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Dandy Pie Oral History Interview, August 27, 2021

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LAURIE KURUTZ: Today is Friday, August 27, 2021. My name is Laurie Kurutz. My pronouns are she/hers. Would you please introduce yourself, tell us your pronouns if you care to, and tell us all the things you do?

DANDY PIE: My name is Dandy Pie. My pronouns are she/hers as well. I am a Burlesque performer and a wild performance artist and I do a little bit of everything. I'm not... I am.. yes... performance art is probably my biggest thing.

LK: And so I'll start off with a hard question, a big one, what is Burlesque?

DP: Burlesque is a savior. Burlesque is a force. Burlesque is so many things. I 00:01:00feel that Burlesque has married all of my parts together, all of my performance parts that I love have been sewn together by Burlesque. I just love it. It's a marvelous art form.

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

DP: Well, they call me the Queen of Creep because I push my creepy limits. I've done acts that are quite shocking and I do like to shock people. I love gore and the grand with-all and I absolutely adore doing bloody, gorey, and also pushing the limits in many other ways as well.That's what I adore. That's what I do.


LK: Can you give us an example of shocking?

DP: Well, I do a few different acts where I am... I have one where I'm an alien and I'm performing to the B-52's [song] "She Came From Planet Claire." I come out...and I've got a lunchbox. I open the lunchbox and it's just a bunch of gore... just like brains and guts and there's a severed head in there that I do very naughty things to. I eat bloody and gory things. I've done a lot of things where I've just laid body pieces down and... yes I love all the yucky things!

LK: Why do you do Burlesque? What does it give you?

DP: Oh my gosh. Burlesque saved me. As I said it marries all the different 00:03:00pieces of me together and it opens all the doors. I can do whatever I like. I can do anything that I can think of, anything I dream up. Whether it's hearing a song and I'm just like "oh my God I just have this vision" or whether it's a piece of clothing that inspires me, I can do whatever I like and that's amazing to me.

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

DP: I was born in Orange County, California. I grew up all over the place. I lived in many different places all over the United States. I've lived in Puerto Rico, as well, which is where my family is from. Yeah, all over- from California to the midwest to Alabama. All over the place.


LK: What did you do in your formative years, whatever those are, that led you to performance?

DP: I think that from the time I was tiny little I just wanted to be a performer. Ever since I could step up on a chair or a table and I was on top of it. I was dancing and singing and that's just always been my thing. I didn't take a lot of dance classes as a kid. I took more music classes. Then I was a horrible, feral-child rebel who took off at a very early age and did... you know... wild things that also inspired me for Burlesque performance. I knew a lot of dancers and their art form really inspired me in a lot of ways as well, 00:05:00and Drag performance as well.

LK: So any formal education? High school? College? Any of that?

DP: I actually took my proficiency test in very early high school and then I went to college years and years later and studied years of theater arts.

LK: And where was that?

DP: It was at Lane Community College, a community college here outside of Eugene. I had some incredible, incredible experiences. An amazing, incredible teacher named Eileen Carney. She is just unbelievably incredible.

LK: And then in Burlesque specifically, did you study with anyone? Did you go to BurlyCon? How did you develop your skills then?

DP: I think that with Burlesque, it really came naturally. When I first started 00:06:00doing Burlesque I was doing Burlesque singing and using some of my acting experience. But not as much as singing a cappella and then just getting up on stage and doing filthy dirty Burlesque songs from... way ancient times. And just kind of going from there. I just honed it by doing it and that's really I mean, I learned from it as I went. I do have huge heroes of mine from the time I was pretty young, but I really just kinda of learned by myself.

LK: So, early influences or heroes, or sheroes, who might those have been?

DP: Oh my gosh, well, in super ancient times, I admire Salome. Then way further 00:07:00up, like, Tempest Storm. I pretty much worship at the altar of some Tempest Storm. She just passed away recently but yeah she's one of my all-time faves, yeah.

LK: And we heard all that you just said, but just to let you know the technology got a little glitchy there, but in these times of Covid it's what happens, so we'll just keep going.

DP: I did get to perform with Tempest Storm. That was exciting. That was a show at the Star Theater in Portland. It was several years ago, but she came back to the Star Theater and it had just been redone and it was a wonderful show. There were so many, so many incredible performers from the NorthWest scene there. It 00:08:00was wonderful and I got to hang out with her and have dinner and carry her boa and have breakfast and take her to the airport. It was great. Dreams do come true. Dreams really do.

LK: Do you know about what year that was?

