Jul 31, 2014

Burlesque Babes, Helen's Crazy Dream, Plus Tiki Tribe Tats, Robin's Giggles And A Spoon-Fed Secret Song!

A few years back, "Burlesque," a movie starring the pre-bloat Christina Aguilera and a plasticine-faced Cher, purported to reveal the world of nouveau-burlesque. It's since become a minor camp classic (I say "minor" because, yes, it's unintentionally funny, but not quite awful and funny enough to qualify as major). Sadly, the dancing wasn't all that good. It was "magazine-ish sexy" in the vein of old MTV videos or Dita Von Teese, and though I grudgingly admire Ms. Dita's business acumen (so much renown for such little effort), what she does is not real burlesque. This, ladies and germs, is burlesque:

If you and yours have a burning desire to dance and swing like the buxom broad above (and I don't know why you wouldn't) then you'll need proper musical accompaniment. And honest, I can't think of anything better for such moves than 2011's "Burlesque Swing," a primo compilation that'll keep you up off your knees with new and newly-restored tunes like "Peroxide Swing," "Marijuana Cha Cha Cha," and "Pap's In Bed With His Britches On" (the only misstep is a semi-annoying remix of "Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend," but you can uncheck it, as I have, on your iTunes, or just delete it).

I know, I know, just thinking of classic burlesque babes has you dreaming of Miss Lili St. Cyr, pictured below (and who can blame you?). Fear not, for if you click on Miss St. Cyr, you'll unlock a treasure trove of high-quality pictures featuring not only Miss St. Cyr, but practically every noted burlesque performer from the 40s and 50s. Let's call this a Cheerful Eyeful. Snatch 'em fast! They're perfect for careful and studious examination (*cough*). Oh, and if there are any drag queens out there, learn-learn-learn from these pictures. They're a complete tutorial.

Why look, Helen Forrest is striking her own pose below - with clothes on, of course. And dig the wall-mounted instruments! This is the look for any swelligant living room or redone basement.

If you've heard of Helen Forrest, it's probably because she's sometimes referred to as a utilitarian "girl singer" for popular big bands, from Benny Goodman to Artie Shaw and more. But that's a backhanded compliment, I think, and in this Cheerfully Helen Exclusive! just for you, you'll hear all the highlights from her big band career, and realize, as I have, that she doesn't just hold her own with her bandmates, she's one of them. Throughout, she makes subtle adjustments in tone to match the pitch of various instruments, her voice riding just on top. "I made myself fit to the music," she once said.

Helen was also a tough cookie. As a child, when her stepfather turned her house into a brothel and tried to cop a feel, little Helen came at him with kitchen knife - and slashed him good. Always the trooper, she was still touring in the 1990s, even as she was going deaf - yet with no loss of quality in terms of her singing. "Don't worry, kiddo," it was reported she'd told her accompanist, "I know where all the notes are."

Meanwhile, having tattoos used to mean you were a rough sailor or rough trade (or something rough). Now it means...not much of anything, because everyone has tattoos these days, even models like the one below (who seems positively enamored with his chair cushion) (yet who can blame him?). Are women impressed by this? Maybe, maybe not. But then women have been adorning themselves to lure their mates for eons, so this is hardly anything new.

So what prompted the tattoo craze of the last fifteen years? I say tiki! No, for reals. You can never have enough tiki tribe-ish tats (of course you can), and you certainly can't have enough (good) tiki music, especially when you're lounging with friends and kibitzing and chitchatting and whatnot and such like.

What is tiki, you ask? It's tropical jazz, and though some will claim that it was "born" in the 1950s, I'm willing to wager that it's been around a lot longer than that. In the truly fine 2011 compilation below, you'll thrill to the tiki sound and vibe by artists like Johnny Poi and his Surfboards (their "Tahu Wahu Wahi" is irresistible), Johnny Pineapple, as well as Michel Magne & Jimmy Virani, whose "Come Closer To Me" is quintessential tiki. Just go easy on the tats, okay? And never get a tramp stamp. They're so-o-o tacky.

Below, a recent picture of Glenn Close and Robin Williams. Back in the 1980s, in the movie "The World According to Garp," she played his mother. His. Mother. Yeah, I know (still, they were both outstanding). And look! Now he looks like her dotty, durp-ish older brother. But, hey, times change.

What doesn't seem to change is Robin's ability to get a laugh - despite drug addiction, heart surgery and a whole mess of mishaps and ailments. I was fully prepared to chuckle when I listened to his stint at the Met Opera House from 1986, and of course I did. I even laughed out loud a few times. To say that it holds up well is a huge understatement. It's a classic.

Yet I wasn't prepared to laugh even more (and louder) while listening to his performance at Washington DC's Constitution Hall from 2010. It may have something to do with the fact that his political humor, especially, is still topical (the bits on Sarah Palin and Dick Cheney are brutally funny), but it could also be that he's simply a better, still-evolving stand-up performer. Imagine. A major star who isn't content to merely stagnate profitably. If you haven't heard this, you're in for a real treat.

The Secret Song File likes to surprise her friends, especially in the shower. Why? Because we're all so vulnerable there, what with our bits and bobs flopping all about. If she could steal your soul, she would. In fact, she, um, really-really wants your soul (*cough*). And, yes, she'll eat it with a spoon (*cough*cough*).

Speaking of spoons and other utensils, a certain Texas rock group has a new CD coming out (or "dropping," as the tiki-tatted kids say), and it's consistently fabulous, maybe because the music is more sophisticated than run-of-the-mill pop-rock. Let's just hope and pray that they don't stagnate profitably as their popularity increases (like some rock groups do) (oh, no I di'nt!).

Yes, I did, I really did!

Remember, you can't show us your burlesque moves in the comments, but you can tell us about them, if you like!


tony said...

My dad was a sax player. He traveled around with his combo. He always sent me souvenirs where he did a gig. He loved getting a charge out of my reaction to whatever he sent, one of which was a 8x10 glossy of a Terri "Cupcake" O'Toole, "exotic dancer." I still laugh how my dad tried to "educate" me every time I look at that photo...and what's that about those tassels....? ha ha.

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

How lucky you are to have such a cool dad! I always figured the tassels were for the "motion." And, of course, as a helpful eye exam for medical purposes. ;)

L'apprenti-poète said...

thanks great post as always.

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

You're welcome,Martin! :)

Jim said...

Just adore your musical taste and sensibility. Thank you!

Any chance of a re-up for the Helen Forrest "I Had the Craziest Dream" compilation?

The Cheerful Earfull! said...

Voila! Helen just for you!

Jim said...

You are a saint. Thank you for the Helen!