An artist who produces occult burlesque shows "by and for witches" has opened up about the extreme acts on show at alternative cabarets.
Pleasant Gehman, 62, from California, US, fronted three bands in the 1980s and 90s, but now focuses her work on sizzling burlesque shows.
Burlesque is a style of dance which often involves exaggeration and strip teases, but to Pleasant – who has identified as a witch since she was 13 – it’s so much more than that.
Pleasant, who works under the stage name Princess Farhana, throws an altogether spookier show.
The dancer said: “I’ve produced several shows, including Belle, Book And Candle, which I co-produced with Shana Leilani.
“It’s an occult burlesque show by and for witches…but the general public is welcome.
“My burlesque style ranges from classic strip tease to high-concept acts that are like an entire narrative done in three to seven minutes. My style is also informed by my belly dancing.”
Pleasant, who has authored eight critically acclaimed books including The Underground Guide To Los Angeles , shared some of the more extreme acts in her repertoire.
She noted: “The most extreme act I ever did is The Execution Of Mata Hari . Mata Hari was accused of being a double agent in World War One. She was executed by firing squad on October 15, 1917.
“The act so dark that several theatres have requested I don’t perform it; also, I have to say that every time I’ve done this act – even in rehearsals – I weep uncontrollably.
“It starts off with a voiceover in French introducing Mata Hari, segues into a beautiful, lyrical fan dance done to music recorded in Istanbul in 1925.
“The music fades away as a French Gendarme quickly walks onstage, gabs me and binds my hands with rope. At this point, there is a recording of a commander instructing soldiers to load their weapons, aim and fire.
“As soon as the gendarme ties my hands, and mouths the command 'FIRE!' the stage lights go to a full blackout, and the shots ring through the theatre for fifteen seconds…it’s truly horrifying.”
Pleasant’s favourite act is called “Demon Lover”.
She told us: “I walk onstage dressed like a classic Goth chick with a Ouija Board under my arm, accompanied by a girl who looks ‘normal’. We take a seat at a table and I lip sync to my own voiceover on the track: ‘We’re gonna talk to the dead Tonight! I’m gonna get me a Demon Lover!’
“We start doing the Ouija board and it spells out :’TAKE IT OFF’… then a booming demonic voice commands commands it, the lights go red and I pass out in my chair.
“I wake up in a trance, obeying the demon’s command; walk to the middle of the stage and start stripping. At the end I pass out, the other girl runs off stage in terror, and I lay there a moment. As I come to, I realise I am naked.”
But some artists are even more extreme.
At the 2019 Belle, Book And Candle Samhain ritual – a pagan celebration – audience members had to leave to get some air outside.
Pleasant said: “They went into trance state and did actual blood-letting (with their own blood) onstage accompanied by an eerie live sound bath. It was so intense.”
And, the strangest thing the artist has seen at a show?
The witch, who also does tarot readings, said: "A woman pulling a fish out of her vagina.”
Pleasant – who calls herself a “Rock’n’Roll Witch” which is also the title of her latest book – still prefers the alternative club and dance scene.
She explained: “Nobody puts on airs, everyone is supportive, everyone recognises that there’s a unique bond.
“In the four years that Belle, Book And Candle has been running, the shows are consistently sold out and the audience- as well as our guest dancers- say it’s the most magical, inclusive and fun show they’ve ever attended.”
She added: “We have world class dancers, a really dedicated crew, amazing psychics, ritual leaders and incredible local artists vending witchy things.
“The theatre where it takes place, El Cid, is seriously haunted… what’s not to love?”
If you want to learn more about the occult world then you can listen in on Pleasant’s podcast – The “Devil’s Music With Pleasant Gehman”.
It covers the intersection of rock’n’roll and the occult – and features interviews with interesting public figures who love music and the paranormal; the stories are always completely crazy, whether it’s a ghost sighting, synchronicity or touring stories.
The podcast is available on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, Pandora, Pantheon…wherever people listen to podcasts.
You can follow Pleasant on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or visit her websites princessfarhana.com or pleasantgehman.com.
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