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The Mad Marquis Oral History Interview, January 4, 2020

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LAURIE KURUTZ: Today is January 4th, 2020. I'm Laurie Kurutz. Could you please introduce yourself? Say your pronouns if you care to. Tell me all that you do.

MAD MARQUIS: I'm commonly known as The Mad Marquis when I'm working. I work in Burlesque and cabaret production, emceeing and performance. My pronouns are he/him, they/them. I actually don't have a strong preference.

LK: Okay. And just to get it out of the way, what is Burlesque?

MM: That's a complex question and it depends if we want to be historical or what people tend to think it means today. If I were to go with what people tend to believe it means today, which I think is probably the more practical answer, I would say that, for most people, it equates to strip tease artistry. Or, 00:01:00performative strip tease perhaps is a better term because art is very subjective. Originally, of course, it means the same thing as vaudeville or cabaret and is sort of a meaningless marketing term that just means, "Hey, we've got live performance." I think these days, when most people hear the word, if they have any familiarity with what anybody does in the Burlesque community these days, they probably think about performative strip tease in some flavor or another.

LK: Is that different than the stripping that happens in clubs?

MM: Depends where you are. One of the interesting things about Portland, Oregon in general, and Portland in particular, is because of our Supreme Court decisions back in the '80s, we don't have blue laws to speak of here anymore. Thank you, Mary's Club! Because of that, a lot of what we do here is no more 00:02:00naked than you might find at a traditional strip club in many other parts of the country. Because in many other parts of the country they still have restrictions on the amount of skin that can be shown, even in clubs. There are no all-nude strip clubs in many parts of the country which, of course, we have those here.

I think that in Portland a lot of people would think that the difference would be the amount of nudity they'd see. Even though I have definitely seen Burlesque performances in Portland and had them in my shows where performers were like, "Wait, I'm allowed to be naked? Okay, I'm going to be naked." Particularly out-of-state performers when they find that out when they're visiting because they don't know our laws, of course, can be very interested in that. I've made the joke before that whenever I have a performer from New York and they find out they're allowed to be naked, they're incredibly thrilled and want to be naked. Because New York has a relatively complex set of blue laws regulating performances, depending on what sort of venues you're in and all sorts of things in New York City.

So the difference in Portland, I would argue I guess, is that in the strip club 00:03:00here, an exotic dancer is primarily engaging in what actually amounts to a customer service job or a sales job rather than a performative job. The bulk of money they're going to make in any given evening of work is going to be directly interfacing with customers and selling private dances, or lap dances if you prefer that term. Same difference in most places, rules vary from place to place. They might make some amount of money that they're being tipped onstage, but they're almost certainly not being paid to be there by the venue. Almost every strip club I know of in Portland, and I believe all of them, operate on a contractor model where the performers are not being paid anything, the dancer's not being paid anything while they're there.

Some of the strip clubs in Portland do definitely engage in a more performative 00:04:00style of strip tease on stage. There are a couple in particular where that's very much the aesthetic they're going for, is involved with Burlesque. A lot of the dancers in Portland strip clubs are, in fact Burlesque performers, as well. So you definitely get some direct overlap there. And then, once you get out of Portland, it gets a little more sketchy. I've seen Burlesque all over the country and also been in strip clubs in various parts of the country and the differences are interesting, but complex, and I don't even know all of the laws that they involve in any one place.

LK: So, The Mad Marquis... How did you choose your name?

MM: It's sort of two-fold. I've an unrelenting urge to alliterate all the time. So, partially it's that. Originally, my stage name was longer because it involved a play-on-words with my ex-wife's stage name, who was also a performer. So, there were even more "m's" in it for a while. When we separated I just 00:05:00chopped off the surname part of it, basically, and just left the title, if you will: The Mad Marquis. Mostly it's just a joke because my given name is Mark and so, in my head, I find it amusing that I'm onstage at a rather adult venue using, basically, the nickname my mother called me when I was a small child. Then the "Mad" part is just alliteration. I like that "Marquis" is also a pun sort of about your name up in lights on a sign. I think some people think I'm making sort of a Marquis de Sade reference, but I'm not. I sort of regret, out of context, when I realize that people might be making that association. Not that I have anything against the SM community, but because I think there can be some negative associations for some people if they do make that association either about me and my personality or about the kind of things that I'm 00:06:00representing. I often tell people the "Mad" is for madcap, not angry.

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

MM: As I said before, I sort of avoid the term artistry because I feel like it's a little too subjective and meaningless. I tend to think of myself as an entertainer. First and foremost, because Burlesque without an audience is a meaningless activity: you're just taking your clothes off and dancing around your living room which is fun, but is not a thing that any of us are interested in doing and certainly nobody would pay us to do. So I tend to think that, because the audience is expecting striptease, when we're putting on a Burlesque show, we provide mostly striptease. There may be some other associated variety acts, but certainly that's the expectation I feel like I'm setting because of what the word Burlesque means to people. If I was doing that stricter variety 00:07:00show, I might use a term like cabaret or vaudeville to describe it. Whereas if a show is labeled as Burlesque, I think people assume that the bulk of the show will consist of strip teases these days.

Beyond that, it's a really big box. I've joked on stage before that I don't ever tell people what to do with their bodies and that includes how they choose to Burlesque. Actually, just on Christmas Day we had a show, which was just a few weeks ago now obviously, and one of the dancers in the show was like, "I don't feel like wearing pasties. Is it okay if I go out there without any pasties on? I want to be in bare nipples." And I was like, "I don't care," because, again, we don't have any laws. In different, other places, that might be a thing that could get people in trouble, but here we don't have to care about that. After her act, I joked with the audience. I was hosting with the show and I joked with the audience that I never tell anyone what to do with their nipples.


That's sort of a general statement about Burlesque. Certainly, when I'm hiring performers for a show I'm concerned with what I think will be entertaining and I try and cast a broad net for what entertainment means. It's not always just about what I like. It has to be about things that... Perhaps I've seen an act which I did not think was fantastic, but the audience very much enjoyed it. I've definitely hired many performers over the years who I think sort of fit into that categorization, where I saw an act and was like, "This is fine," but the audience was going crazy for it. I have to respect that my taste is not universal. Since entertainment is the goal, the audience's opinion is more important than mine anyway.

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

MM: I was born in Minneapolis. I grew up, grade school in the Midwest, primarily Wisconsin. I actually started grade school in Illinois just outside of Chicago 00:09:00in Arlington Heights, which is a suburb of Chicago. Then when I was in second grade, we move to the suburbs of Portland in West Linn and I finished most school there. I've lived in Oregon, except for leaving for college to Denver, for most of the rest of that time, although I've lived in a few other places, haphazardly, along the way.

