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Honeydew La Roux Oral History Interview, January 19, 2020

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LAURIE KURUTZ: Today is January 19th, 2020, my name is Laurie Kurutz, pronouns she/hers. Would you please introduce yourself, say your pronouns if you care to, and tell us all the things you do.

HONEYDEW LA ROUX: I'm Honeydew La Roux. I perform also as Lolita Von Honeydew. I am she and her. I'm a Burlesque performer and I do performance art as part of a troupe collaboration. Spoken word, poetry, singing sometimes. I'm married to a lovely musician, and I have a lovely dog.

LK: Great, so, we'll start with a big question, what is Burlesque?


HLR: I guess Burlesque- I can only answer that for what that is for me. It's just an opportunity to express myself in a way that I can be telling a story. I have a background in writing, and storytelling, and it just seems to me to be another way to convey a story. Be that transforming from like clothed to unclothed I guess. There's a bit of tease that keeps people intrigued, I think that's what's fun about it. Sometimes your tits come out, sometimes they don't, that's tease too. Yeah, I don't know, I think that's what it is for me anyway.

LK: How do you describe the kind of Burlesque that you do?


HLR: I guess it's very eclectic. I do a lot of different things. I like to try to always use music from the African diaspora, although lately I have not, but when I first began, that was kind of my intention, to- I didn't want to do just, like, strut n' strip, and St. James Infirmary, and what everyone else was doing. So I guess mine is kind of eclectic. It depends, like, I've done a lot of political stuff, done some strutting n' stripping, and it's kind of all over the board. Depends on my vibe I guess.


LK: Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

HLR: I was born in Connecticut. Plainville, Connecticut. Just like it sounds. Then went to school, College of Boston, Northeastern University. I have a degree in criminal justice. Then moved out to California, and then to Oregon.

LK: How long have you been in Oregon?

HLR: Fourteen years.

LK: What brought you here?

HLR: I had a friend who was- I was living in the Bay before I moved to Portland, and I had a friend who also lived there. She and her husband moved to Oregon. They would consistently send us emails to say, when somebody- saying like, here's what you can buy in Portland, here's what you can buy for the same price in Oakland. So after much haranguing, we came up, and were like "yeah, we should move to Portland." My husband just had to be near an airport because he travels 00:04:00for his work, so it worked out great. Then being able to come up here, I started my massage therapy practice, and it was much easier to do it here, because you can get your license for the state, and not by the county like how it is in the Bay. So, I started doing that then as well.

LK: How do you get from a degree in criminal justice to a massage therapy?

HLR: Well, after working in the field for a little while, my first intent when I went to school was "I'm going to be an attorney." Then I worked for an attorney, and I was like "nah, not really liking that so much." Like, I didn't want- I realized what it took to be an attorney and I realized that path wasn't for me. So, when I moved to California, I had always been able to take away people's 00:05:00pain but I would store it. Like, I'd get your headache, or I'd get your stomach ache, or whatever. And so, I thought, well, I bet if- I mean, there's a class. I'm not the only person that that is true for. So, I looked around and I found the Acupressure Institute in Berkeley, and took some classes, and learned how to like, be able to do the work without taking it [the pain] on. And I love it. It's the best work I've ever done. Ever.

LK: How long have you been doing it?

HLR: Fourteen years.

LK: Fourteen years.

HLR: I guess, oh, no, I didn't really answer you. I was working for an attorney, and I started working for personal injury attorneys. I was working for personal injury attorneys, and I was working on the - the- the defense side for an asbestos company- which was super gross. But then from there, I moved onto the 00:06:00plaintiff side, and started doing personal injury, and car accidents. Stuff like this. I was doing paralegal work for the attorneys. I just kept finding myself around people's pain, one way or another.

Finally, I went to massage school, and was like "Oh, this is what I'm supposed to be doing. Like, that's why you keep bringing me in spaces where I'm like managing people's pain. Like here's this whole family who was in a car accident, and I have to get all your information, how can I help you? And I was- So, yeah. I got to that side of it, I was like "oh, that's what I'm supposed to do." so, the law got me there. So, I guess, you know. You're on the path you're supposed to be on.

LK: What path lead you to performance?

HLR: My whole family are musicians. My grandmother played the organ, my mother plays the bass, my sister plays the bass, my other sister sings. I've been performing or onstage since I was like three or four. My mom played gigs, and 00:07:00she was a single mom, didn't have a babysitter, so, she'd take me to the gig. I'd play the tambourine, and then go sleep next to the base amp. She'd bring the sleeping bag, like, just my whole- kinda always been out there doing something.

