Interview with Lewd Alfred Douglas
Boylesque performer on how history is sexy (for starters)
Featured image by Adrian Buckmaster
HOOK: What’s the sexiest thing about burlesque?
Lewd Alfred Douglas: The sexiest thing about burlesque is getting to show an audience something new. I have been an audience member at many burlesque shows, and the most amazing moments for me have been when I’m suddenly turned on by something I never thought was my ‘thing’ before. This can be something as simple as showing a mostly straight male audience that they too can enjoy boylesque, or something as profound as showing someone a beautiful trans body for the first time.
HOOK: Do you consider burlesque part of the sex industry? Why?
Alfred: I do consider burlesque to be part of the sex industry. For one, there is plenty of overlap between burlesque, vaudeville, stripping, the kink scene, porn, and other sex work. I have colleagues who wear many of these hats.
Though we face different challenges, we have a shared history which goes back hundreds of years. If you are a burlesque dancer – whether you personally identify as a sex worker or not – I think we have a responsibility to show solidarity with each other.
HOOK: In an era where gays go mainstream, what is the place of the erotic worker in public conversations?
Alfred: America needs to get over their obsessive/shaming gigglefits when it comes to sex. Just as gay, bisexual, and trans men and women need to be represented as more than sexualized bodies, we also need to start seeing erotic workers as part of the American working class. Just as any other worker can be underpaid, disrespected, or disenfranchised, so can we. And the shame associated with both performing AND consuming erotic material needs to GO.
HOOK: What inspires you for your performances? Give me five places you source ideas?
Alfred: Concept-wise, I’m heavily inspired by opera, and super-stylized acting like one would find in Expressionist silent films. Burlesque is extremely short-form, so you can’t always express your character through natural acting, dialogue, and monologue. The character needs to come out with representational movement, music, and costume.
I’m also inspired by music hall and vaudeville – those traditional every man entertainments who’s broad comedy and music continues to inspire our modern entertainments.
One of my favorite jumping-off points for an act is finding a queer character from history and representing some intimate part of them on stage. I love doing this because it reminds my audience that people like us have always existed, have always been beautiful and strong. I’m currently working on an act about King Ludwig II of Bavaria, who in addition to being an interesting figure in queer history, also produced amazing castles which continue to be huge contributors to Germany’s tourism intake.
I am also constantly inspired by male burlesquers who push the envelope, not only in how they interpret burlesque, but how they interpret their masculinity in itself. The way dancers like Paris Original, Luminous Pariah, Mr. Gorgeous, Waxie Moon, and Tigger! connect with the audience is amazing – to say nothing of my former teacher, Chris “Gogo” Harder.
HOOK: Is this a full-time gig or part-time passion?
Alfred: At the moment, I do burlesque at night and my ‘day job’ during the day, but it wasn’t always this way. Burlesque has kept me afloat when I was between jobs several times. Unfortunately there are many people who do burlesque as a hobby and are happy to be paid very little. It’s important that, even if burlesque isn’t your main source of income, you perform for what you are worth. If you don’t, you are bringing the market down, and burlesque will be in danger of becoming a past time for those who can afford it. It should NOT be that way!
HOOK: Was this always your aspiration? If not, how did it evolve?
Alfred: I started out wanting to do Vaudevillian-style comedy and strange performance art. I never really felt confident enough about my body to consider involving nudity or stripping. However, that’s become a huge part of my theatrical self expression now that I am more in harmony with my physical self. I take very seriously this privilege of showing an audience a living, breathing, beautiful trans body – possibly for the first time in their lives – and hopefully not for the last time.
HOOK: The burlesque community seems to be a tight knit one. Do you think there is something about the guys that embark on the stage’s journey that bring them together?
Alfred: I definitely consider it to be a brotherhood. In doing our performance, we’re opening ourselves up to ridicule, body shaming, judgement, and of course homophobia and transphobia. But like vaudeville, carnival, and other theatrical pursuits, we’re here to protect one another.
HOOK: How do you think guys working in porn or escorting can learn from the boylesque crew?
Alfred: My friends who work as escorts or in some role in the porn industry are a constant inspiration to me, and I believe the feeling is mutual. I’ve given an escort friend some costume and strip-tease advice, meanwhile they schooled me on that direct connection to one person. They make me feel like I’m the only person that matters to them, simply by the way they look at me and speak to me.
I also think we can be called upon in trouble, like a single family. Members of the burlesque community have needed hospital bills paid – after being attacked, after needing cancer treatment, or after an injury. Because very few of us are insured, this often means we will put on a benefit show just for them. This is a fantastic way we can help each other out where the health system leaves us behind.