Exposed (2013) - full transcript

EXPOSED profiles eight women and men who use their nakedness to transport us beyond the last sexual and social taboos that our society holds dear. These cutting edge performers -- operating on the far edge of burlesque -- combine politics, satire, and physical comedy to question the very concept of 'normal.' Flying high with them, we get to look down on our myriad inhibitions. This film creates a unique perspective, taking the audience into the clubs an other hidden spaces where 'new burlesque' is challenging traditional notions of body, gender, and sexuality. The body types of the performers range from statuesque to trans-gender to disabled, and their personalities from sensational to scintillating. - stop by if you're interested in the nutritional composition of food
: I think

I want to be the kind of role model-

- that brings people back to the time-

- before the fruit of
knowledge was eaten.

Ideally, what you're doing
is bringing people back-

- to, like,
reestablish their own lines-

- of what's normal for them.

: It's just-

- a sense of acceptance, to
realize that woman is a choice-

- and not a box that you
mark on an application.

To me, I'm offering-

- them a view of freedom.

We're all imperfect.

Look at that guy.

He loves himself.

Maybe I could love myself better.

If I can blow some
people's minds at a show,

I'm doing them a great favor.

Burlesque, it's such
an immediate, honest, -

- and sometimes brutal art form.

My family is sort of a bit in the dark-

- about exactly what it is I do.

My parents provided a
pretty nice life for me.

I'd say that was their biggest
downfall, is that they tried-

- to steer my life in
a different directions-

- because they
couldn't accept the fact-

- that I wanted to be an artist.

We've, I think, come to an
understanding where they-

- just kind of...
it's more like a don't ask, -

- don't tell situation.

My parents, they
don't want to know.

It's like, on the outside,
it sort of looks like this, -

- like, very perfect thing.

But, you know, we're WASP.

We just like sweep it under
the rug and suppress it.

So a lot of my numbers very
much start like that with this kind-

- of, like, tension
inside of me, you know, -

- that sort of builds until it
erupts into something humorous-

- or disgusting or twisted.

Someone said to me once,
and I love this, that there-

- is freedom in vulgarity.

I've had people say,
like, what's-

- up with the Southern belle?

But because I am
from New Orleans, -

- I know about Southern
belles and how, you know, -

- cuckoo crazy Blanche
Dubois they can be.

It's like this beautiful
image of normal and pretty.

And then it starts to
get destroyed and torn-

- apart by touching
on all of these very-

- stereotypical female neurosis.

But I think they're very real.-

- I mean, I know for
myself, like, definitely.

Some of that stuff is
very autobiographical.

Partially it's about
control, you know?

It's about, like, at that
moment in particular, -

- when you're, like, completely
naked and vulnerable on stage, -

- but suddenly,
you're like, you know what?

I still got this.

It's still right here in the palm-

- of my hand, all you people.

And that's kind of fun and exciting, -

- thrilling... thrilling for me,
thrilling for them, -

- too, you know?

I think when people see things
that they didn't see coming, -

- that they didn't expect, that
it wasn't, you know, the norm, -

- they love that.

I mean, my favorite
thing in life is to, like, -

- go out and see a show
and have my mind blown.

And I feel like if I can blow
some people's minds at a show,

I'm doing them a great favor.

I've always been a rebel.

I've always taken to heart that thing, -

- question everything you're told.

And just because
somebody says something is so-

- doesn't make it so.

As a child,
my self-image was very much-

- denial of my disability and wanting-

- to sort of sidestep
anything to do with it, -

- so trying to be as normal as possible.

And because I'm a victim of
social injustice, you know, -

- I never found it very
fair that I was bullied.

You know, I always used to
think, well, it's not my fault.

Why are they being horrible to me?

It's not my fault I'm like this.

Bully me for being an asshole,
but not for having short arms.

That's stupid.

When I came out properly as
politically disabled in my 30s, -

- I was Mr. Demonstration,
Mr. Angry, -

- Mr. Separatist, Mr. Everything.

Now, I'm not a separatist.

I'm not a separatist.

Separatist joke would be, how
many able-bodied people does it-

- take to change a light bulb?

Who gives a fuck?

That's not the sort of thing I do.

I'm inclusive.

I welcome everybody.

And I very quickly-

- learned that this can't be
communicated to an audience-

- in an entertaining way.

And then I discovered comedy.

And then I discovered
the joy of making-

- people laugh just
on the noble level-

- of lightening people's day.

Doesn't matter who they are,
if you can make them laugh-

- and make a
political point that fuels-

- your outrage, all the better.

Being the seal boy,
I'm not that fond of Canadians.

I'm always a little worried
when I play in Canada-

- that they'll club me right
on the back of the head-

- when I get to immigration.

At the age of 15, I left home.

And I was raised by a pack of
drag queens and hairdressers.

It really provided me with
a super safe and supportive-

- environment to explore how
I wanted to express myself, -

- my sexuality.

It really just give me a safe cushion-

- from the rest of the world.

I walk down this tiny
block called Garden Street.

And all of a sudden,
there was the land-

- of milk, glitter, and honey.

