One of the awesome things (perhaps the most awesome) about burlesque, sideshow, and variety is, in this age of speeding technological advances – they are retro art forms. And what evokes a bygone era more than a circus strongman? I chatted recently with strongman Rusty Bolts and burlesquer/maven Bella LaBlanc about their upcoming show Night of the Living Glitter at the Bier Baron on October 18, 2014.
Lucrezia: Bella – how long have you been in burlesque? What got you into it? What’s your tagline?
Bella: I have been doing burlesque on and off for about 13 years. Stereotypical story – musical theatre kid/classically trained dancer – did Gypsy. I wanted to be her for real.Then college loans racked up and I started stripping to afford my tuition. I figured there had to be a happy medium and Tah Dah! Been doing burlesque ever since. My tagline is the “Stepford Wife Gone Wild”.
Rusty – how does one going about becoming a strongman?
Rusty: I started out juggling for Carnivalesque in Charleston, SC. That was actually my first performance. After that I remembered seeing some guys rolling frying pans on TV and had that all-too-dangerous thought, “Hey, I bet I could do that.” I’ve been a gym rat most of my life so it was fitting.
What kind of feats do you do?
Some of the classic bits – tearing phone books in half, decks of cards and license plates. I bend steel bars around my neck, break baseball bats and roll up frying pans, as well as drive nails with my hands, bend and twist bolts and occasionally put a pretty lady over my head.
Me! Oh me! Pick me!!! Bella, tell us about Glit-o-rama and Glitorama Productions.
Bella: Well I started co-producing shows with my dear friend and biz partner in crime Phil Lander. Then we had two shows back-to-back booked at different venues. With a friendly nudge from Mab Just Mab, Cherie Sweetbottom and Phil himself I decided to try producing on my own. Now it’s kind of turned into a beautiful, glittery juggernaut. Glit-O-Rama is absolutely my pride and joy! Since it has taken off as a show it recently became its own production company. I am helping co-produce other shows and tours as well.
How many Glit-O-Ramas have there been so far, and what can someone expect when they come to Glit-O-Rama?
October 18th will be the fourth official Glit-O-Rama, but we’ve been co-producing other shows and tours in between. You can expect to have your mind blown with a lot of glitter! Glitter makes everything better, I swear by it!I try to organize my dream show every time. The bar for me keeps getting higher, and gosh willing, I will reach it. I try to have as much variety as possible in each show. But be warned the first row of tables are the “glitter” splash zone! People actually get there as early as possible to grab those seats!
Rusty, how do you prepare?
Rusty: For new feats there is considerable prep. I have to figure out how to do it then determine whether I can physically do it. If not, I tailor my training a bit to add strength where I need it and keep working and practicing until it’s stage ready which can take months and become rather expensive depending on what I’m breaking.
How long did it take you to get down rolling a frying pan?
Rusty: Not too long. It was one of my first. Maybe a few weeks. Whereas it took nearly 6 months to have phonebooks down.
How many frying pans did you go through to get it?
Rusty: Probably only 5 or 6 pans to get it smooth. I had the power for that one going in. Now I can roll two at a time.
Bella: Because you are a badass!
So at first I was thinking there’s no way you could lift me over your head but if you can do two frying pans … You can see I’m a little obsessed here…
Bella: I need to see him do this live!
Lucrezia: Did I just hear a gauntlet being tossed down?
Bella: Hell yes you did!
How do you maintain?I mean there must be some wear and tear on your body…
Rusty: Not much really.Once you realize that yes, it will hurt, but it won’t kill you, it’s not a big deal. I get some bruises but almost nothing anymore.
Yeah, I was reading a thing recently where it said if you choose to do circus or sideshow you know that you will always be living with a certain amount of pain.What else is Glitorama Productions working on?
Bella: I just finished up the Game of Thrones: Burlesque is Coming tour with co-producer Moxie La Bouche out of Richmond. I am working with Phil Lander on a show on November 15th called Bring on the Men. It will also be at the Bier Baron and Rusty is in that one as well. Then come November, I will probably be helping co-produce another mini Mid-Atlantic tour – all this while being a full-time mom to two little boys!!! See where the Stepford Wife thing comes into play!
Rusty, what’s up next for you?
Rusty: Next for me would be Bring on the Men that Bella just mentioned and ABSfest next year. I sadly don’t get to perform as much as I’d like to due largely to my job but also due to other projects, but I’m hoping to be getting some boylesque together and I’ve started working with whips and throwing knives and I have some new strongman stuff in the works.
Rusty: Bending horseshoes into hearts, breaking out of handcuffs, blowing up a hot water bottle ‘til it explodes, and hopefully the one everyone knows – holding a bar overhead with one hand and girl on either end.I kittened for the first time last weekend.
What show was it?
Rusty: It was the Back to School Shake-O-Rama that Sindi Ray Bustier put on to highlight the first graduating class of Boom Boom Basics in Harrisonburg.
How was it? Whatcha wear?
Rusty: It went really well.I started in a suit and as the show progressed I would come out with less clothing.I ended up with a top hat, boots, purple argyle socks with garters and some sparkly red boxers.
Bella: *** fans herself and clutches pearls ***
Where should people go if they want to know more about what you’re both up to?
Rusty: Here’s my Facebook page.
We’re almost out of time. Do either of you have anything else you’d like to get off your chests?
Bella: My pasties!
Rusty: This stupid shirt *rawrs* *tears shirt in half*
Pictures please or it didn’t happen.
Bella: What she said.
Rusty: Ha ha. You gotta wait for the show.