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Satan’s Angels - Queen Of The Fire Tassels

by Steve Weinstein
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Tuesday Mar 5, 2013
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As if I couldn’t love Breaking Glass Pictures enough already, the ür-gay film producers have given me this wonderful portrait of a burlesque survivor.

No one loves outrageous women more than gay men. If, like me, you revel in the hyper-sexual broads, you will enjoy this documentary as much I did. For lesbians, "Satan’s Angel" is a role model of how to a woman became a sensation in a man’s world without compromising her sexual identity. For everyone else, this is a campy romp that makes the musical "Gypsy" come alive.

Born Angel Walker in San Francisco, Angel was a rebel from the get-go. More proof that real life -- or at least some people’s real lives -- is stranger, more fascinating and more wonderful than fiction, Angel’s story provides a revealing look at the world of burlesque from the salad days of the 1960s to the present day.

Refusing to go to school because there were only two days a week when she could have fun, she found herself in a reform school. (I mean, how perfect is that?) Soon after modeling for an art class, Angel discovered San Francisco’s North Beach, where she found stripping in the clubs that lined Broadway far more lucrative than her day job.

Angel became a fixture on the burlesque circuit, which was benefiting from the rapidly loosening morals of the time. She moved to Las Vegas, the then-epicenter of strip clubs, where she dated actor Frank Gorshin and crooner Bobby Darin, the only two men she found satisfying in bed.

"Satan’s Angel" moves through her four marriages, each one apparently a drunken mistake from which she awakened the next morning with regret, and her love affairs with butch women. In the 1970s, the porno chic of "Deep Throat" and "The Devil in Miss Jones" brought strippers to the big screen (well, actually the small screen).

At the same time, stripping was quickly being overshadowed by men’s clubs, where pole dancers started their acts wearing almost nothing and the suggestion of burlesque gave way to out-and-out raunch. Angel describes a short-lived in a New York club where she watched as the opening act walked down a runway, spread her legs "from east to west" and gave men a taste for a buck a lick.

Aghast at what had happened to burlesque, she retreated into coke until a friend did a one-woman intervention. After witnessing the local motorcycle gang beat to death a guy in the bar where she was working, Angel hightailed it to Phoenix to live with Mom, a pretty game gal herself who provides great running commentary throughout the film.

In short order, she took over the management of a redneck hangout on the edge of the desert, which she quickly transformed into a biker bar where the women signed their bras that went on to immortality hanging from the rafters.

It was a chance meeting led to a one-woman show based on her life that gave the public a second look. Angel came out of retirement. With Vic, her ultra-butch girlfriend, she has been making the most of the new-found hipster interest in burlesque. Age 67 at the time of the documentary, she shows no signs of slowing down.

The DVD provides extended interviews with a bevy of strippers young and old paying homage to Angel’s legendary status, promotional footage and photo gallery. But it’s the documentary itself that makes this a keeper for anyone who wants a look at the shadow world of contemporary burlesque.

"Satan’s Angel" is available for $25 and is released by Breaking Glass Picture.

Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early ’80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007).

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