Sunday, December 19, 2004

Owen Aldridge Can Study a Broad and Come up with a Bore
“American Burlesque at Home and Abroad:
Together With the Etymology of Go-Go Girl”

This article was somewhat of a disappointment. The title sounded promising, didn’t it? Written in 1971, the essay (from the Journal of Popular Culture) seems to exist only to catalog entertainment practices (and then not always in the most vivid detail). Aldridge’s introduction is a state-the-obvious statement about the identifying factor of American burlesque: “the striptease” 565). Clearly his introductory information was not reason enough to read his article!

Aldridge does, however, tell an interesting etymological tale of the origin of the go-go dancer. A British film of the 1950s, Whiskey Galore, was a literal translation of a French phrase, whiskey a go-go; Aldridge explains that “go-go is an adverbial expression meaning without limit” (566). This was around the time of the evolution of the discotheque, many of which were fashionably named Whiskey a Go-go.

Around the same time “the method of social dancing among the young generation underwent a sudden change—when dances such as the slow, the tango and the rumba, which under optimum conditions were danced cheek to cheek, were replaced by others in which each partner effectively danced as an individual with no bodily contact” (567). Aldridge gives as an example “the twist.” So the new clubs opened with young women dancing these new dances that no longer required a partner, and the dances became associated with the new, fashionable club names.

Conveniently around this same time, a fashion designer designed a kind of hot pants called a monokini, which were like ledern hosen, worn with no shirt underneath; evidently they made great go-go girl costumes.

Aldridge also describes the four stages of “the standard routine” of a striptease. The “’flash’ or entrance; the ‘parade’ or promenade back and forth fully clothed; the ‘tease’ or progressive disrobing; and finally the ‘strip’ or final stage of denuding that is, as far as local authorities permit” (569). He explains that American dancers do the “bump and grind,” which can be traced to the “hootchee-cootchee” from the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 (569).

Here’s where the article truly reveals its anachronistic nature: Aldridge explains that in the U.S., dancers are likely to be so young as in their early 20s, but that “many continue to perform in their 40s and even later.” On the other hand, “In Europe very few are older than 25” (569). I can’t speak for Europe, but I would say it’s quite unlikely our strippers are older than 30.

That’s about it for the article. He really is just cataloging some information, not writing an intense analysis of any kind. Ho hum.

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