Thursday, September 1, 2022

A League of Their Own - My thoughts on the latest Amazon Prime adaptation.


Recently I binge watched Amazon Prime's A League of Their Own. A new telling of the story of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League. Admittedly, when I first saw the ads I was both excited and terrified to watch this. I was mostly excited due to aesthetic reasons I can't lie, but I was also terrified because I was afraid that they were going to ruin a movie that I absolutely adore!

I wasn't able to watch it right when it released, so I was a bit relieved to find out that it wasn't an exact retelling of the movie and that the characters were basically brand new to the storyline. Then I heard all the chatter about it being "too gay" and "too woke". I paid no mind to that because I like to make my own decisions on things and not be influenced by other's opinions (sometimes not even my own).

Immediately I felt creating new characters both worked in it's favor and against it. Having new characters allowed the TV Show to be fresh and exciting and wouldn't hurt the beloved characters that were associated with the 1992 movie. Personally, I feel that since they were telling new stories, that they should have just switched teams as well. Tell the story from another team's point of view. The Rockford Peaches are Dottie, Kit, Mae, and gang... well at least for folks like me that grew up on the movie and saw it in theaters! Honestly, I think it would have been fun to see what it was like from the (imaginary) point of view of the Racine Belles or the Kenosha Comets. 

This leads me into my biggest gripe about the show and marketing. This telling really had nothing to do with Baseball or the AAGPBL. One of the things I loved about the movie was the insider peek at what it was like being part of this league even if the history of events were slightly fibbed along the way. In the TV version with the exception of how the characters all came together, the AAGPBL was merely the backdrop to a multi story romantic drama. You could have set this TV show in any part of history or industry and it could have been told just the same. The producers banked on the nostalgia of the original movie to rope in viewers instead of marketing it for what it really is - a romantic drama series.  I would have loved a continued peek behind the curtain of ladies baseball in the 1940s, but instead I got a peek behind the curtain of queer ladies in the 1940s.

Don't get me wrong, I am not hating on that, not one bit. Personally I loved the storyline of Maxine, a black woman who is trying to find her own identity in both baseball and in society. Along with her best friend, Clance, I feel their storylines had both the best banter and heart out of all the characters. These two were my favorite characters in the whole series! I would have watched an entire series with just these characters even if baseball was just the backdrop! Maxine's character was the most developed and multifaceted from her Mom's Beauty Parlor, to her potential Beau, to working in a factory as a black woman, to coming to terms to who she really is, and to her love and frustration with baseball. It's hard for me to wrap my head around how these characters were secondary to the main leads -- all because the show had to keep up with it being a series about the AAGPBL. Which I had mentioned was all but forgotten after the 2nd episode. Yes, they still played games... but like I said... it's just a back drop.

I also loved the third line characters of Mita and Jess. Two ball players that while they do not admit their sexuality to the public of the 1940s, no one is surprised that they are lesbian. One of my favorite parts of the show is when Mita confides in another character Izzy, why she has been less than pleasant to her. It was a nice way to give that character more heart than just being the "rival" of the main character. 

Speaking of, I am a main character kind of girl -- I usually root for the underdog lead -- but honestly... I wholey disliked the two main characters. Carson, who seems to be the main lead, is just whiney and lost, but without giving me any reason to feel for her or cheer her on. The other lead, Greta (who along with her friend Jo, were the Mae and Doris of the series) lacked any substance. They tried to make her a strong sexual woman, but I feel like it came off flat and weak. It was almost as if she were supposed to be this series, Samantha Jones, but dropped the ball! No pun intended. Both leads were just miserable to watch and I couldn't wait for their overly repetitive scenes to be over with.

I do have to give props to the costumers for doing a great job with wardrobe. Overall, I think they were quite on the mark. Sure, for someone like me, I was far too distracted by some hats that were from the 50s and 60s, as well as some costume pieces being 70s/80s does 40s, but I can forgive all that because you have to work with that you have.

