Should You or Shouldn't You?:
A Guide to Experiencing The Great Fredini's "This Or
who's been to Coney Island's Sideshows by the Seashore knows
what a den of vice and bizarre entertainments it is. And
anyone who returns probably loves it for the same reason.
For years Sideshows has been dishing out what Disney will
never be able to give you, and the burlesque is not the
least of these offerings. For years Coney Island was home
to the classic Tirza's Wine Baths, a burlesque performance
that ended in the dancers taking a bath in wine. Later on,
in the 80's, someone named Wild Girl used to run a once
a year go-go-rama night there, but at that time it was more
difficult to get both dancers and audience members to journey
all the way out to Coney Island. Then, about six years ago,
two things happened. For one, Fred Kahl (a.k.a. The Great
Fredini) started getting involved with Sideshows by the
Seashore. Together with burlesque performer Bambi (a.k.a.
"The Uncontestable Queen of Coney Island") he
started hosting a series of burlesque performances at Sideshows,
culminating in the Burlesque at the Beach summer series.
Secondly, burlesque has been steadily gaining in popularity
all over the country, but especially in cities like New
York, L.A., and New Orleans. The "burlesque revival"
has resulted in conventions like Tease-O-Rama, and in more
dancers and burlesque fans flocking to events like Burlesque
at the Beach.
The main difference between burlesque and an ordinary strip
show, according to Fred and practically any other burlesque
performer that you might ask, is that while there's a certain
power struggle that goes on at a strip club between the
performers and the audience, burlesque is all about being
sexy and having fun. As a result it opens itself up to being
a much more varied and artistic medium, and lends itself
to being easily spliced with other forms of entertainment.
Game shows, for instance.
Fred's newest project "This Or That!," is basically
like a combination of "Let's Make a Deal," "The
Gong Show," and the historical Minsky's Burlesque.
In most game show setups, the contestants have already been
selected before the show begins, plucked out of the cornfields
of Iowa, or their Florida condo, or straight out of their
university's graduating class, or so they'd have you believe.
Not so with Fredini's "This Or That!". The unsuspecting
contestants are picked from among the audience members filling
the bleachers in this ramshackle Coney Island den of vice.
The unsuspecting nature of your average "This Or That!"
contestant is debatable, though. Because when Fredini offers
an oversized version of a Monopoly $100 and the chance to
be a contestant in exchange for any audience member showing
him a Metrocard or a red lipstick, whoever is foolish and/or
brave enough to raise their hand aloft, clutching the requested
object, must know that they're putting themselves at the
mercy of Fred and his bevy of burlesque dancers.
Sitting in the sweltering bleachers, you may feel a sudden
desire to raise your hand surging up within you. You may
feel your arm extending, clutching that Metrocard or lipstick,
almost outside of any act of will on your part, almost like
when you feel your hand going for that $20 when you're standing
next to a game of Three Card Pickup on the street. I'm not
urging any caution on your part; when you enter Sideshows
by the Seashore for the burlesque or any other act, really,
you'd better check things like caution at the door. If your
hand wants to fly up in response to Fredini's prompting,
by all means let it! But here, in more or less short form,
is a list of some of the good and bad things that might
happen to you if you become a "This Or That!"
contestant (but not all of the good or bad things. We want
to leave some surprises):
to Volunteer #1: The
chance to talk about yourself.
As with many game shows, once you're lined up next to your
fellow contestant Fredini will ask you to "tell us
something about yourself," in which case you're give
the opportunity to make some witty comment or confess something
that the audience should know. Since the burlesque is essentially
about theatricality and illusion, you might even want to
lie to make your answer more interesting. It might be a
good idea to lie, in fact, since cultivating this ability
now may help with questions asked in later stages of the
game. If you say something especially interesting about
yourself, you may even want to punctuate it with a "Yeah!
Wooooo!" at the end, as in "I was born and raised
in Queens! Yeah! Wooooo!"
Reason Not to Volunteer #1: The chance to talk about yourself
You might not have anything witty or interesting to say
about yourself at all on such short notice, in which case
Fredini will respond to whatever you say with something
like "Uh, that's
great," which could be
Reason to Volunteer #2: Prizes
There are all kinds of fun, sexy prizes that you can win
by playing "This Or That!," which you will not
win by sitting in the audience being a wimp and a coward.
