"Darcy Bryan-Wilson is a suburban mom, and Fanny LaFaye is a burlesque star," she says. No, the woman isn't on that "stuff," nor is she leading the kind of tawdry double life you see Theresa Russell play in one of those late-night soft-core flicks on Cinemax. She's talking about her onstage alter ego. Her ribald showcase, Fanny LaFaye's Blue Burlesque, is making its Houston debut this weekend.
Burlesque was actually the closest thing folks had to cable back in the first half of the 20th century. These shows offered cheeky comedy, exotic dancers and enough racy entertainment to have the cops shut 'em down -- which they did on many an occasion. As retro-burlesque shows pop up in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New Orleans, Bryan-Wilson is hoping to make a permanent home for her alter ego here in H-town.
Bryan-Wilson began rounding up talent -- tassel twirlers, fan dancers, belly dancers -- for her randy road show in her hometown of Memphis. She and her family (her husband, Kevin "Lucky" Murphy, is the show's musical director) moved to Houston to be closer to relatives, but she soon found herself wondering if the town could handle some old-old-old-school entertainment.
"We're testing the waters in Houston to see if Houston can support a full-time burlesque house," she says. She found a venue in the eclectic Rhythm Room on Washington.
"A lady called me and asked if we'd be interested in doing something like that," remembers Rhythm Room co-owner Keith Evans. "We said sure. We like to try anything different."
The success of the movie Moulin Rouge, not to mention the sight of Christina Aguilera and Lil' Kim dressed like cathouse skeezas in that infernal "Lady Marmalade" video, may have brought the lost medium of burlesque back into cultural consciousness, but Darcy/Fanny believes a revival has been a long time coming. "I think there's a real wanting to sort of get back to a real nostalgia these days," she says. "It's not about nudity. It's about the art of the tease."
But nostalgia isn't the only agenda of Bryan-Wilson's burlesque revue. Being the domestic goddess that she is, she also wants to put natural yet tantalizing dames front and center. "I'm a thin girl, but I'm a real woman," she says. "And I look like a real woman, and most of my girls are real women who look like real women, and we are really, really sexy. I need housewives in suburbia to be feeling okay about themselves, and not feeling like shit because they don't look like Calista Flockhart."
While the chances of seeing these real women in full-frontal stripper mode are slim to none, the two sides of Darcy Bryan-Wilson insist that the teasing will get you hooked. "It's supposed to leave you wanting more," she says, "and we may give it to you, and we may not."