I wanted to enjoy their nods to the movie, but by time they made those references, I had already fallen out of love with the idea that this was a new telling of Baseball in the 1940s. So while, "There's no crying in baseball" and Rosie O'Donnell's cameo were nice, I could have done without either of those (and the other throwbacks to the movie) and never had noticed. 

Once thing that did bother me though... the music... I am not going to scoff at them using music that was released in 1945 (let's say) for a show that takes place in 1943, but for the black characters, the music they were using, seemingly was all 50s doo wop. A completely different style of black artists from the era. Continuing on with that, I get that this is supposed to be a "girl power" series, but having the scene change overlay music be Janis Ian or Janis Joplin rocking out to their best 1960s female anthems, really destroyed the setting of WWII era America. 

Lastly, one more peeve I had with the show -- Clance was a comic book artist, yet her drawings were in a very very modern comic style. I know, this one is a personal peeve, but just add it to all the little things that annoyed me with the show.

Ok, so I lied, I have one more personal peeve. The obvious inability of the actors to throw baseballs and play the game and the weak cgi to hide that fact.

Overall the show was - good... if you can remove yourself from the idea that you came to watch a series about the AAGPBL. I am not one to hate on queer storylines because I think those stories belong just as much in main stream as any other... I just wish it would have been marketed as either a romantic drama or as a social commentary set in the 40s. Heck, it had so little to do with baseball, the character of Coach Casey "Dove" Porter (the equivalent to Tom Hanks' Jimmy Dugan) was completely written out of the show after a few episodes in order to focus on "girl power".

Finally, I will admit, I am not a fan of correcting social injustices through stories that take place in the past (see Ryan Murphy's Hollywood). I want to see history portrayed accurately even if the events are fantasized. Don't misconstrue what I am saying here -- I know there were queer folk back in the 40s. The gay bar and all of it's scenes were wonderfully done. It was the language the show used, the social commentary that wouldn't have been had at that point, and the driving force behind many of the storylines and character motivations just felt way too forced. Even though, I am not a fan of this particular way of storytelling in a historic setting, I see why it is appreciated by some of today's audience. 

Would I watch a second season if it were to happen? Yes, but mostly because aesthetics. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Las Vegas Showgirl Parade

May was a busy month for me. The very next weekend after the Miss Spring Jamboree Pinup Pageant, I found myself leading a small group of ladies up and down Fremont Street for the very first Las Vegas Showgirl Parade!

I originally had planned for the first parade to be in May of 2020, but right after I announced it in early March... well...

I was inspired to create the Showgirl Parade after watching videos of New Orleans and then the Coney Island Mermaid Parade. Seeing celebratory traditions in those cities that bring the community together and immerse themselves in culture, art, and their respective city, made my heart yearn for those "hometown" feelings. Yes, Las Vegas has "Parades", but they seem to lack any genuine love for the the city. Not to mention you never hear about them happening! The Las Vegas government has gone corporate. As I mentioned, I liked the idea of the Coney Island Mermaid Parade where folks got creative with their costumes and artistic expressions! I knew Las Vegas needed something like that so I wracked my brain trying to think of a mythical creature to celebrate. I tried to think of any desert crypids that are celebrated. I considered aliens (Area 51) for a very brief moment, before I remembered aliens don't interest me enough. Then it happened... the mythical creature has been right here all along... a deity that IS Las Vegas... The Iconic Las Vegas Showgirl!


It was perfect! The Showgirl would allow folks to create their own visions. They could be as creative as they wanted! Costumes could be as simple or elaborate as they wanted! It could really become a thing! Knowing that not everyone would want to be a showgirl, I expanded the theme of the parade to include anything or anyone iconic to Las Vegas. This could be anything to do with gambling, casinos of the past, celebrities that helped solidify Las Vegas as the entertainment capital of the world!

