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Review of Tonya Kay’s Pinup Pole Show (From a Retired Pole Gal)

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.

PPS7Tonya 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).

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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.

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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. 

*For more information on Tonya Kay’s Pinup Pole show visit her website http://www.pinuppoleshow.com. 

Christine Macdonald
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Review: ‘Bare’ Took Me There

netflix-coverNetflix and me, we have an understanding. I’m never judged when I need my Jake Ryan fix and end up binge-watching 80’s classics all weekend instead of running errands. And I don’t think twice when indie film suggestions pop up on my video stream feed, based on my viewing history.

Indie and me go way back. Call it underdog kismet, or simply shared affinity for raw truth. I’m attracted to the underbelly of a story. Those dusty secrets that seem to only reveal themselves outside shadows of blockbuster hyperbole. Any “Feel Good Movie of the Summer”, “Gripping” or “Mind Blowing” promises served up on a marquee of bells and whistles, and my interest is a watered down cocktail during happy hour. I’ll enjoy the flavor, but the buzz just aint the same.

It’s been a while since I felt the warm embrace of indie. And like anything good that you haven’t had in a while, we forget just how much we enjoyed whatever it was that’s been missing – like with great sex or home-made lasagna.

After seeing writer/director Latalia Leite’s movie BARE, I realized just how hungry I’ve been.

It’s been twenty years since walking away from the stripper world, but I never tire of the stories. After reading the synopsis of BARE, I was intrigued:

“A young girl [Sara Barton] in Nevada becomes romantically involved with a female drifter who introduces her to a life of stripping, drugs, and metaphysical experiences that teach her what happens when real life catches up with dark fantasy.” – IMDB

Immediately, I wanted more. How young was she? Was she gay before she was a stripper? What kind of drugs did she take? Of course, I personalized the parallels. I was 19 when I stepped on stage for the first time. I slept with women after becoming a stripper. Cocaine and ecstasy were my drugs of choice.

Not only did BARE answer my questions about young Sara’s journey through the stripping world, it did something I wasn’t expecting. It drew me back into mine.

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There I was, tucked safely in bed – my laptop streaming – and bam! – it was 1987. As Sara (played by Glee’s Diana Agron) explored her new world, I was transported back to my old one.

So vividly, was my recollection. I remembered my hesitant but determined first steps on the flashing Plexiglas stage, the vibrating bass crackling through the speakers, my stage name being called as the DJ stretched out the vowels for emphasis: “Ladies and gentlemen, let’s give her a warm welcome! Give it up for the sensational, Stephaaaaaaaanieeeeee”. I could almost smell the cigarette smoke that needed multiple shampoos to get out of my Aqua Net sprayed, Bon Jovi look-alike hair.

I expected to feel a connection after watching BARE, but the intense emotions that flooded through me were a welcomed surprise.

Anyone can tell a story, great writers can make you feel it.

“One thing that I’ve learned, that’s true, is that if you don’t make your own choices in life, the world will make them for you.” – Pepper  (played by Paz de la Huerta)

Natalia’s script is beautifully written and her direction is spot on, bringing out amazing performances (most notably  Dianna Agron (Glee, FoxPaz de la Huerta (Boardwalk Empire, HBO) and Chris Zylka (The Leftovers, HBO). With a subject matter that can easily teeter on campy or trite, BARE’s language is refreshingly honest – never over the top.

In a world where most people throw opinions about sex workers into a pile labeled damaged goods, BARE helps us see things through a different lens. We know Sara. Some of us are her.

Whether you chose a life of g-strings and dollar bills or have been on the fast track in the corporate world since college – BARE’s story of introspection, personal choices and consequence is universal.

As the credits rolled, I took a moment to marinate in the story. My lips curved into a smile. Because of this random indie film choice on Netflix one night – I had come full circle in my journey to the past.

There’s nothing like a great movie to remind you how far you’ve come, help you decide where you want to go, and causes you to simply – think.

Everybody has a story. We are all capable of creating our own reality and looking beyond the horizon. Thanks to Natalia Leite, we know that we are not alone.

To watch the trailer click here:

 

 

BAREPurple Milk Productions – Alexandra Roxo and Natalia Leite

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Christine Macdonald
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Let go or hang on? Your call, your rules.

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“You can only lose what you cling to.”– Buddha

As I mentioned in a previous post about letting go, it can be anything but easy. Whether you’re moving to a new town, changing careers, going through a break up, or even cleaning out your closet, change is rarely without its challenges.

Some of us have no problem moving on. Out with the old is second nature. But for others, the idea of change is enough to make you hide under the covers.

It’s been said that the only way to move forward is to never look back; that instead of checking our personal rear-view mirrors from time to time, we should bash them with a fist full of determination while chanting the mantra “Live in the NOW.”

But what if the lessons you needed to learn are still in progress while you attempt to turn the page? What if there are parts of your past that actually were life-changing, monumental events that served your happiness and soul – and you are a better person for it?

Like everything in life – the trick is in the balance.

The only person who is equipped to decipher what we ought to let go of and what we should carry with us moving ahead, is us. Most of the time, in making these choices, we are emotional, off-kilter and just plain delusional. This makes our decision making anything but rational.

Have you ever stayed in touch with an old friend and one day, after yet another shining example of why you two should have left your hang-time in high school (because you have nothing in common) realize you actually don’t really enjoy one another?

How about when you clean your closet (or try to), and you realize half of the items cramming your hangers have not been your pant-size in years?

Whether it’s a not-like-minded friend from high school or a suit you haven’t been able to squeeze into since Murphy Brown was on the air – some of us just hang on.

However long you’ve been walking this earth – everything – every person – in your life has a story. Maybe you feel that if you stay connected to that high school friend, you’re keeping a part of yourself from a much simpler time. Perhaps tossing out the clothes you outgrew (literally) when you were younger will mean that you’ve given up on getting back in to shape.  

It’s all a story.

Stories have layers.

It’s only when we’re ready to peel back those layers that we can truly evolve and move on. And if you’re not ready, then forgive yourself for the emotional abuse you’ve been creating with the expectations you should be. 

This is YOUR story. Go at your own pace.

If someone is turning their page and you’re still marinating in your own shit, it’s time to stop comparing (read; Compared to WHAT?) and focus on your own proverbial book – which is amazing, heartbreaking, challenging, loving, scary, and bad ass. Just like you.

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Your thoughts? 

Christine Macdonald