What’s it like to be Miss Coney Island 2011? ATZ asked Lefty Lucy, who won the title in September at the 8th annual burlesque beauty pageant and is halfway into her reign. Her predecessors are such luminaries of the New York sideshow and burlesque scene as Bambi the Mermaid, Insectavora Angelica, Julie Atlas Muz, Ekaterina, Serpentina, Gal Friday and Gigi LaFemme. The Great Fredini, who runs Coney Island USA’s Burlesque at the Beach, explains: “Bambi carefully curates the Miss Coney Island Pageant herself. We usually have 8 to 12 competitors and I emcee the show with a band. It’s run in a classic beauty pageant format with segments for runway, talent, lineup, etc. The thing is you just never know who will take it because the audience in the theater votes to decide who the new Miss Coney Island will be. So it’s really about who the audience loves the most. It’s very Coney Island!”
Q: When you were crowned Miss Coney Island, you looked very surprised. What is the secret of your success?
A: I was surprised! While I’ve been a performer all my life, I’ve only been performing burlesque for just over 2 years. The Miss Coney Island Burlesque Beauty Pageant has been an inspiration to me for years now; it was THE destination for my birthday for almost all of the past 6 years! I think that helped, really, as far as the “secret to my success” is concerned. Since I have seen the pageant, I had a pretty good sense of what a Coney Island audience wants. Coney Island lovers tend to be funny, original, sincere, and full of joy. The competitors who stuck with me over the years (Minnie Tonka, Nasty Canasta, Trixie Little) each had strong gimmicks that reflected who they are, and by being themselves they reflected the Coney Island spirit. I just tried to be true to me and also entertain.
Q: How has being Miss Coney Island changed your everyday life? Are there any official duties or perks that come with the title?
A: I get to be involved in shows I haven’t been in before, like the big Spring Gala on Thursday, April 28. I also got a banner painted by Coney Island USA’s artist in residence, Marie Roberts, which is absolutely stunning. As for official duties, they primarily include producing a few shows at Sideshows by the Seashore and heading the Mermaid Parade as the Queen of Coney Island. I co-produced “Mr. and Ms. Coney Island Play Favorites” with the reigning King of Coney Island, Glenn Marla and we’re hoping we get to do a few more before my time is up! Beyond that, I’m working with Bambi the Mermaid to create a Wikipedia entry and Facebook page for Miss Coney Island, trying to coordinate some big press pushes for the season this summer, and making sure that New Yorkers know that Coney Island is still alive and kicking.
Q: Your costumes in the pageant were a knockout! One photographer wrote on flickr: “I am really impressed by this girl. Three interesting costume changes and silver make-up put on and removed!” Tell us a little about the inspiration for and creation of the costumes. Did you make them yourself?
A: Thank you! I am an incredibly lucky girl. One of my best friends of all time, David Withrow (DW professionally), is a brilliant costume designer. He and I both like to have a narrative in costumes, and once I settled on doing a brand new robot act for the show, I decided I wanted all of my looks to be robot inspired. The robot act costume I made out of duct tape and tin foil. It is sort of an homage to the costumes I grew up seeing on the Twilight Zone. For the gown, DW suggested doing a take on the Metropolis robot, and we decided to use all of the iconic architecture of Coney Island to emphasize that concept. We built that headdress the day of the show using foam core, toothpicks, and silver sharpies! Glamorous, no? Then for the swimsuit portion of the competition, I decided to go 60s Fembot, which is why I’m all pink and gogo-tastic. What you don’t see are my bullet pasties under the bra!
Q: Are zany costumes your trademark? You portrayed the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters in Epic Win Burlesque, Lot’s Wife as the Morton Salt Girl in Storybook Burlesque’s version of the Bible. Tell us about the costumes. Do you ever get any ideas that are too over the top?
A: hahaha yes, Mr. Stay Puft was a fun one, for sure. It’s made of this awful gummy insulated fabric that we found on discount. I don’t know what it is supposed to be used for, but it’s perfect for a marshmallow man. The first two times I did the act, I filled the costume with marshmallows so every time I tore a piece off, marshmallows flew in to the audience. It was a lot of fun. Morton Salt Girl was easy as she has such an iconic look; the hard part was figuring out what she would wear under the dress!
I wouldn’t say that zany costumes are my trademark, but zany concepts definitely are. As I’m getting deeper into burlesque, I’m becoming less afraid of dreaming big. I love burlesque, and I love when I see someone take something off in an unexpected way. There’s an inherent sense of playfulness to much of my burlesque, and I think having costumes that can be removed in unique ways helps engage the audience and lets them partake in the fun I am having on stage. It makes burlesque more like a magic trick, and why go to live performance if not to experience magic?
