Best of Sex & Love
Smoking hot is the only way to describe Jay Siren, executive director of the Sizzling Sirens burlesque troupe. When Siren began creating burlesque shows in 2008, a labor of love with almost no money behind it, Sizzling Sirens was barely a troupe, and Siren was the principle performer.
Now, Siren regularly leads a small, close-knit group of resident performers, ranging in age from 19 to 63 years old, in tastefully seductive dance routines. She also teaches burlesque classes each week, and every lesson fortifies her belief in the transformative power of burlesque.
“Through the power of female sexuality and the grace of femininity and sensuality, burlesque gives women a sense of empowerment,” Siren explains.
Siren has built a reputation for her craft in the Midtown community by staging regular burlesque shows at Harlow’s every six to eight weeks, and offering dance lessons and affordable custom cabaret-inspired costumes. Now it seems the troupe’s visibility is extending beyond the realm of nightclubs and dance studios. In the last year, the Sirens have landed performances at the Crocker Art Museum, the Sacramento Area Music Awards and the popular Bay Area burlesque show the Hubba Hubba Revue.
“I wanted to create an accessible and intimate place for women to come and explore their interest in burlesque,” Siren says. “A diverse place where you could come in and forget your shit.”
This year, Siren opened the Siren Burlesque Boutique, a clothing store, photo studio and dance studio on 2419 1/2 J Street. “The burlesque boutique affords a comfortable environment for women to feel sexy in their own skin,” Siren says.
Elaborate custom costumes, some stitched by hand, va-va-voom accessories and stage props engulf the showroom. With red-stained walls, mirrored ceilings, feathers, satin and lace gloves, and corsets, the Burlesque Boutique is an aesthetic mix of cabaret, Showgirls and Interview With the Vampire.
“I started this business three years ago, but I feel like I started today,” says Siren, describing the ever-evolving nature of her empire. Siren has expanded her business to accommodate private lessons, team-building seminars, and bachelorette and birthday parties.
With two-hour dance rehearsals and some 16-hour workdays, it’s clear that being a Sizzling Siren takes dedication and hard work. “Our motto is to have fun,” Siren says, “but there’s a difference between doing burlesque and being a Siren. Respect, reliability, teamwork, passion, creativity and support are the key features to being a Siren.”
Best stimulating photographer
In 1970, Playboy began printing a Braille edition of the naked-lady magazine. These versions did not contain pictorial content, thereby fortifying the old “I read Playboy for the articles” excuse.
Fast-forward a few decades for another landmark moment: Playboy enlisted blind photographers Pete Eckert and Bruce Hall to shoot for it in 2010. Eckert, a Sacramento resident with a calm voice and gentlemanly disposition, seems like a surprising candidate to photograph for a company with such risqué content. Then there’s the matter of him being blind.
Eckert has made fine-art photographs for years, even showing internationally. His foray into the medium began after losing his vision as an adult due to retinitis pigmentosa. He considers himself a conceptual artist, and likens his work to painting. His process includes hearing descriptions of his work from sighted people to confirm it matches what’s in his mind’s eye.
The idea for this shoot, which can be seen on Playboy’s pay-to-view Cyber Club online, originated from the mind of Karen Parsegian, a Sacramentan who also lost her vision as an adult. She befriended the artist after catching his appearance on The Today Show in 2007. She’d always thought highly of the magazine’s quality of photography since she was a teenager and saw film through a loupe at the Playboy office where her aunt and uncle worked. Parsegian pitched the idea to Eckert and Hall, an underwater photographer from Southern California with 5 percent vision, and then to Playboy.
Everyone agreed. The magazine selected Japanese Playmate Hiromi Oshima as the model to shoot in Santa Monica.
Eckert’s work is known for being ghostly and mysterious, and this shoot was not an exception. Eckert uses echolocation to navigate spacial surroundings and says he can “hear silhouettes of people.” He used his signature painting-with-light technique and double-exposure methods refined for this project, resulting in ethereal images of Oshima. It’s exceptionally stimulating photography, on a different level than most Playboy spreads.
Best dating advisor to the over-50 crowd
Got a broken relationship? Bill Blazek can help with the nuts and bolts, and other matters harder to ascertain. The Sacramento marriage and family therapist has provided relationship advice and taught workshops since 1984. He’s become something of a dating guru for Sacramento’s older singles with Learning Exchange classes like “Finding Love and Romance After 50.”
Blazek finds actual nuts and bolts come in handy in his workshops. He divides his students in two groups, one holding nuts and one holding bolts, and instructs them to find a classmate with the right fit.
“It’s pretty simple,” says Blazek, who has been married three times, and offers relationship coaching with his current wife, Lorna Sheveland, at www.betterlovingafter50.com. “To be in a relationship you have to have the right fit. … A lot of it is trial and error and figuring out what is a good match for you.”
Blazek advises his students to be more vulnerable in relationships and to know who they are and what they can offer. In his classes, the nuts and bolts sometimes don’t find a good fit, as is the case in life. In those situations, students rehearse saying, “I enjoyed spending time with you, but the fit isn’t a good one and I wish you well.”
“It is helpful to practice rejection. That way they realize it is not personal and not the end of the world,” Blazek says. “You have to really like someone to make it work and love will then happen. Everyone needs love and romance, for most people there isn’t any question greater than that.”