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 performer Tommy Gun 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 newest routine is an aerial silks piece that I performed at Black Sheep Burlesque’s XXX Box video game themed show earlier this month. Ant Hall is one of few venues I can rig at, so I knew I wanted to do a silks piece! I’m not a huge gamer so with the suggestions of some friends I landed on the character Samus Aran from Metroid. This made the costume super easy, as her zero suit uniform is perfect for silks (more skin coverage = less silk burn). For the music, I’ve been wanting to use something from Ratatat, one of my favorite bands, for a while now. This seemed like the perfect opportunity, so I sifted through their catalog and narrowed it down to song that fit with the routine I put together. Half of that routine was something I happened to be working on already in my silks class. I just really liked the flow of it, and it had some great poses in it that I knew would look great on stage!
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?
Back in 2006 I started performing in a Rocky Horror Picture Show shadow cast in Flint, I feel like RHPS is a gateway for a lot of burlesque performers! Later I started seeing more burlesque performances and becoming more interested in it specifically. One instance that really stands out to me is watching Hayley Jane perform at the World Steam Expo (this might have been 2012?), and my friend leaning over to me and saying how brave she must be, and how he could never imagine doing anything like that. That’s the first time I remember specifically thinking to myself “I could totally do that! I want to do that!”
3. Who would be your main influences or performers you admire?
Two performers that I really look up to are Florence of Alabia and Shrimp Cocktail. I saw them both perform at the Michigan Burlesque Festival in 2015 and they really inspired me to get my butt in gear and get myself on a stage!
4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a routine with, who would it be, and why?
Ray Gunn! Aside from the obvious name similarity, I really admire his physicality and athleticism. This is something I like to feature in my acts as well, and I feel like I could learn so much from him.
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?
This is a tough one! I like to take on different styles and genres, but I like for my acts to always feature something that will make the audience say “wow!” ...and booty shaking. Can’t forget the booty shaking. Honestly the thing that makes me cringe the most is when my name is spelled wrong. It’s one ‘n’ people!
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 have a list in my phone of songs I might like to use and act ideas. It seems like every time I get to cross one off, I add three more! The song I debuted to was a cover of "Get Lucky" by Flash Mob Jazz. It makes me smile whenever I hear it!
7. What is one thing you wish audience members knew about you, your performances, or burlesque in general? What do you feel is the biggest misconception about you and your burlesque career?
I’m a normal person! I get a lot of people that come up to me and say they could never do what I do, that I am so strong and talented! But I didn’t pop out of the womb this way. I’ve been training in various aerial arts for 5+ years. With dedication you can develop these skills too!
8. When was the last time you were star struck by a burlesque performer and who was it?
Last weekend I had the honor of performing at Hot in Topeka at the Jayhawk Theatre in Topeka, Kansas. The headliners were Jacqueline Boxx and Valerie Veils. I was totally intimidated by them at first but of course they were both so kind!
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?
So, I have terrible anxiety, but weirdly performing gives me some relief from that. When I’m on stage I can forget everything else and just be in that moment. On the other side of that though, preparing for a performance can be very stressful! What if something goes wrong, what if no one likes me, etc. If I could no longer perform, I would continue practicing aerial.
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?
I can’t think of anything! I’m a pretty open book.
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?
I don’t think so. I’ve had less than stellar acts and performances but it’s all part of learning about yourself, and what does and doesn’t work for you as a performer.
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 have lots of personal goals regarding acts I would like to create and stages I would like to grace! Someday I would also like to get into producing. I feel like I’m bringing different types of acts to the table in our local community, and I know I have already inspired some people to pursue skills they might not have otherwise. This is a wonderful feeling and I hope I can continue to push myself and inspire people to push themselves!
TOMMY GUN LINKS:
MICHIGAN BURLESQUE FESTIVAL LINKS: