Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Corpse Wore Pasties by Jonny Porkpie

press photos by Don Spiro

When Jonny Porkpie, the self proclaimed Burlesque Mayor of New York City, was in town for the Southern Fried Burlesque Fest we arranged a book signing with Eagle Eye.  We were all a little nervous as we didn’t know if they’d be able to get any of his books as the first printing had come and gone and the second printing hadn’t come out yet.   (The second printing is available now.) To all of our amazement they showed up with an entire case full of first editions, the last known to be unsold existence, so of course I had to pick one up and have him sign it for me.  I have a strange collection of things my friends have signed over the years; I guess I’m just lucky that way to have so many friends that are autograph worthy.  So between shows, teaching, and being on set it’s been sitting on my shelf the past few month collecting dust.  It’s not that I didn’t want to read it, it’s gone to set with me to strange looks multiple times, I really have just been that swamped.  Monday I had to take B to the dentist’s office in case they drugged him up rendering him unable to drive, so I figured this was a great opportunity to get to sit down and read it uninterrupted, and it was.

With the title being The Corpse Wore Pasties I don’t think anyone’s going to accuse me of giving anything away by pointing out it’s a murder mystery.  A murder that takes place at a burlesque show in New York City with Jonny Porkpie as the leading man and comic relief, just the way he likes it.  It opens with the big murder scene written in such seductive and gruesome detail that you’re not really sure if you should be sick, turned on or a little of both.  Not being from New York, but being a little familiar with the scene up there having visited and done a few shows, I recognized Topkapi as the first place I ever saw a burlesque show in New York and the Gilded Heel as the first place I ever performed in New York.  Many of the characters are recognizable as being based on actual performers; but only Jonny Porkpie, Nasty Canasta and a brief list as he scrolls through his cell phone are the only ones who get to keep their “real” names.  However, the book has that handy dandy disclaimer on the copyright page I’m sure that’s all “entirely coincidental”. 

The book is only 223 pages and is a fast read.  I got so caught up in the action that I had flown threw almost half the book in the hour that B was in his consultation.  Knowing I was going to have to return to the dentist with him again the next day for his actual procedure, I vowed not to pick the book up again until the next day so I’d have something to read…I broke those vows quicker than a Vegas bride.  To be fair, I was actually being pretty good until bedtime, I had stopped in the middle of a chapter since I had been interrupted by having to leave so I intended to finish the chapter and go to sleep.  I had to force myself to stop reading three chapters later.  Frankly, I blame it entirely on the scene that takes place on the Brooklyn Bridge.  Wait…let me back up a little bit.

Our hero, Jonny Porkpie, was accused of the murder.  The dead performer was a plagiarist, which is the worst sin in the burlesque world.  (Sadly I can tell you the “real” name of the plagiarist too, but let’s pretend that people don’t actually rip off other performers and this would only happen in a pulp novel.)  Everyone in the show, including Jonny, had been stolen from by the victim.  This gives everyone motive, so Jonny does a little gum shoe routine to try to clear his name.  If you’re familiar with burlesque performers more than just a passing glance of them nearly naked on stage, then you’ll know that there are some very strange and interesting people behind those pasties.  First imagine having to try to interrogate them when they’re all very comfortable being naked, have apartments full of weird props that you could stash a body in, a collection of bondage equipment and an inability to speak in a way that you can understand unless you have a PhD.  Now all of this can sometimes lead you to running down the Brooklyn Bridge half naked from an angry metal band…I’m just sayin’.

The book is amazingly well written and a great read.  From start to finish it’s fast paced and makes you really care about the story and care about the whodunit.  It makes me wish that more burlesque performers were worthy of being story book villains so Jonny could write an entire series.  Maybe it ends up like ‘Murder She Wrote’; new town and new body every week with no one ever suspecting Angela Lansbury.  I don’t know why no one ever wondered why a dead body popped up where ever she was, but if the suspension of disbelief worked for her then maybe it could work for Jonny Porkpie so we could get a few sequels.