Saturday, September 25, 2010

Influences and Inspriations

When I get strapped for ideas on this blog (which is rather often) I tend to default to answering questions that I'm sometimes asked. FYI if anybody has questions please feel free to ask them either in comments to e-mails, believe me it would help to have more specific things to respond to. Anyways, a question I think most performers get asked from time to time is who their influences and inspirations are. It's a question that I didn't really know how to answer for a while because I didn't latch on to particular influences (for instance I don't do impersonation acts... well except for that one Britney number.) However upon further examination I think I can naile down a couple of things that have helped shape my persona as both a performer and a dresser in general.

Photo by K. Walter

First let me be clear, I never had what I call the "Faye Wray" moment. Anybody who knows The Rocky Horry Picture Show might know what I'm talking about. There is a song in which the transvestite character Frank-n-furter (played brilliantly by Tim Curry) describes that he saw the beauty of classic actress Faye Wray and he wanted to be dressed just the same. I never had that, in fact my initial interest in dressing came in sort of sideways. But that's a story for another entry. My point is that I've never had a specific feminine ideal that I've been shooting for. There is no singer, actress or model that I was ever trying to directly emulate or wanted to be like.
That said there are sprinklings of different influences. Most of the women (real life or fictional) that I feel influenced me aren't the usual drag fare. I can appreciate Liza Minelli, Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe but I have no desire to be like any of them. I take my influence from women of the more butt-kicking variety. Think Emma Peel, Angelina Jolie, and Princess Leia. I probably have my mother thank for this, she was always big on the women who can dish it out. However there is one influence that has become clear and I certainly can't ignore: Pink.

Video by Laura

I've always loved Pink's music, I've performed to songs by her more than any other artist. Yet I've never gone out of my way to directly emulate her, and I've certainly never done an impression of her in an act. Instead she embodied much of what would end up going into my feminine persona, both on-stage and off. The sense of independence yet the hints of a softer side. The full on kick-ass chick with attitude who still seems like she could just kick back and relax. That was the kind of persona that I've tried to have for myself. In all honesty I'm probably quite a bit girlier than Pink but I still can bring the attitude when I have to.

Now that's probably my biggest influence, as for inspiration... well I actually think I take inspiration mostly from my fellow performers. When I see another performer (drag or otherwise) do really amazing work it inspires and invigorates me to keep doing this and try to step my game up. I especially take inspiration from those younger than me. I'll admit that when I see a young performer who I feel is better than I am there is a part of me that is jealous (I'm looking at you Bianca Dagga!) However that quickly fades and I just get excited at what's being done in with burlesque and drag by the people who will still be doing it after I retire. Anybody with the balls (literal or figurative) to slap on a ludacris outfit and get their ass up on a stage is an inspiration to me, and always will be.

Honestly not sure who took the picture... it was taken with Laura's camera though.

I also have to mention my wife. Yeah, yeah, yeah I can hear the eyes rolling already (yes that's right, I can hear your eyes!) I can hear some readers thinking it's the obligatory wife/girlfriend thank you and I'm only doing this to get in good with her (yeah right, I'm not even sure she reads this thing.) I know it's a sappy cliche but my wife really is a huge influence and inspiration to me. I'm convinced a big reason that most straight dressers stay closeted is that they think they'll never meet a woman who will understand. And in truth many would not understand, however I was lucky enough to find one who not only understood, she supported. Hell she gave me make-up tips back in the early days of Boston and has helped me refine my look over the years. There are even times she'll come home with little surprises for me (thanks for the pink leopard tights baby!) I know how amazingly lucky I am to have a wife as supportive as Laura and I'm inspired by her every day, and for reasons far beyond her support of this side of myself. Yeah so it went a bit sappy there... suck it up, it's my damn blog!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Pains of Cross Shopping

