Arts & Entertainment
3 min

On stage: Salacious celluloid

Silver screen queens -- alive!

WE ARE ALL SISTERS UNDER THE MINK. Sasha Van Bon Bon, Shawn Newman and Kitty Neptune strip away layers of meaning from sexy films. Credit: (R Kelly Clipperton)

Nothing like a healthy rush of blood to one’s nether regions to clear post-holiday lethargy. Of course, all the really good strippers are off vacationing on their well-earned tips, leaving most skin joints scraping the barrel with third-string peelers of yesteryear.

Fortunately Sasha Van Bon Bon and her burlesque troupe The Scandelles are set to answer our plaintive, horny cries by baring all in the production Under The Mink at Buddies In Bad Times Theatre beginning Wed, Jan 11.

Van Bon Bon, sex columnist and burlesque aficionado, has gathered some of Toronto’s naughtiest girls and boys for a multi-disciplinary romp through our darkest fantasies. Acrobats, dancers, comedians and sex workers join together in a bawdy tribute to classic cinematic pornography.

“For me, cinema has always been where I saw my perception of myself, ” says Van Bon Bon, who feels a particular affinity with the mysteriously dangerous — and occasionally masculine — women in classic films.

“I love the world that film creates, so we based Under The Mink on women artists we admire… covering the gamut from film vamp Theda Bara to lesbian pornographer Maria Beatty.”

A self-described porn historian, Van Bon Bon has researched the origins of salacious celluloid and was intrigued to find some very overt depictions of sex in the earliest of genre films.

“A lot of early porn, even in the 1920s, was really fucking dirty,” she says, “with SM scenes and group sex, things that we really associate with more contemporary pornography.”

The Scandelles recreate many scenes found in these classics, utilizing each member’s wide variety of talents. “We have an acrobatic rope dancer named Angie in a tribute to the bondage film The Black Glove,” says Van Bon Bon. “She comes down from the ceiling on a rope like a spider toward another dancer all wrapped up in gauze.”

Other acts feature a silhouetted striptease à la Bette Davis and Myrna Loy, Quality Suite’s jazz impersonation of drag-icon Divine, and three flag-dancing boys (Shawn Newman, Eric Bourne and Ryan Lee) playing Marilyn Monroe’s dress in The Seven Year Itch. The Scandelles continue their tradition of using great bands to back up the action, this time enlisting The Cliks and Hunter Valentine.

There are even nods to 1980s tomboy films, popularized by the adolescent actors like Kristy McNichol and Jody Foster. Under The Mink celebrates those subtle film moments of sexual and gender blurring.

“For queer people growing up in relative isolation, seeing that sort of thing saves you,” says Van Bon Bon.

Cocreator Kitty Neptune makes several appearances in the show, and joins dancers Project Sugar and drag king Christopher Noel in an homage to the Orson Welles film Touch Of Evil.

“Welles just plops this female butch character into a violent male gang with no explanation,” says Van Bon Bon of the 1958 classic, with its memorable role for Mercedes McCambridge. “She’s this rapacious and very butch character that some people don’t even realize is a woman.”

Van Bon Bon’s substantial talents were honed from years of dancing in some of Toronto and Montreal’s finest nudie clubs. But she left stripping after things became a little too up-close and personal in the ’90s.

“I loved being a stripper,” she says, “but lap dancing became sort of challenging. I had started when we were just table dancing and people couldn’t touch you.

“Then all of a sudden you were bartering and bargaining with parts of your body, and it took me further away from the part I enjoyed as an exhibitionist. I respect all women in all aspects of the sex trade, but that wasn’t the job that I signed up to do.”

Under The Mink gives Van Bon Bon a showcase for both her talents and demented wit. “I’m doing a piece called ‘The Little Missus,’ a real cautionary tale like The Stepford Wives. I’m a woman in a giant douche box. It has the whole feel of a 1970s feminine hygiene commercial, with meadows and wind… that odd combination of being ashamed yet free.

“At the end I’m set free from my own douche box. It’s my tribute to early feminism.”