Peter Larkin, 88, was, in his day, a Tony Award-winning production designer, who, in the mid-‘50, took top nods for his work on Ondine, The Teahouse of the August Moon, No Time for Sergeants, and Inherit the Wind. He’s also a highly-informed burlesque aficionado. In 1994, he illustrated the book The Best Burlesque Sketches, and in the twenty years since, he’s been mocking up a pop-up book on the subject, with the delightful working title Panties Inferno. The Paris Review published a series of photos of the mock-ups, along with a detailed interview with Larkin.
I started doing pop-ups in 1994. My early ones were pretty crude. I had to figure out the engineering, if that’s what they call it—but I had fooled around with pop-ups before, because I used to make theatrical models for stage sets, so with my experience that wasn’t too difficult. I was a good draftsman and with a drawing board and triangles I could figure it out. You have to use the motion of opening the book to power the whole thing. Nowadays, there are guys who use string and elastic—all kinds of strange things in there, which as a purist, I would say aren’t exactly pop-ups. There’s also a certain amount of tumescence involved there. It’s sort of phallic, the pop-up. Why would you make a book that things popped up out of?
The book is arranged as if it’s a whole evening of burlesque, from start to finish. It always ended with a really awful production number. They got a set of steps—stairs—and covered it with some kind of sleazy material. Then there were all kinds of strange things.
Sadly, due to the complexity of Larkin’s pop-ups, the sheer expense of producing it has led publishers to deem it unpublishable. Mr. Larkin, again, is 88 years of age, so someone please tell him about Kickstarter, and quickly!
More wonderful images and animations at The Paris Review.