So, when I found- I finally started doing Burlesque, I was in the Bay, and did spoken word, and was part of several artist collectives there. In college I was singing, in high school I was singing, and I was singing with my family. When I got to Portland, I didn't really have a creative outlet so to speak. I was focusing on doing the massage- and I mean, there's creative outlets in there, but it's separate.

So, when a friend of mine, I was coming home from traveling, and she was like, "oh, come take this class with me." It was like a week- or a two-hour workshop on a Saturday. It was Burlesque. It was a workshop with ZVP [performer and teacher Zora Pavonine], and I was like "Oh, this is cool. I can try to do this." 00:08:00Then I started doing it, and was like this is all- this is all the things. You know, I could be telling a story, I could be singing, you know. I could be creating a costume, and like that's a whole other thing. And yeah- and so, I felt like it was all the things I like to do in one thing. Yeah, yeah. Is that what you asked me? Did I get to that?

LK: It is.

HLR: I did a lot of rambling.

LK: No, it's good. And so, sorry, you might've said this. In what year did you start doing Burlesque?

HLR: Oh, up to- what is it? 2010. August of 2010.

LK: What did you- did you say Rose City School of Burlesque?

HLR: I did go there, yeah. But I went to ZVP's class, it was just like a weekend thing. Zora Von Pavonine. I don't know if I'm saying that correctly.

LK: Yes, thank you.


HLR: I took a class with her. So, yeah, she was my first teacher, and then on to Rose City School after that.

LK: So, you moved to Portland, what's the Burlesque community like here?

HLR: I mean, you know, every kind of community goes through its hills and valleys. I think it's alright. I don't know, I don't know how to answer that. I feel, I mean, if they go to a show, the community is cool. I feel like I first started - it used to feel like- it seemed a little more family when I first started, and now I feel like it's a little more scattered. I'm not sure if that's good or bad, but I feel like it's certainly something I feel like I miss from the community. But the community, it keeps evolving and changing, so of 00:10:00course that's gonna happen. Yeah.

LK: Is that because the number of shows, and troupes and such have grown? Is there more Burlesque now?

HLR: No, I think it's the same amount of Burlesque. There's a lot, a lot, a lot of Burlesque. I think there's a lot more opportunities now than when I first started performing. There's more people producing. Yeah, I mean, it's fine. It's the community.

LK: And speaking of producing, do you have producing experience?

HLR: Well, when I was living in the Bay, I was a part of this collective called HerStory. We used to produce events with spoken word artists, and while they were doing their thing, there would be a live artist painting, or sculpting something. Usually the show would've begun with DJs playing music, and we had 00:11:00spun off into this Soul Sisters Kitchen thing, and we would have people cooking, and yeah. Production. We had put out a couple of shows. I had a friend that had an art gallery in Oakland. I put on a few spoken word events there. Some production, no Burlesque production yet. I took a class for it, and was like I could probably do this. But, I don't know. I'm almost fifty, I'm kind of tired. I'm happy to just stay up late and perform myself, than put that whole thing together, but yeah.

LK: What have you noticed about the audiences in Portland? Who's the audience who's typically drawn to Burlesque?

HLR: I don't know. I feel like typically I walk out on stage, I'm like, oh, who are these people? It's always different than what I expect. Every time. Every 00:12:00time. Every time. Sometimes, I'm like there's not going to be anybody in here. And I walk out and I'm like "okay, here's a full house." I mean, it's great. I am always amazed. Always. A lot of the time it's new people, and I'm like wow. I feel like we're so out there, you know? Everyone should already be coming, but no, there's always plenty more people to find out about it.

LK: And by "out there," you mean? What do you mean?

HLR: I mean like, more- there's- I feel like more people know that there's entertainment that people could be searching out for Burlesque. Like, it could be a weekend, I'm gonna go see music, I'm gonna go see a play, I'm gonna go- but now, people are- like, oh, there's Burlesque too. Like, I feel like our city is starting to be a little bit known for it. Frankly, you can see Burlesque almost every night. Like, there was a while that you could. So yeah, it's fun. 00:13:00Audiences are fun. Sometimes it's like Bachelorette parties, and that's a little bit weird, but whatever, everybody tips, it's fine, money's great, it's cool.

LK: You do shows locally, but have you done- do you travel to perform at festivals?

