Beastie Boys + Burlesque
Rock cabaret event supports cancer relief.
When Pepper Mills - - that's her burlesque name - - was a kid, her dad imparted to her a love of the seminal punk-turned-hip-hop outfit called The Beastie Boys. The music of Mike D, MCA and Ad-Rock came straight outta Brooklyn and wound up on the speakers in Pepper's living room. "My fondest memory as kid growing up - - and I would have to say it would be his if he were still alive - - would be us dancing to 'Fight For Your Right' - - it was a great father/daughter moment."
As Pepper reached adulthood she found her way into the art of neo-burlesque, joining the all-shapes-and-sizes troupe Angel Burlesque here in Indy and traveling around the continent displaying her trademark Betty-Boop lashes and Lucille Ball meets Mae West brand of physical comedy. Unfortunately, while Pepper was getting deeper into the glitter, the man who gave her a love of the Beasties became very, very ill.
"I lost my father two summers ago to cancer - - and this past May when MCA (Adam Yauch) passed away, it really hit home because he was fighting cancer too."
Pepper wanted to do something - - anything - - to help those who were going toe-to-toe with the Big C.
"I'd been thinking about it since last May, and I'm like, okay - - this is still bothering me - - what can I do about it? What can I give back?"
The answer was obvious: Pepper wanted to put together a benefit show that combined the Beasties and burlesque - - stripping to the rhymes of her dad's three favorite guys. The next step was getting approval from the American Cancer Society - - something Ms. Mills was a little concerned about.
"Sometimes... " her voice lifts a little "... sometimes people aren't okay with a burlesque performer giving them money."
Luckily, Pepper found an ally in Carrie Cihasky, a community rep for the American Cancer Society's Great Lakes Division.
"I was really excited about this - - I'm always looking to do something creative and outside the box with fundraising," says Cihasky. "This allows us to reach a whole new audience when we're trying to spread the message of what we do."
Cihasky figures this is a way to reach a crowd younger than those who might attend the classic catered chicken in ballroom/silent auction events. And she's not scared off by the pasties.
"I've gone to shows before - - I know what to expect, and I know it can be done tastefully."
Cihasky was also touched by the common thread: "The Beasties lost one of their members to cancer - - and Pepper losing her dad - - it just points out how many people cancer does touch." While the event, given the nature of burlesque, will focus on the ACS's 'Making Strides Against Breast Cancer' campaign, Cihasky assures the event will offer a window in to the group's work with other types of cancer as well.
Pepper has found in the ACS a group trying to use their funds ever more efficiently.
Carrie Cihasky: "Right now about 74 cents of every dollar goes back to programs and services - - that's the highest of any cancer non-profit there is out there." (80 cents a buck is their target, though - - they're trying to streamline the operation to honor their hundredth anniversary.) "It's broken into research - - we're currently funding 230 breast cancer research projects totaling 120 million dollars."
The money also goes to places like Hope Lodge, which Cihasky likens to 'a Ronald MacDonald House for adults,' a place for families to stay when a loved one is facing treatment. Services ranging from fitting chemo patients with wigs to giving some folks rides to their medical appointments are also provided by the ACS.
Mills' event will include burlesque performers from Angel Burlesque, Rocket Doll Revue and Bottoms Up Burlesque (along with some independent burlesquers) all dancing to Beastie Boys cuts of their choosing - - the music will run the gamut from the early days to the band's most recent stuff. You can expect the clothes being taken off to be pretty eclectic: "We've got somebody dressed in full fishnet to one who's probably gonna look like a grandma," says Mills. There's a silent auction, too - - and someone's even donated a vinyl pressing of the original Licensed to Ill release.
"It's overwhelming to me the support that I've received from the burlesque community," says Mills. "And we've got DJ Jay Diff and Hinx Jones volunteering their services too. Everyone's been so willing to help the cause - - it chokes me up to even think about it."
[Music] DJs + Dancing