It was shoulder to shoulder
fagot in black velvet cloaked-

- capes with skull
buckle boots made out-

- of patent leather
hugging their ankles flaring-

- into pointy tips, clove
cigarettes, Aqua Net, and vodka-

- filled the air.

It was the '80s, honey,
and I had arrived.

I could not believe it.

By the time I was about 16,-

- I actually identified as a gay male.

I decided I wanted to be a drag queen.

I couldn't stop thinking about it.

And I would draw in
books all these characters-

- and their names,
Bobarella the Space Goddess-

- and Ragabob the Rag Doll.

The desire to express myself
in this over the top feminine way-

- didn't cease.

It just kept growing and
growing and growing to the point-

- where I did believe that I had
to be a man to be a drag queen.

Movie, quiet.

Thank you, Movie.

I started flirting with the idea-

- of becoming a transsexual, of
having a sex change so I could-

- be a real gay guy, you know?

And then I would
dress up like a woman, -

- which sounds like a Rubik's
cube with all the stickers torn off.

But that was just my reality.

I made a list of how you could
tell a man in drag was a man.

The street term for that is spooking, -

- like, oh, you can spook
her beard, referring to seeing-

- the stubble coming through
makeup, or the Adam's apple, -

- you know?

She was doing great, but,
you know, I spooked her apple.

So what I did was I
covered up my hands.

I always wear gloves.

I covered my throat like
I had an Adam's apple.

I used concealer that was
theatrical-grade to cover up-

- my 21-year-old skin
that didn't have a hair on it.

But it looked like I
was covering a beard.

During the day, I
wore men's underwear.

I dressed very androgynously.

I did not look like a guy, and
I did not look like a girl.

I looked like
somebody in between.

I told my friends, I'm going
to move to New York City-

- now and be a transsexual,
meaning a woman.

But a lot of people might
be confused and think, -

- you are already a woman.

There is no change for you.

I performed in the night clubs.

And I became very
affected and influenced-

- by the transsexual community.

And this is the
table where I felt

I had a place where I could
breathe, like the only place.

And I would do anything to
be allowed to stay there.

I was a quiet, very bookish kid.

I had insomnia, which made
it a little harder for me-

- to relate to the other kids.

I wasn't always so mentally present.

Once I hit my teenage
years, I was frequently-

- confused with being a girl.

I wore my hair long.

The dress at that time
was kind of hippy, -

- a little bit androgynous.

And people would frequently
say, excuse me, miss.

I was a fagot.

I was a queer.

I was all these things.

And I wasn't even doing anything.

I'm trying to present my audience-

- with an indelible
picture of the body seen-

- in another way,
seen in a way that's different-

- than they see themselves.

They have ideas of what's
normal, what a man does, -

- what a woman does,
what a heterosexual does, -

- what a gay person does.

And I try to present them with
another way of seeing the body.

This is real drag secrecy stuff.

Double sided tape,
drag queens love their tape.

Make me look a few years younger, -

- but primarily,
it raises the eyebrows.

It pulls back the jaw line to soften-

- it, make it a little more
feminine, better than Botox.

The movements and the mannerisms-

- and the gestures
which we see as female-

- are not particular to
the female anatomy.

They're affectations.

They're this kind of thing.

A man can do this just
as well as a woman.

It's exaggerated femininity.

And so in that way,
you're creating this illusion-

- of, like, this is female.

This is male, you know?

So really, you're just using
the signals of each gender-

- to create, to make a sale.

For you to believe long
enough that I'm female, -

- or I'm giving it to you hard
enough that when the male-

- reality comes, it's... ugh.


Correct me if I'm wrong,
but the problem with PCP-

- is that it's a
gateway drug, you know?

Once you start doing that stuff,
anything is possible, you know?

And then next thing you
know, you're hanging out-

- in joints like this.

And if you want to get laid, we're-

- coming up to a short break.

And there's three
bathrooms downstairs.

And it's like this
whole scene down there.

It's crazy.

I designed and built
this place and did it-

- specifically for what we
do here, to do performance.

When we first opened,
we would be-

- doing shows on Saturday night.

And people would come in
and say, what the hell is this?

We just came in to
check out this bar.

What is this crazy stuff?

We have some lovely,
lovely girls.

And they are so
ready to come out-

here and do the nasty with you.

There's no fourth wall, people.

Within a month, people
were coming down.

They were saying, is
there a show tonight?

It definitely caught on real quick.

I really had no idea
that there was a movement.

And at this point in
time in New York City,

you could fit everyone doing
burlesque in all five boroughs-

- into two cabs.

I came to New York for theater, -

- was always very interested
in sexual political theater.

And both became more
and more of a reality.

I moved here in the late '80s.

AIDS was everywhere.

And that was, you
know, sex and politics-

- right there in my face.

And really, if you've got some
extreme position, you know, -

- that you want to shove your
politics down someone's throat, -

- a good way to open that
throat up is to get them laughing.

That completely blows
the fantasy for the pervs.

Suddenly, there's a sense of humor.

There's a personality.

There's life.

See, I just get the hook, you know?

I hook you.

I throw you out there a little lollipop.

Come have something sweet.

