Pictured CeCe Walker, aka Satan's Angel.
Sixty-one-year-old burlesque legend Satan's Angel is coming to town for the first time since the 1960s.
The next Gurlesque Burlesque Show will feature Satan's Angel, the Devil's Own Mistress, for one night with New York City sensation Lady Ace. The show, produced by the Sissy Butch Brothers, will be held August 27 at 9 p.m. at The Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, see sissybutchbrothers.com .
CeCe Walker, or Satan's Angel, is one of the most recognized names on the international burlesque scene. After coming out of retirement in 2001 to help keep burlesque alive, Satan's Angel is still twirling those tassels. Recently, a play was written about her life called Have Tassels Will Travel. The play documents her life, sleeping with celebrities like Janis Joplin and Clint Eastwood, surviving a drug addition and being hit by a semi-truck.
Since her start at age 17, Satan's Angel has taken the world by storm with her trademark five fire tassel twirl act. She was inducted into the Miss Exotic World Hall of Fame. She's performed in many B-movies and made appearances on shows with celebrities such as Johnny Carson. She was even the first exotic dancer to go on Bob Hope's USO Tour during Vietnam. After traveling the world and seeing just about everything, Satan's Angel is dedicated to teaching others the art of burlesque.
Satan's Angel spoke with Windy City Times from her home in Arizona for her first LGBT publication interview. An out lesbian for a number of years, Satan's Angel was excited to share her story.
AW: Did you grow up in the Arizona area?
SA: Well, I grew up in the West. I'm a San Francisco girl. When I graduated from high school, I decided to go to San Francisco State in the day time and take some courses. I was checking into it and I got—in those days—a prestigious job as a PBX operator for a big company. [ Laughs ] Ugh. Boring! I made like $99 every two weeks. One day, one of the girls came in and said, 'We're going to go down to North Beach in San Francisco because they are having the very first legal amateur strip contest.' So we kinda all grabbed our stale pack of cigarettes, my mom's hand-me-down cocktail dresses and tons of makeup and big bee-hive do's and we went and saw it. And this woman … walked up there, dropped her dress, won 100 bucks and I thought to myself, 'What? This is the kind of job they should have told us at career day!' I knew right then and there I was in the wrong business. So I got home that night and I did a couple little numbers in front of my mirror and said, 'Aw, shit, this is easy.' No problemo. So, the next night was Saturday and I went up there and finally after winning and winning and winning one of the club owners said, 'You know, you need to come work for me.' And that's how I actually got started in the business. I quit my prestigious job [ laughs ] .'
AW: Have you always known you were gay?
SA: I knew when I was real little because I always wanted to be the girl, you know? I wanted to be the girl doctor, the girl Indian. The heroine who builds the fort by herself [ laughs ] … . I had a childhood sweetheart. Her name was Juanita, and I called her Nicki. I had her for years and years. … We just usually laid in each others arms and cuddled. Then, when I got into junior high, I got hung up with this big Mexican broad. You know, a real experienced woman [ laughs ] . … But I always knew. I always loved women. My mom knew this. There was something up with me, but she just couldn't figure out what the hell it was. But she always stood by me. Mothers want certain things for their daughters and sons, you know. Unfortunately, I wasn't it. But I had two brothers. And let them make you a grandmother and give you all the grandkids. ... It was my choice not to have children. I was abused as a child, you know, more ways than one and we didn't have professional help in those days. I was always afraid because you hear all your life, well if you were abused, you will abuse your children. And I never—I didn't want to do that. I was running with the jet set, you know, like … sleeping with Clint Eastwood … and unfortunately at that time, you couldn't really come out.
AW: Did some people have an idea, especially people that you worked with?
SA: Oh yeah. Sometimes, you know, they'd say, 'No, I don't want to hire her because she's gay.' Well, no, not gay [ laughs ] . They'd say, 'No, I don't want to hire her because she's a fuckin' dyke.' That's what they'd say. And you know, my agents would say, 'Well, look at her. She's gorgeous. She's beautiful. She brings people in. She's got a hell of an act.' ... Usually whenever I got there I'd have them throw my stuff out in the street and call me everything, refuse to pay me, you know. I'd picket the place and call the press. … And they'd say, 'OK OK OK come back and work. ' And then you'd get the hecklers in the audience. … You know, they'd say, 'Your problem is you ain't had the right guy.' You know, if I had a penny for every guy that said that to me I'd retire when I was 25. I would tell them, 'Sweetheart, don't worry about me, honey. Just worry about me and your wife.' I had a plethora of little lines.
AW: Tell me a little more about your life on the road. Did it ever get lonely?
SA: Yeah, you just said the word. When you're on the road every single day, day in and day out, year after year, you're damn right it's lonely. And all the places I worked in weren't these big, wild towns in big, fabulous cabarets. And because you're a feature, everybody hated you anyway. If you're the star of the show, there wasn't very many people that liked you. They all envied you or hated you. Well, not hated, but they sure weren't friendly.
It was a really, really tough life. But then, on the other hand, you got to see. You know, I got to travel around the world. I was in Europe, I was in the Orient, I was in South America … you know, the different people, the different cultures, the food. The parties, the money, the jewels, the jet setting—it was wild. It had its downsides, you know?
AW: What did you feel like when you were up on that stage?
SA: Once that curtain opened up and you were standing there, and everybody, especially the men, would just gasp. Like, 'Oh, oh my god, she's beautiful.' And of course this beautiful, sultry music would just start with all the violins and you would just glide down the runway. Just floating along and they would look at me like, 'Oh my God, she's an angel.' Yeah, Satan's Angel [ laughs ] . And it was wonderful because you were in total control. But I never get nervous or anything. I get more nervous doing my play.
AW: Has anybody been able to replicate your five fire tassel twirl yet?