LK: So what, in your formative years, what led you to performance?

MM: I got involved in legitimate theatre in high school. The thing that steered me towards that is that there's actually a specific event. Right towards the tail end of middle school, in a literature class I was taking, we were... For some reason the teacher of this literature class had us standing up and reading scenes from this book aloud. I do not believe it was a play, I think it was literally just a book. I don't recall the context of the scene specifically, but 00:10:00at some point I threw myself across the teacher's desk and made an ass of myself because it was funny. And afterwards, the teacher... He might have been the theatre instructor in my middle school. I never did any theatre in middle school, but he may have been involved with that. And he suggested, he's like, "Hey, you seem to be having a lot of fun. You should check out drama and theatre when you go to high school," because this was the end of middle school. So I did it, and that was that. That was sort of all she wrote on that topic.

LK: What, if any, formal training or education do you have?

MM: I was involved in theatre at West Linn High School throughout high school, which West Linn, at least when I went there in the early 90s, was sort of noted for its theatre program even though it was just a regular public high school. We put on about twice as many theatre productions there as any of the other schools 00:11:00nearby and had two theatres so we took pretty aggressive use of them. I was involved with that throughout high school, sort of drifted away from active theatre work in the gap years between high school and college. Then got back into it when I was back in college and did some community theatre work and such. After that, it was all sort of tangentially involved in theatre, although not working in it specifically after college. After college, I ended up doing political work for a while which is its own flavor of theatre I guess, but certainly very performative at times.

LK: In those formative years, was there anyone who was an influence or an inspiration to you?

MM: I'm sure there was, but I'm so bad at remembering these things. I definitely can recall other performers who I was impressed with their performances, who I 00:12:00sort of inspired to learn the things that they seemed to know. Although a lot of them I'd be hard-pressed to recall names at this point. But there was definitely periods... As I said, when I was first getting into theatre it was the early '90s which was sort of the heyday of great acting in big movies. There was three years in a row of Tom Hanks cranking out Oscar-winning performances right in the middle of when I was in high school. Probably my favorite of those movies was Philadelphia. I'm not at all a dramatic actor at heart. I'm much more of a clown in real life, but dramatic performance like that is always very impressive.

LK: What year and how did you get started in Burlesque?


MM: Originally, let's see... It would have been early 2010. Or maybe it might have been early... Pretty sure it was early 2010, might have been late 2009. My now ex-wife had heard something about Burlesque. I have no idea how, honestly, but probably the Internet. I don't recall if we went to a Burlesque show before she started taking Burlesque lessons or if we started going to the shows right after she started. I don't recall the specific order of events at this point.

I do joke, with some sincerity, that I got addicted to Burlesque the very first time I was there because we were at a show at the Bossanova Ballroom called The Royal Tease. Royalties? Yeah, Royal Tease, which is no longer around. There was 00:14:00a performer visiting from Seattle by the name of Jezebel Jones who was a lovely performer, still performing, fantastic. We were sitting right in the front row and, during her performance, I don't recall the larger context of the performance at all, but at one point she motioned for me to come up to the stage to help her undo the clasp on her garter, connecting her garter to her thigh-high stocking. Not being unfamiliar with lingerie, I was like, "Sure, I can do that." So I go up to the stage and reach for it and she slapped my hand, which was the bit, very funny, ha, ha, ha, we all laughed. I sit back down. I've joked that I got Burlesque from her because clearly it was transmissible [LK laughs].

The addendum to that story... I don't remember if that was literally the first Burlesque show I went to, that may have been the second or third, but a month later at that same show, we're sitting in the front row again, me and my wife, 00:15:00same exact seats. There's another performer down from Seattle, the Shanghai Pearl, and she does the exact same thing: motions for me to come up and undo her garter belt and I'm just like, "I'm going to get hit again." That was the thought in my head. I'm like, "They're both from Seattle, it must be a thing up there." I get up and undo her garter belt, and I undo it right away because I'm familiar with how those clasps work. I had literally just helped my wife at the time put hers on like forty minutes earlier or something. So I undid it right away, and so she just had me undo all of them because I was doing it so effectively. And then I just sat back down and she made a kissy face at me or something, I don't remember. But those two events back-to-back have always been a sort of amusing bookend of my early Burlesque experience and how I got infected with Burlesque, if you will.

LK: That's funny.

MM: Yeah.

LK: How did you develop your career from that?


MM: About six months after my ex-wife had started doing Burlesque, I remember we saw a post from one of the Burlesque performers in town who had shared a picture and made a comment, and she said something to the effect of, "Where are all my centaur and mermaid strippers at?" or something to that effect. And this was Hai Fleisch who posted that, who's also a Burlesque producer in town still. And we were just like, my ex-wife and I, we're both pretty nerdy humans, and we were like "Yeah, we should do some nerdy Burlesque," because we had seen some people in Los Angeles and New York doing pop culture themed, nerdy Burlesque shows and nobody in Portland was doing anything like that really. We were like, "Yeah, we can do that. We're clever people with education in theatre." My ex-wife has a 00:17:00bachelor's in theatre management and I've done theatre in all of the jobs in theatre over the last intervening ten years at that point. So we were like, "Yeah, let's do that." And knowing absolutely nothing, other than we knew some strip teasers and we liked nerd stuff.

We talked to the people who seemed interested when we talked about it. Then we were looking for a place to do it, we didn't really know anything about booking a performance venue or anything. We ended up, on a lark... There used to be, there still is, a role-playing game and magic gathering store in Portland called Guardian Games. This was their previous location to where they are now, which was much smaller, and I was in there one day. I don't remember why I was there. I was probably buying some nerdy toys of some sort. I knew the owner a little bit at that point from going into the store and I asked her... I think she may 00:18:00have just recently got her license to serve beer and wine. I think that was part of what got me thinking about this. I was like, "Have you ever thought about having a show here or something like that?" She was like, "What kind of show?" I was like, "Like a nerdy Burlesque show." She seemed interested and so that ended up being where we had the first show.

We started that conversation, that process, probably about late 2010, like November/December 2010, or maybe even October. Then the show was in, I want to say, March of 2011. And you know, we went slow because we didn't know that we were doing, so that's fine. But that's the right amount of time anyway. We ended up renting some rental stage flats and hiring a guy to bring in sound equipment. We didn't do any advanced ticket sales or anything, but we did a little bit of 00:19:00posting about it on Facebook and sending out press releases. We ended up being called in by the Oregonian for a photoshoot and ended up on the front page of the Arts and Entertainment that week the day before the show. So, I don't know how effective that advertising was because it was literally the Friday before the Saturday the show was that we were on the cover.

