Sunday, November 3, 2013

New York, Burlesque (and food) 2013

The City that Never Sleeps, Empire City, the Big Apple.
Whatever you call it, New York City is a mecca for burlesque performers and during four nights when the New York Burlesque Festival is on, the pilgrims gather from near and far.

The Golden Pasties- Group shot  Photo by Filip Wolak courtesy Time out Magazine

I have attended the NYBF as a member of the audience, a stage kitten and now, as a performer on Sunday night's Golden Pasties awards. More of an industry night, the Highline Ballroom's tables were full of performers, producers, New York's finest, burlesque legends and patrons willing to watch the swiftly delivered award presentations for the acts that followed.
Photo by Angela McConnell

But before the festival, there's the city itself, sprawling, loud, bold, New York City.
Chelsea Hostel for a few nights alone then a week in a sprawling Brooklyn loft with some Aussie friends- performers in their own right.
Two stops from Manhattan on the L train, if you're staying with 2-3 other people I would recommend messaging me for the contact (Airbnb). Cheap by New York standards, comfortable and friendly.

NYC was a new experience for Chiara and Becky which meant I could indulge the inner tourist by taking long walks through Central Park, diversions to find the carousel and Alice statue, Times Square for rush tickets to see Pippin on Broadway...

At the Alice in Wonderland statue with Becky and a random child already learning the art of photobombing
 We took the (free) ferry crossing to Staten Island and back taking in the view of the city skyline and the Statue of Liberty (keep in mind there's usually at least a 15 minute wait on Staten Isle before you can return). The sight of Liberty as you return from Staten Island always makes me think of the immigrants, arriving by sea, they would have seen the same welcoming representation of freedom as they arrived in the new land- I can't help but juxtapose that sight with the one that Asylum Seekers are confronted with en route to Australia.

Leaving Manhattan... from the Staten Isle Ferry
Scott, an Australian circus performer and trainer based in Montreal introduced us to the Williamsburg location of Beacon's Closet, a warehouse located on 11th st, next door to Vice headquarters, Kinfolk coffee and Brooklyn Bowl.
Packed with rails of new and vintage clothing, we spent happy hours searching through racks of Prada heels, silk frocks, fur stoles, cashmere sweaters and beaded cardigans.
Becky and I also visited the Manhattan Beacon's on 13th street located near Union Square, we lost a lot of time there but found some unique gems to take home.

Becky checking out the shoes at Beacon's Closet in Brooklyn
I love the Chelsea garage flea market on 25th street but was sad to learn that by the time I get back to Manhattan it will be gone. The parking garage the market uses has been sold and the tenants who set up shop there on the weekend, warned to find a new home.

One stall tucked in a corner has a glut of clothing from Victorian beaded dresses to these Atlantic City showgirl costumes.

The Food....

I'm a gluten free, vegetarian BUT I'm pretty happy to hang out with bread and meat eaters (I also don't eat potato- or fish.) So read on for my mostly unhealthy, coffee based recommendations!

Bowery street Antiquing...

I love the Wholefood Supermarket and Trader Joe's for groceries. They stock pre-made salads, fresh sushi and hot food such as soup and roast meat. If you're planning to stay in a flat or hostel with a kitchen check out their locations before you leave as you'll save money and your stomach will thank you for the fresh, organic produce you supply it- Union Square Farmer's Market is also a great one to check out for fresh produce, locally made products and baked goods.

Pumpkins at Union Square Farmer's Market
 Of course it wouldn't be a holiday if you didn't indulge a little... Let's start at the top of the pyramid-
 Schnippers and the Shake Shack are my faves for a great chocolate or coffee milkshake. Skip the lines at Shake Shack in Madison Square park and head round the corner to Schnippers on East 23rd for take out.

