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Liv Østhus ’96: subject of a new documentary …

From Alumni Office to NW area alums.

Greetings from Williamstown!

The Alumni Relations Office would like to pass along information on the upcoming world premiere of a documentary film about Liv Østhus ’96.

It’s called “Thank You for Supporting the Arts”, and Liv describes it this way, “Blacktop Films followed me for four years and made a full-length feature that is smart, beautiful, and heartwarming. It’s surprisingly wholesome with its focus on Portland, family, and community. Its provocative nature comes primarily from my insistence that stripping is art (and, I guess, all the nudity)”.

I met Ms Østhus, the daughter of a Lutheran Minnesota  minister, in 2009 at the opening for her book at Powell’s Books in Portland. I now have my signed copy of Magic Gardens: The Memoirs of Viva Las Vegas that includes the familiar words “Beat Amherst”.

Liv has been featured many times in Ephblog.

Just search for ‘stripper’.

More information Read more


An Eph Ecdysiast …

Liv p1
at the risk of seeming a tease, more under the fold Read more


Magic Gardens: The Memoirs of Viva Las Vegas

{JG has brought this news item to EphBlog for those of us in the Portland Metro (or a tad outside) area.

Thanks, JG. I hope it is OK to move the news from Speak Up to the front page.}

imageDB.cgiFor those in the greater Portland area, Viva Las Vegas (aka Liv Osthus ‘96) is doing an event at Powell’s City of Books (aka the best bookstore evah). Info is here and there is a link to buy her book as well.

( a recent story : )

EDIT: I should mention that the event is Monday, October 26, 2009 at 7:30pm. (JG)


New Biography Podcast with Liv Osthus ’96 aka Viva Las Vegas

Magic GardensI first met Liv/Viva back in 2006, when Morty S. came to Portland for an alumni event. She was there with her brother and I was there with my wife and we shared a table and laughed a lot through the entire dinner. Even back then, she mentioned that she had been playing around with the idea of writing her memoirs, a piece of information I tucked away in the recesses of my mind. She also came to our annual summer drinks party at our house, and was just as charming with the neighbors as she was with her fellow Ephs.

Last fall, I ran into her again at a book reading that her publisher had put together, and she confirmed that her memoirs were in the rewriting stage and set to come out in the fall of 09. I told her that, when they were ready, I had a new biography show I was producing, and I’d love to have her on. I can also say now that she was definitely a lot less bubbly than she had been in previous meetings, a darkness I now know was tied directly into her fight against breast cancer, which at that time, wasn’t public knowledge.

I’ve never seen Liv perform as either Viva Las Vegas or as Coco Cobra, not due to any prudery on my part (Liv gave me a promotional button after the interview which features “the 8th wonder of the world”; you’ll have to listen to find out what that is), but more due to the fact that our schedules are diametrically opposed. Still, since I have interviewed her about the book, I do kind of feel odd I have never seen her perform, so I will try to stay up late one night this fall and catch one of her sets.

Liv knows that my nickname for her is “that nice Lutheran girl from Minnesota”, a handle I gave her because when we get together, we tend to talk about pretty mundane topics, like gardening or literature. This interview was the first time we spoke in depth about her job. I will leave it to her to talk about whether she was able to get Morty and the Alumni Board to come watch her set at Mary’s after that 2006 dinner at the City Grill ;)

As one last aside, I wish I could be in studio with every guest. Face to face interviews are much more fun than doing them over the phone. The interview runs 22 minutes:


Viva Las Vegas

vivalasvegasThe Daily Beast has a moving interview with Viva Las Vegas – stripper, Eph, breast cancer survivor, and author of the upcoming memoir Magic Gardens.

[H]er career was derailed last year, when her boyfriend found a small lump in her breast. They broke up in the early stages of her cancer treatment, an event Viva says was worse than the cancer—she had a plan for healing and doctors who would help, but no plan for getting over her heartbreak. She stopped stripping and struggled with how she’d make a living during and after the three-month treatment—a mastectomy and chemotherapy.

