Monday, June 3, 2013

June’s Peculiar Person of the Month: Mistress B.

David Rondinelli

Mistress B. in her element
Every now and then a person comes along that isn’t just eye catching to interview, but also makes me a downright fan. Mistress B. is that person. The first time I encountered her was at the Museum of Sex. In celebration of their exhibit on the history of the condom, I was greeted to the statuesque mistress with her flaming red hair and full length leather garb. Standing next to her made me feel like she would whisk me away in a hot air balloon much like a certain wizard attempted to do with Dorothy. I sure wasn't gonna miss this ride. A blend of Blade Runner and Mad Max, meets Master's of the Universe, Mistress B. can leave you laughing in stitches while tying her latex into knots of hand crafted gold.

Originally from Minneapolis, she moved to South Carolina with her family. Graduating with a BA, she felt the big apple calling her, so she came to study acting. Along the way, she has accomplished everything from stand-up and sketch comedy, and commercial acting. She is even the co-author of a menopause pop-up and activity book called MenOpop. Among her finest talents, this mistress is perhaps best known for her assorted balloon creations that can raise eyebrows as well as smiles.

Fast forward a few years, when a night on the town led me to cross paths again with this lady of latex. Between her beaming smile that stretches as far as her balloons (all kept handy in her functional costume pockets) she sculpted me a doll-size version of herself. It allowes everyone to take a little piece of her home. Read all about her inflatable coolness as Mistress B. is a very special interview and June's very special Peculiar Person of the Month.    

This Peculiar Life NYC: One big question is how did you learn to make the dirty balloon creations? Was there a class offered or did you take the sculptures route where you could see the object in the balloon before you make them? 
Mistress B: I already knew how to twist balloons. I had been doing comedy on cruise ships, and I got off one of the contracts and said to myself, "Steady gigs are awesome! How do I get one on land?" I knew a lot of very talented performers and actors who were quite successful as children's entertainers, and it seems in the "variety world", you either make a living performing for kids or for adults.  I like kids, but I hate their parents. Since I had already done stand-up comedy, performing for adults was very comfortable for me.  The idea for adult balloons came to me when I was at a Ricky's and I saw a book/kit called "Rude Balloons" and it all clicked for me. 

My first "adult balloons" were adaptations of what I already knew how to make (it's a slippery slope from swords to penises) and sculptures that were in that book.  Later, I began going to balloon conventions. (Yes, there are such things, and I am very controversial in the "balloon community.") That community is pretty conservative, so there are no classes per se for adult sculptures.  I do have a balloon buddy from Vegas who has taught me a few things, but mostly I have to adapt from classes taught for kids' sculptures.  The "happy ending" on the penis is the smoke for Thomas the Tank Engine.

TPL NYC: You mentioned that you once dated a clown, how does one meet a clown? Where you once part of a circus?

MB: Actually, I was married to a clown.  We met when I was doing sketch comedy at an underground downtown theatre space; he was doing sketch comedy in a different troupe. I have never officially been in a circus, but through him I met many circus people, and now I perform with adult circus and variety shows, such as the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus (not a misspelling.) Circus people are great.  They're always reinventing themselves, and I love that.

TPL NYC: You perform with many burlesque troops and erotic themed reviews, what is it about those venues that appeal to you?
MB: Overall, I like inventive, subversive entertainment. It doesn't have to be sexually explicit or even suggestive. I simply enjoy performances that challenge an audience to question what they thought they knew. And I like that subversive kind of entertainment best when it reaches a "mixed" or non-underground crowd.  I have ambivalent feelings about burlesque itself.  Like many subversive art forms, when it's good, it's GREAT, but when it's therapy for someone who wants to feel better about their body, then I sort of lose interest. 

TPL NYC: How did you create the character of Mistress B? What is the “B” short for?

MB: As I said before, when I saw "Rude Balloons" something clicked.  I already did a comedy German Chanteuse, so when I saw that book. I thought, "That's it!  I'll do adult balloons! I'll be a comedy dominatrix! I'll do that bad German accent, and wear something black, and that'll be my steady gig!" Honestly, I suspect that the idea of creating a dominatrix character came to me for two reasons:
1) I wanted people do to what I told them to do.
2) The juxtaposition of looking scary and doing something whimsical is funny.

The B stands for "Balloon". 

