Phoenix's gay burlesque troupe's starring at a mega-lesbian-fest beside the ladies' pro golf championship. Could fortune and fame be next?

Marketing is as much a part of the performance as costumes and shimmies, and Pulliam's skills as a pitchwoman come in handy. One look at the group's Web site, which features Lezbosagogo-logoed products from lunch boxes to sweat shirts to license-plate holders, is evidence enough that at least the infrastructure for fame is well in place.

Pulliam says she learned her hustle and survival skills on the street, and after beating crack and homelessness, she feels nearly invincible. "If I can get through that, I can do anything."

Pulliam grew up in the Chicago suburbs. A veteran of more than a dozen rehabilitation and treatment centers, she just couldn't seem to kick the drug that devoured her. "Things got bad, really bad," Pulliam says somberly. "I OD'd the night my brother died, and even that wasn't enough to stop me."

Kevin Scanlon
From crackhead to dedicated burlesque promoter: Angela Pulliam.
Kevin Scanlon
From crackhead to dedicated burlesque promoter: Angela Pulliam.

Angela was on a four-day crack binge. While her mother was in a store shopping, she took her mom's car during a snowstorm and didn't return for days. She holed up in a windowless crack house and lost consciousness for a while before she was revived. It felt like death, Pulliam recalls, and it was enough to make her visit home that, and the fact that she had run out of crack and money.

Pulling up to her house still in the grips of her high and with paranoia roiling in her veins, she saw the yard lighted up by the strobes of police cruisers. "I figured they were here for me," Pulliam says, and on most nights they would have been.

She went in, and her mother informed her that her brother had died following a heart attack two hours before. "He died at the same time I was OD-ing. We both gave out at the same time, only I came back." She looks down at her feet for a moment and shrugs a little. "As horrible as that sounds, it still wasn't enough to get me sober."

In early 2000, Pulliam felt ready to quit crack again. "The patheticism inside me was clashing with my creativity," she says. Pulliam moved back in with her mother, entered yet another treatment program and somehow it stuck. "I went through an entire psychic change," she says. She shaved her head then, and has kept it that way to remind her of the importance of clean living. This April will mark her third year of sobriety.

Pulliam was in sales for a while, but it didn't fulfill her. "It felt like feeding my addictive side," she says. It was the creative side she wanted to see grow, a part of herself she needed to make stronger to really recover. She quit work and began throwing sober parties which she says she was good at. Good enough that she figured out a way to make entertainment a career. "I loved the scene underground. Pretty soon I was the go-to girl for all the good lesbian parties. It was then that the idea for a lesbian burlesque show came about."

Pulliam set out to find just the right mix of dancers. "I looked for beautiful girls, open-minded women who like to have fun, dance and were not at all shy." She found them in the troupe's current incarnation, four core members Pulliam has whittled down from a high of 14 dancers a year ago. "With that many girls, attitudes and politics got in the way of what was important."

What remains is a Whitman's Sampler of different body and personality types. "We offer something for everyone, every taste," says Skylar.

None of the four dancers has a supermodel body. Shennay "India" Perryman is 26, caramel-skinned with broad shoulders that are muscled from lifting weights. She has glowing cat eyes, slicked-back hair, and a refined yet warm presence. Leslee "Devin" Toliver, 22, plays the role of an angel in a devil's body; she's rock 'n' roll and piercings and aggressively sweet, with a cascade of blond hair and rings in her nipples. Skylar, 26, is debutante grace, impeccably groomed yet oozing sexuality and charm. Lette "Gemini" Garcia, 22, is delicately beautiful, with long dark hair, sensual Latina curves and a shy, sweet demeanor.

They are, they affirm, the best of friends, one big happy lesbian family. They share everything, and even menstruate within hours of each other. "I'll be at my house and two or three of them will come knock on the door with their pillows and a movie; we have great slumber parties," Pulliam says.

"We all eat, breathe and sleep [Lezbosagogo]," Skylar says.

Lezbosagogo's members are beautiful, not only because their bodies are tight and their faces appealing, but because they are self-possessed and confident. Theirs is a medium where identity resides in sexuality. They have not only embraced the idea, they have full-on groped it, fondled it and tongue-kissed it.

In concept, Lezbosagogo seems so cosmopolitan, so San Francisco, Greenwich Village or West Hollywood. Which is why those cities have seen more of the troupe of late than has Phoenix. They've performed in more than a dozen cities since last October's show at Ain't Nobody's Bizness, and it's a rhythm they hope will become more furious after their March 30 performance in Palm Springs.

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