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Since the early ‘90s, burlesque has seen resurgence in American nightlife. The Johnny Depp owned Viper Room in Los Angeles housed one of the first major burlesque troupes to gain national prominence: the Pussycat Dolls. Founded in 1995 by dancer Robin Antin, with the help of actress Christina Applegate (Married With Children, Samantha Who?), the group went on to spawn a hit making music group and a Las Vegas revue at Caesars Palace. Clubs like Forty Deuce have sprung up across the country and burly stars like Dita Von Teese and the New York City eatery, The Box, have gained mainstream appeal (the latter has been featured on the CW’s teen soap Gossip Girl as the fictional burlesque club, Victrola).
Philly was another city that cashed in on what would be called the “neo-burlesque” scene. Groups like the Hellcat Girls and Von Foxies became local staples. But one group, the Peek-A-Boo Revue, a World Café Live staple, has risen above the tide to become the city’s premiere source of burlyq entertainment. In 2008 the ensemble was awarded the title of “Best Troupe” at the Miss Exotic World Competition. While other local company’s have recently called it quits (the aforementioned Hellcat Girls being one of them), Peek-A-Boo is gearing up to shimmy into their 12th year of existence. Led by the talented dancer and artistic director, Lulu Lollipop, the troupe consists of two comic emcees, showgirls, a live band called “The Striptease Orchestra,” singing and comedic strip artists, and up-and-coming guest performers in the area.
I sat down with Lulu and Key, a dancer in the company, one-on-one back in June to talk a little about burlesque’s international reemergence as a legitimate form of entertainment. Key, a petite stunner that’s tatted up and pierced to look like someone out of a fantasy novel, was soft-spoken and sweet, belying her edgy appearance. Lulu, with her slight resemblance to Betty Boop, was extremely open and charismatic, possessing the kind of approachability that can make you feel like you’ve known her for years even though you just met. The following Q & A took place at the Jeanne Ruddy dance studio at 1515 Brandywine St.
AT: Where were you born?
Key: New Jersey. I’ve moved like 22 times my whole life, like once for every year.
LL: Well, I grew up in Doylestown. I grew up in New Britain Borough but nobody knows New Britain Borough so it was Doylestown. I was born at home at a place that my parents and the other families who lived there called Flutterfly Farm and it was like a commune type…and my parents are still hippies.
AT: Do you think that had any affect on you getting into burlesque in the first place?
LL: No. My mother thinks I’m conservative. She asked me once how I got so conservative because she didn’t raise me that way. But then in the same breath she tells me there’s a seedy underbelly to my life [laughs].
AT: Key, why did you move around a lot?
Key: My family was just always bumping around and it was stationary for awhile…living out of my car and friend’s houses. I’ve lived in Philly for about five or six years now.
AT: Why’d you move to Philly?
Key: I used to hang out in Philly down on South Street when it used to be all punk rock and punk rock shows. And my friends were out here or moved out here. And it was also modeling – a lot of my work is out here. It would’ve been New York if I could afford it.
AT: Lulu, what was your childhood like growing up in the commune?
LL: I don’t even remember living there. My childhood…Jesus. It was actually relatively strict in the sense that I was brought up macrobiotic: no meat, no dairy, no fruit or vegetables out of season, everything freshly prepared. I was allowed a half an hour of television a week, but I was allowed to watch as many Disney movies and musicals as I wanted to. And I could recite Disney movies, all the songs. I was introduced to musicals very early. I started dancing at four. My parents were bluegrass musicians so there was always music. I don’t know if that has any bearing on my life, I mean, I’m sure it has some bearing because everybody’s childhood does, but it was fun. I had fun.
AT: Key, what was your childhood like? Were you always fascinated with burlesque?
Key: No, I never really knew what it was. My great-grandparents pretty much raised me and they would always put on the radio and old music and I liked that, jazz and stuff, but I always just wanted to be a model. Kate Moss was my inspiration ‘cause she’s short and you know, not typical, but I was always very shy and introverted. I would always read books and just be myself, but I wanted to be something different but I didn’t know how. And then when I started catching on to showgirl stuff and not being tall enough and kind of never thought I was pretty enough, I kind of found things like burlesque where you don’t necessarily have to be attractive, you can be funny and theater was a big part of that. I took theater classes and I started with writing plays and things like that because I never wanted to be in front of the camera or things like that. I don’t know what happened, but all of a sudden, here I am [laughs]. It’s helped a lot, but when I was a kid, I’d breed butterflies and make mud pies.
AT: How did you get into burlesque to begin with?
Key: Melissa Bang-Bang – she used to be a member and I danced with her and Courtney [Lulu’s real name] actually at some events and she really wanted me to try out and stuff so I came in, tried out around the same time as [dancer Ginger Leigh], but before that I was in Hellcat Girls. I was their Pick-up Artist so that’s sort of how I got into it. I started going to the shows and I was like, “I want to do that. That seems like me.”
AT: Now what is a “Pick-up Artist”?
Key: They pick up the clothes, props, and that’s pretty much it, but there is a skill that you need. You need to be able to work the audience, work with the hosts, you don’t really get to do much otherwise, but you just have to have your own personality whether it be like a bitchy or just super cute [personality].
AT: Lulu, why did you join the Peek-A-Boo Revue?
LL: Fate. After I left dance school [North Carolina School of the Arts], due to a back injury, I fell into a really deep depression because that was all I knew how to do – dance. I went to see my grandmother in California. My friend called and said “I got us a great job for New Years – come home early, it’ll be worth it.” She got me a job as a coat check girl at a club that the director and the original producer of Peek-A-Boo owned. I worked there a couple months, they found out I was a trained dancer and she came up and she said, “I heard you’re a trained dancer. I want you to join our show.” I said no, I have no interest in being onstage. She said, “Well, I’m gonna put your name on the list. I want you to come see the show on Saturday.” I said fine. So she reserved us a table, and I went, and I saw…Peek-A-Boo is no longer this, but this is still like the core of Peek-A-Boo, I saw what was the core of Peek-A-Boo. What we’ve created is the much more polished version of that. It was probably between eight and 11 people doing this hysterical comedy and fun and bringing in the classics while taking off their clothes, while being sexual and being titillating. I went, “Oh my God, this show is great. This is brilliant.” Like, I just saw potential in this show. So I ran and found the director that night and said, “Okay, I want to do it.” So she said, “Great, come to rehearsal on Monday.” Rehearsals have always been Monday and Wednesday. Okay, so I showed up and there was also a girl in it I had seen a couple weeks before go-go dancing and I was like, “Oh my God – I must have that girl.” So turns out she was in the show, right? So I’m completely intimidated and I can’t talk to her. So I don’t talk to her for months, but anyway, I join the show and my first rehearsal they were working on this number and I just got really inspired to create costumes. And I’d always dabbled in costumes and I learned how to sew so I said, “I really wanna make costumes, can I do it?” And she [the director] said, “We have no budget, can you do it really cheap?” I made the cheapest costumes out of, like, coat lining and each costume I think had five ostrich plumes. Now we’re using half a pound of ostrich plumes, but five ostrich plumes each costume had and then we added tulle and plastic rhinestone, I mean, I’m talking cheap, like, hot glue gun all the way. So they were working on this number and she said, “Hey, you said you could tap dance. Get onstage with Melissa and tap dance. Make a number for this section of the music. So we did and, meanwhile, I’m making these costumes not really thinking, “Holy shit, I have to wear this.” Now, I’ve still never shown my skin. And the night the show comes, my mother and my stepfather came, the night the show comes, I realize that I have to wear this thing I made. And I did. And I’ll still never forget my first pair of pasties were round, fuchsia appliqués. They weren’t even real pasties; they were appliqués, probably just glued to my nipples. I was scared to death before I went onstage and as soon as I got onstage, it was like, [voice lowers] I was dancing again. And I never went back. I really never looked back.
AT: Key, let’s talk about what you do outside of Peek-A-Boo.
Key: I’ve been an alternative model for almost four years now and I just did a modeling competition fashion show and I won “Miss Catwalk Tragedy 2009.” It’s been a big part of my life. I’ve even done New York Fashion Week regardless of my look and my height. I mean, just throw on eight inch heels and I’m fine. But, I do that, and I’m a go-go dancer at dive bars and events and parties. I do that and little odd and end jobs, but Peek-A-Boo is my life.
AT: What kind of music do you like and does that influence your choices –
LL: Show tunes! And yes, it does influence my choices. And classic big band, old swing.