: How long have you been doing this brand of performance art and how did you get into it?

MB: I've been doing Mistress B for 7 years.  I pretty much wandered into Lips Restaurant and asked them if I could twist balloons there for tips, and they said yes.  For the first year, I didn't have my motorized boob costume, so I just used a hand-pump.  It was a great experience, because I was able to develop a character week after week in front of an audience, and for the first year, it was without the gimmick of the costume.  I learned to do little shows at each table and to really interact with the audience, which, ironically, I didn't do when I did stand-up. 
Later, after I had my current costume built, I was more “bookable” and could perform in variety/burlesque shows and in other venues. 

: When it comes to latex are you actually interested and part of that fetish community, or is it another venue to perform at? Have you always been fascinated with it? If so, what do you feel started it?
MB: I am not a fetishist. (Sorry, everybody!) I like balloons a lot, but I don't love balloons. However, there is a quality about balloons that is both harmless and scary, because balloons are whimsical, and yet, all of a sudden they can alarmingly pop.  Balloons create a sort of instant suspense: there is a tension that builds in an audience wondering, "Is it going to pop? Isn't it going to pop?" That tension is something I like to play with, and I understand that the tension happens to be something that fetishists like. I also understand that messing with an audience and holding them in a state of tension is a bit sadistic on my part (I'm okay with that). But I'm not part of the community. I actually get eczema on my hands from the latex. Eczema is HOT.
When I began twisting balloons, I got into it merely because I needed money. I already knew how to knit, and my clown husband looked at me while I was knitting once and said, "I bet you could twist balloons." 

: How did you come up with your outfit? Did you make it yourself, or did you see it hanging on a rack somewhere and think it was perfect for your persona?

: I got it at Macy's. Actually, I had the costume custom-made. In fact, I bartered with the person who made my costume--I taught her knitting, and she built it for me. 

TPL NYC: Speaking of clothing? Do you change your costumes much, or do you need to keep the same outfit for your air nipple?

MB: I have been building a couple of new costumes so that I have different looks, but I find them sort of boring.  I feel like I have to look intimidating for the joke to really land.  And it doesn't feel quite the same when people aren't slightly uncomfortable and wondering what the hell I'm up to.
: Your outfit fits a fetish look, but it is also functional, how did you get that nipple to spray air?

MB: Very dangerous European Hormones. 

TPL NYC: Is it hard leaving the house dressed like that? Do people approach you when you are dressed in your gear?

Mistress B. without the balloons
but still stylish
MB: I no longer leave the house dressed in the entire costume.  I will wear my makeup and sometimes a wig, but I think it's safest for me to look sort of unglamorous, or more accurately, as if I am going to work, as opposed to looking like “this is how I live my life”.  The more completely done up I am, the more likely it is that I will be mistaken for a drag queen (which is absolutely fine with me most of the time). When I am out and in my costume and that happens, I sometimes attract attention that I'm uncomfortable with.  I'm fine making people uncomfortable in a safe space, but not on the subway.  When you make people uncomfortable on the subway, they want to punch you.
TPL NYC: What are some of your balloon specialties that you can make?
MB: Genitals, strippers on poles, a hat with lips and a tongue, handcuffs, whips, slave collars, a go-go boy, a self-portrait, and then anything people ask for (though I frown on making animals with penises, unless it's two balloon dogs making puppies). Oh, and I won't make diseases. 
TPL NYC: Of the balloon creations that you can do, which one do you like making the most?
MB: I like many of them for different reasons. I like the Vagina, because it's funny to make someone re-experience the miracle of birth; I like the Penis, because I hit people in the face with it, which is outrageous; I like the Lips, because they're fast, but people really appreciate them; and I like making a self-portrait, because, if people are sober enough to pay attention, they can't figure out what on earth I'm making till I reveal at the end, and the reveal often gets applause. 
TPL NYC: Which one of your balloon creations is the hardest to make?
MB: The ones I've been doing for a while that are in my repertoire are, by now, easy for me. The hardest things to make are things I have never made; they become a puzzle I have to figure out on the spot.  Recently, it's been a chef's toque.  
TPL NYC: I was able to get a figure that looks like you. How do you know where to put the balloons to make something as complex as a self portrait complete with all the details?
MB: Lots of experience with latex. 
TPL NYC: Is this a full time gig for you, or do you have any other persona’s you have created?
MB: This is a full-time gig for me, but I have created many different characters over the years. Most recently I've created a comedy Eurythmics tribute band called "Your Rhythm Mix" for which I am the Annie Lennox-type front person. Imagine that the Eurythmics never made it and have to play covers for money.  We'll be playing 80s alternative, Eurythmics, and contemporary songs as if the Eurythmics did them. (Like Taylor Swift's "You Belong with Me" in that obsessive, dark Eurythmics' style.) We premiered in May, and the response was better than either my partner or I anticipated.  It's good to keep doing new things.  It helps keep the old things fresh.
TPL NYC: What does your family and friends outside the performance art world think of what you do?