A question I sometimes get, usually from other dressers (especially those starting out) is "what's the most agrivating thing about cross dressing?" Oh there are a number of things that are up there on the list: body hair removal, lack of hips, maintaining wigs, etc. But probably the single biggest hurdle for the average cross dresser is clothes shopping. As an added twist for every picture I put up in this post I'll be saying where I bought what I'm wearing. As much fun as shopping can and should be there's a whole litany of reasons that most cross dressers dread it. The biggest problem for most dressers is simply one of fear, cross dresser are usually highly paranoid about being discovered. Even those who don't consider themselves to be closeted can be shaken at the thought of going into a store to buy women's clothes. The funny thing about fear in this situation I've learned is that it's almost totally unfounded. Unless a dresser actually does something to indicate otherwise virtually all sales-people will assume a man buying women's clothes is buying for a wife or girlfriend. Even if they have a slightest incling of the true nature of the shopping trip there's two things that dressers need to remember: 1) Odds of seeing these same sales people ever again is pretty slim in most cases and 2) As long as money is being spent the sales people really don't care who it's for.

Shoes from Steinmart, pants and shirt from Rainbow, hair from Ricky's NYC and Photo by Laura

The fear and annoyance of store shopping results in most dressers doing their shopping online. This only solves the problem of fear in a public setting, but it brings a whole list of other issues. The big one is the problem with all online shopping, especially for clothes: you can never be 100% certain of what you're getting. Pictures can be deceiving, lighting of a photograph can affect how a color looks on the computer, and sizes are even more guess work than usual. Finally returning something that was mailed can be even more of a pain than returning to a store. That said many of my favorite clothing items are online purchases. My beloved platform boots were one of my early online buys. Same goes for my saloon girl skirt, my silver one piece and my breasts. Yes that's right, my tits came by mail. Hand delivered with care. My most recent purchase made online was a t-shirt from Nic Buxom's online store. Sometimes there's just things you find online that can't be found locally. However I would highly advise against any dresser from ordering wigs online. More than any piece of clothing you can buy a wig can look completely different on different people, and you really need to try them on. If there is a wig shop in your area (or a costume store with a decent wig selection) I promise you they've already encountered dressers and will be understanding and respectful.

Shirt from Nic Buxom, corset from Amazon, hair and cuffs from Ricky's NYC, collar from Fetish Flea Market, garters from Tic Tac Toe, lahes from Old Gold and Photo by Laura

Even if or when a cross dresser gets over their shopping fear enough to actually buy a few things that starts a whole new area of issues: understanding the sizes. Men don't understand how good they have it when it comes to clothes sizing. Take pants for instance, men's pants have two measurements: waist and length. In men's pants I'm a 31"x32", that's my size and that's what I look for. It all makes perfect logical sense, and it doesn't change no matter what kind of pants I buy. Women's pants are assigned a completely arbitrary number that isn't even consistent from brand to brand. So in women's pants I'm anywhere from a size 10 to a size 14. Sadly trial and error is really the only way to get it right and even the most daring dresser probably won't take women's things into the changing room at the store. That means dressers have to take it home before they can find out if it fits or not. The one exception to this is in a costume store, where men interested in women's items for themselves doesn't really raise an eyebrow. However dressers who want a more casual look won't find what they want in stores like that.

If there's one thing a cross dresser likes more than a good buy it's free stuff! Dressers and queens love is a good give-away, such as the one Olivia Rouge is currently having. There's nothing better in the world that getting something pretty and sparkly for free! And of course for the timid the "it's for my girlfriend" ploy works even better in this situation, because what guy wouldn't try to get a great looking gift for free?

