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Rocket Queen Oral History Interview, October 17, 2021

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LAURIE KURUTZ: Today Is October 17, 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?

ROCKET QUEEN: Hi, I am Rocket Queen. My pronouns are she/her and I identify as a Burlesque performer and a club stripper.

LK: Great. What is Burlesque?

RQ: Oh, my goodness. It's so hard to explain in just one sentence. But the short version for me is: it is the art of striptease. Traditionally, I think of it as an exaggerated imitation of a character, whatever that character may be. Whether it is you, or a television character, or a theatrical character. And the art 00:01:00part of it, without the striptease part, could envelope so many things, modern dance, ballet, pole dancing, aerial arts... all of that is Burlesque to me.

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

RQ: I'm not one for classic Burlesque in terms of traditional movements and music. I am much more into rock 'n' roll and metal. A lot of my performance background is in that and in club stripping. I combine all of those things together to create a kind of Burlesque with a raw edge. So I'm less formal in my presentation. I like to just get up there and have fun. Try to read the audience 00:02:00and try to give them what they need from me in the moment. So a lot of what I do is 50% preparation and then 50% reading the audience when I'm there and reacting to them.

LK: Why do you do Burlesque? What does it give you artistically that you don't get elsewhere?

RQ: Gosh, that's also a really loaded question, but I love it! I was thinking about this question before the interview and I think a lot of performers would say I just really love being on stage. I do truly love being on stage. But equal to that, I love the preparation of it. I love gluing a million rhinestones. I love hand sewing fringe. I love looking in a mirror and seeing how I'm gonna hold my hands for choreography. I love the process of preparing something that I 00:03:00really love and I'm super into for an audience's consumption. It's almost like a gift to the audience or like making something extra special that only you could make and then giving it to them. That's what I love about it.

LK: Some people say they like it because of the autonomy. That you get to make all the decisions about your performance piece. Is that a piece of that for you?

RQ: I think that that is true in some circumstances, but it's also untrue for some shows. I mean it really depends on what shows you're in.

LK: Tell me more.

RQ: If you're trying to get booked for a show with a theme, well, that's a limitation. You can't create exactly what you want because you have to adhere to the theme of the show. But I think for the most part, most performers will have 00:04:00one or two acts that really are just their idea and the carrying out that idea. And they're fortunate enough to have shows that will book that act, as it is.

LK: The general public sometimes thinks of Burlesque as falling on the spectrum of sex work? What are your thoughts about that?

RQ: As I identify as a sex worker, because I've worked in strip clubs for over 16 years now. I would lean more towards Burlesque not being sex work. However I do understand some people's argument that it is. In my opinion, if it is sex work, it's what I would call sex work lite. That does not have anything to do with the level of nudity. How do I explain it? Naturally, you might consider 00:05:00Burlesque to be sex work because you are presenting your semi-clothed or nude body to an audience. And you are using your body to do the work. Bodies, whether they're clothed or not clothed are inherently sexual, no matter what situation you're in. But I think the differentiation for me is the level of one-on-one interaction with the customer.

So for example, I don't think all Burlesque performers do this, but I certainly know many Burlesque performers who do: they start in the dressing room, and they get ready, they go on the stage, and they perform their act, and then they go right back to the dressing room. They never once go out and talk to the audience at all. So their interaction with the audience is really limited in that way.

Whereas, if you were going to compare it to other forms of sex work, which I can only speak to stripping, talking to the audience on a one-on-one basis is 99.9% 00:06:00of how I make a living. Like if I never got off the stage and went and had a one-on-one conversation with people in the audience, I wouldn't make any money. So I may present the stage performance which is similar to Burlesque, but then I'm gonna go and further entertain and listen to customers when they tell me how their day is. Or give them a private dance. It is much more involved.

I wish more Burlesque performers would go out into the audience... and this is the producer in me speaking... I wish more Burlesque performers would put a beautiful robe or a gown over their costume before the show, and go mingle with the audience, say hello. Then, after the show, go out in their costume or in the robe again, and thank them for being there. Or, just walk around and hug, if 00:07:00you're comfortable with that or shake hands and say "thank you for coming." I think that's a really often overlooked part of being a Burlesque performer... and I try to do that. I don't do it for every show, but I try to do that when I can.