Key: Old rock and roll. That’s like my main thing – rock and roll. Jazz. I mean, yeah, I love punk and I love metal and stuff like that too, but I’m just a huge mix of everything. I listen to some rap music, I deal with everything. I mean, go-go dancing I have to cater to whatever.
AT: So do you find that your taste in music kind of drives your performance, like how you set up your themes?
Key: Yeah, I try not to stick with a punk rock theme. Just because I have tattoos doesn’t mean I have to do a number like that, but, like one of my last numbers is a Cramps song, like they’re very punk/rock and roll. Yeah, I can use a punk song, but the band played it so it’s very jazzy sounding or still upbeat and fast, but it’s not that thrashing, you know…whatever. And I’ve done numbers to very random, obscure songs that nobody knows off of old jazz soundtracks and things like that. I can cover up my tattoos and no one would notice, but it’s kind of hard to do with burlesque. I’ll take out my piercings and stuff sometimes. Some people just don’t even see that. Just ‘cause I have weird hair and tattoos doesn’t mean I can’t do a Britney Spears song. Especially with group numbers, I mean, we’re all doing the same motions but we all look different so I kind of use my image to bring that attitude forward, but not to over saturate it with something that doesn’t fit in the show.
AT: Is that your primary place to get inspiration for your routines, the music, or do you have other ways?
Key: Usually, we all sit down and think up random ideas, especially if we’re drinking or anything like that. It’s just, like, inspiration from random events in our life. It sometimes comes from a song, a very basic idea and then you run with it and we just let our imaginations go. Sometimes we go too far [laughs].We all have visions of being robots in a number. One day. But it’s usually, it starts with a song, just listening to random songs. Find a favorite and try to work with it or start with an idea and try to find the perfect song to go with it. It’s not the easiest thing to do.
LL: Personally, I get very inspired by costuming. Very inspired by, “Yeah, I want to make this costume. I want to create this look.” And I mean, that’s my personal look.
LT: Key, did you have heavy dance training as a kid?
Key: No. I did take dance classes, I took hip hop, jazz, ballet, Pointe, everything, but never really stuck with it and didn’t go to school for it, which does show, but I always did dance team, cheerleading, stuff like that for awhile until I got kicked off for looking weird. I have that kind of training, but I’m more of the theater kind of comedy, but I can still do most of the dance stuff. I can’t do the hardcore, all kinds of splits and things like that, but I make it work for me. Burlesque isn’t necessarily about the dancing. With us, it’s become a large part of that, but when it started, that wasn’t the main thing. It was comedy mixed with sexy and then the dancing was kind of just thrown in there.
AT: What was your experience like at the 2008 Miss Exotic World Competition?
Key: It was less stressful than the first year, that’s for sure. [The group went in 2007] It was a lot of fun. We all kind of knew that we were gonna win anyway and it was just good vibes all around and since we knew what to expect, like don’t over pack and just bring what you need, and know what everybody’s going to be wearing. Don’t go out in your sweatpants unless you’re doing pajama bowling and that’s it. But the event itself, it was chaotic ‘cause it was outside in a new venue and the venue was kind of … I don’t know. It was a lot of fun, I’ll say that much. We lost a couple of costume pieces.
LL: I was so scared. I don’t know why I was so scared, it was just another show, but…[it] was awesome. We performed for burlesque legends. We performed for the burlesque society that is now. It was cool to make ourselves seen and recognized. We’re such a large show that we don’t get to travel like a lot of shows, they get to travel, they can make a name for themselves. We’re really stuck in Philadelphia because we’re just too big and we don’t have the budget. It’s very hard to get financing or sponsorship, for someone to go, “Yeah, I’ll sponsor 20 people to go on a tour.” Honestly, now I don’t even know if I would even try to do 20 people on a tour. Four days in Las Vegas with 16 people was, for me…I imagine it’d be like having 10 children. Not all of them act like children [laughs]. For me, and like I said, I take things too seriously, this show, because it was like sort of a talent-y show, it wasn’t really a respected show like it is now, and we really had to build up a reputation. Vegas is particularly stressful for me. I always wind up crying.
AT: Who are some of your burlesque role models and why?
Key: That’s a tough question. I can’t really pinpoint anything specific. You know everybody’s gonna say Bettie Page and all of those girls. Everyday I find somebody new that intrigues me too and I definitely look up to Courtney. She’s been doing it forever and she’s such a strong presence and she holds her own and she’s the director of the show. She knows what she’s doing. She’s a good idol. But, as for superstar people, I can’t really specify one because there’s so many influences.
