Sunday, December 31, 2017

A Conversation with Dancer, Starry DeLight

Thank you so much for taking the time! I’ve got to ask, what got you into burlesque?

In August, 2012, my husband (Mike) and I celebrated our wedding anniversary with an evening date including dinner and a burlesque show.  We had never experienced burlesque and we were so entertained by the energy and talent of the performers. Immediately after the show, I met with the producers of the show and enrolled in the local burlesque academy.  Upon graduation from the burlesque academy, I was offered the opportunity to be a featured performer with the neo-burlesque troupe, Salome Cabaret, and I am enjoying my fourth year as a troupe member!   I also perform/collaborate in a number of local productions and travel to perform as an independent artist.

Tell me about your first burlesque performance.

My husband and I developed a concept/character to a favorite song “Ladylike” by a fierce female rocker (Storm Large) for my graduation, or “grinduation,” act to complete my study at the Salome Cabaret Burlesque Academy.  The song is powerful and it motivated me to find the confidence I needed to take the stage in front of an audience (something I never imagined I would do!).  Since that first performance, the “Ladylike” act has been performed many times and will always be a favorite for me.

What thoughts did you have before going on stage that first time?

I remember stepping out on the stage and feeling rather numb…I could not focus on the audience, but I wanted to please my husband with my performance because he was in the audience cheering for me.  When my act was over, my husband presented me with a long-stem rose and a beautiful engraved, star-topped crystal trophy to commemorate my first stage performance. The experience was invigorating and it marked the start of a new journey in life.
Do you have a stage name or tag line, and if so how did you come by it?

Starry DeLight, “The Tease of the Twilight.”  Deciding on a stage name was easy             because my husband has always called me “Star.”  But, our “delightful” journey of tease as the day ends and the night begins helped the name evolve with a tag line.

Tell me about your burlesque persona.  

Starry is confident on stage and wishes to please an audience.  She changes her look to complete each character/personality she has developed and she can be demure or dramatic, depending on the story she is sharing on stage.

Tell me who/what inspires you, burlesque or otherwise.

I love Dita von Teese who provides a larger than life, sparkle-tastic fantasy on stage, but she is beautiful and gracious off stage, as well.  Mike and I travel annually to enjoy her magical productions and we had the honor of meeting her this year.  But, I have had the privilege over the years to meet and to study with many burlesque Legends who have inspired me to follow in their footsteps and respect the foundation they have laid for all who wish to experience the wonderful world of burlesque! When I met Penny Starr, Sr. a few years ago, she offered advice on how to have longevity in the burlesque scene and said she wished the “neo” performers would go back to classic performances of the art…she asked me to develop classic acts and respect the art as it was originally intended.  I find that I am more comfortable with a classic approach to the art and I plan to strive for a more classic (and classy) flair to my performances.

Do you make your costume pieces or buy them/alter them? 

I am so lucky to have the most amazingly-talented burlesque husband who makes and/or alters all of my costumes, pasties, props and accessories!!!  He also guides me through concepts and choreography…we are definitely a team, but I believe he is more “Starry” than I am, at times!!  If I have a vision for a costume or character, then Mr. DeLight makes the vision become reality.

What is your favorite costume or piece? 
I could not pick just one favorite, but at the top of the list is my “Barbie” ensemble that includes a life-size Barbie box.  The act is campy and fun and the prop garners much attention…so much so that “Starry Barbie” was invited to perform in NYC after being seen on stage at a NC festival.  The first performance in NYC in a Calamity Ch

ang production led to other opportunities to perform in the Big Apple…so surreal and fabulous!!

What’s your favorite burlesque moment (This can be past or present/yours or someone else’s)?

I have been blessed to experience so many wonderful moments and memories over the years…with the honor of sharing the stage with extremely talented performers from all over the world! But, this year I received my first festival award at Burlesque!Burlesque!Burlesque! in Asheville, NC and I was so proud to share the award of “Most Deco-Rated” (that recognized the coordination of theme/costume/props) with my husband who made my props and costume for the winning act, “Ice Cream Man!”  It was so exciting and fulfilling to be in the winners’ circle with a beautiful Queen and a talented performer who was Most Comedic…a favorite moment, for sure!!

What’s the funniest (or strangest) on-stage experience you have had? 

I will relate my “strangest” experience…and I have experienced it a few times.  It was strange for me the first time that a man walked up to me to say that he and his guests were actually crying through my performance because they had been moved to tears watching such a personal expression of heartbreak.  He said my interpretation was beautiful and he could not hide his emotion.  Since that time, I have had a number of people tell me that they were moved to tears by a few of my acts, thankfully from what they called a beautiful interpretation rather than a terrible performance!! ha ha  I love being approached by audience members and getting their feedback…it helps me grow in art and in connection with my kind supporters!