And then once you feel safe,
that's when the really sick-

- shit's gonna come and hit you.

And obviously for the prudes,
it completely-

- blows their whole argument.

You're not being exploited.

You're having a good time.

And you're showing talent.

And people are liking you.

And everything's OK.

Here we go.

I get hit on quite a lot after shows.

And these are women that
would never hit on me in real life.

I'm like, how did this come to be?

It's because I'm
showing them a recipe-

- of something that turns some
button on or fire on in them.

They're flipping the revulsion.

They suddenly find that which
they thought they were revolted-

- by to be quite attractive.

And they can't quite process that.

Take off your underwear.

You know, I kind of knew
you were going to say that.

As you can see,
I don't have that miracle-

- of human evolution,
the opposable thumb.

Give him $20.

And I have to do a lot
of things with two hands-

- that most men find they can
adequately perform with one.

I'm meant to do a lot
of things with my mouth.

I'm rather clever.

I can tie the cherry thing
in a knot in my mouth-

- and all that kind of stuff.

But one thing I do find difficult-

- is taking off people's
underwear with my teeth.

And I wondered if anybody
were man or woman-

- enough to come onto this stage
and remove my underwear, right-

- here, right now.

The other thing about
being the imperfect on stage-

- is that you channel
everybody else's perfections.

And if you can absolve them
of any bad feeling about that-

- by accepting yourself
as imperfect, -

- then they too have to do that.

And so everybody
comes away feeling-

- better about themselves.

Not in a schadenfreude
kind of way-

- where you enjoy the benefit
of other people's misfortune-

- to make you feel better,
but in a more, we're all, -

- you know, imperfect.

Look at that guy.

He loves himself.

Maybe I could love myself better.

It normalizes me.

And I become more normal
by highlighting my difference.

With that in mind,
I know you're going-

- to believe in high
remunerative value-

- when the gorgeous Dirty
Martini goes amongst you-

- with the lovely tip bucket,
which you'll bring home to us-

- all full of money.

Thank you so much.

We'll see you in about 15 minutes.

I came into the world, -

- my mother said, in an arabesque.

From then on,
everything was all about dancing.

It was always a struggle
because of getting-

- all this crazy feedback
about my body saying, well, -

- you're a great dancer,
but you'll-

- never be a dancer because
your body is wrong for it.

You're wrong.

That's it.

I was really struggling
a lot with these issues-

- of acceptance.

And I needed a way to
express myself so that people-

- could see me as a dancer
for the unique properties-

- that my body has.

My early influences were Jennie
Lee, Lili St. Cyr, Dixie Evans, -

- women who were telling a story.

Everything from the
1950s fit me really well.

Then I'd see that
all the women were-

- different shapes and sizes.

And I thought to myself,
that's what-

- I need to do to express how I
feel about women in this world.

It was a form that was for
men in the 1940s and '50s, -

- just like our sex industry is now.

But we took it and transformed
it and made it into something-

- that's finally our own.

Dirty Martini
brought me onto the burlesque stage.

And she choreographed
a first routine for me-

- to kind of get out there,
try on, and cut my teeth on-

- and live in for a while, of
classic burlesque, for which I-

- just will be forever grateful.

In my world,
that's called a drag mother.

: I said, well, -

- I've always wanted to teach
a drag queen to do burlesque-

- because of Vicki Lynn in the 1950s-

- in the Irving Klaw moves,
who I was an incredible fan of.

And Vicki Lynn
was a drag strip teaser.

And I said, oh, my goodness.

So it is possible.

It can be done.

And this number was created
as a tribute to Vicki Lynn.

: It's just-

- been so fantastic to watch
somebody take something which-

- is really classic
style of burlesque-

- and just go to
another extreme with it.

And that's really
what you want to see-

- from a new burlesque performer.

A friend of mine has said, what
has been seen cannot be unseen.

To me, I'm offering the
view of freedom... freedom-

- from what others will
think of you, freedom-

- from what is expected of
you, freedom of conformity.

And so I do it as a generous act.

Once I have the surgery,
which I'm planning, -

- which is breast augmentation,
a kind of reconstruction-

- since I don't have
anything there to augment...

- I'll be able to
represent a character which-

- is neither male nor female.

I can dress the
character up to be either.

But in fact, I will be neither.

Banana bread?

Mm, yummy.

Did you eat it all?

You did, Movie Star, good girl.

Come here, give me a kiss.

Mm, mm.

My sexuality is really fluid.

I mean, for the years
that I lived as a man-

- during the day, drag queen at
night, I was very unsexual, -

- you know?

There was a couple years
where I didn't have sex at all.

And I'm just really
open to experiencing-

- love from wherever it comes.

I'm the last person that's going
to let a physical difference, -

- you know, or their equipment
being the same or different, -

- stop that from happening.

I never lied to people.

People would say, are
you a man or a woman, -

- and I would say, yes.

That quick wit was something
that I learned from my drag-

- family, that quick wit, that ability-

- to turn anything that hurts
you inside into something-

- that's funny.

When you surround yourself-

- with a community,
it provides a mirror for you-

- to look at yourself.