“I felt like a failure for being sick,” she said, deflating for a moment over her Irish coffee. “I come from a family of health nuts and athletes. Having my body attack itself from within definitely felt like a major failure, and I tended to blame myself for causing the illness.”

During her treatment, she disconnected from herself. “For much of that time I didn’t inhabit my body as my own, as it was changing, healing and in between surgeries. I kind of separated myself from it, I think, and let it do its thing.”

After her unilateral mastectomy, the doctors stretched her skin for the reconstruction, and added extra skin from a cadaver, making her breast cold to the touch, though she didn’t notice her breast was icy until the first time she danced. During her first shifts back at Mary’s, she said, “The word ‘necrotic’ would pop into my head as I danced.”

Her skin became incurably itchy. “Doctors couldn’t help me so I went to a medical psychic,” she said with the slightest eye roll. The psychic told her she was longing for touch. She took a lover and the itching stopped immediately.

After dancing for a few weeks her breast warmed up. Still, she struggled with her new shape. She felt any sort of augmentation was insincere. “I thought that putting bags of silicone into my body to alter my chest from the way fate had designed it was monkeying with reality.”

For Viva, stripping is now business as usual, which is how she likes it. She’s been approached by nurses wanting their cancer patients to visit her at work. “I don’t shy away from talking about it, and I have been able to grope more gals in the dressing room, now that I’m the resident expert on breast lumps,” she said.

“Do I feel beautiful?” she said. “I do on stage, when I’m expected to feel beautiful. That’s stage magic for you.”

Read the whole thing.


Viva Las Vegas’ homepage

Magic Gardens on Amazon

(hat tip JeffZ)

UPDATE: Thanks to Dick for linking us to this article written by Ms. Las Vegas.


EphPlanet: End-of-year roundup

  • Marc Lynch has a series of insightful posts on the geopolitics of Gaza. Go to his blog and start reading.
  • Sam Crane points out the vagueness of Samuel Huntington’s delimitation of “civilizations”.
  • The Mass MoCA blog has some pictures from what looks like a fascinating exhibit entitled Being Here is Better Than Wishing We’d Stayed, and also informs us that Philip Glass will be in North Adams Jan. 16 to talk about his work on film.

  • More impossibly cute babies.
  • Jennifer Mattern writes a heartbreaking post about spending the first Christmas after a split.
  • Juliana Stone finally feels at home at college.
  • Ariel Ramchandani interviews the head curator of the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, which looks simply stunning.
  • Chad Orzel starts a helpful discussion on what makes a dissertation.
  • Hockey at Wrigley? I’m not sure how that works, but Sam Flood will be producing the broadcast, New Year’s Day on NBC Sports.
  • Congratulations to John Szawlowski, First Team All American
  • Liv Osthus gives great quote in an article about the portrayal of sex workers on reality TV:

    “It’s gross. It’s retarded,” is how Portland’s Liv Osthus, whose strip club persona is Viva Las Vegas, dismisses such fare. “I don’t like to see women brought down to the harpy level. We are not these Howard Stern, hypersexual, punch line characters,” she says. “We are really entrepreneurial, healthy, and intelligent, and do this by choice.”

    I’m most surprised by the fact that there’s at least one type of job interview where saying you went to Williams College doesn’t result in blank stares and crickets chirping:

    When Osthus got the casting people on the phone, told them she was a Williams College grad, in a rock and roll band, and — oh, yeah, a headlining stripper, the producers immediately put the couple on a plane.

  • Daniel Drezner points to this absolutely awesome smackdown laid down by Mika Brzezinski’s dad:

Happy new year, everyone.


Modest Proposal

Interesting video of Wendy Shalit ’97, author of Girls Gone Mild, discussing mentors.

There is a story about a Williams professor toward the end. Previous Shalit posts here.Related (?) is this Record article about Liz Osthus ’96, the only (?) Eph stripper.