And we did the show. We had a line stretching two and a half blocks down the street at the very beginning. We ended up turning away at least a hundred people because we had legal capacity for this quite small space. We were probably cheating the legal capacity in that regard because I believe we sold 140 tickets which was the full legal capacity of the room and then, of course, there was all the performers and staff and everything. Don't tell anybody. We did the show and it was a runway success and we were like, "Well, that was great." I hosted the 00:20:00show and that was my first time acting as an emcee at a Burlesque show. I'd done a lot of presentational work and I've no fear of public speaking. It was not a big stretch for me to do that, I don't think, even though I technically didn't know what I was doing at the time. I've certainly leaned a lot since then. I shudder to think that there's video of that on YouTube if anybody wants to go watch it, but I'm not going to tell them where to find it.

So, that was the first show. We sold it out. We restaged it about eight weeks later, because of how well it had done, over at the Bossanova Ballroom, again, which is a significantly larger venue. At that show we had about 400 attendees because a bunch of the people had showed up who hadn't made it in previously. We 00:21:00added like one extra act, but other than that we were just staging the exact same show. That first show was called Geeklesque because we weren't particularly original. Those were the first two shows we did. That would've been March and then like May, or might have only been six weeks later, might have been like March and then late April even, because we tried to turn around as fast as possible because we knew we had the tiger by the tail and had to run with it.

Then by September of that year, I had set up two different monthly review shows, one of which is still ongoing: that's Burlynomicon at The Lovecraft Bar. The other one was a different one that was not successful that only ended up running for about three months before I pulled the plug on it because it was not working out. That was at a bar that no longer exists called Agenda. We did those shows 00:22:00and Burlynomicon is still going strong eight odd years later. Yeah, so they just celebrated their eighth anniversary in September of last year. That was sort of my regular thing for all or most of that intervening time. Plus we staged, we and then I once we separated, my ex and I, continued staging more of the Geeklesque events for some time. I had the last one of those in 2017 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, which we called Geeklesque From a Galaxy Far, Far Away. We staged that at the Paris Theatre downtown and did four shows over two days and had a lot of fun doing that. And I've got, I think, two more of those coming next year, but we'll see if that happens or not. Or this 00:23:00year now, it's 2020 already. Whoops.

LK: It just boggles my mind. How do you start a show like that? Do you have a trust fund? Do you get all your friends together and they each chip in 12 cents? How does that all work?

MM: At the time, my ex-wife and I were a two-income, no-kids relationship. That was the short answer. We hired ten people and the initial outlay was probably $500 or $600 because we rented those stage flats for the non-performance location. We got a very good deal from a sound guy we knew who just had a bunch of sound stuff and he did it all for $150, including running all the equipment for us. Some of it was who you know, some of it was having the wherewithal to not be afraid of being out like $600. When you're two people with jobs it's not implausible and we're middle class. So that's the real answer.


We didn't necessarily know if we were going to make any money, but the cost didn't seem like we were going to be wildly out of sorts. At the time, it was pretty typical for shows in Portland at the time, of which there were not very many in comparison to today, to pay on a split of the door. Our agreement with the performers was it would just be an even split of the money at the door after expenses. My ex-wife and I actually, as I recall, didn't actually make any money that show. We didn't pay ourselves at all because we didn't know what we were doing. So all of the money we took at the door got turned around to cover the $600 odd-dollars in expenses we generated and then was just split amongst all the performers, which included my ex-wife so she got paid. I don't think I got paid. It was a long time ago. I don't remember. I don't think we got paid. We may have just decided to pay everybody else extra instead because it was not 00:25:00particularly important to us at the time.

So yeah, the answers are we took a lot of time to figure out what it was going to cost and made sure it was affordable. There were certainly cheaper options than what we did. We spent less money the second show to be at the Bossanova and pay the fees to the venue than it cost us to stage the show that we made less money at the first time. Again, our total costs at the first show were probably on the order of maybe $600 or $700, and our total cost for the Bossanova was more on the order of like $400. So, we made more money there by a fair margin. And, it paid ourselves, so that was nice too, which we then just used to pay for more shows. It's a revolving door of money.

LK: What do you do outside of Burlesque?

MM: When I first got involved in Burlesque, I was working for the Army Corps of Engineers in network security and IT operations. Which was particularly amusing 00:26:00the Monday right after that article came out with my face smack on the front of the paper, which was also hung up at the Starbucks right by my work downtown because they knew me there. My boss was like, "Hey, can I get your autograph?" like Monday morning. And I was like, "What?" He had a copy of the Arts and Entertainment with all of us on it, which was funny. So, at the time, that's what I was doing.

I stopped doing computer work, left there about four years ago [2016] and did another year and a half of computer IT work as my main source of income. Then I got laid off from a small startup and was just not interested in continuing that line of work anymore, frankly. I used to joke that the reason I wasn't a computer science major in college, even though I'd done a lot of computer work already in my gap in between college and high school, was that I like people 00:27:00more than computers and that continues to be the case. When I got laid off from this software startup that I'd been working at, I sort of took a step back and took a look at where I wanted to be and these days I primarily just produce and host cabaret shows. I certainly don't make as much money as I did when I was a gainfully employed professional, but I'm happier with my life by a huge margin. These days in addition to shows, which I do almost at least one show a week, often more than that, I also run an Airbnb in the basement of the place I live. So, that's the supplementary steady income to keep the keel even.

LK: So, the Burlesque community in Oregon or in Portland, the stereotype is that 00:28:00there are male producers and female performers. Is that true in Portland? What's that like?

MM: I don't know that that's ever been true. I'm sure there are snapshots of time where that might have been a majority descriptor, but they've been brief. When we produced our first show or even when I started producing Burlynomicon and had regular shows, I was one of only two male-identified show producers in town. And at the time, there were fewer shows, nine years ago than there are now, so there were periods where that might have been fifty percent of the people producing shows in town. Now there are still two and a half. It sort of depends how one decides to count Sinferno Cabaret at Dante's since that's produced by the venue but has a wide variety of people who've managed it over the years.


Of the primary Burlesque community and producers in Portland, there's still two male-presenting Burlesque producers in town. Actually, that's not true. Rewind. I'm making a mistake. There are four, although two of them always co-produce together. So, there's sort of three sets because at the time when I started there was Zora Phoenix, who is a gender-illusionist and is otherwise a male-presenting performer who, at the time, produced a variety show and a Burlesque show. The Burlesque show had actually just very recently started that year. The variety show had predated it and now only the Burlesque shows remain. These days, so there's still Zora Phoenix, there's myself, and then there is the co-producing team known as Izohnny, which is Isaiah Esquire and Johnny Nuriel. For a long time they'd only produced a single show called BOYeurism, but now they actually have several other irons in the fire. Now there's sort of four or, if you count them as teams, three male-centric Burlesque production teams in 00:30:00town and we're in the minority I would argue.