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

RQ: I was born in Fort Worth, Texas and I grew up in Dallas, Texas. Then, when I was in elementary school, we moved to Michigan. I lived there until I was 20, and that's when I moved to Oregon.

LK: What brought you to Oregon?

RQ: I was visiting a friend who lived out here. I think we were attending, a group of us from Michigan, were attending his sister's wedding or something. So I drove to Chicago and I got on an Amtrak train with like four guys, and we rode 00:08:00all the way across the country on the AmTrack train, which is an amazing ride, if you've never been on a train across the country. I ended up in Oregon and stayed for, I believe, two weeks. I just really fell in love with Portland and the whole area and its natural beauty. Within two months I had gone home and sold all my stuff. Then I moved out here. I was like "all right I'm gonna go to the West Coast" and I've been here ever since.

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

RQ: When I was a young adult and in high school, I was always involved in theater. I was always involved in choir. I remember finishing up all of my 00:09:00required classes for the most part by my first semester of senior year, so my school allowed me to take as many art classes as I wanted. To basically fill the time before graduation. So I had like three semesters. It was just art classes, so I was painting and I was sculpting and ended up going to college for fine arts in Michigan. But when I was in high school, I was never given any... this is like a, oh sad-me-story, but it's part of the reason I got into Burlesque... I was never given any of the solos in choir. I was never given a good... other than like a supporting... role in any of the theatrical productions.So I was the girl in the back and was like "when do I get to be the star?" Well, let me tell you if you are on stage by yourself with no clothing on, you are the star of the 00:10:00show! So I got my wish with Burlesque, I guess.

LK: Then going to college for fine arts, did you finish that degree? Or did moving to Portland take precedence?

RQ: I technically finished that degree. I have a couple degrees. But I think Fine Arts is probably one of the more guiding... parts of my life. I really enjoyed sculpture and I really enjoyed painting and drawing. I don't think that would've really panned out for me as an adult for my working life. I was guided by family members, well-intended family members, to try to get... We're so familiar with this in the arts: your parents telling you to get a safe job, to do something that you can earn a living with. So I was really steered towards 00:11:00being an art educator, which obviously has a great value to it. But once I got to the level of college where I actually had to teach children, I was like "I hate this. I don't like this. This is not what I want to do." So it was about that time that I moved.

LK: So, when you moved to Portland, what did you do?

RQ: I worked in a lot of pizza kitchens. I have the burns on my arms to prove that from getting them stuck in the oven doors. Although, I've tattooed over most of them now. But I basically worked in kitchens, just had a bunch of odd jobs. When I was 22, maybe 23, I decided to take a pole dancing class for fun. Then the recital for the pole dancing class, weirdly enough, was in an actual 00:12:00strip club in the afternoon. It was very weird. And they were like "this is just for you to pole dance ... feel free to remove any clothing, but you don't have to, but you can, if you want to." And you know, I'm the type of person, I'm like, "cool, I'll take off my clothes!" And I did and they offered me a job, and I've been doing that ever since.

LK: Wow, that's like being discovered!

RQ: Yeah, I guess that the guy who owns the club was there. Gosh, I've known him for many years now, but I no,,, but at the time he was wearing a baseball cap, blue jeans and a cut-off sleeve T-shirt. And he just walked over to me with a drink in his hand and was like "hey you should work here!" And I just thought he was some random guy. Like "cool thanks. cool story bro'. thanks a lot." And he was like "No, I'm the owner." and I was like "Oh, OK sure, when do I show up?"


LK: That's great. Where was that club? Do you mind if I ask?

RQ: It was Devils Point, which is a fun place.

LK: Awesome. And so how did you... in what year and then how did you get started in Burlesque?

