Saturday, October 22, 2011

Burlesque and the audience: Rob Joseph interview

Frankie Tease sat down with a local Portland Oregon patron of burlesque shows in town and across the nation, to find out what the heck the patron is thinking while sitting in the audience and enjoying the show. Here is what our new friend Rob had to tell us.

FT: What do you do for a living?
RJ: I am Sr. V.P. at U.S. Bank.
FT: You sound like my next sponsor!  I understand you are also a photographer.
RJ: I shoot in studio and landscape. is a good way to see my work.
FT: How long have you been in Portland
RJ: Originally I am from Missouri, but here via Phoenix Arizona.
FT: What is the first burlesque show you went to?
RJ: Phoenix, 1989. I am not gay but I ended up at a gay burlesque show.
FT: What was that like?
RJ: Comedy, stripping, drag, mostly drag. I like going to strip clubs but I always go with my wife. We always feel that it's a little sad, and it's younger women. Whereas burlesque is real women, older women, not as many fake breasts, not sad people, people that are more artistic. 

FT: Burlesque dancers have more fun, and make a LOT less money.
RJ: Isn't that the way that it goes? I make money, but I can do so many things that are a lot more fun. The things you love don't always pay you a lot.
FT: What is the average price you pay at a burlesque show since you've been attending shows since 89?
RJ: $5 bux. The 'Gay 90's' in Minnesota as an example was a higher priced and slicker production, I had less fun it was more about bachellorette and bachellor parties. Where in Portland, there is a real passion coming from the people that are doing burlesque, they're doing it because they LOVE it. I think Portland has a unique scene.
FT: I heard once that there are two types of performance, cathartic and presentation. I think both types of shows exist, and the audience can tell which one. One feels like a party, and one feels like you're supposed to sit, and listen and watch.
RJ: I consider my wife and I freaks, and I like to go watch people who are like us. We aren't normal. If you go to a show like the Gay 90's, they're just putting on a show. Here in Portland freaks like us are the performers!
FT: When you go to burlesque shows, you want to participate?
RJ: I go to watch my wife is more of a participant. My type of participation is filming.
FT: How is shooting a burlesque show different from anything else you've photographed?
RJ: I consider burlesque art, and I love to shoot art. I love to be a part of that art. I love to capture moments, and there are so many great moments at a burlesque show. I like to freeze those moments in a picture.
FT:  What are those moments? How would you describe them?
RJ: I think those moments are usually visual and audio, and it's hard to capture on film, you don't get the whole thing. The thing about burlesque is that it's funny. It gives us a release to laugh. When there are boobs involved in funny, how much better can it get? 
FT: Have you noticed changes in Portland burlesque shows through time as you are a fan?
RJ: There are at least six totally different scenes in Portland burlesque. Some of it's really belly dance oriented, some of it is comedy driven. Portland is amazing, for variety of burelsque, it seems like almost any night of the week you can see a show!
FT: Have you been to Sinferno.
RJ: It's my favorite by far. It can be a little late for me since I work on Monday, but it is my favorite. The dancing girls in the cage, the quality of the stage, the lighting. 
FT: So you enjoy the production value.
RJ: That is something a lot of burlesque people don't get it lighting. 
FT: There are many levels of production value in Portland. There is a high level with lots of detail to lighting and props and there are low production value shows, I agree with you. Sometimes producers sacrifice production value to get into a place or bar to get patronage.
RJ: Lighting is really expensive!
FT: Dante's has made a place for circus and burlesque performers a long time ago, and is the longest running weekly show at over ten years. 
RJ: There is something amazing about nudity and fire.It's amazing. It's hot.
FT: When you see a show and you see men and women, is that interesting to you?
RJ: Yes totally.
FT: Have you experienced burlesque with live music?
RJ: Mutator has this big horn section and they have girls doing hoops and aerials silk.
FT: So you love everything about burelsque.
RJ: I love the banter with the crowd, and I love the shows that are somewhat casual.
FT: Things happen that you'd never expect when you get into crowd interaction, which can be hilarious.Thank you for being the first patron of burlesque interview and I'll see you at the next show!
If you are a fan of late night shows, check out Dante's Sinferno each and every Sunday at Dante's in Portland OR. 350 W. Burnside at 3rd Ave. or check out for complete calendar.