When I saw all these people
struggling and really focusing-

- on their gender issues, how
they're portrayed in society,

what they feel
comfortable with, it-

- inspired me to kind
of go back and take-

- a look at my own gender
and my own sexuality.

I identified as a man.

I did not have any surgeries.

So for me, it would mean taking
on the mental role of a woman-

- and taking on the
lifestyle role of a woman-

- 24 hours a day instead of just
a hyperversion of it at night-

- as a drag queen.

So it gave me the freedom-
and the wiggle room

- to start shedding the layers.

And when I became a woman,
I chose to become a woman.

So that was really
powerful for me, -

- to realize that
woman is a choice, -

- and not a box that you
mark on an application.

Should I do Mini the Moocher?

Should I... tsk, tsk, tsk.

And the thing is that it's on camera, -

- so you want to be extra pretty.


Shall I go different
color underneath, -

- or should I just do all of
Caravan in silverish white?

: Being-

- naked for me is a pleasure.

Being naked for me is like an armor.

It's, like, the best costume.

I can't believe that with all
of our technological evolution, -

- nudity is still so taboo.

Nice little dance
with the glove, glove, -

somehow do this,
then here, ah...

Ooh, look at this one.

Oh no, there's, it's not dirt.

I thought it was dirt.

It's just actually a seam.

Classy, glad we got that one
in the documentary, woo hoo.

Whitney Biennial,

I was invited to be in it.

I didn't really know
what it was at that time.

So I went to the opening
naked in a white limo-

- with an entourage of friends.

And I went to the
opening naked because I-

- didn't know what else to wear.

And I wanted to be
on top of my game-

- and feel like I had a one up,
and I guess make a statement.

I felt so good.

I felt so great.

Little children came up to me
and asked for my photograph-

- with them,
because their mom said, -

- you know, you're never going
to see anything like this again.

I think I want to be
the kind of role model-

- that brings people
back to the time-

- before the fruit of knowledge
was eaten, you know, -

- in the Garden of Eden
before Adam and Eve took-

- that bite of the fruit of knowledge, -

- and they were actually
just very young and innocent.

But so many people are
uncomfortable with being naked.

I'm just shocked by it.

I don't understand
how our morality-

- hasn't evolved as well.

Oh, it's so good to be in Holland-

- where so few of
those things are illegal.

So many little things
are illegal in many-

- of the states of the US.

There is one thing
that I know that people-

- in the Western world are afraid of.

And it pains me to say this.

But it is a sexually active
woman with pubic hair.

It's very hard-

- to encapsulate what I went
through in my younger days, -

- except to say that
it's kind of like being-

- a recovering anorexic.

Well, the flip
side of, you know,

all this pressure on
weight loss and all that

is that the whole time, I
really had a decent self image.

A lot of women come
up to me after my shows-

- and say that it really
changes their outlook-

- on life and themselves.

And it feels good.

Let's just enjoy all of the
things that are human impulses.

And we should revel in them.

We shouldn't suppress them.

Biblically, Lilith was-

- the first female ever created.

And she was created with
Adam, not from Adam's rib.

Adam and Lilith were
created together as equals.

And Lilith enjoyed
physical pleasure-

- and wanted to
initiate sex with Adam.

And that was extremely frowned upon.

And they ended up tying her
legs together and throwing her-

- into the ocean to get rid of her, -

- and then recreating Eve,
who was made out of his rib, -

- to be his subordinate, you know.

So Lilith went off and
became mermaid mythology.

I've been doing burlesque
for basically 14 years.

Sometimes I think I've
really used all my ideas.

And at my stage of the game,
the bar is pretty high.

Because you can't just revert
back to some simple thing.

Like in the beginning,
I had these numbers-

- that were so, you know, innocent
and naive kind of, you know?

And once in awhile,
I'll go to do one.

And I think, gosh,
I can't believe how far I've come, -

- you know, creatively.

I worked at strip bars and strip clubs.

I was always super
fascinated with that dynamic.

To me, there is very little
connection between a strip-

- club and burlesque.

Strip clubs aren't strip tease.

Strip clubs is a girl
coming out in a bikini-

- or naked and just dancing.

There's no story line.

There's no gimmick.

There's no message
other than to be a voyeur.

I think it's really important
for burlesque performers, -

- because it's a wordless art
form, to go into the audiences-

- and be body and be over the
top and be smart and eloquent-

- and kind of tell
people what it's all about.

I wanted to make a piece
about America and consumerism-

- and how it takes
over the judicial system-

- and nothing can be decided,
you know?

So that was my idea centering
around The Patriot Act.

We now are in a position where
we have enough power as women-

- that we can start to play with
ideas of our sexuality, which-

- we couldn't do in the past.

Men are able to do it
on the streets every day.

Why not us, too?

Let's see if anybody
will stop for a drag queen.

Like it or not, in this world, -

- I am an outsider.

In our little subset,
it's perfectly acceptable.

But even then, I spent several
years being the only man-

- I knew stripping
in a burlesque context.

I would like to do for
you all a love song.

I wrote this song
for my one true love.

Her name is Bridget.

And she is a Harley
Davidson motorcycle.

