Ray's Guide to Chicago Area Burlesque
Show dates and reviews from the burlesque scene in Chicago.

An Evening at the Stone Burlesk

REVIEWED 3/15/07 "A couple of years ago, I inherited an obscene amount of porn." A man in a nice suit walked on stage and uttered these words, so beginning An Evening at the Stone Burlesk at the Lakeshore Theater on October 14, 2006. Matthew Jacobson went on to describe how the porn was in the form of hundreds of reels of 16mm film and audio tape passed on to him by his grandfather. Milton Jacobson had been the proprietor of the Stone Theater on Woodward Avenue in Detroit, from the 1940's to the 1970's, a place with a history that is, believe or not, quaint.

Intended to raise money to assist in the preservation of the Stone porn archive, the event attempted to recreate the atmosphere in the golden age of the Stone with a mix of audio recordings of Milton Jacobson's pitches, clip reels of porn, live burlesque dance numbers and audience participation games. I have no idea how authentic the result was, but I can tell you it was certainly a lot of fun.

The sales pitch recordings are pure gold. Matthew's grandfather knew how to whip up excitement in potential customers, telling them that there was still time to get in to see the terrific show, with, "girls that really know how to shake and shimmy the way the boys like!" My favorite is where he offered a bag of potato chips for twenty five cents...not just a snack, but a, "family sized bag of potato chips for only twenty five cents!"

The clip reels were nicely edited collections of stripteases from the fifties and sixties. I don't know what it says about us that images intended to titillate at the time evoke laughter in us now. Our fathers may have been horny, but next to 24 hour perversions available on the internets today, their porn seems downright innocent.

Chicago locals Bit'o'Honey, Bloody Belle, and Maiden Sacrifice performed live numbers in the current burlesque revival tradition, stripping down to g-string and pasties. Each had her own style, with plenty of variety among them.

But it was the audience participation that really gave the evening the feel of an old time show. Matthew Jacobson seems to have inherited the stage presence of his burlesque MC grandfather and magician father, and I enjoyed watching him enjoy bringing people up on stage and playing games with them. I won't spoil the surprise by revealing why, but if he produces another show, and I hope he does, bring one or two pieces of fruit or vegetables...not boring stuff like potatoes or apples, but something really unusual.

I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit. I am too young to have ever patronized the Stone Burlesk, but I remember the building (which has since been torn down) and I remember the ads for it in the newspaper. I am glad to have finally learned what went on there. An Evening at the Stone Burlesk was not only an entertaining diversion, but an interesting history lesson, too.

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