For graduating students, entering the real world often means following a dress code. Sometimes it means wearing a three-piece suit, or sometimes it means wearing Abercrombie & Fitch. For Liv Osthus ’96, also known as Viva Las Vegas, it means wearing her birthday suit. It’s not that Osthus doesn’t ever wear clothing for her job; it’s that she takes it off while she works, because while most Ephs start work at 9 a.m., Osthus’s job at her Mary’s Club doesn’t begin till at least 4:30 p.m., or 9 p.m. if she’s taking the night shift.


It’s been about 10 years since Osthus started stripping. “I was trying to be a musician and a writer and so I needed money to allow me to do those things,” Osthus said. “I thought I’d just be doing it for a year. I had a lot of loans from Williams and I thought I’d do it for a while and get my loans paid off.”

Another reason to be pleased with Williams move to a no-loans financial aid policy? Just asking! Previous posts about Osthus here.

“I’ve been writing my book for the last four years,” Osthus said. “I would like to have stopped [stripping] before now, but I still love my job – and I can still afford my mortgage.” And it’s not just through her well-roundedness that Osthus shows her Eph background. She has put her Williams education to good use – she speaks five languages and has used them all during her act.

“I met Sean Penn, and he just spent some time in East Africa so I spoke Swahili with him,” she said. “I speak French, German, English, of course, and I studied in Bali for a semester and east Africa for a semester. Both are very, very rusty but we had a whole bunch of sailors from Indonesia and I was able to talk to them, and a missionary dude from east Africa.”

Am I a bad father for hoping that my daughters don’t become strippers, for Indonesian sailors or anyone else? I can’t come up with the exact culture reference, but isn’t it the father’s job to “keep his daughter off the pole?”

Her old classmates have been supportive as well, and many have come in to see her act. “They knew I was a wild card, and I think most have been in to see me dance,” Osthus said. “They’re always shocked by how normal it is – I just happen to be unclothed and dancing.”

Even her father, the preacher, supports her now. “He was initially very upset and disappointed, but I’ve taught classes on it and even the philosophy of it,” Osthus said. “It’s my pulpit when I get on that stage – he gets that. It’s so not about the sex, it’s about performance and I love it.”

A good father’s love is unconditional.

I have exchanged e-mails with both Shalit and Osthus. Best to both during the holiday season.


Modesty’s Opposite?

Wendy Shalit ’97 is blogging at the Modesty Zone. Wendy wrote on Friday:

We’ve talked about how modesty is prudery’s true opposite, right? Reserving sexuality for the sake of protecting its power, and so forth and so on. Well, lately I’ve been thinking that maybe promiscuity could really be related to asexuality–since without integrating the emotions, sex tends to be “no big deal.” We’ve certainly all seen examples of exhibitionism being perfectly consistent with a low sex drive.

Compare this to Liv Osthus’s ’96 comments from last Sunday.

After the initial meet-and-greet, we are asked what issues we’d like to discuss in therapy. My guy says innocently enough that he’d like to have more sex.

I almost blurt out that he should go find himself another chick, but instead I hear myself saying, “I love sex!” Or at least, I explain, I did love sex, once upon a time, before I was writing a book and fronting a band and stripping almost every night and paying a mortgage and managing a household and trying occasionally to sleep.

I would love nothing more than to have my libido back, I tell them, and I’d welcome their guidance. But if my guy really wants sex, maybe he should come back when I’m 45 and not trying to juggle three all-consuming careers, hoping desperately to get one of them off the ground before the plug gets pulled on my biological clock.

“And what if I don’t want to? It’s not like it’s that enjoyable. I understand I’m supposed to want sex for the sake of our relationship, but the truth is I just don’t. And having sex when you don’t want to isn’t like other things, like massaging someone’s feet or cooking someone dinner just out of love for them. It feels violating to have sex when you don’t want to. Why should I want to have sex anyway? I’d rather fit in an hour’s worth of guitar or maybe a long walk.”

There are no easy answers here. But, at EphBlog at least, we are pleased and proud to offer commentary from Ephs like already-author Shalit and soon-to-be-author Osthus. The value here is in the conversation, not the conclusion.


