Interview: Francine "The Lucid Dream"
The Pink Room Burlesque producer and performer Francine "The Lucid Dream" pays tribute to the work of David Lynch.
Tue Oct 9 2012
Photograph: Bettina May
Producer and performer Francine “The Lucid Dream” is the force behind The Pink Room Burlesque, the David Lynch–inspired series of shows that merge surrealist quirk with bump ’n’ grind action. On Sunday, October 14 at Le Poisson Rouge, Francine and her troupe join forces with the Pittsburgh’s Silencio, a talented combo that specializes in covering the Angelo Badalamenti–composed music from Lynch’s works
Time Out New York: How did you first get into burlesque?
Francine "The Lucid Dream": I took my first class at the New York School of Burlesque about three years ago. It was just for fun; I had no idea that this would be something I’d be doing. But I got so drawn into it, and it became a bigger and bigger thing. Anyway, my first class was taught by Jo Weldon, and at the end of that class, she asked if anyone was interested in go-go dancing at the Slipper Room. I just shot up my hand, and I really liked it. That was my gateway. So I took more classes: I took one from Dr. Lucky, and that class turned into a showcase. And at that showcase, producers were coming up to me and booking me on the spot! I did not expect that at all. And that was it.
Time Out New York: Can you pinpoint when your David Lynch fascination began?
Francine "The Lucid Dream": That’s been since Twin Peaks was first on the air.
Time Out New York: What were you, like, two years old?
Francine "The Lucid Dream": Ha! Well, I was very young, and I didn’t get half of it. I was like, What is this weirdness? As I got older, I watched all the reruns on Bravo, and then I really got obsessed. It’s definitely been a big influence on my life in various ways.
Time Out New York: And how did you decide to combine the two obsessions?
Francine "The Lucid Dream": I made some really wonderful friends through that class that led to the showcase performance, and as it turns out, a lot of them were also David Lynch fans. At one point, I sad something like, “Wouldn’t it be really fun to do something like a Twin Peaks burlesque show?” And everyone was like, “Oh my God, yes!” Actually, there was another girl in the class who had the same idea. About a year after I started to perform, I was like, “You know, let’s just do this.” I thought it was going to be a one-off, just for fun; I was just hoping our friends would come. But there was a line out the door at the Parkside, and it sold out. I couldn’t believe it. Clearly, there are a lot of David Lynch fans out there.
Time Out New York: Yeah, even though it’s been six years since Inland Empire came out—and that wasn’t exactly his most popular film—it seems like Lynch fever is at an all-time high.
Yes, I’ve noticed that!
Time Out New York: Do you have any explanation for why that is?
Francine "The Lucid Dream": Maybe it’s because it’s been a while since he’s had a new one come out? I’m not sure, really. I know when I first started doing this show, there were a lot of Lynch anniversaries coming up.
Time Out New York: Like “The 20th anniversary of Twin Peaks” kind of things?
Francine "The Lucid Dream": Yeah, exactly. So I think people were maybe thinking about him anyway. But I owe a lot to the Welcome to Twin Peaks website. By coincidence, that started up around the same time I started doing the show. So all of a sudden, there was this place to go to for all of your David Lynch needs. That definitely helped. And there’s always stuff floating around. Just today, somebody posted something on my Facebook page. There’s this designer who creates burlesquey kind of hairpieces—really beautiful stuff—and now she has a line of Twin Peaks–themed hairpieces. It’s constant. And it’s pretty cool.
Time Out New York: Didn’t you go to the Twin Peaks Fest in Washington State last year?
Francine "The Lucid Dream": And it turned out to the best year I possibly could have been there! Sherilyn Fenn and Sheryl Lee, who played Audrey Horne and Laura Palmer, were both there. And Ray Wise, who played Leland Palmer, was there too. I got to meet all them, and got to geek out a lot.
Time Out New York: Are there any other David Lynch burlesque nights anywhere?
Francine "The Lucid Dream": I know that people have done one-offs here and there; I’ve heard of stuff on the West Coast. And I know that there’s a Lynchian-themed burlesque show in London. I’m dying to go see that. From what I’ve heard, that show is very different from ours.