Shoes from Payless, shorts from Rainbow, shirt and necklace from Steinmart, bracelet from Clair's, hair from Ricky's NYC, Photo by Stacie Joy

In NYC I had gotten to the point where there were a few clothing stores I would make semi-regular stops at. Now being in Vermont I have to start over and honestly be a little more careful. In huge city like New York nobody cares and even if they do you won't see them again. In more rural areas there's a distinct possibility of running into that store clerk on the street or that you might know some of the same people. This means that from now on most of my in-store shopping is going to be done further from home. I'm always sure to stop into Old Gold when I'm in Burlington. I'd done a little shopping at the local Fashion Bug but they went out of business. I was also forutnate enough to have Laura come with me on those trips. Which brings up another thing for dressers. If you have a female friend you're out to bring them along when you shop, it should help get rid of that lingering fear because everybody will assume you're buying for her. I think that's about it for this little ramble. Hopefully folks have found it insightful/helpful/amusing or at least it killed a few minutes that you could have been doing work. I'm so bad for productivity.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Every Queen Needs a Castle

They say every queen needs a king... for some that may be true but I think what a queen really needs is a castle. Laura and I have been working for the last few weeks on claiming a castle for our very own, not by the traditional siege, sack and pillage method but rather the hard way: with a home loan. I just have one question... why doesn't anybody ever tell you how stupidly complicated it is to buy a house? I suppose maybe if more people knew what a convoluted headache it is they wouldn't even bother starting the process.

Photo by Laura

Well let me be the first to tell you this is insane! It's not like buying anything else. You may think you have an idea but you really don't. Even buying other things on credit or with a loan like a car isn't even close to this. Before you even start considering looking at houses you need to go to a bank and get a loan pre-approval to find out how much money you can actually get for a home loan. After filling out a small mountain of paperwork this can take about to week to even hear back about. Then you can start looking at houses, which is it's own kind of insanity. Houses can look great in pictures, and when you go there you find out that it was photographed from the one angle that looks good or that it ends up being much smaller than it looks. Others are on great pieces of land but the houses themselves are nothing you'd want to live in. And then there are the ones that are very nice but you come to realize they're not nice enough for the neighborhood that you'd be stuck in. A good thing to remember, if there's anything wrong with the house itself, that can be fixed. You can't fix where it is.

If you're lucky enough to find a house you like in a location you can live with that is in your price range that's when the REAL nightmare starts. Anybody who thinks they can do this alone needs to just check into a nut house right now. GET AN AGENT! Somebody who knows what the heck is going on and will hold your hand through the process is worth their weight in gold. So then comes the even bigger mountain of paperwork and the initial offer. Unless you're made of money you're going to offer less than the asking price. Then the negotiations happen to actually settle on a price the seller will agree to. Oh and as a fun little item to nag at your paranoia, at a time up to this point another buyer can swoop in with a better offer or cash in hand and snatch the house out from under you.

Photo by Laura

If the seller accepts your offer it's still not over. Next comes the inspection. Then possible re-negotiations based off what the home inspection reveals. Then the massive slog of closing which involves a small army of bankers, realtors and lawyers who wrap everything up in red tape. All so you can sink into the single biggest debt of your life. Why do we have to jump through all these hoops just to go into debt? Just take my money please! For the record Laura and I have made an initial offer and are waiting to hear back about that. That really is all the worst part. The waiting, the down time between each one of these steps really drives you crazy. Keep your fingers crossed for us.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Joys of Googling Yourself

It's amazing the things you find when you randomly google yourself. My treat tonight was to come across a little 14 minute documentary about burlesque that I gave an interview for way back in November. I hadn't completely forgotten about it but I sort of gave up ever getting to see it as I had lost touch with the film students who did it. But then a random google search of "Vera Wylde" (because I was bored... and yes I'm a little conceited) turned up a video I hadn't seen before. And surprise! It came out pretty well altogether and I'd like to share it with all of you. Listen to me wax intellectual about taking my clothes off on stage!

For the impatient types I show up at the 7:15 mark. Also as fair warning I'm not in full drag for a good chunk of this so if seeing me in semi-boy mode ruins the illusion for you then maybe you should just move along. Also see my good friend Bianca Dagga performing at 6:10 (I'm always so proud of her!) Oh and stick around for a little outtake moment at the very end!

Dancing Burlesque from Joseph Turner on Vimeo.