According to a recent press release: "The Michigan Burlesque Festival started in 2012 with the intent to bring some of the world’s most unique performers to Detroit in hopes of reuniting the traditional concepts of original burlesque theater, where dancers and vaudevillians shared a stage to provide well rounded and entertaining sexy comedic show. It has grown into a two-day festival featuring not-to-miss local talent and award-winning performance artists and world renown burlesque performers, such as past headliners: Lushes LaMoan, Bella Sin, The Weird Sisters, Red Hot Annie, Super Happy Funtime Burlesque, Russell Brunner, Roxi D’Lite, Dangrrr Doll, Ray Gunn, Mr. Gorgeous, Jeez Loueez, Satori Circus, Hank E Panky, Dirty Martini along with so many more phenomenal performers." We get the Burlesque Legend Tiffany Carter to discuss routines, influences, and much more...
1. Tell us a little about your latest developed routine. What drove you to choose the particular piece of music, create the costume, and pull together the specific moves in the routine? Are there any links between that routine and your “real life” that tie the two side of you together?
My latest routine was to the song “Imagine” as a group number. I created this idea from a dream as I have all my routines past and present. It was a thought because of our terrible turmoil in our world today, politics, etc. I always loved this song and it represents that this is what Burlesque has done for me and I just wish the rest of the world could do the same. So, yes - a very emotional piece for me.
2. What got you into burlesque, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a performer? Building on that, is there a specific performer or act that guided your performances in the beginning?
I started dance lessons at a young age studying tap, ballet, etc. into my teens. I loved Modern Jazz dance as a child I would make up routines to my dad’s albums and create all sorts of fun. I was always going to be a dancer; I just didn't realize it would be in burlesque. I am so thankful it is. I had wanted to be a showgirl in Vegas but found out I was too short then so went onto audition for topless dance - it goes from there.
3. Who would be your main influences or performers you admire?
Back in the days my best and most loved dancer was Juliet Prowse. I’ve seen her perform many times in the 70's. I also loved Mitzi Gaynor. As of today, I love some of these great new performers. One that comes to mind right away is Imogene Kelly from Australia - she blows me away every time I see her. Roxi Dee is great and Kalani Kokonuts, etc. I have several favorites today.
4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a routine with, who would it be, and why?
I have called upon some to collaborate to do group numbers I have done right here in Vegas as they have also helped do routines for BHOF such as our own Lily Star.
5. How would you describe your performance style to someone who’d never seen you perform before? What is one review from the media, an audience member, or a fan has made that made you cringe?
I’d say I am a bi of old-style burlesque or classic, and somewhat of the 70’s and 80’s routines burlesque, as things were really changing then into more of routines such as character numbers like my Cat Number. What I love most is to hear ‘Wow that was so sexy,” which I usually do from the routine I’ll be doing in Detroit.
6. When it comes to the musical component of your performance, is there a certain musical genre, artist, or specific song you have always wanted to use? What was the first song you ever used – and what does that song mean to you now?
I use a lot of Motown, Barry white, and some Jazz. I hate a lot of the old cliché of music; some of it bores me. I am deaf, so music choices are very difficult for me anymore. I must be careful with that. Back in the early days, we did a group number to “Hey Big spender” at the Pink Pussycat in Hollywood which was 1 of my first songs I remember.
I wish the audience knew how much some of us went through back in the day to become who we are today, so they would appreciate us now. I think most of them do. Times were difficult sometimes - especially with different laws in different states or going topless to fully nude. That I am a mother of 2 and grandmother of 7 which is my most prized and best accomplishment in life.
8. When was the last time you were star struck by a burlesque performer and who was it?
This year at BHOF - Imogene Kelly. What an amazing performance!!!! There are so many more performers of today I could add to this list - the ones I mentioned before and Coco Lectric (my burlesque daughter) and Michelle L’mour. The guys are amazing in today's burlesque.
9. What is the best part of being a burlesque performer? Conversely, what is the worst part? If you could no longer be a performer for whatever reason, what would be your other artistic outlet?
The best part of being a burlesque performer back in the days was that we made a living off this and could travel all over doing what we loved. The worst part was the misconception of what we were and assumed to be "very loose” or to put it bluntly - hookers!!! I once did a talk radio show and the announcer told me after he really thought I wouldn't be able to handle the questions so well. In other words, the dumb blonde… really??? I am a legend now so if not performing, which we don't often, I’d love to help others develop their career. In that traditions, I am so happy to announce I will be the legend at Burlycon this year!! Yeah!!!!
10. What is one question you have always wanted someone to ask you as a performer – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?
Hehe you just asked it!!! I’ve never been asked that!!! What questions am I tired of answering? None, it’s all good thank you.
11. Looking back over your burlesque career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over”, even if it didn’t change your current situation?
Granted I did same things getting started in the late 60's I am not proud of, but you can't change it, so I learned from it and became a better performer because of it.
12. What is one thing you still want to achieve in the burlesque world? At the end of the day, what contribution to the local burlesque scene do you hope you will be remembered for?
I still would like to see some of Europe and perform there; I never did back in the day, as I was a working mom and didn't go too far except one trip to Japan. At the end of the day, I just want to be remembered as one of the best Legends and when I hear some stories of what happened to participants after taking my classes. My son said to me once, “Mom I don't regret one minute of my childhood!!!” That was the best thing I could have ever heard from my child.
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