Of course I was thinking of a grandeur future and knew this was going to have to start off small and quiet. (Las Vegas is notorious for their red tape on nearly EVERYTHING!) First I had to pick a date. I wanted this to be a yearly celebration so I had to think of when would be the best time of year -- you know, before it got too hot. I looked up when Las Vegas was "born" and saw it was May 15th, 1905. This is perfect! It's right before it gets extremely hot out - although it's already getting closer to 100 degrees out. I decided then it was always going to fall on the weekend closest to May 15th, but should it be a Saturday or a Sunday? I soon realized that the Helldorado Days Parade, the city's official birthday celebration parade is held the Saturday closest. I didn't want to compete for interfere with that, for obvious reasons, so it was decided then and there, the closest Sunday to the 15th!

As much as my head was filling with dreams of what the parade could be, I had to wrangle in those thoughts and realize this is the first year and you are doing this on the low down... then I started to panic! What if no one wants to join me? I told myself I would be happy if I could get at least 4 of my friends to join me. I wanted a group just big enough to not look like we were walking Fremont to busk. Before I could worry about it too much, May quickly approached.

Now that I went into a bit of history behind the creation of the parade, let's talk about the day of.

In order to beat the heat, I wanted to start the parade at 10:30am and be done by 12pm. I know that is an early call to be in full costume and makeup, but I thought it was worth it! I was so excited to have 13 other girls join me! We were a small parade, but we all came out in celebration of Las Vegas and the Showgirl! I was so happy to see these wonderful women join me as I lead us up and down Fremont Street, looping at the Plaza! There was a little bit of a rough start getting to Fremont, but once we did it was a delightful experience! At the end I did a very brief "awards ceremony", crowning the Queen of Showgirls, the King of Parades, and dedicating the Ace Award to the memory of the Showgirls that are no longer with us!

I am so happy to get this first parade in the history books! I can only hope that next year will be even better. If I just double the attendance from this year I will be happy!

I always thought it was a shame that Las Vegas still used the showgirl as its mascot, but no longer has a single "showgirl show" on any of its stages. Yes, I know there are showgirls IN other shows, but those aren't shows dedicated to the talented and statuesque dancers that Vegas is known for.

If you would like to attend please check out our website and fill out the registration form. This helps me know about how many folks want to join us so I know what proper steps to take for a better event.

(photos by Chase Stevens of the Las Vegas Review Journal)

Monday, July 4, 2022

4th of July!!

Happy Independence Day to my fellow Americans! The 4th is one of my top 3 favorite holidays of the year! I have to say, I miss the "hometown celebrations" that are sadly missing from Vegas culture, but I still love the spirit of the day!

Monday, June 27, 2022

Miss Spring Jamboree

(photo by Ken Marcus Studios)

I cannot believe I forgot to blog about this! I know readership (and engagement) is non-existent in the blog-o-sphere, but for those few that prefer to sit down and read leisurely and possibly for my own record, I am blogging about this now - months after. Social media has become so instant and "in real time" it's almost pointless to blog about something that happened a mere 2 months ago, but I think everyone involved should be congratulated in anyway possible.

This past May, the Miss Spring Jamboree Pinup Pageant made its debut at the annual Spring Jamboree in Boulder City, NV! Nine pinups took to the stage to showcase their beauty, talent, and intelligence in front of an audience of friends, family, and strangers! This was the first of its kind event at the 45 year tradition and was more than well received by the city itself and the townsfolk. So much so they are excited to have us return next year and it is now an official highlighted event of the Spring Jamboree!

L-R Brittany Calaveraa, Yzma Mind, Jill de Ville, NanciByrd, Lady M, Lola Sunflower, Abby Dandy, Miss Cactus Blossom, Pony Poison (photo by Ken Marcus Studios)

I selfishly created this event for more stage time. I mean who gets more stage time than the host, right? I used what I had learned from hosting the original Miss Symco contest about 10 years ago as well as what I had learned observing other pinup contests and put together a small, but exciting event. It was a challenge, being its first year, but overall I was happy with the outcome of the pageant. There may be a few small changes next year, but overall the format will stay the same.

