Tuesday, October 29, 2013

REVIEW: THE PUMPS PIN-UPS present LADIES OF THE DEAD

"Last Caress" by Aubrey Roemer. Intentional or not, I love Misfits references.

No contest, Halloween is the best holiday of the year, if not for the actual day-of celebration, for the multiple weeks of Halloween-related events we can all enjoy. Apart from Zombiecon, Ladies of the Dead, featuring the Pumps Pin-Ups performing spooky burlesque, has been my favorite event this season.

With Pumps (a casually awesome Brooklyn strip joint) decorated with gnarly cobwebs and macabre artwork, the Pinups performed a variety of songs, skits, and dance numbers, ranging from campy to genuinely creepy. Before detailing the performances I have to mention Aubrey Roemer’s amazing art, with photography of undead Pinups printed on old quilts. There’s a gentle, quiet eroticism in her print series, combining the calm of a midnight cemetery with the carnality of an old Jean Rollin film.

Once the show began, it was time for co-hosts Joey Nova, playing a Vincent Price-esque millionaire, and Heidi Glum (recently voted Washington DC’s top drag queen), playing his devilish wife, to really shine. Recreating the plot of House on Haunted Hill, picture Nova and Glum as Gomez and Morticia Addams, then remove the undying love. The plot: Survive the night in Pumps, receive a massive sum of money.

The performances that followed allowed the Pumps Pin-Ups to share their talents, assets, and eventually, exquisite deaths. It played like a Russian Roulette talent show, where fates are determined randomly, with tragically low chances of survival as the performers are poisoned, shot, stabbed, strangled, and harmed in numerous other ways that arouse creeps like me. Little by little, each performer closed in on the fortune promised by Nova, but the suspense was largely due to the crowd’s anticipation of clothing removal. Honestly, it took the crowd a little while to loosen up and it was sepulcher-silent for the first few numbers, so instead of a chronological review like usual, I’m going to focus on each performer that left a bloody handprint on my memory.

Sunny de la Vega, apart from warming the crowd up with graceful pole-dancing, also took part in the most unsettling song of the night, as one half of a wind-up toy dancing team with Alyssa Calypso. She seemed to levitate as she danced, and makes everything seem deceptively easy. She had a smile for everyone, and anyone who appreciates the pleasure of watching exceptional dancing and form had a smile for her too.

Speaking of Alyssa Calypso, she had the performance of the night with a werewolf-themed striptease and dance routine to a Lon Chaney-sampling dubstep song. The crowd howled as she revealed her werewolf-hair pasties and tail beneath her Red Riding Hood costume. It was funny, unfairly sexy, and received a huge ovation from my fellow lycanthrope lovers in the audience. Nova quipped at the song’s close, “Well, I guess someone got some tail.”

Spanx Sinatra, whose vocal talents light up every event, shared some impressive improvisational skills to match her pipes. Playing characters ranging from a gal mourning “her broke as fuck unemployed musician boyfriend” to a pouty deceased child to a lounge superstar, she showed dynamic range and a gift for tongue-in-cheek self-aware humor. She also nailed singing “The Truth,” giving it Prohibition-era class. You ever see mug shots of criminals back in the 20s? They look snazzy as fuck.

Scarlett la Rosa, apart from being the director of the show and the captain of the Pinups, also delivers memorable music performances at every event. Unfortunately her customized version of “Mack the Knife” occurred while the crowd was still sleepwalking in the beginning. Shame too, because that song is the one of my favorites and ranks as one of the coolest songs ever written. Still, her show design was fantastic and filled with old-Hollywood glamor and kitsch, along with doses of Rocky Horror mischief and sleaze.

Three other dancers that totally owned the stage were the lovely Sophie Von Z (performing a really fun marionette-inspired routine with supporting help from tattooed beauty Rose), Sinister Shabzz (who looks like nothing, including a zombie outbreak, could rattle her as she dances with focus and confidence), the awesome Ariel Wolf (dancing to Redbone’s “The Witch Queen of New Orleans” as a white-clad voodoo priestess torturing an anatomically-correct doll’s genitals), and Sandra, who is hands-down one of the most seductive dancers I’ve seen, and could inspire the dead to rise, in every meaning of the word.

I can’t forget Rocket Shippes, also a great MC, who spent the night playing Boris, a drunken, bearded Soviet sailor who sees the homicidal plot unfolding. One of my favorite moments of the night belonged to Boris, unsoberly bellowing/death metal growling “Only Fools Russian” to woo Heidi Glum. It was a demented, no-holds-barred performance that may have been fueled by vodka, but anyone who has seen Rocket perform before knows that a drunken bearded sailor is pretty much her spirit animal.

While the show certainly felt disjointed at times, with some delays and occasional screeches of feedback, there was a charming sense of lunacy abound, with great quips from Nova and Glum keeping the action moving, and silliness permeating the sensual, gothic proceedings. It was a night of surprises and clashing imagery, from the dangerous crypt setting contrasting with the warm, welcoming smiles of the bodice-wearing bartending tandem of Kat and Vanessa, to the soundtrack of screams and chainsaws melting into the soothing blues of a graveyard lounge club. Simply, and homicidally said: Aubrey Roemer and the Pumps Pin-Ups killed it again.

Follow the Pumps Pin-Ups over here on Facebook for future events: https://www.facebook.com/PumpsPinUps

And check out more of Aubrey Roemer’s amazing work here:  http://www.aubreyroemer.com/wp/

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