Breastfeeding, stretch marks, stitches – gulp – down there: “People are very freaked out about mothers’ bodies,” says Michelle Baldwin, aka Vivienne VaVoom, the mother of burlesque in Denver. At 8 p.m. Sunday, May 8, Baldwin will host the Hot Mamas! Mother's Day Burlesque peepshow at Ophelia's Electric Soapbox, where she'll be joined on stage by five of the sexiest moms in town: Gazella Galore, Princess Provocateur, Carmen Ghia, Fannie Spankings and the MILF of Burlesque, Cherry Pop Pop Poppins.
In anticipation of the show, we sat down with Cherry, an independent artist who performs with Ooh La La Presents and owns the production company Triple D Debauchery, and asked her what it’s like being a bona fide MILF.
Westword: Is Cherry your real name?
Cherry Pop Pop Poppins: No. It’s Patricia Elrick.
On stage, though, you’re known as the MILF of Burlesque. Does that mean you’re a mom?
I have one biological son, and my boyfriend has two sons. So I tell everyone I have three boys.
As a burlesque performer and a mom, do you ever feel like you’re living two separate lives?
No way. I’m very proud of what I do on stage, and I’m also proud about being a mom. I’ve never hidden my work from my boyfriend, his kids or my son. I’ve been doing burlesque for eight years. My son was four when I started, and I’d be sitting in the living room making pasties. I didn’t tell him they go on my tits; I dumbed it down. But he always knew his mom was a performer.
And is that why you started going by the MILF of Burlesque?
When I first started doing burlesque, it was a lot of women who were in their twenties and early thirties and were childless. At the time I was the only one I knew who had a kid. I wanted to set myself apart — just a tiny bit. And I wanted to illustrate the wide variety of women who perform here in Denver. I decided that what was different about me was that I was a mom. Especially in the sex industry, you don’t necessarily think about moms being sexy.
That’s so true. Any thoughts on the Madonna-Whore complex many moms experience?
I don’t know why once you’ve have children you shouldn’t be considered sexy! I think that’s bullshit. I’m a mom, and therefore I get laid. I’ve never had a problem filling my bed. One of the reasons I wanted to embrace motherhood from the beginning was that a lot of moms out there don’t feel sexy. I wanted to show them that they should embrace their bodies the way they are — even after having children.
When did you start performing?
I’ve been performing since I was a little girl. My grandmother was a minister in St. Louis, Missouri, and I used to perform in her church. I sang and danced, and I took classes all throughout school. I moved to Denver when I was eight, and ended up going to Smoky Hill High School, and did choir there.
That all sounds so, um, innocent. How’d you go from choirgirl to burlesque dancer?
When I was seventeen a friend said we should go to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I watched the movie, went to the show and immediately asked if I could join the cast. Technically, they aren’t supposed to let you in until you turn eighteen, but since I was graduating high school they let me do it, as long as I kept quiet about my age. I did Colorado’s Elusive Ingredient for two and a half years; that was the Denver cast of Rocky Horror.
Rocky Horror sounds like a tough act to follow. What was your next move?
After that I went back to school and got my degree in massage therapy. Well, I got pregnant with my son, and I was five months pregnant when I graduated! Nobody would hire me; I literally had this degree that was useless. By the time I wanted to got back to work, I’d found out I needed additional training because licensing in Colorado had changed.
That’s a real bummer!
Tell me about it. I worked in bars; I worked in Fascinations for a year, which was a lot of fun. I ended up working at Carquest Auto Parts for six years because it was across the street from where my ex-husband and I were living. I was working at the auto shop when I learned about burlesque. A friend of a friend – my body piercer, actually – was doing his sirlesque debut, and invited me to see him perform. I’d never seen burlesque before, and I’d never been to 3 Kings Tavern, either. It was a totally different environment.
I take it you liked the environment, though?
Oh, absolutely. I met so many wonderful people that night alone. After the show I was up front talking to some of the performers, and they told me that there was also a burlesque troupe for women. I told them about my background in Rocky Horror, and they invited me to audition for an upcoming Halloween show. I thought I was auditioning for a single show and not the actual troupe!
How’d that audition go?
I don’t do things small; I go all-out. I showed up on a Sunday and decided I’d do “Dead Girl Superstar” by Rob Zombie. I came out of a coffin on stage dressed as a zombie schoolgirl. I was really hardcore. Afterwards, they told me it was the best audition they’d ever seen, so I started doing Monday night shows. That was the beginning of pure craziness. Rehearsals, costuming — it brought me back to when I was a kid. Except for the part about taking my clothes off, of course!
What was so appealing about burlesque?
I’d never had a lot of girlfriends growing up, and all of a sudden I had this big community of women who helped each other. It’s really cool. Sex workers and people in the exotic industry — everyone thinks that something is wrong with us. They think we’ve been molested as children or are sexually depraved. But if you sit down and talk to a lot of the women, it’s mostly about being comfortable in your own skin and embracing your sexuality.
That might be a surprisingly feminist message for some readers. How does burlesque support feminism?
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We’re all human beings, and we’re all sexual. It doesn’t matter how sexual you are — you should still love yourself and be comfortable in your skin. That’s one of the beautiful things about burlesque. It’s about celebrating yourself as a woman, and loving yourself regardless of your age or size.
You’ve got a Mother’s Day show coming up at Ophelia’s. Any idea what the MILF of Burlesque will be performing?
I developed an act to “Stacy’s Mom,” which I’m going to do for the show. You know, I was apprehensive about the term MILF when I started performing. I figured I’d see what happened, and so far it’s been going pretty well. There are now a lot of really sexy moms in burlesque, and we’re all in the MILF club.
Tickets for the Mother's Day Hot Mamas show at Ophelia's Electric Soapbox at 8 p.m. May 8 are available online.