Mistress B. shows off her many talents
MB: My mother doesn't know how to tell her friends about what I do. Once, while I was visiting, we were with her friends. One of the ladies complimented me on my sweater, and my mother said quickly, "Yes, she made that sweater. She teaches knitting." (Though I have taught knitting, I certainly have never made anything close to a living at it.)  So later, I said to my mom, "You know, you can just tell your friends that I twist balloons for a living.  That's true."
My brother is both impressed by the fact that I make a living doing something weird, and wants me to be a lawyer. 


TPL NYC: How long have you been doing this? Was this a calling you had your whole life, or was this something that you stumbled into?
MB: I never in a million years expected that I'd be doing this.  

TPL NYC: Where are some of the regular places that you perform at?
MB: Weekly at Lips Restaurant and the Cubbyhole, and sometimes at Club XL, the Penthaus, the Ritz, and the Box. For the last five years, I have also been in a bi-weekly Broadway-style variety show called "Broadway Varietease", which will go on hiatus for the summer, but will resume in the fall.  
TPL NYC: I saw on your website that you perform in the Latex Lounge. Is this a show that you created yourself? How do you pick which acts you want to do and use?
MB: Mistress B's Latex Lounge is a 50 minute solo show I created that involves a lot of music, audience participation, and balloons.  I like to choose some musical numbers that are unexpected for Mistress B to do (like the musical standard “I'm Old-Fashioned”) and some that are more obvious, like Sondheim's “I Never Do Anything Twice” which is a Madame's Song.  When I am doing the show, sometimes I'll have a special guest. 
TPL NYC: You also have a slave, how did that relationship get started? Are there any tips you can give readers on how to get a proper slave?
MB: I got my slave when I needed help for my "Crafting with Mistress B" videos, which I hope to post someday soon.  It's important to train your slave properly.  I use tricks from the Dog Whisperer.  Exercise, discipline, and then affection. 
TPL NYC: Aside from the balloon creations, it seems you like to sing and do some comedy. Is it hard to be funny while trying to make a balloon creation?
MB: I don't think it's difficult to be funny while making balloons.  It can, however, be difficult for an audience to notice that you are funny if they are very, very drunk. 
TPL NYC: Same with singing, do you write a lot of your own music?
MB: I think it's very easy to sing and be funny. Millions of better performers than I have done it.  It's harder to figure out how to incorporate balloons into a musical piece.  There's a very thin line between being clever with balloons and being a prop comic.  I try to be both stupid and clever. That's tricky. I write some of my music.  In all situations, I either have recorded my own voice so that I can lip-sync to it (which is good for loud clubs with bad sound systems) or I sing live. 
TPL NYC: You have performed some of Sondheim’s songs, what is it about his music that you like?
MB: Without question, to me, he is the greatest lyricist of our age. I love his internal rhymes, his skill at story and his ability to communicate complex or ambivalent feelings.  I have a not-so-secret fantasy that someday he will see me perform "I Never Do Anything Twice." He might love it, or he might hate it. But he will never have seen the same rendition, that's for sure.
TPL NYC: You are very active with LGBT events. Do you feel that your appeal is suited to gay audiences more?
MB: I feel it sort of happened that way. I don't know exactly why. I have often wondered about performers like Kathy Griffin or Madonna or Lady Gaga or Cher: did they mean to be popular among a gay audience, or did it just happen? I suppose it's a rather obvious thing to say, but I'll say it anyway: whatever audience finds you, it's because you're doing some mysterious something that resonates to them.  In other words, you are all birds of a feather on some fundamental level. And for me, it's a complete love-fest.
TPL NYC: Is there any place you have performed that has been challenging?
MB: One place was a straight club in Clifton New Jersey that was having a Leather & Lace night. The crowd was so "gumbah" that I thought I was going to be gay-bashed in the parking lot. (I should note that I have had many very good experiences performing for straight crowds.) Even the bouncers, supposedly there to protect employees of the club, wouldn't look at me.  Only the women attending the party would talk to me. I was texting a friend the address of the club in case something happened to me.  Even though I happen to be a "real girl” and have ovaries, I was offended by the idea that I should have to say so.  I felt that it shouldn't matter what my plumbing is--I was hired by the club, and I should feel protected.  That was a real eye-opener in terms of what drag queens and transgender folks go through.  And that is a big-time reason I don't walk around the streets of NYC in my costume. Another event was an honest-to-goodness fetish party. During the party, I had to watch a demonstration of "ball-busting", which consisted of a dude getting kicked in the testicles about 20 times by his Dom.  Any curiosity I had of whether I could actually be a real dominatrix was completely quelled. I nearly burst into tears. I don't want to kick somebody in the balls that I DISLIKE, never mind someone that I actually LIKE. No way.