I can name a double handful of female-presenting Burlesque producers currently. Again, I don't think it's ever been more than fifty percent and even that's been an outlier when that's been the case. If that's been the case, it's been because of like a brief hiccup while things are reorganizing themselves. Zora Phoenix and I have both produced very long-term shows. Maybe so that might color people's impression that way because we've both been at it for a long time. I don't know how much of the idea that we... There are people who have asked me if there are other people who produce Burlesque shows in this town all the time and I'm like, "Yeah, lots of people," but nobody knows necessarily. They only know the people they know. So, if they've only seen me and they see me every 00:31:00Saturday, they may think that's what's going on when there's really a dozen other things happening at any given moment.

Currently, I can only think of one regular monthly production (and human error is possible here, I may not be remembering everything) that's every single month that is primarily female-produced. But, there's a whole bunch of shows that are bi-monthly and quarterly and on those sorts of rotations rather than monthly. I don't know why that is. Certainly there've been a lot of lean years over the time for me and I'm just ornery and have stuck it out anyway. If I think it's working I'll keep working at it. Even if it's not necessarily good today, I know it'll bounce back next week. So there might be some of that.


LK: In Portland, who comes to Burlesque? What's the audience like?

MM: Depends on the show. Different venues attract different flavors of audience members. Different producers and performers attract their own fans. There are certainly a sort of, a kind of Burlesque fan who only goes to see Burlesque at one venue that they go to and that's the place they go to see Burlesque. They like the Burlesque they see there but they've never branched out to other venues because that's a bar they like or a place they like or maybe it's convenient for them to park next to. I don't know how much of that is a Portland thing versus a human thing because people like going places they've been before.

There are certainly people I see at shows at specific venues all the time who I never see at other venues, even though they like the things and they like the performers, and most of the performers perform at many venues. I think it's just 00:33:00a human nature thing where people stay where they feel comfortable and welcome, and so there's some variance there. And it's tricky. Then it's like, "Are they fans of Burlesque or are they fans of the bar where Burlesque is at? Are they fans of a performer or do they like the place where that performer performs a lot, and that's just where they go to see them and they're not going to bother going to see them other places?" I don't know that there's a generic Burlesque audience member in Portland. At a lot of Burlesque shows I would say, if I were to stereotype the Burlesque audience in Portland, and it would be a stereotype, I would say that there are probably more women in the audience than men. It varies by how much. I've seen shows where it's pretty even split and I've seen shows where it's eighty-twenty. I don't necessarily know that there's a rhyme or 00:34:00reason for it beyond the idea that I definitely see a lot more bachelorette parties than bachelor parties at Burlesque shows, although both definitely happen.

Beyond that, there's a lot of girlfriend dates, meaning "girls out with their friends" dates at Burlesque shows more so, I would say, than there are date dates, like romantic dates, of any orientation of people. But that's, again, a stereotype. I don't have a running audience survey at all times so I could definitely be making mistakes. It also depends what other stuff happens at the venue that lures people in. Not a lot of the Burlesque venues in this town have a particularly effective, what's the word I'm looking for, like walk-up traffic. Like people don't necessarily go there and then find out what's happening. 00:35:00They're there for whatever is happening. There are a few exceptions. Dante's downtown is probably the only venue where Burlesque is performed in this town where people will show up at the venue ask what's happening and decide to go inside. They have cabaret and Burlesque there every Sunday which helps, and at other random times. When the Oregon Burlesque Festival was there, which it was for its first four years I believe, there was definitely any number of people who would walk up on Friday night or Saturday night while the festival was happening, find out what's happening, and be willing to pay to come in. That's somewhat unique at that venue as opposed to most other venues that have Burlesque in this town. People may come to the venue.

Crush Bar is a very popular cocktail bar and every once in a while people will be there and hear the show happening in the back theatre room and decide to come in, but that's a few people there, it's a handful at any given show. Five, 00:36:00maybe. The show I do on Saturday is in a jazz club and we go on following the bands, and a lot of people stay after the band to watch us. That's a fun show for the community because, at least I think so, because it's a chance for us to get a whole bunch of people who would not otherwise come to a Burlesque show and have probably never seen a Burlesque show before. That's always a lot of fun. At some of the shows at the more Burlesque-centric venues, everyone will have been to a Burlesque show before and that's... New people are fun.

LK: So could you paint a picture? Describe a week in the life of being a creative industry entrepreneur.

MM: Describe a week in the life. Well, it depends on the week certainly. Right now I'm doing a show every single week so I have sort of a rhythm to my week because of that. Then that gets entirely thrown off whenever I have an issue. 00:37:00These last two weeks, instead of my regular Saturday night shows, we had shows on Christmas and New Year's Eve, which did not really mess with the rhythm, particularly, because instead of being there on Saturday we were there on a Wednesday and Tuesday, respectively. But at Burlynomicon, which I mentioned before, that show's on the second Tuesday of every single month. For the first year of this new weekly engagement I was doing that, as well as a weekly show. After a year and a bit of that, I decided I did not have the bandwidth to devote the work that Burlynomicon deserved for promotion and et cetera, because promotion is forty percent of the work in a given week that needs to be done probably and I probably only do about half as much as I should be doing.

In January of last year, in January of 2019, I made a deal with another 00:38:00performer in town to take over booking and hosting that show, and I've been back to host it several times as a guest host since, but it is now her baby. That is Natasha Riot who's taken over that show and is doing a great job with it. I'm happy with it continuing apace because I'd be sad to see it go after all this time, but I definitely did not have the energy to devote that it needed. And that partially, again, because that's a venue that attracts a little bit of walk up traffic, but really needs the promotional work to make sure the room is full, especially on a Tuesday night. Tuesday is hardly an ideal "go out to the club" night for most people. I started originally when I worked for the Department of Defense because I did not work on Wednesdays. My schedule was Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, ten-hour days, and so I was like, "I'm going to do a show on Tuesday night. There's nothing happening on Tuesday," which there was not. There are a lot more weeknight shows now than there were nine years ago. I'd be much more hesitant to try and pick a random weeknight to start a thing now because of that.


So, yes, random week. Sorry, I totally wandered off that question. So, for my weekly show, me personally, I tend to be booked about four to six weeks out. So on any given week, I'm booking the performers for the future. I've forgotten who's in the show this week because I'm distracted. Doing promotional posting on the Internet and sharing pictures and Facebook stories and Instagram and all the various social media nonsense. Coordinating with other people to do some of that promotional work for me because farming out work on other people is the way you get ahead. Also I handle all the administrative back-end on the shows because it's easier for me to do that than to try to show somebody else how to do that most of the time. Which means getting the music from the performers, figuring 00:40:00out what their technical needs are, if there's lighting or sound needs, or if they need specific equipment moved on and off the stage, whatever stuff, and setting up all of the back-end for that.

