(Image: If a lesbian strips in front of a crowd, will straight men notice?)
I don’t know whether it’s shock value or just another case of Chicago eating its entertainment young, but this year’s Windy City holiday burlesque scene is a bit different than the last. In 2008, I and a few friends (including Pastry Chef Chris) took Gapers Block up on an offer of free tickets for its bloggers to see Land of the Sweets, an innovative–and scantily clad– “Burlesque Nutcracker” show on tour from its native Seattle. (Those were the days when I was writing food & drink posts for GB’s Drive-Thru channel–find links to those posts in my Gapers Block archive.) That show got healthy local media coverge.
This year, a Windy City troupe is putting a hometown take on taking it off for the holidays. Longtime local burlesque troupe, Girlie-Q, began performing its own show, Delight Before Christmas, more than a week ago at Theatre Building Chicago. This time, very little has been picked up in Chitown media about the show, even though it features a slew of noted local and national burlesque and variety performers. (Follow the above links for more on the show, or see my writeup from this week’s Chicagosphere.)
Both shows are madcap, comic musicals that reboot classic holiday themes with edgy, sexy performances. So why haven’t you heard more about the Girlie-Q show? Is it because adult entertainment doesn’t sell in Chicago for the holidays? Or, just maybe, is it because Girlie-Q is an LGBT burlesque troupe?
Girlie-Q founder and artistic director, JT Newman, started the troupe as a way to help both gay and straight audiences realize that everyone can be sexy on the outside–people of all shapes, sizes, and orientations. A leading local blogger on the burlesque arts, Newman was the subject of Chicagosphere’s debut post in May 2009 and, for fullest disclosure, since November 2009 has been a paid public relations client. She and the troupe must be doing something right, because they’ve been pulling in local audiences since 2003.
So what’s with the media reticence? (And said reticence apprears to apply to local LGBT online media, too.) It can’t be because Chicagoans think Christmas is just for the kiddies. Not only was last year’s absolutely adults-only Land of the Sweets a popular ticket, but this year audiences are eating up the equally adult holiday drag show, Snow White and the Drag Queen Who Stole X-Mas, staged by Midtangent Productions at Hydrate in Boystown.
I also doubt it’s due to the Girlie-Q show’s overt sexuality or clothing-optional nature. A week before Thanksgiving, the Chicago Tribune promoted on the front page of its website a photo feature praising the joys of naked tourism. (I kid you not.) So it’s not like local media has gone holiday-imprurient. They know still waters run deep in this down. Let’s face it, we don’t host the International Mister Leather competition here every year for nothing.
And I highly doubt straight men with all their lesbian-centric fantasies I’ve heard tell about on Fox sitcoms and cable talk shows–not to mention all the macho hubris they like to drunkenly shout about into the middle of a Lincoln Park night–wouldn’t jump at the idea to watch a stage full of them take their clothes off. (If you’re a straight guy reading this, tell me you wouldn’t.)
So my big bugbear question of the week is to ask why Chicago media–both straight and gay–who so clearly love to go on and on about heteros taking their clothes off and gay men dressing up as women, have no clue what to do when the ones showing skin up on stage are queer. I thought this city was more adventurous than that, not to mention more open-minded.
But maybe no one told the media.
Michael Thaddeus Doyle
I'm a NYC-native, Latino, Jew-by-choice, hardcore WDW fan in Chicago with an Irish last name. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I do nonprofit development. I've written this blog since 2005. Believe in the world you want to live in.