Tell me about a time your act went awry.  How did you overcome it?

Live performance always lends an opportunity for something to go awry…always!!  But, I have found that when a snafu occurs, a smile or laugh while pretending the snafu is intentional will buy some time for a resolution of the problem.  If possible, engaging the audience (or a member of the audience) to help with the resolution will be well received (i.e. allowing an audience member to help with a stuck zipper, remove a tangled glove/stocking, assist with a prop, etc.).  The audience is experiencing the act with the performer and wants it to go well!!

You also do pole-dancing, when did you first start pole dancing and how did you get started?  Did you take a class? 

I started studying pole dance in 2009 with my awesome pole goddess, Natasha Fine, who founded Sheer Inspiration Pole Fitness.  That year, my husband gave me a gift certificate for pole lessons in an effort to give me a break from an extremely laborious and all-consuming wildlife rehabilitation career.  I am still in the pole studio weekly and pole dance gives me confidence, helps keep me fit and strong, allows me to enjoy a spiritual journey with my pole family and offers a different approach to performance art.  I enjoy developing “polesque” art and performing with my beautiful and skilled SI Pole Family!!

Do you have any other extracurricular activities besides burlesque that might surprise someone? 

My love for animals and my passion for animal welfare have given me the opportunity to experience the most incredible encounters and interactions over the last 3 decades as a wildlife rehabilitator and domestic animal rescuer/caretaker.  I have raised thousands of wild creatures (from bunnies to bears!), rescued/rehabbed hundreds of domestic and exotic animals and worked with compassionate people dedicated to making life better for animal kind.  I enjoy being a mom to three adorable Dachshunds and a feisty green-cheeked Conure; and, I currently work in a busy animal hospital.

What do your family and friends think about your burlesque? 

My husband is my biggest fan and I always want to make him proud since he works so hard to help me create my stage persona and presence. My friends are extremely supportive and generous to cheer me on while I’m on stage…and off!  My mother always expresses her admiration and support, even when she may find some of my acts to be risqué…she says she lives through me!!  My father does not understand my burlesque involvement and does not acknowledge it, but he supports my interest in “dance projects!!” ha ha

What one piece of advice would you give to rookies thinking about trying burlesque?

My advice to anyone exploring an artistic endeavor is to always follow your heart and believe in yourself.  Outside support is wonderful, but being true to oneself will make an artistic journey fulfilling and rewarding.  As one grows in art and personal truth, the ability to share love from the stage to one’s audience will be returned tenfold…a true accomplishment of art and self!

What advice would you give to other dancers who are faced with opposition from friends/family/culture about what they do?

For me, “reality” is difficult and oftentimes hurtful and/or painful for many reasons. I find the most true friendships and support through the people who share my glitter world.  I wish the general public would cease to make so many judgments before experiencing the burlesque world.  Only after such an experience could one really be   equipped to have informed opinions and “judgments” if necessary.  The fans who follow burlesque performers are the best and I appreciate their love and support!

My advice for a successful burlesque existence is to carefully separate a burlesque persona from a work/muggle life persona (unless one is fortunate to make a living from the stage so that a work and burlesque persona are one and the same!).  For most performers, art is a personal hobby or a “night life” that does not overlap with “day/work life.”  I am careful to keep the separation and to also seek out safe spaces where others share my love of the art.  I strive to remain professional in all situations and to work well with others, on and off stage.  And, again, remain true to oneself and present a positive presence so that a personal and performance persona can successfully coexist. 

Has your participation in burlesque changed the way in which you view yourself?  

Yes…I always wish to have the confidence that Starry possesses and I have become less guarded as an individual by living through Starry’s empowerment.  In years past, I would have backed down from a life situation for fear of consequences…I don’t back down anymore and I strive to have the “control” in daily life situations that I feel I have when I am on stage.

If our readers want to start dancing Burlesque, pole or anything, what advice could you give them to get up right now and get started without any money or going anywhere?

The internet provides so many resources for entertainment and education.  I would suggest using the resources to search artistic interests and watch “how-to” videos and performance videos.  One can mimic the videos in private practice until the desire to learn more leads to class enrollment and development of the art of choice.  Anyone can start immediately and begin a journey of artistic enjoyment and expression!! 

Thanks so much for sharing with us!  You and your husband, Mike, are two of the kindest people I’ve ever met and I thank each of you for being you!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Michael Flocker Wisdom

“The assumption that everyone else is monitoring your physique against some imagined standard of perfection is indicative of a massively inflated ego. No one cares if you have dessert now and then. No one notices when you gain or lose three pounds. And if by chance there is someone in your life who does notice, is keeping track and commenting on such things, it’s not your eating habits you should be concerned with so much as your choice of friends and/or lovers.”-Michael Flocker

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Mulligatawny Recipe

One of my favorite cookbooks is the Better Homes and Gardens Heritage Cook Book.  Mark found it in an antique store and it has all kinds of historical recipes and a little history behind most recipes.  Almost everything I've made from it has been delicious.  Found in it is this recipe for Mulligatawny, "meaning pepper water, was first eaten by British and Scottish soldiers serving in India.  This hearty soup, flavored with curry powder (as you might expect from its birthplace) arrived here by way of the descendants of those fighting men."