RQ: I guess that must've been, maybe, 2005. That makes sense when I do the math. So one of the sister establishments to Devil's Point, a place called Dante's, which is in downtown Portland, Oregon. They have one of the longest running weekly shows on the West Coast. It's called Sinferno Cabaret. I started go-go dancing there. Then they started asking me to do feature sets. So I have done Sinferno Cabaret on and off over the years forever, for over a decade. It's a 00:14:00fantastic show. Was really a great place to cut my teeth as a performer because there's just a really great sense of camaraderie there. A lot of the performers who work there have known each other for a long time. They're very welcoming to beginners and it's just a fun place to have a weekly show.

LK: Your stage name, Rocket Queen, how did you pick your stage name?

RQ: So, the pole dancing classes that I mentioned earlier, when I was 22, I did not have a car. So I took the city bus everywhere. I took the city bus to my pole dancing classes, which were out on Northeast Halsey and 80th, and there 00:15:00used to be one of those old Rocket gas stations there. It's always a big white sign with red lettering that just said "Rocket" on it. That's where I got off the bus and then walked two blocks to my class. So I was seeing the sign and one day before our recital at the end of the class series, the instructor was like "hey, everybody should choose a stripper name for themselves." And I just really couldn't think of one, and one of my classmates said "well, you spin really fast around the pool like a rocket." I said "oh yeah, there's a sign on the corner."

And then I also am a really big fan of...it reminded me of Kill Bill II, which is a 2004 movie by Quinton Tarantino. There's a very minor character in that movie who is a stripper and her name is Rocket. She has one line and she asks 00:16:00the strip club bartender to clean up a mess in the bathroom and then she's gone. That's it. That's the only time you see her, but her name is Rocket. So I thought that was funny. I just called myself that and it's stuck. I don't think I could change my name if I wanted to.

LK: You've mentioned getting started dancing and then Burlesque in the mid-2000s... Other early Neo-Burlesque people talk about the adoption of the early Internet in the 2000s as a driving force in the development of the current Neo-Burlesque movement. What was your experience with that?

RQ: At that time I was a little bit less involved in the Burlesque scene, and more involved in the strip clubs in Portland, which is a big deal here. But I 00:17:00can tell you that I had a MySpace Page. Yes, I think MySpace is like the first big thing that I saw a lot of other dancers using to promote themselves, and before that, there really wasn't a way to tell people "well I work at the club and these are my shifts." It's really funny the club that I work at now, Mary's, actually still has a landline phone. So customers will call and they'll be like "hey, who's working today?" and the bartender will take the schedule and say "tonight is ..." He will read off the names. I see him do it all the time! But in MySpace... I still have an intact MySpace page, a shrine to myself at 23. I just left it as it was. But I really do think that that was the start of 00:18:00promoting what we do online and I used it a lot.

LK: What was the Burlesque community like in Portland when you started, and when did you start doing Burlesque?

RQ: I think 2005 or 2006 is when I was doing... I didn't realize it was Burlesque at the time... but I was doing themed feature sets and dancing. I didn't even know it was called Burlesque. I think the first time that I actually heard the word Burlesque...I thought back and there are two specific instances: one was there was a performance art troupe here in Portland called The Cherry Tarts. I don't know if anybody else remembers them, but they had... I remember seeing them at Dante's. They did this whole number where they had a 00:19:00choreographed four or five dancers doing a chair act together, with matching outfits and they had a whole routine down. I just was like "wow! they're so good!" They were super fun. They just came on with such enthusiasm. I knew two of the dancers who were in that troupe and they refer to themselves as Burlesque performers. The other thing at that time, which was really huge here in the Pacific Northwest, is that Portland was the birthplace of the Suicide Girls, which was a big deal back then.

LK: Can you describe what that is?

