Cherry on top
Cherry Malone is preserving history one fan dance at a time. This self-described “secretary by day, showgirl by night” has created a one-woman act that uses comedy and World War II-era fan and bubble dancing to evoke the burlesque-style entertainment of bygone days. But don’t let the feathers and spangles fool you. Malone is every bit the professional. She makes all her costumes, choreographs her own routines (based on historical footage of dancers of the 1930s and 1940s) and books her own gigs—“only at respectable events!”
How did you get started as a dancer?
I started doing shows with a big band as a cigarette girl. I was there for a sort of World War II ambience. I sold mints, gum and candy and gave out fliers for the band. We did a lot of shows for WWII veterans—shows in airplane hangars and stuff like that. It was like a living-history concert. The big band played Glenn Miller tunes and would dress in military uniforms.
I started fan dancing shortly thereafter because the band leader showed me a picture of Sally Rand. She’s considered to be one of the greatest fan dancers that ever lived. She performed for Neil Armstrong and the astronauts. She opened the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1933. Her career lasted well into her 60s. I got a pair of feather fans and started to recreate her act as a living historical act.
Where did you learn to fan dance?
I learned by watching videos of Sally. I started taking ballet and making up my own choreography, you know, in front of a mirror. I am self-taught. I did take some ballet, some belly dancing and some karate for dance form, but a lot of it was studying the videos and practicing.
What is fan dancing?
A fan dance can be performed in many ways, but I do it in the historical style of Sally Rand. I dance with two white ostrich-feather fans. They’re about 6 feet long and weigh 20 pounds apiece. I usually wear a white flowing gown and dance to classical music. It’s very graceful and ethereal. Then, at the right moment, I drop the gown and dance behind the fans, giving an illusion of nudity. To me, it conjures images of angels and fairies. I do more than just fan dancing, though. I also dance with a 3-foot bubble. I’ve belly-danced. I’ve done classic striptease, in the very teasing, slow sense. I incorporate voice and comedy.
What’s the bubble made out of?
The bubble is just a balloon. I have different colors, like blue and cherry red.
Would you call your show burlesque?
I wouldn’t because the term “burlesque” is so misconstrued and prostituted nowadays. Initially, burlesque was comedy. Comedians like Milton Berle, Jackie Gleason and Burt Lahr got started in burlesque. Nowadays, you might see girls do the fan dance really raunchy with red or black feather fans, and it’s more sleazed up. There are other girls who have troupes with one girl on stage after another, but that isn’t burlesque. That’s strip-o-rama. That’s a tease show.
Burlesque includes comedy. There are other performers out there who do old-school striptease, but I’m the only girl I know who includes comedy. I come out on stage in a 50 DD bra, coke-bottle glasses, Billy Bob teeth and an Indiana Jones hat, and I pull a rubber chicken out of my bra. That’s burlesque. That’s making fun of life.
Where do you perform?
I performed weekly at Aces Supper Club until they changed management. Now, I perform mostly in theaters, at respectable black-tie events or corporate events and in high-class supper clubs. I don’t do “other joints,” if you know what I mean. I can be reached through my Web site, www.cherrymalone.com.
You were Miss Exotic World 2001. How was that competition?
The annual pageant is held in Southern California at the Exotic World Burlesque Museum. I’ve been going for the last three years, and in 2001, I scooped up the title. It was fun, but it gets very hot down there. You perform outside, and it’s in the middle of the Mojave Desert.
What are the duties of Miss Exotic World?
Actually, there really haven’t been any defined duties that go with the title.
What’s your favorite performance story?
My most memorable experience was when I performed in Los Angeles at the Palace Theatre. The billed headliner was Dita Von Teese, and she performed twice in the middle of the show. The show was five hours long, and they shoved me near the end. I had to perform at 1:30 a.m., and I was stuck in this dressing room near the basement with really bad dust. Finally, I came out in my costume to do my 10-minute “Geek to Goddess” act, where I start with the DD bra and the glasses, and they said the curtains wouldn’t open, and I’d have to perform in front of them. I yelled, “I’m not performing in front of those curtains. You open those curtains by hand!” I put my foot down. So, I wasn’t the headliner, but I was the showstopper. The audience loved me, and I ended up closing the show.