I act as my own stage manager at the show because it's a variety review that happens every week. There's not enough going on that I need somebody else to be in charge of it. If it were twice as big, I'd hire a stage manager. In between where it is now and twice as big, is where I'd probably mess up because I would not hire a stage manager soon enough. A good stage manger is not to be denied.

Did I answer the question? Typical week. Lots of emails. I'm constantly communicating with people electronically about future bookings. Travelling performers who might be coming into town from out of state because one of the advantages of having a show every week right now is it's really easy for me to catch people as they happen to wander through Portland on their way to other places. So I get to work with a lot of travelling performers. These last two 00:41:00months I've recently been coordinating with Izohnny, Isaiah and Johnny, because they're doing a lot of bringing in performers from out of town and they love giving them more opportunities to perform while they're in town. They know that I have a show every Saturday, so they send me all the people they bring into town, which is great because I get all the advantages of people coming into town without having to do any of the work.

LK: You mentioned the Jack London Revue has a special relationship with the venue. Is that unique? Can you describe that?

MM: Because it is primarily a live music venue and that's it's bread and butter. It's primarily a jazz or blues club depending on the night and so it's primary purpose it to operate as a jazz club. We're hired to be there by the venue specifically rather than collecting the money ourselves that comes in to pay for the show to continue entertaining the crowd after the band is done. Yes, people will come to see us specifically, but our primary purpose is to keep the crowd there and enjoying the bar's services for longer.


I joke sometimes onstage there that I'm really just a really well-dressed discount mozzarella stick, just like the discount food at happy hour. That's why I'm there, just so you all hang out and have another drink. So that's a unique relationship with that and because of that at a typical show there, after we're there with the band, between 50 and 100 people from the music show will decide to stay, It depends on what kind of crowd the band draws, how into the idea they are, and how quickly we get turned over. Then those people are often entirely unfamiliar with Burlesque or have maybe gone once in the past and it's a lot of fun for us because we get these people who otherwise would not get the chance to be exposed to Burlesque. Pun only half intended.

LK: So with all this stuff happening in Portland, do you apply to festivals and travel the Burlesque circuit at all?

MM: I did more in the past. I don't as much anymore, partially for financial reasons. It was easier when I had a day job to support random travel. Mostly I 00:43:00encourage people who want to travel to perform to travel to perform, not just the festivals. Festivals serve an important purpose in as much as they're sort of networking events, but they're not generally, particularly lucrative for the performers in them, partially because there're so many performers at a Burlesque festival. A typical Burlesque festival might have 30 performances in a night. Whereas a typical Burlesque show probably has something more on the order on eight to twelve, or eight to fifteen or something. Whatever the pile of money is that's being divided for the night, obviously the more people around, the smaller the piece is. So even though Burlesque festivals in America have definitely tilted towards paying their performers, whereas five or six years ago that was not particularly common, I still don't think it's a particularly lucrative thing except for perhaps the people who are headlining the show and 00:44:00are brought in specifically to do it.

The last festival I was involved with, it was in Boston about five years ago and that was nice because my mom and my sister came to the show. My sister lived in Boston at the time. My mom lived in Virginia. She came up and stayed with my sister and they came to the show I performed at, which was a lot of fun because my mom has not lived nearby me since I started doing this. That particular festival has had some scandals with the person producing it, so it's not been going on for several years. I'm not familiar with all the details so I wouldn't want to speak, but there are a lot of Burlesque festivals in the country now.

The only two I attend with any regularity were the Burlesque Hall of Fame weekend in Las Vegas, which is a fundraiser for the Burlesque Hall of Fame Museum. The last time I was in that was, was I think four... "In" that, pardon 00:45:00me, "at" that. I've never performed. Allow me to clarify. The last time I was at that was about four years ago and that is... I always joke that it's sort of summer camp for traveling Burlesque performers because you get to see all the people you don't get to see all the time. The other event I quite like attending, and attend with some regularity, was BurlyCon up in Seattle, which I haven't been to in two years. Two years? Two years now. I didn't go the last two years partially because that's a primarily educational event. Unfortunately because of its nature and the fact that each of the classes are maybe an hour and a half long and they tend to focus on a much more beginner approach of what the information being shared is. So, I think it becomes less and less valuable to people the longer they've been performing, except for a networking event and a fun time, which it is.

LK: Shifting to more artistic aspects I guess, as a producer how do you curate a show?


MM: It depends on the show. For the most part, for the variety review that I do every week or when I was doing monthly variety reviews, it was mostly as simple as I would see people performing at other events and I would reach out to them. People would occasionally reach out to me and say, "Hey, I'd like to be in your show." They'd be like, "Well, what's the process?" And I'd be like, "Well, if I've already seen you perform and I already like you, then the answer would be then yes, come be in my show." If I had not seen them perform previously, I would often ask them to submit a video of a past performance so that I can at least get an idea of what their style of performance is, et cetera. I'm actually about to set up a set of auditions for my current show because there are now enough people performing in town that I feel like I can't possibly see everybody.

I make a large effort, as a show producer, to go to other people's shows and 00:47:00watch the performers because it's a chance for me to find performers I wouldn't find anyway. This is something I've tried to do the entire time I've been producing shows in Portland, is to go to as many different shows as possible so that I can bring as wide a variety of talent to my own shows. Much like the Burlesque audience I was telling you about earlier is most comfortable at certain shows, there are a lot of producers who don't necessarily go to shows that aren't at venues that they go to very frequently. They may not get exposed to performers coming in from other directions. I've always tried to make myself an active participant in shows that are not necessarily ones I would go to otherwise so I can see what's going on at them and find out if any of the performers are people I would want to work with. It mostly works out. Every once in a while I'll end up at a show and I'm like, "Oh man, this isn't good. I should go now." But that's just me being a judgy artist type.


LK: Then as a performer, what's your process for creating a new piece of Burlesque for you, yourself, to perform?

MM: Well, depends. There's sort of a couple of different angles I guess you could approach it from. I tend to probably, mostly make Burlesque that's in sort of a top-down fashion, meaning I'm going to do an act as such and such character and then what do I do. Like the high concept feeds the details. I don't think that's necessarily universal. I think that you can definitely come the opposite direction: I would like to do an act to this song and now I'm going to figure out what that means. It's a different way. It's another angle to come at it from.