Modern Stripper

One of the fun features of Sam Crane’s blog are his thoughts on the Modern Love column from the New York Times. I can hardly wait for his write-up on this one.

I’m a stripper by profession, a Williams College graduate of an especially liberal bent, and he’s a tattooed mortgage broker for the alternative crowd. At heart though, he and I are rock ‘n’ rollers: we each front our own band and have toured extensively. I know we are perfect candidates for the show. After all, couples therapy could use some rock ‘n’ roll, and we could use some couples therapy.

An Eph stripper? Could this be Viva Las Vegas, an EphBlog mystery of many months standing? Yes! [Album links below contain nudity.]

Not only am I a stripper, but I’m a relatively well-known stripper, who makes all of her bread and butter off the bump and grind and writing about the bump and grind. Under the name Viva Las Vegas, I’ve written about the sex industry for Exotic Magazine and The Village Voice. My band has an album called “The ‘I Need Sex’ Sessions.” Our second, “Coco Cobra and the Killers: Want You!” features a picture of me wearing a hat and boots — and only a hat and boots — on the cover. Sex is my stock in trade. Was I ready to admit on television (cable, but so what) that I rarely want to have sex?

Read the whole thing. (Hat tip to Jeff Zeeman for his earlier mention.)

Question: If Liv Osthus’s ’96 book does well, will Williams award her a Bicentennial Medal? Should it?

Google does not know much about Osthus, but the Women’s and Gender Studies Department will appreciate (?) her participation in this debate almost a decade ago.


Let me be the first …

to post this article by the Eph alum with the most atypical career path. Based on her age, she was likely a classmate of mine, or close. Yet, I have never heard of her — either a function of my lack of coolness at college, (most likely), or else she grew up on Osthus Lane with a dog named Liv …


Eph Book?

We are still trying to figure out whether Portland author (and stripper) Viva Las Vegas is an Eph.


Enquiring minds want to know! Viva writes:

December is my favorite time of year. The sun sets early in the afternoon and festivals of lights illuminate the night. It’s cozy; people move at a slower pace and even seem to be more kind and generous. Finally, the year ends, prompting everyone (journalists especially) to reflect.

Today, as I write from my usual perch at Huber’s, I too am feeling generous and nostalgic. The last year has been quite a ride–bumpy as hell but with some definite peaks, heights at which I could glimpse bits of the future. And the future looks dreamy, darlings, but some of the bumps have been heartbreakers.

[M]y relationship with management cooled considerably every time I was named “Portland’s Hottest Stripper,” “Best Reason to Visit Sin City” or “Best Butt.” Still, the Magic was home–a place I championed over all others and a place where Portlanders knew they could find me, whether they came in six days a week or had been away for six years.

In the end I was fired for breaking up a fight. Two gentlemen–an inebriated punk rocker and an inebriated New Orleansian–were ready to do battle over who got the chair at my rack. I–half-nude, onstage–talked them down, using my best conflict resolution tactics to persuade them that no chair was worth fighting over.

Indeed. Viva apparently has a book in the works. If she really is an Eph, we would be eager to help publicize it. Does anyone know if she really attended Williams?


Exotic Eph

A commentator yesterday compared our fancy new theatre to a strip club. Hmmm. I’m no architectural critic, but, if we have a strip club than we need some strippers.

It’s a tossup which is sexier — the way Viva Las Vegas exposes her body, or the way she exposes her mind. Both are pretty damn impressive. With her wicked sense of humor and the sharpened skills of her pen, Las Vegas defies the notion that all strippers are bubbleheaded twits. At night, the graduate of Williams College in Massachusetts sheds her clothes at Magic Garden; by day, she edits the local sex-trade publication Exotic; and in between, she slaves away on her book detailing her life as an exotic dancer. Her “I Y Las Vegas” column in Exotic dispenses words of wisdom to other dancers, while waxing philosophic about life and the universe.

This seems to be the column in question. Written by an Eph? We report, you decide.


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