SA: Nobody's done my five fire tassels yet. You know, I would have loved to have done my five fire tassels [ in Chicago ] , but they won't allow it. But I don't know if I could do my five of them without setting my ass on fire [ laughs ] .
AW: So, you work at a market on the weekends? How is that compared to what you used to do on the road. Are you bored?
SA: Well, I hate my job because it's an outdoor marketplace. … I just work on the weekends and it buys me little trinkets like if I need a new pair of rhinestone earrings. I have a Web site and I make pasties. … Most people don't know it, but to be a really good tassel twirler, you have to have the correct pasty. You know, most of us legends are on a limited income. I can count on one hand all the dancers I've met in my life who married for wealth and fame … and actually did what the girls all said they were going to do, but never did, which was go to school … and become somebody. There was one of the greatest exotic dancers and I can't even tell you her name, but she is a professor at one the Illinois universities there. A big name. If you walked up to her and said, 'Oh, hi are you Suzy Schmoozy?' she'd say, 'I don't know what you're talking about.' That person died years ago. She is somebody else now. And God bless her, you know?
AW: When did you first go into retirement and why?
SA: I worked in New Jersey and my co-feature was a porn flick! And then from there, I went to Pennsylvania and my co-feature was 'Tootsie Pop.' She quickly disrobed in a manner of seconds. She had this little bag of Tootsie pops and she was an 'insertion' dancer. Yeah, so she would insert them and stick them in the guy's mouths. And of course, here comes me after her show, Miss goody two-shoes [ laughs ] and it didn't go over well there, either.
Well, by the time I got to New York, I was a bit upset, you know? So I got ready, and there I was peeking out the curtain. And her [ the co-feature's ] music started. She had this beautiful black, velvet cape on and a beautiful rhinestone necklace and she drops that cape and she was butt naked. A lot of us didn't perform nude. I was inside a negligee that was 100 to 150 yards [ long ] . I would do all these tornado spins and you knew I was naked, but by God, you really had to look. It's all about the tease, you know? The journey. It's not about the destination.
So when I got to New York and I saw her drop that and she was butt naked, I thought to myself, 'Oh boy.' She had two little velvet purses, one on each wrist. … For a dollar, you got a lick. One bag held her money, and one bag held her vagina wipes. So, I immediately turned around, went to the owner and said, 'I can't.' Well, that was the first time [ I broke a contract ] since I was 17. …I walked away and never went on stage for 20 years.
AW: How old were you when you quit?
SA: Forty-four or 45. Oh, and I was hot, too, baby. [ laughs ] Still lookin' good.
AW: What brought you out of retirement in 2001?
SA: I owned a shop in a small ghost town called Apache Junction. I decided to put my Indian costume there and put some pictures of me around. One day, this lady came in and said, 'My God, she's beautiful. Who is that?' … She said, 'My name is Terry Earp … and I'm an actress and a playwright.' Anyway, so she said she was writing this play … about two retired sisters that were strippers that live in Vegas … and she didn't know anything about exotics. She asked me if she could interview me and I could tell her a little bit about the exotic, burlesque world. Well, by the time I started talking to her she said, 'Oh my gosh, to hell with this. I'm gonna write a play about your life. So she did!'
She was doing some research and she drove to L.A, and went down there, and ended up at Exotic World. And when she got back here said, 'You know what? I think I saw a picture of you.' So she got the Web site and I got on there and there I was. So, I contacted them, and that's how I got back into it. I'm in at least four or five magazines a year. Did some television and movie work. I just did a music video for a young rock group out of Europe.
I've been in and out of Sissy Butch Brothers' documentary and they came down and stayed here at the house and partied at a motel. We filmed here and then surprised my mother and called her up so they filmed her. ... It was a trip because I tell ya, it almost brought tears to my eyes. You know, my mother is a little on the chilly side, and that's probably the reason why I am a little cold, too. But to hear her say that she has always loved me, she was always there in spirit, even though she couldn't be there in person. But she supported me whether I was married, in love with a guy or in love with a woman. You know, she said all these things and I was choked up. I hadn't heard things like that from her in my whole life.
[ Sissy Butch Brothers ] are wonderful, young, intelligent women who are trying to keep the crazy things in life alive. Like your transgenders, your women who fight for women's rights, the gay world, burlesque, circus performers. Just all the little oddities in life and I think that's wonderful. That's why we have peaches, apples, oranges, grapes. Oh yeah, I'm very excited. I haven't been to Chicago since the '60s. ... I guarantee you one thing. It's going to be one hell of a show. I'm one of them girls that floats down there….I'm not a walker. I'm a mover, a shaker, a yeller, a vibrator! And I'm so happy because it's a gay thing. I've been in Time and Life and Playboy and all these big magazines ... I've been in movies ... but I've never been in anything gay.
AW: Wow, why?
SA: They've always considered me bisexual. I've been with men. ... I'm not bisexual, though. ... Just at that time, there was so much damn peer pressure. ... And when Clint Eastwood walks up to you and asked you to be his girlfriend, you know, it's like 'Well, I think I'll put the girl thing on hold.'
AW: So, are you trying to help these girls bring the class and tease back into burlesque now that you are back?
SA: Right. None of these people know, but that's what they want. They're doing something. But the other half? Ugh. Not even close. But I figure I give to them as much as I can.
I have no problems giving it up. It just seems to make burlesque better because I'm not going to be here. So I want to give up all that I can give.
Go in there and do your thing, you know? Do like I did. I never looked at the audience or stared right into their faces. I might look at their lapel or the chair that they're sitting on. Christ, half the time, I was thinking about my laundry, what I had to do tomorrow, you know [ laughs ] ? I didn't really look down and go, 'Ooh, you know, I'm fantasizing about him while I'm up here.' That's bullshit.