Brazen and busty, Wanda Wiggles, the star of Filthy Sugar, has taken the burlesque world by a storm! She’s been described by the Underwood bangers as both a “voluptuous dream sweeter than a whipped cream strawberry sundae” and a “Vengeful Vamp”. Here at the Soda Fountain, we thought it was high time to sit down with the rebellious redhead herself. So we put on our best negligee, broke out the rotary dial telephone and gave Ms. Wiggles a call on the horn. Join us below as we discuss everything from burlesque to brassieres and bathtub gin with the infamous hoofer!
The Soda Fountain: I know that you’ve had your fill of sleazy reporters so I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with me today.
Wanda Wiggles: Oh honey, you don’t know the half of it! Why, I told those lousy mugs at the City Crier paper that if it was tawdry gossip they were fishing for, they could go stick their rods in some other dame’s pond!
The Soda Fountain: Well, I guess it’s a good thing that we’re not a newspaper; we’re a blog.
Wanda Wiggles: What the hell’s a ‘blog’? Sounds like something you’d get from drinking bad bathtub gin.
The Soda Fountain: (Discreetly changing the subject) Tell me, Wanda, how did you get started in burlesque?
Wanda Wiggles: It wasn’t planned, sweetie. I used to work as a taxi dancer – you know, ten cents a dance – but after my father died I needed a little more jack to help my mother out at home. She wouldn’t let me work at the glove factory with my sister – said I was too pretty for that – so I found a job as a living mannequin, modelling fur coats at Blondell’s department store. One day Mr. Manchester, the owner of the Apple Bottom burlesque theatre, came in to buy a fox coat for his mistress and well, the rest is history.
The Soda Fountain: Indeed, Mr. Manchester told the City Crier that he spotted you dancing ‘buck naked’ in the middle of the store’s bathing costume display. Is there any truth to that statement?
Wanda Wiggles: (audibly takes a drag off her cigarette) Well, honey, I just can’t say. You’ll have to buy the book to find out.
The Soda Fountain: Well, you’ve certainly created quite the stir at the Apple Bottom. What is the best advice that you’ve received about burlesque dancing?
Wanda Wiggles: I’ve received two pieces of fabulous advice and they both came at exactly the right time. The manager at the Apple Bottom – Joe – is a total cad but he did give me a great tip on my opening night; he said: ‘Always remember, the audience wants to like you so it’s easy –you just give ’em what they want.’ While my pal Queenie (the Apple Bottom’s original headliner) told me to ‘always leave ’em wanting more. Don’t drag it out or they’ll drag you out – by the cane.’
The Soda Fountain: You have been lauded for being very body-positive. Clearly, you celebrate your curves.
Wanda Wiggles: Well, the wardrobe mistress at the Apple Bottom, Geraldine, is always trying to get me to drink nothing but black coffee and eat raw carrots but I much prefer my whiskey and the boxes of cherry-filled chocolates that the stage door Johnnies are so fond of giving me. Besides, I agree with Mae West who said that the only carrots that interest her are the number you find in a diamond.
The Soda Fountain: My mother read your story and she said that she thinks you’d be a “bra burner” in the 1960s.
Wanda Wiggles: I don’t even wear a brassiere. They remind me too much of bandages. Heck, I barely ever wear underwear at all – at least not on Sundays. I never wear knickers on a Sunday.
The Soda Fountain: What’s the best bit of life advice that you’ve ever received?
Wanda Wiggles: Lili Belle once told me that there’s not a man in the world worth ruining your eye make-up over. I’d say that’s pretty wise – have you seen the price of eyelash tint these days?
The Soda Fountain: You’re pretty wise yourself, Wanda. You’ve encountered everyone from shady coppers to cowardly boxers and held your own against the sleazy newspaper reporters. In closing, can you offer our readers some of your own words of wisdom?
Wanda Wiggles: Well, let me tell you something, honey: I’ve suffered many putdowns in my life but they’re never gonna knock me out! Like I said to that masher Mr. Manchester, this is my story and I’m the only one writing it. Always remember: it’s your movie. If somebody is mean to you, cut their scene. They’re just an extra anyway: you’re the star. Leave ’em on the cutting room floor.
Filthy Sugar is now available with Inanna Publications and other fine, quality booksellers!
*Author’s note: I learned a lot about burlesque by attending a drop-in class at the Toronto School of Burlesque. I also studied the wiggle films of Bettie Page, Jennie Lee and Tempest Storm, obsessively watched Busby Berkeley movies and devoured Gypsy Rose Lee’s memoirs . Who said research can’t be fun?