Also decked out in black is her Harley-Davidson. It’s named Rita, after iconic 1940s film actress Rita Hayworth. Velvetina will be riding Rita all the way to San Francisco this summer, doing a cross-country burlesque tour of her own design. It’s her third “Pistons and Pasties” tour like this, though the others were from New York to New Orleans. On the way, she’ll stop in her native Indiana for the state fair she never misses. Rita is Velvetina’s second motorcycle but first Harley. It makes a massive, throaty vrroooooooooooom when she moves it across the street. A group of women walks by offering snaps and applause.
During the weekday, Velvetina works at the Conjuring Arts Library, dedicated to all things magic. She received her master’s degree in Library and Information Studies from University College Dublin and previously worked as a freelance social media specialist and ballroom dance instructor.
Velvetina began doing burlesque about three years ago after taking classes at the New York School of Burlesque with her sister. At first it was just for laughs, but Velvetina really loved it and just kept going. She started hosting her own shows, and now has Velvetina’s Vixens at Beauty Bar on the second Monday of every month and Mistress Velvetina’s Variety Hour in the Red Room at KGB Bar on the second Friday of every month.
As Velvetina prepares her suitcase for the night--she can’t think of a burlesque performer who isn’t constantly trailing one behind them--she looks through a clothing rack bursting with costumes like an orangutan suit and the sparkly pink confection she’ll wear tonight to perform her “La Vie En Rose” number. She’s also assembling her costume for a number she does to “What’s Inside a Girl?” by The Cramps, stripping out of a skeleton suit and then a light-up muscle suit, down to tasseled rhinestone pasties made to look like especially sparkly nipples.
We arrive at The Slipper Room and Velvetina begins to change. There’s a tattoo on her right thigh of a moose playing a banjo. “It’s my favorite animal,” she says, putting on a curly blonde wig and earrings, then fastening herself into the “La Vie En Rose” gown. During the performance, she’ll toss pink petals from ruffled pink bloomers to great applause. Later, she’ll go-go dance between shows in a bright red leotard and thigh-highs. Sitting on the stage with a bouncy black ponytail attached to her dark hair, she looks like a maraschino cherry on top of a sundae. The audience slides all denominations of bills to her or tucks them into her stockings as she teases and twirls.
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