Producer and designer “PartyGirl” Pearl has been throwing theme parties for as long as she can remember. The name Pearl was given to her on the playa at Burning Man in 2011 (the same year as the dubstep invasion) and she carried it into the default world when she began taking burlesque classes with Bombshell Betty and Red Hots Burlesque. The “PartyGirl” part was added for irony, as both an attendee and a producer of parties. As a burlesque performer, Party Girl Pearl enjoys playing with the party girl stereotype while portraying characters that are multidimensional. To her, burlesque and all other art forms (writing, fine art, music, and performance art alike) are meant to tell a story. In producing Bass Cabaret, she carries this respect for storytelling through every phase of planning the show from theme selection, act curation, set design, and character development.
How the Pearl was Discovered
Before Party Girl Pearl, there was a young woman named Amy living in Philadelphia, PA. She had been to many music events on the East Coast and a few smaller festivals. She was inspired one year to start looking at some photos from Burning Man that her friend Rachman had posted and realized there was something bigger happening that she needed to be a part of. The art, of course, was inspiring, but it was in reading the captions and stories behind them, and later hearing these stories firsthand during her first encounter with “Burners” in California, that truly convinced her to go.
As the summer drew closer, she and Rachman made plans to drive from their home state of New Jersey out to Black Rock City, NV. He bought her a ticket for her birthday in July and, in August, picked her up in a Toyota Corolla to set off for their week-long road trip across the country.
Rachman had told her nothing about what to pack.
She essentially had tank tops, flip flops, and other gear that would be appropriate for a late August in New Jersey. When she arrived at his friend’s house in Reno, she was handed the Survival Guide by a beautiful soul and read it cover to cover. She realized she was very unprepared. She made a long stop at Walmart to buy a sweatshirt and some other essentials, DSW for some boots, and the Melting Pot for some last-minute costumes. She defaulted to buying what could be described as rave wear and things she had seen other people wearing in pictures. Rachman told her not to worry too much about costumes, but she wanted to fit in and didn’t want to seem like the first-timer that she was.
After a long trek in they found their camp, which had built a huge, vagina-shaped bar covered with splatters of red paint to look like blood. The theme at Burning Man that year was Rights of Passage and the camp named itself Menarche, which is the Greek word for the first menstrual cycle that a female has. The camp served Bloody Marys every morning and in fact, for most of the day. These were the real Bloody Marys with Worcestershire sauce, celery, and even bacon. It was the best thing on the block and even being located somewhere around 8:30 and G, the bar was often filled with campmates and neighbors. Oh, and there was a stripper pole lodged directly in the middle of the clitoris. And campmates that happened to be excellent pole acrobats and dancers.
On one of these afternoons, a young woman stopped by the bar wearing a flapper headband, a strand of pearls, and not much else. A little background on Amy: she loves the 1920s! There was a picture of her “babci,” or Polish great-grandma, on her wedding day in the 20s wearing a short, boxy dress and a long veil over her bobbed hair. Amy loved looking at this picture when she was younger and, when she was older, read all about the flappers and their sexual revolution, and how they defied social norms by putting on makeup in public and hanging out with men at bars. She just thought they were the bee’s knees! Yet at that point she had never attempted to dress like one. And it certainly hadn’t crossed her mind to dress like one in the middle of the desert. But this young woman at the bar looked so cute and not at all out of place. Amy stood there noticing her for a little while and decided she had to say something to this girl.
“I was just noticing your outfit. I love flappers and I think it’s so wonderful you brought that stuff out here. I wish I had thought to bring something like that, it’s really how I want to be but it never occurred…”
“You’re Pearl,” the young woman interrupted.
Something clicked. It was such a simple statement and this girl had said it with such conviction, as if it had been obvious the whole time.
Yes, I am Pearl.
It was the most exhilarating feeling. Amy had never had a nickname or an alter-ego. Pearl resonated so much that it felt like even more than a nickname — it felt like a very real and true part of herself: someone else’s recognition of something that had always been there, like an oyster being cracked open and discovering some precious thing inside. Cliché of the day: it was time for Pearl to come out of her shell!
Pearl and the young woman exchanged a few more words and shared a warm embrace. Before long the woman disappeared, sipping her Bloody Mary, back into the playa, and if she ever came back to the bar Pearl didn’t see her.
After sharing this experience with Rachman, he agreed that Pearl was definitely fitting. From then on, Amy introduced herself as Pearl and it has been that way in San Francisco ever since.
Pearl, the Party Planner
As a kid, Pearl’s annual Halloween parties were the talk of the town featuring creepy food like “lady fingers” which were decorated to look like they had fingernails on them, and peeled grapes that looked like eyeballs. They played relay races and other silly group games, and of course some classic Halloween theme music like Monster Mash and Purple People Eater.
Her birthday parties were also themed — one year she and her mom planned a “backwards birthday” where they wrote the invitations backwards, set the clocks back, and made a pineapple upside-down cake. Guests turned their clothes backwards, and even walked backwards during the party. In college, Pearl was part of a sorority and many academic clubs where she planned recruitment events, charity drives, field trips, corporate summits, and more. Today, Party Girl Pearl loves blending the world of electronic dance music with the more traditional circus arts and variety shows and creating immersive experiences for party-goers while supporting causes like women’s empowerment and ending domestic abuse.
Pearl’s goal is to redefine what’s possible in partying. She hopes that you will come out to the next event on November 22 and introduce yourself, and tell her about your experience.