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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Kitten on the Keys One Woman Burlesque Performance

“Does This Piano Make My Ass Look Big?” starring Kitten on the Keys in a one-woman performance had its world premiere on March 27 and runs for two weekends only at Mama Calizo’s Voice Factory. I had the opportunity to get the words straight from the kitten’s mouth.

When did you first know you were Kitten on the Keys?

I worked in an antique and vintage clothing store for 17 years and all we listened to was Tin Pan Alley. I became addicted to the naughty double entendre songs of the 1920’s and 1930’s. I likened myself to a punk rock version of a flapper. I had a Victrola and some 78’s. One was “Kitten on the Keys” by Zez Confrey from 1922. This fast-paced ragtime romp reminded me of my dizzy brain where little kittens are frantically padding around on my grey matter. I decided that this was the perfect stage name for me! I have a Victrola with a kitty cat tattooed on my left leg. I never shave the kitty cat and I ask people if they would like to pet my hairy pussy - then I pull down my sock.

You are a master … er … mistress at burlesque. Define that term, “burlesque.” I know it isn’t about just stripping off your clothes. There is a method to the madness, no?

Burlesque is a humorous theatrical entertainment involving parody and sometimes grotesque exaggeration. We live in a time where people need to experience poor man’s theater and some cheeky entertainment. It is not just gals and guys showin’ their “knickers and bits” - there can be variety acts like musicians, magicians, and jugglers too.

Burlesque is a fun form of personal expression for both men and women. I think the WAY you take it off – with a sense of humor and a dash of glamour - is fabulous. I enjoy traveling the country, UK, and Europe performing my twisted songs and silly dances to audiences who are just HUNGRY for this type of entertainment. I am lucky I found super awesome like-minded folks in the late 1990’s in San Francisco – The Cantankerous Lollies and San Francisco’s famous Burlesque Orchestra. They asked me to join in the fun!

When did you discover you had a knack – a drive, as it were – for burlesque?

I have always been drawn to things that were NAUGHTY or wink wink, nudge nudge. I told some off color jokes in third grade. I was first inspired by short reels of Shirley Temple’s Baby Burlesques from the 1930’s. She was put into very adult like situations with a giant diaper. I love that golly geeee whiz energy! Then I saw Queen when I was 11, and Freddie Mercury was bumping and grinding to show tunes out of a glamorous Kimono into these teeny tiny black and white striped shorts. I was in AWE! I adore the sweet hotness of the pre-code films and musicals.

You play soooo many musical instruments – piano, ukulele, accordion, others – when did you take these up, and why?

I was one of those kids FORCED into piano lessons. I was horrible. I have ADD and did not want to play what they wanted me to play. I do not drive a car, and traveling around as a pianist with a giant keyboard on MUNI got to be old, so I was drawn to the old world feeling of the accordion - which is the HARDEST instrument to play! I call my accordion “Ol’ Wheezy.” The ukulele is so 1920’s, the eel’s eyelashes, and voh-dee-oh-doh! My fave is to strum punk rock songs as Betty Boop. I adore the film Some Like It Hot with Marilyn as “Sugar” - her white ukulele was always so cool to me!

You have just returned from Paris. Why for?

I am honored to be involved with this film in Paris. I was there testing songs, costumes, and burlesque acts for a film by Mattieu Almaric (Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Quantum of Solace). Mattieu had seen this show I MC and sing in for French and Italian theater festivals called “Cabaret New Burlesque.” He was so inspired by our frivolity and joy that he wrote a road trip script about an American burlesque troupe traveling throughout the North of France with a washed up producer. I play my musical mistress of ceremonies self in the film. The working film of the title is Tournee.

What about cabaret got you into the biz? You are a fabulous chanteuse.

Jeepers THANKS! I just like music! I was a lonely kid and my only friends were my little AM radio, my records, and stuffed animals! Music has a way of making me happy. It pulls at my many emotions. What I cannot express in words I can express through singing and playing. I was fortunate enough to take lessons from Scrumbley Koldewyn of the Cockettes.

Your CDs are off the wall. Beautifully bawdy. Where do you get your lyrics?

I like writing about fetishes and such. I have so much fun shocking people with these silly sex practices set to music. There are not enough songs about furries and plushies! I just take real life situations and get out the ol’ rhyming dictionary!I watch a lot of old films and musicals for cool songs to cover. I also have a super awesome pal named Bob Grimes, an octogenarian with the world’s largest sheet music collection. He knows my taste, and he saves the super fun and naughty double entendre flapper ditties for me!

Describe yourself without using the words “dirty,” “stacked,” “naughty,” “sexy,” or “velocipede.”

Sassy, silly, musical, squishy, lickable, frothy, spit-curled, rowdy, dizzy, and inappropriate.

Tell my readers why they simply MUST come see your latest show.

I am very proud that a dorky gal from the suburbs like me can transform and have this dual identity and live a happier life through music and art. I have always been very theatrical with silly homemade DIY props and costumes. Almost everything I write is a TRUE story. People always tell me I should write a book! But I cannot spell, so I prefer to sing and play the piano. Audiences can see a well rounded side of me - and a sensitive side to Kitten on the Keys - not just the in your face sexuality.

“Does This Piano Make My Ass Look Big” is directed by Dwayne Calizo - the artistic director and founder of Mama Calizo’s - the epicenter of queer and activist art in SF, 1519 Mission St. (Van Ness & 11th Sts.). For info, 1-800/ 838- 3006 or Warning: This kitten’s got claws!
By Sister Dana Van Iquity

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