LL: I’m not sure I can answer that because when I came in, I knew nothing about burlesque. I knew nothing about the history; I knew nothing about what we were doing here. I really had no idea. I performed as a dancer for years, and we get a lot of dancers that come in here, and a lot of it is about breaking some of their training and helping them keep their movement so that they just aren’t onstage performing with the wall. That they are entertainers. Now, I really understand the history, I understand what we’re doing. I understand that we’re preserving an art and I feel like by preserving that art, we’re honoring all of these women that were not seen as, you know, high society. I mean, they were making a killing. I asked my grandmother one time, “What were your thoughts about women who did burlesque?” and she said, “A woman with any class or a woman with any social standing wouldn’t associate with a woman of burlesque.” And that said it. So I feel like, we’re honoring what they did. They did pave the way for the sexual revolution in the sixties. They did pave the way for women to be able to own their sexuality instead of just being this objectified sexual object.
When I brought up the debate that rages within the burlesque community between performers and from outside of it about whether or not burlesque dancers are strippers, this is what Lulu had to say:
I don’t care if someone calls me a stripper. I mean, that is what I do. Really, yes, I take my clothes off onstage. It’s a different type of entertainment that we’re doing. This is the way I always think of it, and I could be totally blowing it out my ass, but this is what I think of it. That we perform in a show. We’re giving people an hour and a half of entertainment, of titillation, of laughter, of…we give them permission to look at a woman of every shape and size and, yes, sexualize them a little bit, but giving them permission and we’re having fun and it’s almost safe. I don’t believe that anybody in the audience has this idea that they’re gonna go home with a dancer. I believe that we give them permission to have a good time, to laugh at sex, to feel sexual. We are human, that is what we do. But then they go home with their partner, their girlfriend, their boyfriend, their lover, whoever who came and saw the show with them, and all titillated and excited, they go and have sex with each other knowing that they both had this great time at this show. Instead of, and I’m not knocking strippers because they work their asses off, but instead of…I’m not giving a lap-dance and not making someone need to release. We’re there for men and women and old people and all of this stuff. It’s just a different style of entertainment. So I’ll never say, “I’m not a stripper”, but what I will do when someone says, “Oh, you’re a stripper,” I’ll try and educate them on what burlesque is so that they understand and…and it’s not about understanding the differences, it’s about, “this is what our show is, this is the history that we’re preserving, this is the statement we’re making.”
AT: What would you tell someone who was interested in getting into burlesque? How would they go about doing that?
Key: I’d say go online, go on Google, and start searching “burlesque.” One thing will lead you to another and another and it’s a great way to figure out what exactly you want to do and find people to look up to and get ideas. Just searching anything about burlesque can really help, and cabaret, and then watching old movies about burlesque and cabaret and then listening to old CDs and records of artists that did the music for the burlesque stars. Then once you actually search images you can find outfits, and it’s pretty easy to do, and then just try it. Right in front of your mirror.
LL: In order to compete in this art world, I feel like you really need to be at the top of your game. And so, come with training, come with an understanding of your body, come with something. Bring something to the table. Come with some ideas. And I also think that there are many beautiful classic striptease artists who have no dance training at all. They are just very beautiful classic striptease artists. They’re the exception. I’ve seen a lot of women onstage in a lot of different shows and I think, “You don’t belong up there. You don’t.” And it frustrates me, I’m probably going to sound like a huge asshole, but, it frustrates me because it’s like, “Stop giving what we do a bad name.” Because I consider us a classic vaudevillian neo-burlesque troupe. We stick with those vaudeville roots of variety theater. We do classic burlesque, but we’re bringing it into this age now. But we’re still using the word “burlesque.” So many people use the word “burlesque” and they get onstage and you’re like, “Oh my God. I can go home and see my partner get undressed like this.” Without, like, the rhinestones. And I’d probably enjoy it more because I’m going home with the dancer that night [laughs]. If you don’t have any of that, come with a willingness [to learn].
AT: What are your plans after Peek-A-Boo? How long do you see yourself in this group and what are your plans for the future?
