Sunday, 19 January 2014

Youtube can lead the viewer down many paths, the inspiring, the bizarre and (most importantly) to cat videos. This week I'm taking a trip down the tube's memory lane with music videos that I have appeared in (not for my own band). Technology is speeding along and in the last seven years I have seen more and more local artists create fantastic clips with increasing frequency with many friends popping up in these impressive productions. If you're a Brisvegas local you'll probably see a friend or two somewhere in here...

The Mercy Dolls
Version 1
This was first clip I got involved with after there was a general call out to burlesque performers. It was directed by the lovely Nila Mitchell who I knew from the underground visual arts scene. It was the first time I worked with Lena Marlene who is now my great friend and director of her own burlesque school, Lady Marlene's School of arts. There are a lot of familiar faces here, a lot of girls from the Burlesque Bar which was a small bar dedicated to burlesque in Fortitude Valley, the location that this was filmed on. I came on to the scene too late to be a part of the bar, it closed down soon after...

John Meyer
Toybox Love Triangle
Back when we were still really getting to know each other John asked me to play his psycho dolly girlfriend in a fantasy song about vengeful toys. In the end the finger puppet doesn't have to choose between his two lovers, Kahlo my darling burmese puts an end to it all and he did not need much encouragement to get him to rip into John's stunt double.

If you know me you know that I don't drink alcohol because.... People never believe me, but it's true, I don't like the taste of it. Aside from that I am way too much of a tightarse to pay $10 for a drink, never going to happen. So this song is not exactly in line with my personal taste but I am confident in the fact that if you listen to the lyrics you will hear that the song tells you how alcohol can make you very regretful the next day, "God damn ass is burning, never drink this shit again, never drink this shit again!"

The Good Ship
I can Make Her Laugh
Not long after meeting John Meyer I was swept into his arms and we began our larger-than-life life together. I introduced him to some of my fascinating friends, the really interesting ones who loved nothing more than rope games and spanking. This group collaboration resulted, filmed in a real life, working BDSM dungeon, authentic down to the stinging pain they felt!

Transvaal Diamond Syndicate
Devil On My Shoulder
I have made a lot of onstage appearances with Transvaal Diamond Syndicate as well as sharing the bill with them at a few gigs with Bertie Page Clinic. This was a devilish clip, taking all bloody night to shoot! You can even see John Meyer cutting a rug in the back of the club scene along with a few other friends' mums.

Ball Aitken
I'm Going To Jail
After being tied up making clips for my own original music it was very refreshing to be invited to appear in another artist's clip in 2013. Just meeting 8 Ball was quite an experience, he is an intense, intellectual and earthy character with an endless wealth of knowledge about music and how to reach out to the people. I love this clip and really hope that it will get some recognition at the Golden Guitars next year.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Burlesque: an art form, a community, a playground.

It’s the glittering temple where so many bring their dreams of becoming a shining pin-up vivant and find that there is more than glamour waiting behind the sequined curtain. I have been involved in the scene since 2007 and while numbers and venues change the dynamics remain predictable. For the larger part the scene is fun and playful with many beautiful friendships flowering alongside professional collaborations. I am largely withdrawn now and only work with a small group of extremely talented people who have proven to be loyal and supportive friends. Amongst the rest are benign strangers, friendly connections and a small, powerful core of pushy power players, the mean girls, the strutting, feathered bullies who are driven by jealousy and pure ego. All bling and no substance, it’s little wonder they feel threatened…

The words One Swan Pond came to me when I was walking through the gardens at Versailles. In this playground once occupied by Pompadour, DuBarry and Marie Antoinette there are many waterways dividing the opulent gardens.  I saw a very small pond that was almost entirely filled by one big swan. The European swan is very large and can be aggressive, they have been known to break the odd arm of those who get too friendly.

The bird filled the entire pond and it made me think of a few people back in Australia, some of the “Big Fish.”

It is very rare that you hear a burlesque performer speak publically about bitching within the business. People are afraid to appear as a bitch themselves, I have no such fear, my sense of justice will not allow it. There are a few who have earned their position as queens of terror, turning producers and performers against other artists whom they find threatening. “One Swan Pond” is my musical expose, a call to let others know that they are not alone in their struggle against such tyrants.

