Ma’at, Techno Babble & Bella Blackheart [Photo by Hyuk E Kim]
The Geek Girl Brunch co-founders we’re asked to judge the Wasabassco BurlesqueSUPER! Heroes vs Villains costume contest back in May. After we were done freaking out about how excited we were, we started freaking out about what we were going to wear.
To enter the contest the contestants had to create original characters. So you know what that meant, as judges we just HAD to create our own original characters. We had a very long email thread going between the three of us full of Etsy links and partial back stories. In the end, Bella Blackheart, Techno Babble and Ma’at, The Scribe were born… and cosplayed.
Origin Story: Bella is the daughter of a human woman and Shango, the African god of fire, lightning and thunder. Her mother died giving birth to her and she was raised by her father in the realm of the gods. Her father’s three wives, the goddesses Oshun, Oya and Oba, loathed Bella. She was a living reminder that their husband fell in love with a human woman.
Throughout her childhood, the wives tried to have dangerous “accidents” befall Bella, but her father, Shango, always protected her. After 16 years of living with Bella, the wives could not stand it anymore. One night they tried to kill Bella in her sleep. But, as they discovered, killing the daughter of a god isn’t easy. So instead of losing her life, she lost an eye.
Bella escaped to the mortal world and took up residence in a small ghost town in the American West called Blackheart. Bella lived alone in the town for years, only venturing out to neighboring towns to get supplies and food. One day, a roaming group of assassins came to Blackheart and attempted to take over the town for themselves, but Bella wouldn’t have that. After a fierce battle Bella came out victorious. Impressed with her skills, the surviving assassins asked her to join them. Bella, being tired of the solitary life, accepted their offer. Over time, she became their leader and they became known as The Blackhearts, the most infamous band of assassins in the Americas.
Character Design: It all started with the eyepatch. I knew, whoever my character would eventually become, she would have an eyepatch. Because just like bow ties, eye patches are cool. I wanted her to look badass, mysterious and someone you wouldn’t want to fuck with.
Bella’s overall costume design was inspired by Elle from Kill Bill, Ginny from Pretty Deadly and Death from East of West. I’ve never really been a fan of Westerns, but the comics Pretty Deadly and East of West sparked a love for the genre and the aesthetic.
She’s a doomsprite that works for the super villain The Viral Menace. She travels via viral thought, loves meme culture and has the ability to screw with your tech just enough that it doesn’t work but not enough to look like it is broken.
Formerly Egypt’s personification of truth and justice, with scribes of her own. She’s been living among us for centuries in search of her stolen wings. All that she has of them is a single plume with which she writes events into existence, prepared to suffer the cost of her powers.
WARNING: The following post contains images that are NSFW and will most likely result in multiple nergasms.
Kobayashi Maru- Cyberman Doctor Who
Nasty Canasta is a damn good burlesque performer. Her creativity is unparalleled and she manages to blow my mind every time. There aren’t many people who can pull of a lamp performance but Nasty does, and she does it well. We all have favorites, and Nasty Canasta is one of mine. Being a big fan of Wasabassco Burlesque (the troupe Nasty is apart of), I’ve seen her perform countless times. But what makes her one of my favorites, other than her creativity, is her ability to transform the energy of the room. Whether it’s fun and feisty or sultry and sexy, Nasty’s performances will draw you in.
There are two Nasty Canasta moments that are still vivid in my mind. The first was when she performed as her alter ego Kobayashi Maru (a biomechanical-Kawaii-android). She slowly cut off her clothes accompanied by HAL 9000’s monologue. HAL’s monologue is pretty potent on its own, but then you add a woman slowly undressing, and well, it was an intense performance to say the least. The second, also as Kobayashi Maru, was her infamous and ridiculously awesome Cyerbman number. Dressed as a Cyberman (which instantly makes any Whovian in the audience squee with excitement), she undresses and takes a grinder to the metal corset she’s wearing. Sparks fly. Minds are blown.
