She calls herself “Angel Walker” today. Generations ago, she was a restless girl from San Francisco who rose to become a legend in the burlesque world, under the titillating persona of “Satan’s Angel, The Devil’s Own Mistress”. “Satan’s Angel” was a raven-haired beauty with angel’s eyes and a devilishly decadent figure. In addition, this sex kitten also had a very rare, innovative talent which is still considered a specialty (albeit a dangerous one…) today. Angel was also an avowed lesbian, which colored many aspects of her already unique life. In Josh Dragotta’s fascinating new documentary, “Satan’s Angel: Queen of The Fire Tassels”, the audience learns about a true sex star, survivor, and icon whose story was as wild and crazy as anything you could see on a stage. We also get quite an education about the world of burlesque in general, which couldn’t be more perfectly timed. The art form, as many have learned, is rightfully enjoying a renaissance in a big way. Throughout the film, many women of burlesque and the erotic arts (past and present) are heard from, including Dixie Evans, Francesca Kitten Navidad, Tiffany Carter, Anna Bells, Big Fanni Annie, Ginger Lynn Allen, Lily von Schtupp, and others.
Now a husky-voiced blonde, the still-glamorous, 67-year old Angel Walker still carries herself like a star… although, we learn, she’s not above getting into an occasional bar brawl. She tells the audience, “My birth name is none o’ your damn business! ‘Satan’s Angel’ is wild, crazy, loves to party, still loves a good martini, loves a good cigar or cigarette, likes to stay up till 4 o’clock in the morning and shoot the breeze with the guys in the band… Just because I’m 67– just because I’m old– doesn’t mean I’m a dead person, like you dug me up and sat me here and said, ‘OK, Angel…Speak!'”. Astonishingly, Angel actually came out of retirement in 2000, and today she still performs all over the world. The audiences appreciate not only her dynamic performances– which we get to see in the film– but her legendary status as well (and, you might add, the novelty of seeing a sexagenarian stripper still plying her trade…). We meet many of the star’s own peers in the business, from her fellow legends to rising stars in the burlesque world. Many of them speak about Angel: one star calls her, “The Cadillac of Burlesque”, and another adds, “She’s more fabulous today than she was years ago.”
It was years ago that Angel discovered the persona that mad her famous. There was a gig as a nude artists’ model, then an amateur strip contest, and then a full dance card as a “rock and roll club stripper”. With a mix of influences (“Lili St. Cyr‘s class, Carrie Finnell‘s tassel twirling, and Mae West‘s rhinestones…”), she then reinvented herself as “Satan’s Angel”, bona fide burlesque artist… complete with the innovation of “fire tassels”! To date, it’s estimated that she’s done over 25,000 performances over the course of four decades. We also learn about this renegade star’s rather unique personal life. Although she states she always identified as a lesbian, and we meet her longtime partner Vic in the film (The two have since gone their separate ways.), Angel also describes her love affairs with many men– including some famous ones. She describes, in particular detail, two male stars– one a popular music icon of the 50’s and 60’s, and the other an actor who played one of the major villians on TV’s “Batman”– who were particularly important to her. She explains, “I loved them both… There were only these two men. All the rest can go to Hell.” She adds, “All my lovers knew that I was gay. I might have been dating Clint Eastwood, but my girlfriend was at home. I was pretty on their arm, they were pretty by my side.” She also married men four times. You may be thinking, If she was a lesbian, why would she marry men? Well, Angel Walker will tell you herself!
Ms. Walker, and many of the other women interviewed in “Satan’s Angel: Queen of the Fire Tassels”, speak about how burlesque gradually lost popularity in favor of the likes of “gentlemen’s clubs”, live sex acts, and hardcore pornography. As mentioned earlier, many new generations– even those who grew up in the digital age– are re-discovering that “old school“ sexiness that burlesque offered: the pageantry, spectacle, glamour, and art that went alongside the showing of skin. Like any good burlesque dancer, this is a documentary that doesn’t show EVERYTHING… It’s very satisfying, yet leaves you begging for more.
“Satan’s Angel: Queen of the Fire Tassels” is now available on DVD. Visit www.BreakingGlassPictures.com for more info.