I have had producers admit to me that I was cut from major burlesque shows because a particular person refused to go on if I were on the same bill. On one occasion an artist stood in front of a class of beginner burlesquers and told them that I was mentally ill and needed to be on medication. I found this the most offensive, it is an insult to people who suffer mental illness, they need respect and understanding, not such disgusting ridicule. I have never been diagnosed with such a condition and would proudly tell you if I had and I stand outraged on behalf of my friends who do take medication, who deserve better than to have this shame cast upon them.

Then there are the events that happen right under your nose, girls who hate you before they’ve met you, refuse to say hello to you then whisper, “Who the fuck does she think she is,” as they lock you out of the dressing room. Then there was the big burlesque name who squealed and giggled at the top of her lungs while I sang and her boyfriend told the bar tender that I wasn’t a woman, Bertie has balls, he saw them fall out. Again, if I had balls I’d proudly tell you all about them.

It’s not all that’s on the list but it’s a sample of the cruel and bizarre behavior that goes on. These women are overcome by a feeling of being threatened by other women, that their success depends on holding down the careers of those whom they target. Something else these women have in common is a greater focus on image than on content in their shows. Make no mistake; I love a spectacular costume as much as the next gal but there is a point where the visual aspect starts to take over. These mean girls have bought enough feathers and crystal bras to sink a ship but lack substance, talent; just another strutting peacock (or swan) with nothing to show but a big costume and an even bigger attitude.

There is a serious lack of dance skill within the burlesque world, so many call themselves “dancers” but do not have the training or skills to claim such a title. It’s a major motivating factor in my movement away from burlesque to concentrate on original music. If you want to perform at some of the same Australian venues as a musician you need to present a much higher standard than many major burlesque acts. If you want to sing well it takes many years of training, if you want to play guitar you have to know your chords, a preparation far more involved than many “dancers” undertake.

This lack of required training can be the beauty and beastliness of burlesque. On one hand people can blossom in an unconventional form when they may have lacked the genetics to succeed in more traditional, rigid performance modes. On the other I see that many lack the professional etiquette, the physical and intellectual discipline that comes with formal arts training.

We are not to forget that many people who perform burlesque are hobbyists and are not to be observed with the same critical eye as professionals. The hobby dancers get a lot of confidence and joy out of performing at burlesque school recitals and other amateur events. The major problem is that the lines between amateur and professional are particularly blurred in burlesque and this is where many problems begin.

Long story short, if you tried to pull off some of these bitchy shenanigans and poor quality shows in the music industry you would be laughed down and cast out. There are tyrants and hacks in the music world too but not nearly on the same level.

The video has been directed by Nick Banner who did an outstanding job aided by Troy Scott. We were lucky enough to have super talent Richard Grantham play piano and viola for the introduction which is the timeless, classical piece “The Swan.” The beautiful Carmine added her super flashy flute which is mimed by Richard in the video (I bet it’s the first time he’s mimed anything!).

The Boys from the band appear in drag and perform the parts of the tassle twirling, dress slashing divas. This interpretation was ideal as I have witnessed a lot of the same kinds of behaviours occurring in the world of Drag. It doesn’t matter if you have ovaries of if you have to tuck in the dressing room, once the sequined gowns come out there is a chance that you might see some claws…

So here’s to the nice girls, the burlesquers, boylesquers and drag queens who play it with class, talent and humility. And here’s a fuck you to the undermining, backstabbing no talents, go ahead and have the little pond all to yourself, hold on to that bitterness as you see me moving on… 

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

During our 2012 tour of Europe Bertie Page Clinic just couldn't get one song out of our heads. In bars, hotels and during 13 hour drives we were singing that Mr. Big classic. To celebrate this sickly occasion coming up we decided to make a home recording and clip, our creepy Valentine just for you....

So be sure to join us this February at the Beetle Bar in Brisbane. We'll be getting awkward with weirdo music group Charlie Fingers and Feed.

See you there Lovers

Thursday, 11 October 2012


Nazi Burlesque in Brisbane

A few weeks ago a journalist asked me to comment about a Nazi themed burlesque act that has been performed in Brisbane. It’s is not the only one that is going around at the moment, perhaps the trend is inspired by the film “Burlesque Assasins” - somewhat like a spoof on Inglourious Basterds (sic) - about burlesque girls who hunt down Nazis after the war, I have not seen this film so I will not make any comment about it.

The show was performed by a dancer called Ali Darling, we have many mutual friends and it is clear that she is a kind and caring person but I was so shocked by the way in which she has treated this sensitive subject. I’m sure this is a case of a lack of awareness on the part of the artist. There is a Youtube video of the show so you can watch it and form your own opinion.

