Our current show, Old is Not a Dirty Word: Dykes Over 50, features Tamara “The Trapeze Lady”. She is known as Seattle’s Original Aerial Socialite and has been spreading “Love, Lust and Glitter from above” since 1993.
She’s been an aerial and burlesque entertainer and producer since her late twenties, creating her own costumes from found pieces, salvaged parts, and refurbished treasures. Her sense of order and detail, developed from her childhood practice of abstract pointillism, has led the way towards the fine work on her dresses; the detailed bead work and applique embellishments from her extensive hand-stitched techniques added to her shine in the field.
Over the years, Tamara and her costumes have been featured in prestigious festivals and glamorous venues as well as dive bars and back yards around the world. Some highlights include; performing with The Twisted Clits for the women's festival at the Gay Games in Amsterdam at the infamous Melkveg, headlining the Amsterdam Burlesque Festival, appearing as a feature performer in the Vancouver Burlesque Festival, and headlining the Viareggio Burlesque Festival in Italy during Carnivale, where after the festival shows, the troupe played a key part on a float for the big parade.
Due to ageism in the entertainment industry, Tamara has moved away from performing frequently, leaving her famous dresses without use. Old is Not a Dirty Word: Dykes Over 50 exhibits some of her most prized and elaborate costumes in a way that would not be possible from the distance of a stage. Come enjoy her range of costuming skills, from self-made featherless boas to the Swarovski-jewel nipple tassels, at CoCA till July 20th, and read on for more details.
— Glysed Barboza, curatorial intern
The Scandalous History of Tamara “the Trapeze Lady” Burlesque Costumes
— Written by Tamara, “The Trapeze Lady”
1- PARIS (Adult World)
Originally created for the Pink Door Restaurant where I appeared for many years as an Aerialist and created, hosted and booked the first several years of the "Burlesque Behind The Pink Door" show. This costume has been upgraded several times to accommodate aging with added embellishments during each reincarnation.
Performed to Madame X's 'Paris Adult World' and Pink Martini's "Sympathique".
Machine embroidered leaves cut from a spool of ribbon and hand stitched onto the costume components then joyfully embellished with Swarovski, Rhinestone Guy and Looking Glass Gems rhinestones of teal, purple and Montana blue. The beaded fringe of multi hued gold and bronze seed and bugle beads is painstakingly hand crafted. The black satin corset by Orchard Corsets is adorned with vintage misfit rhinestone pieces such as single earrings and broken necklaces and brooches. The tassels were purchased in Venice when I was in Italy to appear in the Viareggio Burlesque Festival. The shoes sport jaunty flowers made from gold ribbon as well as more Italian tassels.
Thanks to “Friday Night Date” in Madrona curated by Melissa Flynn for the delightful vintage hat which I lovingly decorated with more hand beaded fringe, rhinestones, appliqués and baubles.
2- IT'S ALL ABOUT THE SHOES aka The Spinning Act
First created for my own Fallen Women Follies shows at ReBar that spanned from 1995 to 2005, this act also appeared for several years at Julia's On Broadway's Le Faux show. It is performed low on Single Point Trapeze to Pink Martini's "U Plavu Zoru".
The hoop skirt is satin ribbon over stays with silk flower petals of varying shades of purple, each adorned with a single Swarovski aurora borealis crystal hand stitched onto the hoops and outer skirt. The lace parasol is from Burano Italy and is adorned with more silk petals, rhinestones and ruffles.
The lower skirt is rigged with snap strip attached to the hoop skirt for quick reveal.
Hand made boa of nylon chiffon and ever more hand-stitched silk petals.
The shoes are REALLY cheap online dance slippers. (Spoiler! Unless you're really REALLY lucky, there's no money in Burlesque.) I covered the insides with purple satin and added rhinestoned flowers made from the same silk petals, and tassels from Italy.
The panty is part of a Greg Thompson original that I updated with Swarovski and other crystals. I draped the "off the rack" bra with salvaged fabric from the same Greg Thompson piece and the purple satin corset base by Orchard Corset is embellished to the hilt with Swarovski crystals by moi. YUM!
3- CRY ME A RIVER
Once upon a time I had a most random, yet gratifying improvisational throw down to Seattle's own Pervana playing "Cry Me A River" live, Inspired by this magic, but lacking the funds to have the band follow me around to gigs, I developed an act to Michael Bublee's version of the same song. It is one of my all time favorite acts to perform even though the costume needs considerable repairs after each appearance. Watch out for flying crystals!
