My article on Tammi True and Dallas burlesque is available on stands or read the article online...http://www.dmagazine.com/Home/D_Magazine/2011/March/Why_Dallas_Burlesque_Owes_a_Debt_to_Tammi_True.aspx
In September, I pitched the idea for an article on the re-emerging burlesque scene in Dallas. Tim Rogers liked it, and thus I began work on my first feature for D Magazine. I initially requested that the article be 3,000 words long. Tim asked for 2,000 words. In the end, I gave him 2,755 words.
I started by interviewing Shoshana Portnoy who I went to college with at Texas A&M Commerce. She's a show producer and editor for Pincurl Magazine. My process was I'd interview someone -- tape recorder, steno notepad, all that. Then I would go home and immediately write a story about my experience. Without any regard for the final product, I'd just jot down everything I could remember about the interview itself. An excerpt:
We met on Saturday, October 9th at 3 PM at Libertine Bar on Greenville Avenue. When I got out of my car, Shoshana was already there, sitting on a bench outside, talking on the phone and smoking a long cigarette. When she noticed me, she greeted me with “How’s your world?” to which I gave a standard recap of my difficulty finding a book on burlesque at Half-Price Books. Do I look in the women’s studies section or sexuality in culture? “Or I would think it might be in the theater section. Actually, you know why you couldn't find a book?” She gives an answer to my problem and another drag on the cigarette. “#### works there and she snags all the books on burlesque that arrive. I’ll talk to her and see if we can get some of those books to you.”
Shoshana put me in contact with almost everyone I needed for the article. That evening, I went to Teddy's Room to continue my research. The next morning, I met with Pixie O'Kneel. Pixie allowed me to sit in on a dress rehearsal for her upcoming Bewitching Burlesque production. An excerpt:
I parked my car at the corner of South Crowdus and Canton in Deep Ellum. It was Sunday, October 10th at 10:50 AM. I walked across the street to the Hub Theater. Two girls were walking in the front door, carrying various items – PVC pipe, a frilly dress, burlap cloth, a lamp, stilts, a straight jacket, and an axe.
Inside the Hub Theater, it couldn’t be more different than the squeaky clean exclusive Teddy’s Room. I walked past a curtain and into the seating area of the theater. I met Pixie O’Kneel, a short woman with thick dark hair cut short. I introduced myself, and we stepped back into the lobby to talk. She introduced me to her partner Glam’Amour, contrasting in height, she towered over Pixie and myself. Pixie then offered me a mimosa and muffins. There’s some girl asleep on the couch.
Back in the theater, Pixie worked with the girls helping them with their props and set pieces. She steps away to listen to the volume of the music for the show with Tony, the sound guy.
“More or less?” “I think right there is good?” She listens again as the music swells. “That’s a little too much."
A few nights later, I interviewed Angi B Lovely. Afterward, I drove to Denton for the Tiki A GoGo show.
I had a lot of material, and I probably could have continued interviewing performers and attending various shows, but I needed a perspective on old-school burlesque. Shoshana put me in touch with Nancy Myers (aka Tammi True). Nancy was impossible to Google search. There wasn't any information floating around on the Internet. Surprising, since she headlined at the Carousel Club that Jack Ruby owned. Now, if you google "Tammi True," my article is the first and second entry. I talked with her on the phone and then met with her in person. She's funny, candid, and foul mouthed. In other words, the perfect interview. It turns out she hadn't done any interviews in decades. The only other one she gave was to Esquire, which wasn't much of an interview at all. Her whole life, people had been asking her about Jack Ruby. No one asked Nancy about Tammi True.
The problem I encountered was, at this point, I didn't have a magazine article. I had two magazine articles: one about modern burlesque and one about Nancy. I called my editor for some guidance. He suggested one of the stories needed to be subordinate to the other. Either this is a story about modern burlesque with Tammi True as an interesting footnote or this story is about Tammi with modern burlesque as the coda (i.e., her legacy lives on). It was decided that the story needed to focus on Nancy/Tammi. Hours worth of research, interviews, and field trips on modern burlesque would go unused. Literary agents, call me.
I scheduled a second interview with Nancy. A week later, I sent my finished article to Tim.