I’m not saying that the subject is off limits, it just has to be treated with thought and consideration. The masterful comedian Mel Brooks directed the film “The Producers” in 1968 (I prefer it to the later stage play and film versions) about producers who wish to create a flop show so that they can write it off on tax, so they decide to make a musical about Hitler. To their surprise the show is a success; they are baffled that a fluff piece about one of the worst murderers in history is received with joy by the public. The Producers does not degrade the subject by dealing with it directly but rather comments on the way in which audiences are willing to buy just about anything given the right package: it's a sharp social commentary. But Brooks is a great Master and very few should even attempt to tread where he triumphs.

The Sunday Mail article mentions that I have a German heritage. It’s true but I have greater connections than this. For the last three years I have made an annual European tour and each time I have played in Germany. I’m always interested to know what it is like to be German today, how it feels to live in the shadow of the sins of others. My friends have told me that they still suffer stereotyping and prejudice because foreigners believe that they are Nazis which angers them greatly because there are still gangs of neo-nazis terrorizing the people of Germany today; they are victims in many ways. I feel it is so important for outsiders to respect the pain that Germany still suffers and it is not fair for any of us to perpetuate this hideous stereotype.

I must also say that Germany has one of the best education systems in the world and their people are taught the truth about WW2 from the time that they start school. There is no doubt that the youth of Germany are very well informed and are amongst the most liberal and forward thinking people I have ever met.

This month I visited two sites of Nazi crime, the Dachau concentration camp in Germany and the town of Oradour in France. Over 200,000 people were imprisoned at Dachau and 30,000 people died there, shot, beaten, starved, demoralised, worked to death, experimented on, and some gassed, incinerated in the crematorium and thrown on the ash heaps. Oradour was a peaceful, country town where on June 10th 1944 an SS unit took the town unexpectedly. They looted the town, put the men into barns and shot them in the legs then burned them alive. They put the women and children into the church and shot them in the legs, they shot the children, they shot the babies in their prams and burned them all alive in the chapel. Over 640 men, women and children were killed, leaving only about 6 survivors.

Just thinking about these places brings tears to my eyes again, we can never imagine what it is to be victim to such evil, sadly it continues in different forms around the world today. It is our duty to remember and respect the victims. Knowledge of the past and respectful remembrance is the only way we can stop such evil growing within our society; we cannot afford to be blind.

The thing that most concerns me about the Nazi werewolf burlesque is that it depicts a Nazi character injecting her victims with a large syringe. I'm not sure if the artist is aware of the atrocities of Nazi scientist Dr. Josef Mengele (one of many) who performed unspeakable crimes against humanity in the name of medical science. He and his Nazi colleagues administered all kinds of "experiments" which included many injections, live human dissection, freezing and gassing people alive and countless other inhuman acts.

He mercilessly slaughtered men, women and babies who belonged to the social and genetic groups whom the Nazis wished to exterminate. If the use of this novelty syringe was an intentional reference it was carried out in very poor taste, not funny. 

Some have defended the act by saying that it is a “burlesque” therefore it is protected by a license of parody. I fail to see anything morally or politically valid in its content and I do not find any of it funny, I doubt that many audience would laugh even if they did enjoy the show. In the video you can see an audience member participate by raising his hand for the "Heil!" commands in the soundtrack, I am so very disturbed by this. In my opinion it does not play as a comedy and really doesn’t have the substance to count as performance art, it’s a striptease with Nazi accessories. There are many grey areas within the arts but this act is pretty straight down the line to me, a sassy little striptease with some sexy "Sieg Heils" and pasties. To me this does not constitute a piece of thoughtful, political commentary.

People have also commented that because it is burlesque it's just fun and other issues don't factor. I think this article brings an important message, being a performer of any kind brings great responsibility, burlesque included. You are responsible for what you say with your shows and people are watching, and even if there were no Holocaust survivors in the audience, its attention getting nature meant that many people ended up hearing about it and being hurt by it. Like painters, authors and rock stars what is said on the burlesque stage can carry a great weight.

As the article says the artist is happy with her work and intends to continue performing it, this is her right but it is also the right of others to protest and people have complained that the act disturbs and saddens them. The Qld Jewish board of deputies feel that she has disrespected the memory of victims and survivors of the Holocaust; they have my sympathy. I think that this article may have greatly upset the artist who could not have been aware of the storm that this act would whip up, I feel for her, she could not have known this would happen.

