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Roundup: Sue Tilley, Hazel Court, Dita Von Teese, Gypsy Charms, Madonna

1) “Her Pounds Could Make Millions” – Lucian Freud’s 1995 painting of “Big Sue” Tilley could fetch between $25 to $35 million at Christie’s auction on May 13th.

[Sue Tilley]

According to Reuters. Tilley was paid just 20 pounds (UK sterling) per sitting for this painting more than 10 years ago. My, has time appreciated those pounds!

2) “Scream queen” and pinup model Hazel Court died at 82 last Tuesday.

3) Dita Von Teese talks to Daily Mail UK about her background, being “just an old-fashioned, shy girl” and living the life. (She made $2M+ last year! Nice work if you can get it, I always say.)

She has her detractors, of course; she does, after all, remove most of her clothes on stage, “and a lot of people think that what I do is anti-feminist”, she admits.

“But most of my fans are women and my whole thing has been about finding sexual power rather than abusing it.”

She still claims to be shy, “and that always confuses people because they say, well, how can you be shy and still be up on stage doing the kind of dances you do? But most performers are shy and I still go to parties and feel nervous talking to people”.

At 35, she must wonder how long she can carry on burlesquing.

“If you’d asked me at 20, I just wouldn’t have comprehended the fact that I’d still be doing it at 35. But I’m in better shape and better at what I do now, so I’m just going to evolve appropriately rather than say a time when I should stop.”

4) Edinburgh’s Gypsy Charms (aka Sarah Vernon) penned a 90,000-word Sociology PhD dissertation on “Striptease and Power”. I’m very much looking forward to reading a copy, once it’s publicly available.

She interviewed around 200 lap dancers, burlesque artists and strippers for her research.

Sarah, 32, examined the origins of strip-tease and its impact on society for her paper titled Striptease and Power.

She said: “It’s been fascinating finding out what draws women to the art.

“When I started my Phd I looked for academic papers on this aspect of adult entertainment and was shocked to find there weren’t any.

“My dissertation is not just a ramble on strippers and their history. It examines the origins of stripping and how socially acceptable it is and why.

“I looked at where the line lay between an art like burlesque and lap dancing – between performance and sex.

“I examined whether this was down to the type of audience rather than the stripping.”

5) Writer Robin Givhan misses “the old, more provocative Madonna”. I do too. I think in some ways, Madonna was burlesque– her many incarnations turning popular entertainment upside-down in the years before the rise of neo-burlesque.

The pop star will turn 50 in August, which seems to be the leitmotif of the accompanying story — as if we are compelled to check in with Madonna to see how she is handling each turning point in her life.

Shockingly, Madonna has gotten boring. Our Madonna — the rule-breaking, professional provocateur, endearing egoiste, subject of countless maligned college courses on postmodern female sexuality, patron saint of a generation of young women who relied on pop-culture psychobabble to excuse their exhibitionist tendencies — has become a cliche. She’s just another aerobicized pop singer with a cause.

We saw this moment coming as her antics ceased being provocative and vaguely political and became slightly embarrassing. Madonna should not have kissed Britney Spears. She shouldn’t have talked so much about yoga and her macrobiotic diet, and she certainly shouldn’t have discussed either topic with that distracting British accent.

In her past incarnations, Madonna has always chosen a character with which most people were unfamiliar. She didn’t invent her different personas. She appropriated them from New York’s downtown art scene in the 1980s or from gay dance clubs, but she walked all those archetypes into the spotlight. She popularized them, and she was surprising.

But now her enthusiasms and eccentricities seem bland.

Madonna became a cultural icon because she was sly enough — and daring enough — to use her body as everything from a storyboard to a weapon. Ten years’ worth of photographs in Vanity Fair document Madonna the boy toy, the powerful diva, the Lolita, the gender-bending dominatrix, the sexy mother. Each guise said something interesting about femininity.

But her latest incarnation — blond waves, lace-up boots and a corset — speaks to the most old-fashioned, condescending sentiment of all: She looks good for her age.

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