Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Vintage Roadside Visits: Go-Go Amy Part 2

Here comes part 2 of our interview with Go-Go Amy! So, grab your beverage of choice and let's talk about truck stops, ramen noodles, the pain of sleeping in your pasties, and why we think Amy won't lack for home cooked meals much longer.

Vintage Roadside: You do all of the booking and promotion for your tours. That seems like a gigantic task! As you tour more has it gotten easier to find venues?

Go-Go Amy: Gigantic is an understatement. When I started the show I had no idea how to book a show or run a tour so I faked it and tried to pick up everything as I went along. The first 2 years were really hard, but as our tour dates started adding up the show got better. We started gaining a good reputation with the venues and as I learned from my mistakes it did get better. At first, it was like fighting a room full of wild animals while blindfolded. Now the blindfold is off, but the wild animals are still attacking. It's still hard to string together enough shows to have a good tour but at least now I know what I'm up against.

Vintage Roadside: Your tours always include a mix of burlesque and sideshow. Have you always been a fan of classic sideshow entertainment?

Go-Go Amy: I've always been a theater geek. I grew up in the NYC area and loved going to see Broadway shows with my parents. (A love that's still very much alive - we're going out to see the Follies tomorrow night!) I seemed to gravitate towards the 1920-40's style shows with more of a vaudeville theme. That's why we define our show as "Broadville" - a combo of Broadway and Vaudeville. I didn't know much about sideshow until I started performing with the Brothers Grim but I absolutely fell in love with it. I've always loved the touring lifestyle and my want to go out on the road has as much to do with putting this show together as my love for life in front of the footlights.

Vintage Roadside: We follow you on Twitter, and being veterans of many road trips always enjoy your updates from the road. Any idea how many miles you've traveled in that RV?

Go-Go Amy: If miles were Playboy bunnies my odometer would have seen more of them than Hugh Hefner and an army of rock stars...combined! We're on our 8th national tour right now, and thanks to Johnny Coconutz (our roadie and mechanic) and some amazingly dumb luck, we're still going strong. One day I'd like to upgrade to a nicer bus but we've got to stick to the "Shasta" till we start pulling in some more money.

Vintage Roadside: Follow-up road trip question - favorite road food?

Go-Go Amy: My tour food consists of creamy chicken-flavored ramen noodles, rice in a microwaveable bag with canned veggies and canned salmon, or carrot sticks and hummus. But my favorite on the road food is when we're lucky enough to roll into a town where we have friends or family and can get a home cooked meal. I'm a microwave gourmet, but I prefer to eat something that doesn't come with a "flavor" packet whenever possible.

Future Vintage Roadside dinner party guests

Vintage Roadside: How about truck stops? 2 hot dogs for $2.00, 55 gallon drum-sized sodas, t-shirts with eagles riding choppers - late at night it's like landing on another planet! We're smitten.

Go-Go Amy: I hate to shatter your romance but I really don't like truck stops. At first all the funny touristy items are cute, but now it's just annoying to get stared at because it's 5:00 am and I have a head full of curlers, or having to eat truck stop food when all you want is a good salad. I do like truck stop showers as they're usually cleaner than most motel and RV parks we stay at.

Vintage Roadside: Fair enough. Back to the Pretty Things Peepshow. You've always got incredible performers touring with you. How do you choose the cast?

Go-Go Amy: We have had a variety of performers on the show but for the last year and a half our cast has been me, Lil Miss Firefly, Miss Heather Holliday and Donny Vomit. I really really lucked out when I got those 3 to commit to the show full time. They are like the Holy Trinity of amazing! Firefly and I met when we toured on Ozzfest with The Brothers Grim Sideshow in 2007. I met Heather the following year when Bros Grim took us to Sweden for a big festival and we also did several Halloween shows together. Heather in turn introduced me to Donny who worked with her on the Coney Island Sideshow.

We have a new performer named Stoya and she does some fabulous aerial and contortion acts. She came to us through our company photographer Steve Prue. Basically anytime Steve introduces me to someone something good happens...and that's totally the case with Stoya - she's been a great addition to the show.

Vintage Roadside: You've done quite a bit of pin-up work and even offer classes through your Pretty Things Academy. What can people that attend those classes expect to learn?

Go-Go Amy: Pretty Things Academy is my national network of Pin Up Modeling classes. In the class you'll learn how to do vintage hair and make up, pose like a pin-up and get a good kick in the self esteem. You'll also get a makeover and a photo shoot. Classes are now taught by me or one of my approved teachers all across the country. You can learn more about the classes on my website here.

