Not sure how this escaped my notice a few weeks ago, but: Porpoises Recue Dick Van Dyke
The show I’m part of, SF’s Hubba Hubba Revue, just won major accolades from The Travel Channel– named as one of the top ten burlesque shows in the world!!!
It’s time to kill the old Friendster account that has sat there untouched for years… it’s cropping up with undesirable results when Googling my name.
Truth be told, the only reason I didn’t kill it a while ago is it contained some very nice “testimonials” from friends. Which were the precursors to Myspace “comments” and Facebook “wall posts.”
So that they won’t be lost for good… here are the testimonials I received. They are delightful! The first four in blue are my favorites…
From friend Allison on 2/8/04:
You dashing, magnetic, kinetic, wise and quick-witted lad. Must you always radiate such an all-powerful tractor beam of charm… Yes, I think you must.
From old friend Steve on 10/6/03:
M is perhaps the only person I know to have successfully transformed a trailer on a remote island into a temporary discotheque with the use of a flashlight and bunch of empty beer cans tied to the ceiling. We are all mere students in M’s School of Rock!
From Humuhumu on 7/27/03:
Surely a modern-day answer to Elvis, the Sasquatch and Angelyne all in one freaky package, this sexy beast is destined to be famous for being famous. Reports of “M Sightings” will be shared in hushed tones. The people will marvel at how he never really aged, and great myths will rise up surrounding his mysterious origins. Long after he dies, M Impostors will revel in the gasps of shocked, unsuspecting fools as they offer brief glimpses of a long-lost legend. When I say “I knew him when…” my grandchildren will roll their eyes and refill my bourbon.
From Laura on 5/20/03:
a barrel of monkeys? HA! when it comes to fun, all you need is *one* gorilla–provided that gorilla just so happens to be ‘gorilla x, gorilla to the stars’ (aka ‘the liberace of gorillas’)…
but seriously: what else can i say about my dear friend, M? well, in addition to being one hell of a sharp dresser, he’s also *the* guy you want watching your back if you’re ever… oh, i dunno… say, the only straight people in the rowdiest gay bar on bourbon street, ’roundabout sunrise, when, say, a fistfight breaks out between two incredibly hot, drunk, and (of course) scantily clad SISTERS sitting next to you, and the 350-lb. tranny bouncer starts hasslin’ YOU.
i guess what i’m really trying to say is that that M is one hell of a stand-up guy, not to mention the coolest gorilla impersonator — EVER.
That would be one of the best compliments I’ve ever gotten. Courtesy of dear, dear friend Jewel of Denial.
It’s in reference to a rather legendary room party I have come to host every year at the annual Burlesque Hall of Fame Pageant in Las Vegas. I’m part of the production team; it’s my favorite weekend of the entire year and it is NEXT WEEKEND!!
GREAT feature about the Burlesque Hall of Fame pageant, the annual pageant in Las Vegas that I’m heavily involved in the production of.
Featuring main bud Luke Littell with color commentary; and also best galpal Joyce in the front of the crowd shot at 3:42. The intro lasts 1:15, then the BHOF part starts.
I am in Vegas for the annual pageant. I’ve been on the production staff for six(?) years.
What exactly do I do? A little bit of everything. I can’t even really say all of what I do, because some of it is confidential. (Really– I’m not being dramatic.) But what I can say is that I take care of a lot of little things that are critical for success, and that I’m listed in the program as “key production assistance.”
I’m here a week early, and after 24 hours in town some of what I’ve done is:
Being awesome is kind of a full-time job at this thing. But I love this crazy event SO MUCH and couldn’t ever not be a part of it…
In March of 2002, No Doubt was on tour and I caught several of their shows. I’ve known them since 1992, and often can find (or swindle) my way backstage. I was backstage after the Portland show, and told Tom (the guitar player) about how I’d been performing as a burlesque show gorilla lately. He asked if I wanted to perform onstage with them at the upcoming San Jose show. OH HELL YES.
