more. Now my Excel skills are not as good as hers, but I will need a graph so I can quantify my progress. Instead of weight, I am going to plot my “ASS-TO-GROUND” distance. Specifically measured from top of my inner thigh to the floor.

Ass-to-Ground Graph (Day 4)

I started my daily routine on Monday and I am on Day 4. My initial ASS-To-GROUND distance was 19 inches before any streching so I need get on average 0.46 inches closer to the ground every day. At the end of each daily routine, I will measure the ASS-TO-GROUND distance for my left, center, and right splits. My first major challenge was that it is really hard to hold a tape measure and do the splits at the same time. My form is not always very good. Sometimes my legs are straight, sometimes they bend a bit. Sometimes my front foot is forward, sometimes it is askew.  While the website suggests that your back foot should be at a right angle to the split, that makes it really hard to square the hips, so everything becomes a center split to some extent.  If I don’t do that you have to add an extra inch or so to my left and right split marks.

It felt like there was a lot of progress on Days 1 and 2, but there was so much variation in how I did the measurements it was hard to tell. While the floor doesn’t seem to be getting much nearer, the daily stretching has already strengthened my legs so that my form is getting better and my legs wobble less as I hold the pose. Hopefully that means there will be more downward progress soon.  I will post more updates here. Do I think it’s possible for me to do the splits in six weeks? I’m really not sure.  Yet given that I am always the least flexible person in my pole dance classes, if I can do this, any one can.

The Twerkcracker

IMG_0461

I finally get to wear my L.R.D. (Little Red Dress)

Candace and me

Rocking the xmas red with the Candace doll

Last Saturday I had front-row tickets to the TWeRkcracker, finally a chance to bring out my L.R.D. (Little Red Dress) before Christmas. What is the Twerkcracker you may ask? First it was a little Kickstarter from by Meggan Marie that became a fabulous mix of Booties, Ballet and Burlesque.  After a successful first show, now it was back for the second year.  My wife and brother both argued that grammatically it should really be the Nuttwerker, but I think that is just splitting hairs (or nuts?).

The Twerkcracker tells the story of Naomi, a poor girl who doesn’t know how to twerk.  So she throws a fabulous Christmas party for all her friends where she receives a sexy Twerk doll who teaches her how to twerk.   As the party ends, she falls into a tumultuous sleep.  In her dreams, she and her twerk doll friend are challenged to a twerk battle, she dances with her good friend, the flamboyant Sugar Plum Fairy, and more.  There was strip tease, aerial hoops, belly dancing, and some great pole routines.  Many of my instructors from Secret Pole Dance studio played roles including Candace Cane as the Twerk doll, Egypt as Auntie Kush, with Tee and Lana performing as well.  And to top it all the entire show was narrated by Legange Estranga from Rupaul’s Drag Race Season 6.

Luckily, a front roll also meant I have a great vantage point to take a lot of fantastic pictures and twerktastic GIFs.

The Show: Part 3 – It’s oh so quiet

There are many different styles of drag: campy drag comedians, dark goth queens, glamorous pageant queens, androgynous genderfuck queens, and more.  I have slowly been finding out what works for me.  As much as I enjoy the 80s styling of Kyle Minogue or Madonna, I think I prefer the glamour of 50s movie star bomb shells.  That was an age when people appreciated womanly curves, where stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Rosemary Clooney, and Doris Day were backed by big bands that always make you want to jump up, dance, and sing.  Less twerking, more swing.

So for my second song at “Party under the Sea” I chose “It’s oh so quiet” by Björk.  While Björk’s cover is only from 1995 (which is still older than some of the USC students!!), the song actually dates back to the 1948.   “Und jetzt ist es still” was originally written in German in 1948 by Hans Lang and Erich Meder (listen here), before Betty Hutton made it famous in English three years later (listen here).  Supposedly the Betty’s version is usually played to fast on Youtube.   Björk’s version slows it down, making it perfect for a pole routine.  I could sneak around and lip-sync the quiet parts, then bring out the big pole tricks during the band choruses.

To choreograph the song, I headed back to White Hall Arts Academy, home of my vocal instructor, Tanisha Hall, and my new dance instructor Jasmine Yancy.   At last year show’s, Tanisha helped with my stage presence for Caro Emerald’s “Coming back as a Man”.  Typically, I am not a very expressive person, so I need all the help here I can get.  Whenever I thought I was going big, Jasmine would find a way for me to go bigger.   Of course, sometimes I couldn’t keep up with all her steps.   Her fancy turns would turn into an out of control tornado as the song goes “blow, blow, blow, blow, blow”.  Yet the song has a particular childlike exuberance so even when I mess up, I think it still worked.