Any of you ladies who've
wrapped your thighs around one-

- of those puppies know
how terribly inadequate-

- the average white penis can be.

There was something very lovely-

- for those first several years.

I became rather fond of being, you-

- know, the token boy,
of being, you know, -

- the only one doing it.

It allowed me to really
just make up my own rules, -

- make up boylesque, which...
I thought I made up the word.

Obviously, it's not that
difficult to come up with.

But I literally made it up as
a way to distinguish myself.

I was very conscious that I
was a man in a woman's world.

And that was very intentional.

It's work to present
yourself as a straight man.

I'm delighted to not
have to do that shit.

If you can combine sex and
humor, if people can laugh-

- at sexuality,
at genitals... which-

- can be very pleasing to the eye,
but are also ludicrous, that-

- can actually be liberating,
to like be in a room-

- together in public naked
and laughing about it.

When I was young, I
wanted to be a rabbi.

My parents saw this
flamboyant little child and said, -

- you know what?

You are never
going to be a rabbi.

I never wanted to
have my extremes tamed.

I never wanted to be mainstream.

I haven't sought that by publicity, -

- by fame, by promotion.

But what's happening is
kind of interesting in that I-

- found an audience
where they come-

- to see me night after night.

And so when you see even
the most shocking thing, -

when you've seen it 15 times, it's-

- no longer quite so shocking.

The Jewish people-

- that I've done this number for tend-

- to enjoy the number very much.

I was raised Jewish.

And in that religion, there's
a valuation of sexuality, -

- especially a man
was to give his wife-

- an orgasm ideally as a kind
of blessing on the Sabbath.

It was a way of kind of
consecrating a holy day.

And I love that.

So I know many, many
people of my religion.

They feel glamorized.

They feel that I am taking Judaism-

- and putting it on a stage and giving-

- it an entertainment quality.

Sorry, I will have to use my rectum-

- for a certain function
in this number, -

- and it requires a
little bit of preparation.

Just to let you know, I don't
usually do this kind of thing-

- in a restaurant.

If I would try to
do or to live a role, -

- especially gender and
religion put together, ah, -

- what a burden
that must be, to have-

- to be a Muslim man,
a Jewish woman, a Christian man.

Uh, for me, this is
too much, too much.

After a couple failed attempts-

- at having a long term
relationship from men meeting-

- me primarily as a showgirl first, -

- I decided to seek out
gentleman callers that did not-

- know who I was as a performer.

Because what happens is
you're projecting a fantasy.

But if that's your bait for
actually having a relationship-

- in reality, you're handing
somebody a menu that they-

- can't order off of every day.

You know how to get
applause as a performer.

You know how to turn
a head in a costume.

But in real life, you become
more like everybody else.

And I think performers
thrive on being special.

So for me, it was
definitely a big leap-

- to have the security
and the faith in myself-

- that I didn't need to be
covered in glitter to be lovable.

And I said, OK,
I don't know what's going to happen.

But this is what doesn't work.

When I looked at profiles online, -

- I purposely avoided performers.

Because I just felt like I
wanted more stable energy-

- in a partner.

I wanted somebody who was
a little calmer than that.

And my love is an IT guy.

It's perfect.

IT guys are hot.

Come on into
the show, ladies and gentlemen.

Burlesque at the
Beach at Sideshows-

- by the Seashore,
performance art with a sexual flavor-

- for the over 18s only.

$10 to get in.

If you think I'm strange,
wait until you-

- see the action inside tonight.

You two, sir, madam,
$10, ladies and gentlemen.

What I do is satirical, post-modern, -

- and littered with irony,
so everything's just fine.

OK, now, why am I like this?

Well, when my mother
was pregnant with me, -

the first trimester
of her pregnancy,

- she got the morning sickness,
which a lot of ladies do.

And at the time,
a pharmaceutical company-

- was aggressively promoting
a brand new wonder drug-

- and cure for morning sickness.

And so upon the
suggestion of her doctor,

my mother took this drug
three times in one week.

It was called Thalidomide,
a very famous drug.

And I was brought into this
world with these small, -

- perfectly deformed limbs.

But it got rid of the morning
sickness, so it wasn't all bad.

This condition is
called phocomelia, -

- which means seal-like limbs.

And as you can see, my
arms maybe do resemble-

- the flippers of a seal.

That's the sound
of the microphone-

- knocking against what I have.

Growing up, my dominating
thing was not to concentrate-

- on the disability.

Because that would
mean negative attention, -

- people taking their
piss out of me and stuff.

So I sidestepped it all
and was in denial of it.

And any style tribe opportunity
that came along where I could-

- say, I'm a punk, or I'm...
anything other than, -

- I'm the school cripple,
was obviously attractive to me.

And way back when
punk started, if you-

- saw another punk on the
other side of the street, -

- you'd nod to each other.

Suddenly, people were
nodding and acknowledging-

- me and not pointing at my arms.

This is new.

I'm a drummer as well, you know.

It was huge.

I was like, wow.

So I was so seduced by that,
hook, line, and sinker way-

- into it.

And of course,
ironically, at the time, -

- disability identity
politics was just starting.

And I missed out on the
whole first wave of that.

Because I didn't want
anything to do with it.