DP: Gosh, I think it was like 6 years ago now.

LK: Oh that's great. So in what year and how did you get started in Burlesque?

DP: I really started for real, I'd say in '06. That was my first time really stepping on a Burlesque stage and getting connected with some fabulous troupes in town and just going from there.

LK: And then your stage name, Dandy Pie, how did you choose that and is Pie 00:09:00spelled Pi?

DP: It's PIE actually. I feel like it's cuter, would've been way cuter if it was Pi. Now that I would've thought of it. That would've been swell. I didn't really choose that name, it kind of chose me. My name...I've been doing magical things since I was a little kid. My Tarot and magical, witchy name is Dandeli. So Dandeli was kind of what I chose... Probably about '18 or '19, I went from Michelle to Dandeli. And after that Dandy just became a nickname that people called me. Then Dandy just kinda of turned into Danny Pie. And then Pie became a 00:10:00nickname, so people just call me Pie. When I started doing Burlesque, I didn't know what to call myself. Dandy Pie is my name, and people call me that, and they know me in town as Dandy Pie, so I'm just gonna go with it and let people figure it out... People's imagination is like ... "oh, what does that mean? Does she really like pie?"

LK: That's great. So outside of performing, a day job? What do you do to support your art, if anything?

DP: Gosh, it's changed so much. For years and years I worked at a vintage store called Nobody's Baby in town, for like 14 years. I costumed people and it was a vintage store in a costume shop. Then I started working at an amazing sex shop called As You Like It. As You Like It is women owned and queer owned and very, 00:11:00very accepting of everyone, and selling only the best products. So that's kind of, that's where I worked for years. And now I am running my own business and I'm teaching magic to kids and grown-ups and teens. I just did Mrs. Twitch's Camps For Witches all summer and I just signed today, I just signed my contract for two days a week for Mrs. Twitch's after-school club. So that'll be really fun! I'm super excited. It's my purpose in so many ways, part of the multifaceted purpose.

LK: Tell me about the Beast of Eden.

DP: The Beast of Eden. That is... we are hopefully getting back into practicing, 00:12:00any time now or we're finally working our way around... and it's my band, and my husband and I are both in a band together. He's one of the guitar players and he signs as well. It's this six-person, amazing, incredible band. We're just getting back together. The last time we performed it was actually ... It was with one of my old Burlesque troupes that I was with for years, Red Raven Follies. And it was at the Valentine's show right after February 2020. So that was our very last time. And we are purveyors of horror stories. We are also quite creepy and I sing in that band and it's amazing. It's really... we are... 00:13:00I'm so excited to get to see everyone again and create more music and revisit some of our old songs.

LK: So speaking of Covid and the pandemic: Oregon shut down March 19, 2020, so before that, before that, what was the Burlesque community like in the Eugene-Corvallis area?

DP: Oh God, it was growing, it was just like exploding so quickly! Between just a few years the amount of performers, and the amount of inclusivity, and it's a delight. Honestly, it was just an incredible delight and so many new performers were coming into the scene in Eugene. And a lot of varieties! So, so many 00:14:00different styles and people. So much different music and it was burgeoning, it was just blossoming and blooming and bubbling with inspiration and joy.

I was really proud of our scene, especially after doing BurlyCon and hearing how many other performers... how many Trans performers were not able to perform at certain clubs, when that is absolutely not the case here in Eugene Oregon. You know,that is the opposite of who we are here, and so I felt really blessed, in so many ways, to be part of this scene.

LK: You mentioned BurlyCon just now. What is that?

DP: BurlyCon is a fantastic learning experience. It is a giant convention. A 00:15:00Burlesque convention. It's right in Seattle every year and it's been going for years and years. I have been blessed to not only get to go to BurlyCon, but for a little bit there, for a little bit, I got to be part of the planning crew! I got to plan an event at BurlyCon! The big dancing event and it was all Baachus and Greek themed and just marvelous. It was really fun.

And things happened in life right afterwards where I had to pull back. I had a lot of family sickness at the time and my son and my mom... everything. I just had a kind of pull back from BurlyCon, but it's an incredible experience. Some of the best performers in the world, and everyone's teaching classes and there 00:16:00are so, so many opportunities to learn so many different things. It's a magical experience, to be perfectly honest. I, honestly, to be perfectly honest, I've taken some incredible classes and been blessed to be there.

LK: I've seen references to you being a Burlesque historian and references to old-time film festival.

