Is it kitsch if they’re good at what they do?

I went to go see the World Famous Pontani Sisters at Marion’s Continental last night. Marion’s is my favorite bar in New York; it’s friendly, has a nice mixture of non-impossibly-hipsterish people, is packed with 1960s kitschy crap, and tries really hard to think of fun things to do. Like on Mondays, when the Pontani sisters come out and do a three-minute burlesque review every twenty minutes. This was Official American Kitsch, too: a grass-skirt number, a fruit-on-the-hat number, a rubber bathing-cap, sequined bikini, and tap shoe number, a Bond Girl kung-fu number.

The funny thing is, even though the costumes are outrageous, the sisters are good, which (oddly) seems to rob the show of the ironic self-referentiality that everyone has come to expect of all things “retro.” And I can’t understand why I’d think of the absence of meta-reference as a “loss.” God knows that the last thing we need is more post-post-postmodern self-referentiality. I guess this is more like an honest-to-goodness revival of burlesque, not an ironic presentation of burlesque’s symbolic trappings. The sisters really seem to own their presentation, too; they’re not tall, and they’re covered in tattoos, so there’s a strong Lower East Side vibe to their routine. Plus, they have a solid, well-executed website. And they seem to have thought the whole thing through carefully; viz. this this article by Angie Pontani.

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