Recently, a punter named Sandi Leaver posted an incredibly scathing review of Trivial Tease and the burlesque solo I performed at the Potts Point Hotel (PPH). Not only did she refer to the trivia as uncouth and obscene (which sounds like my kind of pub trivia night), she also referred to my performance as soft porn. Well technically she called it "soft pawn", but lets not get bogged down in details.
Am I performing soft porn? Am I a soft porn “star”? I use the term “star” loosely of course. How soft does porn need to be before it is standard porn?
Sandi's disdain had got me thinking.
...and then I decided to review Sandi Leaver's review.
Pornography in general is a slippery concept. Comedian Bill Hicks (RIP), conveniently has illuminated for us a legal definition of porn; something that is sexually suggestive but with low artistic merit. This aligns with Sandi's scepticism about my worthiness of the tittle of striptease “artist”.
To be fair, the routine Sandi saw is certainly a bit on the sexy side. Click here to see some really old footage of the burlesque routine in question, and then you can really get involved in the judging.
Would Sandi consider all burlesque soft porn, or just the act I performed that fateful night? What Sandi thinks and why, we can only guess. Her facebook listed occupation; “loving life and being happy” gives us no clues as to her education or demographic. However by Sandi's misspelling of “porn” we could assume that Sandi is either dyslexic...or has had such little experience with porn, soft or otherwise, that she has never had to write the word (in say a google search) and has merely heard it spoken, and thus has mistakenly used its homonym “pawn”.
Should I at least be pleased that Sandi identified me as a sub par striptease artist, as opposed to an average stripper? Does Sandi care about the difference? Is there a difference? So many questions yet so few answers.
Someone who does have some answers, the kind found though research, is local Sydney burlesque performer and academic Alyssa Kitt. She was recently interviewed by Tara Moss about the relevance of burlesque today to female empowerment. I found the interview really interesting because it dares to delve into the tension between past and present burlesque; the male orientated sexuality that historically striptease has catered to, versus the evolution of today's burlesque as kind of reaction to and rejection of that in favour of a female driven platform for the inclusive expression of female form and sexuality.
Apart from Sandi's trigger-happy use of labels like porn and striptease artist, she makes a bunch of other assumptions. She mentions Sydney's lock out laws. The relevance of Sydney's lock out laws to my performance is unclear to me. I performed at 9:40pm which btw is hardly a “family time” in a pub.
Maybe is Sandi upset that this sort of performance is even endorsed by a venue where families visit? It would seem Sandi is (blissfully) unaware of the plethora of adult themed entertainment offered at the Potts Point Hotel over the last couple of years....
1. Each Thursday night they host the much loved and always sold out Tranny Bingo, where after certain time the Trans-sexual hosts encourage outrageous alcohol related shenanigans and adult humour, over the "soft-core" gambling that is bingo.
2. Regular Friday nights have hosted burlesque comedy dinner shows by the Bamboozle Room.
3. Each Saturday night scores of women come to the male striptease show Twin Pecks, brother show of Twin Peeks, which is a long running restaurant with full nude table dancing in Woolloomooloo.
The ease Sandi feels with publicly criticising the PPH and refuting the professional worth and job title of those she has never met (whether I am artistically challenged or not), is very interesting, especially when she appears to have no understanding about the entertainment operations of the PPH, no interest in adult entertainment and no qualifications in reviewing live performance.
Maybe Sandi found my performance more offensive because she wasn't expecting it. I would suggest to Sandi Leaver that should she ever hear the MC says “up next we have the stripper” , or similar, that she avert her eyes at that point. Maybe take a bathroom break. The toilets are quite stylish at the PPH. They have that super trendy modern tropical aesthetic.
The PPH is right next door to one of the last surviving strip clubs in Kings Cross. From around 9pm each night, the strippers (typically termed table dancers in this context and not strip tease artists) congregate on the street in their underwear and clear heels to smoke cigarettes whilst chatting up perspective customers, hopefully rustling up another full nude private show for when they go back in the club. What's confusing about Sandi's outrage, is that if she was around late enough to see my performance, she probably walked past the gaggle of strippers surrounded of ciggy smoke and lonely/horny, men. I dare say this is another reason why few mums and dads exit the PPH at this time with child in tow.
If I sound bitter, its probably because deep down I envy Sandi. I envy her for having such blind confidence in her own uninformed opinion. What would my life be like if I had a similar unshakeable belief in my own perspective, irrespective of how limited my experience of knowledge was? Would such self belief and entitlement pry open some doors?
Speaking of opening doors, thanks to the PPH, something like 15 local Sydney entertainers (including dancers, comedians and DJs) have a paid gig each week and a chance to do what they love. I think that contribution to Sydney culture and night-life deserves public praise.
So in conclusion I rate Sandi Leaver's review 1 out of 69 stars. The one star is for the hilariousness of calling my act “soft pawn”.
Care to review my review of the review? I'd love to hear your thoughts.