Blood, babes in zombie burlesque

By Alex Stedman

Decaying flesh and rancid smells are usually the first things that come to mind when thinking of zombies. The last would be beautiful, scantily clad women.

“Boobs of the Dead: A Walking Dead Burlesque” is the newest show at Gorilla Tango Theatre, 1919 N. Milwaukee Ave. Writer and director K Leo is a fan of “The Walking Dead,” and decided to write a parody based on the TV show. His burlesque runs through October and plays with the series’ archetypes with an all-female cast performing the

male roles.

Ms. Pixy, the artistic director for Gorilla Tango Burlesque, estimates that “Boobs of the Dead” is the 11th parody the theater has performed. However, this is the theater’s first time dabbling in zombie burlesque, and it has found its own way of making the dead look sexy.

Characters in “Boobs of the Dead” turn into zombie burlesque dancers after they are bitten. Leo said the zombification process involves nylons, garter belts, stockings, boas and other burlesque attire. He also said their pink and green makeup is meant to look both pretty and grotesque.

“When [the zombies] hear music, they change from being sort of gross—but dressed up quite a bit—into full burlesque mode,” Leo said. “That’s actually how they attract their prey. They lure them in with sexy moves.”

Brendan Riley, instructor of the J-term course “Zombies in Popular Media,” said there is an audience  hungry for titillating zombies.

“I think there’s certainly an appetite for [burlesque zombies],” he said. “I think there’s long been a connection between eroticism and death.”

He referenced zombie pinup calendars and Swedish electronica artist Naked Ape’s music video for “Fashion Freak,” in which zombie girls seductively wash cars. Riley compared people’s attraction to zombies to the infatuation some have for “furries” who dress up as anthropomorphized animals.

Sex and zombies really do sell, according to Leo and Pixy, who said the shows have been full.

Leo said the process of choosing the cast was difficult because so many zombie and “Walking Dead”fans auditioned.

Riley has seen a similar group of fans attracted to his course as well. He said he often wishes students good luck when they tell him they want to take his class because it fills up so quickly.

Leo said the zombie phenomenon manifested after the horror genre exhausted every idea. It also relates to modern society, he said.

“[It’s] partially due to the fact that we’re all kind of walking around like zombies on our cellphone all the time,” Leo said. “It’s sort of the plague of the modern age.”

Riley said that a group mentality surrounds the concept of the zombie. When people attend zombie walks or similarly themed events, a large element of the fun is dressing up with everyone else. Leo and Pixy said many members of the audience came to the burlesque’s opening night dressed in zombie costumes, complete with cuts, scrapes and makeshift saw blades sticking out of their heads.

Riley acknowledged that the trend has gone on much longer than he thought it would, but said zombies offer a lot of storytelling possibilities. He noted that many zombie movies and TV shows have become more sympathetic toward the zombies, instead of portraying them as mindless, soulless monsters.

The last performance of “Boobs of the Dead” will be on Halloween. Leo hinted that the final show will end “in a bang—literally” but declined to give any more details.

Besides the glitter and gore, Riley emphasized that there is something deeper to zombies, which may be why the show has been so successful.

“The zombie is a sort of stark example of the challenges we face every day in figuring out who we are and who we want to be,” Riley said.

“Boobs of the Dead: A Walking Dead Burlesque” runs every Friday and Saturday in October at the Gorilla Tango Theatre, 1919 N. Milwaukee Ave. Tickets can be purchased for $20 at

To see a preview of the show, check out