Down But Not Out: Five Questions With Tifa Tittlywinks
Tifa Tittlywinks. Photo: Mike “The Truth” Jackson
Ever since I can remember, there’s been something about burlesque that’s intriguing to me. It’s not the obvious reasons, so get your mind out of the gutter. No, for me, it’s the DIY nature of it all that I’ve always found so intriguing. There’s something really cool about burlesque troupes often secure their own spaces, make their own costumes, and choreograph their own shows without any real help from anyone outside of the burlesque world. Houston has several troupes but none more DIY as Dem Damn Dames. Back in 2014 when I wrote an article about the troupe, they were just gearing up for their monthly series of shows at Houston’s favorite classic dance club, Numbers. Now, two years later, their founder and head choreographer Tifa Tittlywinks is trying to orchestrate more than just a monthly show, and she’s doing so without the use of either appendage. About a month ago, the statuesque performer and show creator was sidelined after a crippling motorcycle accident, and she’s finally decided to ask for help. That help will come in the form of a gofundme campaign, and through the troupe’s own monthly show on May 27th. FPH sat down with the troupe leader to see what she’s been up to and to find out how she’s coping without the ability to perform.
FPH: You aren’t from Houston, correct? How long have you lived here?
Tifa Tittlywinks: Yeah, technically I’m from Indiana, but I’ve lived here for eight years now. I used to work for Dyson and they transferred me here. If corporate living was in my blood, I’d still work for them.
FPH: How did you get into burlesque and how long have you been doing it?
Tifa: A friend of mine, Trisha Gernard asked if I’d be interested in joining a burlesque troupe five and a half years ago. We met at Natachee’s with a couple of girls and I got to put my background skills of show production and choreography to good use.
FPH: You recently had an accident where you broke bones in your hand, you completely severed your right clavicle, and you have a pretty gnarly road rash…will you perceivably be able to perform again?
Tifa: In general, I sure hope so. I’m starting physical therapy soon, and if the tendons in my shoulder don’t start to heal faster, then I’ll have to get surgery. If that happens, then I’ll be sidelined for a year.
FPH: You’re having a benefit show to cover medical costs, but the amount you have on your crowdfund campaign is only a partial amount correct?
Tifa: Yeah, the amount on my gofundme page is about half of what I need. I don’t have the coverage for this stuff and the driver of the motorcycle in the accident didn’t have insurance. As it stands, I have to pay for everything upfront before they’ll do anything to heal me. The only thing I get the “luxury” of paying off over time is my emergency room visit. So, that’s why we’re doing multiple events, because I won’t be able to perform until July at the earliest.
FPH: You’re performing at the fundraiser for the Burlesque Hall of Fame in about a month, is it true that you’re the first Houston performer to perform there?
Tifa: I’m pretty sure that we’re the first, unless someone from Houston performed there and then dropped into obscurity. But to my knowledge, we’re the first. It basically breaks down like this, the Burlesque Hall of Fame was curated with items from the greats of burlesque by a woman named Dixie Evans. She was known as the “Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque,” and she started the museum. She would lead attendees through and tell tales of burlesque and her own experience in the business. The museum moved to Las Vegas where she continued to tour patrons through until she passed away in 2013. The BHoF Weekender event that we’re attending and the “Miss Exotic World” competition that we’re competing in, is the fundraiser for the Hall of Fame. When I say we, I mean Emma D’Lemma and myself performing our “Willy Wonka & Oompa Loompa” performance. We’re competing in the highly difficult duets competition, while Bunny Galore who’s now a Houstonian will be competing in the debut category. When we win, *wink *wink, ha ha ha, our names will be added to the list of those who’ve performed at the fundraiser, which is a huge honor for any burlesque performer.
It’s never easy to ask for help, and if you know the troupe leader, then you’d know that not being able to do something herself is one of the hardest things she’s ever had to do. You can support her through her gofundme page here, or you can donate any amount here. However your best bet would be to attend her benefit on Friday May 27th at Numbers. The 18 & up show will feature performances multiple burlesque performers from all over Texas. Raffles, a kissing booth, and many more surprises will be on hand at the event. There’s also a pre-show set from Houston’s Craig Kinsey and Skabz The Clown, and your ticket includes entry to classic Numbers immediately following the show. The tickets for the standing room only benefit are $20.