Vintage Roadside: We'd like to ask a few questions from the "always wondered" category. Say the venue is either too hot or too cold. In your line of work which one is worse to perform in?

Go-Go Amy: Too cold is always worse than too hot. The only things you have to worry about in a venue that's too hot is sweating your pasties off and smelly costumes, but with all my wardrobe experience we're prepared for that. Cold is far worse. It's really hard to dance because all of your muscles tense up. No one wants to go on stage in our skimpy outfits, and pulling pasties off is a painful experience. Also, people can get really crabby when they're cold so it's harder for us to sell merchandise, and it's even hard to socialize after the show because all we want to do is huddle around Heather's space heater in the dressing room. Right now we're working on constructing fabulous matching 1930's style dresses with fur collar and cuffs that are fully lined and insulated (inspired by a Mae West costume we're all in love with) in preparation for our upcoming winter tour. With these we won't have to wear our coats around the venues.

Vintage Roadside: Pasties - Are they like roller skates in that once you take them off it still feels like you're wearing them?

Go-Go Amy: I don't wear pasties for that long. I'm in 6 acts in the show so I basically stick them on, hop on stage, and then pull them off to get ready for my next act. They may have a roller skate factor for someone who doesn't do as many changes as me but they're not on long enough for me to share in that experience. I have accidentally fallen asleep in them which I do not recommend to anyone. Pulling tape and rhinestones off your nipples while making your morning cup of tea is not as glamorous as you would think.

Vintage Roadside: Strangest gift ever given to you by a fan?

Go-Go Amy: Thank you for both thinking that I have fans, and that those fans actually like me so much they give me gifts. Both of those statements are false but I needed an ego stroke today. There are people who frequent our show and who buy us drinks as well as the occasional Valentine's Day card or rose, but I'm not nearly famous enough to have a good story about getting a pig heart or a lock of hair or anything like that. I did have this really cool chick tattoo the picture of me that Krysztof Nemeth did for my t-shirts on her arm. It's not necessarily a gift for me but I did find it really flattering that I'll be on that girl's arm for the rest of her life. I'm considering letting anyone who has a go-go Amy or Pretty Things Peepshow tattoo into any/all of our shows for free just to see if I can get someone else to lend us some flesh.

Vintage Roadside: So what's up next in the world of the Pretty Things Peepshow?

Go-Go Amy: We're taking Stoya out on the road with us for the first time this December so please come out and support our fabulous new cast member. Those tour dates are up on our website right now. We are also touring January-March of 2012 and those dates will be posted as shows get confirmed. And, we have a big show at Stage on Herr in Harrisburg, PA on New Year's Eve. 

I also want to congratulate Miss Heather Holliday for her new gig hosting the MTV Iggy Show which can be seen online now and will start airing on TV next week! 

Vintage Roadside: Where else can people get Go-Go Amy news and updates?

Go-Go Amy: You can sign up for our email list here, follow us on Twitter here, and "Like" our Facebook page here.

Vintage Roadside: Thanks Amy, it's been great talking with you and we're looking forward to your next show in Portland!

Go-Go Amy: You're welcome!

Jeff & Kelly

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

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Vintage Roadside Visits: Dive Bar Mermaid Rachel

When you mention "live mermaids" many people think of Florida - with good reason. You can still catch a show at the one-and-only Weeki Wachee Springs, or venture down to the historic Wreck Bar in Ft. Lauderdale and watch Marina and her pod work tirelessly every Friday evening to keep a piece of history alive. Another option for those of us west of the Mississippi is the Sip 'n Dip Lounge in Great Falls, Montana. The Sip 'n Dip, located in the O'Haire Motor Inn, is also a wonderful piece of roadside history. (Much more on the Sip 'n Dip in an upcoming post.)

When we heard late in 2010 that a new mermaid lounge was opening in Sacramento, California we were amazed. The building of a new mermaid attraction was right up there with someone opening a new drive in theater or a new roller rink - these things just don't happen anymore. Amazingly it did happen and in early 2011 The Dive Bar opened to rave reviews.

We caught up with head mermaid Rachel Smith to see how things were going at the Dive Bar and here's what she had to say...

Vintage Roadside: We read that you landed the Dive Bar job by submitting a "mermaid resume" - can you tell us a little of what makes up a mermaid resume?

Rachel: It's a regular resume, but showcases any mermaid work experience that I've had in the past. My resume for the Dive Bar didn't have any professional jobs on it, but it did have photos both above and underwater, my headshot, swimming experience and included a link to a video I had made with a friend. Lynda, our mermom, was incredibly impressed with the video - it was probably the thing that helped me the most to get the job.

