Everyone has a few of those people in their social circles they run into on a regular basis, I am delighted today’s Muse is one of mine. She is strange and beautiful, smart and sassy, fun and funny. And that last part is what really gets me. Her acts are at once classy and trashy. She makes me laugh, and perhaps she’s bit gassy. But I’m convinced that’s what makes her so light on her feet. Ladies and gentlemen, the incomparable Dolly Berlin!
Photo by Photolena
Gracie: How did you get your name?
Dolly: I had a friend when I was a kid whose sister was named Dolly, and I was always jealous. I’ve been making up alternate names for myself since I was a kid. “Candy” and “Peaches” were two of my most used childhood aliases. When I started performing I was going through a skirts and knee socks phase and was often likened to a doll so it just made sense and I still love it. I don’t use my legal name 90% of the time. Berlin is because of my birthday (Nov 9, ’89).
Gracie: How long have you been on the scene?
Dolly: I met Mitzy Cream in November 2008 and performed my first show with her in February 2009 and have been addicted ever since.
Gracie: Do you have a signature colour?
Dolly: Hmm… I have 3 costumes that use a red/yellow/green pallet. I also love pink. But I guess I don’t have a signature shade.
Gracie: Do you have formal training?
Dolly: No. I half heartedly did YMCA or small studio dance classes when I was really little. I had no direction as a teen otherwise I probably would have taken performance and arts programs, instead I wasted my time being a jock (hilarity!). When I started burlesque Mitzy Cream taught me to tassel twirl, stocking peel, encouraged me to get a real corset (although that took forever) and gave me a lot of history and theory pointers and would finesse my acts (she added the “Mr Clean” jingle to help make my overused Housewife themed act have a pop). It took me a few years to be able to execute performances without awkwardness. I was fortunate to have Great Canadian Burlesque’s Mitzi’s Sister monthlies and then the Comedy Bar monthlies to grow on. I still think I need to get my ass to some dance classes but I don’t really know when I’m going to find the time!
Gracie: Do you tassel?
Dolly: YES, almost always. And incorporating more asselling now too.
Gracie:What is your favourite style of movement?
Dolly: Well done retro raunchiness is awesome, and actually really my favourite; a bit of parading, a good dose of b-n-g. And just a touch of modern stripper is always a nice addition, but it can’t look put on, you have to believe in it. I’m always envious of well done floor work. You really need to take a beating and rehearse the crap out of floor work to make it look good.
Gracie:What is your favourite part of a new act?
Dolly: New Costume! This is also my least favourite part financially. I have yet to master costuming on a budget, or perhaps my standards have just gone up. Many of my acts have been semi-retired or redone (some twice) because I’m embarrassed of the costumes. It can feel a bit daunting at times because there are girls out there in the big leagues with really fantastic fancy outfits that just make you drool, and I feel like…’holy crap I want that’. You have to feel good about what you are wearing, in life and especially on stage, so it’s good to splurge if it means you’re doing it right the first time. But I also have to check myself also and remember that there are priorities beyond performance apparel. It’s all about budget and balance.
Gracie:What’s the most unique show you’ve been a part of?
Dolly: Peepshow TO’s Tim Burton show (Nightmare Before Stripmas at Metro Theatre) was a standout show. I know Burton as a theme has been used before (and will be used again) in North America at least, but locally it was definitely a really cool show to be a part of, so many bizarre characters coming to life, all in a porn theatre. I can’t say I miss the smell of the Metro but I definitely am grateful to have been a part of a handful of productions there before it closed for good, including ringing in 2013 on that stage. You can’t claim to love sleaze without getting a little dirty, right?
Another unique show that I feel so grateful to have been a part of is the Dirty Devils Peepshow at Theatre Bizarre. You enter from a huge Devil’s head and perform on a tongue (it’s a slanted runway with a circular platform at the end). I am performing there in October for the third time. Look it up, I’m already making this so long winded, but it’s a crazy good time and there’s nothing else like it. Go if you can. I think I had an existential crisis at the last one because I was so in awe. The event itself feels like a separate universe, or like you’re part of a movie set. And the burlesque show is just a fraction of what’s going on.
Gracie: Favourite venue in your current city and on the road?
Dolly: Wiggle Room in MTL and Slipper Room in NYC are just fantastic.
Revival is really a great staple here, they’ve been hosting burlesque events for over a decade – I’ve seen VHS tapes of early Harlettes shows there and I think it’s great they’re still supporting our circuit and hosting a variety of shows.
I really have to give a s/o to Cherry Cola’s who have been really great to work with on the Sinful Sundays weekly shows over the past year. Cherish the owner is the epitome of glamour, she always looks like a flawless modern pin-up; naturally the venue just screams burlesque lair. It’s velvet flocked walls are magic, they can turn the hardest of dames to putty.. (just ask Tanya Cheex)!
Gracie: Do you think you’ll ever retire?
Dolly: I know there may come a time when I’ll need to slow down and focus on other things, but for now I’m happy to move forward full steam ahead! I don’t foresee ever quitting completely.
Gracie:Thank you Dolly! Toronto is lucky to have such a natural leading the charge and raising the barre. Follow Dolly’s burlescapades at the links below and I’ll see you next week. ❤
Facebook: Dolly Berlin
P.S. I am always seeking new Muses email me to participate