“I was working a haunted house in Red Oak and the owner wanted some half-time entertainment. Cambria Cadavah and I pitched the idea of doing a burlesque show, which we called Gore-lesque. That was in September 2011 and we performed the show every night through October,” Molly told me.
Molly Macabre, international burlesque sensation, was answering the question, “Why did you start performing burlesque?”
Molly is statuesque, with flowing red hair. On stage, she exudes confidence and power. Sitting in a café having dinner, she hesitates to answer my questions, and is almost shy. I couldn’t believe that I was talking to the same person. I asked more questions to draw her out.
“You went through the Burlesque Experience soon after that, didn’t you?” I prompted.
“Yes, my Bust Out was in May 2012. That was hilarious, because I ended up coaching the other students, just because I was more advanced than the other girls, because I’d been doing it for months,” she said with a smile.
I tried to picture someone telling Molly how to perform, and I smiled, too. This woman knows what she’s doing.
“Wait, May 2012? When did you start your troupe?” I asked, referring to Plumb Askew, Molly’s burlesque troupe.
“December 2012,” Molly said, with a sly smile. “The troupe performs about six times a year, so we’ve done about 18 shows.”
She didn’t waste any time! Just over a year from performing for the first time to starting a troupe—WOW!
She continued, “I performed in my first festival 3 months after my Bust Out. Festivals are harder to get into than local shows. You have to apply and be accepted.”
“What’s the furthest that you’ve traveled for a show? And what was the most fun?” I asked her.
With a wistful, faraway look in her eye, and another sly grin on her lips, she said, “Ireland. I’ve performed there twice. People beat each other up—it was great! There was a paramedic on staff in the lobby. My room was on the fourth floor, the nightclub was on the first floor, and I could hear loud music in my room. So I went downstairs about 3 or 4 a.m. to Skype with my husband, and there were people coming out of the club all bloody. I turned around the laptop to show my husband: see?! They were regular people, too—men and women.” Then she stopped to think, her eyes searching the distance. “Chicago was fun. I did two acts in one night, wearing heavy makeup for both, so I had to rush to do the wardrobe changes. I was running on adrenaline. But really, nothing beats Dublin…”
In answer to another question, she added, “My favorite intro was in Ireland. It was completely unscripted. The MC asked me questions and got to know me backstage, then just said lots of nice things about me in the intro. I loved it!”
“When was your last show?” I asked.
She smiled proudly, though modestly. “My last act was a tribute to Zombie Land at the Ohio Burlesque Festival in Cleveland on August 1. I have a prosthetic arm that is all veins and muscles. I wrap thin deli meat around the fingers and hold it on with thin thread, then eat it on stage. The audience loves it!” she paused to smile, an enigmatic little smile. “Travelling with it is fun. I tape a picture of me performing with it, on the arm, with a note that says, This is a prop! I use in an act!”
I laughed. The thought of a TSA agent pulling out a prosthetic arm at the airport security line, just cracked me up!
“My next show is October 9th, based on the American Horror Show. I’m a big fan of the show. It’s just a giant selection for routines, with all the characters. The girls in the troupe show out themes and we vote on what we want to do next. They are the meat and potatoes of the group,” Molly said. It was obvious that she loved and respected the ladies in her troupe from the way that she spoke about them. She could have taken credit for the idea, but she made sure to mention her team.
That’s the sign of a good leader: mention your people and give them credit. My respect for Molly went up a few more notches.
“Has anyone thrown anything interesting up on stage? Any panties or bras?” I asked, thinking of Tom Jones’ shows.
She laughed, “God no! Thank goodness! Although…I did an act as Regan MacNeil—you know, the girl from Exorcist—and did this magic trick where I pulled green tap from my mouth, like vomit. I played with it, rubbed it on myself, you know. Then I gave it to someone in the audience. He posted a picture on Facebook later where he had hung it on the wall. I thought, Do you know where that’s been?! It’s been in my MOUTH!”
I couldn’t help but laugh. I wondered what else the man had on his wall!
“Any advice for newbies?” I asked.
“You should always have a storyline. That’s straight from Dirty Martini, a famous performer,” Molly said. Later in the conversation, she added, “You can’t just graduate from BE and think that you can teach and do festivals. No, you gotta walk before you crawl. I’ve made it a condition of a contract that someone has to work with me on her choreography. That is, if she has a good costume and otherwise her act is good. She has to be comfortable with some coaching. Otherwise, it’s ok, good luck.” She pause thoughtfully. “I’m different now. I used to try to teach performers instead of teaching women to shine. I have relaxed a bit. I’m still a perfectionist. Still, I feel like I’m a better instructor than performer. I often see an act and say, Why I can’t put together an act like that for me?! It’s a really good act!!” She laughed a little self-consciously. “I may not be well-liked, but I think that I’m well-respected for the caliber of act that I put together.”
EXACTLY! That’s exactly the feel that I’ve gotten from the community, and the reason that I wanted to interview Molly in particular. On stage, she’s larger than life. She owns the stage. She looks at home. And her voice!!
“I may just start MC’ing and singing because I don’t want to look like a grandma out there,” she said.
Waaaaaait a minute! Molly is a year or two younger than me!! She’s not old!!
Before I could object, Molly’s eyes went thoughtful again. She said, “You asked me why I perform burlesque. I do it because of what happens…like performing at ComicCon…Nerdy girls are really reserved, normally. Fabulous-looking girls are out-going and dress as scantily-clad superheroes. When not-so-fabulous looking women see me come out at my size and exude sexuality, they come up to me after the show and say that I’ve inspired them to be more feminine, wear makeup again. They say things like, Thank you for showing the world that it’s not just about the little girls. I can do shows here, and everyone knows me here, but when I do festivals, I can reach more people and INSPIRE more people.”
Wow. Now THAT’S a good reason to perform.
Thank you, Molly Macabre, for inspiring and entertaining us. Whether as an MC, singer, or performer, I hope to see you again soon.
This has been another issue of Burlesque Beginnings: Why perform? This series started as an answer to a reader’s question. If you have a question or blog topic, please email me or comment below. Thanks and have a great day!
All pictures: HAMU Vivienne Vermuth. Photography by Dee Hill. ❤