DP: That is so fun! The old-time Burlesque film fest at Spectrum, which is our queer club in town and they are very all inclusive and a lovely club. Oh my God, the people that own it and run it are just bright blessings upon this earth. But I really feel like they... they asked me to do some Burlesque history. I never 00:17:00really been asked to do that. I went so far back in time, like I've never done anything like... using a computer to create slideshows. I've never done anything like that. My family helped me.

I went all the way back to like temple priestesses. When I think of Burlesque history I am... being a witch, being someone that is magical and has been knowing about magic from all over the world for as long as I have... I went as far back as I could. With priestesses in the temple and then from there. I really learned so much about how Burlesque changed and grew. How the Burlesque that most people know of coming out...Drag has always been a huge part, my 00:18:00god... there were Drag performers of both kinds that were the biggest stars in the world, at the time. So I find it really fascinating. I was really blessed to be able to get to do that film festival as well.

I met the people that were doing the films, they're great, too! It's awesome. My husband and I do a horror movie hosting show and so we watch all sorts of old films. Speaking of this now, I really need to get together... Those people and they were just great. They were collectors of actual film reels. Kind of like [the film archive business] Something Weird. Something Weird really put together all of this really incredible... Oh my God, the collection! In fact, at BurlyCon I got to see the female counterpart of Something Weird speak about it. I am a 00:19:00huge, giant, ancient film nerd too. My husband is too. Getting to meet them was incredible. They have a huge love for it, this couple both of them.

And then getting to speak about the history of Burlesque, I don't know, I just went so far back I thought it was hilarious. But it really means something to me. I feel that there is a huge golden thread that goes through Burlesque. I see it going all the way back to the beginning of time. In how we put on a show and how we dance for others, and how we create funny shows, or we make fun of others through performance, since forever. I mean, Greek tragedy, like all of that is part of this in my opinion.

LK: So all of those references about the history and the priestesses and all of 00:20:00that... Do you have thoughts about where Burlesque aligns with sex work? Where on the spectrum of sex work does Burlesque land?

DP: I have always viewed it as sex work. I mean, I do. For me, I think that I probably lived many lives doing sex work, from Temple priestesses to sacred whores, forever! So my view of Burlesque, if you look back throughout time, in so many ways, it is this very sexual work. I've always seen it as sex work. I know that there are plenty of performers out there that would argue that. If 00:21:00they think that sex work is something you know dirty or nasty or something that is shameful. A lot of people have to deal with the shame. I was raised like Catholic on both sides,so I've got all the things. I'm Puerto Rican and Italian. I understand the shame thing, but no, I really feel like it's wonderful sex work.

We are using our empowered sexuality. [using] who we are to create something, to bring something onto the stage. And grab that whole audience and bring it to us. We not only push our energy into the crowd, but we also get some energy from the crowd. It's a dance, it's a sexual experience in some ways, I feel like.. I think it's a beautiful energy dance.


LK: So you've talked a bit about performing locally in the Eugene Corvallis region or area. Do you travel, or did you, pre-pandemic, did you travel to perform at other shows or festivals? And where was that?

DP: I think the furthest I got to travel was Bellingham, no not Bellingham- Olympia! I got to go up with Red Raven Follies to Olympia and I performed a lot in Portland and all the towns in between. Some a little south but really between here in Portland and mainly Portland and here. But Olympia was a great scene too! That was fantastic. The dancers there were phenomenal.

LK: So we've talked about the pandemic a bit. How has the pandemic affected the 00:23:00local Eugene-Corvallis performance art or Burlesque scene?

DP: I think a lot of it skidded to a stop in many ways. And then there are a lot of people that are really great at taking what technology they have and doing digital work. I have several friends that started doing Burlesque acts and just doing them on Facebook Live. Or putting them out and then having people donate as they dance. That is a whole other art form that I think it's gorgeous. They were able to really take something and cut it and slice it and create something amazing with that. And then still be a viable artist and get paid as well.


LK: And you, personally, how has the pandemic affected your creativity?

DP: Oh my gosh, I...it was such a halting experience for me. Not only for Burlesque but then also Beast of Eden. All of a sudden... I was performing all these different ways and then all of it stopped. I'm a tarot reader too. So I'm a reader that reads with people. I'm this wild fortune telling thing. And I'm the singer in a band, and Burlesque, and everything came to a stop. I think for me, I've wanted to perform so much in so many ways that I'm having to kind of... because that's... I'm not so great with being on film and I'm not really 00:25:00interested in doing stuff on camera. Except for what I do on camera, which is movies from the madhouse. But that's different, I'm a horror host and I do the horror hosting. But with Burlesque, I don't know, I need it to be in front of a... need to be in-person.

