Hotter than Hell at The Kessler featuring lesbian legend Satan’s Angel

Queen of burlesque

Satan’s Angel — a stage name, of course — is a legend who has a few healthy decades under her belt and she doesn’t want today’s generation to forget what burlesque should really mean to performers and audiences.

“Burlesque is about sexuality, being sensual and teasing,” she says by phone in a gravelly voice. “It’s getting the audience worked up and then letting them go home all fired up. It really is about the journey of titillation, not the destination.”

As part of Saturday’s Hotter Than Hell show at The Kessler, Ms. Angel doesn’t perform like she used to, but she still headlines this show that will include “boylesque” artist Jett Adore. Now 67, Ms. Angel has seen it all and welcomes the diversity in burlesque now, but she was in a class all her own back in the day.

—  Rich Lopez

Strip tease

burlesque-1
THE FACE, AND BODY, OF BURLESQUE Satan’s Angel, center, continues in a profession that has welcomed such newcomers as Dita von Teese, left, and Jett Adore, right.

Out burlesque legend Satan’s Angel last performed in Dallas at Jack Ruby’s club in late 1963. And that’s not the only thing that has changed in the last 50 years

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Although she liked the film, Satan’s Angel thought the movie Burlesque was more about a lounge act than the actual art of the tease.

She should know. Satan’s Angel — a stage name, of course — is a legend who has a few healthy decades under her belt and she doesn’t want today’s generation to forget what burlesque should really mean to performers and audiences.

“Burlesque is about sexuality, being sensual and teasing,” she says by phone in a gravelly voice. “It’s getting the audience worked up and then letting them go home all fired up. It really is about the journey of titillation, not the destination.”

As part of Saturday’s Hotter Than Hell show at The Kessler, Ms. Angel doesn’t perform like she used to, but she still headlines this show that will include “boylesque” artist Jett Adore. Now 67, Ms. Angel has seen it all and welcomes the diversity in burlesque now, but she was in a class all her own back in the day.

“Well, I am the big lesbian legend of burlesque that probably paved the way for every queer there,” she laughs. “It was a terrible time. No one could really be open and lots of places were owned by the mob. If they found out, they’d throw you out the door.”

But she was defiantly queer in a pre-Stonewall era — even when she traveled in the South. She always “had a woman” and when a fellow dancer outed her to a club owner, she didn’t back down.

“Oh, he grabbed me by the hair and was hitting me in the face asking if I was gay,” she recalls. “Other dancers were telling me to just say I wasn’t, but I just told him to piss off. It was really hard then.”

Ironically, burlesque now is very fluid in its sexuality. Lesbianism could almost be looked at as a selling point. But Ms. Angel says many of today’s performers have replaced the tradition with shock art. She intends to keep the classical nature of it alive.

“People do this variety, bizarre stuff and it’s very offensive to me,” she says. “They need to put the truth of this out there. Don’t try to shock. That’s not burlesque; that’s bullshit. This Latina dancer had these donkey piñatas in her act and she’s fist-fucking the donkey’s ass. I mean, what the shit is that?”

Today’s performers haven’t all strayed from the traditional values. She cites Dita von Teese (who was in Dallas last week) and Ginger Valentine as staying true to the form, and commends the work of Jett Adore, who also performs Saturday.

Boylesque isn’t new to Angel — as she saw it decades ago in Canada and Europe. It’s just new to America.

“They were way ahead of us. Everyone was doing nudity outside of America and we were just trying to go topless,” she says. “What I like about Jett is he’s extremely masculine on stage and his Zorro makes Antonio Banderas’ a zero.”

Her appearance this weekend is something of a homecoming for Ms. Angel. She worked the Texas circuit back in the day, landing a gig in the fall of 1963 at Abe Weinstein’s Colony Club on Commerce Street. But then her agent found an offer for more money at a place called Carousel Club owned by some guy named Jack Ruby. Ruby wasn’t thrilled with the lesbian idea, either, but she was the featured performer.

Of course, a few weeks later, Ruby became more infamous than she could ever hope to be.

“He was a weird dude, very Jekyll and Hyde and a big talker but not much else,” she says. “He treated me well but I worked my week and was out of there and on to Kansas City. Next thing I knew, he’s on TV for shooting Oswald. He was strange, but I really never thought he was a killer.”

Life is a calmer these days. She does the occasional performance, live readings and burlesque classes, but finds her haven in Palm Springs. She calls her life partner of 14 years her “poor little butch” who has to sell merch, be her dresser, drive her to the airport and act generally as an assistant.

“If I didn’t just bring her along, I’d have to hire somebody,” she jokes. “She’s got bad knees. What is she going to do for a job?”

Of course, she’s just teasing.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 5, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

LSR Journal: It’s a lot more than just pedaling

Suzy Smith Team Sabre Flyers
Suzy Smith Team Sabre Flyers

In March of 2008, a friend asked me to join her in riding Tour Dallas, a 30-mile bike rally in and around the Dallas area.

It was my first time on a bike since I owned a pristine pink Huffy as a child, and I was more than just a little intimidated that chilly morning as we headed out of the AAC parking lot with thousands of other riders.

Crazy, maybe, but I convinced myself that riding a bike was just like … well, riding a bike.

Ask anyone that knows me for a description, and a sort of theme always seems to appear.

I am stubborn, determined, and “a little” competitive, and it shows in my work and hobbies.

I began marathon training simply by putting one foot in front of the other, and ran countless miles and several marathons.

Although I’d never been particularly athletic, I found strength in running, seeing the sun and my shadow, and training to reach a goal.

By the time I’d pedaled to the end of the Tour Dallas route, I’d not only fallen in love with cycling, but established a new challenge for myself — I would train for the Hotter than Hell 100, held in Wichita Falls at the end of every scorching Texas summer.

With that goal in mind, I clipped into the pedals of my Trek, started pedaling, and never stopped.

On the best days, cycling is my meditation. With the familiar sound of “clipping in,”  I find mental clarity in pushing my body. I know every inch of the concrete and asphalt around White Rock Lake and delight in the summer heat and breeze coming off the water.

On the worst days, when my legs feel like jelly and even kids with training wheels pass me by, I believe that Beyonce and Lady Gaga on the iPod can be considered a performance-enhancing drug.

In just more than two years of riding, cycling has become such a part of my life that even my vacations include a bike rack and a route map.

I own more bike shorts than jeans, have tan lines that never fade and my friends all roll their eyes at my persistent Facebook posts about cycling.

This year, I will be participating in my third Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS, riding two days and 180 miles across the Metroplex with the singular goal of improving the lives of people living with HIV and AIDS.

The Lone Star Ride stands out among all the cycling events in which I participate, and I find it the most motivating and meaningful.

The route of the two-day course is as challenging as any you’ll find in North Texas, but the ample support of crew members — whether directing traffic from motorcycles, refilling Gatorade or providing a much needed laugh — truly makes the LSR experience unique.

When I roll out this September with two hundred plus riders and as many crew members, it will be to make a difference as an athlete, an activist and an educator.

I ride for those who cannot, for those who the AIDS Outreach Center, Resource Center Dallas and AIDS Services Dallas provide much needed support, and to reduce discrimination directed towards people with HIV and AIDS.

I ride for a future of the Lone Star Ride in which, not hundreds, but thousands of cyclists work together to raise awareness and funds.

For two days this fall, I ride because “riding a bike” is a far greater event than just pedaling. Won’t you join me?

Suzy Smith is a member of Team Sabre Flyers. Donate to her online at LoneStarRide.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 20, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens