Nicolyn Jeffries
Jeffries' admirers know Nicolyn Jeffries as Bella Beretta, the leader of the "D.I.Y. T&A" spectacle that is the Gun St. Girls Burlesque Troupe. She has a big heart, a dirty mind, and a dizzying schedule: The Girls will pull double duty on New Year's Eve, performing at both the Crocodile and at Consolidated Works' Heaven and Hell Ball.

Do you call yourselves the Gun St. Girls because of the Tom Waits song? "Absolutely. When we saw Tom Waits in concert in 1999, he performed "Gun St. Girl" both nights and it was like a sinister christening. So all the sudden there was this back-alley, criminal element--the Gun St. Girl became not only a burlesque dancer, but also a 1930s pulp novel vixen. Each girl has a story that I'm hoping I can turn into a graphic novel someday."

When we were discussing your earlier shows, you acknowledged that they've gotten a lot better. How would you characterize the improvements? "Well, considering this started on Valentine's of 2000 in the back room at Jules Maes, it's gone miles beyond what anyone--other than us--ever expected it to. When we first began, we performed only with rockabilly bands, which was fun, but I didn't want to be limited by a scene that places such strict guidelines on its aesthetics. So we followed our crooked little hearts into the world of rock and roll burlesque and found a whole world of unexplored music, concepts, and scenarios."

If you could do a private burlesque show for just three people, who would they be and why? "Only three? That would disturb me, but say I could choose anyone dead or alive to be my front-row guests one night... obviously Tom Waits, so he could see the strange and unusual visions his music and words have inspired. Miss Gypsy Rose Lee, so she could see that her wit, class, tenacity, and vivacious personality continue to motivate gals like me, even in our not-so-modest age. Last but not least, Henry Miller. He'd know how to appreciate a trouble-makin', fast-thinkin', stiff-drinkin' big broad like myself."

Interview by Hannah Levin