The Sunday Mail article...

A NAZI-themed striptease being performed in Brisbane clubs has been slammed as "repulsive" by Queensland's Jewish community amid warnings it's becoming part of a trend towards shows glorifying the Third Reich.
The controversial burlesque show features a syringe-wielding, scantily-clad Nazi doctor with a swastika armband conducting scientific experiments on a pair of hooded girls.
Performed to a crowd of hundreds at the recent Dead of Winter festival at Brisbane's Jubilee Hotel, the show is the brainchild of burlesque artist and model Ali Darling, 24, who adapted it from a Rob Zombie short film.
Queensland Jewish Board of Deputies president Jason Steinberg said featuring swastikas and other Nazi iconography in a burlesque performance was disrespectful and repulsive.
"It is offensive to the Jewish community - also it would be offensive to the majority of Queenslanders," he said.
"It shouldn't be acceptable in this day and age for someone to use Nazi symbols in a way that glorifies that era."
He said there were still Holocaust survivors living in Queensland, and it was inappropriate for images from that era to be used in a burlesque show.
Ms Darling said she had been performing the show, entitled Werewolf Women of the SS, for about six months, and it had become one of her "signature acts".
"It's a pretty popular show and I will be expanding it because it's going to go into my stage production."
She said the show was satirical and highly stylised, and although she had "absolutely" had negative feedback about it, she'd had an equal number of people praising the performance.
"I get as many people loving it as hating it, which is fine with me. I like getting in people's faces," she said.
Ms Darling, who also has an act featuring a real pig's eye and another where she tears pages out of a Bible with her teeth and spits them at her audience, said she knew of a few other burlesque dancers with similar performances around Australia.
Brisbane cabaret performer Bertie Page said she had noticed a disturbing trend towards Nazi-themed burlesque shows.
"I've noticed it around the traps, it seems to be somewhat of a trend at the moment and I find it really quite concerning," she said.
Swastika-themed burlesque costuming has become available on the internet, and a recent film Burlesque Assassins features a group of dancers as Nazi-fighting killers.
Ms Page, who has German heritage, said she was worried such performances could give burlesque a bad name, and said the use of the swastika was an "indisputably terrible thing".
"The minute you put on that swastika you are representing a power that is bought at the expense of others' lives," she said.
Lola Montgomery, a performer who is completing a PhD in burlesque, said she did not think there was a trend towards Nazi-themed burlesque, and saw such performances more as isolated incidents.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Life is a famine or a feast, I guess if we were feasting all the time we'd never fit into our jeans. This coming weekend is a feast for me although I'm probably going to need some kind of truckers' pills to keep me awake through it.

On Friday night (August 10) I head down to Lismore to be a part of one of Jimmy Willing's legendary pub cabarets, this one is aptly titled "Hillbilly Heaven." Lismore is an incredible little town that sits on the borders of traditional cow country, hippie ville and it is the nesting place of many lesbian couples and their families, this is why it is also known as "Lesmore." The vibe in that place is incredible, the quintessential country types party with the dreadlocked kids who have ventured away from their warehouse communes for the evening, there's plenty of crochet and female affection going around, fortunately plenty of that comes my way....

The good people at Apex productions have decided that this weekend will be the two days on which they film their next big project, it's all about tough guys and their Harley Davidsons. I'm going to have to get up very early in Lismore to get back to Brisbane to perform my role in the film, I'll take my pants down for anyone with a B12 shot handy..

Saturday night is all about the kink, I'll be appearing at the premiere of Brisbane's biggest new fetish event "Arouz." This is going to be huge, there is so much space to play at St Paul's Tavern, there will even be a dungeon, I've heard that some veeery kinky stuff is going to be happening there... Everyone is welcome the door is wide open from the innocent but curious to the most hardcore kink bunnies. I'll be performing a duo with Lena Marlene, we got pretty rough last week at the Wickham, we're going to test the friendship even further this week. 
On sunday night I'm hosting Miss Pole Dance QLD, if you haven't got tickets you'll have to wait until next year, tickets sold out within 15 minutes of going on sale! Once again the competition is presented by Pussy Cat Pole, if you've never tried one... jump on, you'll never get off it! I'll have the best seat in the house where I can watch these crazy ladies invert, mount and do all kinds of bendy stuff, may the best pole pony win!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

