The World Famous Pontani Sisters can be found, wearing relatively little but changing it frequently, at several downtown watering holes. The most appealing spot—and the one with the lowest cover charge—is Marion’s, a narrow, 50-year-old restaurant with a bar by the door, hundreds of kitschy paintings, a convivial staff, and a tiny stage. But the Boop-esque sisters—one blond, one brunette, one redhead—who perform for three minutes every quarter hour on Mondays, don’t use the stage. They dance to recorded music in the aisles between tables, their marabou boas brushing the ears of diners. If they were your standard-issue showgirls, their Carmen Miranda headdresses would probably graze the chandeliers, but spokesister Angie (25) says she, Tara (26), and Helen (27) are “all, like, scraping 5-2. We’re nowhere near the physical requirements that it would take to be showgirls.”
Why do a floor show in an establishment with no dance floor? “They asked us. People love having us. It’s such a strange thing that we’re just suddenly there.”
They make about five costume changes a night, in the basement. “At Windows on the World, we have a dressing room. At Barmacy we’re kind of in the corner.” Their identities shift from Latin American sirens to beach bunnies, from jungle babes in leopard body suits to mock-Charlie’s Angels in short white boots. At Christmas they wore strategically placed poinsettias and tinsel on their butts. They foot-sync to such tunes as Popeye’s “I Want to Be a Lifeguard” and “Mambo Italiano.” Does their retro presentation irritate feminists?
“Most women seem to think it’s fantastic that we have the confidence to get up and do that,” says Angie.
Born in New Jersey, they studied at Miss Joyce’s Dance Shop, then left home and took up residence in Kensington, Brooklyn, as teenagers. They dropped out of college and threw a couple of numbers together. “We grew up watching old movies: My father was Frank Sinatra-Sammy Davis obsessed. The style of performance I’ve always been drawn to was a little bit over the top, the whole Technicolor musical thing. I wasn’t gonna let our physical selves stop that from being.”
They each have tasks. “I do the costumes and choreography. Tara’s the technical one: press releases and proofreading. Helen’s like Girl Friday: She runs around to get supplies.”
Do they need day jobs? “This is pretty much full time. My sisters temp a bit. It’s hard to get home at three in the morning and then get up and go somewhere. We’re making a little living.”
In addition to their weekly club rotation, the sisters will teach Pontani-Go-Go-Aerobics the next few Saturday afternoons at Manhattan Motion, 43 West 24th Street, #2B. For complete details, contact Angie1327@aol.com, or visit their Web site: www.pontanisisters.com.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 30, 2001