The Arty Semite

Burlesque With a Side of Bacon

By Maia Efrem

  • Print
  • Share Share

The Schlep Sisters showcase their bagel and cream cheese headdresses. Photo by Norman Blake.

Bacon tassels were a-twirling on June 24, just in time for Shabbat. In a jaw-dropping production at the non-profit Sideshows by the Seashore theater, mere steps from the Coney Island boardwalk, the fabulous Schlep Sisters celebrated bad Jewish girls and their love of shellfish, Spam and nude dancing.

Pulling back the curtain leading to “Treyf: The Non-Kosher Burlesque Show,” was like going back to a time when the boardwalk teemed with snake charmers, freak shows and burlesque. The Schlep Sisters, otherwise known as “Minnie Tonka” and “Darlinda Just Darlinda,” started off the show in ‘70s disco costumes, shimmying and stripping each other down to precariously pasted tassels, all to the techno beats of “Party in My Pants,” by Israeli musician Apollo Braun, a remixed version of Heveinu Shalom Aleichem. Definitely not your mother’s Jewish burlesque.

Decked out in costumes channeling samba singer Carmen Miranda, the Schlep Sisters danced with bagels and cream cheese in their headdresses instead of fruit. Poking fun at the idea of Jewish guilt and self-loathing, Darlinda Just Darlinda lustily eyed a cheeseburger before succumbing to the call of meat and dairy. Treyf, indeed.

Besides the Schlep Sisters, the performance featured a who’s who of burlesque, including Clams Casino, Bambi the Mermaid, Raven Snook, and James Habacker impersonating Borscht Belt comedian Mel Frye. No novice to the burlesque scene, Habacker is the owner of the Slipper Room in New York City, and he emceed the show like a professional despite a number of intoxicated hecklers in the audience. Habacker as Frye, with his thick Lower East Side accent and pencil thin moustache, gave a shout-out to the Forward representatives in the audience, exclaiming that “there’s no left like the old left!”

Minnie Tonka, a dead-ringer for a young Barbra Streisand, wore the most original tassels of the night. Strutting and dancing across the stage in black leather boots and a body hugging black dress, she gyrated around with a package of bacon and a plastic piglet. With Joan Jett’s “I Hate Myself for Loving You” playing in the background, she undressed down to her bacon tassels, biting one off to the roaring laughter of the audience.

Having toured with Nice Jewish Girls Gone Bad, the Schlep Sisters have built a reputation for Jewish burlesque and they produce several shows a year. “Jews really love it,” Darlinda Just Darlinda said. “They are so inspired and they think it’s really funny… and if burlesque can be PG we’re definitely PG.” As for non-Jews in the audience, especially in New York, “even if you’re not Jewish, you’re Jewish” she said, adding that the cheeky, but not crass attitude of the show keeps fans coming back.

Bambi the Mermaid, a crowd favorite, was the nude crustacean that could. Sauntering around the stage in a giant lobster costume, she tearfully shed her shell accompanied by a melancholy version of “All of Me.” To the cheering delight of the audience she flung one red foam leg and claw at a time across the stage, inching closer and closer to a giant bowl of butter. This being burlesque, the butter was actually gold glitter. By the end of the song, the multiple Golden Pastie Award winner was tukhes-first in sparkles, flashing a mischievous grin at the audience.

With the encouragement of Frye, the “Treyf” ladies brought out a tub and giggled and splashed around as gallons of wine were poured down their bodies and into cups passed out to the audience. Many a wine drinker found glitter floating in their glass.

In six months, the Schlep Sisters will present their fifth annual Menorah Horah, where the buxom Jewesses will present an ‘80s musical montage of the story of Hanukkah, complete with swords, shields and heels. Maybe there will even be a few carefully-placed latkes.

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Schlepp Sisters, Raven Snook, Minnie Tonka, Menorah Hora, Mel Frye, Joan Jett, James Habacker, Darlinda Just Darlinda, Dance, Coney Island, Clams Casino, Carmen Miranda, Burlesque, Barbra Streisand, Bambi the Mermaid, Apollo Braun

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel:
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.