Hell's Belle

Cecelia Walker has a hot pair of breasts, literally.

As the thumping congas of Santana's "Soul Sacrifice" pump from the Paper Heart's loudspeakers, the scantily clad 62-year-old burlesque dancer stands onstage at the downtown Phoenix performance venue, preparing to light her size 42D boobs on fire.

Walker, who's known by her stage name Satan's Angel, uses her Bic to set ablaze a pair of lighter-fluid-soaked cotton wicks connected to her nipples by 4-inch-long metal tassels. Peeking out over her sparkling gold-colored, rhinestone-encrusted corset, Walker makes sizzling circles in the air as she shimmies to the throbbing beat and flings her breasts around, whirlybird-style.

While the showstopping stunt is the kind of spectacle you might see on Fuse TV's Pants-Off Dance-Off, it's Walker's trademark, and generates a roar of approval from a standing-room-only audience of howling hepcat types, who've come to witness the sultry Suicide Girl-style striptease acts presented by local burlesque troupe Scandalesque at its monthly showcase.

Although her flaming-tassels act lights up the crowd, Walker's more than just a warmup act, taking the stage near the end of the program.

As Walker, who mentors Scandalesque and performs at their events, snuffs out the flames with her fingers, the crowd erupts into a standing ovation. Soaking up the applause, she absentmindedly fingers her shoulder-length hair (dyed blonde to cover her gray), making sure none of it's been torched by a wayward tassel.

"My boobs aren't what they used to be, 'cause gravity ain't been too kind," says Walker after the show. "Every once in a while, a fire tassel won't go where I want it to, kinda like it's got a mind of its own."

It isn't the first time Walker's thrilled the masses with flammable antics and unclothed gyrations. More than three decades ago, the burlesque queen wowed packed houses in Las Vegas, New York City, Tokyo, and other far-flung destinations with her elegant costumes, graceful movements, and (in those days) killer figure.

But globe-hopping isn't on her mind at the moment. Instead, she's heading to the parking lot for a smoke. Relaxing on a wooden bench, she lights up a cigarette while discussing the places her career took her, whether it was performing at Caesar's Palace, hanging with the Rat Pack, or slipping between the sheets with '60s and '70s glitterati.

It's the latter that provides the most attention-grabbing aspect of the many yarns she spins, including somewhat dubious claims of knocking boots with the likes of Clint Eastwood, Bobby Darin, TV star Frank Gorshin, and other celebs. Although she's currently a lesbian, Walker was more ambisextrous back in those days, asserting she also bagged Janis Joplin.

Her life of hedonistic decadence started out with demure innocence, as Walker was once a "good Catholic schoolgirl" who dreamt of becoming a nun. As her stage name implies, she strayed far from this path of righteousness, becoming a teenage hellion who traded charm school for reform school, and eventually choosing the life of an ecdysiast.

Her stories are as lurid and scandalous as any pulp novel or gossip rag, and go from the metaphorical penthouse to outhouse. After leaving the stripping biz in 1985, Walker nabbed a hardcore cocaine addiction, which drained her both physically and financially.

She eventually wound up in the Valley, where she's found redemption of sorts. In 2002, local playwright Terry Earp penned the one-woman show about Walker's life, Have Tassels, Will Travel, which has led to a career resurgence for Walker. In the past few years, she's become something of a darling among the hipster crowd who've fueled the recent revival of burlesque, even though she could easily be their grandmother (albeit one who sets her breasts aflame).

"The crowds love her; she's freaking amazing and gets a standing ovation every time," says Christy Zandlo, the 28-year-old fireball-slinging blonde bombshell who's the artistic director for Scandalesque and performs under the stage name Pyra Sutra. "She totally has this aura and adds so much to our show. With Angel, performance is in her heart. It's so rare that you see some sixtysomething gal lighting her tits up."

In addition to hooking up with Scandalesque, Walker's performed at burlesque conventions around the country, and is participating in an upcoming documentary on the art form's history and its resurgence. In the flick, she recounts her salacious life story, describing how a wanna-be bride of Christ became the torrid tease artist known as "The Devil's Own Mistress."

Although the rocky road she's been traveling on since birth has had plenty of perilous potholes along the way, Walker is certain it was far better than leading a life less ordinary.

"I never wanted to wind up staying home and changing crappy diapers, when I could be jet-setting around the world and dating movie stars. Why would I ever want anything as plain-Jane as that?" Walker says. "Once I left home, boy, it was one big party for 30 years straight."

On a lazy Labor Day afternoon, Walker putters around in the kitchen of her single-wide Apache Junction mobile home, fixing a dinner of baked ham, potato salad, and deviled eggs for herself and Vic, her lesbian partner of six years.

Taking a break, she navigates through a living room cluttered with boxes from an aborted move to Las Vegas she couldn't afford and sits in an antique Oriental-style wooden chair reminiscing about the past.

Initially, Walker seems somewhat unwilling or unable to disclose certain details of her jet-setting days, either due to years of brain-scrambling partying or because of a juicy tell-all autobiography in the works. She eventually opens up somewhat, and starts talking.

Thumbing through a stack of cheesecake photos of herself from the 1960s, which she sells on eBay, Walker peers through a pair of bifocals at her youthful appearance.

"Back then, I had the most beautiful pure white skin and this stunning raven-colored hair," Walker says. "I used to be gorgeous; now I'm all gray hair and wrinkles and warts."

Long before she was a trailer park rat or even Satan's Angel, she was Cecelia Angel Helene Walker, born at San Francisco General Hospital in 1944 to Connie Lobo, an assistant buyer for Macy's, and father Ernest Pierce, an Army infantryman. She was the oldest child in what she describes as a "Beaver Cleaver-type family."

After her father was killed in 1945 during World War II, Walker and younger brother Ron were raised by their ultra-devout Catholic mother. (Another brother, Ray, was born in 1957, after Connie remarried.)

Walker says everything in her life revolved around Catholicism in those days, with iconography dotting the rooms of their small home in San Francisco's Marina District. The family went to mass twice weekly and religious retreats on Friday, while the children attended Catholic school and spent Saturdays in catechism. Her brothers were altar boys, and she dreamed of becoming a nun starting in kindergarten.

"I would tell everybody I wanted to be a nun . . . my mom would snicker to herself and just pat me on my head," Walker says.

Connie, an 80-year-old furniture saleswoman living in southern California, says that although Walker was a "good Catholic girl" in her youth, she doubted her daughter's seriousness about the sister act.

"She could be really sweet and innocent, but she also had a temper and was kinda strong-headed, too," says Connie.

Walker strayed from her devotion in her early teens. At 13, the nuns at St. Anne School informed her mother about such bad habits as skipping down hallways, chewing gum, or ditching class. The calls became so frequent, Connie transferred her to public schools, where Walker says she became "Hell on wheels."

The openness of public education after years of being cloistered in a discipline-rich Catholic school made Walker feel like a kid in a candy store, allowing her wicked side to emerge. If her life was a schlocky juvenile-delinquent B-movie from the '60s, the trailer would've exclaimed it was where "a good girl went bad."

She cut school, dressed in skintight outfits, and stayed out late with the beatnik crowd, smoking pot at clubs in Haight-Ashbury in the late 1950s.

Around this time she also began having sexual feelings for women, after becoming friends with a tomboyish schoolmate named Nicky, the first of several girlfriends she had throughout junior high and high school. Walker says her chum gave her a French kiss one afternoon at a local pool, much to her surprise.

"I was disgusted, but she told me, 'Everybody's doing it, you're the only one who isn't,'" Walker says. "A few nights later my mom was tucking me in and when she kissed me goodnight I tried to stick my tongue in her mouth. Whack! She backhanded me and demanded to know why I tried that, and I told her, 'Everybody's doing it.'"

Connie attempted to mend her daughter's wicked ways by enrolling her in charm school at the House of Charm. When that didn't work, she was shipped off to the Ventura School for Girls, a reform school near Oxnard, California. She graduated at 17. Then, Walker says, things really started getting wild.

"Once I left the nest, I realized I could stay up all night, go to after-hours clubs and drink whiskey in my coffee, sleep with anybody I wanted to, smoke as much pot as I cared for, and swear up a storm without my mother washing my mouth out," she says.

Before she started taking off her clothes for a living, Walker barely had enough cash to afford clothes, period. In 1961, she was living in a grimy $5-a-week hotel room, working as a telephone operator and secretary for a clothing manufacturer.

One Friday, she checked out an amateur strip night at the Moulin Rouge, a North Beach nightclub, along with some female co-workers. Gussied up in makeup and fancy frocks to look older, and wielding fake IDs, Walker and company slipped into the show.

Female audience members would hop onstage, doff their dresses, and sashay in their skivvies, and whoever got the loudest applause won a crisp C-note. Given her buxom 44-24-34 measurements and Priscilla Presley-style looks, Walker figured she'd win easily. She did.

"I thought to myself, 'Hmm, now these are the kind of careers they should have taught us about in school,'" she jokes. "I mean, if any girl could just get down to her underwear and a slip and make $100, then I could do it."

Walker returned the next six weeks and won every time. The club's owner offered her a $600-a-week job, and she ditched the Girl Friday gig to reveal her lacy bra, panties, garter belt, and stockings to the audience. She says her charm school experience, particularly ballet and tap dance classes, helped her move about stage with poise and grace to such instrumental numbers as Earle Hagen's "Harlem Nocturne."

"My teachers at the House of Charm would've probably flipped their wigs if they ever learned how one of their ex-students was getting naked for a living," she says.

After making some serious scratch, Walker bought flashier outfits and became more of an exotic dancer at The Moulin Rouge and other North Beach clubs like Chi Chi's and Chez Paris, wearing sequined miniskirts and low-cut tops, allowing her pasty-covered bosoms to swing free. Most upscale joints like the Moulin Rouge kept its girls in panties with their nipples covered until the mid-'60s, as it was illegal to go fully nude.

As she became popular around town, the bump-and-grinder spiced up her act with tassels, landed shows at big nightspots like The Condor Club and The Galaxie, and took on a sassier moniker. She'd been playing off her middle name with such noms de guerre as "Angel Dahl" or "Tassel-Tossing Angel," but wanted something zazzier, like Satan's Angel.

The hellish handle seemed apt, since she debuted her flaming tassels soon afterwards to upstage fellow dancers in their cutthroat profession of seeking the audience's attentions. One such competitor was Tura Satana, the Japanese-American femme fatale who stripped throughout the Golden State before starring in Russ Meyer's cult film Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

"In some ways, Tura was my archrival. She was doing the twirling tassels thing, so I figured I had to set my ta-tas on fire to win the crowd over, which it did," Walker says. "Sometimes you needed to do stuff no one else was."

Like her all-girl topless rock band from the mid-'60s, The Hummingbirds. Fronted by Walker, who also played bass, the fivesome packed in customers nightly at Tipsy's in North Beach, performing covers of the Beatles or the Rolling Stones.

"Girl musicians weren't the in thing then, so the guys were coming to see us, or, more specifically, our ta-tas," she says.

And they brought plenty of gifts with them, as Walker frequently received candy, flowers, and even lavish fur coats from her suitors.

"Everyone wanted to be with you, they surrounded you with attention, gave you gifts, and fed you the finest food, and the best wine," Walker says. "I didn't sleep with 99 percent of them, cause they were all old, sixties and seventies, and I wasn't sure I wanted men." (She didn't lose her virginity until the age of 20, she says, giving it up to a bartender at the Condor Club.)

Not surprisingly, Walker's mother took a dim view of her daughter's career path. Walker attempted to keep things on the down-low, until her mom turned up in the audience.

"I looked down and there was my mom in the front row. I screamed and ran offstage and she chased me to the dressing room," Walker says. "I really broke her heart that night."

While at the time, Lobo wanted her daughter out of the lifestyle, she's currently more conciliatory.

"After the initial shock, I accepted things, since she is the way she is, always has been," Lobo says. "Not everyone can be a movie star or a millionaire, I guess."

No, but Walker claims to have been with plenty of them.

When Walker rattles off a laundry list of the superstar encounters she lays claim to, sexual or otherwise, it sounds like something akin to a cast rundown for Match Game '73, including names like Bobby Darin, Telly Savalas, and Don Knotts.

For instance, she's got a great story about dating Janis Joplin in mid-'60s San Francisco after "The Pearl" drunkenly felt up her thigh during a Redd Foxx show at an after-hours club before they retreated to the Fairmont hotel for some adult fun.

As with any of her celebrity-laced stories, Walker's Janis experience is possibly apocryphal and certainly unverifiable, considering many of the notches in her belt are deceased. She has little proof, other than a few aging photographs, she says, because she lost most of her mementos during a cross-country move.

New Times attempted contacting the estates of each of Walker's dearly departed conquests, as only Clint Eastwood is still alive. Those who responded say her stories are nonsense. (For instance, Jimmy Scalia, the official archivist for Bobby Darin, says Walker's claims are "not true.")

It also doesn't help matters that the former peeler's memories were snarled by a horrific accident. At the age of 21, Walker was riding her vintage 1947 Indian motorcycle to Napa Valley when she collided with a Mack truck. The left side of Walker's body was crushed, and she suffered 32 broken bones, including a severely fractured skull.

After a grueling two-year rehabilitative hospital stay, Walker had trouble doing much, managing to get around with a cane. She was emaciated from the experience, but found work as a go-go dancer in San Francisco's sleazy Tenderloin district.

"I could barely walk, let alone dance, so I sorta leaned up against the wall and kinda did the go-go moves until I recovered more," she says.

Walker slowly got her groove back, landing a lucrative gig at the Condor Club in 1966 promoting the ABC television show The Green Hornet by dressing as a sexed-up version of the superhero. She says several celebs turned out for the show, including "Dirty Harry" himself, Clint Eastwood.

Walker claims to have met Eastwood at a previous Hummingbirds show around that time, and the Fistful of Dollars star remembered her. They became occasional lovers over the course of five years, she says, when he wasn't with his then-wife Maggie Johnson or off shooting spaghetti westerns for Sergio Leone. (Leonard Hirshan, Eastwood's longtime agent, declined a request by New Times to interview his client, and "sincerely doubted" Walker's claims.)

"I didn't see him as much," she says. "There were many nights where I'd be all beautiful and he'd walk right past me, go right to sleep. I got tired of it and told him, 'I gotta move on.' Of course my mother never forgave me for that."

Why didn't she just date more workaday folks with time to devote to her?

"I was drop-dead gorgeous, and I just wasn't into the guy next door because I wasn't the girl next door," Walker replies.

Since she sought out the rich and famous, it's only natural Walker headed for Las Vegas in 1968. Sin City was a perfect fit for Satan's Angel.

Leslie Fearon, a former cohort of Walker's, says Vegas was riding the wave of Rat Pack-fueled popularity, meaning big paydays for dancers. Fearon, who's also known as Suzy Creamcheese, operated a popular boutique on the strip, creating glamorous outfits and costumes for dancers such as Walker, as well as famous types, including Elvis Presley, Shirley MacLaine, and even the wives of mobsters like Joseph Bonanno.

"This was the real Las Vegas, back when the mob was there and made it a phenomenal place," says the 68-year-old Fearon, who's since relocated to Apache Junction. "Everyone was making money hand over fist, including Angel."

While Walker worked off-the-strip clubs like the Gay 90's, she aimed for the stages of bigger joints like the Aladdin or Caesar's as a dancer in the art of burlesque, which is more luxurious and performance-oriented, with lavish costumes and bigger paydays, all of which appealed to her.

"Burlesque was more about the glamour and the glitz, with lots of feathers and satin and rhinestones, and is classier than simply taking your clothes off," Walker says. "It's an almost vaudevillian art form, which is where its roots lie."

Before she arrived in Vegas, however, she saw burlesque queen Lili St. Cyr perform her infamous bathtub act at the Stardust Hotel, and figured she had to re-invent her act.

"So I basically took a little of Gypsy Rose Lee, a little Lili St. Cyr, a little Mae West, a little Ann Corio, things like that, and I just kinda threw them all into myself," Walker says.

With the help of Kitty Lynne, another legend working Vegas, Walker was cast by big-name burlesque promoters like Barry Ashton, Ann Corio, and Harold Minsky, whose showcases played the big casinos as well as venues around the U.S. and the world, including Broadway. She even got ink in Walter Winchell's famed New York Times gossip column, as well as in the pages of Time magazine.

Off the stage, Walker lived a nonstop party. She attended plenty of cocktail parties and other exclusive events, frequented by members of the Rat Pack and other top-shelf celebs of that era. At one such fete in the early '70s, she met Frank Gorshin (who starred as The Riddler in the campy Batman TV series). Walker says she started a fling with Gorshin soon afterward.

He wasn't the only beau who used her as arm candy back then, as Walker says she'd separately date four or five men at a time. Her supposed conquests also included Bobby Darin, TV actor David Janssen, and even Don Knotts (whom she calls "a weird little man").

Walker described an amusing adventure to Bizarre magazine in which the erstwhile Barney Fife wanted a seafood breakfast one morning in the early '70s, and they jetted off to San Francisco for lobster. It was par for the course, Walker says, for her never-ending party life.

"Every night we'd drink, stay out partying for 12 hours, crawl in bed in the morning, get up and do a show, and then start all over. We did this every single night, year after year," she says. "I'm surprised I still have a liver."

Her family was a little starstruck by her lifestyle. Her younger brother Ray, now 49 and a truck driver in New Jersey, remembers how his sister not only sent money home to her family, but also brought them out to Vegas in his teens. They stayed in fancy hotels and supped with Walker and her famous friends, such as former heavyweight boxing champ Joe Louis.

"I met a lot of people and got a lot of autographs," says Ray. "I remember one morning I came down and she gave me a personalized autograph from Elvis. It was pretty cool; nobody else I knew had a sister that was a burlesque queen or dated celebrities."

After the booming Las Vegas scene busted in the late '70s, Walker found herself looking for a more lucrative source of cash, such as road gigs around the country, which paid more.

Her payola prayers were answered by a jarhead named Ron, whom she'd met while making appearances at Camp Pendleton in San Diego. (Walker had briefly been hitched in 1969 to middleweight boxing contender Bobby Trujillo, but they divorced after he made her leave Vegas.)

"I kept seeing him, and finally I introduced myself and he told me he was about to get out of the Marine Corps and become an air traffic controller," Walker says. "My little brain went, 'Cha-ching, that's good money a year,' so we started dating and got married a few months later in 1980." (They divorced almost 18 months after the nuptials.)

She moved cross-country with her new meal ticket, working clubs on the East Coast, and updated her act to cash in on pop culture trends. Walker busted out with a Wonder Woman costume or studded leather gear inspired by Kiss.

While she tried keeping up with the times, Walker felt the business was moving beyond her tastes by 1985. She'd considered hanging up her tassels, since her looks were fading with middle age, and the nastier acts she witnessed helped make up her mind.

At a divey strip bar in Paramus, New Jersey, she co-headlined with '80s porn star Vanessa Del Rio, whose act consisted of having sex with a midget onstage. In New York City, she saw a nude performer crouch at the end of a stage and allow customers to lick her naughty bits for a buck.

It was a little much, even for Walker.

"So I went to the owner and told him that I can't and I won't work with these people," she says. "He said I either did my number or I'd never work in burlesque again. I just told him [off], walked out, and I was done. I quit right then and there."

With only a high school diploma and a prurient past, Walker worked jobs requiring little experience, such as waitressing or bartending at dank taverns. At one such hardscrabble establishment in Wilmington, Delaware, she met her third husband Ed, a trucker and biker with a taste for hard drugs.

Many of their friends either dealt or sampled narcotics, so it's no surprise that one of them coaxed her into freebasing some cocaine in 1985. After that first hit, Walker couldn't quit, snorting coke for most of the next three years, draining her bank account and taxing her body. She tried rehab a few times, but before long found herself back on the blow.

After Ed received a three-year prison sentence for drug possession, she finally got clean, thanks to her friend Big Chris, whom Walker describes as "a big biker mama."

"She'd barge into my house, searching for pipes, straws, my stashes, weed — whatever I had, she'd find it and toss it," Walker says. "One day she'd had enough and came in and told me, 'You know, I brought somebody to see you.' I didn't want to talk to her, and told her I didn't have time for her bullshit, but she said, 'You just walk down the hallway and meet this person, and if you don't wanna talk to them, we'll both leave.'"

Walker discovered Big Chris had set up a huge mirror for her to witness the damage she'd done to herself.

"When I saw myself in that mirror, I dropped to my knees because I didn't recognize the person looking back," says Walker, wiping tears away. "All I could see was a terrible monster who'd lost the will to live."

Big Chris spent the next two weeks providing constant care while Walker detoxed, and although she's been clean ever since, it wasn't the end of her troubles.

In 1994, Walker was managing a biker bar in Bear, Delaware, when she witnessed members of the Pagans Motorcycle Club, an outlaw biker gang, brutally assault another patron. She says prosecutors threatened to hold her in contempt of court if she didn't testify, and gang members promised her she'd wind up dead if she dropped dime on the witness stand. Faced with this lose-lose scenario, Walker fled to Arizona to be closer to her mother, who'd moved to the Valley in 1976.

It was here that she'd ultimately find true love, as well as redemption.

Walker says she believes in serendipity, which is why she thinks her meeting Terry Earp in 2001 was a product of pure kismet.

The local playwright was on break from rehearsing her popular play about legendary lawman Wyatt Earp (who was the great-great-uncle of her husband) at the Apacheland Movie Ranch in Apache Junction, when she visited a small curio shop operated by Walker in a rented space at the park.

The pair struck up a conversation about the former stripteuse's beautifully bejeweled Native American-themed burlesque costume she wore in her glory days and kept in the boutique. Earp was eager to learn about her past, particularly since she was working on a possible play about aging ex-strippers but needed some expertise on the subject.

Talk about coincidences.

Earp convinced her to serve as a consultant to the production, which eventually transmogrified into Have Tassels, Will Travel after Walker's life story was so spectacular that the playwright put aside her previous idea and focused on her new friend.

"Her story was so fantastic that briefly I wondered if she was making it up," says Earp, who's also documented such local legends as notorious restaurateur Jack Durant, "but then as I got to know her and see her pictures, I was convinced she was telling the truth. I've never had any reason not to believe her."

In the same year she met Earp, Walker finally came face-to-face with Vic Crotwell, the 49-year-old lesbian from Kansas she'd been flirting with over the Internet for a year. Although their online conversations were friendly at first, things began to heat up and Walker wanted an offline encounter, and invited Crotwell to visit her in the Valley. The two had instant chemistry and she demanded Vic kiss her within minutes of meeting her outside an Apache Junction motel.

"Vic has become my friend, my muse, and my angel," Walker says. "And she remembers more things about my life than I do."

But a renewed love life wasn't Walker's only renaissance. Have Tassels, Will Travel has been performed not only in Phoenix, but also at burlesque conventions across the country.

The alt-culture crowd has taken a renewed interest in the art form in recent years, with troupes like Scandalesque and Black Cherry Burlesque in Tucson popping up. Heck, even the notorious alt-porn Web site Suicide Girls sponsors a yearly revue.

The revival has also led to plenty of gigs for Walker, who brought her fire tassels out of storage to perform at such events as Tease-O-Rama in San Francisco and the Feathers & Fringe Festival in Houston.

It was at one of these events where Walker was approached by the Sissy Butch Brothers, a pair of Chicago-based promoters who tapped her for their documentary Gurlesque Burlesque. She's also gotten plenty of love from strippers who say she's an inspiration, although Walker's surprisingly indifferent to their chosen careers.

"For me, being a lady working in a gentlemen's club doesn't take any talent. I realize all women have to make a living, but if you're straddling some guy's thigh for $20, you're just a glorified prostitute to me," she says.

Instead, she prefers the elegance and beauty of modern-day dancers such as the girls of Scandalesque.

"Burlesque is an art form with style, class, grace and beauty. It's been around for a long, long time. It's still around and people still wanna see it," Walker says. "It may not be as strong, but it's still here, and the new girls are making it wilder and crazier."

Walker performs with the troupe during each of its events, which have increased in the last year from monthly shows at the Paper Heart to frequent performances at other Valley venues like the Rhythm Room in Phoenix and The Sets in Tempe.

Walker won't go the full Monty anymore, however.

"My beaded outfits — my bra, panties, and shimmy belts — are too beautiful to take off," Walker says. "And why would I? So you can look at a 62-year-old body? I don't even want to see myself naked, let alone show an audience."

Even though she's showing less skin these days, she's still getting raucous responses from audiences, says Christy Zandlo.

"That woman has more energy, beauty and performance in her than most of the younger gals who're doing the neo-burlesque thing," she says. "Angel completely bowls me over as a person and a dancer. She's been an influence for us and I think we're carrying on her legacy."

Zandlo met Walker at a performance of Have Tassels, Will Travel in 2004 at The Trunk Space in Phoenix, and eventually invited her to both perform and provide guidance to her cast of burlesque and cabaret entertainers. Since the seven-member troupe consists of professional dancers who already know how to be light on their feet, Zandlo says Walker helps them by coaching and critiquing them on such techniques as properly working the crowd.

"Angel's a taskmaster who's not afraid to say her opinion," says Zandlo. "She'll critique us and tell us what we can do to make things better. It's nice to have somebody who's a burlesque legend and lived that lifestyle, so we're going to take advantage of anything she wants to tell us."

Passing on her knowledge to a new generation of burlesque dancers makes Walker glad she chose the stripping life. She's largely proud about her life, save for a few decisions the former Catholic is penitent about, such as offending her mother.

"I've got plenty of regrets, sure. There's a lot I'd do over," Walker says. "When it came to my choice of lovers or spending of my money, I might've made choices more carefully. But I still would've been an exotic dancer, I'm not sorry about that at all."

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.