First, her name is Belle, or Ms. Belle Bottom to you.
I’m a performer, and artist. I have a lot of ideas going on in my head at any one time. Some of those ideas involve my sock puppet Belle Bottom, and you can watch more than a few videos of us together here: So what is the story behind the cotton and yarn? The genesis of Ms. Belle Bottom… I was once a young Fox in college, doing my best not to crack under the pressure. In the end, I failed at the not cracking thing. But through the crack, a lot of creativity was unleashed at a catastrophic rate. Raw and untempered, its power was frightening. The energy was hard to contain and even harder to pound into a recognizable shape so I could relate it to other people, and that’s where my ability to bring inanimate objects to life truly began to emerge as a skill. Partly from breaking out of my concern for what other people thought of me, and partly to relate the maelstrom of ideas in my head, I needed a bridge. I could bring chairs, pens but mostly mittens and stuffed animals, to life so… My right hand took on a personality… I had a five-hour drive between home and school. It was a beautiful drive, but I did get bored and had to find ways to entertain myself. I loved singing along with my Indigo Girls CDs and the radio, but there was often a part in the duets, or a back up harmony, that I wasn’t singing. My right hand began taking over the parts that I wasn’t singing and soon I was jamming, singing and miming to all my favorite tunes. There was staring… As you might expect, the other drivers on the road noticed that I was grooving with no one but my own hand as I passed them. To alleviate any discomfort they might feel, before every road trip I began to draw eyes on my knuckles with a sharpie. This was so when I saw people in the car next to me stare, my hand could stare right back at them and watch them out the back window after I passed. Somehow I thought this would communicate an awareness that I was not crazy but just being playful. Looking back, I’m not so sure that came across… All this lead to the anthropomorphizing of a french fry stealing mitten as the weather turned cold, who’s antics developed the skill Belle would later utilize to make our performances come alive.
Fast forward a few years, and I left college with one paper left before I could graduate (to be fair it was a big paper) and I was living back at home in my parents’ basement. I was lonely and there was a serious lack of GLBT people my age in my hometown so I found myself driving to St Cloud State to hang out with people there. Later that year, the St Cloud State U GLBT group decided to produce a drag show as a fundraiser and they were looking for performers. This was ’98. I had been behind the scrim for many shows but knew very little about performing. I thought I’d try anyway. Everything I knew about being in the spotlight was learned by observation, not participation. Plus I knew very little about being a man. Mostly I was just a very butch woman. But I paid close attention to what other performers were doing and made the rest up as I went along. Twelve years later I’m still making it up as I go along and observing other performers to bring the best performance I can to the stage. Belle Bottom, my sock puppet/diva/alter ego, came about not long after that first show. I was looking for something different and original, but still pretty basic. I remembered the long drive home from college… And so, Belle was born… The main challenge was not how to harness my otherwise fairly useless talent of being unaware of my right hand’s antics. A sock puppet was a no brainer. The biggest challenge was how to keep myself from laughing my ass off when I got up on stage with a sock puppet on my hand. The answer? Practice! Practice! Practice! (That and I performed that first rendition of Roxette’s “The Look” in sunglasses so I couldn’t see the audience). Belle’s ginormous boob job came later, but that’s a story for another time. Belle and I have been performing together ever since and luckily she always forgives me when I go on stage without her, even though she never performs without me. She often gets more attention than I do when we perform together. I think this is because my little sock is somehow more approachable, but I try not to be too jealous. She has a diva attitude, and often lobs insults at me on Twitter (@MsBelleBottom) but she’s got a heart of gold. But enough of me talking, let’s speak to the Lady in Stretched Pleather herself! Though she refuses to speak publicly, she has agreed to let me interview her in private, about all things Fox and Belle: Fox Smoulder: Let’s start with your career. Who is your greatest role model? Belle Bottom: Dolly Parton. Hands down. She is such an inspiration. She’s talented, graceful and full of poise. She is also very up front about the work she has had done, but despite the artifice of plastic surgery, she is a very genuine person. FS: You’ve said in the past that you have had a fair share of work done yourself… BB: Yes, I’ve had my eyes, lips, bosom… very nearly everything done. I am however a natural blonde (she smiles and flips her hair). FS: You have straddled the lines between burlesque and drag for a few years now, how do you keep it up? BB: Fifteen years… Yes, I have paid my dues it is true. I have been walked all over, but I’m still kicking! It is tough work being a drag king’s right hand diva, darling. Even though you keep your nails clipped and you are gentle, shows can get long… FS: (ahem) You do always throw down an amazing performance. How do you always seem to find the camera mid performance? I often find in the pictures of us that I’m looking off to the side and you are facing the camera. In every photoset there seems to be at least a couple with your good side if nothing else… Even if we aren’t sure where the photographer is.
