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Friday Follies: Redhead Edition

This week I was charmed by the blogs of two redheaded New Zealanders. There’s Daily Oxford – useful tasteful makeup advice for mature faces combined with a rural New Zealand life rich with horses, dogs, and weather worries. Helga von Trollop is magnificently extreme. I particularly enjoyed this post of hers here, where she illuminates her circumstances and shares her sharp wit as well as her smashing red-white-and-blue outfit.

Whenever I’m in doubt as a curvy redhead, I seek the middle ground between Oxford and von Trollop and ask myself: what would Christina Hendricks do? The talented and privileged actress is in a position to try most stylish looks. If something in her many style ventures didn’t work out for her, she took one for Team Redhead and I appreciate it. A 109-image look book for her is here.

Eyebrows often vex redheads and redheads-by-choice. Us redheads-by-choice  benefit from a bit of brow makeup to bring our face and hair together with the next level of polish. Refectocil has two dye options for redhead brows: Chestnut (good for auburns and henna hues) and Red (good for cherry/punk shades). And this sane, cheerful video shows us how to do everyday redheaded brows with powder and pencil. Note that the eyeshadows she’s using to create auburn-ish brows are soft, not dramatic, and the result is balanced eyebrows, not cinnamon caterpillars.

Not to dis caterpillars, by the way. I love the irresistible cinnamon wooly-bear caterpillars – I remember petting them gently as a child in New England. But I try not to recreate them when it’s brow time!


The Consolations of Femmes

“What made you sad?” a friend asked, privately, after my last post. I will tell you: someone important in my life is dying of cancer.

We are both femmes. Introduced by a mutual friend five years ago, we’ve become close as family. We both like making houses beautiful, keeping vintage clothing forever, old-school dinner parties and acres of books. My friend has recreated herself again and again, challenging society, making the most of her talents, intelligence, and sensuality. She was wrapping up her Ph.D and starting a new teaching job when she got the health news.

Jan at the Michoutouchkine & Pilioko Foundation in Port Vila, Vanuatu, snapped by me

Jan at the Michoutouchkine & Pilioko Foundation in Port Vila, Vanuatu, snapped by me – we went on a cruise together in 2011

What can I do? Love unceasingly. But, along with that, love respectfully. I do my best to respect how she needs and wants to spend her time, and to help whenever I’m asked. I bring food – mild and easy things to eat, such as risotto, braised oxtail with polenta, a swirled pound cake, rewena bread. She asked, “Can you do my nails?” I said yes. “Sooner rather than later?” Again, of course. Chemo can be hard on one’s nails. I assembled a nail kit (with sterilized clippers and just-for-her files and orange sticks) and Saturday I stopped by and gave her a pedicure at the hospital. She chose a rich, iridescent paua-shell blue. I support her decisions in other ways, too – she is choosing how to treat her cancer and deal with her life issues.

What can we all do for our friends with cancer? At one point, a friend of hers, a single man, had had a heart attack. She observed, “Everyone was sending love and light on Facebook, but nobody DID anything. So several of us banded together and went over to clean his house.” Front up with the hands-on care and in-person presence. And  help your friends feel beautiful in other ways, but keep your own hair on your head – Locks of Love, the world’s biggest cut-your-hair-for-cancer charity, is being investigated for fraud, and in New Zealand high-quality cancer hairpieces are funded by national health care. (Cutting hair has been a sign of grieving throughout human history and in many cultures, so I see where they’re coming from, it’s a pity it doesn’t work very well.)

This is how it goes; I’m sad, in waves, like the ocean around the paua. Then my friend and I see each other, and we are sad together. But then we laugh, and rejoice in each other’s presence, and go on rants about health care and hair – because we’re alive. “We’re making memories,” she says.

Carved gateway at Michoutouchkine & Pilioko in Port Vila, Vanuatu

Carved gateway at Michoutouchkine & Pilioko in Port Vila, Vanuatu

Ooops, was this your skirt?
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Producing A Burlesque Rainbow

Burlesque dancers at an LGBQT pride event. How cool would that be?

Holding that thought led me to produce a burlesque act for the first time.

Wellington, NZ’s Out in the Square LGBQT pride event wanted acts. Wellington’s burlesque community has lots of talented dancers.  As the producer, what did I do to bring them together? First, I  developed the concept for an act. Second, I contacted local dancers through a mailing list. Once we had dancers interested and available, I contacted the Out in the Square committee with our proposal. They wanted to know how long the act would be and what it would entail, and I was able to tell them.

