Tonight on the South Side: drinking, music and dancing, excitement and laughter. Beautiful women in skimpy outfits smiling at you. A guy pounding nails into his own head.
Wait a second. You thought guys pounding nails into their heads only happened on the weekends?
Well, then you need to check out the Pretty Things Peepshow performing tonight at The Rex Theater on Carson Street.
"It's sort of a Coney Island sideshow-esque thing mixed in with the burlesque," said theater manager Scott Forsyth, who booked the New York-based act. "It's not risque. Every burlesque show usually ends up with tassels being twirled around, but it's not fully nude, of course. They always stay within state law.
"It's blue, but it's not dirty. It has a playful, humorous vibe to it, as most burlesque shows do. It's fun as opposed to being raunchy."
The driving force of the Pretty Things Peepshow is go-go Amy, who serves as producer and performer.
"I studied theatrical design in New York with dreams of being a costume designer," she said this morning as she prepared to leave Cleveland for tonight's stop in Pittsburgh. "I just had no idea that the costumes would be on me."
After years of dancing for bands in nightclubs, Ms. Amy started looking for something more. Something different. Something fun.
"I always wanted to see a true vaudeville show, as opposed to a movie that had vaudeville in it, but I couldn't find one," she said. "So I made one. I believe that if you want something and you can't find it, then that's the world's way of telling you that you should make it yourself."
Not that she had to invent vaudeville, or even re-invent it. It was always out there, somewhere, she said.
"Just because it goes out of the public eye doesn't mean it ever really goes away," she said. "I know of people who have always been doing these acts for forever. Obviously, it's not as big as it was in its heyday, but there's always going to be people who want to do weird stunts, and there's always going to be people with bizarre skills, and there's always going to be people who want to put that on stage. And that's me."
So here she comes with her troupe of scantily decorated beauties and Donny Vomit, The Human Blockhead, who serves as the show's emcee, when he isn't juggling or driving nails into his head or cracking a whip.
"There are seven of us on the road," Ms. Amy said. "Five performers, two crew and a dog. So I guess that makes seven and a half."
In addition to her and Mr. Vomit are Heather Holliday, who throws knives, eats fire and swallows swords; Alley Ooops, who performs hoop tricks and an aerial act; and Rachel Renegade, who "does a very interesting act with razor blades. But there's no blood involved, so it's not anything to be scared about."
(Be aware: There's a chance these performers are not going by their real names.)
The Pretty Things Peepshow has been stopping by The Rex every six months for the past three years.
"The great thing about The Rex is that it is an old vaudeville theater, and it's the way the show should be seen," Ms. Amy said. "We do a great show no matter where we do it, but it's really fun to have it on the platform on which it was meant to be.
"And we really do love the audiences in Pittsburgh. If we didn't like you guys, we wouldn't come back here as much. We would skip over your town if you guys weren't amazing.
"It's a fun town, and because we come back on a regular basis we've made friends here. It's great to see familiar faces. When you travel, it's nice to see people coming back to the same show. Traveling is really hard, it's exhausting and expensive, but what makes it worthwhile is getting to hang out with really cool people that you might otherwise never have met."
And they do mean "hang out." After the show, the performers often step out into the crowd and mingle.
"They usually play weekends, but because this is a Wednesday in the summer, it will probably be a little more intimate show than what we might see on the weekend," Mr. Forsyth said.
"They're such good entertainers. Their facial expressions. There's a good bit of theater and dance to the presentation. It's about the humor, the dancing and the theatrical elements, much more than it is about revealing the human body.
"And they don't do the same shtick every time they come. Part of being a good entertainer and taking your act on the road is making sure it's fresh when you go back to the same city six months later."
The show starts at 9 p.m. and it's $15 to get in.
And remember. It's burlesque. Which mean it's bawdy, but not bad.
"It's dirty because we live and work in a van. But it's not a dirty show," Ms. Amy said. "True, it's the grandmother of stripping, but it's still a grandmother."
Get a preview of tonight's event!
Pretty Things Peepshow promo video:
If you have a suggestion for something to do some evening, let us know about it and we'll see if we can get some of our friends to join you. Contact Dan Majors at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1456.
This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/