Coal cracker cutie …
No one thought it prophetic when Bunny Bedford (www.bunnybedford.com) made her theatrical debut at eight years old in a community production of Gypsy at the Mauch Chunk Opera House. Even when she returned to the historic theater at age 18 to take the lead role of Gypsy Rose, it was just another high school musical. She would study theater at DeSales University, move to New York City, and then move back to Carbon County to get married and start a family before imagining herself as a bona fide burlesque artist. Keeping her lack of experience to herself, stay-at-home mom Bunny Bedford (yes, that’s a stage name) made her burlesque debut at the Jim Thorpe Burlesque Festival in April 2011 after studying YouTube videos and spending nap time practicing in front of her bedroom mirror. Eighteen months later, she’s headlining Dragontown Burlesque’s third annual Boolesque at the Mauch Chunk Opera House on Nov. 3. Meet Coal Cracker Cutie Bunny Bedford . . .
Burlesque was a way of ‘getting yourself back’ after your son was born?
I was home with (Julius) for about two years before I thought, “I’ve got to do something with myself.” It was great being home but, I think, like many women, I lost a little bit of myself. I woke up one day with Cheerios stuck in my hair, wearing the same sweatpants and I was like, “What’s going on here?” I wanted to get back into theater or the arts in some way and I made a pact with myself to do something body-centered because I had enough with my post-pregnancy body issues. I had to find something creative to do and reestablish a positive relationship with my body. Burlesque fit the mold.
How did you start?
I went to Boolesque in 2010 at the Opera House. I dragged my husband along under false pretenses ‘cause I really wanted to go and check it out and see if it was something I would be comfortable doing. And 10 minutes into it, I was like, “Oh, hell yes, I am doing this.” In the car on the way home I was like, “So… I’m going to do to that.” And he laughed. And I said, “No seriously, I’m going to do that.”
Was the first time everything you hoped it would be?
Of all the things I’ve ever done, it was probably the most nervous I’ve ever been. I had dry heaves all day. It wasn’t so much the idea of being practically naked or anything like that, it was more … these women do this all the time and for some of them it’s their full time job, and this is the first time I’m doing it. “Please God, don’t let me trip over my own feet. Don’t let me get my fingers stuck in something. Just let me go out there for these three minutes and …” And I did it. The first night of the festival was the fund-raiser gala for the Opera House, and the second night was the competition. So I went out the second night and did it again and I thought, “I might really like this. I might be really good at this.”
After going through pregnancy — there must have been five people in the room when my oldest daughter was born — I’m thinking it’s not as big of a deal to be seen in a couple of pasties.
Right. My mother-in-law was there for Julius’s birth and she half-jokingly and half-seriously says that I should keep the act PG-13. And I say to her, “You saw me in the most vulnerable position in my entire life!” There’s no control over what’s happening to your body and people are talking…
Do you have a gimmick, as they say in ‘Gypsy’?
I don’t want to pigeonhole myself into any particular gimmick, but you do want to find your uniqueness. And there are different niches — like hoop burlesque and aerial silks or some people are particular good at fan dances, other people do a vaudeville style that’s more comedy. Then there’s the whole genre of geek burlesque and comic con and sci-fi.
That’s become really popular hasn’t it? Naked Girls Reading …
That was started by Michelle L’amour out in Chicago and there are satellites all over the country now. And yeah, they’re naked. I think they wear shoes. You pay a fee and it’s BYOB or you get a bottle of water and it’s themed and they read. I think it’s helpful to come up with a signature, just to set yourself apart from other people, but … I think I would get bored. And I think it takes a little time before you can say, “OK, now I’m going to do my epic” … Ode to Cheese Fries or something.
What are your goals? Is it enough to just get out of the house?
It’s good to get out and have something to be working on. Someone just asked me if I told Julius and I said, “Well, he’s four…” He sees me practicing with clothes on and he sees me making costumes and he knows I dance. And obviously at some point, when he’s older, there will be pictures on the Internet and he’s going to see them. But for now… I feel like it’s a good thing that I’m modeling what fulfilled adult life looks like.
There’s nothing shameful about it.
I do dishes and laundry and take him to day care and cook meals but there’s a lot more that’s important to me — my likes and my interests and what fulfills me — than just those things. And I think that’s good to model, and that’s part of why I enjoy it.
Can you tease your Boolesque tease?
I have been in love my entire life — it’s a kind of closeted obsession — with David Bowie. One of my acts that I’m doing at Boolesque is a Ziggy Stardust thing. But what people don’t know — and this is how deep my obsession is — I carry in my purse or whatever bag I’m carrying at the time — a letter to him in a plastic baggie on the off chance that I might meet or run into him somewhere. It’s almost a superstitious thing. When I put my stuff in my bag this morning and I said, “David Bowie is not going to be in Scranton,” but I had to put it in there anyway.
Any other acts to look forward to?
I really like Eyrie Twilight’s acts. She is from the D.C. area but she recently moved to Philly. She’s part of a group called Black Tassle Burlesque and they’re gothic steampunk styled. You never really know what to expect from her.
Dragontown Burlesque presents the 3rd annual Boolesque at Mauch Chunk Opera House, Jim Thorpe (afterparty at Molly Maguire’s) on Saturday, Nov. 3 at 8 p.m. Doors at 7. TICKETS: $20-35 at paburlesque.brownpapertickets.com or call (800) 838-3006. (Restricted to ages 21+; beer and wine bar available.)