She’s beauty and she’s grace, she’s queen of Washington State, she’s elegance and taste, she’s… Miss Kitty Baby. Like most local “celebs” in Seattle, I’ve met them through simply going out and about and brushing shoulders. It was the standard hi-bye introduction and off Kitty went, twirling her bright pink boa like a helicopter a la Petey Pablo.
Miss Kitty Baby holds a special piece of my adoration, because she’s prior military and she loves to entertain the masses. Kitty is strong, she is bold, and she is intelligent. And most of all, she’s WORTH IT. Not to mention the fact that she has really awesome #boobselfies on her InstaGram and SnapChat feed. Now that she’s returned to Seattle from the 2014 edition of the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend, I finally got to chat with her a bit about, well, almost everything.
Heather Hysteric: Before we talk about anything else, while it’s still fresh in your memory, tell me all about the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend. Was it magical? Was it everything you had hoped for and more? And, why should people go next year? (I mean, can they? I don’t know the criteria.)
Miss Kitty Baby: Of course, Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend was magical! It was started 49 years ago as a stripper reunion and it still very much stands as that. It’s a mix of new and old faces each year, so there is always room for celebrating old friendships and starting new ones. The performance showcases are just awe-inspiring, but they are only a part of the fun. We have non-show events all day, each day as well as an after party until 4am. (Not to mention the after-after parties!) There are also plenty of opportunities to mix and mingle with the Burlesque Legends – a huge part of the work I do for the weekend event. Anyone who is connected to the burlesque community or enjoys burlesque should always consider going. It’s really a loving, welcoming event.
HH: How did you go about choosing the name of Miss Kitty Baby? When did you start?
MKB: The name “Bad Kitty” was given to me in 1998 when I was working the deck of a fishing boat in Alaska where the deck crew called themselves “Bad Dogz”. When I switched boats, I just went with the name Kitty. One day the engineers were watching me work on one of my many, busy work projects. As a term of endearment, they referred to me as “Kitty Baby”. I had already been using Kitty Baby as a nickname for nearly eight years when I started performing at the end of 2005, so it was easy to just add the “Miss” for some stage flare. Miss Kitty Baby is who I am on stage, Kitty is who I am off stage.
HH: Personally, I’ve only been to a couple Burlesque shows in Tacoma, but each time I’ve been in extreme awe over the production value and the dedication to the craft. There were even some fire breathers! What should the uniformed or “virgin” Burlesque audience know about shows before they come?
MKB: A virgin burlesque audience member should know a few key points: There is room for a huge amount of variety in burlesque. If you have a specific taste, it could take a bit to find exactly what you are looking for. If you enjoy a wide variety of performance art, you may always be entertained. The next thing is that burlesque is a sexually charged art form. A sparkly, wild, and creative sexual art, but the sexual element is always there. Don’t be shy.
HH: You were recently on tour with BenDeLaCreme, hopping around to different cities around the nation. What was that like? What was your favorite city to visit?
MKB: Working as a tour assistant for Ben DeLaCreme has been really fun. My skills as a traveling performer made the job easy for me. I really enjoy putting those skills into action to ease the stresses of touring off of DeLa, so that she can focus on her performances and fan interactions. Working with queens, promoters, and fans from all over the country has been really heartwarming. It’s a joy to constantly be a part of something that everyone is really excited to experience. I’ve loved everywhere we’ve been for different reasons. Panama City Beach, FL was the smallest venue we went to, but so much fun. Our driver, Chuck, went above and beyond by taking us go-kart riding, sightseeing, to an open air beach restaurant, and to the beach in our two days there. It was so refreshing in the grind of traveling.
HH: In what way would you say your military service prepared you for a career in Burlesque?
MKB: My habits as a US Marine affect me every day and they probably will for the rest of my life. One key point to my military experience as it relates to burlesque is how we honor the legacy of our veterans. Just as in the military, we take great care to honor the veterans of burlesque – our Legends. The burlesque communities relationship with it’s icons and stars, experienced performers, and newbies could easily be compared to the senior staff and officer, NCO, and junior enlisted ranks of the military. I think that experience really helps me to respect and honor all ranks of my performance communities.
HH: I’ve heard reports that A&E is developing a Burlesque reality show. Would that be something up your alley? If there was a ‘Drag Race’ styled competition show, would you audition for it? What if it was like “Survivor” mixed with “RuPaul’s Drag Race” with a bunch of Burlesque girls vs. Boylesque men?
MKB: I’ve heard these rumors too. I think it’s a horrible idea. Burlesque is too sexually charged for TV and to try and put it on TV will just strip that away. Reality TV is a horrible beast of editing and shit-stirring to create ratings. Even the “RuPaul’s Drag Race” girls really struggle with how they are represented and presented by the show’s producers. There have been a few dancers on “America’s Got Talent” and they were just nasty to those performers. Our community’s general consensus is that “You had your chance and you were rude to us so… No, Thank You.” Sadly, there will probably be a few girls who will bite and I cringe at what the final product will be.
HH: What piece of advice would you give any woman or man who is interested in starting Burlesque?
MKB: Go to shows. Go to shows. Go to shows. Learn your history. All of the rest will fall into place. Learning about the origins and continuing history of your art and watching already established performers on stage are imperative if you want to become a burlesque artist.
HH: Tell me about BurlyCon. Is it like most conventions where the artists mingle with their admirers?
MKB: BurlyCon is an intensive weekend of burlesque and community education. We all learn from each other both in the classroom and in the social events. There are no performances, just learning. It’s a beautiful, beautiful life changing experience.
HH: I ask this question every week and this week is no different. Who is your biggest inspiration when it comes to Burlesque, locally or otherwise?
MKB: My biggest inspiration in burlesque is the secret history of the raw late 1950’s – 1960’s dancer. There are so many films of the safer performances in the 1950’s, but none from the 1960’s when the dancers began to get more athletic and raw, even highly sexual. It’s my thought that those films would have been destroyed, or not exist in the first place. Morality raids that destroyed film and music were all too common. There are some photos, though. Pair those photos with the music I like to call “dirty bump and grind tracks” and you can maybe imagine what these performances were like. I like to think I draw a huge inspiration from a burlesque history that I have only imagined.
HH: If you could take Miss Kitty Baby to a sold out venue two-year tenure in Australia, with a behind-the-scenes reality show on Oprah’s OWN, a sit-down special with Oprah herself, and a lifetime supply of feather boas… would you say “fuck yeah!” and sign on the dotted line? Where is your dream place for Kitty to perform?
MKB: I would sign to none of that. Too good to be true…
My dream would be to own and manage a burlesque theater in the style of the mid-century burlesque houses. Not too big, not too small, a decent runway, dinner theater seating for VIP’s and comfy red velvet theater seating for the rest of the audience. Maybe even and orchestra pit for a live band. Honestly, I daydream about turning the Egyptian Theater into a Burlesque House. If there are any art loving benefactors out there that are interested in investing, let’s talk!
HH: Last question. Where do you think Miss Kitty Baby will be five years from now?
MKB: I definitely see myself in Seattle. I definitely see myself mentoring my fellow performers, supporting my artistic communities, and still playing with my tits on stage.