“I was listening to He Shot Me Down (Bang Bang) by Nancy Sinatra while reflecting on nick-names. I continued to rack my brain to find the perfect first name, when all of a sudden Nancy sang “Bang Bang”. I suddenly got shivers up my spine and I knew… I AM Bang Bang!”
Bang Bang Von Loola’s a bit of a global ambassador when it comes to burlesque. She’s half American, half Japanese, and has a little bit of German heritage thrown in. Thanks to her upbringing she’s also time spent living in the UK, and she also knows how to throw together an Irish jig or two.
Fun, furious, elegant, and just a little bit naughty and cheeky, Bang Bang brings all of her worldly charm and beauty to her burlesque performances. In short … Bang Bang kicks ass!
And that name. How cool is that?
Based in Colorado, Bang Bang not only performs as a solo artist – she also runs her own burlesque troupe called The BlueStocking Burly-Q.
But these aren’t the only reasons why we like the explosive little firecracker. One of the main reasons we like Bang Bang is her wicked use of British slang.
And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, can cut straight to an Englishman’s heart.
A warm round of applause please for Bang Bang Von Loola…
How long have you been dancing, performing, and generally having a whale of a time?
I first began ballet dancing when I was 4 years old, and I continued with my intensive training (in the US and in England) until about age 16. I did take a short hiatus from ballet and became a competitive Irish step dancer for a couple of years. Both my parents have been in show business for as long as I can remember, so I’ve been doing some version of performance art most of my life (as it is, kind of the “family business”). I absolutely love being a performer!
And how did you get into it all in the first place?
My burlesque adventures began for me in 2010 when I happened upon a documentary that gave a great perspective on modern day burlesque performance. I’d already been deeply involved in all things vintage, and was singing torch tunes on a regular basis with my father who is a musician. I was desperate to find a way to combine all of the things I loved (classic glamour, torch music, and dance). Burlesque seemed like the perfect fit! I took some local classes and knew immediately I had found my calling!
Bang Bang Von Loola is an awesome stage/artist name. When and how did that come about? Or was it just a simple eureka moment?
Haha, my slightly goofy, but fitting name. I was asked to come up with a name for my alter-ego for my first burlesque student recital. I was listening to He Shot Me Down (Bang Bang) sung by Nancy Sinatra, while reflecting a bit on nick-names I had been dubbed throughout my life. I remembered a close group of my friends used to call me “Loola” in high school, and I always felt fond of that particular nick-name, so I thought I’d work it in some where. I decided it would be a kooky sounding last name (I’m a bit kooky my self, HA!).
I continued to rack my brain to find the perfect first name, when all of a sudden Nancy sang “Bang Bang”, and I suddenly got shivers up my spine and I knew … “I AM Bang Bang!” I thought Bang Bang had a sort of “Oriental” flavour to it (I’m 1/2 Japanese), then I added the German “Von” to connect everything together, and to pay homage to my German heritage. Most people call me Bang Bang these days. I hear it more often than my “muggle” name!
What are the things you love the most about the 40s/50s pin up era? Is there anything that you don’t like about it?
I love the glamour, music, and especially the fashion. To me, those eras embody pure feminine style (though I do delight in wearing a perfectly cut men’s style suit from time to time). I love that the symbol of the “pin up” gave people hope, and encouragement during difficult times in our history. However, because of the archaic views on equality, politics, and social issues that were so prevalent at that time, I would probably not choose to actually live during those eras. I can pick and choose the elements I like about the 40s/50s, and inject them into my modern lifestyle.
How much of the 40s/50s pin up era do you draw upon in your own life, even on an everyday basis? And how much have you learned from the pin ups who were working in that time?
I tend to embody the fashion of those eras in some way everyday. I love the 20s and 30s too, so they’re thrown in the mix as well. I wear red lipstick almost every day, and often pin curl my hair every week. I have burlesque shows at least once a week, so I usually tap into the burlesque/pin up look in a big way on the weekends. I listen to classic swing, jazz standards, and I absolutely ADORE old films. One of my night-time routines is to put on some “Old Time Radio” before I go to bed. I love shows like The Saint, Philip Marlowe, The Six Shooter, and Sherlock Holmes, to name just a few of my favourites.
I think there are a lot of shared traits between pin up and burlesque, and I try to embrace both in my career. Since my focus is mostly burlesque, I have studied the classic burlesque legends of the 40s/50s/60s pretty closely. I note how they carry themselves, interact with the audience, how they pose for photos, and their costuming. I’ve had the great honour of meeting and chatting with a number of the burlesque legends of that time like Tempest Storm, Tiffany Carter, Dusty Summers, and Marinka Amazon, to name a few. They are some of my greatest inspirations. They’re still all glamorous and ultra-fabulous to this day, and I LOVE IT!