1/4 c. finely chopped onion
1/2 tsp curry powder
2 Tbsp shortening
1 c. diced cooked chicken
1 tart apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
1/4 c. chopped carrot
1/4 c. chopped celery
2 Tbsp chopped green pepper
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
4 c. chicken broth
1 16 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp snipped parsley
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp sugar
2 whole cloves

In large saucepan cook onion and curry powder in shortening till onion is tender.  Stir in chicken, chopped apple, carrot, celery, and green pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, till vegetables are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle flour over chicken-vegetable mixture, stir to mix well.  Stir in broth, undrained tomatoes, parsley, lemon juice, sugar, cloves, 1/4 tsp salt, and a dash of pepper.  Bring chicken-vegetable mixture to boiling, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 30 minutes.  Makes 6 servings.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

A Conversation with Rafting Guide and Entrepreneur, Lauren Mindermann

Lauren, I met you at a rafting outfitters, Cascade Outdoors, last month.  We had been white water rafting the weekend before, loved it so much we wanted to go back with more fun-lovin' adventurers.  We had a perfectly amazing time with you--jumping off boulders, seeing a tiny waterfall from underneath if you can force your head underwater, saw endangered flowers, took a hike to a waterfall, completed a successful rescue mission, surfed the rapids, did some bull-riding down the rapids and even did headstands at your encouragement in the raft.  You are certainly my kinda girl! 

Have you had any trouble getting everyone to listen to you being a female leader of an adventurous activity?

Yes, kids and older men seem to come to mind when answering this question. Kids commonly have a hard time listening, especially to a young female. Often times older men seemed glazed over during my speeches and then when we hit the water they do exactly what I have told them not to do. I quickly have to address the problem before we continue the trip. Older men want to be in control but I have to constantly reiterate that I have been on this river for 5 years and know it a lot better than they do. I address the dangers over and over and explain that people have died on this river. After a few stories and addressing the problems, they begin to listen. They may refer to me as “sassy” but when I have other people’s lives in my hands, I’d rather be referred to as “sassy” and get the job done in a safe manor than be unobservant and have a bad accident occur. I have learned that if you do not address certain flaws of paddlers in the beginning of the trip it could result in a very bad and dangerous outcome. It’s better to get the kinks out in the beginning than to suffer through it the entire trip and risk a big disaster. By the end of the trip, no one regrets getting me as a guide.

In guiding a raft do you need much strength or is it more learning the rapids and being
knowledgeable about how the water runs?

Yes, strength is a huge part of rafting. My strength has grown a lot throughout my time as a guide resulting in me getting a lot better. Knowing the lines is extremely important on the Ocoee River. It is a technical river with TONS of rocks so the chances of getting stuck is very, very likely. But even when you know your lines and everything seems fine and dandy, when you have a group of 6-7 people who all weigh over 150-200 pounds, it can be a very challenging trip to make every turn. Once you learn the lines and develop specific strengths, things begin to get easier.

How did you get in to white water rafting and guiding?

I went rafting with my family a couple summers as a kid and I knew one of my older brother’s friends who was once a raft guide. In college, the Ocoee River was less than an hour away so I applied, trained, got the job, and had one hell of a first summer.
As a kid, I had a near-death experience when I went out into the big Nashville flood in 2009. I got swept away in a fast moving flood current, lost my friends and pool float, wound up on a fallen tree away from everything, scraped up and alone and ended up getting saved by a random stranger. For years I could not get into moving currents without being very scared. I knew that at some point I would have to face my fears, just like I started rock climbing to get over my fear of heights.
My first summer was a high water year that was very exciting. It was scary, unpredictable, and all new to me. Each time I wound up in the water I would panic. I wouldn’t say I am the MOST comfortable person swimming white water now but I have gotten a WHOLE lot better. I find it a lot more fun than I used to having an “out of rafter” experience. After my first summer, I knew I was hooked. The adrenaline, the amazing rafting community, having a job that let me have fun outdoors!

What thoughts were you having before you led your first rafting voyage with a crew you didn't know?

My nervous thoughts consisted of “Do I tell them this is my first trip?” I ended up telling them at the very end of the trip. They were surprised and said I did a great job. Thankfully my first trip went better than the next handful of trips. Like I said, your first year is definitely not easy but you begin to learn all the little tricks. With many jobs that I have had I have learned that you almost never feel ready when it’s time to start, you pretty much have to jump right in and act like you know what your doing or else you will never start.