RQ: It's an online community of nude entertainers, whether...basically it's photos and videos. But a lot of those early-on people had a history of doing performance art and Burlesque-style performances. One person that I...and I told 00:20:00her this! It's someone else that you've interviewed, Rachel Reckless actually was one of the very first Suicide Girls. I had a huge crush on her because I saw her online. I saw her naked online and I was like "oh, she's just so cute!" I found out where she worked and went and saw her dance. And that was another Burlesque style thing I was seeing, because Suicide Girls had organized a national tour. They had dancers learn from a choreographer and do this whole striptease show on the road in multiple different cities. I remember the first Suicide Girls tour. I also knew two girls who were on the tour, so I was like "oh, OK this is... like a Thing... it's different from strip clubs." It's involved in a different way with costuming and choreo. I'm interested!


LK: Great, and so how did you develop your Burlesque career from that?

RQ: I'm very much a local gal. I have not been able to afford to travel and perform very much, although hopefully that will change soon. So I really have made Portland and the West Coast my home for performing. I think that I just started reaching out to other show producers and performers and trying to get booked in other shows around town. And I'm proud to say that I have performed Burlesque at least once at every venue in Portland that has had a Burlesque show. Some of those venues are not there anymore. So I'm very proud of that. 00:22:00I've definitely performed a lot in Portland just making connections with people and getting booked.

LK: When you started in the Burlesque community, what was it like? Was it small?

RQ: I think it was pretty small. I would say my first foray of actually really getting to know more strictly Burlesque people, and not people who also worked in clubs with me, was when I really got involved in 2010 with Sign of the Beast Burlesque. We had members in that troupe still to this day who were a part of a troupe called The Rose City Shimmy. They were a very early Burlesque troupe in Portland.

LK: What is Sign of the Beast?

RQ: Sign of the Beast Burlesque is a heavy metal Burlesque troupe in Portland, 00:23:00run by my friend Vera Mysteria and I was there when she got the idea. I was like "that's a great idea" and she was like "I'm trying to find... how do you...I'm trying to find girls that will do this troupe with me where we just perform to metal music." And I was like "well I'm in! let's do it, nobody's doing that. That sounds great!"

LK: Can you talk... were you there when it evolved into the Metalesque Fest?

RQ: Yes, so the troupe was Vera's idea. She and I were working in a strip club together... and she was actually the DJ and she's a great strip club DJ, you know the person who gets on the mic and goes "next on stage...!" But imagine if it's like a really funny queer woman. She's great at her job. So she kind of approached me at work and said "I'm getting a group of people together to start 00:24:00doing these shows." We started doing these shows in 2010 and we'd have a couple a year. We'd usually invite a band to open or close a show for us. And then we just fell into being a troupe. We've had lots of people involved over the years, but we have a core group of performers who have been there for many years. Then in 2016 we were like "We should do a festival! There's no heavy-metal Burlesque festival." It really is a niche thing. Not everybody loves Metal and Burlesque. Sometimes it's a three-day festival, sometimes it's a two-day festival, that happens annually here in Portland. It's just a celebration of heavy-metal music and Burlesque together, and that's it.

LK: That's great. Then you've mentioned Mary's, or Mary's Club, and I've heard 00:25:00that club referenced in other conversations. Is there something special about Mary's Club?

RQ: There is something very special about Mary's Club to me. I think many locals here know this, but for those who don't know Mary's Club, it is the oldest strip club in Portland, Oregon. It has been around, I believe, since 1954. Originally, it was a piano bar and then they figured out if they had Go-go dancers it would attract more clientele. Then they figured out they didn't even need the piano player. And they just kept the Go-go dancers. Then the Go-go dancers evolved into a vaudeville show.

They used to have Burlesque performers doing ornate routines on the stage. 00:26:00They've had snake charmers, magicians, comedians, so like what you would see in a vaudeville variety show they had back in the day. And they did host the OG Burlesque performers, who used to do what they called the circuit, which is ... they would go to different clubs in a city and perform their act multiple times a night. An early show to late-late show, over and over again in the same night, which is what Burlesque used to be, which is very similar to strip clubs. That's what I do. I do my act over and over again in the same five or six hour shift. Mary's was the start of that here in Portland, so it's got a lot of history in it. It's an interesting place.

LK: And the OG Burlesque legends... like who would that have been?


