Jo Weldon Interview
Jo Weldon (a. k. a. – also known as “Jo Boobs”) has done it all.
She’s been a house dancer, a feature dancer, and a burlesque dancer.
So, who better to talk to about the art of striptease than Jo Weldon.
Q – Jo – Are you a Burlesque Dancer, an Exotic Dancer, a Stripper? Which term best describes you?
A – I’m a Burlesque performer; I used to be a table dancer. I was a commercial strip – type dancer though college.
Q – A table dancer then?
A – Yeah.
Q – Was that topless or bottomless?
A – It was depending on the laws of the county I was working.
Q – You say, you, “advanced to the level of feature dancer.” How does a woman do that?
A – There’s a bunch of different ways to do it, but the most common way is to get credits which is a resume. You would do something like enter contests, like Miss Nude Canada or Miss Topless Detroit. Or, you would do centerfolds
Q – Did you do any of that?
A – I did centerfolds. I don’t remember entering any contests. I don’t think I did. You would think I would remember something like that, but were talking about a lot of years. If I did it, I would win. That I would remember. I did centerfolds. I did some Calendars. That’s pretty much it, ‘cause I didn’t do it for that long. And back then, being a centerfold was so mellow, compared to now. It’s pretty graphic. It was graphic compared to the 50’s, but, if wasn’t graphic compared to the 90’s.
Q – The emergence of Penthouse magazine in the 1970’s probably turned things around.
A – I did it way after the 70’s. I did it in the very early 90’s. Then within a matter of 2 or 3 years after I started doing it, they changed.
Q – Did you like being on the road as a feature dancer?
A – I hated traveling. I loved meeting new people, and I always enjoyed the challenge of adapting my shows, to a different environment, but I was alone most of the time, and I was lonely. I missed the man that I was with at the time. I lived with him for seven years and he was a grant guy. It was physically demanding to travel with all those trunks and props and everything.
Q – How did you travel?
A – I took every form of transportation depending on what works in the situation. They generally paid for my transportation. But, Sometimes I flew Sometimes I rented a car and drove. It just depended on the situation.
Q – Where did you travel?
A – The U.S. and Canada, which at that time was standard for features.
Q – I’ve heard Feature Dancers can make pretty good money, anywhere from $5,000-$20,000 a week.
A – It’s the same thing you always hear about everything to do with stripping. Nobody in stripping makes as much as people think they do. I think a lot of times it’s exaggerated to justify being in the industry. But, I never felt I needed to justify being in the industry, I thought it was fine to be there, and so I thought it was fine to say what I really made.
Q – Did you ever meet anyone who did make the money they said they did?
A – I did, but they were exceptional and certainly wouldn’t choose to get into featuring based on the exceptional examples that they are. There’s three elements: one is, you have to be a good performer and put on good shows. Two is, you have to have great promotion and “buzz”. And three is, you have to draw people to the club and that is what your pay is based on.
Q – Great promotion and Buzz?
A – That’s the most important thing.
Q – How do you get “buzz”?
A – You may have studied fame a little bit. Don’t you think buzz is difficult to determine how people get it? Two people can have the same agent and the same promoter and the same ads and one will get famous and one won’t. People have to be appealing on a lot of different levels. It also depends on the time. Are they doing it at a time when there are or aren’t a lot of porn stars talking in public like Janna Jameson. Or somebody like Amber Lynn who became huge because she was the porn star who happened to so big at the time when video was developing. So, it was partly her fine qualities and partly her promotion and partly her timing. Now, she probably made $12,000 a week.
Q – I thought that beginning in the 1970’s, women were turning against stripping and anything that made women into sex objects.
A – Which woman?
Q – Women in general. What attracted you to stripping?
A – Well, I was pretty young in the 70’s, but I was very attracted to it. I don’t remember hearing a lot of that. I don’t think there was ever a time when strippers were thought to be the next Princess of Wales. (Laughs). There’s always exceptions, but I don’t think say the achievements that Janna Jameson has made represent the porn industry and I don’t think the achievements that Gypsy Rose Lee made represent what was going on for most strippers at the time. So, I wouldn’t use them as examples except to say that’s not normal. I don’t ever remember people having a super high opinion of strippers. A lot of people thought they were lazy, you know, they could get a better job. Or, when I was young most people thought that strip joints were owned by criminal organizations, and were fronts for other businesses. I’m not saying it’s not true, it’s just that’s what I’ve always heard, whereas now, you can plainly see that the strip joint itself makes money, as opposed to being a front for another business that makes money. The strip joint itself has the capacity through selling drinks and such to make money. And back then, I’m not sure that was the case, but, I wasn’t there. But, I fantasize about a certain kind of stripping that may or may not have existed at the time. I thought everything was like that song in the movie ‘Gypsy’ – gotten get a gimmick. I thought it was like that.
Q – I should ask about your act.
A – My act is like that (Laughs).
Q – You had a show then? Different costume changes?
A – As a Feature Dancer? As a Burlesque Dancer? Or, as a Table Dancer?
Q – Let’s start with the Burlesque Dancer.
A – As a Burlesque dancer, now I do, yeah. Feature dancer yeah. They’re paying you a lot of money, and you better have something to show when you get there.
Q – How many dates a year are you performing as a Burlesque Dancer?
A – Probably perform twice a week or more in New York.
Q – You don’t stray from that area?
A – I do conventions. It’s a very small circle of stuff to do.
Q – You were a judge at the miss Exotic World Pageant in 2004. What were you judging, or critiquing the women on?
A – I was looking for people whose performance showed evidence of a knowledge of burlesque, that looked like they were either incorporating or making some kind of reference to classic burlesque moves, whether the moves were the type you would expect to see in the 1800’s, or 1920’s or 1950’s. So, I was looking for an awareness of that. I was looking for personality, great personality I was looking for how much trouble and thought they put into their act and their costume. Dance skill.
Q – You also produce Burlesque?
A – Yeah, that is so much fun. It’s hard to do though, cause I don’t do it for a living. So, it’s hard to find time to do it.
Q – What do you have to do as a Producer of Burlesque? What goes into that?
A – The concept. What kind of show you went to do. Then you book the performer, which means you call them and discuss the concept with them, you have to book a club. You have to book a venue. You have to promote the event. The night of the event you have to stage manage it. In my case I usually emcee my own events, because it’s easier to keep track of everything, my boyfriend helps me. I couldn’t do it without him.
Q – What’s the difference between working as a stripper and working in Burlesque?
A – I loved working in commercial strip joints most of the time, and I mean as a table dancer not as a Feature, although I enjoyed Featuring. I only did that for two years. The main difference to me is, it felt like you go to a strip club, you’re a stripper, applying to play a role. Actors can be very creative with roles. They can write their own roles. In Burlesque, you create the context. You go to the club, and book the venue, and say this is what I want to do. You create the costume. You create the act. You sort of invent the audience you hope will show up. And, that’s the main difference for me so far.
Q – What made you think you could be a Stripper? You just don’t get up one morning and say I’m going to be a stripper.
A – I remember thinking about it when I was 14 or 15, and then doing it at ‘Rocky Horror’, and going ‘this is the best thing ever.’ (Laughs).
Q – What “Rocky Horror Picture Show” were you at?
A – In Atlanta they used to have a show before the movie, and there were like circus performers and drag queens. I decided I would do a stripper. So, I was the stripper.
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