Have you ever had an embarrassing experience while leading a trip?

ABSOLUTELY! On my second trip ever (after the fairly solid first one), I hit a rock in the very first rapid! Everyone at the put-in was watching me as I looked back for help. I had NO idea what to do. I was so embarrassed and thought that this was NOT the job for me “someone call the helicopters and get me out of this situation” I thought. I ended up rescuing most of my people along with another entire raft that got stuck with us. The people in the other raft ended up tipping me because I helped them all get back to their raft safely. HAH!
I have fallen out of the boat on several occasions, I have gotten stuck for long periods of time, I have pulled in a fully grown man out of the water who had completely lost his pants. You begin to laugh it off and explain that no rafting trip is ever the same and that we are ALL in-between swims. Annnnnything can happen out there.

Have you ever been injured while rafting?

My ego has been injured a time or two. I have been extremely sore from rafting. I have swam and hit some rocks in the river. I’ve had some bad blisters, Some sore facial features from having a paddle whack me in the face. But no, I have never had any bad injuries from rafting.

Where is your favorite place to raft?

I recently did a 4 day rafting trip on the “Hell’s Canyon” section of the Snake River up in Idaho/Oregon. It was absolutely incredible. This section is the deepest canyon in North America so we were amongst huge walls. So far this is my favorite place I have ever rafted but the Ocoee is home to me. I know it better than any other river so I guess it may be my favorite. Some other amazing rivers I have gotten to do include the Gauley River (Class V in West Virginia) which is absolutely incredible and I highly recommend everyone reading this to do. You can reserve commercial trips but I would recommend this not be anyone’s first ever rafting trip. The Tallulah Gorge (Class V in Georgia) is absolutely amazing but only releases a couple times a year and is not commercially guided. I have done several other amazing rivers but I eventually hope to do a 15-21 day trip on the Grand Canyon.

Do you do any other interesting sports or hobbies?

I love yoga, mountain biking, rock climbing, trail running, cooking, and various forms of art.

What's one thing you've never tried, but would like to?

Sky diving! Some people have told me it’s not even as scary as rafting.

Now, while we were on our trip, you told us you're going to college to become a nutritionist and that you've started your own line of energy bars! How does one get started in that?

Test out some bars, see what people like, design a logo, order packaging, start selling!

Do you make them and package them yourself? How do you come up with the packaging and art?

Yes, I make and package them myself. Sometimes I’ll have a friend help me package, in exchange for food or brews (thank god for great friends and cheap labor). I honestly built my logo on a free logo website online. One of the other guides that works at my company does product marketing so she took my logo and turned it into a label. I was extremely grateful to have her help along the way. She helped me design labels for every different flavor that I wanted to come out with. She used the same template for every bar but changed the colors for each flavor. She kept telling me that consistency is important.

How do you handle marketing and distribution?

Facebook is my only online form of marketing. Working on the river provides a huge market place. It’s a small community where the word spreads fast. Once one person likes something, it begins to catch on. Before I knew it, other outposts were contacting me asking, “Are you the girl who makes the granola bars? We would love to order some!”  It began to take off like wild fire. For the first summer, I took orders, sold to friends, and sold the bars at the outpost that I worked, Cascade Outdoors. I was able to talk to my guests who went rafting with me about my bars and when they were finished with their trip, of course they were hungry and wanted to try them!

You also came up with cute names for the variety of flavors. Can you tell us about them and what makes your energy bars special?

The names for my bars come from rafting terms including specific whitewater jargon, river/rapid names, funny lingo. Making up the punny names with people is probably the funnest part about the bars. My friends and I are constantly making up new Lolo bar names. My energy bars are special because they are energy dense. I do not use any added sugars or preservatives. I concentrate on using superfoods and making them vegan and gluten free. The base of all of my bars contains walnuts, dates, various dried fruits, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and more. I want to keep the bar simple but also pack it full of nutrients.

Where can our readers purchase them?

Currently the Lolo bar production has been on a bit of a stand still due to my new job and relocation to Nashville for the winter. I encourage readers to check out the At this time I will take orders through the facebook site and ship them. During the summer I hope to sell the bars to more rafting outposts on the Ocoee and in shops around Chattanooga.

I like to ask everyone what is one thing you can tell our readers to do right now to get up and have some adventure in their lives without spending money?

Go hiking or camping at a new spot! Such an easy and fun way to get out for free.
If someone lives in a very urban spot where mountains are not close by, I would advise them to look into fun meet-up groups or try out a new fitness class. Typically gyms, yoga studios, climbing gyms will have a discount or free voucher if it is your first time.