Later I brought my x-pole to the dance studio, so I could run through the entire song.  Here is one of the the rehearsal video.   This is just for the curious, the rest of you can go ahead and skip ahead to my performance from the actual show.

As you can tell, I love my tutu.  I had been looking for a reason to buy one for so long.  Parts of this song, particularly the 3rd verse, remind me of a little ballerina music box.

If you like this, there have been a few other burlesque versions of the song that inspired me including Brittany Murphy sung the song the Pussy Cat Dolls.  Betty D’Light has a balloon burlesque routine that she performs almost entirely en pointe.  Also after I had choreographed the routine, I discovered that Margarit Davtian had won at Pacific Pole Champion ship with another version.

The Show: Part 2 – How to Sexercize

SO the door open and people start streaming in.  We have at least 400 people in the house, and they have to start bringing in more chairs.

Unlike previous years which sometimes started with an opening monologue or some quote from RuPaul, this we started with a bang.  We dived straight into the opening catwalk, strutting our stuff to Barry Harris’s “Dive in to the Pool” from the Queer as Folk soundtrack.   I wore my Greek white Goddess dress complete with gold crown.   The song is pretty fast paced so we had to very quickly sashay our way back backstage so I could switch into my next outfit.   I was the first main act – yeah that’s right, I was opening the show!  I didn’t have much time just a few minutes while the two hosts show hosts, dressed as a pair of retired grannies, did a quick comical exercise routine.   I quickly switched into my sports bra and zebra strips while they did a little sketch where they tried to hang from the pole before deciding to leave it to the professionals (I guess that is me!) with my first routine “SEXERCIZE”

Yes, this is the same song that I performed as a group back at Secret Pole Dance “Skin” show, but now I expanded it as a solo, replacing the last third of the routine so I spent more time on the pole.  New tricks included a front attitude lay back, an aerial invert into a flat-line pose, and ending in a head stand with some inverted stag and bow-and-arrow leg poses.

Front Attitude
Front Attitude
Flat line (scorpio)
Flat line
Head stand
Head stand

The problem is that “Sexersize” is a really hard song to lip-sync to.  I still not quite sure what Kyle says at the end of the first verse, “And if you’re lucky I’ma teach you. Let’s just turn you blind?”  What does that even mean? It’s even harder when you are trying to do a headstand upside down and sing at the same time.  If all else fails … “SEXERCIZE, watermellon, watermellon, SEXERCIZE, watermellon watermellon …”.   Luckily most of the time, people can’t see my mouth so I didn’t have to resort to that.  It actually went really well.  You can see that I am beaming as I walked off stage.

Next up will be video of my second routine plus more photos of the other drag queens in including Adore Delano!!

The Show: Part 1 – Getting Ready

It is going to take a while for me to tell all all the stories from last weeks drag show at USC so let’s start off with my new favorite picture (worth a couple thousand words at least).

My new favorite picture

My new favorite photo

In an nutshell it was a blast.  I left work early to get to USC around 5pm.   I had tried to pack all my outfits the night before.  Yet with so many clothes in my travel suitcase, and duffel bag, plus my full makeup box, I felt like I was getting ready for a week-long expedition not just one night.  I did my makeup at home as I wasn’t sure how much space I would have once I got backstage – after all we were going to have to share the green room with Adore Delano, star of last season’s RuPaul’s Drag Race.  When I got there I was right, there was just one mirror between all of us and Adore got that, so most of cast heads upstairs to prepare their makeup giving me time to do a quick runthrough.

For the show, I borrowed a freestanding pole from my instructor Janet Cee.   Unlike my usual pole that is secured at the bottom and top, this pole is just held in place by a weighted base formed by metal legs and plastic pizza slices.  This pole is fairly rugged.  It even went to the beach earlier this year and still had traces of sand in the box.  We lug the pole up on stage and set it up (I am already getting tired at this point).  It takes a little while to get use the pole, it has a distinct wobble as it spins.  When I try to do my final spin for my act, the entire platform starts to tilt up.  It doesn’t fall over but I decide to tone it back a little for the real show.

After my first run through, Adore takes her turn doing a real sound check.   She doesn’t go through her entire songs, but wow, she can really sing.
Soon everyone is coming back down to plan out our opening runway number but time is time is flying, it is almost 7:30. Brian even recruited a bunch of friends and mermaids to serve as pit crew. No time to apply my fake eyelashes cause the show is about to begin. Next post: SHOWTIME!! 

Soundcheck

It this thing stable?

It this thing stable?

The cast