Or this video, where you are almost exclusively faced in the direction of the camera, even though as I recall, that night I had handed the camera off to a friend who wandered away and found a different place to sit. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9SpuT-RATc BB: I do not know…I’m just unconsciously drawn to the lens and more photogenic than you I guess? I do pay attention to the entire audience, not just the photographer, but we’ve had some wonderful photographers who seem to favor me. FS: Hmm… Changing tracks here. You are the only sock puppet I know who has, well, breasts. You’ve been public with the fact that you’ve had work done, but can you talk more about what lead you to breast augmentation as a sock puppet? BB: Well, as you know, I had a temporary set up for a specific role. When we did “Islands in the Stream” by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton as part of the staging of your play “Grey Duck”, it was important to the whole Dolly impersonation that I had large knockers. After that production though I discovered I preferred the chesty look and made it permanent. FS: I have to say though, they are beginning to cause a bit of carpal tunnel syndrome in my wrist. Did you have to get them quite so big? BB: They only make condoms in certain sizes honey. Moving on. FS: (sighs) Yes! On to love… BB: I am a modern, independent girl, but I’m almost always head over heels FS: And you identify as “bisoxual”? BB: Yes, I am attracted to lots of qualities in lots of others, but I’m not particularly promiscuous. That sigma against bisoxuality is well known but false. Being that the most common orientation among my peers is homosoxual, I can tell you how difficult it is to erase those mistaken stereotypes. Bisoxual means I love a genuine article, not that I’ll jump into any old shoe that might fit! FS: So there is a whole community? BB: Yes! Community is so important. I really believe we are all interconnected. The drawer, the city, the planet are all interdependent. To raise awareness, I often team up with heterosoxuals and transsoxuals and have HBT parties and festivals right here in the sock drawer. As a sock I often feel the urge to pair off, and I think that is a natural desire for many, but you don’t have to be limited to whoever is just like you. Sometimes it is our differences that make us strong too. Together we find common ground. FS: Wow, that’s interesting. I didn’t know there was such diversity in my sock drawer. So can you shed some light on where my smart wool sock went? BB: I don’t subscribe to gossip, but that was a very difficult break up. She left him for a pair of panty hose. I believe he’s taking some time to himself behind the dryer. A lint facial can do wonders for the soul. But we should get back on topic… FS: Yes! Sorry. Umm. So there is a strong community. And you and I have our relationship too. BB: Well yes, you and I are close, just look at where I let you put your hand! But the search for love is different from the search for a good time. Now I know a lot of people will judge me, but find me a nice sandal… FS: A sock with a sandal? Really? BB: Don’t judge me. You are the one walking around with a sock puppet on your hand. FS: I’m not judging! I just think… Wouldn’t that make you less bisoxual and more bi-pedal? BB: Don’t label me either! You are on thin ice Fox. FS: Sorry! Sorry. Well, you used to call yourself an argylebian. Why don’t you use that label anymore? BB: (looks uncomfortable) That was a label that was very insensitive. We don’t call ourselves that anymore. It’s just a fact that I find myself dating more argyles than any other patterns. FS: Ok, so you are a sock who prefers patterned socks, but will occasionally foray into the hard core footwear? BB: Yes, that just about sums it up! FS: And here I thought you might have a foot fetish BB: Now THAT’S sick! FS: So, on that note, I think it is just about time to wrap up our interview. Anything else before we go? BB: YES! Everyone should be sure to check out all of my videos with Fox on Fox’s Youtube channel! YouTube.com/foxsmoulder! And Twitter @FoxSmoulder and @MsBelleBottom , Fox’s WordPress site at Foxsmoulder.Wordpress.com or on Facebook at Facebook.com/FoxSmoulderFans FS: Thank you! BB: You too! See you on laundry day! So there you have it! Belle raw and uncensored! That is the story of the longest performance partnership either of us have ever had! Belle will continue to make appearances with me from time to time even though I am moving into the burlesque arena and exploring adding spoken word to the mix. There is no substitute or copy that can dilute the one and only Belle Bottom!