Other than being an amazing burlesque performer (she has a Wikipedia page to prove it), Nasty Canasta is host and producer of Naked Girls Reading. She also has Doctor Who and Hitchhikers ink which are Tattoo Tuesday (and I’m sure there’s more). If you’re ever in the NYC area or Ms. Canasta is in your area, go to her show. You can thank me later.
How did you get into burlesque? How long have you been doing it?
Nasty Canasta Poison Ivy (Photo by Carlo Pizarro)
Nasty Canasta: I started out as a stage actor – I went to college for acting and set design and moved to NYC after graduation to do the whole actor thing. After almost 10 years of horribly embarrassing off-off-off-off-off-Broadway shows (which, fortunately, no one ever actually saw) I discovered burlesque, and that was pretty much it for me. I’ve been a performer of one sort or another for most of my life, but burlesque continues to be the most fun I’ve ever had onstage. This February I’ll be celebrating my 8th year as a burlesque performer.
How did you come up with your name?
Nasty Canasta: It’s actually the name of a Chuck Jones cartoon character from the 1950’s – he’s a giant, surly Western outlaw with permanent five o’clock shadow and a whiskey habit. All in all fairly appropriate, I think.
Do you ever worry that non-nerds won’t “get” some of your acts?
Nasty Canasta: That’s the golden rule of any ‘reference’ act (whether it’s nerdy, political, literary, pop culture or anything else): it absolutely *must* be entertaining and engaging to any and every audience member, regardless of their familiarity with the source material. Not only is it insulting to an audience (no one wants to feel ‘stupid’ or not cool enough to get it), but it’s lazy: if all you’re doing is reassembling bits of someone else’s character/costume/movie/comic book/etc. without adding anything of your own, it’s not burlesque; that’s cosplay. The goal is to make every act accessible to every audience on some level – and if there are extra ‘easter eggs’ for some folks, that’s even better.
When was the first time you decided to do your first nerd burlesque performance? How did that come about?
Nasty Canasta: I actually had to look back in the records for this one (because just maybe I keep a spreadsheet of every act I’ve ever performed at every show I’ve ever done, maybe …) and I’m still not entirely sure. But starting back in 2006 I co-produced a monthly themed & scripted burlesque show called Pinchbottom; some of our first themes were Sci-Fi and Comics, and most of my earliest nerd numbers were created for versions of those shows. I think the *very* first one was a Plan 9/Ed Wood number for the Sci-Fi show; I also did a Fourth Doctor & Leela duet with Creamy Stevens for that one. My Poison Ivy act happened not long after that, I think.
What geek burlesque performances have you done?
Nasty Canasta: Okay, here we go: Beetlejuice; Apocalypse Now; James Bond (several different solo, duet & group numbers – Pinchbottom produced 3 versions of our James Bond show over a few years), Poison Ivy, Indiana Jones, Plan 9 From Outer Space, Superman (that was actually a Lois/Jimmy/Superman trio act), Tron, Blade Runner, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Flash Gordon, Star Trek, 2001 …. and the Doctor Who numbers: the Fourth Doctor duet, a solo Fourth Doctor act, the Tenth Doctor, and my Cyberman act. For the 2010 Wasabassco anniversary show we also did a 20-person, four-regeneration Whovian extravaganza (which I *still* have never seen photos of!) Many (actually most) of these are long retired, either because they were specific to the shows they were created for or just to make room in the storage closet for the new ones!
Do you have a favorite?
Kobayashi Maru- Flash Gordon (Photo by Dale Harris)
Nasty Canasta: My favorites are probably the ones that have survived (which makes sense) – Poison Ivy, Flash Gordon, 2001 and Star Wars. Right now my Cyberman act is my absolute favorite, though that’s probably because it’s the newest, and because I don’t get to perform it all that often due to the technical requirements of the act.
Are there any geek acts you want to perform in the future?
