While nobody was looking, American Pickers has quietly become one of the most popular shows on cable, with the History Channel program regularly outranking former king Pawn Stars in the ratings. Is it because of the folksy duo of Mike and Frank? The non-stop delving into past Americana? The idea we could all do what they do? We don’t think it’s any of this.
We’re firmly of the belief that the success of American Pickers has to do with Danielle Colby, who's the office manager for Antique Archaeology, the company at the center of everything on the show. We’ll talk about her “working” there later on.
Despite the fact she’s only seen a few minutes in every episode, she’s a definite scene-stealer, standing up to the sometimes ornery duo when they’ve had a bad day of picking. Of course, it’s understandable that they could be a little upset when she’s the one who has sent them on a wild goose chase down some back road to nowhere that yields nothing in the hidden treasure department.
But under those glasses and punk rock look lies a very complex, fascinating woman. A former roller derby queen who owned her own burlesque troupe, we’re shocked that nobody from HBO has thought to spin-off Danielle into her own series that was a little more adult in nature. You’re never going to see the photos from this list on American Pickers, and we think there’s a good reason. Here are 15 Photos of Danielle from American Pickers that Mike and Frank Didn’t Want You to See.
14 She wasn’t in the picking business before the show started
Mike Wolfe, the skinnier, taller part of the picking duo featured in every episode of American Pickers, was the brainchild behind the show that's designed to make any two buddies think they can travel the countryside finding treasures in weird people’s barns. The interesting part is that neither Frank Fritz nor Danielle Colby worked with Mike Wolfe when he pitched the show to the production company that ultimately ended up making the show. Both were hired specifically to appear on the show and neither work regularly at Antique Archaeology, Wolfe’s company, when the cameras aren’t rolling. We wonder what the person who answers the phones for Mike in real life thought when he decided to bring in Danielle for the show. That’s a bit of a burn that hopefully came with a nice raise.
13 She runs classes teaching burlesque dance
While it’s unclear whatever happened to Burlesque Le Moustache, it appears that Danielle is still operating her side business of teaching burlesque dance. Dannie Diesel’s Bump and Grind Academy operates out of a dance studio in Chicago. There’s a phone number on the school’s Facebook page, if you’re into taking classes, but like most of her social media endeavors, Danielle hasn’t done the greatest job keeping up with it. We tried to check out reviews of the class on the page, but instead of women talking about feeling empowered, it was full of guys who should never take a pole dancing class giving 5-star reviews for a photo posted of Danielle’s butt. We agree that it’s worth 5-stars, but it doesn’t really tell us much about the class.
12 She started her own burlesque group
Danielle likes burlesque so much, she created a professional burlesque troupe called Burlesque Le Moustache (which translates to 'The Moustache Burlesque,' for anybody who isn’t good at reading French). She operated this group, which consisted of nine girls for several years, but it’s unclear if she’s still managing the group or if it even exists. Both the Facebook page and the website for Burlesque Le Moustache aren’t around anymore, and a quick peek at the schedule of Dannie Diesel features only two dates for the rest of 2017. One of the girls who used to be in the troupe hasn’t updated her Facebook page since 2013, so we’re at a loss at to whether the troupe still exists. Thankfully, there are plenty of YouTube videos chronicling the group, and these will hopefully live forever.
11 Her daughter serves as her arbiter of good taste
It’s got to be interesting to be the children of a person who goes from being an unknown make-up artist for Estee Lauder into a reality TV star and big name in the world of burlesque in only a few years. Her son in now 21, and there’s not much about his opinion of his mother’s choices on the Internet, but in a 2014 interview that Danielle gave, she said that her daughter - who was 13 then and 16 now - was the voice of reason when it came to when Danielle crossed the line with her burlesque act. She said that her kids were her harshest critics but also her most encouraging coaches. “If something happens they are not comfortable with, they’re the first ones to tell me,” she told the Quad-City Times in an article promoting a burlesque festival.
