Burlesque is an adult art form and as such interviews with burlesque performers include adult language.
I met Reggie Bügmüncher (pronounced boo-moo-shay) when we both performed at a benefit for the late, burlesque great Dixie Evans. She was having a rough night and, in a Strangers on a Train moment, I offered to rough up the person causing her rough night and we became fast friends. Her acts walk a sexy dangerous line that straddles both burlesque and sideshow. She just returned from the Glamazon Tour and has the distinction of being “Burlesque Bitch” of the year.
Lucrezia: How and why did you get started in sideshow and burlesque?
Reggie: I had fallen in love with variety after seeing the Pontani Sisters dance with Los Straightjackets. I then started reading a bunch about burlesque. I knew Dan and Martin were starting up Olde City Sideshow and immediately asked to be part of it. Later on I got a mentor and learned from him.
Any advice for someone getting started?
Find a good teacher, stay away from You Tube and bad performers. Get performer’s insurance. Never use 151 EVER. Some rubes and burners will use Bacardi 151 for fire (tricks).
How do you think the scene has changed since you started performing?
I’ve been performing since 2005. When we started everyone wanted to be in burlesque. Now everyone wants to be in sideshow. Everyone wants to learn new tricks – burlesquers using beds of nails as props in their routines and calling themselves sideshow performers. Basically our market is getting flooded now and unfortunately, no one wants to get a mentor. If a good teacher says no they don’t keep trying. They don’t try someone else they just turn to You Tube or the kind of performers who teach outsiders (dangerous people, that’s who). You also see a bunch of people doing rigged stunts because the actual stunt is “too dangerous” futher making it bad for us when audiences assume all straight jackets are rigged or all swords are dulled. But maybe I’m just old. I talk to old carneys who tell me I don’t know sh*t too.
Do you feel you have a theme or something in particular you’re saying with your work?
Well in my solo work it’s a combo of performance art and sideshow. I try to make the theme based around sexuality or feminist issues, more empowering strong, sexual women. With Olde City Sideshow we do a much more “traditional” American sideshow – more of keeping the history alive with some modern twists.
How does it feel to be “Burlesque Bitch” of the year? What are the perks?
Well to be honest I haven’t been taking advantage of it as much as I’d like to. Having a title really helps with booking burlesque shows (they love titles – it’s like a sexy version of the military). I get a blog on their site and I get to bring variety into a burlesque site.
That’s great! So is Burlesque Bitch like Captain or Admiral?
Yes! Definitely Captain or Colonel.
I’m going to start calling you Captain Bügmüncher! I was looking at your schedule on your website and it’s totally nuts and it’s all over the country. Is this how you’re making your living?
Yes! I try not to look at that schedule unless I have a Xanax handy. I’ve been very, very lucky. I do this full time as of a year ago and people have been very good to me. It’s great but very hard to find the time to create new things when you are constantly working and travelling. I also run an art gallery/venue in Philly.
I was about to get to that. Tell us about The First Banana.
The Banana is my dream project, that’s had a slow development because of my travelling. It’s a multi-genre art space, totally inclusive – variety arts, fine arts, music – you name it. I want it to be member-driven. Liberty Rose uses the space for rehearsals for her big shows and more and more people in the painting scene and performance world are starting to notice it. We even had a sideshow birthday party there, all with that month’s art hanging.
That’s great! I love that this community is truly community-minded.
It has to be! If we don’t take care of each other, who will?! Plus, I ain’t wearing these sexy costumes forever. The Banana is how I want to stay involved in the variety arts ‘til I’m wicked old.
I want to circle back for a minute and talk about the fact that this is how you make your living. I don’t think most folks understand that, beyond the skills you have to develop as a performer, you also have to develop mad business skills.
Yeah, that’s true. I know I’m not the best performer out there by far, but I do know how to take care of business and it’s why I get a bunch of higher end jobs. My press kit is kinda baller. I have insurance and can name venues that are nervous under my policy. I have a website and I know my value and can negotiate with people. A lot of performers are mad when bookers or people hiring us “just don’t get it” or understand what we do. I look at it as they don’t have to get us they just have to pay me. It takes 5 minutes to explain what we do and why it’s worth the money and if they don’t have it, they don’t have it, but they know for next time and it leaves them feeling good about you and similar performers. When I travel I do a lot of shows that are cut of the door and it kills me financially but I get to meet great people, travel and producers usually really take care of travelers.
What’s your most fun road story?
Wow … I don’t even know where to begin. I think the first couple years of doing tattoo conventions were the craziest for me. I’m not a conservative person by any means but man, I raged hard for a couple years at conventions. I also have a bad habit of falling head over heels for people along the way (ship in every port, is it?).
Ha! I try to stay in touch with the good ones. I have several cities on hold because I’m crazy about one in particular.
Lucky fella! What’s been your coolest gig?
Well we opened for Primus before at the Tower in Philly and it was the hugest crowd we’d ever done. I was terrified at first, that feeling of walking on that stage in front of thousands was something that can’t be matched. Plus Les Claypool said “Nice job”! But I also donate a lot of my time performing and emceeing for events to raise money for Womens’ Medical Fund in Philly. Those are very cool. They had me emcee a rally in the city to get medicare funding for abortions. All their events are really cool and make me feel like I am contributing to something beyond us as artists.
Yeah, I totally love the intersection of art and social good! You just finished up the Glamazon Tour, tell us about that.
It’s an all female variety tour hellbent on reconnecting the vaudeville circuit and really incorporating variety, not just sideshow and burlesque but music and comedians and weird human tricks, almost entirely by ladies with a lady core cast and ownership.
When’s the next Glamazon tour? And where do people go to find out more?
February 18 – 25, 2015 from north Jersey through New England. Find out more here.
Can you tell us what you’ll be doing at Glit-O-Rama on Saturday?
I am hosting the show. Perhaps I’ll be doing some blockhead, some stapling for tips.
What is your most difficult act and why?
Hmmm…. I think they are all difficult in different ways. I am always nervous when the cinderblock is getting broken on me, but I guess any act with a volunteer … Sometimes I have people riding me on the barbed wire and I can see they inherently only see me as a prop, a piece of entertainment, or they think I’m into pain and hope to impress me by hurting me. That’s always disappointing and I try to really gauge my volunteers, but sometimes you can never tell.
Um, riding you on barbed wire? What is this act?
Ha ha ha, it’s a pain act, a new take on the bed of nails acts. It’s a bed of barbed wire that I lay on and I lay another bed of barbed wire on top of me. I put down a saddle of sorts and have a volunteer (in a rhinestone cowboy hat) ‘ride’ me to the song Rhinestone Cowboy. Then at the end they finish by firing the confetti gun I gave them into the air. It’s very sexual and funny and awkward.
I think I would cry if I saw that.