Anyone with a weakness for musical theatre remembers Gypsy Rose Lee as a pioneer of the art of striptease, with an emphasis on the tease. Not everyone knows that Gypsy Rose Lee was also known for combining her striptease with witty monologues. Longtime Clockette Peggy Tulane carries the legacy of Gypsy Rose Lee into many of her acts at Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret. In this month’s show, Ladies of the 80s, she takes on the role of a scrappy, interpretive dance-inclined senior class secretary, circa 1980. In bad glasses, a retainer, and a puffy-sleeved pink prom dress, she declares, with a few clever couplets, that she is ready to lose her virginity to a hunk named Jason before stripping down to the tune of Air Supply’s ballad “All Out of Love.” I guarantee every audience member can relate to Peggy’s take on the drama and awkwardness of Your First Time.

Pegy 7

“You guys, this is my virginity we’re talking about!”

On other nights, you might find that she has aged rapidly, yet can somehow dance sexy circles around the rest of the Clockettes. Or you may find her exploring the myriad methods of flipping the bird to the lover who jilted her, accompanied by Edith Piaf’s “Milord”. And as we approach the 2016 Presidential election, she’s sure to resurrect her lovingly start-spangled tribute to that dauntless political powerhouse, Hillary Clinton.

In addition to revealing both wits and… well, you know, Peggy Tulane incorporates acrobatics and the aerial arts like the hoop, silks, and sling. Her athleticism and sense of humor combine for a presence that’s both strong and slapstick, physical and farcical. In our conversation, Peggy shared her thoughts on the relationship between her offstage and onstage selves, the relationship between burlesque and feminism, and the purpose of art, further proving that she is just as notable for her wits as for… well, you know.

Peggy 2

How do you describe your burlesque style?
My burlesque style tends to lean towards comedy and parody, while taking any opportunity to showcase my physical skills like handstands, aerial and  gymnastics.  I enjoy making an audience genuinely laugh and engage with my characters experiences, whether they feel my joy or even my sorrowful histrionics over a lost love.

How did you become involved in the burlesque scene?
I have an undergrad and graduate degree in dance and once I had finished my MFA program I was trying to think of what job I could do that would allow me the time to dance with a professional company but still offer a good income so a friend of mine and I decided to check out the local strip club.  As a performance artist I had no problem being naked in front of people, I believe the nude body is beautiful, vulnerable and powerful at the same time.  Plus I liked the idea of getting paid to dance on a stage and learn a new art form.
That was the beginning of my stripping career which lasted off and on for the next 6 years.  I learned a lot about myself, sexuality, acting, confidence and some funky dance moves.  It was like any other job, there were good days and bad days, good people and bad people.  But I really learned to own my sexuality and what the power of seduction meant, it translated to all areas in my life.  So… that all led to me teaching pole dancing and then the owner of the studio needed someone to teach a Burlesque class and I was called upon to do some research and create a class called Burlesque Workout. Luckily a lovely woman named Fannie Spankings started taking the class and she was already performing burlesque in Denver with Vivian Va Voom’s group “Burlesque as it Was”.  She told me about Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret and I went to the club and saw this wonderful show hosted by Pierre and luckily at the time with the right connections you could join the show and hopefully they liked you.  I converted some of my performance art pieces into Burlesque dances and Fannie and I started a group called “Cherry on Top” with some of the girls in my class.  That group was disbanded but luckily the Clocktower is still one of the most amazing places to perform every week. I have a lot of “luckily’s” in my life.

She's got an itchy middle finger.

She’s got an itchy middle finger.

How do you balance burlesque and paying the bills?
I have a variety of jobs; burlesque, modern and aerial dance, massage education and my own massage business.  I enjoy that every day is different as it keeps me on my toes and fuels the desire to keep learning and growing in all areas.

Tell me about the relationship between your everyday self and your stage persona.
There is definitely a distinction.  I am Lynda throughout the day although a lot of my friends always refer to me as “Pegs” or “Peggy” which is fine with me. I love it.  I do love allowing all characteristics that “make me” to have freeplay in my everyday life.  If I feel introverted or lazy, unattractive or cloudy then I can be that without worry. I like to treat my burlesque persona the same way I treat any other character in any other show I might do.  I wait until I am at the performance venue to apply my makeup and transform.  That is when I can hopefully shed whatever characteristics Lynda has that aren’t useful to Peggy and can really plug into my sensuality, sexuality, confidence, dynamics and presence.  Some days I am better at this than others but every opportunity to perform is also a new opportunity to learn something about Peggy.
Peggy 4Serious question: Is burlesque an act of feminism? How so or how not?
I see burlesque as lying under the larger umbrella of performance art so I have a hard time labeling it in any way.  Now if I were to see an individual act and that question were asked of me I might be able to answer the question.  What was the intention behind the creation of the act?  Who is the audience?  Who is the performer?  Feminism to me is a very complex and fluid ideology, as you can tell by the numbers of opinions shared online everyday on this very topic and I can’t box burlesque or any other form of art within its walls.

Another serious question: What redeeming social and/or artistic value does burlesque have?
It creates conversations.  Most people have strong opinions as to what it means to shed your clothes for entertainment in front of an audience.  Is it feminist or not?  Is it good or not?  Whatever your opinion, it is a subject that draws people in and if you find yourself involved in a discussion pertaining to the value of Burlesque you are sure to have a lively time!  And that is the purpose of art.
Peggy 6

She’s still fit as a fiddle.

You can catch Peggy Tulane’s perky personality most Thursdays at 8:00 in Naughty Pierre’s Burlesque and Comedy Extravaganza, most Saturdays at 11:00 in Off the Clock Burlesque, and at one more night of Midnite Martini’s Ladies of the 80s on Friday, July 31st, all at Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret.