Did a little tassel-twirling ever hurt anyone? No, and I can attest to this. I have seen a few performances by the Boston Babydolls, the reigning burlesque troupe in town, and while at first you may feel slightly awkward watching some lovely ladies — including, maybe, a friend of yours — strut their stuff and shed their clothing, ultimately leaving nothing but some snazzy panties and pasties, that feeling soon dissipates. Once you settle in and realize what you’re witnessing — not a bawdy, tacky strip show, but a hilariously entertaining performance rich with narrative and verve — you forget your preconceptions. You don’t sit back and enjoy, though; you lean forward and wolf-whistle, cat-call and cheer those ladies on, bit by removed bit.
I don’t expect everyone to share this enlightened point of view. But there are some out there who go so far as to fear the Boston Babydolls troupe is a breeding ground for debauchery, and that their very presence would draw the seediest elements of society out of the gutters and into the streets. And some of these folks live in Quincy, where the Babydolls have been trying for months to open a new dance studio.
The king fear-mongerer is Quincy Ward 6 city councilor Brian McNamee, who has derided the Babydolls’ attempt to open a studio in his town as “creating a Combat Zone in an immigrant neighborhood.” Consequently, the city has been giving the troupe the run-around with regard to permits and zoning. The meeting to determine the fate of the studio will be held May 19, with none other than McNamee himself presiding.
Why McNamee is picking this battle and playing on the paranoia of the ignorant is beyond me. But his fear campaign — which drew a nasty crowd to a public hearing the other night — has cost the troupe thousands of dollars in legal fees and months of delays in opening their facility. Apparently, an empty storefront and a sense of moral superiority is worth stymying the development of an arts community in a neighborhood that currently sports a liquor store, a tattoo parlor and a check-cashing business as its main attractions.
But the Babydolls aren’t going down without a fight. They’ve organized a benefit concert at the Cambridge Y on May 15 that will feature belly-dancers, hula-hoopers, sword-dancers — and, of course, the Babydolls themselves. Tickets are $15 in advance or whatever you can pay at the door.
Here’s the thing — spread the word about the show. Post about it. Tweet about it. Tell your friends. Post it on Facebook. Use smoke signals, semaphore, whatever. Can’t go, like me? Donate to the cause anyways. We can’t let ignorance and fear-mongering win out over a worthwhile artistic endeavor, and we can’t let a group of artists fighting the good fight get knocked to the ground.
Follow the Babydolls on Twitter, check out their website or fan them on Facebook to stay updated on the Quincy affair. And in the meantime, drop some dough in the hat at the show, or throw the troupe some bucks on PayPal to support the cause. Or you know what? You can just do it for the pasties. I don’t think anyone will mind.