The Bears coach was particularly optimistic about the addition of wide receiver Brandon Marshall.
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It is, in its fashion, an important historical document, capturing an era and entertainment all but buried in history's dust and by fading memories. Chicago author Rachel Shteir (something of a lightning rod after lambasting Chicago a few weeks ago in The New York Times Book Review) wrote a 2005 book titled “Striptease: The Untold History of the Girlie Show,” but it does not provide the intimate oral history that Zemeckis' book does.
Burlesque, loosely defined as a variety show punctuated by raunchy comedy and female striptease, thrived into the 1960s, and though some performers continued to do their things after that, Zemeckis' aim was, as she writes, “in some small way … (to) change the many misconceptions of burlesque and the performers themselves — men and women who spent their careers marginalized, dismissed, and stigmatized.”
Yes, there were men in the business, a few of them featured in the book. Alan Alda? His father was a singer/joke teller on the circuit, and Alda says, “Early burlesque was a family business. That's hard to believe, but it was.”
Many of those in the book have died since Zemeckis interviewed them, and the others are getting older by the day. But a few undoubtedly find it interesting and perhaps even ironic that “Behind the Burly Q” arrives amid a rebirth of burlesque.
In the April 25 issue of The New Yorker, the aforementioned Acocella wrote about the “new burlesque,” trying to make the case that this “rebirth is due partly to politics. Again and again, artists and commentators of the new burlesque say that it is a feminist enterprise, enabling women to enjoy their sexuality and take pride in their bodies.”
That is not news here, where Michelle L'amour has been at it for nearly a decade, being joined by an ever-increasing number of burlesque shows.
As a girl growing up in Orland Park she studied ballet and jazz dancing. But, encouraged by her parents to get a “real job,” L'amour was majoring in finance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign when she was persuaded by husband-to-be Franky Vivid to perform a striptease before a concert by his rock band.
“I was terrified at first,” she says. “But there was no going back.”
Since then, she has been named Miss Exotic World in 2005, dubbed by Chicago magazine the “Reigning Queen of Bump and Grind” and operated Studio L'amour, one of only two known burlesque instruction schools in the world. A couple of years ago she and her husband opened the Everleigh Social Club (named for the world's most famous brothel, which did business here from 1900 to 1910), featuring a wide array of arts and entertainments (everleighsocialclub.com).
“A lot of burlesque these days is about feminism, politics, performance art,” L'amour says. “I am not interested in that sort of thing. I want to entertain. Burlesque is all about the tease. I want to do something that is artistically pleasing for myself and for the audience.”
In that, she shares the philosophy of nearly all of the women in Zemeckis' book, which will be celebrated at a release party Sunday at 7 p.m. at Sheffield's, 3258 N. Sheffield Ave.
In the midst of all this movie/book/three-young-kids whirl, there is another film. “Bound By Flesh” is a documentary about Daisy and Violet Hilton, Siamese twin sisters joined at the hip who went from appearing at carnivals to becoming big stars in vaudeville.
“I guess I am just drawn to outsiders and underdogs,” Zemeckis says. “I discovered the subject of this film while I was researching this (‘Burly Q') book.”
She is the director. Her husband is the executive producer. The film has been playing the festival circuit for the last few months, taking the best documentary prize at the inaugural Louisiana Independent Film Festival in April.
“I don't think of myself as a filmmaker. Bob is a filmmaker,” she says. “But I do think I am a very good documentarian.”
The film played here during the Chicago International Film Festival last fall. The critic for the Hollywood Reporter, Duane Byrge, wrote: “Scrupulously researched from a wide array of sources (such as the Circus Museum in Baraboo, Wis.), ‘Bound by Flesh' mesmerizes with its full-fleshed portrait of the two gentle souls confined to a life of outrageous spectacle.
“Told with crisp clarity and buttressed by compassion, ‘Bound by Flesh' is a masterful movie, certain to touch the hearts of all audiences.”
Says the author/documentarian, “I hope the (‘Burly Q') book does the same thing.”
It does, April Showers or no April Showers.email@example.com
Asked about Marshall's off-the-field issues, Smith said, "If there was a big concern, we wouldn't have made the trade. We feel comfortable. We feel comfortable with our locker room. We checked out Brandon Marshall."
Smith said Marshall is versatile enough to play all three receiver spots, but indicated he likely would play only split end, at least initially.
That has been Johnny Knox's place. While Smith said he has no idea when Knox will be able to return from back surgery, he did allow Marshall's presence will mean reduced roles for others.
"When you go into the No. 1 position, it affects everybody," he said. "Everyone bumps down one."
Smith said he thought Knox could play elsewhere, however.
"As a wide receiver you want a guy to be able to beat a corner," Smith said. "Unless you are playing a guy in the slot an awful lot, that's where it's different. We have to get these guys on the field and let them tell us exactly where they need to be."
Added to the mix, Wednesday was Giants receiver Devin Thomas, who agreed to a one-year deal.
One way or another, Knox likely will play less in 2012. But Devin Hester's offensive snaps could increase.
Smith said one of the disappointments from last season was not utilizing the returner better as a receiver.
"We've been trying to get this happy medium, this perfect play time," Smith said. "We're going to continue to look for ways because he's special when he gets his hands on the ball."
Smith addressed a number of other topics. Among them:
•Smith wouldn't mind going to camp with the current group of offensive linemen. He even expressed confidence in left tackle J'Marcus Webb, who allowed 14 sacks last season.
"I don't want to picture it that we are looking for a left tackle," Smith said. "We feel comfortable with (Webb and Gabe Carimi). … We like (what) we have right now for what we are going to do with them. (But) we are always, right up until almost the opening game, (looking for) somebody we think can improve us."
In addressing Webb's inconsistency , Smith said, "You can look at the situation sometimes and anybody in the league can look bad. There are some things you have to do to help them out at times, which we plan to do."
Smith said Carimi is likely to start camp at right tackle, but did not rule out a shift to the left side.
He also said Chris Williams could move back to tackle, but he probably could make a better case for him at guard.
•He is excited about where new coordinator Mike Tice is taking the offense.
"We'll consistently see what we want to be a little bit more than occasionally," Smith said.
Smith said his and Tice's philosophy mesh. But he also said he and Mike Martz were on the same page when he hired Martz, who left in January.
"I wanted (Martz)," he said. "I knew what he would bring to the table. (But) given our personnel, we need to get back where we belong."
•He isn't too concerned about Matt Forte's contract stalemate.
Smith pointed out Forte has not missed any team functions.
"I look at offseason as time to negotiate," Smith said. "You do it different ways. He doesn't feel good about his contract situation. He voiced that. It's no more than that. I don't make too big a deal out of it."
Smith believes the Bears are better at running back.
He said Michael Bush will bring more to the Bears than Marion Barber did because Bush can help the team more outside the tackles and in the passing game.
"Michael is a complete running back," Smith said.
Adding Bush wasn't necessarily because the team did not want to promote Kahlil Bell to be the No. 2 back.
"But wouldn't we be even stronger with Kahlil here and Michael Bush?" Smith said. "It's about strength in numbers as much as anything."
Smith did acknowledge Bell's fumbling is a concern.
"We've seen what he can do with the ball when it's secured, now he has to secure it more often," Smith said.