HLR: I performed at the What The Funk!?! Festival in Seattle. That's really the only festival I've done. But I've traveled out of town to perform, up in Seattle, down in Southern Oregon, I've done a few shows in LA. Yeah, mostly West Coast things.

LK: And what's What The Funk!?!

HLR: What The Funk!?! festival was an all Person of Color festival up in Seattle. It was the first ever in the Pacific Northwest. It was three days, and 00:14:00it was all funk music. When I did their original What The Funk!?! it was just a weekender. It was Friday and Saturday night, and Pucks [performer producer Mx. Pucks A'Plenty] had me down- er, up, to do both nights of that. When we were backstage one night, we were all- one, we just didn't realize how much we needed to do that. Yeah, it was really awesome.

LK: How do you mean "needed to?"

HLR: Well, okay. It was- we were talking earlier about the community and scene, or whatever, and like, Portland is White. Like, it's White here. And I grew up in a very White place as well, and so I'm comfortable in that. It didn't- when I went and did this festival, it was all Black folks in the room, I was with all my people. It was like "damn", I didn't realize that was something I was missing.


And then after I did it, I was like, "mm, kind of only want to do Black people shows now." So there's a whole other- I don't know- doing another thing with my work. Or, at least when I'm looking for doing for other shows. It was nice that there was something that was created, because I felt like- certainly something I felt like I was doing in Burlesque was not fitting into these things. Like here's a festival, and like, "you don't have to"- everybody tells you don't have to, but you fucking did. You have to have the sparkliest thing, you have to have this, and you have to have a glove peel, and you have to have stockings, and blah blah blah. And it's like, it just looks like the same thing over and over and over. I just didn't see where what I was doing fit into any of that.

And then, I did What The Funk!?!, and not only was it all Black folx. I could also do whatever I wanted, and I like to do weird stuff. And nobody was like 00:16:00"that's not Burlesque." Not that anyone ever said "that's not Burlesque," but I wasn't getting booked, so take it how you want to take it. Then when we did the festival this last year, there was like twice as much. Because what I feel like- when we did it last year, I'm pretty sure most of the people were either from Seattle, or Portland.

This last year, there were people from all over the country. And we were all like- so it was just- just like a- it was great. It was just great. And what I really needed, and Pucks kept saying "we'll be back in 2021, and I'm like "why? Why can't we be back next week?" And why- and I understand that it took a lot to put together, and to- I didn't mention that in any way, but I'm just "like do it." Do it again.


LK: You're referring to, Mx. Pucks, who's one of the producers. So, are there opportunities for POCs and producers and shows here in Portland?

HLR: I mean sure, if you wanna do that. I think there's opportunity, but I think it's hard. I mean, I've seen some people do it, and do it very well, and there are some folks are just as talented, don't get the same exposure, or draw, or- I don't know why.

LK: You're very busy. You have a full time job that you do that supports this art. You have a life. Just paint us a picture of a typical week for you, what you do when you're putting all that together.


HLR: Like if I have a show and my life? Well, I run my massage therapy business, and I have a shop. That's four days a week, and hands on. I treat about twenty to twenty five people a week and then all the admin of that. Then I either wake up super early and glue things, or choreograph, and then I do the show. Set alarms so that I wake up and go. That kind of stuff.

But yeah, I mean putting acts together is just... I feel like I've been doing it for ten years and I feel like every act is like new. It could be a song that I'm like "I need to do something to that song," or I'll have had fabric, and I'll do 00:19:00something with that. I'll have had it for years, and I'll be like "oh that's the song that goes with that weird feathery thing." For me, there's no rhyme or reason to it. I get inspired by different things. Or someone will be like "hey, do you want to do the show? Do you want to put something together for this?" and I'm like either I can, or I can't. But usually I can because- I don't know, there's definitely something to the challenge of seeing if you can make that come across. Like, I think of things sometimes, and I'm like "oh, if that comes off, I could do this other thing."

But then I realize I don't have this skill to build this thing or- Like, my mother, she's a seamstress and fashion designer from like way back. She sewed my whole life too. So I thought surely, I know how to sew. I could string up the machine, I could thread the machine, like, I know what I'm doing. I don't know 00:20:00what I'm doing! My seams are crazy.

And I'll show stuff to my mom, and she's like "let me see that seam", and I'm like "nobody look at my seams." Ten foot rule, nobody can see that. So yeah, it's just the challenge of how you can make it- you can make it go. Are you gonna look at some of- when I first started performing, I really thought I could do all these things, and I had no idea freakin' idea of what I was doing. I was standing in Michaels with like weird ribbon, and this, and some glue. And I'm like, "can I glue these things together? Can I sew?" and like, I messed up a lot of needles being like "I can do this fur-, well, I guess I can't. Well, nobody is gonna see that." And like hand stitch the rest of it. That's why I say I'm a renegade put together-er.