Tell us about The BlueStocking Burly-Q. What is it, and how did it all come about?
The BlueStocking Burly-Q is a burlesque troupe and production company based in Fort Collins, Colorado, in the US. It came about when Evalette Bizou, Coco Soleil, Ginger Rose and myself decided to form our own burlesque company, based on the beliefs that burlesque can be an inclusive, loving, supportive community. We had seen both sides of the burlesque coin, so to speak, and decided we wanted to embrace the more positive side of things! Eventually, Coco and Ginger decided to shift their focus onto other ventures, and now the company is composed of Evalette, myself and my husband BIG John (he’s our MC). We produce monthly shows locally, and travel all over the States performing in out side burlesque events like festivals.
How cool is it running a burlesque group with your friends? Do you spur each other on, or do you drive each other crazy?
It IS pretty damn cool! We all get on pretty well most of the time, we are definitely each others biggest fans and encouragers. There is, of course, the occasional “artistic differences”, but I think that’s just natural when you’re running a business with friends.
What excites you the most about getting up on stage and performing a burlesque show?
I love the energy you exchange with the audience! It’s like having a conversation of sorts. I peel off an item of clothing, or wiggle in a beautifully rhinestoned dress, and the audience will hoot and whistle back to me. I fuel the audience, and the audience fuels me! One of the most important things to me is inspiring others to feel happy and fabulous in their own skin. It feels incredible when an audience member approaches me after a burlesque performance and tells me they feel inspired to love and embrace them selves! I do, of course, also enjoy getting all glammed up for shows, and interacting with and watching other performers. I’ve definitely gained life long friends through my burlesque adventures! I also really enjoy putting together any routine my heart desires, including making the costumes, and choosing the music. I LOVE the whole process!
And what has been your naughtiest performance?
Hmmm … one of my more naughty performances is when the legendary boylesquer Russell Bruner asked me to help him with one of his routines. It resulted in me being tied up on stage, given a lap dance, and having Russell’s suspenders placed around my neck while he literally somersaulted out of his trousers – with me still attached to them! It ended with me getting an exclusive peek at his “money shot” (wink wink) and being carried off stage, still tied up, with his top hat covering his twig and two veg. Fairly naughty I’d say…
[Ed: that sounds very fun!]
You’ve been described as ‘a sexy pistol pointed straight at your tingly parts’. How badass are you when you’re performing or modelling?
Haha, I was given that catch phrase by Molly Tov (the MC for the Iowa Burlesque Festival) one year. It’s kind of stuck haha. I suppose it takes an element of “badass” to accomplish the goals I have for my burlesque/pin up career, so I’d like to think I’ve obtained some bad-assery along the way.
How did you become involved with Kathleen Ryan and Pin Up! The Movie? And how did you find the experience of being involved with the film?
I was approached by Kathleen, partly because of my involvement in the Colorado 1940s Ball. I’ve been performing with the BlueStocking Burly-Q at the ball since 2013, as well as being a patron of the ball since 2011. I had also been pin up modelling for various shoots and calendars consistently for a couple of years leading up to the actually filming of the documentary, so I think I came up on her radar that way too.
The experience of being involved in the movie was very eye opening for me, in many ways. I gained, and lost friends along the way, and saw both the bad, and the wonderful things about modern pin up culture. I absolutely loved meeting and becoming good friends with Kathleen, and I’m SO grateful for the experience! It’s a great honour to be a part of a film about something that is experiencing such a cool revival!
There seems to be loads of great burlesque/pin-up stuff coming out of Colorado. What are the burlesque and pin-up scenes (for want of a better expression) like there?
Colorado has a pretty solid and awesome burlesque and pin up scene in my opinion. I’m more involved in burlesque than pin up these days (burlesque is definitely my chosen career), and I can confidently say we have a lovely and expansive burlesque community here. There are so many shows, events, photo shoot opportunities, charities, etc. to be involved in! As I’ve stated before, the lines between burlesque and pin up are some what blurred, and when I shoot for burlesque promotions, it usually is also marketed as pin up, so the community seems even bigger because of things like that.
Lastly, what are you working on now and what work have you got planned for the future?
Right now, I’m going forward with my burlesque career with full force! I’m producing monthly BlueStocking Burly-Q shows in Fort Collins. In addition, I’ve been performing all around Colorado, with the occasional out of state gig – I’m looking to book even more of these in 2016. I’ve kind of steered away from pin up, but there are times when my burlesquing translates into pin up, so I still have my toe in it in a way. I plan on taking my burlesque career all the way! Hopefully someday Bang Bang Von Loola will be a house hold name to burlesque and pin up enthusiasts every where!