Monday, October 24, 2011

Vintage Roadside Visits: Go-Go Amy Part 1

The reason we started Vintage Roadside years ago was to share and preserve the stories and history we felt were slipping away. In addition to the bygone places we've researched for our line of t-shirts, we've also met some amazing people with great stories to share - everyone from mermaids (past and present) to roadside museum owners. One thing they all have in common is that they're doing all they can to keep a piece of history alive. Another thing they have in common is that the hours are usually long, and the pay, well, did we mention the personal drive to keep a piece of history alive?

We recently caught up with one of the hardest working people we've met over the years - Go-Go Amy. Amy works tirelessly to keep traditional burlesque and sideshow alive through the touring company she founded - Pretty Things Productions, as well as working as a pin-up model and offering classes through her Pretty Things Academy. Here's some of what she shared with us...

Vintage Roadside: Let's start with the question we've always wanted to ask you (but seem to forget whenever we see you.) The first time we saw a Pretty Things Peepshow one of the things that floored us before the show even really got going was that you had your own Go-Go Amy theme song! It really doesn't get much cooler than that. What's the story behind the song?

Go-Go Amy: That song was written by a band from Canada called Hank Angel and his Island Devils. I did a gig with them. They were to play live after the burlesque ladies went on and something happened, the show was running short or some girl didn't show up, so I offered to dance for them live. No rehearsal and having never heard any of their songs we quickly decided on some cues for them to put hits in for some of my dance moves and I told them to give me 2 counts of 8 after my top came off to end the song. I guess they were impressed by my "Show Must Go On" attitude and how well I could roll with the punches because I got the song sent to me a few weeks later. After that whenever I was in Canada and we could make our schedules work I would perform with them live. It was a big compliment to have a song written for me but, on a more important marketing note, product placement is always important so if I can ever get my hands on a good song to include in the show that plugs the show at the same time I'll put it in our set. So, if any bands out there want to put together some track about me or the Pretty Things Peepshow you should get in touch. We'll take your tunes all over the world!

Vintage Roadside: We've always felt a kinship with you in the sense that you took something you love and realized the only way to do it full-time was to create your own job. What's a typical day like for you?

Go-Go Amy: I don't think I really have a typical day. It changes so much depending on where we are in our touring cycle. The week before we hit the road it's almost 24 hours a day getting last minute sewing done, advancing shows, cleaning and repairing the RV we use as a tour bus, and trying to tie up loose ends. The first week of tour we're all settling in, tweaking the set list, and getting into the groove of the tour. On tour a typical day is wake up at 9:00 am, work, send emails, and do payroll until about 1:00 pm. Then I eat, read a book, take a nap and have some "me" time. At 6:00 pm we load into the venue and get set up. 8:00 pm the doors open and the show starts at 9:00 or 10:00 pm and lasts till about 1:00 am. Then we hang out at our merchandise booth chatting people up, selling pasties, and throwing back a few drinks. 2:00 am we load everything out, drive a little and then pull over and sleep. Rinse and repeat. During pre-production I usually spend several hours a day online booking or promoting shows, updating our website, Facebook page, events listings, etc. The only typical thing about my days is that everything I do from the moment I wake up until the second I pass out is work on moving the show forward both onstage and off.

Vintage Roadside: Some people may not know this, but the amazing costumes you wear are designed and sewn by you. Is it a lot of trial and error? We can't imagine you can head over to the fabric store and pick up a pattern for a dress that comes off in 4 pieces!

Go-Go Amy: That's right, I do design and construct everything I wear in the show. I also make all the group costumes and I've started making costumes for some of the other cast members as well. My background is actually in costume design. I started sewing at age 6 and I was working professionally at an off Broadway theater company by the age of 14. I went to NYU for Theatrical Design and I've worked in theater in NYC as well as film, TV, and celebrity styling when I lived in Hollywood. When I was working I would always come up with these fantastical designs, but I never had an excuse to make them for any of the projects I was working on so burlesque became my outlet for all of the designs I had dreamed up but was never able to make. I also feel like my technical knowledge really helps the show. There are a lot of hidden snaps, zippers, and buttons that all help my dress come off in 4 (or more) pieces and that always keeps the audience in awe as they have no idea how the next part will come off.

Vintage Roadside: You've performed over 300 shows around the world. How do you come up with new routines? P.S. We're big fans of both your fire act and the Chinese Execution Blade Box - two completely different, but awesome parts of your show.

Go-Go Amy: Thank you! Those are 2 of my favorite acts as well. When I was a solo performer I just tried to put together acts that were fun to do and looked cool, but now that I'm part of a major production there's a lot more to it. We all try and keep track of what the other performers are doing, what costumes they're wearing, etc. so we don't double up on anything. In the Pretty Things Peepshow we want to make sure that every act is unique and exciting so you've got to keep tabs on everyone else to make sure what you're doing is unique. I also have to keep the set list in mind. I know my first act has to be a quick change because I only have about 90 seconds to change out of my opening corset into something fabulous so that act can't have too many pieces. I try not to do anything where I would have to take my shoes off after Firefly's glass act just in case there's a stray piece of glass left on stage. I always do my "Fire Boob" act before Heather does her fire eating act, and we never put them in the same set because we like to space out our fire acts. Some people would see this as limiting, but I like that we all care about the show as a whole as well as our individual acts - it makes for a much better show!

Vintage Roadside: Performing in such a variety of places has to be quite a challenge. We can't imagine that when you're someplace new almost every night things always go perfectly. The first time we saw you you were on a stage with a low ceiling and when you started your bullwhip routine it immediately got caught in the lighting above the stage. You took it completely in stride and had the audience laughing along with you. How do you deal with those types of situations?

Go-Go Amy: The trick to being on stage is simple. If you're having fun then the audience is having fun, so if you fu** up or if you're hit with an unexpected circumstance (like lighting equipment that you didn't encounter, even though you ran your act 4 times at sound check) you can't let it phase you and the audience will continue having a good time. And, at the end of the day that should be the most important thing - that the people who paid good money to see you feel like it was money well spent. I don't mess up that much, but when I do people remember it and how I was able to roll with it. Case in point you guys asking me this question. I can do hundreds of shows that go off without a hitch but the 1 or 2 flubs I have make the audience so happy because we have a secret together. It's like, for a second I've stepped off stage and am a normal person just like them messing up at my job. Then they realize that my job involves a whip and a pair of high heel cowboy boots and the show goes on. It's the thrill of live theater.

We hope you enjoyed Part 1 of our interview with Go-Go Amy! Join us later this week for Part 2. We'll talk about everything from road trip food to whether or not you should sleep in your pasties. In the meantime be sure and "Like" the Pretty Things Productions Facebook page located here, and for more photos, videos, and Amy's upcoming schedule check out her website located here

Jeff & Kelly
Vintage Roadside

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