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

SMU’s first gay dean may not lead the parade, but he sure isn’t in the closet

David Chard heads up SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education, started 3 years ago

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

David Chard
David Chard

David Chard wanted to make sure before taking the job as dean of Southern Methodist University’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education three years ago that he wouldn’t be closing himself back into a closet. That’s why he was upfront with administrators about being gay when he applied.

Before even coming to Dallas to interview, Chard asked an SMU faculty member he knew if he should reveal his sexual orientation. She told him SMU administrators all knew he was gay, but that they probably weren’t looking for someone who would be grand marshal of the gay Pride parade.

“So now,” Chard said recently, “I want to be grand marshal of the Pride parade.”

But, he added, he’ll probably take a pass on performing in drag at S4’s Rose Room with Joe Hoselton, the graduate admissions coordinator at SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts who performs regularly under the stage name Jenna Skyye.

Although Chard was named the first permanent dean of the Simmons School three years ago, the school just became consolidated under one roof with the dedication of the new Simmons School building on Sept. 24. Before then, Simmons’ education, dispute resolution and counseling, and physiology departments were part of other SMU schools.

Among the various named areas of the new building is the Gay and Lesbian Fund for Dallas Reception Area outside the dean’s office.

“About six to eight months ago, I met with the [GLFD] board and asked if they’d sponsor a fundraising event,” Chard said, explaining how the reception area got its name.

At the time Gay and Lesbian Fund for Dallas was involved in another project, but GLFD members made plans to raise funds with an event later, nothing their intent on the fund’s website.

Chard said GLFD received an immediate response that included donations from many alumni and faculty, which funded the reception area in time for the building’s dedication.

Chard came to Dallas from the University of Oregon. While Oregon has a reputation for being gay-friendly, he said that part of the country has more of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Chard said SMU has a more welcoming environment, with many more gays and lesbians on its faculty and staff.

SMU made Princeton Review’s list of most homophobic colleges in the country again this year. But Chard doesn’t believe the school deserves that position on the Princeton Review list, calling SMU’s administration very respectful of him and his relationship.

As an example, he said, “My partner is invited to every major event and he receives the spousal gift.”

Chard said the listing is based on student responses, and “Student responses don’t match [SMU’s] policies,” he said.

Chard did acknowledge that the ranking was helpful in demonstrating where community relationships need to be built. He said he has used the school’s rating to encourage participation by other deans in LGBT community events such as the Black Tie Dinner.

He also said that his being a member of the LGBT community has presented opportunities for SMU. The Simmons School’s counseling department provides counseling through Resource Center Dallas. And Chard said that there is a waiting list to participate in that internship program. Once Resource Center has more room in its planned new building, he’ll provide more students for the program, he said.

Resource Center Executive Director Cece Cox said SMU has made “a huge commitment” to RCD, and that the school’s connection to the Resource Center goes further than its counseling program.  Chard hired Resource Center to do diversity training for students training to be teachers and counselors.

He said that all SMU student teaching is done in Dallas. Because Dallas Independent School District has non-discrimination policies in place, it was important for his students to understand diversity issues.

Cox said the relationship with Simmons has expanded to the business school. Resource Center provides training for MBA students to understand LGBT diversity policies at most Fortune 500 companies, including most of the top Dallas-based corporations.

Chard named Cox to the Simmons School’s executive board, he said, because she represents an important group of potential donors.

“She represents gay alumni,” he said. “It’s a community we need to build a relationship with.”

“He’s incredibly innovative,” Cox said. “He’s helped SMU get involved in the community.”

Cox said that community extends far beyond just the LGBT community and that Chard has made important contributions in many areas around Dallas.

The department of dispute resolution based on the Legacy campus in Plano works with local companies such as American Airlines and J.C. Penney. The department of applied physiology works with the area’s professional sports teams and the education department is currently working with Southwest Airlines.

“We’re helping them think about the format they use for pilot training,” he said.

Simmons faculty members serve on planning committee of the upcoming Perot Science Museum that will be built in Victory Park and advised on the Children’s Adventure Garden at Dallas Arboretum.

Chard said that Simmons was never intended to be just another education school.  “We’re here to build community relationships,” he said.

Now that Simmons School is established and settling into its own home, Chard has plans to expand the school’s mission of research and beginning new programs, including a special education program.

He said special education attracts a large number of gays and lesbians to the field and thinks it’s because of the connection to helping those needing the most help.

Chard earned his own Ph.D. in special education. He began his career as a high school math and chemistry teacher. Then he joined the Peace Corps and taught in Lesotho for four years where he met his wife.

Chard joined the faculty of University of Texas, and he and his wife had three children.

After coming out, Chard accepted a position at the University of Oregon. A motivation to move back to Texas was that his children were still here.

Comparing SMU with UT, he said, “SMU is a face-to-face campus. UT is a city.”

His partner of two years recently moved from Boston to Dallas, and Chard said they are just getting settled.

Chard said Dallas pleasantly surprised him. He called the city nice, giving and gracious.

“I found Dallas to be a lot more interesting than Austin,” he said. “Great neighborhoods. The gay community is more active.”

Chard brought one of his daughters to last week’s Pride parade. He said seven students marched in an SMU entry. His daughter suggested they march with them next year.

He said he’s thinking about it — unless he’s the grand marshal.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 01, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens