Longform

Hell's Belle

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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.