10 She fell in love with burlesque after attending a performance
Danielle attended her first burlesque show with a friend when she was living in Chicago. It was starring comedian Margaret Cho and a dancer who went by Satan’s Angel. She said that after coming from a strict household of Jehovah’s Witnesses and seeing women on stage with tattoos and who ranged in size from 0 to 30 was a powerful, liberating experience, and she wanted to get involved immediately and started thinking about a character that day. In a 2010 interview, she commented on the experience saying, "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."
Her fame killed her marriage
From Jim Carrey to Roseanne Barr, when somebody gets plucked out of obscurity and suddenly becomes a big star, it can have a huge effect on their personal lives. Much like Carrey's and Barr's, Danielle’s marriage couldn’t hold up under the weight of her new fame once American Pickers started airing and her burlesque career started getting attention. She gave an interview to a television station in 2012 where she was very complimentary to the guy, saying he was a “nice man, very kind, a loving person, and a good father.” But whatever insecurities he had about sharing his beautiful, creative wife with the world got the best of the situation, and Danielle opted to pursue her dreams. “Fame and notoriety are not easy for him to deal with at all, so the relationship ended up not working out."
9 She says burlesque is freeing, especially if you don’t have a good body
After seeing women of all different sizes at the burlesque show that inspired her in Chicago, Danielle realized that what’s more important than having what society thinks is a perfect body is that the sexiest thing is a woman who's strong and secure in her sexuality. This was never more evident to her than when she analyzed the results of the rehearsal where she forced everyone in her troupe to drop their tops. "And that was actually the most fun practice we ever had,” she said in the 2010 interview. “We went through the routines -- we just did the routines topless -- and it was really freeing. You'd think that would be slightly uncomfortable, but it wasn't at all. We laughed and we had fun and we made fun of each other, and from that point on, I think all of us were fine. We just realized, 'Okay, you know what? We can do this. We're all beautiful women.' And you don't realize it until you're standing topless next to 10 other beautiful women."
8 Her burlesque troupe ended their shows with a super-sexy routine
Whether you go to a concert, see a movie, or attend a fireworks display, there's a need in entertainment to make the last thing witnessed the greatest. You end on a high note and send people home talking. Danielle knew this was important when putting together Burlesque Le Moustache, so she created what she called the water dance routine. Essentially, it starts with the girl standing in front of sheets hanging on clotheslines as if they’re doing the laundry. The ladies go behind the sheet, which is backlit, and disrobe. Once down to nearly nothing, the girls emerge, and female audience members wash the suds off of them. Danielle said the women in the audience loved it because it was participatory and friendly, and the guys loved it because, well, it’s women washing almost naked women in front of them.
7 She’s not good at keeping up with her social media or websites
If you’re watching American Pickers, and you decide that you want to learn more about this raven-haired beauty with the leopard-spotted tattoo on her chest, obviously, you head to Google, and obviously, you’re going to be sent to her social media accounts. That’s when the real chase begins. If you’re interested in her burlesque group, you’re not going to be in luck because those web pages have been shut down. Links to other Facebook pages still exist, but when she hasn’t updated a page in four years, it’s hard to say it’s still active. Probably most disappointing for us was when we were on the 'About Me' page of the one active social media account we found, and it linked us to her Instagram page that had been shut down. She probably has a good reason, but we were hoping for lots of pictures. Even her self-named website is down. If you’re interested, the one place she does update frequently is the Facebook page called Danielle Colby, American Pickers.
6 She’s rarely at the shop you see on TV
Antique Archaeology in Leclaire, Iowa, has become a lot like the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop from the TV show Pawn Stars in that it’s now more of a destination for tourism and doesn’t really operate as you see it on TV on the show American Pickers. And, like Gold & Silver, most of the space is dedicated to a gift shop selling souvenirs and a section of not-for-sale material from the show. Perhaps the biggest similarity that seems to drive tourists crazy on TripAdvisor is that while it looks like Danielle is always in the shop on the show, she actually spends very little time there. On TV, she answers phones in an empty building. The reality is that it’s a tourist trap where you’re not going to meet the stars of the show. You’re not really visiting a business anymore; you’re visiting the set of a TV show. Stop by, but don’t expect to see Danielle.