To make the act relate to LGBQT pride, the concept was based on a human rainbow flag. We decided to have a pink dancer to fill out the rainbow, and found out later that pink used to be included in the rainbow flag, but was dropped when the  fabric became unavailable for producing rainbow pride flags!

Dress rehearsal with our Burlesque Rainbow

Dancers left to right: Salacious Sugar, Scarlett De’light, The Deity Dollicious, Penny Pins, Atomic Ruby, Winnie Chester, Fanciforia Foxglove, and Allegra Valentine

Back to production. Once the wheels were rolling, I did a lot of communicating about what would happen, when. For the act, I framed up base choreography and music concepts and sourced props. On the day, I picked up 32 helium balloons, and liased with Out in the Square to get the dancers  and music where they needed to be, when they needed to be there.

The support of local burlesque dance teacher Miss La Belle made all the difference – she hooked us up with rehearsal space, provided one of the music pieces (a perfect fruity 1950s instrumental) and helped us refine the choreography, along with all the dancers. Crystal Mischief edited the music together just right for us, and Honey Suckle helped with dancer wrangling and stepped out as the stage kitten. This involved retrieving the stage items for 8 dancers in front of a crowd of hundreds of strangers, outside! Thank you, ladies, it couldn’t have happened without you.

We kept the act modest, on the chorus-girl side of burlesque, to meet the event’s “family friendly” requirements. This last one may be why there isn’t more burlesque at LGBQT pride events in the USA that I can find – it seems more common at events in Europe, even in Asia.

Ooops, was this your skirt?

Note the midriff coverage, skirts and boas, and the colored stockings making the dancers more modest.

Before this, I had been to a burlesque event staged in daylight, and the effect was…cruel. Instead of dancers being overwhelmed by space and sky and daylight, I wanted them to interact with it. The solution was helium balloons, which turned the whole sky into part of the show.

You can't take the sky from me!

Very, very, VERY popular with the photographers.

On the day, we were blessed with the best possible weather – sunny or a bit overcast, with minimal breeze (almost unheard of in Wellington, but it happened.) The Out in the Square staff surrendered a dressing trailer to us, folded our music into the show, and courteously read out the names of each of the dancers. The act had the best possible reception, with a cheering crowd and the emcee calling the dancers out for an interview.

Getting interviewed

Salacious Sugar fields a spontaneous interview from an Out in the Square emcee.

Offstage, I was asked some questions…

Wait, what were you doing?

I started out as “the person who thought this would be a good idea”, and it was easier to say “producer,” despite the visions of Max Bialystock I associate with that word. In the end we had a 4 person production team for 8 dancers, and we had 2 long group rehearsals. I know the dancers practiced at home, too, on top of arranging their costumes. All this for a 4-and-a-half minute act.

I’ll buy that. Those dancers were amazing. Can I get them to dance at my event?

You sure can, the main contact is Miss La Belle, here.

Why weren’t *you* on stage?

Out in the Square had talented emcees aplenty. I may make my burlesque dance debut at some point, but this time around, the act came together well with the talent that stepped forwards – and either had the colored costumes available, or were willing to put them together. Costuming is a big issue for a troupe!

Were the dancers on TV?

Yes, they started the segment on TVNZ 1. Click here to view it – their part begins at about 12:44. Their beauty had a purpose, too: the rest of the segment used the Pride event to stage a discussion about school bullying of queer youth and queer rights in NZ. And maybe more people watched that segment than usual, because it began with a spectacle of dancing women?



This aquamarine negligee set almost glows in the dark.

Teenage Mutant Vintage Lingerie

My vintage collection and I were invited to a Digitalpix glamour shoot. Oh happy day! I thought I’d bring something special. “Special” in lots of ways. Because vintage lingerie can be pretty demented. Take this demure “bed jacket” modeled here by Phoenix Flame.

The pink puff sleeves? The lace and bows? Surely designed to hide a mind like a steel trap.

Do not be deceived by the lace and ribbons: Agent Phoenix Flame is extremely dangerous.

Courtesy of Digitalpix Photography and model Phoenix Flame.

And then there’s this. On the way to Las Vegas in 1964, some revelers tossed a pair of synthetic panties out of their convertible into the Nevada desert. One nuclear test later, this lace and nylon negligee set was found clinging fetchingly to a tumbleweed.

It almost, but not quite, glows in the dark. Guest photographer Andrew used a soft focus to lessen the impact:

I feel a pleasant glow when I wear this. Is that happiness or my DNA warping?

Courtesy of superb guest photographer Andy!

Did it give me superpowers?


Captured in flight by Digitalpix

Well, I think so!