When I went to work last week my eye caught a small poster that was advertising an event near by. Now the note-worthy thing was that this small poster was promoting a Mad Men style burlesque show and that this was placed outside the office for the Heartland Film Festival, an festival known for warm and inspirational films, and yet this placement worked because it got me to go.
I’ve never seen a burlesque show before. My only interaction with the spectacle was actively ignoring the Cher movie and watching this video on College Humor about the rise of nerdy burlesque. I brought along my friend Pedro because he tends to have no free will and he’s under the illusion that he owes me five years worth of rides.
I’m not going to say what bar the event was held at in case they happened to Google search themselves. Let’s just say that when we arrived Pedro immediately said, rather loudly, “We’re going to get murdered here.” Upon entering, I recognized the interior as the locale from every movie where a bar fight occurred. Pedro, once again, said loudly “This isn’t what I thought it would be. (Pause). Meaning the girls may not be as attractive as I thought.” I replied, “Pedro, you know when you speak people can hear you.” “Not here!”
In that regard, he was right. There was a band still playing when we arrived. I’m not a music critic but I feel safe in labeling them as not good. Most of the time, I believed one of the guitar players was peacefully asleep. Except when they were really “rocking out” then it was like he was having a particularly bad nightmare.
Pedro and I really felt that we stood out in the bar. I wore a button down shirt that wasn’t tucked in and Pedro wore a collared shirt. Now a few were dressed for the occasion wearing a suit like Don Draper. One girl was wearing a get-up that seemed more fitting for a Great Gatsby Burlesque show, equipped with the peacock feather in her hair. One girl was wearing a corset for a top and that distracted Pedro way too much. “I’ve never seen them pushed up that high!” But most of the place were wearing shirts and shorts that haven’t been washed this decade except for that time it rained last fall. It was like nobody really knew how to dress for a thing like this, which makes sense considering this was an event devoted to ignoring clothing.
Beyond this, it felt that this was a group of regulars and we were not regular. Honestly, this made everything a little more entertaining.
So we sat on a couple of bar stools against the wall ready for the show to begin. The hosts were very entertaining and were able to adjust quickly to the faulty audio equipment. Yet I quickly caught on that I might be the only one in the bar who has seen Mad Men. It’s one of my favorite shows; it’s a show that has plenty of ways to be sexy considering it’s about attractive people having secret lives outside of their well-mannered exterior.
The show takes place during the 1960s so obviously the first number was “These Boots Are Made for Walking.” Immediately I felt that my critical mind and my heterosexual mind in conflict. I was a biased Olympic judge. “Well, none of the five girls were in sync when they were dancing together but they took off their clothes. 10!”
That’s what it was like the whole night! I was so confused. Like the next number was a solo dance and I felt that I recognized the song. When she revealed that she was wearing a pink wig, I knew exactly what this was. It was “Beauty School Dropout” from Grease. The audience to enjoy this number would be Baby Boomer women and gay men. Also Grease takes place in the 1950s, not 60s. Whatever, she took off her clothes. 10!
Now, in case you don’t know, burlesque is a type of dance. Technically this is a dancing performance so if anyone complains that you aren’t cultured enough I have a recommendation for you. With this genre of dance, it’s structured towards flaunting all that’s worth flaunting. That means using the music and owning the stage. The ones who are the best aren’t always the ones who are the most attractive because confidence reigns. There was one male dancer who got down to his underpants with the song “It’s a Man’s World.” (Also not in Mad Men.) He wasn’t the fittest man at the bar, but the crowd still genuinely whoo-ed and hollered. Confidence can be the most attractive thing and to do a thing like this on stage reaches a new level of impressiveness.
So how was this actually related to Mad Men? I have no idea. Elvis was featured but again, that’s the wrong decade. One performer said she was Joan Halloway-Harris, which I kinda got? The hosts decided to have a trivia contest between some of the numbers when they needed to stall for setup. One of the questions asked was what publication in the first episode said that smoking was harmful. Pedro asked me what it was and I told him. So he jumped up and raised his hand as high as he can.
Host: “Yes, who are you and what’s the answer?”
Pedro: “Pedro and Reader’s Digest!”
Host: “That’s incredible. Great job!”
Pedro sat down and said to me, “Wait, I don’t get anything?”
Don’t feel too bad for Pedro. For Pedro made a friend at the bar. No it’s not a woman although he got a hug from one of the performers…
Pedro: “I can’t believe you didn’t congratulate her for her dance.”
Austin: “I’m sorry, I didn’t recognize her with the clothes on.”
Pedro: “That’s the dress she put on at the end of her bit.”
Austin: “Then I have no excuse.”
The friend Pedro made is a confirmation that the world doesn’t make any sense. At the table next to us, there was a man in a brown suit. Pedro became convinced that this man was dressed like the tenth Doctor from Doctor Who. Pedro swore that he hasn’t seen those pair of sneakers on anyone else but David Tennant. I didn’t think that’s what he was doing but Pedro kept screaming “Doctor!” from our seats. (No response) You know, I like to think that Doctor Who isn’t following me wherever I go, but when this man pulled out his sonic screwdriver—Not a euphuism!—and aimed it to the stage I couldn’t deny it any longer. I went to an Indianapolis Bar to see a Mad Men Burlesque show and someone in the audience was dressed as The Doctor.
When we left, Pedro said we had to say goodbye to The Doctor (the only name we knew him by) and refused to acknowledge that was a weird thing to do. I was tempted to ask him why he wasn’t dressed up as William Hartnell or Patrick Troughton since those were the actors in the role during the 1960s, but I guess he fit with the theme of “Nothing From the Era When Mad Men Takes Place”.
Will we go back here? Probably not. Did we have fun? Absolutely. All of the girls were great and the bar was odd but still was a place that served alcohol. But seriously, if they need someone to write/direct numbers that actually have to do with the pop culture theme, I’m available for hire. Actually, either way I’m giving you guys a 10.