Madame Rosebud has been going through a David Bowie phase for, oh, maybe about a quarter-century now.
As a child, the New York burlesque performer went from being terrified of his presence when Mom showed a BBC documentary, to being obsessed with him through adolescence and very painful teen years.
“He looked so beautiful and terrifying,” said Rosebud. “There was something about the power of his physicality. It was his sort of reptilian physicality and the fact it was equal parts masculine and feminine, and it was threateningly seductive. There was nothing cute about (Ziggy Stardust). It was intentionally threatening and I had never seen that before. I fell in love with all of those ideas mixed together.
“He was taking all those things I wanted to see, but didn’t know I wanted to see them, and it put them all together.”
Growing up in Sedona, Ariz., she could count the number of friends on one finger, and she went through as many iterations of Bowie that she could think to cope with a persistence sense of alienation. She remembers spending an entire school year in a three-piece suit to honor the Thin White Duke phase of his career.
“I was in a constant state of performance art,” Rosebud said.
She still is, really, and has become one of the more cutting-edge performers in the typically edgy New York scene. And when Bella Blue asked her to perform at her “Touché” show Jan. 28 at the Joy Theater, she asked for Madame Rosebud to resurrect her act inspired by the Bowie song “Wild Is the Wind.” The death of the rock star and pop-culture shape-shifter on Jan. 10 only underscored the need for a little Ziggy Stardust magic. Not that either Madame Rosebud or Bella Blue believes that Bowie’s THAT gone from us.
“I don’t think that he died,” said Rosebud. “I think that he ascended.”
Madame Rosebud, a few days after the ascension, gathered with other performers at The Slipper Room on the Lower East Side, “and it sort of became an impromptu celebration. DJs played Bowie music, and I did two of my Bowie pieces. We all needed to collectively work out this lump in our throat together.
“For me, it’s not gone. I’ve talked to my mom about it several times.”
It’s performers like Madame Rosebud that enjoy mutual admiration with Bella Blue, who loves tapping into that New York sensibility of variety and cabaret performance that often walks crazy fine lines between drag and burlesque. Rosebud will bring husband Bastard Keith — the self-styled inventor of “Burletiquette” — for the show, which includes fellow New Yorker Gal Friday, Chicago boylesque performer Ray Gunn, and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” contestant BenDeLaCreme as emcee. (Bella Blue and Nona Narcisse will be among the New Orleans performers.)
The fact that Bowie left this mortal coil after Bella Blue signed up Madame Rosebud isn’t lost on either performer.
“With, Bella it’s perfect,” Rosebud said. “I get to come down here and celebrate with her. She’s from the same weird place. You just kind of know other aliens when you see them.”