The most recent piece that I was involved in creating was, it ended up being a trio piece, although it did not start out that way. Natasha Riot, who I mentioned earlier, was producing a pop culture themed show, themed around the 00:49:00Joss Whedon television show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She had put up an application for it. I had seen the application and had a loose idea for an act but didn't actually apply because I was too busy at the time that summer. I mentioned to her maybe a couple of day after she closed the application backstage at another show, I was like, "Yeah I had this idea for a thing, but I didn't have time to flesh it out and now I kind of wish I had because now I feel like I have more time." I told her the loose concept for the act, which was that there was a musical episode of that TV show with an all-singing, all-dancing demon who made everyone sing and dance. I've always joked that if I were ever going to have any super powers, turning the world into a musical wouldn't be half bad. I was like, "It's sort of an idea for doing an act as the musical demon." I'm like, "It'd be like a duet or something, so rehearsals are tricky, timing's tough, so I didn't apply."


A couple of days after we had this conversation, she's like, "Hey, I actually could use another act in that show. Do you want to try to put that together?" I was like, "Umm, yeah." It's a duet because that's where it started in my mind because there's a dancing scene between the demon and one of the characters and that would be fun to do. I told her, "Well, let me find out if anyone else, one of the people I think can help me with it can do it and I'll found out if it's a thing we can do." I reached out to another performer. Originally, the scene before the musical demon appears includes a ballet sequence because the actress on that TV show, who's in that show, is a former ballet dancer. So it's this very light, airy ballet scene. So I was like, "Oh, I should hire someone who knows ballet and then we can do that and then the duet." I reached out to a performer whose name is Karlie Lever du Soleil, who is a trained ballet dancer who also does Burlesque.

LK: Wow.

MM: I reached out to her and she was like, "Yeah, I'm into it. Let's make it 00:51:00happen." I got to work at editing the music and put together some music I was pretty happy with, which was a whole medley of sound editing complaints on my side. Took a little while to get together. Then it ended up that we decided that we also needed a third person, so then it became a trio act. And we got a third person who got involved, Rizza la Reve, also a ballet dancer who's a Burlesque performer, although the funny part about them both being ballet dancers is that all of the ballet got cut during the creative process. So none of that got used at all. So, the fact that they're ballet dancers turned out to be entirely irrelevant in the end.

Then we staged that as a trio dance piece at the Buffy the Vampire Slayer themed show and it went over very well. We were actually asked back to do it at multiple other shows and we'll be doing it again, I think, in February of this year, as well, which is a lot of fun. So, the creative process for that was, "Hey, there's this scene from this TV show with this song I like." And then it 00:52:00all snowballed from there. The actual similarity to the TV show is very small, but it definitely uses sort of the concept of a demon seducing somebody via song and dance as sort of the underlying thing. Then it all ends with a show tune medley dance battle because who doesn't like show tune medleys? As an old musical theater kid, I'm certainly a sucker for show tunes.

LK: So, the topic of cultural appropriation is foremost in a lot of people's minds. What do you do as a producer to monitor that or promote it, well not promote it, but [laughs]...

MM: Prevent it?

LK: Prevent it. Thank you.

MM: Well, the short answer is it's sort of de-platforming, right? You don't put 00:53:00acts onstage that you would want to have to defend later on. Most recently, there actually was some performers who did an act at one of my shows and it wasn't terribly culturally appropriative, but I reached out to them because they were newer performers. It was a dance trio who'd done an act that referenced the costuming of Josephine Baker with her banana skirt and stuff, and these performers are all relatively white-presenting. They're not all actually strictly Caucasian, but point stands. I reached out to one of them and I was like, "FYI, you could get some grief over this and you may want to reconsider using this piece." It was really just the costuming. I'm like, "The act is not dependent on the costuming. If you lose that, I don't think anybody will give you any problems, but it's something to be cognizant of."

They took the criticism positively. I don't think they've staged that act that way since. It was, I believe, accidental and not meant, in that particular case, 00:54:00I don't think it was meant to cause any harm. Nobody actually complained about it to me. I reached out to them because I wanted them to not inadvertently offend or harm others. Maybe I'm being overly sensitive and obviously just a skirt made out of bananas is hardly the most terrible thing in the world. Carmen Miranda's pineapple hat is not a real far step away from that either, although maybe that would be cultural appropriation, too. I'm not Brazilian. Is she Brazilian? She's Brazilian, right? I honestly don't remember.

There are certainly acts that people I know did ten years ago that I don't think they would do now. A lot of that conversation has happened in the last four or five years. I recall a show that was produced here in Portland that was 00:55:00country-themed I guess, for lack of a better word. Each performer was representing a different country in their act. There were some acts in that that I don't think anybody would perform now, performed by white-presenting performers not presenting white-presenting culture, white-originated culture. Of course there's the underpinning issue of colonization of culture and exploitation of culture that is not your own. On the West Coast, the sensitivity to that is pretty high amongst the performance community. It's higher in, say, America than it is in Europe, particularly to our own cultural heritage here in North America. There was a kerfuffle a year or two ago about a French performer doing an act dressed as a Native American woman, which is pretty far divorced from not only her culture, but also her historical culture. She didn't 00:56:00understand, I don't think, why it was a problem because none of that is part of her history, which is ignorance. Not an attempt to cause harm, but it is still a thing that causes harm to some of the people involved.

I'm a White guy hosting a cabaret show in a jazz club, and jazz is already, there's some question right there about where we are on that as cultural appropriation. But I suppose if we go down that road then we'll have to ask questions about rock and roll and everything else too. It mostly is just a matter of being sensitive to it as a very White Burlesque producer. I put a more active effort in just making sure I'm bringing performers of color and other minority-presenting attributes to the stage with some frequency. Diversity is 00:57:00not about tokenization so much as it is about having your cast not all look the same all the time. I remember joking with two of my performer friends who were in a show together, who are both statuesque blonde women. I was like, "I can't have you both in the show together again or people are going to start to talk about me. Because it's a little much, like you guys are just too much, a lot of blond in a show of only four people. People are going to start thinking I have a thing."

But it is tricky, especially in a town as... Portland is very, very White and that's just demographics. That's not news to anybody. The performance community is also very, very White. There's definitely effort involved in making sure that Performers Of Color or other minority groups want to feel comfortable in your show and would like to be in the show. Because if they don't ever see anybody 00:58:00who is like them on your stage, they're going to assume that you don't want people like them on your stage. The best I can do is find the good performers who are not like everybody else and give them performance opportunity so that everybody else can see that the stage is welcome to everybody who entertains. That's always my logic. This sounds kind of like nonsense claims of color blindness, but I really only want to care about how entertaining you are on the stage.