(photo by Ken Marcus Studios)

It was wonderful to see familiar faces from the pinup scene return as well as meet new faces. My heart was filled knowing that each one of these gals put in effort and cared for this pageant as much as I did!

The first round introduced all the pinups to the judges and crowd as they showcased their hair, makeup, fashion, and poses. This year's themes were "Spring" and "Boulder City".  The pinups were striking in their spring and pinup beauty! Everyone looked so put together and beautiful! It is for this very reason that I decided to create and host this event rather than compete in one! (I'm a terrible loser.)

(photos by Ken Marcus Studios)

Round two had each pinup returning to the stage and showcasing a talent and entertaining all whose eyes were on them. This was my favorite round by far -- the variety of talent exceeded anything I could have hoped for! We had comedians, a magician, singers, actresses, a fire eater, and a demonstration on krav maga! Quite honestly, I was afraid that having a talent portion would scare off potential pinups, but having seen what those that entered brought to the stage, I am glad I kept this portion in!

(photos by Ken Marcus Studios)

The final round had each of the pinups answering a randomly chosen question. While they were given the questions a week before to review, they didn't know which question they would receive in that moment. The questions were either simplistic and fun or in need of a more in depth answer. Two highlights from this round included the first pinup receiving the "Wild Card" question -- a question I made up right on the spot... when I say, she NAILED the answer... instead of given a cutesy quick answer, she went in hard! It was amazing! Secondly, one of our pinups answered with an emotional moment about the passing of her father last year. I don't think there was a dry eye anywhere! While those were two highlights, everyone answered with confidence and that made it quite hard for the judges!

Speaking of the judges. I do not know how I am going to top these judges next year!! Representing Round One, the Pinup portion was none other than Miss Viva Las Vegas 2017, Ginger Watson! Not only is Ginger a top pinup, she is also undefeated! Every contest she has competed in she has won! Having won the biggest Pinup Contest out there, she definitely was a judge I NEEDED to have. Representing Round Two, the Talent portion is MTV Music Video Award recipient, producer, and professional dancer and performer, Tina Cione. Lastly, representing Round Three, the Q&A portion was Lexi Lagan an Olympic Champion and Boulder City resident. Now you understand how next year is going to be tough to find judges! How do I top (or even match) a Pinup Queen, MTV Music Video Award winner, and an Olympic medalist? I'm going to need an Emmy winner, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, and an astronaut! 

L-R Tina Cione, Ginger Watson, Lexi Lagan

Before I knew it, I was announcing the winners!

3rd Place - Jill de Ville
2nd Place - Abby Dandy
Miss Spring Jamboree - NanciByrd

L-R Abby Dandy (2nd), NanciByrd (Miss Spring Jamboree), and Jill de Ville (3rd)
L-R Abby Dandy (2nd), NanciByrd (Miss Spring Jamboree), and Jill de Ville (3rd) (photo by Ken Marcus Studios)

After a joyous (and stressful for me) event, we all dispersed and enjoyed the rest of the Spring Jamboree.

(photos by Ken Marcus Studios)

The Boulder City Chamber of Commerce presented me with the Special Recognition Award of 2022 at their annual installation and awards for creating the Miss Spring Jamboree! It was an unexpected honor and one I couldn't have done without the Pinups who entered the contest. It was their charm that won everyone over and made the Pageant a success!

I can't end this post without thanking this year's sponsors. First year anythings are the hardest to find people to help support you. It's when you need it most, yet have the hardest time finding. My biggest thank yous go to A&W Boulder City, The Law Offices of Robert B Katz and Associates, and Vegas Pinup Shoots (for providing the winner with a photoshoot)!

Here is to making next year even better!