Time Out New York: How many editions of the Pink Room have there been so far?
Francine "The Lucid Dream": We’ve done Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive… We’ve done a lot. I’m not sure if we’ll ever do The Straight Story, though. [Laughs]
Time Out New York: That one might not lend itself to burlesque so well. For those not so well versed in David Lynch, what does the Pink Room refer to?
Francine "The Lucid Dream": It’s a reference to Fire Walk with Me, the prequel to Twin Peaks. It’s a song, which we play in every single show. But it’s linked to this one scene, one of the most debaucherous scenes. It’s where you get to see Laura Palmer’s real life, when she’s not being the homecoming queen.
Time Out New York: There seems to be some vague connection between burlesque and the work of David Lynch. Maybe it’s that their shared staginess, or perhaps it’s just that they’re both a bit surreal, but there’s something there.
Francine "The Lucid Dream": Yes, I think so, too. Before I was first started doing this, I remember thinking that this was such a strange idea. But I felt like it would work, because there are at least a few things that connect David Lynch’s work and burlesque. Number one is that he always has a bunch of really foxy ladies. [Laughs] There’s always a lot of sexual tension building up in his films. But also, his movies can go from quirky and funny to dark and macabre—and, for me, a really great burlesque show is the same way. I always try to have some of each in my shows. I don’t like either too much darkness or too much weird comedy; I like it to be layered.
Time Out New York: I imagine that when you’re focusing on some of Lynch’s films, like Lost Highway, it’s kind of hard to avoid going pretty dark.
Francine "The Lucid Dream": We actually had a few funny numbers in the Lost Highway show. We had one performer, Hard Corey, doing a number as Robert Blake’s character, the Mystery Man. I can’t even explain it; it was so weird and so funny. But yeah, overall, it might have been a bit darker than our usual shows.
Time Out New York: What can you tell me about the upcoming a Night of Lynch show at Le Poisson Rouge?
Francine "The Lucid Dream": I did a show with Silencio last spring, which was basically a musical performance; I did a couple of numbers with them. But for this show, we wanted to go a little bigger. It’s not quite a Twin Peaks festival, but it’s a full night of Lynch. We’ve brought in the Welcome to Twin Peaks people, who’ll be curating a Twin Peaks exhibit. And Silencio is amazing! They sound so much like the original music. They’ll be doing their set, and I’ll be doing some numbers with them. But after that, it’s going to be a full-on Pink Room Burlesque show, the way we can do it—very based in performing arts. I’m really excited about it. I think it will be pretty wild.
Time Out New York: You certainly have an all-star cast: Schäffer the Darklord, Legs Malone, Nasty Canasta, Ruby Valentine, Foxy Vermouth, and of course, Amelia Bareparts as the Log Lady. Has it has it gotten to the point where people are asking to be in the show?
Francine "The Lucid Dream": Yeah, which is so nice, because when I first started the show it was always like, Which one of my friends can I beg to be in this? Now people are like, “I wanna be in your show!” I think that now that all the Twin Peaks episodes are available on Netflix, people have been watching it and going, “Oh, that’s what this is all about!” People know about David Lynch now. He was just on the Louis C.K. show!
Time Out New York: I missed that one!
Francine "The Lucid Dream": I can even explain it. It was so brilliant. His scenes were shot in a real Lynchian style.
Time Out New York: When are you going to work with David Lynch?
Francine "The Lucid Dream": I don’t know.… But that is a dream of mine!
Time Out New York: Is he aware of the Pink Room Burlesque?
Francine "The Lucid Dream": I’m not sure. But I met Kyle MacLachlan briefly a few months ago, when he was here to promote his wine. I told him about it; he seemed a little shy, so I didn’t know how he was going to respond, but he seemed kind of flattered by it. He even said, “David would be very flattered.” And I’ve had dreams where I was onstage during a Pink Room show, and I could make out David Lynch’s hair in the audience. That would be my dream come true.
A Night of Lynch: Silencio + The Pink Room Burlesque is at Le Poisson Rouge Sunday, Oct 14.