I'm also happy that several times since we've started the show at the Jack London, at the request of a performer, she asked if it would be fun to have a show where all of the performers were performers of color and I was like, "Let's do it." We've done that three or four times now at her request. All these are people who were in the show at other times as well. None of those people are unique to that show, but it's fun to have a show that's all people for whom a jazz club is normally the right environment anyway, right? And that said, I 00:59:00never tell anybody that's what's happening with that show because I don't feel comfortable marketing it as if I'm doing something special, because I'm not. I'm just putting people on stage who I would put on stage anyway and it would feel exploitative to me to brag about how I'm having a show that's all performers of color. Also, it's not really because I'm on stage, so it's like ninety percent performers of color and then me.

There's also the tricky dynamic, and this applies to Burlesque whenever, a lot of the time anyway, where... You were asking before about the sort of traditional metric of the male producer and the female performers. I don't think it's necessarily any better if the person doing all the talking is always from the dominant social group, whether that's a man talking for women or a White person talking for people of color. Since I'm mostly my own emcee and do most of the talking, that's always sort of in the back of my head that makes me feel 01:00:00sketchy in those contexts. Although I like to joke onstage that you never let dancers talk, but that's a joke, not reality. I mostly don't want to let anybody talk though because a lot of people are not very good public speakers and I'm trying to keep a level of professionalism at work.

But there's definitely always a little bit of concern I think from anybody in that position that you want to make sure that you're not sort of seen as speaking for other people and I try to avoid that. I'm there to, as an emcee, I've said before, that I think that the job of the emcee is an advocate for both sides, right? You're not a judge, you're more like if you're both sides' lawyers, the side of the audience and the performers. I'm advocating for the performers to the audience so the audience knows who the performers are and what they're doing, but I'm also advocating for the audience to the performers to keep the audience engaged and happy with what's going on. In neither case am I 01:01:00speaking for anybody.

LK: So people in Burlesque have mentioned that they think Burlesque is empowering to not only the performers, but also the audience. What's your take on that? MM: I'm not sure I know what it means, frankly. I think that successful performances very much uplifts you emotionally and physiological, right? Every actor knows that stage fright is just about your adrenaline doing it's job and there's a reason why theatre acting is exhausting, even if you're not dancing and singing; If you're just onstage being onstage. So, I think that there's definitely some room to sort of conflate those responses with... The performance 01:02:00high is definitely a thing, and that is a very positive feeling. If by empowering people means to feel positive, I can definitely see that.

I know that for some performers, the act of taking their clothes off in front of people they feel is... Subversive is not he word I'm looking for... Contravenes expectations at least. That often applies to say Performers Of Color or some male performers and the audience is not expecting a male performer or a non-binary performer or a disabled performer. Just the act of engaging in being sexy as part of a group that is not traditionally seen as sexy in the dominant culture. I can definitely see where that confrontation with expectations could 01:03:00be described, I guess, as empowering. I'm never quite sure what people mean by empowering. I don't really want to speak for anybody else as to whether or not it is.

For myself, I like performing because I like entertaining people and I like putting on an effective performance that does whatever I'm trying to do in that performance: entertain the audience, be funny, be sexy, be well-choreographed, et cetera. But I certainly, if there's an emotional need for me that it's fulfilling, it's more part of that, "I did a thing and I was successful." That applies to a wide variety of activities. I don't know that I necessarily... But again, White male. Do I need to be empowered? I probably don't.

LK: What are your ideas about Burlesque as a force for social change?


MM: I think the main reason I would see it as a force for social change is because it's a chance to get audiences thinking, potentially. Groups of people, right? Like it's a soapbox sometimes, right? Because you've got an audience and if you don't have an audience you're not going to have much influence on society because people need to communicate to have an impact on society. Here in Oregon, it goes back to no blue laws, we're not really confronting society in Portland very much because we're not breaking laws. We're not engaging in civil disobedience or anything like that just by doing Burlesque, which can be the case in other places.

I've definitely heard people say to performers that they were inspired by seeing 01:05:00someone like themselves onstage. So the "representation matters" argument is completely a thing that I'm one hundred percent with. So there's definitely the social change of people who have not seen themselves presented as sexual creatures in public before, I think has some value. Then there's definitely the Burlesque acts that are a political commentary, which have existed forever in Burlesque. I don't doubt that in the '70s there was any number of women with tops off with Richard Nixon masks on because I have faith that things have not changed that much and I've seen people do it with almost any president you can think of and even long dead presidents, but that might have been a point break act.

It's always the question of how much social change you can inflict. I think the 01:06:00social dial moves very slowly. In most places... We're not forcing anybody to watch Burlesque, right? The people who are there want to be there, at least notionally, or may have been dragged by their friends and can leave. It's not a prison. So there's only so much change you can inflict on people. They are willing which makes it easier to maybe change their opinions, but at the same time you can only shift one side of the window when only the people who would come talk to you anyway are already there. As I mentioned, I worked in politics for a long time so I'm ready to [inaudible word] at length on that topic, but I don't really want to.

LK: What are the challenges facing Burlesque?

MM: In Portland...They vary from place to place. I mentioned how we don't really 01:07:00have a lot of legal challengers here, but I have Burlesque performer friends in other parts of the country whose shows have been shut down by the law. That's a problem we don't have here. I have friends from here who had a show in Washington shut down by the local constabulary. That was years ago, but it definitely happened. They were going to do a show at a bowling alley and the cops came in and said, "You couldn't do it." Like the local sheriff shut the show down. This was somewhere in Washington state, which made no sense and I'm pretty sure was not in accordance with the law, but you don't fight the law, at least not in that context. But there were great pictures of them bowling in their fancy Burlesque outfits which made it all worthwhile.

Here, if there were challenges to, well...I'm going to segment this answer I guess. So there are challenges for the Burlesque community, there are challenges for Burlesque performers as individuals, and then there's challenges maybe to the concept of Burlesque as an art form and what it means. I think the 01:08:00challenges for the community are mostly the kind of challenges everybody faces in capitalism, like making sure there's enough money, making sure you're bringing new audience member to the table so you can grow your audience and make sure people are getting remunerated for their activities in a reasonable fashion. I think that's one of the things that's had people quit after producing for a while is that it's easy to be putting in a whole lot of work for not a lot of reward if you're not keeping your eye on those numbers all the time. There's a whole business component that is not the fun part of the job, and I didn't even talk about it when I talked about what I do every week in Burlesque. It's the thing I'm thinking about all the time because it is how I pay my rent and eat my food these days.

So, for Portland, probably the primary challenge facing the Burlesque community 01:09:00is I think, and this is just my opinion, I'm sure other people would disagree, they probably, some of the people who've wanted to produce shows in this town, should cast a slightly broader net in the locations they're producing them to spread out where the shows occur, and expose and get new audience members because that's important. If you want to grow more stuff, you need more audience members. That's the growth that's most important. It's hard to find places to perform Burlesque. We don't know how to talk to venue owners and all these other things that are tricky. So, I get why new producers just want to do a thing in a place that's already done it a whole bunch. It's not a strong growth potential choice though.