Anything I should have asked you about rafting or making energy bars that I didn't?

I think you asked me in the beginning if people get worrisome about a small female being their guide. And YES, we get that a lot. People will ask my boss if they can request a strong male guide and he will typically jokingly send them my way. I always prove them wrong. It took a long time for me to get strong, gain the confidence, and convince my guests that I actually do it better than most guys but I absolutely love how my hard work and experience has paid off and I absolutely love my job as a raft guide.

Lauren, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me.  I just wanted to let you know that you really impressed me on our trip with your fun loving, adventurous spirit.  I just wanted to say thank you--we need more like you in the world!

Friday, December 22, 2017

"Dress Your Mess Up"

“Fat, skinny, or anywhere in between, you need to play it up in a big and unapologetic way. Sure, you may be sexier if you lose twenty pounds, but that’s no reason to apologize for who you are today. Do not wait for your imagined state of perfection before you head out on your quest for satisfaction. There are countless celebrities with big butts, crooked smiles, weird profiles and beady eyes who have achieved sex symbol status. How does this happen, you ask? It’s because they refuse to apologize for their shortcomings, that’s why. They embrace that which makes them unique rather than shrinking from it. So dress your mess up, put it out there and never apologize.”-Michael Flocker

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Pork and White Bean Stout Stew

This one is AMAZING!  Full disclosure, I didn't think much of the recipe when I read it.  I thought it sounded interesting, but I wasn't sure it would be great.  I was wrong.  It's quite simple to make and the few seasonings it does call for really compliment the pork and butternut squash for total deliciousness!  I did not cook it exactly as this one called for.  If you want my shortcut tips see them at the bottom.

This one was printed in The Week magazine from Stephanie Witt Sedgwick's post in The Washington Post.

Pork and White Bean Stout Stew

2 Tbsp olive oil
3 lbs. boneless pork shoulder, cut into cubes
2 c. diced onions
kosher salt
1 c. stout
1/4 c. molasses
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
two 15 oz. cans great northern beans, drained and rinsed
black pepper
1 lb. peeled, seeded butternut squash, cut into 3/4 inch pieces

Heat oven to 325 degrees and position a rack in its bottom third.  Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Working in batches, cook pork 3 to 4 minutes, until browned, then transfer to a bowl.  Turn heat under empty skillet to high, add 1/2 c. water, and dislodge browned bits.  Remove skillet from heat and reserve liquid.
Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add onions and a pinch of salt. Reduce heat to medium.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft.  Add stout, 1 c. water, molasses, cloves, beans, and liquid from the skillet.  Season with salt and pepper and add pork.  When liquid bubbles, cover and transfer to oven.  Bake 1 hour.  Remove pan from the oven and stir in the squash, then cover and return to oven.  Bake 20 minutes or until the pork and squash are tender.  Let rest 10 minutes, uncovered.  Serves 8-10.

Kylie's Tips:
Any time a recipe with meat or vegetables calls for water, I use chicken or beef broth.  It gives it more flavor than just watering something down.  Moderate how much salt you add separately though because the broth will have salt in it.

I'm an easy kitchen, low maintenance cook when I can be so I did not use the oven at all.  I used a 5 quart pot to brown the pork, put the pork in a bowl after it's all browned.  I used the oil in the pan from the pork to soften my onions and scrape up the brown bits and then added all ingredients back in that same pot.  I kept the cook times the same.

Monday, December 18, 2017

A Conversation with Scott Hinds of The Royal Hounds

Scott thank you so much for talking to me. First, I’ve known you for years, but tell the rest of the world who you are.

Well, I’m Scott Hinds, lead singer of The Royal Hounds. I started out years ago doing improv comedy at The West Side Dinner Theater with you and Mark and a whole slew of other hilarious folks. I became a middle school English teacher and did that for nine years before getting the phone call that they wanted me in the Las Vegas production of a Broadway show called Million Dollar Quartet. I swung for the roles of Carl Perkins and Brother Jay (on upright bass). I did that for three years before opting to leave the show in order to tour with my own band I had started in 2011, The Royal Hounds. I made Nashville my homebase in late 2016 and have been playing music with The Royal Hounds full time ever since.

Exactly how many instruments do you play?

Mainly I play upright bass and guitar.

What got you started?

Well, I guess there are two ways to answer this. I started as a musician in middle school when I visited Mexico and came back wanting to play Spanish style guitar. From there I moved onto the blues and that gave me my love of all things roots music.
However, I consider myself a better performer than I am a musician. I was a natural performer all my life, but one day my mother saw an ad in the local paper for what she thought was a “learn how to do stand up comedy” class. It was actually an improv comedy class being given by Mark Hatmaker at The West Side Dinner Theater. From there, I really got a big love of entertaining audiences. I started doing plays there and eventually parlayed what I learned in comedic performing into my on-stage persona with The Royal Hounds.

