‘Very prude’ City Hall thinks her show is too hot for Jersey City bar
JERSEY CITY — A popular burlesque show wound up being canceled because city officials believed it was too obscene and violated community standards.
Lillian Bustle's troupe was scheduled to perform at the FM club last Wednesday night. It would have been her 20th burlesque show in this city since 2012.
"Normally my performers go down to pasties and G-strings. There's nothing, I mean, a little more than you'd see at the beach, but there's nothing pornographic about this," Bustle said.
"No female breasts were exposed and everybody's buttocks were covered. One performer would open her bra and she would have her pasties on top of her bra. They have a provision in the code that mentions specifically that women can't show their breasts below an area near the top of the aureola. What does that mean? So someone would flash just a little of their pastie."
She said the name of the show — "Flipside Burlesque" — was mistakenly reported to the city as the "Filipino Burlesque Show," which perhaps piqued the wrong interest.
"I would love to see an all-Filipino burlesque show," she laughed. "I think that would be a neat thing."
But on a more serious note, Bustle said it was "terrifying to me as an artist that someone involved in the legal team in this city could make a wholesale ruling against an entire art form."
Bustle said her previous 19 shows all went off without any questions or problems, including some performances that were listed on the city's cultural calendar. But this time was different "because someone heard 'burlesque,' they decided it was going to be so pearl-clutchingly offensive to the neighbors that they would have to send a threatening letter without knowing anything about it."
The letter said burlesque was a violation of "community standards" and the average citizen would find the show's content "obscene," Buslte told New Jersey 101.5. The restaurant was threatened with a $2,500 fine and the loss or suspension of its liquor license.
Bustle said she didn't want to see the owners have trouble, so she backed out of the show and held it at another venue.
"Live to fight another day," she said. "Don't get your liquor license suspended because of boobs."
The show was rebooked at a community arts space called Grassroots where she and her performers played strictly by the book, taming it down and wearing street legal clothing.
The show is interactive and included a quiz about obscenity laws.
Buslte did find some support from city officials for her show. Ward E Councilman Jim Solomon attended the show at Grassroots and she said he has been "super supportive."
"He even tweeted that he had a great time," she said.
Mayor Steven Fulop, meanwhile, in his own Twitter message called the Legal Department "very prude" and said he would have attended.
Solomon said the Law Department works for the mayor and has "1,000 better things to do" that worry about burlesque.
Bustle said burlesque is a celebration of one's body and that the idea that its something "filthy or raunchy" is offensive.
Bustle said that she is also does a speaking program called "Stripping Away Negative Body Image." The intent of her program is to help people become comfortable with their own bodies and more accepting of others.