For performers, the challenges are varied. I mean some of them, there's health issues related to just being a dancer. I've been working with people now for nine years, approaching ten years, and some of them have been performing for 01:10:00twelve or thirteen years, and are now in their late 30s or early 40s, and your knees are not so great and you take five ibuprofen every morning and that's just real-life sometimes. And then there's the financial challenges. There's a stereotype that Burlesque costumes are very expensive and a lot of them look like they are and a lot of them are. They don't necessarily need to be and there's definitely room to substitute other expertise for money and, costuming especially, if one wants to become a seamstress or learns to become a seamstress. Money can substitute for skills you don't have, but you can also substitute skills you have for money you don't have. Since every Burlesque performer operates in a vacuum, it's a very self-managed, creative process. Most of the acts are solos, you create an act, you build the costume, you settle on the music, you decide on your choreography. It's one of the things most 01:11:00Burlesque performers, I think, a lot of people who come to Burlesque from other art forms like about Burlesque. It's the first time they've ever been their own boss. If they come from dance or theatre, they've never had a creative choice in their life, by comparison. Tiny things where it's all the sudden they get to do all the things they want to do with nobody telling them they can't, which is a lot of responsibility too because if your act is bad that's all on you. It's all you then when it goes wrong or doesn't work and you can fix it. That's fine because you're not beholden to anybody.

For newer performers, there's the challenge of like, "Oh man, I need to find out if this thing I thought of has been done by 50 million other people, or is somebody in town doing this exact thing because it's a kind of obvious idea? And if I do it everyone's going to be like, 'You know that so and so does this exact thing.' And then I'm going to have to stop doing it because I don't want to constantly be mis-associated or look like I was ripping off their idea." So 01:12:00those are common challenges for Burlesque performers, like the economics are challenging, the creative process can be challenging, and what part of the creative process is challenging has a lot to do with what your background is and how prepared you are for different art forms. Like I'm not a costumer. I hire other people to make costumes for me which means, economically, I can only make a new act every one in a while because it costs me money to make me a new act because I don't do it myself. I have the time and choreography I can learn, choreography I can make, music I can edit myself, creative choices are fine. But you need a costume to bring you all together sometimes. All of those resources are limited and different resources are more limited for different people depending on what their expertises are and what their income levels are, et cetera.

Then challenges for Burlesque just sort of in general: eight or nine years ago, 01:13:00I might have said that there was a constant sort of struggle for legitimacy. I feel like that's less true now and that that's probably just Portland. I'm sure it varies. Our scene here has gotten so mature, by which I mean that when I talk about people who have been performing Burlesque for thirteen or fourteen years, that's here in Portland they've been performing Burlesque thirteen or fourteen years. Sinferno Cabaret celebrated its 18th anniversary in 2019, and that's been going every Sunday for eighteen years. There's a lot of maturity to the scene and people are at least tangentially aware of Burlesque in Portland, I would argue. Even people who've never been to a Burlesque show, they're the people who're like, "Some kind of a strip show, right? Kinda thing?" They may not know anything about it. They may not have a very accurate impression of what it's actually going to be, but you're not entirely rowing upstream with the idea of going out to Burlesque shows or cabaret shows. Even the success of things like 01:14:00Drag Race have probably helped with that because it's very much an adjacent art form to Burlesque in a lot of ways. The idea of going out to cabaret shows and drag shows and Burlesque shows, in many places, those are huge overlap in those categories anyway. There are drag performers at a lot of Burlesque shows and vice versa and more and more of that is happening in Portland now, too.

As an art form, I think probably the biggest struggle now is probably dealing with the changing methods of communication with potential audience members. There's a joke in advertising in American that Americans have become immune to advertising because we've been doing it to ourselves for one hundred years basically. Like modern advertising is one hundred years old and kind of doesn't work anymore. We're all immunized to it and pay no attention to it. That's true for everybody. I used to print show posters and hang them all up and down the 01:15:00busy streets in Portland and get handbills that go to the wherever, and I very rarely do that anymore because I don't think it's an effective way to advertise. The return on investment is really hard to track. Then online adverting in new media advertising has it's whole set of challenges. Whether or not there're issues with how much theoretical skin is showing in a picture that you're using to advertise on a social media platform or any online advertising platform because they all have rules about it. Google ads doesn't let you use naked people as advertising either. But everybody in American's staring at their phones all the time, so you really want to be advertising on their phone at them. Even then, we all ignoring those ads. How many ads does the average person pay no attention to on their phone every day? I would assume it's in the literal thousands.

So, I think it is truly that our best advocates to the rest of the world for 01:16:00Burlesque are basically people we've gotten to like it and who bring other people, which that's true in literally every industry. Personal recommendations get you your best business in every industry and we are just as dependent on them as everyone else. Not everybody involved in Burlesque production is a sales person or has a sense for how that works or understands it even remotely. There's the "artist's are bad at this, this, and this" stereotype, but sometimes it's true. So, the lack of understanding of how to reach out to people is probably the largest challenge in general because again, without an audience, we aren't doing anything.

LK: So, to wrap up, what do you wish the general public would understand about Burlesque?


MM: I don't know that I have an answer to that question. I don't think the general public needs to understand Burlesque any more than the general public needs to understand what parts of special effects were happening in the last Star Wars movie, right? They just need to be entertained and want to come see it. And if they don't, that's fine. I don't love square dancing, but I'm happy that it exists and other people enjoy it. I don't know that there's an answer to that question. I think that some people who see Burlesque will enjoy it and want to come back and I hope that they do. I don't think there's an answer to that question that has any sensible answer to me. It's just, I hope that people who like it share it with other people and maybe they'll like it, but not everything's for everybody. I've had very good friends of mine come to some Burlesque shows and then tell me after a couple times like, "Yeah, I don't really think Burlesque is for me." And I'm like, "Yeah, that's fine." Again, 01:18:00square dancing is not for me. I love lots of kinds of dancing. Square dancing is weird.

But yeah, so I don't think the general public needs to know anything about Burlesque any more than I need to know anything about cricket. Like it's fine that people are ignorant of things that they're not all that interested in. And if they are, I would hope that people respect that things exist that they aren't interested in. That's probably more important, right? And again, we have it really easy here. Nobody's trying to shut down the Burlesque shows that are happening in Portland. So, we don't have that issue where I'm like, "I wish people knew this was an okay thing." But maybe in the rest of the world, that would be my wish for Burlesque in other parts of the world. I wish they didn't have to deal with that kind of nonsense because I'm not happy to see my friends having their shows shut down in other parts of the country.

LK: All right. Thank you very much.

MM: No problem.