Before the ink stamp on our skin was dry we were escorted down a vast multi-level staircase trimmed with floor-to-ceiling crimson velvet. With each step in my flesh-colored leather stilettos, I imagined my toes dressed in red ruby slippers. As a former burlesque stripper about to see Tonya Kay’s Pinup Pole Show, I felt a bit like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Of course my alternative universe was much sexier than Dorothy’s – but it still felt like I was going home.
My friends walked a couple of steps ahead of me and I pulled back to marinate in memory. A personal prelude with each step on the proverbial yellow brick road. This was my first time at Tonya’s show, so I didn’t quite know what to expect. The only thing I knew for certain is that once I saw the dancers on stage, my middle-aged self would be transported back in time. Stripper poles and spotlights? No DeLorean time machine needed for me.
As I reached the bottom of the staircase my left hand traced the railing. With my vintage rattan purse tucked under my arm, I lifted the back of my right hand blowing on it gently. I loved the artwork chosen to validate entry to the show. An over-sized black ink trace of a pinup model complete with platform heels and a ribbon-tied ponytail that tickled her perfectly curved booty. The stamp was so big, biker tattoos would take note. This slightly smudged beauty mark nearly stretched out to my knuckles, but I didn’t care. This is no accident, I thought. Tonya’s show is all about Rockabilly, Classic Cars and Burlesque. Singularly cool in their own right – but together – Larger Than Life.
Once arriving downstairs in the showroom we made our way to the bar. I became flushed the moment I spotted an impossibly handsome 20-something Taye Diggs doppelgänger on the serving side. He flashed his dimples and I returned his serve with some serious eye contact and a smirk. The weight of the temporary false lashes tracing my eye lids began to distract me during my paltry attempt at flirting, but I kept with it as best I could. He was either totally creeped out or flattered. Probably both.
I can’t remember what I said exactly, except I know I placed our drink order at some point. As Hottie McHotterson worked his magic at the well, his boyish face reminded me of my age; yet somehow I was bathed in acceptance within the space of our banter. This kid knew how to work it.
Me (left) and the beautiful Leslie Buckley.
Our table was front and center to the stage and I grew more excited settling in to my chair. As I checked my smartphone, assuring it was on silent-non-vibrate-don’t-bug-me mode – I wondered. Why was I so self conscious at the bar – and why didn’t I flirt more, the way I used to when I was a showgirl? Was it the mere fact I was dolled up (and not in my PJs) on a Saturday night that threw me off my game? Or was my inner stripper-vixen truly retired along with my feather g-string and 22-year-old metabolism? I took a sip of my champagne and let out a comfortable sigh thinking about one of my many mantras. This made the thought of hooking up with a dude young enough to be my son straight up ridiculous.
“If a guy doesn’t know the hardships of untangling a cassette tape with a number 2 pencil, or pulling his car over to flip through a Thomas Guide, they definitely won’t know me.”
My friends raised their glasses in celebration and I’m suddenly reminded why I’m there. I was ready to see some beautiful, talented, bad ass beauties perform a burlesque and pole dancing show.
The lights slowly dimmed and I surveyed the room. Packed house. Good sign. Within seconds, The gorgeous Tonya Kay herself stepped on to the stage; and not in a bitchy, Do you know who I am?! kind of way. In fact, her demeanor was quite the opposite.
Tonya is the epitome of cool without trying to be. A natural performer with a kick ass sense of humor and a body that doesn’t quit (being a trained dancer working professionally for 26 years will do that). She welcomed the audience with open, impressively toned arms (fueled by vegan living) without any vibe of entitlement. Her unique combo of poise and moxie made it clear she owned the room. It was Tonya Kay’s dazzling retro world full of creativity and sex appeal – and we were happy to be living in it.
From the moment Tonya introduced herself and her captivating pole posse – three darling ladies so lovely in their own right it was hard to focus on just one – the audience was all in.
With Monica Kay, Candace Cane and Heather Lou (coincidentally, all vegan beauties as well) in Tonya’s corner, the energy of the room was off the charts. The entire audience was happily on board with the realization that what we were witnessing was a unique collection of performances that reminded us – dreams can be realized.
Pinup beauties? Check. Rockabilly vibe and classic cars on display? Done. Pole dancing? Beyond.
As a former swinger of the pole myself, long before clear platform heels were invented (six-inch metal spiked heels, kids – Google it), I gotta say I was more than a little impressed. Pole performances were never my forté (cocaine addiction and athleticism don’t work – go figure) but this – this was a whole new art form.
I shot this on my *iPhone (*amateur video, go easy) as I basked in the enjoyment of it all.
It’s one thing to ‘work the pole’ – quite another to choreograph performances where burlesque dancers morph into acrobatic ballerinas. Their only partner, a floor-to-ceiling rod of steel while they make it all look so damn easy (it’s not).
What filled the space within the 70 minute show was pure magic. Part vaudeville, burlesque and retro fashion that takes you back to old Hollywood glamour. Part slapstick comedy in heels (not to be outdone by one stellar performance in roller skates). Every number was impeccably styled and choreographed, sprinkled with sex appeal, dipped in pure talent.
Tonya’s show is more than a burlesque performance. Through creative, sensual and sometimes laugh out loud moments (don’t get me started on Tonya’s auto mechanic number) her and her pole posse take us on a journey of epicurean entertainment. None of them take themselves too seriously on stage, which the audience not only picks up on but appreciates. There were whistles and laughter throughout the night, which is easy to believe when you get your tickets (reasonably priced ranging from $15.00 – $40.00) and see for yourself.
If Tonya’s show is an amusement ride, the audience is transformed into wide-eyed children in roller coasters that instinctively throw up their arms, woohoo!-ing in wonder, watching these beauties command the stage and pole with effervescence, strength and style.
It’s been over twenty years since I walked away from the stripper stage. My knees aren’t what they used to be and both sesamoids (bones inside the ball of my feet) are shot – literal fragments are waiting to be surgically removed (sexy, right?). I may not be able to move the way I used to, but damn if I don’t still have a blast working my inner Fosse and Reinking when I try.
That’s the thing about aging dancers. Our fire never burns out.
It’s not just dancing, either. Any artist will tell you – the life of creating something from nothing is not so much a choice as it is a calling. Whether through a camera lens, musical instrument, words on paper, air or paint brush, or our own bodies on a stage or pole – our creations are born from places deep within our soul. We cannot breathe without them.
But here’s the coolest thing. You don’t need to be an artist to appreciate Tonya Kay’s Pinup Pole Show. All you need is admiration for beautiful women, a taste for something truly unique and classic – and the desire to be part of a genuinely entertaining evening.
We all have a story; our own specific taste in what moves us. Personal flavors we satiate on. They help us get through this thing called life – electric word life – it means forever – and that’s a mighty long time.
Toyna Kay’s Pinup Pole Show is perfectly seasoned, leaving you satisfied yet wanting more. A delicious feast for the senses. What better way to help make our journey that much more enjoyable.
Thanks Tonya and ladies ~ I’ll be back for seconds.