Dena Greenwalt

Dena Greenwalt and Haylan Teel are the creators and organizers of Gagarazzi, a Lady Gaga-themed show that will be held Friday night at the Highball. The show, with proceeds benefitting Equality Texas, will include live performances and a raffle.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

“If not you, then who?”

That was the phrase Haylan Teel and Dena Greenwalt kept in mind when creating Gagarazzi, a burlesque and variety show this Friday at The Highball to benefit Equality Texas.

Both Teel and Greenwalt said they were inspired to create a benefit for Equality Texas when DoSomething.org ranked Lady Gaga the most charitable of 2010.

Equality Texas aims to notify elected officials of existing policies that are negatively impacting people because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, said Chuck Smith, the organization’s executive deputy director.

“So any of the proceeds we receive from Gagarazzi will be used to help us in our public education efforts,” Smith said.

To organize the show, Teel and Greenwalt worked with the team at Homespun Horror, an Austin-based production company, to organize the show. They have created some short films for the event and also made the show’s promotional video.

“While making horror movies, it takes a certain creativity and a lot of intense, detailed planning, alongside a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants attitude,” Teel said. “All of that worked well for this event, even though it’s drastically different from filming.”

The two women recruited premiere burlesque groups from around Austin and San Antonio including The Jigglewatts, Austin City Showgirls, Brass Ovaries and others. Teel and Greenwalt said they offered the groups no guidelines for the type of performances they wanted, simply telling the groups to be inspired by Lady Gaga.

“I think the thrill of doing something Gaga-related is you don’t have to emulate, you can do whatever the heck you want,” Teel said. “They’re not only taking time to come up with new material, but taking time out of a night that they could be getting paid to do a performance somewhere else.”

Greenwalt said Lady Gaga’s background in burlesque as well as the historical aspects and unique appeal of burlesque performance were the inspiration for Gagarazzi.

“I’ve always wanted to do a benefit,” Teel said. “And how has it not been done before? She’s the most famous woman in the world.” 

The benefit will also include a raffle featuring one-of-a-kind items such as local Gaga-themed art, a handmade Gaga-inspired soap basket and a Lady Gaga doll Teel created. 

“We are hoping people come away with smaller wallets and a really good time,” she said. “I just hope people show up, be themselves — just in costumes — and have fun and that’s that.”

While this is the first Gagarazzi, depending on the success and smoothness of the event, it may not be the last, according to the organizers.

“In the theme of the whole show, that’s exactly what Gaga did, she was nothing and she told everybody she was something and blew up,” Greenwalt said. 

Printed on September 30, 2011 as: LGBT community goes Gaga for burlesque benefit