RQ: I'd actually have to check my notes. I have some really great videos of my boss, Vicky. Vicky's office is like this decrepit old building, and then in the basement there's a pink door in a corner, and you open it, and it's like a treasure trove of vaudeville history in Portland.You're putting me on the spot because I have a whole list of names and I was... I remember the first time I went in there I was like "wow, does anyone know this is in here? This is wild!" Because she just has posters, and handbills, and signed eight-by-tens, going all the way back to the '50s. And many of them are Burlesque performers that I recognize their name and people that we consider Legends today and that's pretty cool.


LK: So you said you did an extravagant sort of headlining but you didn't realize you were doing Burlesque. So tell me about costumes that you use, and how did you learn to make them, or where do you get them?

RQ: I'd learned very basic sewing from my darling grandmother, who is now 96, when I was a kid. I know how to use a sewing machine and I know how to hand stitch. I've always kind of known how to purchase something secondhand and then alter it to make it fit your body. Typically, when I am working on a Burlesque costume, I don't have the budget to call a designer and have them custom-make a garment for me. Although, gosh, if anyone would like to sponsor that for me, 00:29:00call me! That would be great! But I do love starting from scratch, as it were, and just finding something off the rack for inexpensive, and cutting it and resewing it and rhinestoning it and adding boning and whatever... and that's how we make most of my costumes.

LK: I found a reference from 2011 about Go-Go Rocket Productions?

RQ: Yeah.

LK: What was that?

RQ: That was just me, when I was producing shows by myself. I did quite a few shows. I did a John Waters themed Burlesque show in Portland and in Seattle for a couple years. Then I did a lot of one-off shows, just no particular theme, just whoever I wanted to perform. I would put them on the bill. I had some Halloween shows.


Fortunately, I don't have to produce all by myself anymore. Because Sign of the Beast is a team of producers, which is much easier for me, much less stressful way, than me creating shows. A lot of it was I felt that Portland just needed more. We were a small city but we were definitely growing. But at the time I just felt like there weren't enough opportunities for people to perform. I just wanted to make shows of the ideas that I liked.

LK: Let's talk about producing. What are all the skill sets and all the details that go into that? I think the general public have sort of an archaic, or an idea that you just get together and you put on a show.


RQ: [the general public thinks:] "You put sparkly stuff on and you just get up there and dance."

LK: That's right.

RQ: [sarcastically:] It's not months and months of preparation, no, no!

LK: So it is months and months of preparation! Start at the beginning and just paint a picture of what that entails.

RQ: Oh, gosh! Well, I can give you the most relevant example, the most timely example that I'm just doing now, which is the The Sign of the Beast Burlesque Metalesque Festival. So, every year, me and a team of people... so it's me, Dee Dee Pepper, Rummy Rose, and Wanda Bones. And Baby Le'Strange helps us with some stuff, too. We work on it all year long! We have a Slack Channel where we're talking to each other constantly about the show and arranging things. Everything from calling the venue and securing the dates, to creating a budget, figuring out how much to sell seats for, accepting applications from performers, sitting 00:32:00down and watching all of the video applications and deciding who is in the show.

Then, fundraising, seeking sponsorships, creating merch[andise], ordering it, selling it online, sending it at the post office. Just literally anything that you can think of that's supportive of having the show. Answering emails, setting up ticketing, creating the playlist, it's really involved. It takes a lot of work! We have a joke... we have a joke between me and the Sign of the Beast producers and then our friend Little Linus. It's "hug a producer!" You have no idea how hard they're working behind the scenes. It's a lot of work, but I think it's worth it, and it's very helpful to have a team of people to produce with, 00:33:00instead of doing it by yourself.

LK: Typically, what's the rough number, of how many performers would you have over two or three days [of the Metalesque Festival?]

RQ: Typically we would have 8 to 12 performers a night. This past year, because of the pandemic, we did scale down because we wanted to make sure that we had a budget to pay everyone. So we were kind of conservative in booking, but I would say anywhere from 8 to 12 performances per evening would be what you'd have. Then another part of it is if you have 30 performers that you're communicating with, you need to make sure that they have what they need to put on the show. And that they have all information from you, so we can all come together cohesively. It's a lot of emailing. I think that's what producing is... it's a 00:34:00lot of Google forms.