And I have giant boobs! That's a whole other thing. Like you think about how things are gonna look, or how they are put together, and then you're like "yeah, 00:21:00that's not. That won't stay. That doesn't stay because these are intensely big." Like maybe just a triangle- like what- that's gonna do nothing, it's all gonna fall out. And not timed.

LK: I've noticed there's a Heavy Metal and Burlesque connection here in Portland?

HLR: Yeah, the Sign of The Beast gals. The Sign of The Beast Burlesque, they have a Burlesque festival, if I think about it, for over two years. They invited me to be part of it, of the '80s hair Metal show. Which I'm gonna be singing at- It'll be fine

LK: You're going to be singing Heavy Metal?

HLR: Yeah, I'm going to be singing Motley Crue. I sang in a band in high school. 00:22:00So- I'm almost fifty so let's put it out there. I sang the song in high school that I'm going to be singing at this hair Metal show, because I loved hair Metal. Oh my god. I was there.

LK: There's a lot of talk about cultural appropriation. What's the discussion about that and Burlesque, and how do you deal with that?

HLR: I mean, I like to call it out if I see it. I don't think I do it, I think I'm thoughtful about it because I'm a Black woman. I don't know. I might appropriate things, I don't think. I think it's important to call it out when you see it. I think that our community, at least in my experience, was for some 00:23:00time- I'd say reaching out with kindness to say "hey, because if you take this somewhere, someone's not going to be quite as nice to you about how horribly racist this thing is." But, you know. I don't know. I don't want to say I stay out of it, but there's a lot of people who I think speak better to it than I. I just get kind of irritated, and kind of brush it to the side and don't- like I won't work with that person, or I won't like- I don't have time for teaching. There's Google, and you should know better. Frankly, that's what I think.

LK: You already talked about diversity in Burlesque. About how Portland is a 00:24:00White town, and the POC shows and their importance. I noticed you are part of a group, Brown Girls Super Magic. What is that and how did that come about?

HLR: That's Lola. Lola and Sandria and Satira, they asked me to do- what was the first thing- I think the first thing was a Beyoncé tribute Burlesque thing. And it's funny, like we have gone around so many times about what the name of the group is, and I think if you were to ask each person about this, you would get a different name. Because with my understanding it was Brown Girl Magic Super Group. But it might not be that. And yeah it was super fun. All those gals were, I think way better performers than I am for sure. So, to be invited to be a part of that was pretty fun.


I don't know, I just think Burlesque is hilarious. Like, me doing Burlesque in my mind, like separated from doing it, I think is the most hilarious thing ever. So, we go and do this Beyoncé thing, and we're all dressed up in our shorts and our flannel shirts, and it was hilarious. It was great, but I think it was hilarious to me. Then three of us got together and did a holiday- a Christmas act. Which also was hilarious, I don't know, I just like to have a good time. It was great to work with those guys, and I'm sure we'll do more things. But Lola, she's busy. I just wait for the call and show up.

LK: People in Burlesque say it empowers them, what's your take on that?


HLR: I mean, I guess it empowers people. I feel comfortable onstage, I enjoy performing, so I don't feel like it empowers me, it's just part of my deal, like, I'm performing now or whatever. I had people come to me and "oh, you're so brave" and "I could never do that," and, I don't know, I'm not jumping off of nothing. I'm not running a freaking marathon, or that shit. I guess this is my marathon, or my- and I guess it's empowering. I guess sometimes I feel empowered, because I can use that platform to express myself in ways- like, I have an act that is- speaks to the political climate that we're in right now. I feel fortunate that I can use Burlesque to express that, or teach people, or 00:27:00share what my experience is as a regular black lady living. So, yeah, there's some empowerment there, certainly.

I feel like sometimes that's the only way I can express those things, is through my Burlesque. Without feeling for one- usually when you're performing- well, anything really, the person who's watching isn't saying shit back to you. So I feel like Burlesque gives me an opportunity to speak those truths without commentary or question. So yeah, I think it's very powerful, yes. It's empowering. Yeah, it's cool. I was thinking about it, and I have three acts that 00:28:00speak to climate change. It wasn't my intention when I did it- when I created it. But by the time I was finished and performed it and watched a video, I was like "oh, I guess I'm saying something here" and then people started asking me about that. I was like, I guess I do have a feeling about this, so. I feel like it's a good way to express myself in those ways. I feel like in Burlesque, there's a lot of expectation from the audience for, like, something sexy, or like mblah. And like my take- and some acts are that, and some acts are supposed 00:29:00to make you feel uncomfortable and think about somethings. Yeah.