What kind of prizes you ask? Things like slutty underwear,
butt plugs, and Hello Kitty vibrators. And those are just
the inanimate prizes.
Reason Not to Volunteer #3: Difficult
questions of questionable morality
Unfortunately, you're gonna have to earn those prizes. You're
going to have to answer some questions correctly to get
them, and Fredini is not going to ask you who the fifth
president of the United States was, or what the capitol
of Iowa is, or which James Bond was in the movie Octopussy.
Most of Fredini's questions sound like they came straight
out of The Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices (in fact,
you should probably purchase a copy and start studying if
you plan to be a "This Or That!" contestant).
Here are some questions you may be asked:
What are bang tails?
1. a chastity belt
2. butt fucking
3. race horses
What is podophelia?
1. someone who's in love with their eye pod (huh?)
2. guys who like to stick their penises in holes in the
3. a foot fetisch.
Reason Not to Volunteer #3: Punishment
for wrong answers
If you answer any of these pervertedly encyclopedic questions
incorrectly you're subject to punishment at the hands of
Fredini's lovely assistant Miss Julie Atlas Muse, who will
pull a leather flogger out of some obscure corner of the
"This Or That!" set, bend you over, pull your
pants down to just below your ass cheeks (if you're a guy-the
girls escape this fate somehow), and administer between
three and ten spanks. This may not happen just once but
several times during the course of the show. If you keep
answering wrong, that is.
Reason to Volunteer #3: Punishment
for wrong answers
The adorable blonde Miss Julie Atlas Muse will most likely
be wearing a pair of sequined hot pants, fishnets, and stiletto
heels. And incidentally, she registers all the vicissitudes
of the game with some of the most winning facial expressions
I've ever seen. So overall if you're going to have to get
spanked anyway it could be worse. A lot worse.
Reason to Volunteer #4: "Winner"
At some point you'll be asked to choose from between door
#1 and door #2 ("this" door or "that"
door). One of these doors is the "winner" door,
behind which hides a buxom burlesque dancer with a choreographed
routine at the ready. You never know who it might be; it
could be one of LA's Velvet Hammer girls. It could be New
York's Dirty Martini or Katerina from the Cirque du Soleil.
Maybe its even the Incontestable Bambi herself with one
of her characteristically bizarre performances. In any case,
the girls (and guys) strut their stuff with true blue movie
Reason Not to Volunteer #4: "Loser"
Not that you can ever really be a loser at the burlesque.
And not that any of the so called "loser" acts
lying in wait behind the "wrong" curtain aren't
just as entertaining as the "winner" acts-maybe
even more so in some cases. But for the sake of a 50/50
balance I'm listing this kind of act as a Reason Not to
If you choose your door unwisely you might be entertained
by Tigger staggering around drunkenly in drag, pulling layer
after layer off of his body until he's left without much
more than a leopard print cock sock. There will be an annoying
fat guy behind you yelling "All right Tigger!"
You should try to ignore the fat guy.
Other times, something unpleasant an hairy might emerge
from behind the curtain. I said unpleasant and hairy.
Reason Not to Volunteer #5: hotdog
This contest is the second or third to last entertainment
at every "This Or That!" show. A handful of poor
saps are picked out of the audience by Fred and told that
whoever can eat the most hotdogs (lying in multitudinous
paper bowls on a table in center stage) will win a fabulous
prize. Luckily the hotdogs are miniature ones, but its still
a pretty sickening sight, folks. I mean I can really feel
my guts expanding and myself getting nauseous when I watch.
Sickening and yet strangely entertaining.
Incidentally, I've been to "This Or That!" twice
and a dyke has won this contest both times. Coincidence?
Reason to Volunteer #5: sexy banana
You get to be a porn star for 10 minutes or so. With all
of the other contestants. And bananas.
Regardless of whether or not you participate in "This
Or That!," the show is well worth the trip out to Coney
Island. Between the great variety of performances and Fredini's
charisma and showmanship, you're bound to have a strip-tastic
time. So get on your pasties and get out there.
The last two "This or That!" performances of
the season are on August 16th and September 13th at Sideshows
by the Seashore. Check www.coneyisland.com for other acts
in the Burleque at the Beach series.