Mistress B. poses in the "No on Prop 8" campaign.
TPL NYC: What are some upcoming projects and events for you? Do you stay local to NYC or do you travel?
MB: I am working on a performance/story-telling show which I co-created with Sideshow Darling, The Lady Aye called "Unmasked: Larger than Life Characters and the Average Joes who Inhabit Them", which won the inaugural First of May Award from the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus. In the first half of the show, we perform as our characters, and in the second half, we appear out of makeup and costume and tell stories about our exploits. We look forward to having monthly or bi-weekly performances in the fall.  "Your Rhythm Mix" debuted in May, and we hope to pick up steam over the summer and early fall. 
I don't have any travel engagements at the moment, but a couple of years ago I was hired to go to London to perform in a private birthday party in over the summer, and in the fall, flown to Paris to be on a TV show called "Sex Wiz Antoine." It sounds very fancy. I enjoy traveling abroad because it's interesting to see what kinds of people in other countries go to see “adult”, or what I'd rather describe as “grown-up,” entertainment.  For instance, here in NYC burlesque and adult circus are rather underground, and the same rather small audience goes to see these types of shows.  But in London, the burlesque and variety shows were in the same part of town as the big Broadway-type shows, and “nice” people, such as suburban married couples on dates, went to see them.  And the acts in the shows I saw in London were ten minutes long, as opposed to the 5-minute acts here catering to short attention span.I hope to travel more in the near future. 

Mistress B with Lady Aye
TPL NYC: What are some things you enjoy doing outside of being Mistress B? Any fun hobbies or interests?
MB: I'm an avid crafter and DIYer.  Knitting, sewing, repurposing clothing, repurposing wood for small furniture items, cooking, you name it. I like to take things and turn them into other things. For instance, I've made lockets out of mini-Altoids tins, a purse out of gold leather pants (which a friend forbade me to wear), and a “mission-style” mantle-piece from an old media stand. My newest quest is to find a way to make an all-natural lip stain. I am also a part-time astrologer. 
TPL NYC: As a mistress is that something you had to work up to being or is that just a stage name?
MB: It's just a stage name. 
TPL NYC: So this blog is about peculiar people, what is the most peculiar thing you have ever done?
MB: Geez.  Do I have to come up with something else?  
I once did the math, and I believe that over the course of 7 years at Lips, I have hit about 3,000 women in the face with my penis.  That's a lot of balloon penises in the face.
TPL NYC: While in NYC what is the most peculiar thing you have witnessed?
Here you have a choice of one of the three. I can't tell which one reads off the page best.
MB: Years ago, I was with friends in the East Village at a dumpy Ukranian Bar. A cross-dresser (a large, stubbly guy with a receding hairline, girly barrette in his thinning hair, wearing a stained pink sweat suit and white Keds sneakers) sat playing Ms. Packman.  There was a toothless old prostitute yelling to no one in particular, "I Vant Amore! I Vant Your Cock in My Pussy!” Without looking up from the Ms Packman game, the cross-dresser said, "That's Pathetic." 

Mistress B. conquers the cartoon medium
 Tied up in knots over Mistress B? Well you can find out more about her by visiting her website:

No comments:

Post a Comment