LK: Are those all local people? Or do people fly in to perform?

RQ: We have had people come from out of the country to be in the show, which is a huge honor that someone would come that far to participate. But, yeah, we have performers usually from all over the United States.

LK: And then the audience numbers, just ballpark... how many people come?

RQ: A good question. I have to look at my numbers for this year. We came really close to selling out Dante's [Inferno Club] and I feel like they might have a 400, or maybe more, person capacity there. This year we did a virtual show. And then we did a live show the other night, so I can't tell you how many people were in the virtual show...in the virtual room. But, yeah, I'd say Dante's was several hundred people. And they're one of Portland's... that's a bigger venue. 00:35:00We don't have a lot of venues that are larger than that. Comparatively, there's Star Theater. There's the Alberta Rose Theater, which has a bigger capacity. But there really are not a lot of places to have huge Burlesque shows here in Portland.

LK: And then I also noticed [in my research] a reference to Hell Bent for Glitter. What is Hell Bent for Glitter?

RQ: I started rhinestoning earrings a couple years ago. That's actually the booth that I was running at BurlyCon when I met you. More people started asking me to make them things. The jewelry and then also I started out making headdresses as well, which I still make. But I think the jewelry part took over for a while. It's just my own shop. It's just me making things and selling them. I am excited because during the pandemic I started making [Covid] masks, which 00:36:00really took off. So I've been focusing on that for this past year and a half. But I'm gonna be making more stuff. It's basically just me wanting to sew and rhinestone things, and fortunately people want to buy them, and I am grateful for that.

LK: So you mentioned the pandemic. The Covid 19 pandemic hit Oregon on... Oregon closed down on March 19, 2020. How did that affect -two things- performing at Mary's Club and then the Burlesque scene?

RQ: It was a really heavy year. I think we expected the shutdown to be two weeks long maximum because that's what the local government was kind of forecasting. Then, it became months! Mary's Club shut down. I don't know how many months 00:37:00total but we shut down multiple times. So everyone who worked there full-time had to either find other work or attempt to get on pandemic assistance, which is a form of unemployment. We had the doors... were closed. We eventually reopened and it was just really limited capacity, which definitely hurts the bottom line of the business. People are required to wear masks and we're open again now. I'd say we're almost back to regular business, but it's still slow at times.

As for the Burlesque scene, I think that it just halted. It just stopped in its tracks because so many venues had to close. They really couldn't book these shows months ahead as was necessary, because they just didn't know if they would 00:38:00be open or not. That was really heartbreaking. I know that there are a lot of people in the Portland scene who just stopped doing Burlesque. They were just so sad about the whole thing ending. They went "Well, I don't know when we're gonna have this back, so I don't know if I can do it anymore." Then there are people like me who just continued amassing and hoarding supplies and rhinestoning. I just was like "someday we'll go back." I just kept making things. It's definitely been up and down. Sometimes you really don't have the emotional bandwidth to do it. It's sad that you're not doing the work that you really love, but I feel like in many ways knowing that eventually we would get back to shows helped me cope with the shut downs.


LK: Yeah.

RQ: And I was like "I'm gonna be ready!"

LK: When people branched out into [doing] virtual shows, did you do any of that?

RQ: I did a few virtual shows. I did a few. Virtual shows were really difficult for me from the perspective of performance, because there's no immediate audience [response.] Now I wanna... I want to have someone assist me with a glove peel. I want to do a backbend onto someone's lap while... I just want to go and be close to them, and when they're not there, you lose that connection. But I have also seen a lot of performers completely blossom with the virtual shows. Like Red Rum, amazing virtual production value! Baby Le'Strange, in my troupe, she totally embraced it and put some really fantastic weird virtual art 00:40:00out there in the world! I also hosted over 30... or was involved in over 30... strip club shows with Mary's because Mary's went virtual during the shutdowns too. So we had a weekly show.