Did you take lessons or are you self-taught?

I took guitar lessons and of course the classes Mark would offer: improv, stage stunts, comedic writing, etc. Because of this, I got a love for comedic writing which I worked into every college paper I wrote and now incorporate into my songwriting.

I love it too, but why rockabilly?  It's not common that I ask someone what music they listen to and that comes up.

Rockabilly strikes me as a fun, light-hearted kind of music. It’s funny, I don’t actually listen to it a ton on my own time. I long songwriters who are able to pull lyrics from deep within their souls, however I also recognize my talents and background, which is in comedy. I’ve tried to write serious stuff, but it comes off as false and insincere, so I go with what I’m better at. Plus, I think the world needs light-hearted, fun bands. Sometimes people just need to have a good time and those kinds of bands are a bit rare.

Where did you hear it, what do you love about it?

Ha, you know, it was your husband that first introduced me to rockabilly. I was in my first play at the dinner theater, playing a hot young rockabilly buck named “Vito” in Send Me No Flowers. Mark wanted me to play the part a bit like Johnny Bravo and my entrance music was “Lust and Love” by Stray Cats. I’d never heard rockabilly before and really liked that sound, so Mark made me a tape of some artists to listen to and showed me a few guitar licks. It just went on from there.

If you meet someone who said, “You know, I don’t really like rockabilly” what music would you point to and say “Oh, really? Have you heard this?”

You know, it funny, The Royal Hounds started out as a rockabilly band years ago, but I’ve purposely been moving us away from that sound in recent years. Rockabilly, like many genres of music, can tend to sound the same after a while. Add to that the fact that so many modern day rockabilly bands are all trying to recreate that same sound, you’re left with a sea of rockabilly bands that all sound exactly alike, are often devoid of creativity and rarely push the boundaries of the genre. And unfortunately, as much as I like rockabilly, there are a lot of bad rockabilly bands out there that give the good ones a bad name.
It’s really why I’ve been calling The Royal Hounds a rock and roll band. You say rockabilly, people get a preconceived idea about it and it’s not often a positive one. If you say rock and roll, they’re much more open minded. So if someone said they didn’t like rockabilly, I’d have them listen to bands who can run with that crowd, but have their own distinct sounds. Bands like Southern Culture on the Skids, Unknown Hinson, The Legendary Shack Shakers, or The Red Elvises.

If you want to mix it up and play something different, what would you play?

I’d play Latin music. I’d play Russian circus music. I’d play Gypsy Jazz. I’d play swamp funk. I’d play honky tonk. That’s the thing though. I already am. Too many rockabilly bands listen to rockabilly songs for inspiration and they end up sounding just like everybody else. I purposely avoid drawing inspiration from rockabilly because we already are a three piece with an upright bass. People are going to assume we’re rockabilly regardless. But if I write songs that are Latin, gypsy jazz, or inspired by traditional Russian folk songs, then all of a sudden we have a very original sound.

Who are your influences musical or otherwise?

Like I said, I look to tons of other genres for inspiration. I look to comedians and performers for inspiration as well. “How does so-and-so work a crowd? How do keep the momentum of their show moving?” I also do work on the side as an emcee for some festivals and I can apply it there as well.
I’m also a lover of the business side of music, which is a rarity in musicians. I look to other bands who have the same vibe as us for inspiration in how to market my own band.

If you could meet one artist that you haven't already met, past or present who would it be?

Conan O’Brien. It’s on my bucket list to play on his show. Not only do I think he’s funny, but he’s a fan of this style of music so I believe it would be a good fit. When I started the band, at the first rehearsal, we discussed what our ULTIMATE gig would be and I said Conan, so every step I take with this band is a conscious attempt towards achieving that goal.

What thoughts did you have right before going on stage for your first live performance?

I used to be nervous going on stage, but now it’s so second nature that my thoughts usually are about reading the audience and thinking of what the most effective songs to start with are. Most times we want to start off strong and grab their attention from the first moment. But sometimes we’re in front of a crowd and need to ease them into the insanity they’re about to experience.

What is your most embarrassing moment on stage?

I’m known for a lot of stage antics and stunts like standing on my bass. I had been standing on my bass for years (a way that uses one foot in the air, and one foot on the bass). I had seen someone trying a stance that put both feet on the bass and I thought I’d give it a try. But instead of practicing it at home, I decided the best place to try it would be at a gig...specifically as we played the headlining slot spot at the big Christmas tree lighting ceremony in downtown front of several thousand people.
Well, I jumped up on top of that bass and one foot immediately slipped out from underneath me, kicking out the bridge of my bass in front of everyone. Strings went flying, the bass seemed to fall apart, and a loud thud rang out throughout the city. I’ve only fallen off my bass a handful of times, and when I have, I’ve done it so gracefully that no one noticed.
This time everyone noticed. Fortunately, I was able to piece my bass back together by the end of the next song and be up and running, but dangit if once every few years someone pops up and says, “Hey, I was there that night that you fell off your bass.”