When you have your arm
around each other like that, -

- that's fine.

It just looks like you're old friends.

Oh, we have to shut the door now.

You can't film this.

I'm sorry.

I'm sorry, Beth.

We'd all regret it.

Cotton candy spray.

And this is, um, left over
butter from my lobster act-

- that I scoop off the stage.


All right, whoa.

God, I hope my neighbors aren't
having their garage sale today.

They always have a
garage sale on Saturdays.

Oh, this is going to be awkward.

Are they out there?

No, it's quiet.

OK, where's Dan?

Oh, they are having their
garage sale, I knew it.


Are you ready?

Is that it?


Hi, Brittany

There's a group of people that-

- are like-minded and that
are your real community-

- and your real soul
mates and are thinking-

- the exact same
thoughts as you and are-

- sharing your same corner
of the collective unconscious.

And that's your tribe.

Oh, too bad,
no neighbors saw me.

All we have now is, -

- you know, sort of
superficial corporate community.

And having your
tribe is your real people-

- that you share the same,
you know, heart feelings with.

You look like a zombie mermaid.

I do?

Uh huh.

Look at that lady's face
over there... slack-jawed.

We're on our way to Coney.

Sue's gonna get that, I think.

Sue, you gonna get
that or no?

Thank you.

Sure, have fun.


Hi, how are you?

Look how hot you are.


How you doing?


...artist of her generation and
of my life and my experience...

Bambi the Mermaid.

I came up through the glittery-

- gutters of the tawdry
things I loved most, which-

- was the carnival and sideshow.

And I've just always
really been intrigued-

- by a scurvy character.

They're so much more
colorful and interesting looking-

- to me than some physical ideal.

And I don't really like to
perpetuate perfection at all.

Because I think that flaws
are a lot more interesting.

I really think every
woman should feel super-

- comfortable in their own skin.

I'm most famous for laying eggs.

That's kind of my gimmick.

It came out the tradition
of sort of, you know, -

- Baltimore and John Waters
and all the things I love.

What the world projects as normal, -

- it's just such an illusion.

It's such a fantasy.

And I love that fantasy, you know?

I buy into it.

That's who I love to be, you know?

This big, vivacious blonde with
gorgeous eyelashes and lips-

- and boobs and a
small waste and a butt-

- and, you know,
all that sexy feminine-

- just like juicy wonderfulness.

But I think it's just got
to be, there's got to be-

- more to it than that, you know?

And I guess that's really
one of the strong themes-

- that runs through my work,
is that this-

- is all just an illusion.

I can put it on,
and I can fake you out.

But it's much more
complicated than that.

Onstage, offstage, Bunny Love
slash Lyn Gathright, the two-

- personas sometimes make
it difficult to have relationships-

- with people in the world.

It's not that easy to take
sometimes, all that fucking-

- vagina in your face.

And I think that can been
intimidating for some people-

- men, you know?

That's the people
I'm talking about.

A lot of times, when people
have seen me perform, -

- they already have, like, this image.

They've already made
so many evaluations-

- and judgments about me.

And I think a lot of
times it's hard for people-

- to separate that person who
does things on stage and me.

I'm actually one of
the performers that-

- finds it difficult to
separate the public-

- and the personal persona.

Because I feel very much
that I'm just being myself on-

- stage, a heightened version
of myself, of course, -

- and a stylized version, but me.

Never in the history of this show-

- have we ever seen
anything so degrading-

- and offensive and disgusting.

Thank you, Amsterdam.

If there's anything
that I know is socially-

- as a whole unaccepted,
I love to just pull it out-

- and put it in people's faces.

Some girls were
calling me and saying, -

- how do we cover up cellulite?

I said, with glitter and a spotlight.

Make it sparkle and let them see it.

Everyone is scared.

It doesn't matter what you look like,

who you are,
how much money you have, -

- how big your butt is,
how tiny your boobs are.

It doesn't matter.

The one thing I've
learned is no matter-

- how much you think
somebody has it together, -

- they're scared of something.

So the person you want
to be that's in the room-

- is just as scared as you.

So it's just a
sense of acceptance.

That's what I like
to bring to the stage.

But also I like, as a performer,
when I open that door, -

- to hand them the key when
I walk off stage, that they can-

- open the door for themselves.

When I go on the subway now,
and I walk into a subway car,

I look around and I'm like,
I bet everyone in here-

- has been in love once.

So it doesn't matter if
it's the guy with the change-

- jar and three teeth or the
Hispanic woman with four-

- kids or the stockbroker.

I'm like, you know what?

We all have something in common.

But we're moving to,
we have some stuff on-site though.

It's slowly going away.

Hi, cutey.

Sorry, interrupting.

There she is.


I've done a really good job-

- of seeking out the
family that I wanted-

- and having them
be a part of my life.

And no matter
where you come from, -

- you can reach out and
create a family ahead of you.

Yeah, yeah.

So, um, do we need to do a wash?

Well, that's what I was going for.

I was like, I went into there.

But we can't do a
wash right now, can we?

I don't know, how
long does it take?

I don't know, but it's got to
go into the wash and the dryer.