An Orchard Corset in royal blue satin, vintage gloves, "off the rack" panty and bra, and vintage garter belt from Friday Night Date, all heavily adorned with hand stitched appliqués and Swarovski rhinestones. I found the royal blue pumps at an outdoor market in Viareggio Italy (Why are cute blue shoes so hard to find!?) and added the rhinestones.
Erika Langley is an accomplished artist, landscaper. photographer and author. She is most known for her book The Lusty Lady about her experience working at the famous Seattle peep show of the same name. She and Tamara met there and have been periodic partners in art crime ever since. She now lives in Bremerton with her trumpet playing fella Todd and their dapper cat Hugo Montenegro.
DJ Lu Ying is known throughout Seattle for her unique brand of music mixes. She is also a fixture in Seattle's rollicking version of the iconic game show Match Game at ReBar produced by Babe of Belltown aka Nelson Heston Riley where she plays the endearingly tawdry Moist Towelette. Tamara and Lu Ying have shared decades of collaboration in the Fallen Women Follies shows and many other nutty and bawdy adventures. Onward and upward!
Ishya Silpikul left a brilliantly successful career in architecture and ran off to Versatile Arts Aerial gym where she took classes with Tamara and many other fabulous coaches and became an accomplished aerialist. She lives on a lovely piece of property on Vashon with her sweetie Jim and their delightful array of pets including chickens that lay delicious eggs.
Linda McBlain is a talented private gardener who lives in Seattle with her wife of over 30 years. She is also an expert cocktail chemist using techniques developed from her time with the Cathy Casey food studios. This and her mad stylishness makes her rather fun at parties.
Indigo Blue is a world renowned Burlesque star and educator. She is the owner and head mistress of Miss Indigo Blue's Academy of Burlesque and creator of BurlyCon, the world's only Burlesque convention, This Burlesque Hall Of Fame 2011 Queen Of Burlesque met Tamara many moons ago performing at the Wildrose Lesbian Bar where they both boldly broke the law countless times in the name of sexy.
Velvet Ice is one of Seattle's great Burlesque legends who fell victim to the Neo burlesque trend of dragging our foremothers out of retirement to appear at festivals, perform in shows and be honored at The Burlesque Hall Of Fame's Tournament of Tease in Las Vegas each year. She and Tamara crossed paths in the late 1980's when Velvet was near the end of her professional naked lady career and Tamara was just starting out.
Tamara "The Trapeze Lady" has spent most of her adult life producing and performing in her shows The Fallen Women Follies, Burlesque behind the Pink Door and The Columbia City Cabaret as well as traveling the world hanging from some of the finest rafters around. Seattle's original Aerial Socialite now resides in South Seattle with her wife of 28 years. A woman of many hats, currently her favorite job is dressing the celebrity impersonators at the Le Faux show at Julia's on Broadway every weekend.
Lainy believes that there is never an occasion that doesn’t call for a good tie, the right shoes and the perfect hat. Known for her snappy, tight, Dandy look, she finds getting older just an opportunity to collect more of the same and to continue to hone her own style.
Cody Little spent 34 years as a city bound civil servant and happily retired 10 years ago to live out her childhood dream of being on her own piece of land with her beloved horses. She is now a most excellent practitioner of the art of Horse Whispering. Cody has been a part of many antics and shenanigans with Tamara and we're happy to coerce her away from horse nuzzles for an afternoon of more of the same.
Ingrid Berkhout is one of the artists represented in this show and brings joy and playfulness to everything she does. A Netherlander with tons of connections, in 1998 she facilitated a deal with the famous Melkveg in Amsterdam to present an all lesbian erotic event with the group The Twisted Clits (including Tamara, Lamar and Indigo) for the women's festival at the Amsterdam Gay Games that same year. Amsterdam will never be the same.
Celeste Firetender has been many things in her life and continues to be a long standing and well respected member of the national leather Dyke scene. In the early 1990's she created C Space, Seattle's first safe space for practitioners of the art of S.M. to chat about and educate one another in safe play, proper use of the delightful instruments of torture and myriad other scintillating subjects. She also spent several auspicious years as the trusted door babe and admission collector for Tamara's Columbia City Cabaret. She resides in Seattle with her best friend Sadie the Boston Terrier.
Once one of Seattle's very rare female big crane operators, Ann Rector is now a rideshare driver seeking a "snowbird' lifestyle between Palm Springs and Seattle. Known for her ability to turn the most banal situation into a rollicking good time, Ann is a beloved member of the elder Dyke community in Seattle and beyond.