Satan’s Angel: Queen of the Fire Tassels (2012) – By Roger Carpenter

In her early twenties, Angel Walker started modeling. It wasn’t long before she was having pictures made in the nude; she discovered she enjoyed showing off her body. In a time before hard-core pornography was big business, the natural progression from nude photos was to move onto the Burlesque circuit. It was here, in the early- to mid-sixties, that Walker discovered her true self. Taking the stage name Satan’s Angel, she quickly learned some harsh lessons about Burlesque. No matter that sexuality was flaunted–it had better be the right kind of sexuality. Unfortunately, Satan’s Angel was gay and suffered for her sexual orientation, dealing with prejudice, public humiliation, and even the occasional beating by a close-minded stage manager. So while she learned to hide her sexuality early on, she also learned to make it in the Burlesque business, you’d better find a way to stand out on stage. Walker chose to learn the art of twirling burning tassels, called fire tassels. Thus was born a unique and pioneering Burlesque dancer dubbed Satan’s Angel.

Raised Catholic but with an open-minded and supportive mother, Walker was certainly a wild child. She ran away uncountable times, ending up in a girls’ school, where she graduated with good grades. Moving first to San Francisco, she eventually ended up in Las Vegas where her career really took off. She eventually retired but came out of retirement in 2000 only to discover that her popularity was intact. She has been traveling the world ever since–Europe, Asia, South America, the U.S, and Canada–dancing and displaying her unique talent. Now 67 years old, Walker is still going strong with no plans to stop anytime soon. Along with her life partner, Vic (unfortunately, an ending statement in the film indicated that the two separated shortly after filming was completed), who supports Walker in a managerial capacity, the two live off of Walker’s income as a Burlesque dancer.

This 72-minute documentary tells Walker’s story while also allowing the viewer an inside scoop on Burlesque and how it has morphed over four decades. Still popular even today, the stages are populated by both relatively young newcomers who learn from their idols as well as the veterans–many in their late 60’s and older–who still manage to titillate and entertain appreciative audiences around the globe.

Director Joshua M. Dragotta intertwines burlesque footage of Walker and others with plenty of interviews. Walker herself is quite a character, more than a little rough around the edges, a bit worse for wear after multiple marriages, untold numbers of sexual partners, countless cocktails and cigarettes, and four decades of dancing. But it is clear Burlesque is her calling and her routines portray someone who still genuinely enjoys getting on stage in front of an adoring and raucous audience. There are numerous other Burlesque dancers, all with fantastic stage names, who are interviewed both about the art of Burlesque as well as about Walker and the other elder dancers on the circuit. Walker’s mother is also interviewed. These were the most touching sections of the film as clearly there is an unwavering bond between mother and daughter. Walker understands how lucky she is that her mother, who was raised in a time when homosexuality was taboo, is so open-minded and lovingly devoted to her daughter.

No matter how much or how little one’s knowledge of Burlesque or whether one enjoys the art form or not, Satan’s Angel: Queen of the Fire Tassels is both a loving examination of Burlesque as well as a touching and humorous look at one of the true characters in the history of Burlesque. Satan’s Angel is currently touring the film festival circuit, so if you get a chance to catch a screening, I recommend you do so. For more information about the film, go to http://www.satansangelmovie.com.