Is there another unusual time you've had on stage?

There have been many many, many. Like the time a woman tried to be sexy by seductively putting dollar bills in her mouth and chewing them, before seductively pulling them back out and putting them in our tip jar. Or the time my band (which is lively and humorous) was asked to play the memorial service for fallen Roane county police officers. Or even the time when a drunk old lady stood in front of the stage and flashed everyone in the audience. Not a one person “wooo’d” for her exposed breasts. Everyone just gasped in horror and yelled, “Put your shirt back on!!!”

If I'm not mistaken, you went to college, established yourself as a school teacher and had your life in place and then…you uprooted from Knoxville Tennessee and moved across the country to Vegas.  What was that like?  How did you make your decision?

It started with me going up to New York on a whim to audition for Million Dollar Quartet, a Broadway show. I figured, “Who am I to be competing against Broadway actors for a role in this show. I’m just a teacher who only has experience in dinner theater when I was a teenager.” With that attitude, I figured I had nothing to lose and I might as well have fun with it.
I didn’t hear back from them for four months and by that time I had put it out of my mind. Then out of the blue I got a call asking me to join the Las Vegas production of the show. I confirmed with them that Monday and 20 minutes later, went in and resigned a nine year teaching career telling them, “I’m sorry you have to find a teacher mid-school year, but I’m moving to Vegas tomorrow.” The principal was supportive. I finished out the school day by throwing out my lesson plan and teaching about following your dreams and how much hard work and focus it takes. I didn’t tell my students that I was leaving because I didn’t want to detract from the lesson itself.
The next day I crammed everything I could fit into my SUV and started driving towards the greatest adventure of my life.

What advice do you have for others considering a big move to follow their passion?
  1. Learn the business side of things, it will give you an edge on everyone else.
  2. Remember, it’s your job, not party-time. Sure, have fun, but don’t let the party overtake your job, or you won’t have a job for long.
  3. Make sure the product you’re presenting to the world is actually good. Make sure it looks professional.
Do you have any other interesting hobbies or interests?

In my Vegas years, I had a lot of free time, so I began learning more about design work, photography, and video editing. The business side of music has also been a hobby of mine as well.

What's one thing you haven't tried, but would like to?

I’m still working towards getting the band on Conan. We’ve taken steps recently towards that goal.

When you're building your audience and performing, you usually start out with small crowds or people that don't know who you are.  Those can often be pretty painful experiences.  Do you have an example of that to share?  What advice do you have for someone starting out to get through those moments?

When I was in Million Dollar Quartet, there were nights that had huge audiences and of course there were nights with small audiences. It always used to bug me when my cast-mates would get mad at an audience for being small, as if it’s their fault for being a small audience. That always really bothered me because those were the people that actually showed up to see you perform. They paid good money to come see you! They deserve the same amount of effort and enthusiasm you would give a large audience. They deserve you at 100%.

One of the most fun gigs I ever played was for an audience of one. It was the weekend of the big Dogwood Arts Festival and my band was playing at a little restaurant in West Knoxville. No one was at our show; everyone was at the festival. We had one person in that little lounge area and her name was Ann. We ended up joking around with her the whole time. We played “stump the band” where she would name ANY song and we would attempt to play it whether we knew it or not. At one point she got up and went to the restroom, so we lost our entire audience, so we unplugged our instruments and waited for her to come out of the restroom, where we proceeded to burst into song outside of the women’s room. We ended up becoming great friends with Ann and now she comes to all of our shows in Knoxville and invites us over for parties at her house. If we got mad at small audiences, we’d never make hardcore fans (and life-long friends) like Ann.

Where can we see or learn more about your music?

You can go to, throw us a like or follow on any of your favorite social media sites, check out our album in iTunes, Amazon, or Spotify or best of all, come see us at a live show! 

One more question, this one is from Mark, and he says your friendship depends on it. Who’s prettier: Him or Mitch?

Mitch below the neck. Mark above the eyebrows. Both need work in between.

I lied, there is another question. I usually like to end with some advice from the expert, that being you, on something we can all do right now to get up and do something. What is something musically that we could all do right now?

Go support live music. Go support local music. Buy their albums. Wear their shirts. Tell your friends. And for the love of all things holy, tip the band!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The New York Times' Original Plum Torte

This was originally published in the New York Times in 1983, but it's absolutely delicious and easy to make.  It's one of the most requested in the Times' history according to The Week magazine.

