By Bradley Morris, Urban Tulsa
In the spirit of full disclosure, Lauren McAnulty works at Urban Tulsa Weekly. In the spirit of burlesque dancing, McAnulty and crew will fully disclose a bunch of assets at Thursday’s Boomtown Burlesque show at the IDL Ballroom.
But much more than just a strip club show, burlesque dancing has rejuvenated itself in Tulsa over the last decade or so, and that’s pretty impressive, considering the sexed-up nature of our society and the fact that there’s no nudity or anything really all that shocking in a burlesque show. But we still go to these shows. Why?
Because boobs, man. That’s why.
McAnulty’s burlesque company, Eye Candy Burlesque, has spent a lot of time lingering in a kind of purgatory, she said, but it’s on its way out of there and into the Tulsa mainstream–or so she’s planning, anyway.
“In 2009, we had our third anniversary show,” McAnulty said. “Then I got pregnant, one of us moved to Austin, so we kind of disbanded. We used the name in a couple of shows with the Nightingale, and then Sara Wilemon became a part of the Horsemeat Flea Circus Naughty Vaudeville Cabaret. They’ve asked me to come and perform, and we’ve used the name Eye Candy Burlesque down at the Nightingale, but it’s been sleeping. It’s just been tattooed on my arm.”
After Tom Green of IDL Ballroom fame came calling, things got to happening, and McAnulty’s troupe is on its way.
“He wanted to do something big and elegant that would match the space that he’s got to offer. And it’s going to be a monthly thing, and I want to bring in regional and national performers as it grows,” she said.
While there is some confusion among the uninitiated as to the difference between burlesque dancers and strippers, this confusion neither frustrates nor upsets the burlesque dancers themselves.
“It’s a constant battle to prove to people that no, we’re not strippers,” McAnulty said, but that battle is fought just by doing what she does.
“It’s a way to embrace my femininity and identify with just having a voice,” she said. “People listen to you, you know?”
There’s also a kind of girl-power sensibility to the zaftig McAnulty’s efforts.
“Women are really big fans of it,” she said. “They’re proud of us because we’re not picture perfect. Our measurements don’t add up. ”
That doesn’t stop people from going to the shows. If you’ve ever been to a burlesque evening at the Nightingale Theater, then you know what I’m talking about.
McAnulty went on to cite the good deeds of burlesque dancers from the past, such as Josephine Baker, a very famous burlesque dancer who emigrated to France in the early 20th century and used her celebrity to help people who needed it.
“She assisted the French resistance by smuggling information in her sheet music,” McAnulty said. “She adopted, like, 15 kids and came back to the U.S. A lot of those performers used what they did as a forum and to stand up for the little guy. And I’ve done political themes before. It’s a way to get people to look at you and listen to what you say. And they do.”
Not that Eye Candy has a huge political message, but the troupe does have some things it works toward.
“It’s a way for me to have some power and to hone that power to do good things,” she said. “I’m hoping with Boomtown that I can do some benefits. I want to do stuff for Turn Tulsa Pink, for autism awareness, stuff that’s important to me, because boobs make money.”
That they do.
For Thursday’s show, Eye Candy is going for a Prohibition-Era speakeasy feel featuring live music from the lovely Olivia Duhon.
“She’s our siren, our little jazz kitten,” McAnulty said. “She’s going to help create the mood of the era that we’re trying to capture.”
Really more a variety show than a narrative piece of theater, Boomtown Burlesque will feature McAnulty as a fully-clothed emcee for the evening, Duhon’s tunes, erotic poetry, and of course, pasties.
Boomtown Burlesque, presented by Eye Candy Burlesque and the IDL Ballroom, will include an appearance by the stunningly beautiful Ilsa the Wolf, among others. The one-night-only show runs Thursday, May 23 at the IDL at 230 E. 1st St and starts at 8pm. Tickets ($13 in advance, $15 the day of the show) are available online at idlballroom.com and at stubwire.com.