Last night I made Jon watch a documentary about the history of burlesque. We've entered a Netflix queue dead zone, having watched nearly everything worth watching during the summer TV lull, and we've been forced to start viewing such enduring gems as Nazis at the Center of the Earth. After staring point-blank into the abyss that was Nude Nuns with Big Guns, suddenly a brief history of the venerable art of lady-dancing seemed downright educational. Burlesque is an interesting thing to learn about. Probably. And hey, boobs.
I naively assumed we would cruise through a pleasant hour or so of topless flashbacks while we listened to some old-timey hijinks, and then we'd have an opportunity to torture ourselves with some other form of mediocre entertainment like watching Red Dawn again. (Wolverines!) As you may have guessed, that was not the case. Our quick little spin down memory lane turned out to be two and a half million hours long, somewhat lacking in spicy-sauce, and overflowing with the depressing ruminations of old people.
"I loved dancing burlesque! It was so much fun! I was always drunk. Also it gave me a way to support my ten children with polio who all lived out back under a deck and ate shoes."
"I had these two big dogs for my show once, and then one of them bit my daughter in the face and I had them destroyed. Dogs!"
"Yes, my roommate Susan was quite a gal. She had all the men talking
and she made loads of money. Then she set herself on fire and jumped out
"Oh! I remember Anna! She had the most creative stage show. She got lost under a train and circus monkeys ripped her to pieces. I hated her. Great costumes."
I kept choking on my salad as each seemingly delightful anecdote abruptly ended with, "and then she went crazy and died." Based observationally on this film early-era performers had a hard knock life, dude. For christ's sake all I wanted was to see a pro do that boob-tassel spinning trick. Actual time tassels spun on screen: .023 minutes. Time spent discussing heroin overdose and/or murder: 320 minutes.
In between accounts of every terrible depression-era tragedy you can possibly think of, the bonus was getting to hear adorable old ladies say things like, "They called them the tit singers. 'Cause they sang for the tits," and, "If you said you were working in 'Tit-town' everybody knew that meant you had a show in Indianapolis. They went wild for tits. Gosh, just tits!"
Not to be overshadowed by my personal favorite moment, "I was so afraid I'd have to show my Little Fur Cat! But I didn't! And the stage manger said, 'Maybe you should trim that up!' So I did, I went back and I trimmed up my Little Fur Cat!"
When we finally (finally) approached the film's close they started recapping a bit of what had happened, and I thought, "Oh thank god, we've entered wrap-up mode. I can stop crying now."
For the next ten minutes they showed a picture of each and every former
dancer they had interviewed in the entire movie, followed by a picture
of how beautiful they used to be superimposed with the date of their
death. 2008. 2009. 2008. 2007. DEAD DEAD DEAD DEAD DEAD YOU'RE ALL DEAD.
It was better than Night Train to Venice. I recommend it.