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Titty Twister

Titty Twister, the self-proclaimed “rudest, sleaziest, freakiest, honky-tonk in all of Melbourne”, is directly inspired by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s 1996 film, From Dusk Till Dawn. In the film, Titty Twister is an all night strip club and brothel located in a remote part of Mexico, which is staffed entirely by vampires. When Titty Twister takes over The Hi-Fi this Halloween, that’s essentially what you’ll get. “Until about midnight it’s all rock’n’roll,” says event organiser and film maker Chris Mitchell. “And then after midnight, as per the film, the blood bath begins and it’s carnage. There’s a transformation where fangs pop out and faces become ugly and all the rest of it.

“It’ll be The Hi-Fi bar like you haven’t seen it before,” he adds. “We’re a no frills operation and we prefer to keep it fucking gnarly and nasty, rather than a Baz Luhrmann production. There’s flame cannons and industrial scaffolding. We try to keep it as raw and rugged and industrial as possible.”
 
The brainchild of Mitchell and his partner Garrath Holt (who are responsible Chapel Street fringe arts anomaly Red Bennies), Titter Twister’s From Dusk till Dawn homage brings together a number of the country’s finest striptease, burlesque, sideshow and rope bondage artists, along with mean local rockers Mesa Cosa and Sexy/ Heavy.
 
After a 12-night romp at Collingwood’s A Bar Called Barry late last year and a night at Brown Alley in February, Titty Twister’s return for Halloween will push the insanity even further. A notable feature of the event is the inclusion of Shibari. For a large portion of the evening, Sydney dominatrix Mistress Tokyo and alternative fetish model Bliss will be set up on stage performing this ancient Japanese form of rope bondage.
 
“They’re my highlight,” says Mitchell. “Shibari’s really cool. There’s an artform to it that goes back to feudal Japanese prisoner times. There’s a whole craft to it and there’s people around the world who are just nuts for rope work and they get off on it as a very specialised niche.
 
“From the outsider’s perspective, it is just two super hot, mean as fuck girls, one tying the other one up and sort of torturing her. But when you get into the closer details there’s a very specific craft. What might seem like some weird alternative sideshow that’s running throughout the course of the night is probably one of the most carefully executed elements of our production.”
 
While punters of various interests have embraced Titty Twister, it’s easy to see how an event of this nature could shock the city’s stuffed shirt contingent.  “People’s issues with performing arts in that ‘burlesque’ sense has always been a fairly confused one,” Mitchell says. “When we first launched Titty Twister we had an amazing response from people who understood it for what it was, which is a homage to the bar in From Dusk Till Dawn. Then you get this camp which don’t even look past the surface level and immediately go up in arms because the word titty is in there, there’s girls who are half naked, yada yada yada.
 
“There’s two ways you can interpret a woman on stage taking her clothes off dancing. There’s one in the exploitative kind of way and another that’s in an empowerment kind of way.”
 
It hasn’t just been finicky members of the public voicing concern about Titty Twister. Rather, when it comes to advertising, Mitchell and Holt have come up against significant censorship issues. “A Melbourne based government organisation basically told us we couldn’t use [expressions] like the ‘dirtiest crab infested whore house in Mexico’ because apparently that infers that we’re actually a whore house. The word striptease, we weren’t allowed to use. It got to the point where they said you can’t use ‘neck gouging’.”
 
While Titty Twister deals with these themes regardless, it’s rather disenchanting that the marketing for a Halloween gig has caused such controversy. “If you can’t say neck-gouging or talk about these kind of things in the context of a themed event, what liberties do we have to actually create art?” Mitchell questions. “Art is the one thing that you should have complete freedom to be able to express, because that’s what the purpose of art is. It’s expression so people can get things off their chest, so people can say things and find resolutions. When you start restricting people’s capacity to do that, where does it end?”
It’s not only a tad ridiculous to find Titty Twister’s finely curated homage to a celebrated film offensive, but that perspective also neglects the participating performers’ artistic merits. “There’s a story involved in what we produce,” Mitchell says. “I’m definitely not condoning people having illegal underground trafficking brothels. That’s just wrong. And I’m not condoning people saying that women are any less capable than men. But there’s something pretty cool and rock’n’roll about a Mexican vampire titty bar.”
 
Speaking of rock’n’roll, anyone who caught Mesa Cosa at last year’s Titty Twister launch will confirm that the Melbourne punk rock fivesome are basically the most dangerous performers on the lineup. “The guys from Mesa Cosa are about as crazy as they get on stage,” Mitchell says. “That’s actually what these censorship bureaus should be more concerned about – Mesa Cosa playing, rather than our go-go dancers. If there’s any blood letting on stage it’s going to be those dudes, versus the vampires.”


 
BY AUGUSTUS WELBY

Titty Twister goes down at The Hi-Fi on Friday October 31.