Vintage Roadside: You do the mermaid hiring and training at the Dive Bar. What's the response like when you have an opening? Are you flooded with applicants?

Rachel: Everyone wants to be a mermaid! We have tons of resumes on file of men and women waiting to try out. We even had a girl send us photos of her in her underwear! Not exactly what we are looking for...ha! When we hold auditions we try to filter out anyone who has not had any swim, dance. modeling or acting experience. To swim in our small tank space, you really have to know how to control and move your body gracefully and safely. It's a lot harder than most people think!

Vintage Roadside: What type of training did you have prior to the opening of the Dive Bar?

Rachel: Our first round of mermaids (including myself) were trained by the incredibly talented Linden Wolbert of Mermaids in Motion. She taught us breath techniques, how to find neutral buoyancy in our saltwater tank, and lots of other mertips and tricks. When I train a mermaid, I like to keep what Linden taught us in the back of my mind - without her, we would have been floundering, literally!

Vintage Roadside: The Dive Bar tank is fairly unique. What types of things do you need to be aware of swimming in it?

Rachel: It's really important to know where everything is, all of the obstacles, props, etc. One of our biggest priorities at Dive is mermaid safety, we always have a lifeguard certified security member watching us when we're in the tank. It also took us some time to get used to swimming with the live fish. They all have personalities of their own, and can be a little feisty if it's a night that they're supposed to be fed.

Vintage Roadside: It sounds like you guys were as ready as you could be. Do you remember opening night?

Rachel: Between all the glitter, the screaming, and all the bubbles, it's a little bit of a blur - ha! We had all of the girls swimming that night, and it was actually my first night as head mermaid! Everything went swimmingly, of course. All the girls swam, flirted, and gave it their all. I think it was a very successful evening. We were even asked by George (the owner) to get back in the tank after the shows were finished for the night - people couldn't get enough of the mermaids!

Vintage Roadside: It sounds like all the preparation really paid off. No "goofs" at all for you guys?

Rachel: There are always awkward mermaid moments in the tank, they are unavoidable. Mermaid Aimee accidentally pushed me into the tank one night, and I just sort of dazedly swam back out. It must have looked pretty silly from below. I did the same thing to her a few weeks later though, completely on accident, so we're even now. ;-) There are always a few awkward escaping nose bubbles, and I've got a fish caught in my hair once or twice as well.

Vintage Roadside: What makes a Dive Bar show different from the other mermaid attractions?

Rachel: While Dive Bar definitely hearkens back to the aquatic shows of the 1960s, it's a really modern twist. We don't have a set soundtrack or routine that we have to perform while we're in the tank. Every show is unique, and every mermaid we have swimming at Dive has a different personality that they bring to the show. It's worth coming again and again, you'll always see something new.

Vintage Roadside: You guys even have a merman don't you? How does the crowd react to him?

Rachel: People really love it when our merman Antwan swims. The screaming does not stop!

Vintage Roadside: Who are some of the current aquatic performers you enjoy watching or wish you could swim with?

Rachel: Linden is incredible, I would love to swim with her out of the tank someday; either for fun or if she needs an extra mer. She is vivacious, bright, and cares deeply for our planet and its oceans. Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid is the best retro aquatic performer out there. She's a treasure-trove of talent and knowledge; I think that all mers could learn a lot from her. I also really like the styling of Mermaid Raven of Merbellas; I like her gypsy/tribal mermaid vibe. She makes beautiful tails and accessories. And of course, I would love to swim with our tail-maker, the fabulous Eric Ducharme. We're hoping he can come out to the Dive at some point and put on a few special shows with us. He's so enthusiastic and dedicated to what he does; it's been great working with him.

Vintage Roadside: We're big admirers of the Weeki Wachee "Formers" that perform once a month. Do you see yourself still performing in your 60s and 70s?

Rachel: I will always be a mermaid, but there will probably come a time to hang up my tail professionally. I'm very dedicated to my illustration, and painting and creating takes a lot of my time and energy. Being a mermaid is something I love so much, and comes so naturally to me that I will never stop doing it. Although in the golden years of my life, I might have to settle for Sea Hag! Ha!

Vintage Roadside: Thank you so much Rachel!

Rachel: You're welcome!

If you find yourself in Sacramento and are looking for something unique - check out the Dive Bar at 1016 K Street! They're open 7 days a week from 4:00 pm - 3:00 am.

If you'd like to see some of the artwork Rachel creates when not performing you'll find her website here

Jeff & Kelly