The Burlesque starlet must seduce this new sophisticated film-savvy audience. 1,845 words. Part One. Illustrations by Thomas Warming.
Hollywood – 1937
One hour till open. I stretch out my arms, brace myself on the wall and find my center of gravity. Then I wiggle a little and take a deep breath, sucking in the tummy. I give the signal. A few tugs, and I re-adjust by wiggling again. Breathe, suck, signal. Another round. Another.
“Harder,” I tell my new maid. On the signal, she gives a sad little tug. Nothing can be sad today. Nothing can be little. This is Hollywood and, after a month of focus, late night rehearsals and a sleepless tech run, costume fittings and interviews, the audience will rush for their seats and I’ll be in front of them. But, for now, there’s still work to be done.
“Better, dearie,” I say, biting my tongue. I can’t have her bawling; that would throw off the whole schedule. “But this time, put more oomph into it. They’re not apron strings, if you catch my drift.”
A slight lift of my chin, giving the signal. I brace myself, and… nothing. I glance over my shoulder, and she’s just standing there like a dumb hick, mouth gaping open, limp laces hanging from each hand.
“What’s the problem?” I ask, trying not to blow my lid.
“I don’t want to hurt you!” she squeaks. “Isn’t it painful?”
“Don’t worry about that,” I soothe. “You gotta wear your pain like high heels, understand? That’s how it is in this biz. Besides, no one was ever corseted to death.”