Albert H. Fulcher | Editor
A day in the life of burlesque
As the Diamond Dog Boylesque performers joins hostess Barbie Z Neors on stage at The Merrow to practice numbers for an upcoming show, it is easy to see that there is much more to burlesque than taking your clothes off.
These are full-on productions with a lot of thought, practice and artistic direction. As they work through a number together, they come up with ideas on how to best portray the theme of the song production under the direction of co-producers Marvin Garcia and Ziggy Zig.
Burlesque is not a striptease. It is a work of art, with each performer contributing the best of their talents. Dance, song choice, musicality, and the ability to captivate an audience are the strong points that make this ongoing show in the local nightlife scene and charity event circuit a strong success.
Although the Diamond Dogs are fairly new to the San Diego scene, it is clear that burlesque is back. And with the help of some of San Diego’s best diva performers — such as Barbie Z — the group has brought back the art locally in a big way.
Reigning Imperial Court de San Diego Empress Barbie Z is called the “hostess with the mostest” by the troupe. Barbie Z said she literally got “dragged into it” (pun intended), while working with Diamond Dogs last July making costumes for their opening show. Even with her coronation, she still takes time to help them create a show that entertains and makes an impact for the local community.
Garcia said Diamond Dogs began with a vision from Kickxy Vixen Styles when she first started drag. Kixkxy questioned why there wasn’t a boylesque troupe dedicated to male performers and the style of burlesque variety shows in town. So after a few years of performing solo, she took the lead and Diamond Dogs Boylesque became a reality.
“She [Kickxy] focused on it between her drag and it all started with her at The Rail,” Garcia said. “A year passed by and it came to the point where she needed to pass it down to someone because she needed to focus more on her drag performances. So she gave it to me, but I give her all of the credit because she does so much for the community. It was her passing the torch down to somebody else.”
Garcia said there was so much potential in the show — which is celebrating its second anniversary in November — that he did not want to see this project “go down in flames.” Now after nearly of year of co-producing with Ziggy, they both have big dreams of not only creating an entertaining show, but also making a mark in San Diego.
“We just want to bring joy to the community,” Garcia said. “We want to branch out. Individually, each of us have something to offer. Community work is important to us because we want to build that relationship. We don’t body shame — we want to help the leather community, the drag queen community, the transgender community, everything we can.”
Travis T and Erin — the two newest members of the Diamond Dogs, along with boylesque performer Benson met Garcia six years ago dancing together in a boylesque troupe The Tom Cats. As a tight knit group, they all have different backgrounds, but collectively share the love of performing.
Travis T works at UCSD during the day. He said as a young child, he remembers telling his parents he wanted to be a stripper when he grew up.
“My parents have pictures of me flashing the camera and I thought that was the greatest thing in the world,” Travis said. “Growing up in Utah, you didn’t have a lot of avenues to do that kind of thing and it was kind of looked down upon. I came out here and it just all kind of happened. It’s a good gimmick, but burlesque people will tell you there is a huge difference between being a stripper and doing a striptease.”
Travis said through the art of burlesque, serving the community in any way he can is extremely important.
“We need to give back as much as we can because there is a lot of need out there,” Travis said. “There are different types of programs, activities, charities that need help. I would say that as much as I take in from performing, I double give it back. I rarely make money as a performer.”
Benson holds a night job at a bar, but his passion is painting. He specializes in acrylics and portraits, does commissioned paintings and has focused much of his life around his art.
“I was part of The Tom Cats too,” Benson said. “I moved out here as soon as I turned 19. I lived in North County and realized that I didn’t have any friends, so I wanted to do something as a group setting. I like to perform so I came down here and auditioned at Bourbon Street, got on the team, went to all the practices, did the shows and then I kind of faded out and went and did my own thing. Years later, Marvin asked if I wanted to come special guest for a show and I said, ‘hell yeah,’ came in and did it and shortly after that, [he] asked me to join the show.”
Chips, a hotel supervisor by day, joined when Kickxy began Diamond Dogs.
“I used to dance in Michigan as a go-go boy and wanted to get back into dancing,” Chips said. “We started with about nine people, and then when we got down to the first show, we had five because everyone was in school or jobs. We just kept going and evolved.”
To become part of the Diamond Dogs, Garcia said there are open auditions coming up in November. You must be 21 years old, as many performances are held in bars. Garcia said they are not just looking for people that want to be part of the show. “We need people for help with outreach events. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes because it is a production and also community outreach is important in what we do,” Garcia said.
“Basically, they just have to show their talent and what they have to offer,” he continued. “It could be anything, it’s open, it’s variety. It could be pole dancing, magician show, puppets — it really doesn’t matter. But it does have to be something different and unique that you can offer to the show.
“Our show is not just burlesque, it’s variety. We have drag queens, singers and painters. It’s not just dancing. Outside of the shows, if people need backup dancers, we’ve got them. Travis is an amazing silk acrobat artist, he’s available; if you need a painter, Benson paints, he’s available; Chips, the ‘boy in heels,’ he’s available.”
Garcia said Diamond Dog Boylesque is an outlet for most of the performers that fills in those spaces in life when you ask yourself, “What are we missing in our lives and how can we bring out our creative sides?”
Follow Diamond Dogs Boylesque on Facebook to keep up with current shows, events and auditions.
— Albert Fulcher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.