The New York Times' Original Plum Torte

3/4 to 1 c sugar
1/2 c unsalted butter, softened
1 c unbleached flour, sifted
pinch of salt (optional)
2 eggs
24 halved pitted purple plums
sugar, lemon juice, and cinnamon, for topping
whipped cream for serving--optional

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream sugar and butter in a bowl.  Add flour, baking powder, salt, and eggs; beat well.  Spoon batter into an 8-,9-, or 10-inch spring-form pan.  Place plum halves skin side up on top of batter.  Sprinkle lightly with sugar and lemon juice, depending on the sweetness of the fruit.  Sprinkle with about 1 tsp cinnamon, depending on how much you like cinnamon.
Bake 1 hour, approximately.  Remove and cool to lukewarm, then serve plain or with whipped cream.  Serves 8

Monday, December 11, 2017

A Conversation with Lane Burdette, The Black Belt Santa

First, thank you so much for taking the time.  Lane, you are a man of many talents but what I want to talk about today is your experience as one of Santa's Helpers; I believe with your friends at Martial Arts Carolina they call you "The Black Belt Santa."

Last year I was moved to tears watching a young boy, around 12, light up when another friend of mine playing Santa and I were walking through Walmart.  He was so excited, he could hardly decide what to do with his hands, asked his parents if he could come over for a photo and ran up to us to take it.  It was so sweet and passionate.  Meeting Santa can be a super exciting time.  What is your most touching experience playing Santa?

At a neighborhood breakfast with Santa a little girl sat on my lap and told me what she wanted for Christmas. There were also activities for the kids, and later she came back to give me a hug and give me an ornament she had made for my Christmas tree.

It can also be scary for some children.  Have you had a not so great experience with a scared child?

Yes, some kids are terrified of Santa. The parents want a picture of them with Santa but the child doesn’t want to get close. With those we tell the parent to get off the side and hold their child in their arms. They get the child to look at the camera so they think they are getting their picture taken with mom/dad and I come up from behind so the child doesn’t see me but I’m in the picture with them.

Do you have any other coping tricks or tips when dealing with an uncertain child?

You don’t rush them. Let them watch the other kids come up. Sometimes they will get brave after watching the other kids come. Sometimes you can coach them to come closer by holding out the stocking I carry that is full of peppermints.

What events have you played Santa for in the past?  Family events or at public gatherings?

I’ve done daycare, preschool, neighborhood parties and individual families. There is one family we do every year on Christmas eve. When the dad was little one of his memories from Christmas was getting a big navel orange. Each year he leaves a bag of oranges outside that I put in my Santa’s sack and give one to each person in the house.

Did playing Santa come naturally because you have the perfect beard or does the payoff of being Santa keep the beard going year long?

I started playing Santa at my church. Back then my beard was dark so I wore the fake beard over it. Eventually my beard started turning grey and I abandoned the fake beard. I used to trim my beard back to about a quarter inch in January but about four years ago I decided to leave it long year round.

Any unusual requests from the children to Santa that you’d like to share? I don’t want you to break the North Pole Confidentiality Agreement.

Mostly it is the usual stuff. Sometimes when they get on my lap their memory goes right out the door so I suggest things to them. It pays to pay attention to all of the toy commercials in December. There was one little boy when I asked him what he wanted for Christmas he said, “I want a Woody.” All of the adults that were within earshot started to giggle. I said so you like Toy Story.

 Have children ever presented you with gifts or snacks?

Yes, one little girl had baked cookies at home and brought me a bag of them.

Do they ever ask what you'd like for Christmas?

Yes, I usually answer that I want everyone to have the best Christmas ever!

Do they ever bring you their Letters to Santa?

Kids will bring me lists of what they want for Christmas but refuse to let their parents see the list. Parents come to me later and ask if they can have the list because their child wouldn’t let them read it. One parent told me that they would ask what the child wanted for Christmas and the reply was, “I’ve put it on my list and I’m giving it to Santa.”

What's the funniest experience you can think of while playing Santa?

It was funny to me after looking at the picture that was taken of two ladies sitting on my lap. All you could see was my smiling face between two sets of large breasts.

As a woman, I don't think the kids will let me get away with playing Santa.  Any advice for someone who wants to dress up and spread holiday cheer even if we don’t quite fit the traditional mold?

I know that there is the picture of the fat jolly white man in a red suit with a beard but to me it is the attitude that attracts kids. If you are willing to find fun and joy in the season, kids will come to you and tell you what they want regardless of size race or gender. They will love to talk to Sandy (Kylie) Claus and tell her what they want for Christmas.

Thank you so much for taking the time!

Have a great Christmas!!!

A Conversation with Chef Paul Deiana-Molnar

First, thanks for talking to me, Paul. Full-disclosure, one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten was prepared by you—so thank you again for th...