5 She had problems with modesty among her burlesque troupe
After Danielle amassed a group of women together who wanted to try burlesque, they had rehearsals to work on their act, but it turned out that even though it’s a non-nude troupe (meaning no full nudity, although pasties are used on breasts) the women were far more modest than she expected, including her little sister who said she wouldn’t take off her bra or corset. Danielle had to think fast. She shared her solution in a 2010 interview: "So finally, at one of our practices, I just looked at everybody and I'm like, 'Take your f’n bras off. Everybody take your bras off. Right now. Let's just get used to this. Let's just laugh at each other now and get it out of the way, and then, you know, hopefully, we won't have any issues going forward. Because we can't have everybody be the modest one because then I'll be the only wh--e out there.'"
4 She’s not stopping with the tattoos
One of the interesting things to follow as the show progresses is how Danielle’s skin fills up with tattoos. You can almost trace the season to what she has for ink. From what we’ve gathered reading interviews with her about the art, her love for tattoos grew out of the freedom she found in the burlesque community and in simply asserting her independence. She says that her favorites are the ones that her children designed, one on each hand. Her son created a circle, and her daughter drew a heart. Across her knuckles are the words “Hold Fast” and her left arm is all about her love of insects. She says she stopped counting how many tattoos she had at 30 since they were all starting to blend together into a massive one. She primarily uses the same three tattoo artists in Iowa and Illinois for her ink.
3 She’s known Mike Wolfe for years
As we mentioned earlier, Mike Wolfe is the real professional picker of the group. Frank Fritz was a fire inspector and weekend warrior on the antiquing scene, while Danielle was a professional makeup artist who was always dreaming of opening a vintage clothing shop. They’re both great on the show but would have never worked at Antique Archaeology if not for American Pickers. At least they weren’t hired off of the street in a casting call. Mike was friends with Frank dating back to their childhood, and he knew Danielle for at least a decade before the show started. Danielle said Mike had helped her on her personal, creative projects for years, and if he needed her help for his show, she was on board, believing that if Mike was on board with what producers wanted, it was destined to be successful.
2 She’s not interested in posing for Suicide Girls
Most people who follow the burlesque or pin-up scene know about Suicide Girls, which draws upon elements of burlesque, cabaret, pin-up art and a visit to the local tattoo and piercing parlor in the photos and videos it creates. It’s decidedly more adult than what Danielle does on stage, but that’s not the part holding her back. She said in an interview with YuppiePunk.com, “I don’t really think Suicide Girls would be interested in a girl like me. Suicide Girls tend to be 20 years old and teeny-tiny little things with perfect bodies, and that’s just not what I am about. I’m 34. I’ve had two children. I’m very comfortable in my own skin. I adore the body that I’ve been given, but it’s taken a long time to get there, and I think it takes a really special audience to appreciate the human form in all of its splendor.”
1 She was a roller derby queen
So where do you find girls when you want to start a burlesque troupe like Burlesque Le Moustache? From your roller derby team, naturally! That’s right! Before the bright lights of basic cable or the applause of the 21+ crowd started, you could find Dannie Diesel racing around the track for the team she owned: the Big Mouth Mickies. She skated for three years but said that her body was just too torn up from all the smashing and crashing, so she hung up her skates. Not enough of the Mickies wanted to strip down to pasties, so she recruited from the rival Quad City Rollers as well. It’s nice when heated roller derby enemies can find common ground amid garter belts and corsets. Bringing people together is really what burlesque is all about.
Sources: Rivercitiesreader.com, QCTimes.com, YuppiePunk.com, Wikipedia