Anyone who has watched an episode of the immensely popular reality series American Pickers on The History Channel knows that when the “boys are away” the cat don’t play! The cat in question being Danielle Colby Cushman, a tattooed punkabilly filly who manages the office at Antique Archaeology while hosts Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz are out picking.
I’m a huge fan of the show, and the first time I watched it and the guys were panning through piles of junk looking for that gold nugget item I was mesmerized! I’m a yard sale and flea market junkie myself, and watching the show was pure vicarious fetishism! But then they called the office and Danielle popped up on the screen. Watching became a whole different kind of fetishism at that point…
On the History Channel’s web site for American Pickers it says this about Danielle:
A mother of three, Danielle is always working on a new creative project, whether it’s painting, designing clothes or selling vintage-inspired gifts online. She feels extremely proud of the “boys” and fortunate to work with such a talented pair.
What they failed to mention is that one of Danielle’s “creative projects” is founding Burlesque Le’ Moustache, a burlesque troupe in the Quad Cities region of Iowa and Illinois! (The “Quad Cities” actually includes the five cities of Davenport, Iowa; Moline, Illinois; Rock Island, Illinois; Bettendorf, Iowa; and East Moline, Illinois.)
Not only is Danielle Colby Cushman the founder of Burlesque Le’ Moustache, she is also the director and a performer! Yep, Danielle struts her stuff, performs comedy routines and reveals just about everything under her stage name, Dannie Diesel:
In an amazingly extensive article by River Cities’ Reader Danielle talks about how she was turned on to burlesque:
Raised in what the Davenport native calls “a very loving but strict household” of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the 34-year-old Colby-Cushman says that her interest in burlesque originated when she was “10 or 12 years old.” But her fascination with the centuries-old art form didn’t fully take hold until six years ago, when Colby-Cushman and her husband and children were living in Chicago, and she attended a performance starring comedienne Margaret Cho and legendary burlesque artist Satan’s Angel.
“It was amazing,” says Colby-Cushman of the show’s ensemble of comics, singers, dancers, and striptease artists. “Growing up in a strict household, I think I went into that evening thinking that burlesque was taboo and wrong and bad. But what I realized after I left that event was how absolutely liberating it was, to be in a room with women on stage who were ranging from a size zero to a size of, easily, 28 – all different types of women, with all different strengths.
“I left thinking, ‘Who cares if I have stretch marks? Who cares if I’m a size 14 or 12 or 10? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that I like myself.’ That’s the feeling I left with, and it was life-changing, and at that point I knew I wanted to do it [burlesque].”
Wow. But being a burlesque performer isn’t the only bawdy fun surprise in Danielle’s closet! She first took the name Dannie Diesel for her three-year stint on a roller derby team! (At this point, why are we even watching Mike and Frank?!?)
I owned a roller derby team and after three years of roller derby I pretty much tore my body up. The roller derby team I owned was called the Big Mouth Mickies, which was just a bunch of Irish girls that got together because we really wanted to do roller derby. But I think the shelf life of a roller derby girl is like three to five years. And so we really missed doing roller derby — and I’ve wanted to do burlesque for so long so I just decided f**k it — let’s start a burlesque troupe. And I own the troupe — Burlesque Le’ Moustache. It’s myself and five other girls — many of which are from the Big Mouth Mickies. Some are from the Quad City Rollers here as well.
Here is Danielle (right) along with Moly Tov (left) and Danielle’s younger sister, Carbomb Betty showing off their advertising assets prior to a Mickies match:
Danielle’s edgy demeanor and alternayumminess wasn’t a happy accident, though. As Mike Wolfe reveals in this video interview, she was hired after they found out The History Channel had picked up American Pickers and he wanted someone in the office that looked nothing like someone who would work at an antique shop:
Here’s what he actually says, beginning right at the :52 mark:
“Danielle, we’ve known each other for about ten years and when we sold the show to History I needed to hire somebody that did what I did, that did what we did with the research and dissecting things as far as where we were gonna go and I asked her to do it, and she’s like, Are you guys nuts?!? And it worked out really well.
“I saw what she was capable of, and she’s got the edge, she’s got the look. One thing I wanted when I hired her and I knew she was going to be on camera, I wanted someone that did not look like they would work in any antique shop because I wanted our show to be looked at in a different way. I wanted people to look at antiques like they’re fun, they’re rad, they’re killer, they’re awesome. I wanted people to know that they didn’t have to have a blue blazer and ten cats to be an antique dealer.”
Leave it to Mike Wolfe to “pick” the priceless Danielle! He wanted fun, rad, killer and awesome and boy did he get it!
Tune in to American Pickers on The History Channel Mondays at 9/8c! You can see more of Danielle on her official Facebook page and lots more of Dannie Diesel on the Burlesque Le’ Moustache website as well as her alter ego’s Facebook page! For your Danielle Roller Derby fix you’ll have to visit their MySpace page, which has tons of fun photos!
UPDATE! Danielle has an awesome new website! Virtually RUN, do not walk, over to daniellecolbydesigns.com right now!
Here’s a video slide show montage of all things Danielle Colby Cushman including promo shots from America Pickers, Dannie Diesel pics and even a couple Big Mouth Mickies roller derby photos!
And one last amazing shot of Dannie Diesel for dessert…
Be sure to click our Danielle Colby Cushman category link because after this post we fell head over stilettos for her and have kept track with pretty much everything she has been up to!