He thusly hatched a plot: I was to come out and run around during their first encore song, “Spiderwebs.” It was to be a surprise to the rest of the band– the only people supposed to know about it were him and the tour’s head of security, John, who he would clue in ahead of time. I talked to John ahead of time too; he said that the way to do it would be for me to approach stage left a few minutes before, get his attention, and he would escort me backstage so that I could suit up. So the plan was set.
Unfortunately, the best laid plans of gorillas and men often go awry. I dutifully smuggled the costume into the show– being that it was on a college campus (San Jose State) they didn’t question a backpack. I anxiously and nervously waited throughout the show– friends there had palpable excitement along the lines of “is he really going to do it?!?” But when it came time for the encore, I went up to stage left and John was nowhere to be found.
Picture this from the perspective of the security guard on the side of the stage: here comes a guy with a backpack, frantically waving and gesturing, yelling something about how he is supposed to be backstage… not only are you skeptical of it, but you can’t even hear what he is saying over the band. I had to watch in horror as my big moment in the spotlight slipped away, note by note.
I finally was so overwhelmingly demanding, yelling “GET JOHN!” and pointing at John, far away, that the guard caved. John saw me and waved me backstage. I RAN back there– the song was halfway over– and threw the suit on in a flash. I didn’t have time to put on the gloves, and I don’t think I even had time to fasten the back. But I made it, and ran out there in time to finish the song.
Digital cameras were much worse back then, so the pictures are blurry and grainy, but they still capture one of the greatest moments of my gorilla career, and also of my life. Tony (the bass player) calmly kept asking me who I was (while he was playing). I have a picture of him giving me a high-five. And Gwen jumped on my back, piggyback style, and I ran back and forth a couple times before losing my balance, resulting in us landing in a crumpled heap on the ground… with her still singing and having not missed a single note. I remember looking out at the crowd of ~5000 people and just being stunned at what it felt like. And then it was over.
Two minutes later, they laughed their asses off when I was unmasked backstage, saying “Oh my god… it’s YOU?!?”
The next day, the emails came through: friends saying “Hey you guys, I was at that show and GUESS WHAT I SAW?” Even better, though, was when the newspaper review of the show came out the next day, I was very specifically mentioned in the write-up. The author said it “must have been an inside joke.” I emailed the author and gave him the whole backstory. That review was syndicated in several other Bay Area papers. I raided a lot of newsracks that night.
Better versions of the pics to come, but here are some for now:
Or, how I got my start in show business.
The early EARLY days
I am completely serious– as a kid, I wanted a gorilla costume. But I never in my wildest kid dreams guessed how this would unfold over the years. My grandmother used to get crazy mail-order catalogs from places like Miles Kimball, Spencer Gifts, etc. Catalogs from which you could buy kitchen gadgets, pewter figurines, gag gifts, etc. These catalogs always contained a gorilla costume. And I always thought “wow, that would be SO awesome to own one” but as a 7-year-old kid, I had no idea when I’d ever have the hundred dollars to get one. But yes, it was on my radar from an early age.
A chance encounter
In the fall of 2000, I went to see a small show at a tiny place in the Mission in SF. One of the bands included my friend John Dumont– brother of Tom from No Doubt. I went to see his band, but to my pleasant surprise, there was an exotica trio playing too. I was a fan of tiki culture, and never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that I’d see someone actually play this type of music. (Exotica is tropical and ethereal, with vibraphones, jungle calls, etc.)
After the show, I spoke with the exotica band’s leader, and told him that I was from Tiki Central (this was right after it had begun– it’s now huge). The bandleader, named Brian the Fisherman, told me that he also had a burlesque revue. He described it to me, saying that it was like an old fashioned vaudeville show: a brass band, comedians, women doing artistic striptease, etc. I couldn’t believe that in this day and age, there was anyone who actually had an old-fashioned show. He invited me to come to his show that was taking place in a few weeks.
