Monday morning at the dry cleaner’s on Atlantic Avenue. It’s a quiet summer day, sweet and lazy and utterly lacking any intimations of depravity.
Linus: Good morning. I’d like to ask about some pants.
Dry Cleaner: These pants? Yes?
Linus: Well, you see, they have a stain. Some stains.
Dry Cleaner: Where are … oh. I see.
Dry Cleaner: …
Linus: You see, it’s …
Dry Cleaner: What is that?
Linus: Chocolate syrup.
Dry Cleaner: Chocolate syrup.
Dry Cleaner: …
Linus: I was at a show last night -
Dry Cleaner: I see.
Linus: And there was, um, audience participation.
Dry Cleaner: Chocolate syrup.
Linus: Yes, with chocolate syrup.
Dry Cleaner: Well.
The Suicide Girls were probably inevitable as soon as the first nekkid pictures found their UUEncoded ways into the alt.binaries hierarchy back in the 20th century. Which is to say, they are an idea whose time has come.
Equal parts porn emporium, femme-fatalism fantasy, and distaff empowerment, the west-coast Girls organization runs on an engine of tattooed skin money and hands back with-a-cause attitude, a tonic for teen angst, and blasé punk hedonism. Plus nipples. Preferably pierced. They are, by and large, NOT SAFE FOR WORK, which is why we love them.
One of the current SG offshoots is the itinerant Suicide Girls burlesque show, an extravaganza of joyful fetishistic strippery and come-hither lesbian prance. Pierre and I caught the live show last February at the Knitting Factory, and if it was good in concept it was for the most part pretty dull in execution. I was marooned by fate in the wrong generation - I find skinwork and piercings fascinating and sexy, but of course they didn’t mostly do that back then - so when the circus rolled through again last night I thought I’d take another look and hope for the best.
Zounds! Last season’s lame and floppy pretense for pasties and g-strings on tabula maculata dancers of modest skill (let’s be generous) has been, er, whipped into shape. The new set of seven dancers - Nixon, Stormy, RavenIsis, Sicily, Pearl, Reagan, and Shera - starts at accomplished and ramps up fast to outrageously good. After the inevitable primpy campy start, SG Pearl (“WHY I DID SG: I dislike clothes,” 7 piercings, 3 tattoos) bounds out and fires off a high-yield hula hoop routine that puts our local-favorite burlesque hoopsters to shame.
The rest of the show stays at that level of energy and glee. Where last winter some of the musical selections were formless and questionable, this time out nearly every number is vivid. From a girl-on-boy/girl seduction done to Simon & Garfunkel’s Mrs. Robinson, to a push-pull Goth-cowl Maynardesque rubber-tubing solo dance done to Peaches’ Fuck the Pain Away by Nixon (“WHY I DID SG: Satan said so,” and if I’ve got the right Suicide Girl here she has a gorgeous yoke of stark art that runs from shoulder to chest, but she rarely stood still long enough for me to get a good look at it), to a great camp duelling-blondes riff on James Bond and Goldfinger, the stage is set with solid fare.
There’s lots of in-your-face girl-girl kissing and sexplay, and the crowd eats it up. Suicide Girls appeal to dark-side geeks, disaffected punks and risqué dabblers alike, along with a solid core of lesbian boosters who gaze with moist eyes and devour the occluded symbolics submerged oh so lightly in the maelstrom of sexuality on the prowl. Sometimes a labrys is just a labrys, but this is not one of those times.
In their traditional finale, the Suicide Girls do for chocolate syrup and whipped cream what Gallagher did for watermelons. The stage is hurriedly draped in plastic sheeting, and out they come, en masse, ready to dance to Chocolate Salty Balls. I’ve seen this show before, so I’m sort of prepared, in a half-assed way; out comes the Spare Shirt, and I entrust my glasses to Pierre, who retreats to the bar. A few minutes later, after the Girls’ ministrations, I am a lurid slasher movie special effect, drawn in browns rather than arterial red. Thick runnels of chocolate snake from my shoulders to my chin to the crown of my head. Scalp-wound ropes of goo, spattered with cream, drip down from hairline to chin, smeared at the eyes, pooling at the collarbone. Hands are gloves of chocolate gore. The Spare Shirt is soaked through, my hair is matted and sticky. The line for the sink in the so-small Knitting Factory bathroom smells like the back counter at Ghirardelli’s, plus sweat. We’ve also been doused with water, sifted with glitter, and spritzed with bad beer in the course of the evening, but it’s the chocolate that dominates.
You can imagine the subway ride home. Confused fellow riders, indeed. I am a secret, puzzling dessert.
The Suicide Girls experience at this point includes a book, a collection of CD’s, suitable-for-signing posters, t-shirts, panties, concert appearances, and the massive journal-ridden website, with its fashionably lefty underground newsfeeds eased by soft-core photo galleries of remarkably pretty, rebellious, and intractably young girls. It is, frankly, purience at its very best, with all that entails - including misgivings and a vague sense that this might not be the very best idea in a perfect world. Throw gasoline on a fire, and what do you get? Pretty flames, pretty flames. It’s hard not to watch.
But if you tell a Suicide Girl that to her face, she’s likely to kick you. Hard.