“This is Spinal Tap” Tribute: An Interview with Anna Steasya and Phil Lander

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I’m a big fan of Christopher Guest, master of the mockumentary, and yet had shamefully never seen the movie that started it all, This is Spinal Tap, until my friends at Black Market Burlesque decided to do a tribute show, Smell Our Gloves.  I promptly A-Primed it which elevated my fangirldom into crush territory.  I recently got  a chance to speak with Anna Steasya and Phil Lander about the show at the Bier Baron on April 16.

First question I ask everyone – name, tagline if youve got one, and when and why did you get into burlesque?

Anna Steasya. Photo by Stereo Vision.
Anna Steasya. Photo by Stereo Vision.

AnnaAnna Steasya, I go by ‘The Knockout from the Nation’s Capital,’ or, ‘The Grumpy Old Man of Burlesque.’  I started after going to the Palace and seeing a show and thinking, I could do that.

Phil:  Phil Lander-Burlesque impresario, stud muffin wannabe; all-round good guy. The short version is that I was curious about burlesque, being a huge Bettie Page fan, and from there I learned about the other legends. I was in Tulsa, OK in a project in 2008 and went to a burlesque show produced by Eye Candy Burlesque, and was blown away. When I got home I sought out shows in DC and learned about the scene. A while later, some friends said, “We can do this”, and Black Market Burlesque was born. After quite a few setbacks, we took the stage for the first time on March 30, 2013, at the Big Hunt, with Anna Steasya as our first guest star!

Anna, since youve been a part of both scenes, how do you think the DC Burly Q scene differs from the Richmond scene?

In all honesty, at first I felt like it would be two different worlds as Richmond was known for a large emphasis on classic burlesque for such a long time, but it’s really not that different. The hardest thing I had adjusting to was not being able to perform in actual bars. That being said, the theaters used in Richmond are awesome and the crowd and community are very supportive. Still, I am a DC girl at heart, this is my home.

Wait – you can’t do burlesque in bars in Richmond?

Anna:  The VA laws don’t allow the act of disrobing in actual bars. Breweries are okay.

Phil:  Virginia alcohol laws prohibit burlesque in establishments that have a mixed-drink license, the only exception being those that have theater licenses. Beer and Wine-only licenses, which generally means wineries, breweries, and strip clubs.

Oh wow – I didn’t realize that. Although it’s kind of cool that burlesque is theatre in Virginia!

Anna:  It is part of the reason why there isn’t as many venues in Richmond, but that is definitely changing, and that is a hard working group down there. Total pros.

So thirty-two years after its release why a Spinal Tap-themed show?

Anna:  Because it is the best movie ever. It is hilarious and gets its own joke, which in my opinion, makes something a success. This is actually a show I have wanted to do since I started performing.

Phil: Because she pestered me for the last two years? Maybe it should have been a 30th anniversary show.

It’s definitely a “burlesque” of both rock and documentary.

Phil Lander. Photo by Thomas Izaguirre.
Phil Lander. Photo by Thomas Izaguirre.

Phil:  That’s a great way to describe it!

Anna:  Yes!

What can we expect from Smell Our Gloves? Are there key scenes that people are basing their acts on?

Anna: People have been asked to bring either a song by the band, or a joke from the movie. After that, it’s up to them. We have sideshow and burlesque, and there will be some fun little references to scenes in between. It is exciting to see how everyone else views the movie and how they interpret it. Some of the songs being used are: “Big Bottom”, “Gimme Some Money”, “Flower People”, “Hell Hole” and “Sex Farm.” And yes, we are going to f-ing do “Stonehenge.”

Eighteen inches?

Anna: I have it right here, on this napkin.

I mean all eighteen inches?

Anna:  That’s what she said. Stonehenge is a surprise. We have an absolutely amazing cast! Beyond thrilled to have Staxx in this show, she has kind of been a role model for me from the beginning and she was always the person I had in mind to do Big Bottom, Alex Doll has the best idea for an act based on playing with the theme that I have yet to hear and am super-excited to see it come together. Dimples is always amazing, she is a powerhouse. We’ve just added Sally the Cinch! And our host and stage groupie are perfect for the roles – Jim Dandy and Velouria Moon.

Whats been your favorite show to do to date?

Anna:  Moxie and Dante of Blacklist Burlesque did a Classic TV show down in Richmond — they always put on great shows. And I got to do a Jessica Fletcher act, which was pretty fun.

Phil:  It’s a little hard to say. We have done almost 50 shows to date (we were really grinding them out in our first year), and there are still lessons learned from each one. I enjoy being around this group of special people, both our members and our guest performers. It is gratifying that some of the top performers in the DMV are willing and eager to perform with us. We worked hard to earn their respect.

Whats up next for each of you after Smell ?

Anna:  A break! It’s almost summer. Hopefully helping more behind the scenes. There’s a lot of great performers around who should be on stage. I know Dimples is working on that. Phil’s got the Black Market Calendar lined up for the next 6 months, I believe, cause he rules.

Phil:  We’re going to get a little controversial with our May show will deal with the subject of cultural appropriation, and will be produced by our Fox E. Martin. In the near future, we’ll have a smaller version of our Prince tribute show, Looney Tunes, starring someone we know, and Dr. Phil (Lander’s) Celebrity Rehab. Also, we have a special admission rate for all our Bier Baron shows for active duty military and veterans, it’s just $10 at the door.

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Black Market Burlesque presents Smell Our Gloves, a tribute to Spinal Tap plays April 16, 2016 at the Bier Baron – 1523 22nd St., NW, in Washington, DC. Doors opens at 8:00 PM, and the show starts at 9:00 PM.  Tickets are $12 in advance online or $15 at the door, and $10 for veterans.

This show is for 21 and over.

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Lucrezia Blozia
Lucrezia Blozia has been part of the local alternative performance scene since the early ‘90s (she started when she was 6). She was the leading, ahem, lady at notorious pervpunk theatre company Cherry Red where she honed her skills in plays like “Cannibal Cheerleaders on Crack” and “Poona the F*ckdog and Other Plays for Children”. She was part of girl group Eva Brontosaurus in both New York and LA where the trio opened for Margaret Cho’s monthly burlesque show, The Sensuous Woman. She’s proud to have originated roles in all five years of Hope Operas and played everything from a flipper derby girl to a were-squirrel to a Pam Greer-type cop/barista. She’s a regular collaborator with Landless and Borealis Theatre Companies and Astro Pop Entertainment. She loves you and is surprisingly easy to work with for someone so simultaneously humble and exquisitely beautiful (oh and talented). You should hire her.