We'll have to do it
first, we'll have to do-

- it when we get up tomorrow.


We have sandwiches.

Oh, great.

That's what it is.

: We met in 2006.

We did meet May the 5th, 2006.

I remember, because May the
5th is quite early in the season-

- at Coney Island.

I didn't want to do the show.

And I was like humming and hawing.

Because I was already working
the side show during the days.

Dick Zigun and The Great Fredini
both independently came up-

- to me and said,
there's a performer-

- that's playing tonight on the bill-

- that I think you're
really going to like.

Dick was saying, she's the best
performer around at the moment.-

Don't you think my hair looks good?

It looks great.

He's not even looking.

And I was like, oh, right.

But as soon as I saw Julie,
and she was doing The Hand, -

- the first thing I ever
saw her do... I was like, -

- whoa, hold on a minute.

Who's this?

What the fuck is this?



God, no.

I often wondered why
these gorgeous women-

- don't have more men running
after them and more partners.

But a lot of the time,
if they're straight, that is.

But a lot of the time, men
are just damn scared of them.

Yeah, that's true.

Men are just damn scared.

Damn scared.

Because they are these powerful
women with intelligent minds-

- and voices to go with the T&A.

I love Pina Baucsh And
I wept when she died.

She was a very famous,
like the quintessential choreographer-

- who was like skinny, dry,
wore black, very serious, -

- with a cigarette in
her hand the entire time.

It's in quite a bit of my numbers.

You know, you see one cigarette,
and then another cigarette, -

- and then another cigarette.

Because once you're
smoking the first cigarette, -

- you forget that you're smoking it.

You want another one,
and then another one.

It is about addiction to a bad thing.

I perform for the ladies of the house.

Stripping is for the male gaze.

Advertising is for the male gaze.

You're looking at an image of a
woman seen through a male gaze.

And so you see
through the male gaze, too.

So it's like double lenses.

But burlesque isn't about that.

Burlesque is about the female
gaze on the female movement.

So it really is about women loving-

- women in almost
every form as long-

- as you've got cute shoes on.

So Julie's take

on burlesque is that it's
empowered women celebrating-

- themselves for other
women through a female gaze, -

- I want to be a powerful
disabled person with the language-

- of success and
power and use it and not-

- be the objectified freak,
be the self-knowing suave-

- guy who's also a freak.

Short, red haired, left
handed, brainy fagot, you know?

There's built-in transgressions.

There are a lot of things
that aren't going to match up.

I'm not going to be like the
kid next to me, so why try?

In terms of that drama between
audience and performer, -

- it's this willingness to entertain.

I mean, for me, when I see
every straight man in a room-

- go, oh, jeez, ridiculously
painted up fagot, -

- and they know I'm
going to get naked, -

- and they're just thinking, oh
man, I did not pay for this, -

- at the end of it, those are the
exact guys who will be going, -

- dude, man, I can't believe it.

When you came on, I was like,
oh, shit, yo, I can't be... no.

But then you were like...
holy fuck, man, -

- that was, like, incredible.

Let me buy you a drink, man.

That was great.

How did you get into this?

And whatever.

I mean, to me, what I came in for, -

- and what I came into,
was relating-

- to other freaks and outsiders.

So if you have
some sense of that,

if you come from the island
of misfit toys, you belong.

For some reason,
I always think of myself-

- as being celibate for 30 years.

But in fact it's 27 years.

Now, the contradiction is
that in my performances, -

- I'm using sexuality as theater.

So in a way,
it's really an externalization-

- of my sexuality.

And you could say
that I'm an exhibitionist.

But I don't use it as a
means of self-stimulation.

I'm imagining that my first time
on stage with my new breasts-

- will be quite remarkable.

It's still legal.

It's still a part of me
that I haven't shown.

And what I've only shown
has been, effectively, a mask.

And I've lived in that mask.

And I live in that mask.

Well, the problem is is this.

This shouldn't be there.

The red one, which is
what I said in the first place.

Uh, we'll just... uh.

I will get... look,
I've got the chair here, honey.

: You know, -

- by the very nature
of being a performer, -

- you need a large ego.

I've got to tune my ukulele,
place it, do everything.

It's not my job.

There's a chair right here.

There's a chair right here.

Not my job, not my job.

You're going to be fantastic.

You always are.

They say, oh, -

- performers are so egotistical.

I'm like, well, what, do you
think normal people could-

- go on stage and just
demand the attention-

- of thousands of people?

It takes someone.

It takes a bigger ego
to be able to do that.

And I think both of us were never-

- used to having another one just
as big as ours to accommodate.


I don't want to come out.


Why don't you want to come out?

I hate my costume.

Why don't we give him
a little encouragement.

Here we are now.

People like us together.

Back in the 1930s,
we would have been together if we-

- were in show biz, you know?

Oh no, you've got red
marks from, you've-

- got seating marks.

There's one, two, three, four, five.

We would have been in
the tents next to each other.

The hoochie coochie
girl and the freakshow-

- were next to each other.

Yeah, they were.

And it is nice to resonate
that and bring it back.

Now women have been emancipated.

Disabled people are
allowed out of the back room.