LK: About the Eugene-Corvallis area, you've mentioned diversity in terms of Queer and Trans and that kind of diversity, but how how about other forms of diversity in the Eugene-Corvallis area? Are the troupes you perform with, are they diverse? How do you strive for diversity in your .....?

DP: I mean I grew up in LA primarily. I grew up all over the United States, but 00:26:00my formative years were in Hollywood in LA. I'm Puerto Rican and this is kind of the whitest place I've ever lived in my life, but it's growing and it's changing. I have been a part of some bad-ass POC shows that are run by Dahlia Cash, just some great stuff. Things are changing- not quick enough- in my opinion, but that's me. I am grateful that this scene, in all ways, is growing and I would love for some color to be more in our scene. That's the truth for me. I think that's my own personal opinion. I'd like more.


LK: People talk about Burlesque can be a force for social change. What do you think about that?

DP: I think it is. I think Burlesque, in so many ways, and performance art that stems from Burlesque is a giant force of political change. There have been some books recently that have come out that really have talked about that. There's a lot of fight when it comes to dancing. And being Puerto Rican, there's a style of dance, and I'm kind of learning now that ancient, ancient dance is called La Bomba. That is a form of the fight, it is a language of fighting back. I feel 00:28:00that Burlesque, in so many ways, we are allowed to do whatever we want.

I have an act, I have several acts really, that push those limits. But I have one in particular where I am in a cage, in a heart shaped cage, and a white dress that's got black sharpie marker all over it. And it says terrible things, that says all of the names that I've been called since I was a little girl. And I am trying to break out of this cage through this song. And I've got a huge, huge gag that says "silence." So in the act, it is my #metoo movement act. It is my sexual survivor act. It is my act that tears off the bonds and tears away all 00:29:00of the things that people have thought of me, and allows me to break free and speak my truth, without actually saying a word.

LK: And so, ha!, this question: what are the challenges facing Burlesque today? We are still in a pandemic, we don't know where it ends. Any thoughts about, about challenges facing Burlesque?

DP: I think that especially the fact that we can't perform in front of people. But being a Burlesque performer, there's so many right now that they're able to do whatever they need and utilize the format that they have to still rock it. I mean that is the truth. [ NOTE: there is a technical glitch at this moment. A hiccup in the video but no words were lost.] There are performers out there 00:30:00right now who are utilizing all of the things that they've learned through this horrible pandemic time, where we have had to be shut down, we've had to use cameras rather than be in person. Some folks are blossoming in that and that is where Burlesque always will find a way. It will always... it's like a dandelion growing out of the fucking concrete in Hollywood. It's going to find its way. I think that's incredible.

I think people adapt and one thing about the Burlesque community is that we are all so bendable and adaptable and inspired by all kinds of things that are around us. Once you're creating costuming and performing, you get these things in your head, everything becomes an inspiration. Everything becomes a different 00:31:00message of "oh my God, I could use that! Yes!" And you know, you go to the garage and think "I could utilize this!" I think that people aren't so adaptive to this time of not being with other people and utilizing that to grow. Some of us have had a lot of depression. Some people are pulling back and rethinking things, how are they going to go on? What does it mean to them? Nonetheless, I really feel that Burlesque has it's incredible way of continuing. People are just growing more and more inspired, and happier and happier, for the times that we can take all of the skills that we've learned right now and put that out on stage in front of people.

LK: Wonderful. So, final question: what do you wish the general public would 00:32:00understand about Burlesque?

DP: Burlesque has so much to offer. And it's such an ancient form of not only utilizing the funny things with sexuality, but it's so beyond that. It has been used to make fun of the status quo. It has been used much like late night shows, like Colbert or John Oliver, where we make fun of what's happening right now. Forever, from the beginning of Burlesque, it's been something that is right here in the now. We are able to take these things and marry all these different art forms: costume making, producing, writing, skit work, dance. There are people out there that are the most amazing dancers I've ever seen. We are able to take 00:33:00what we're good at, and piece all of these different art forms together and that's incredible to me. I find that to be a really miraculous form of art because we take so many different things and put them together, including prop making and backstage stuff and all them. Just every bit of it, whether it's tiny or like giant productions. We're able to take a lot of different art forms and make them one.

LK: Thank you so much for taking the time for this.

DP: Thank you so much. I feel so honored to have been part of this.