Correct Culture: From Burlesque to Bedsheets

Last month, San Francisco’s very own legendary performance art troupe The Cockettes staged a wonderful show at the Bleeker Theater. What made it all so amazing was the inclusion of several of New York’s own special talents, highlighting the fact that the big A is in the middle of downtown cultural resurgence the likes of which we haven’t seen since Haoui Montaug & Anita Sarko’s infamous No Entiendes cabaret at the 80s nightclub Danceteria. Two of the biggest stars to first perform there were the queen of reinvention (and lover of oxygen facials) Madonna and the undisputed queen of performance art (and pissing off the NEA) Karen Finley. While the jury is still out in terms of who the future stars of tomorrow may be, it’s safe to say that their talent and impact on a new scene is immeasurable.

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Caution: Correctness Ahead – At the Mutineers shindig on the SS Lilac perma-docked at Pier 40, Inbred/Hybrid Collective presented a stellar evening of installation & well-chosen performance. The delovely and divine double threat Darlinda greeted guests in her makeshift boudoir on the ship’s deck, serving backless dress couture and a healthy dose of counterfeit astonishment. Her performance and accompanying striptease was naughty and oh so nice. Besides giving good striptease, Darlinda likes to tackle ongoing art projects, her most recent being Year in Rainbow, where she documented her daily adventures wearing one of six colors every other month. Her eccentric dance troupe Animal Crackers are best described as Duke Ellington meets the Marx Brothers, while her other, the Schlep Sisters, specialize in Jewish-themed burlesque. Her biggest inspiration is Anita Berber, a renaissance performer from the 30s known via the book The Seven Addictions and Five Professions of Anita Berber: Weimar Berlin’s Priestess of Depravity. “It’s my bible,” purrs Darlinda, who in her spare time teaches at the New York School of Burlesque and performs weekly at Burlesque at the Beach, part of the Coney Island Sideshow. Who says Russ Meyer-esque super vixens are extinct? Darlinda proves that theory to be oh, so wrong.

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Fiercely Correct Art – John Kelly’s new exhibit “The Mirror Stages: Self-Portraits, 1979-2009” @ Alexander Gray Associates (May 20 to June 26) showcases his beyond brilliant work as a visual artist whose imagination and self-reflection are not only a stunning treat, but also a rare example of an artist able to balance in one medium as gorgeously as he does his in performance art. Hung collage-style all on one wall, the self portraits offer a provocative glimpse into the soul of a man who is able to inhabit many different identities, each one more genius than the next. And BTW, after an eight-year absence, the two-time Obie Award winning artist Kelly once again inhabits the persona of Joni Mitchell in an entirely new evening of songs and stories. Conceived and performed by John Kelly, produced by Tweed TheaterWorks in association with Robbi Kearns, and directed by Kevin Malony, Paved Paradise Redux: The Art of Joni Mitchell runs for seven performances only beginning June 18 at Abrons Arts Center. Buy tickets here.

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Take The Picture – German-born photographer Dietmar Busse came to NYC in 1991 and worked as the proverbial assistant to pretty much everyone before striking out on his own four years later. He quickly amassed a huge pile of tears from magazines like Visionaire, Paper, The New York Times, and Bazaar before stopping in 2001 because he felt his work was getting too commercial. Some might call that career suicide, but Busse proved them wrong with his 2003 book Flower Album, and continuing on his fine art path with his current project — Starlets, Artists, Dogs & Homosexuals — which features portraits ranging from fashion designer Isabel Toledo to performance artist and The Box regular Rose Wood.

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Style Exiles – By my definition, a true style exile is someone that is beyond unique, slightly demented, and has the ability to not take themselves too seriously. Paul Alexander, 1/3 of the dance music act The Ones, has always gone his own way, but his recent take on the ubiquitous cape trend threw me for a lovely loop. Taking his fitted bed sheet and fetchingly draping it over his shoulders, he gives new meaning to the phrase “just rolled out of bed.” The boy with the neon pink towering pouf smartly kerchiefed to his head (at the very top of this post) is just so ridiculous you have to pay him homage and admire his ducking skills when it comes to navigating close quarters unprepared for such a tall style statement.

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Major Music – Known for their smash hit dance single “Flawless,” a flare for casual correctness, and the ability to get funky in the most dire situations, The Ones are gearing up to release a new CD (tentatively titled Dancing in the Daylight) this fall. Paul Alexander, Nashom Wooden, and Jojo Americo are longtime scenesters that have never stopped turning it out. They always feature a larger-than-life performance with futuristic visuals and a nonstop party once they hit the stage. In the meantime, they are serving us with neon-taped painters suits, Billy Beyond Sun Shades, and glow-in-the-dark umbrellas for when you get lost on the dance floor in a disco rain.

All photos (except Dietmar Busse image) by Walt Cessna.

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