Leslie Zemeckis [Interview]

Leslie Zemeckis

Through a bit of research, probably somewhere off the tracks of another John Waters bender, I learned a bit about the world of Burlesque.  This is a culture that is absolutely fascinating.  The history behind the shows themselves is absolutely enthralling.  A little film called Behind the Burly brought the subject matter to light in such a wonderful light.  As inspiring as it was, I wanted to know more.

In a yearning to learn more, I decided we need to speak with the films creator, Leslie Zemeckis.  Yes, yes, she is the better half of the dude who made Forrest Gump and the Back to the Future series, but we’re not here to talk about him.  We want to know about Leslie.  Some folks may remember her as Leslie Harter, during the glory days of classy adult entertainment on Cinemax, but Leslie has definitely taken her career into a wonderful different direction.  Her work as a filmmaker, writer, actress, writer, etc. is as as stunning as she is physically.  So sit back, and prepare to be schooled on the art of burlesque and so much more with the ever so talented, Leslie Zemeckis!

You are an established actress, writer, filmmaker, and more.  What aspect of the entertainment world do you find the most personally rewarding?  Why?

All my “projects” seemed to be linked somehow which is rewarding. To follow my passion, documentaries and writing and acting is a dream. Creating something of worth that hopefully will educate and entertain and overturn possible misconceptions seems to have become a mission.

In your personal opinion, how do you believe sex is portrayed or defined by the entertainment world?  Do any ideals towards what is “risque” seem out dated at all? 

 It’s too varied. Its portrayed in various ways, romantic, unrealistic, brutal, honest. Its pretty well covered. The whole burlesque era today would never be considered risqué, but in its time it was. There wasn’t any other outlets to see women in the flesh – and we’re not even talking nude, but legs! Burlesque became a rite of passage for boys, it was a fantasy and a dream for men. The women seemed obtainable. They were taking off their clothes – which was disturbing, outrageous and scandalous – in its day. Of course strippers today don’t even strip. They just dance around nude.

How did you initially become interested in the burlesque world?

I was doing a “cabaret-type” show which had elements of burlesque in it and I decided to educate myself on what burlesque was and who was in it. When I fell into a group of former performers – most whom had never spoken about their experiences – I thought it would be worthwhile to tell the world. To really explain what a show was and who these performers were. They had great worth, and should not be considered second class, which sadly they still are.

Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming book titled the same as your 2010 Behind the Burly Qdocumentary, Behind the Burly Q?  Is it a companion story? 

It’s a companion, but goes further into the history. The documentary was told from the performers point of view, it’s their stories, as is the book, but I’ve expanded and told stories – and done hours and years of research on former famous performers that no one knows about today, that had wild and interesting lives. They really lived! With over 100 hours of taped interviews I knew I could not include all the great stories, but the book has them! There is a lot of behind the scenes photos that were given to me by performers that have never been seen. It’s really comprehensive.

What would you say is the most unusual story you have been told from the legendary Burlesque queens during the research your book and shooting your documentaries?

There really were so many on so many elements, from women never telling their family they were in it, to the involvement with the mob – most of the women appreciated them. All the way to the seedy bits, with men masturbating in the theatres and the girls having to dance in front of that. There were heartbreaking stories of children left behind while they went on the road. I wanted to know what their lives were like, not just their performances. There was also a surprising sense of camaraderie with the performers, and looking out for each other – an “us vs. them” point of view. “Them” being civilians. These performers were remarkably vibrant even at 70 – 80 and in their 90s!

Who would you say is your most favorite Burlesque performer you profile in your book?

I couldn’t say. That wouldn’t be fair. I fell in love with all of them. And they have remained my friends. Yet I don’t sugar-coat it, their lives and what they did and the choices they made are all there – for good and bad. I don’t judge, but I’m not hiding the seedy bits, the drunkenness, etc.  There are a couple I will continue researching and writing their stories, for full length books. One is almost done currently. It’s a fascinating era people know so little about. The lives were colorful to say the least. 

Leslie Zemeckis2

What else does the future hold for Leslie Zemeckis?

Who knows.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

My children.

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About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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