The ball starts rolling… and then stops
I went to the Fisherman’s burlesque show– it was December 2000– and it was a BLAST. I’d never seen anything like it and was dazzled– it was so much fun! After the show, I spoke to the Fisherman and told him how much fun I had. He said to me: “hey… you know what? We need a gorilla in our show, because our old gorilla moved away. And you seem like the kind of person who’d be up for it.” I emphatically said “YES! SIGN ME UP!” Again, not at all thinking of how far it would ever go. (I’m writing this more than 8 years later.) I gave Brian the Fisherman my info, and he said he’d contact me in a few weeks.
And I never heard from him.
A couple of months later– February or March– I saw a flyer for the first Teaseorama burlesque convention in New Orleans. I thought “sounds like fun, but too bad I won’t be going!” I had a bit of sadness that the gorilla thing hadn’t come to fruition; but Brian the Fisherman had disappeared, and I didn’t have his contact info. So it looked like my opportunity to be his monkey wouldn’t happen.
The time finally comes
Sometime in March, It Happened. I got a call from Brian the Fisherman. He said “hey– I wanted to get this gorilla thing going again and see if you’re still interested. This would include Teaseorama in New Orleans. We couldn’t pay for your flight out there, but if you made it out there, then we have hotel rooms and a van, so you could stay with us and ride around with us.” I called him back– and I was in.
That first month didn’t seem real. I found myself at burlesque show rehearsals. The gorilla suit they had was way too small for me– their prior gorilla was apparently pretty tiny– so I bought my own, at the House of Humor in Redwood City. I practiced some old-time burlesque skits, using scripts from the original era.
The road to New Orleans
My first show ever was a two-night fundraiser show at the Swedish American Hall in San Francisco, on May 4 and 5, 2001. I didn’t have a name then– I was just “the gorilla.” The shows were supposed to be fundraisers to help get the whole group (band + performers + emcee + gorilla) to Teaseorama in New Orleans. However, the shows actually lost money. So when I found myself in New Orleans for Teaseorama, I actually had to cough up a lot of the expense money on the spot for things that they had said would be covered. However, I was so happy to be involved in this adventure that I gladly chipped in. And my life was never the same again.
Teaseorama New Orleans– the modern burlesque crucible
That feeling at Teaseorama was indescribable. Now, in 2009, the neo-burlesque movement is definitely that– a movement. But back then, it was just a few scattered goofballs. And Teaseorama was the first time that they all came together. I met so many people that week that are among my closest and most favorite friends and performers to this day: Luke Littell and Laura Herbert (of the Burlesque Hall of Fame); Dirty Martini; the World Famous *BOB*; Julie Atlas Muz, Kate Valentine; Lola Gold; Vivienne VaVoom; and so many more. We came away with the feeling that we really were present at the birth of something exciting.
The name, and my first REALLY crazy gig
For the first 6 months or so, I didn’t really have a name– I was “the gorilla” or occasionally “the Migorilla.” I was using the tagline “Gorilla to the Stars” by Teaseorama in New Orleans, which was about a month into my showbiz career, so I do know that tagline came very early.
In December 2001, our burlesque show performed at an event called Naughty Santa’s Bazaar. There, a performer Gennifer Hirano, aka “The Asianprincess,” saw me and asked if I wanted to sidekick for her when she feature-danced at the Crazy Horse strip club in San Francisco in a few weeks. Laughing at this hilarious bit of fortune, I agreed.
A few weeks later, she emailed me, saying that she wanted to make posters and flyers and include me. She asked, “what is your name? King Kong? The Gorilla? Gorilla X?” The words jumped out at me from the screen, and from that day forward, I was: Gorilla X… Gorilla to the Stars.
And boy was that strip club gig (six nights in a row) hilarious…
It’s been a few years ago now, but in 2002 I was asked to be a guest on a nationally-syndicated talk show. I can’t post details publicly, but if you ever catch me in person, ask me about it. I’m used to weird things happening to me, but this one took the cake.
Okay, sorry to sound all cocky. But this is way too funny: my burlesque-show alter ego has won an award in the Guardian’s annual “Best of the Bay.”
Here it is. About halfway down the page.