The view looking uptown from Madison Square Park
For cookies, Schmackary's is becoming a NYC institution. Between 8th and 9th Avenue, West 50th street for maple bacon, peanut butter chocolate, salted choc chip, S'mores and my favourites, gluten free sweet corn meal and cranberry cookies.
The selection at Schmackery's is constantly refreshed... $2.75 each or two for $5... But they're so sweet you won't need anything else for hours!
Sweet potato fries beat potato fries hands down. Scott recommended honey but I prefer ketchup.
For snacking I either grabbed hommus and pita chips or else got sucked into the constantly refreshed bag of Kettle or caramel popcorn left open on the kitchen counter in the loft- pick up at a local deli, supermarket, pharmacy (yes, really) or Garrett Popcorn on 34th street.

For coffee we visited Verb on Bedford Avenue. Consistently good and when the barista thought it wasn't good enough, he made me a new one of his own volition!
In Chelsea I like to go to Think Coffee between 13th and 14th street on 8th Avenue or head 10 blocks uptown for a fresh bagel and iced coffee from Murray's bagels 

Admiring the iced cakes at Magnolia Bakeries on Avenue of the America's  near Rockefeller Centre
If you're heading to Central Park, I would encourage you to either hit up a deli before- they often have fresh salad bars- or to visit the Wholefood market at Columbus Circle (inside the Time Warner building and down the escalators)- always busy, but well stocked-  and then head over to the park to set up your own picnic on one of the enormous rocks or can walk further in to the Park and settle in Sheeps Meadow

Back to burlesque...

Thursday night's Premiere Party was preceded by a gathering of visiting international performers at Minnie Tonka's apartment in Brooklyn. Style, audience and producing was discussed over cider, beer, popcorn and a potent liquor from Sweden.
At Minnie Tonka's before the NYBF Premiere Party

 Friday night's show was in our neighbourhood, we walked to the Brooklyn Bowl- sadly not the best venue for burlesque as you could barely see the performer's on stage and had to watch the large screens mounted on the walls. Medianoche, fresh from her New Orleans crowning performed early in the night before joining the audience to watch.
We arrived a little late, the stand out performances on Friday for me were definitely the Aussies, Peaches and Gin doing their Harry Potter act and Lillian Starr's Feed the Horse, comedy and festish... Oi, oi, oi

Saturday we ventured to BB Kings on 42nd street- via Grand Central- my bad navigation- Murray Hill comedian, drag king, Sunday night bingo caller at the Bowery Peotry club kept the night moving. Trixie Little stole the show. Her banana act brings together all my favourite elements of burlesque. The peel, her energy and confidence, a terrific prop, costume and a big bang at the end... I could watch it again... and again... and again.(and it just ain't the same on Youtube!)

Photo by Angela McConnell,
L-R Minnie Tonka, Tiffany Carter, Darlinda, Just Darlinda, Lucy, ..., Lil Miss Lixx
Industry nights are always going to have a whiff of inside jokes and closed double entendres but these were kept to a minimum or packed into a one liner, swiftly delivered by the towering, long eared emcee Scotty the Blue Bunny.

Photo by Angela Mcconnel
Dave Bishop kept the show running smoothly on stage and at a cracking pace backstage. all was when the performer on before you was performing. Then it was a quick descent to the wings and a tottering climb up some steps to the rubber floored stage.

Photo by Angela McConnell
On early in the night, I could settle in to a booth near the back with Becky, Chiara, Luna Eclipse and Scott to watch the rest of the show. Gotta say Becky Lou's goldfish act gets me every time and Trixie Little and Mr Gorgeous produced a fairy tale of epic, feet brushing lights, proportions.

We finished up with a haphazard curtain call, an upskirt look at my stockings and an un needed binge of fried food and chocolate milkshakes at Kellogs Diner in Brooklyn.
We went our separate ways the following morning, Chiara and Becky in a cab, Scott on a bus back to Canada and I hopped on the L train with my suitcase- substantially heavier-  for two more nights in Chelsea, walks on the Highline and sunny Fall days in Central Park.

My last morning in Central Park

28 hours of Transit later and via Brisbane, I was in Wellington for the New Zealand Burlesque Festival...

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