LK: What are the challenges facing Burlesque today?

HLR: I would say some challenges would be well, it's what people's perceptions of what it's supposed to be. As a performer, you show them that it's lots of different things. But sometimes you don't get the audience to see that it's lots of different things. So then it's that.

LK: So then final question. What do you wish that the general public would understand about Burlesque?

HLR: Well, when you say general public, I'm thinking of my mother. Or someone 00:30:00who just takes a long time to like- I mean, she just asked me the other day, she's like " well, you're not like doing this in a bar right? You're doing this on a proper stage." And, I'm like, yeah, sometimes, well, I didn't say sometimes. There's no reason to get into that with her. But just that it's not like- I don't know, it's not like we're "doing it" on stage. Like it's not like this- I think people think it's like strippers. And there's nothing wrong with strippers. I mean, that's great or whatever, but it's not what Burlesque is. Well, I mean people would say that you're stripping, and I am. I take my clothes off, you see my tits. But, like, see like my mom, I'm not a stripper. I'm not on a pole, or no one is putting money... And I hate that.

That's something I feel like has been happening in Burlesque recently. Or maybe- 00:31:00the money, throwing money at the stage...I don't like it. I mean, one I don't want to slip on that shit. I mean, I want money, but I don't want to fall. I think it's very distracting, and I mean people come up, and they're like- with- at least for my own performances, I usually have choreography set. I'm not just like- like I'm being somewhere to be- I'm listening to the music. And while I am entertaining you, I'm also paying attention to trying not to fall, doing these other things. So, I- and that's why I feel sort of Burlesque is more theatre, or more like, it's interactive, but it's not- What am I trying to say?- it's interactive, but it's... I don't know, I don't know.


I want people to come with an open mind when you come to a show and just let whatever happens happen. Don't come with an expectation of "It's gonna be like this, or someone is going to come up and do this to me. Or I should throw money, or I should touch, or whatever." Don't fucking touch me. That's not what this is about at all for me. And it's not for you to video it while I'm doing it. I mean, you're here to have this experience in the moment, and that's it. Take it for like, go home and remember what that was like. Like you used to in the olden days. Not everything has to be in a fucking phone. Yeah. Does that answer that? What was the question?

LK: That was perfect.

HLR: Feel like I'm rambling.

LK: That was good. So, what's your next immediate sort of goal or self-challenge with Burlesque?


HLR: I'm gonna, I think I'm going to just submit to a few more festivals. For a while I was like "I want to submit to all these things", and then I'll submit and get turned down. And then I was like "well maybe I'm not a festival person." Then I did What The Funk!?! and I was like, "Well, maybe I'm just not like a specific kind of festival person." I'm trying to be a little bit more discerning, and do the research of what is this festival? And what is- what's the fun one, and who will I see, or whatever.

But again, I run a business, so it's hard to like- and going and being in a festival is going to cost me money. More than I'm going to make anything. So just trying to think about it in that way. For me, if I'm going to do this- not like vacation- but this is my fun thing to go do. Not, I'm gonna make a bunch of 00:34:00money, and then have a sash and a crown. Like I can't. It's too, I can't do all that. But I like to go see. Like maybe do the opening night or whatever, but like all that competition stuff, I'm not really interested in all that.

But I'm definitely interested in doing some of that stuff and traveling a little bit more. And not necessarily in festivals, just performing in different cities, and seeing what Burlesque is in other places, and stuff like that. And having met so many folks at What The Funk!?! I feel like it's much more accessible. I feel like earlier in my time in performing, it wasn't accessible to me. I just didn't know how to have access to it. It was maybe always there, but- it was that thing over there, that Burlesque people do. I'm not really a Burlesque person, which I know I am. I didn't think I was. It's nice that things have- that there's all these different genres of nerd and all sorts of things. Makes 00:35:00it a little more fun I think. And to be a little more expressive in you're- what you're being- what you're trying to do I guess. Yeah. Yeah, so I guess that's my goal. Do some more.

LK: Great, thank you. Thanks for taking the time.

HLR: Yeah, thank you for having me.