As for ideas that are too over the top, I have them all the time! Some we make come true, like Mr. Stay Puft and my wall costume. For Storybook Burlesque’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play within a Play within a Burlesque show, I played the Wall, and did an Elizabethan take on the look. I had “walls” sticking out of my hips as panniers, and a cage bodice with bricks framing it that are removed throughout the act. Other acts I dream up are not possible now, but I’m still trying to find ways to make them happen. I’d love to do an act using the sort of wheel that knife throwers use, but I would be a record. You wouldn’t see a person at all until pieces began being removed and I would be revealed, attached to this spinning upright record. These wheels aren’t the sort of thing you can find on Craigslist, though, so that will definitely have to wait.
Q: Your bio says that you made your burlesque debut in the New York School of Burlesque Showcase in January 2009 at the Slipper Room. What was your favorite part of the curriculum? What inspired you to enroll in NYSB?
A: The first class I ever took with the NYSB was a 4 week intensive covering all of the basics of burlesque: pasty making and tassel twirling, the glove peel, stocking peel, etc. with Jo “Boobs” Weldon as teacher. It was incredibly freeing and I learned SO much. I don’t have a dance background, and this class helped me become comfortable with movement and feeling sexy instead of silly or self conscious. But my favorite part was tassel twirling, hands down. I took to it like a fish to water, and Jo called me a freak for getting it as quickly as I did.
What brought me to the NYSB was really what got me in to burlesque. It’s a long story, but it’s partially inspired by Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog and an application I was filling out to become a member of the Evil League of Evil. I needed an outlet, and burlesque was a perfect fit. My friend Dave had a huge crush on Jo and told me about the school, so I looked online and signed up immediately.
Q: How did you come up with your stage name “Lefty Lucy”? What is your background and how does it inform your personality as a burlesque performer?
A: Before I took my first class, I knew I was going to need a name. I was going in a totally different direction, basing my ideas off of my muggle name, but Dave (the one who had a crush on Jo) pointed out that all of the options I was coming up with sounded more drag than burlesque. I made a list of who I wanted to model my performance style after, and I immediately thought of all the time I spent watching I Love Lucy as a kid. I also have a background in theater, from on stage to being a techie, and I would be nowhere without “Lefty Loosey, Righty Tighty”! I Googled the name and (at the time) only found a band with the name, so it seemed ok for me to use it. I got lucky considering how much I didn’t know at the time about burlesque names. A lot of people pick a clever name they love, only to discover there are 10 other women around the world with names that sound similar, and it can be very frustrating. But Lefty Lucy is unique to me, and I love that.
Q: Your comedic flair and range of facial expressions reminded me of Lucille Ball. Is Lucy one of the inspirations for your stage persona Lefty Lucy?
A: That is an incredible compliment! Thank you! And yes, she is absolutely an inspiration.
Q: What’s your favorite episode or scene from I Love Lucy?
A: I think my absolute favorite is the one Harpo Marx is on. The Duck Soup mirror bit is classic and hilarious! I also love when Lucy tries to make the apartment feel like Cuba for Ricky, and does a great Carmen Miranda bit. I pay homage to that scene in one of my acts.
Q Who are some of your other heroines?
A: The two icons who got me through high school were Lucille Ball and Marilyn Monroe. They are still huge inspirations for me today, along with Goldie Hawn, Debbie Harry, Cyndi Lauper, and Ann Margaret. As for real-life heroines, Little Brooklyn is my all-time favorite performer. Her comedic timing and command of an audience is unbelievable, and her ideas are brilliant and spot-on. I also really admire BB Heart, who is one of my friends and co-founder of Storybook Burlesque. Her work is incredibly inspiring and uniquely her, which is fantastic.
Q: You’re a founding member of Storybook Burlesque, which is described as “literary burlesque” inspired by storybooks, including tabloids, the Bible, Shakespeare and Doctor Seuss. Which stories do you find inspiring and why?
A: I love Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and Peter Pan the most. I love the imagery and fanciful elements of Alice, not to mention all of the satire and social commentary involved. Peter Pan has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid; I always dreamt of being able to fly (and playing the part Mary Martin made famous!). Both books really get you out of the everyday and into your own imagination which is one of the most important things you can be in touch with as a performer. They make me want to be extraordinary, and to help others do it too. My favorite novel is Chuck Palahniuk’s Rant. He is one of very few authors who takes advantage of the uniqueness of books as a medium, and introduces you to characters that you only later discover look differently than you had imagined. I love this because it pushes me to reconsider the assumptions I make and why I make them, and also because it’s something any visual medium simply can’t do. I love artists who take advantage of what makes their medium special.
Lefty Lucy is Miss Coney Island 2011 and a founding member of Storybook Burlesque, which will be presenting Grimm’s Fairy Tales in Summer 2011. She is a member of Epic Win Burlesque, which is debuting their newest show, Rated R for Violence, on April 22nd & 23rd at the Tank, and will be performing as part of Nerdapalooza in Orlando on July 16. She also co-produces Drive Thru Burlesque with Sizzle Dizzle. Drive Thru Burlesque is a monthly 5 hour burlesque extravaganza one Friday a month at the Parkside Lounge.
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