Nasty Canasta: I’m working on a Wash number for an upcoming Firefly show, and I have a TARDIS act in the theoretical/design stages. Then there’s the Kobayashi number — I have an alter ego named Kobayashi Maru, who’s a sort of biomechanical-Kawaii-android. For years Doc Wasabassco and I have been tossing around the idea of a number where her pieces are actually unpacked and assembled onstage, so hopefully that’s going to actually happen for this year’s Wasabassco anniversary show in November.
How do you manage to mix the right amount of nerd and sexy into those acts?
Nasty Canasta:I think that goes back to the ‘golden rule’ thing. I generally trust that if there’s enough original stuff – enough ‘me’ – in an act, then it’s going to work on both the nerd level and the burlesque level.
Nasty Canasta: I’ve known Anders for a while and helped out a bit while he and Doc were building the Way Station (mostly painting and curtaining and all that, which was a totally transparent plot to make sure I was around while the TARDIS was being installed) and at one point someone suggested showing Doctor Who episodes at the the bar. I think Doc suggested I curate it, having a shall we say ‘deep familiarity’ with the classic episodes …
Who is your favorite Doctor and Companion?
Nasty Canasta: Like most people my age I grew up with Tom Baker, so he’ll pretty much always be ‘my’ Doctor – though I do love Tennant. I actually have a lot of favorite companions, but I think my favorites are Rose and Ace … and I happen to think they’d get along pretty well, too.
Tom Baker/4 had the scarf and Matt Smith/11 has the bow tie. What would your signature-clothing item be if you were the Doctor?
Nasty Canasta: Sonic pasties. Definitely.
If you were on a deserted island what video game, comic/book, movie and TV show would you bring?
Nasty Canasta: The Hitchhhiker’s text game (I haven’t played a video game since about 1989, but I have always adored that one); either Watchmen for the comic or the Hitchhiker’s trilogy for the book; Back To The Future; and (big surprise) Doctor Who.
WARNING: This post contains images that may be NSFW and will result in multiple nergasms.
I am proud to confess that I am a Wasabassco Burlesque groupie. You would be one too if you saw beautiful women perform as your favorite geek characters and take their clothes off. (Plus, it’s probably the closest thing I’ll get to seeing the doctor naked.) You thought you had a nergasm before, you haven’t experienced anything until you’ve seen the ladies of Wasabassco Burlesque in action.
Wasabassco’s name comes from The Wasabi Ass Company, because well.. they’re hot ass. They are based in the NYC, so if you’re ever in the area you have to check out one of their shows. They perform up to 10 times a month and growing each week. I leave every show with a sore throat because the only way I can express how amazing the performances are is by screaming at the top of my lungs.
The reason why I’m such a big fan of Wasabassco is because they are a group of extremely talented and creative performers who just happen to be major geeks. So whether they are performing to a HAL 9000 monologue (yes that actually happened, and yes it was magnificent), or they are performing a traditional burlesque number it will be very, very enjoyable.
I met Doc last year when I interviewed him about The Way Station (that bar with a TARDIS). Doc manages The Way Station and is the producer for Wasabassco Burlesque. He’s also build not one, but two TARDISes. His life is pretty damn awesome. He was nice enough to take the time and answer some interview questions for me.
Interview with Doc Wasabassco:
What is the Wasabassco Burlesque origin story?
Nasty Canasta as a Cyberman
In 2004 I was working as an illustrator specializing in cartoon style pin-up girls. My oldest friend Anders Heidel (of The Way Station) was working in PR at the time. One night the phone rang and it was Anders calling to tell me that he’d just arranged for a gallery show of my pin-up art at a local bar/ gallery space. An hour later he called back from a local performance venue to tell me that he’d arranged for us to put on a burlesque show as a publicity stunt for the gallery show. An hour after that he called again to tell me that he’d booked The World Famous Pontani Sisters to headline the first show. He was out on a pub crawl in Brooklyn and he kept making these connections at different bars getting drunker and making more and more deals. The next day we got together and started the sober plans for our first show. The show ended up being bigger than anything anyone else was doing at the time in NYC and we packed the place. It was a huge success and the venue booked us for a second event before the first one was over. The gallery show became an after thought. I’d discovered the thrill of live burlesque, and illustration gradually lost its appeal for me. Anders and I did shows together for a few more months and then he stepped back and I took over the solo producer reins.
