Johnny America


Sui­cide Girls Bur­lesque Show


Sur­prise at the Door #1

“We should be there.”

“You’re not,” says the door­man, point­ing to the short col­umn of names on the clipboard.

“Try John­ny Amer­i­ca in­stead of ‘Jay Hol­ley’,” I urge, hop­ing for a cler­i­cal foul-up, that the zine’s name has been switched with mine.

“Nope,” he says, frown­ing. I shrug my shoul­ders at Bryant, who’s stand­ing a step be­hind me. “Oh,” starts the door­man, “you mean you’re on the girls’ list?”

“Yeah, we should be on their list, not the Bot­tle­neck­’s,” I re­ply, re­lieved that he’d been look­ing at the venue’s comp-sheet. I see the tiny stack of names, three high; no “Jay Hol­ley,” no “Bryant Bron­son,” no “John­ny Amer­i­ca.” I glance Bryant and raise my eye­brow, ques­tion­ing. He looks ready to bolt. Bryant adores in­die girls — loves their style — but he’s a bud­geter. I’d man­aged to con­vince him to see the Sui­cide Girls trav­el­ing bur­lesque show on­ly by promis­ing free tickets:

“You can do some il­lus­tra­tions, I’ll write a piece for J.A.,” I’d urged, “I’ll write their P.R. and I bet they’ll comp us tick­ets.” We were ex­pect­ed and ap­pre­ci­at­ed, the S.G. rep­re­sen­ta­tive had writ­ten back — free ad­mis­sion for the in­die press. “I still want to go,” I told him, reach­ing for my wal­let, “I’ll buy your tick­et if you want.”

“I’ll pay,” he said, try­ing to fake a frown, “but I don’t want to.”

Wait­ing for Cuteness

The doors have been open for fifty min­utes; the fliers ad­ver­tised the show’s start time as twen­ty more. All ta­bles are crowd­ed and the com­fort­able stand­ing spots staked. We stand by the bar.

“At least the drinks are in­ex­pen­sive,” I tell Bryant, point­ing to the wa­ter-cheap dou­ble-well spe­cial on the dry erase board be­hind the bar. Two hours lat­er I’m bour­bon warm and be­com­ing im­pa­tient. Bryant is lev­el and grow­ing intolerant.

“When the fuck is it go­ing to start,” he asks.

“I don’t know,” I tell him, “but it’s get­ting ridicu­lous. You wan­na go?” As if on cue sev­en girls stride across the stage, avatars of Adorable, and in­tro­duce a band who’s name I don’t catch. “They’ll be on in just a minute,” they say be­fore wink­ing and saun­ter­ing back stage.

A few for­get­table pop-punk songs in­to their set, the singer ex­tols, “it’s great to be in Kansas City.” Lawrence, Kansas, is thir­ty miles to Kansas City’s west. The crowd mum­bles and the singer re­al­izes his ge­og­ra­phy’s off, but leaves his slip un­cor­rect­ed. The crowd is in­dif­fer­ent to­ward the mediocre band.


The girls prance on stage, their nip­ples ob­scured by black X’s of elec­tri­cians tap (cheap­er than pasties, I hear a mo­hawked spec­ta­tor com­ment). The crowd cheers and in­die-ador­ing Bryant smiles as the show be­gins. We’ve been stand­ing idle and down­ing dou­bles for three hours now, and I am drunk.

The show is a se­ries of acts and vi­gnettes. There’s a sur­pris­ing­ly arous­ing hu­la-hoop act. A scene from The Grad­u­ate is re-en­act­ed with flair and sass. The crowd’s a blend of frat boys, teenage Goths, and un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly en­thu­si­as­tic hip­sters — they all seem to love every sec­ond of the show. Spy­ing the crowd, I see on­ly grins, cheers, and point­ed fin­gers quick­ly fol­lowed by rushed whis­pers (“I think I’m in love, ” I pic­ture a mop-topped rock­er boy say­ing to his star-tat­tooed pal. “I know what I’m go­ing to wear for Hal­loween,” I imag­ine a pierced Su­per­star-in-Train­ing say­ing to her Plain Jane friend.) The show ends with all the girls on stage, a dozen bot­tles of Her­shey’s choco­late syrup, and the din of a packed bar’s ap­plause. It’s one o’­clock. We leave for a fi­nal drink at the Taproom.

Sur­prise at the Door #2

Last call has passed and we’re walk­ing back past the Bot­tle­neck. There’s a crowd gath­ered in front, cir­cling two joy­ous men sip­ping from plas­tic cups.

“What the…” Bryant starts, be­fore his mouth hangs.

“Oh my,” I mut­ter, “that’s an un­usu­al sight on New Hamp­shire Street,” gaz­ing at a stream of urine. Three tip­sy, ri­otous girls are lib­er­at­ing processed booze, now yel­low, in­to cups they’re pass­ing be­tween them­selves and this pair of ador­ing fans.


Bryant still feels slight­ed by the guest-list foul-up, and has replied, “fuck the Sui­cide Girls,” every time brought up his long-over­due il­lus­tra­tions. Months late, here is my of the Sui­cide Girls Bur­lesque act: these girls put on a show.

Re­lat­ed Link: Sui­cide Girls

Filed under Non-Fiction on July 31st, 2004

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