So this week has come around all too quickly, this weekend is the premiere of "Serpentine" a work that is the culmination of years of writing, research and corset wearing around the world. The image used in the shows poster was shot in Japan last year, in the wilds beyond Sapporo. The snow fell constantly and the temperature was minus 8 degrees but I was determined to get a magical shot, to experience the strictures of the corset in freezing conditions with only red satin to guard against the elements. Some time into our snowy adventure I paid the price, water leaked into my shoes and my feet went numb, my fingers became filled with a burning pain that would not stop throbbing. John and I headed back to the village, once we were inside the ramen restaurant I felt much better and I'm sure I shocked and embarrassed an old high school teacher who was on a ski holiday, maybe my satin gown was a bit much for a noodle bar. 

So here we are now, the original chow sold out two weeks ago so a Sunday night has been added. The finishing touches are being made, the boys of Bertie Page Clinic have been working hard on the music and we've thrown in a couple of classical musicians who are thriving on the challenge. Richard Grantham has brought great finesse to his piano and viola parts and Wayne Jennings delivers cello as beautiful as ever even when recovering from a slashed hand. So what is it all about? You can bet it's exciting, here's an article below form this week's edition of Rave Magazine.

Cabaret-burlesque star BERTIE PAGE spent three years researching corsetry – and then wrote a whole rock opera in the garment’s honour.ZENOBIA FROST finds out more.
ZENOBIA FROST: Corsetry has a long and controversial history; how does Serpentine chart its journey as an undergarment?
BERTIE PAGE: Serpentine cherry-picks the most volatile events and social changes surrounding these stiffened undies. It includes a selection of humorous and heartbreaking subjects from the absurdities of Victorian gynaecology to Frida Kahlo’s immortal plaster supports. I’ve aimed to mix the ridiculous and the sublime with plenty of pink, bruised flesh on show in onstage costume changes to prove the point that pain is often beauty!
ZF: You’re known for your strong voice, fierce and satirical burlesque, and never-ending energy. In what ways has staging a whole opera a whole new kind of challenge?
BP: Staging this production has been very time-consuming – from writing the songs and script, to rehearsals with five musicians. The great pleasure is that every performer is a supersonic freak – they all have the ability to instantly absorb and give beautiful interpretations of the music. Breaking in the corsets has been a double-edged sword: on one hand it is very exciting to get new corsets, but they must be worn in so that they can conform perfectly to my shape. Pleasure and pain!
ZF: Tell me about what you describe as the “exquisite nightmare” of corsetry.
BP: The corset has been used as a weapon against the female sex, inflicted upon them by male and female authorities in equal measure. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, young girls and boys were all rigged up in tight stays as toddlers – parents feared that their children would grow up crooked without vicious intervention. Girls continued to wear corsetry and many were forced to wear them. But other impatient little girls couldn’t wait to get their hands on a pair in spite of disapproving parents, in much the same way that today’s tweens beg their mothers to buy them a bra when they’ve got nothing to put in one.
ZF: The corset is primarily a garment of constriction; in what ways has it emancipated women?
BP: Across the centuries the corset has acted as one of the few areas in which women had control. Most decisions in their lives were made for them but the corset was a private field in which they could manipulate their shape and the impact that it had on others.
ZF: What makes Stockholm Syndrome, only recently been claimed by Brisbane’s carnies and burly-Q mistresses, an interesting venue?
BP: Stockholm Syndrome is undoubtedly Brisbane’s most atmospheric small venue. The turn-of-the-century architecture has been combined with warm, rustic renovations that give the venue a distinctly historical feel – just perfect for telling a story that spans multiple centuries.
ZF: Serpentine Corsetry has made a number of custom designs for you. What led to your own fondness for corsetry?
BP: I first saw a picture of a corset in a fashion book when I was five years old. I’ll never know why, but I wanted one from that moment; I wanted that sculpted elegance – I wanted it badly. I got my first real corset from Gallery Serpentine in Sydney in 2009, and I now own a large collection of their garments. I am very fussy about quality and cut; they have what it takes to sculpt my flesh and bones into extraordinary shapes. Bertie in Grade One would be thrilled to know.
SERPENTINE runs at Stockholm Syndrome (340 Sandgate Road, Albion) on Saturday Jun 16 and Sunday Jun 17. Bookings via 3262 3738 /