Doc Wasabassco Photo By Leland Bobbe
What do you do for Wasabassco Burlesque?
I’m the producer of Wasabassco. I handle all of the negotiation with venues, I choose all of the performers who appear in the shows, as well as our support staff. I spend the majority of my time booking the performers for each individual show date. I handle a majority of the promotion and PR, and all of the boring paperwork and expenses. I’m also an MC at the majority of our show, which is the fun part, but I think the most important thing I do is set the tone, and choose the aesthetic for what makes Wasabassco what it is as opposed to any other show.
Hazel Honeysuckle as LeeLoo
Have you ever had shows out-of-state or any plans on taking Wasabassco on the road?
We have toured in the past, mostly on the east coast. We’ve performed in Boston, Connecticut, New Jersey, Upstate New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington DC. The problem is that as Wasabassco grows it’s harder to do our style of big show on the road. It’s difficult to shove a handful of people in a van and still deliver the same experience. We’re not a rock band and the fun wears off quickly. I’d prefer to book a multiple night run at a single venue in another city and do it right.
What makes Wasabassco different from other burlesque troupes?
I’m not a performer. A lot of shows are produced by performers and they understandably want to focus the show on themselves or their friends. Since I’m not the star of my own show I get to step back and be objective. I try to produce the show I want to see and hope and one I think an wants to see. Consequently I work with only the best performers and they more than anything I do make the shows what they are.
Did you always have geeky and nerdy acts?Or is it something that gradually made its way into the shows?
Stormy Leather as a Cylon
That’s a good question. I don’t think we did early on. It wasn’t so much a thing back then that burlesque so strongly tied itself to pop culture. It’s not like it is now where so many new shows are themed around specific movies, TV shows or genres. I’d say it was gradual. GiGi La Femme’s Princess Leia number was one of our first featured geeky numbers, and Nasty’s Tom Baker Dr Who number appeared early on. We’re big Geeks at Wasabassco so i think it was inevitable. One of my favorites was our 6th Anniversary Show where we had a full size TARDIS on stage and all of the hosts regenerated into each other while stripping.
How does Wasabassco mix the right amount of sexy and the right amount geeky into their geek acts?
The key I think is that any geeky act has to first and foremost be a burlesque act. If the underlying routine is a good, smart, sexy burlesque number, then you can layer the geeky costume and references on top. Too often you see geeky burlesque numbers where the performer just gets onstage in a costume and then takes it off. It may make for a good fanboy fantasy but it’s not necessarily good entertainment.
If you were on a deserted island what video game, comic/book, movie and TV show would you bring?
Evelyn Vynl as Harley Quinn
Well I’ve never really played video games, since I’ve never had the free time for it, but I quite liked Sim City from back in the day. It appealed to my sense of organizing things to make them work together. For comic book I’ll take Darwyn Cooke’s New Frontier. I’m an old DC fan (or a fan of old DC). The story has all of the nobility of a good story about being a hero, yet all of the social critique the modern age has brought to comics, without falling into hipster bitterness or naivety. And Cooke’s artwork is just stunning. If I get a book too It’d be Night Watch by Terry Pratchett because I’m a huge Sam Vimes fan. Movie is so tough! Raiders of The Lost Ark just beats out The Iron Giant. For TV show I’m taking Classic Star Trek. Highly rewatchable and enough adventure and comedy to keep me entertained, plus Sherry Jackson in her cross your heart overals for those lonely desert island nights.