LK: That's great. People in Burlesque say it empowers them. What is your take on that?

RQ: Oh, I guess it just depends on what empowerment is to you.

LK: What is it to you?

RQ: I really enjoy the feeling of, as I said earlier, just creating something special and giving it as a gift to the audience. Being able to change people's perspective even on... even for the five minutes that I'm on stage. If somebody was grumpy or had a bad day and they came to a show... or they came to the Club 00:41:00and they watched me perform and they were distracted for five minutes from their crummy day, then I think I did a great job. That's empowering to me. I can change someone's perspective on something, no matter how small, I think that's pretty cool.

LK: People in Burlesque talk about how it can be a force for social change. Have you seen that?

RQ: Yes, I think I have seen that. I've seen that both in the strip club and at Burlesque shows. I think that one of the most rewarding things that audience members say to me is... I get this one a lot ...I get people who come up to the stage and they go "That's like art. What you just did!" And it's like yeah, Yes, 00:42:00it is! Thank you for noticing! One of the funnier comments I've gotten actually at the strip club is ...because I do the same style of performance on the Burlesque stage and on the strip club stage- with some key differences- but because I kinda do the same thing, I've had audience members at the strip club approach the stage and they say "Hey, have you ever considered doing Burlesque? Do you know what Burlesque is? You should try it! I just think you'd be really good at it." And I'm like "Yeah I'll try that, thank you!" Here I've been doing it for a while! But I love that. I think that's really cute. I mean, they don't know, so...I think just having people realize that it is art or that it can be art. It is really cool.

LK: So there's the pandemic, and we're still coming out of it, if we are... what 00:43:00are the challenges facing Burlesque today?

RQ: I can speak to that locally and I cannot speak to it as a whole. I think one of the things that really frustrates me about local productions is... there are limited places that you can do Burlesque in Portland. I think that it would really grow as a more widely accepted art form, if we were allowed to do bigger productions on bigger stages. But it's typically not even considered unless you're Dita Von Teese and you're on tour and you're gonna play the Roseland or something. Then they don't really think of it as a viable art form for a larger stage at a larger venue. So I wish that was a thing.


I wish that there were more places that would allow for a theater run of shows. That's always been my personal dream is to have a two-month long run where every weekend there's the same show with the same performers doing the same numbers in a theme. So those people would be employed by that show for a one or two month period. And then word of mouth would spread about the show and it would become a destination. In Portland now, I think, just because of our circumstances, because we have a lot of one-off shows, instead of theater-run shows. I think you can have much higher production value if you could find sponsorship and venues that would book Burlesque stuff. I don't think that's unique to Portland but I think it is something that we experience here.

And then I also think, just pay in general...everybody could use more money. 00:45:00Sadly, that's one of the reasons I don't do quite as many Burlesque shows because there is not a very large financial incentive in it. It's not something that I can do to pay all my bills. I have to do other work. So there are definitely some people who are fortunate enough, and who work super hard at it too, who have that status of being able to be a Burlesque performer full-time and that's what pays their bills. But I think for many other people, it's a really expensive hobby or it's like one of 5 jobs. I'm in that last boat where it's one of many jobs, so I think that would be great if that could happen too. And just people recognizing it as an art form, I think would elevate it to another level.


LK: And final question, what do you wish the general public would understand about stripping and Burlesque?

RQ: I think this goes back to that it's art. That if they are a potential audience member and they haven't been to a show or maybe they've just been to one, I really hope that they can indulge themselves and come out and have a really good time. And just see what that connection is, and how rewarding it could be to go to a show, because it's truly a unique art form. That it encapsulates every human emotion and all of the different performances. Then ties it to the art of the physicality of the human body, which is really intimate. I think a lot of people are afraid to experience that. If it's a little too intimate for them, but if they actually stepped into the show and 00:47:00gave it a chance, they would be at the show every week. I think that that's just part of the social construct that some people can't get past, and if they did, they would be pleasantly surprised. So that's what I wish.

LK: Great, thank you so much for taking the time.

RQ: Thank you. I appreciate it.