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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

SFBR BurlyQ&A: Francine Dead

Who is Francine Dead?

That's a question that I asked myself. I've seen her perform several times at Hubba Hubba Revue's Monday night show at the Uptown Club in Oakland, but I had never talked to her before and hadn't seen her at any other events. This performer was a complete mystery to me.

So, I did what anyone who wants to know about something or someone does in that situation. Yup, I Googled her. Ha! Besides show listings and fliers, there seemed to be only one other source of Francine Dead information. And that was her MySpace page. So I contacted her, and that resulted in this interview.

I've always been very impressed with her performances. She always wears a wonderful costume, which obviously took some time to put together. And for a woman whose last name is Dead, her acts are filled with life. This is a contradiction which she addresses in the first question that I posed to her.

This interview also gave me an insight into her acts, which helps me to gain a better appreciation of her performances. I'm fascinated by her descriptions of "dead life" and her childhood, and how they relate to her stage persona. I'll definitely keep them in mind the next time that she performs!

Speaking of which, her next performance will be at the Honeymoon Benefit Show for Randy Johnson and Bombshell Betty on Thursday, March 4, at the Uptown Club in Oakland. A full description of the event is in a previous post.

In addition to the Hubba Hubba Revue shows at the Uptown, Francine has also performed at Debauchery at the White Horse Inn and First Friday Follies at the Stork Club, all in Oakland.

She's looking to perform in other shows, so if you'd like to book her, she may be contacted through her MySpace page at

Q: How did you decide upon your stage name, Francine Dead? Could you describe her persona and how she's different from your offstage self?

My life is decorated with what the dead have left behind, antique costume jewelery, photos, souvenirs and the like. I call it dead life. Francine is actually my middle name, and I've embraced it more over the years. I needed a stage name that would be blunt, somewhat old school and dark to represent my love of femme fatales, trash cinema and monsters. Francine Dead is a woman scorned, ice on the outside but smoldering within. I hope to deliver a “try me if you dare” sort of flare when I perform. Off stage I have been burned and broken-hearted, so this comes out in my character and performance.

Q: Could you describe how you entered the world of burlesque? How long have you been performing?

I grew up at my grandma's house. She was raised by her grandmother. Her folks as well as two aunts worked the Vaudeville circuit. In my teens I indulged in trying on their old costume jewelery and minks. I felt connected. I was inspired by their old studio photos. When my grandmother died, I was left many of these treasures. Hungering for pageantry and the thrill of sideshow spectacle, I took some fire classes and attended burlesque workshops. I began performing for parties and events combining fire and burlesque. My first strictly burlesque gig was for a friend's birthday show at Cafe du Nord about two years ago. It scratched an itch. I found a part of myself. Pageantry! Guts! Sex! And Glamour!

Q: What is your favorite item of clothing that you've worn onstage?

My favorite item I've worn on stage would be a blue, green and black ostrich feather tail I made. I wear it in my Witches Egg act. I love it!

Q: What song do you associate with burlesque and really, really like? Could you explain why?

“I Put a Spell on You.” Without a doubt. I love the Screamin' Jay Hawkins version but no matter what version it is or who is performing I am completely enthralled.

Q: Who are some of your favorite burlesque performers, past or present?

Satans Angel, Tura Satana, Patty Wagon, The World Famous BOB, and so many more I can't even begin. Honestly, it's non-burlesque performers like Rita Hayworth, Elvira, Gloria Swanson, Brigette Bardot, and Joan Crawford that inspire me the most.

Q: How has burlesque influenced your life? What have been both the positive and negative effects, if any?

Burlesque keeps me busy and it's body positive. It's expressive which can either be stressful or therapeutic. I love to make costumes. Burlesque gives me an excuse to do it all the time.

Q: What is your favorite and most memorable burlesque moment?

My favorite moment was a few years back at a Tease-O-Rama workshop. I was in a room with other green performers. Satan's Angel gave beauty tips along with the ins and outs of burlesque. It was sort of touching like she was passing on the torch to us, knowing we glorified her.

Q: What's next for Francine Dead? Anything you have planned that you'd like your fans to know about?

I never know what's next. Death?
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