So now the showgirl
is the producer-

- and the freak is the host, instead-

- of PT Barnum being at the helm.

And so it's a kind of whole
postmodern swirling twist where-

- we arrive back at where we started-

- but with a whole heap of knowledge-

- that's shared with the audience.

That doesn't mean anything.

But it sounded good.

Yes it's only a canvas
sky hanging over a muslin tree.

But it wouldn't be make believe...

The first time, like the first
or second time Mat and I ever, -

- I mean, slept together,
like slept, like slept together, -

- and I saw him lying,
and you were snoring-

- on your back with your mouth
open and your hands like this, -

- and I was like, oh my gosh.

And that was the last time
that I got sort of like, was-

- aware of your difference.

And for me,
I was aware of your difference-

- was when you were like, no,
I need another 45 minutes.

I have to put my makeup on.

And then you got out,
like, a suitcases of makeup.

I was like, ooh.

But that was the last,
now I'm totally used to it.

And it seems normal to me now.

Have I said something wrong?


It's a Barnum and Bailey world.

We are where we are
where we are right now.

I'm just taking
this moment to really-

- acknowledge it and enjoy it.

Because we don't...
I particularly am guilty of...

I'm guilty.

If you believed in me.

Everything went well.

God bless you.

That's your first
shot of anaesthesia.



Something, huh?

Soup and cookies.

You know, what it takes for us-

- to reconcile that child
with the world that is full-

- of horrors and terrors,
joys, fears, -

- how do you then find your
way to that simple place, just-

- that really unencumbered
response to life?

And, ah... and how hard it can be
and what we have to go through-

- to find that again for ourselves, -

- and how tricky that is, you know, -

- to find that way back to
that simple joy of who we are.

I have a concern about the streets.

Because these
won't hide comfortably.

And there'll be no
getting around the fact-

- that I have breasts.

And so I'm going to have to
deal with quite a response.

I get called a lot of names.

And every now and then,
there's a physical threat, -

- real or implied.

So that's a challenge, you know?

I have a very thick skin.

I have the wherewithal
to take care of myself.

But it can be a lot.

And it informs my
burlesque frequently.

Part of who I am,
on a bad day, I-

can be a little bit
like a cat that's been

- kicked a few too many times.

Post-surgery has
been the beginning-

- of a discovery process for me.

I'm finding that I
am more embracing-

- of these dark feelings
and parts of myself-

- that I couldn't really
even approach before.

I think that there's a value
to a kind of horror and terror-

- in performance, and that
ideally what you're doing-

is bringing people back to,
like reestablish their own lines-

- of what's normal for them.

Like, you know, what
I saw is too far.

So then you're left with,
well, OK, what's normal?

What's the right amount?

People come to clubs
with a kind of ADD.

And they're not focused.

They're there to loosen
up and to lose their focus-

- and to get a little
woozy and a little drunk-

- and a little in the mood.

And suddenly they're
being demanded-

- by threat to pay attention.

The idea is that the
experience of theater-

- be so strong that you
simply can't walk away from it-

- unchanged.

Terrorism has become
such a big word these days.

We're on the look-out for terrorists.

How, then, do you
purge that from the mind?

I mean, this is
something that kids always-

- will have nightmares
about the boogie man.

But how do you,
what about adults?

We have our boogie men, too.

And how do you then go about
addressing the boogie man-

- in the adult mind?

What do you do to get rid of it?

Traditionally, -

- disability and sexuality
are not bedfellows-

- that anyone wants to welcome.

Is it because we're,
is it the fear of producing-

- a disabled offspring?

Is it?

I don't know what it is.

But it manifests in disabled people-

- not getting as much
action as they should get.

That's all I know.

And I want to change
that where at all possible.

And if we can show it
out on stage, and then-

- that could reflect in real life.

Because, you know, life
does imitate art, after all.

So if anybody feels delicate
around the issue of disability-

- and crippledness and
mutations and things like that, -

- you're probably at the wrong
show, ladies and gentlemen.

All right, because yes,
we do want to celebrate.

I operate on the fringes.

People don't want mean in a soap.

I'm not going to be in "All the Family."

And so I'm like, OK, well,
I'll do the extreme projects.

I like them anyway.

Politically they suite me.

And I don't want to be mainstream.

I'm a punk, you know?

Actually, I do want to be mainstream.

I want to be accepted as an equal.

And in burlesque, I am.

Glory, glory, hallelujah, -

- his truth is marching on.

It's very liberating
when you see your own life-

- finally reflecting on stage.

I never have done, disabled
people traditionally don't see-

- their life reflected on stage.

And when they do, it's written
by somebody that doesn't know-

- what they're talking about.

So it doesn't reflect their reality.

I have become this
├╝ber-confident person.

Because again, this persona
that I've become on stage, -

- and is allowed to be by the
audiences and everything, -

- and developed by the audiences
and my relationship with them, -

- has bled into my real life.

Or maybe it's just
that I finally realized-

- I'm actually an OK guy.

It doesn't really
matter if I have flippers, -

- and that people can
still like me anyway.

Glory, glory, hallelujah, -

- his truth is marching on.

His truth is marching on.