BY SARAH TEREZ-ROSENBLUM
I know enough to have been appalled at Avril Lavigne’s 2003 Grammy gaffe,, but my data on David Bowie begins and ends with the correct pronunciation of his name. I’m an embarrassment, especially to my sister, who, visiting my college dorm at age 10, heard “Time of Your Life” blasting from across the hall and sneered, “Green Day sold out.”
At her age I reserved that level of scorn for broccoli, sometimes my mother.
I don’t bring up Green Day because they and Bowie have anything in common (or maybe they do; I found out about The Rolling Stones last year), I’m merely demonstrating the dearth of my musical education.
But burlesque, I know, and when I heard about Chicago queer troupe Girlie-Q’s Sept. 24 David Bowie burlesque tribute, it seemed a perfect opportunity to expand my Bowie comprehension. It’s easy to pay attention when sequins and garters are involved. I spoke with Girlie-Q founder, Miss Bea Haven, about Girlie-Q’s history, and what to expect from Friday’s 9 p.m. show.
Our Town: Your tribute is part of Dirty Mary’s, a monthly series at Mary’s Attic. What other themes have you used?
Bea Haven: We just started Dirty Mary’s six months ago, [but] we've been performing for about seven years as a troupe, so we've also done loads of themes: a Bettie Page tribute show, a country show called "Burnin' Down the Trailer Park,” a punk show at Exit, "The Breast Show Ever!" (a breast-themed show benefiting LCCP and Bright Pink), "To All the Girls We've Loved Before,” a tribute to our ex-girlfriends. We love themes. Can you tell?
OT: What’s the difference between burlesque and strip tease?
BH: Frankly, there is a lot of striptease in Chicago that is masquerading as "burlesque,” [but] we like to add more meaning, interest and art for our audiences than simply cute girls stripping. It's an intellectual approach in addition to a sexy one.
OT: Why is it important that Girlie-Q be known as a queer burlesque company?
BH: [It] is a safe space to express all sexualities and genders. We don't censor anyone's art and we don't make people change their acts to be more appealing to the masses. This has actually happened to me, and I felt the director was trying to get me to compromise, to appear hetero-normative. The resulting act was watered down and presented me as something I was not.
OT: Describe your audience.
BH: About 50 percent queer and 50 percent artist types, age 20 to 60. Low on douchiness and high on enthusiasm.
OT: What inspired your David Bowie-theme?
BH: [He’s] one of my personal favorites. We arrive at themes [by throwing] around a bunch of ideas; Bowie had one of the strongest responses we have gotten. We even had a last-minute addition who is pretty hard to book, but he loves Bowie so much he's coming right from another gig.
OT: Any performances you’re excited about?
BH: Scarlett DeVille is doing a version of “China Girl” that I can't wait to see. She's a very strong classic performer who makes her own amazing costumes. Also, Ammunition, our resident "grinder" and fire artist, is doing “Rebel, Rebel.” All of her acts are very special.
OT: Give us a preview of your act.
BH: I'm doing "Rock N' Roll Suicide.” [The act is] about feeling old and worn out and ready to quit life, and then being redeemed through the use of social media as a way to connect with others. It's intellectual and ridiculous.
Girlie-Q Productions is the company name for the shows produced and directed by JT Newman, aka Ms. Bea Haven. Their shows have been in production since 2000, making them the longest-running burlesque and variety troupe still in existence in Chicago today. Their signature show, Girlie-Q Variety Hour, launched in 2004 and will be celebrating its sixth anniversary this May.
Learn more about Girlie-Q and Ms. Bea Haven here.
To see what became of a 10-year-old musical genius, check out Molly Dvora Rosenblum’s “Rolling Stone” mention -- it’s elliptical, but it’s there.
Photo: Ms. Bea Haven by Ivan Phillips
Sarah Terez Rosenblum (@SarahTerez) is an MFA-holding writer, teacher and Spinning instructor. She's also the Theater Listings Editor for Centerstage Chicago. Look for her posts twice a week.