Key: I think I’m going on three years now and I didn’t even know if I was gonna make it this long, but I’ve really become part of the family and as Scott [one of the emcees] would say, “Once you’re in, you can’t leave the island” unless you’re, like, killed maybe [laughs]. I don’t see myself leaving anytime soon for anything. Courtney’s been doing it for nine years and everybody else is between, like Scott and Joe [the other host] they’ve been here the whole 10-11 years so I don’t know. I don’t plan on leaving ever, but we’ll see what happens.
Peek-A-Boo Revue’s next show, their annual Holiday Spectacular, was postponed to Jan.1, 2010. All Dec.19 tickets will be honored. Go to www.peekaboorevue.com and www.myspace.com/peekaboorevue for information on upcoming shows and booking the troupe for an event.
by Molly Reid, Staff writer, The Times-Picayune
Thursday September 10, 2009, 11:33 AM
Foxy Flambeaux, Praline DuPree, Kitty Twist from “Secrets in Lace Presented Bustout Burlesque in The Mystick” presented at the Royal Sonesta Hotel last September.NEW ORLEANS BURLESQUE FESTIVAL
What: A three-day showcase of classic and traditional burlesque. Friday features a kickoff party at the Green Bar of the Westin Hotel and the Mondo Burlesque revue at Harrah’s New Orleans. Saturday features the Queen of Burlesque competition at Harrah’s and the Late-Night Burlesque Bash at the House of Blues. Sunday’s activities include Naughty New Orleans, featuring local troupe Bustout Burlesque, at Harrah’s, as well as a closing party at the Carousel Lounge in the Hotel Monteleone.
When: Friday through Sunday, at several locations. See Web site for details.
Where: Kickoff and closing parties are free. Shows range in price from $20 to $50.
Information: Visit www.neworleansburlesquefest.com or call Ticketmaster at 800.745.3000.
New Orleans might have changed considerably over the past 50 years, but at heart, it’s still a big tease.
So say the 50-plus sassy, sexy ladies who will twirl their tassels and strut their stuff through the first New Orleans Burlesque Festival this weekend. The festival aims to celebrate the burlesque revival that has sparked retro and cutting-edge revues across the country over the past 15 years, as well as put New Orleans back on the map as the capital of saucy, buxom entertainment.
Though the international burlesque revival has, in general, modernized the classic art of striptease, often employing contemporary music, costumes and themes, don’t expect to find anything avant-garde or experimental at the New Orleans Burlesque Festival.
Instead, it aims to celebrate the kind of entertainment that filled Bourbon Street clubs in the 1940s and early ’50s.
Performers such as Rita Alexander, the Champagne Girl; Blaze Starr; and Evangeline the Oyster Girl helped make New Orleans known as “The Most Interesting City in the World” for its numerous risque French Quarter nightclubs.
The girls were glittery, sexy nightlife attractions, by turns campy, coy, brassy and erotic. They tempered the banal appeal of exposed flesh by drawing out the tease, wearing layers of costume — often incorporating a character or prop — and peeling them off one by one.
“The performer has to look like they’re having a good time, ” said festival founder and producer Rick Delaup. “It has to be a beautiful presentation. It has to be sexy. It has to, you know, kind of make your blood pressure rise.”
New Orleans’ burlesque revival has spawned a number of groups, such as Fleur de Tease, which kicks off its fourth season on Sunday (see box); and the Rev. Spooky LeStrange and Her Billion-Dollar Baby Dolls, which incorporate contemporary music and moves into the routines, Delaup said. But, he adds, adherence to tradition has remained a strong element of the city’s burlesque scene.
Foxy Flambeaux and Praline Dupree of the local troupe Bustout Burlesque are a part of the Naughty New Orleans show Sunday evening (Sept. 13) at Harrah’s Theater.FLEUR DE TEASE
• What: Trixie Minx, Madame Mystere, Natasha Fiore, Lily Summers and Bella Blue join host Chris Lane and Magic Mike as they kick off the company’s fourth season of burlesque.
• When: Sunday at 8 and 10:30 p.m.
• Where: One Eyed Jacks, 615 Toulouse St.
• Admission: $15 general admission, $20 reserved table seating. For future shows and more details, visit http://www.fleurdetease.com or call 504.319.8917.
“The burlesque revival in New Orleans, when it started, it was these shows that were trying to be more authentically ’50s-style shows with live bands, ” said Delaup, who also is a producer for the local troupe Bustout Burlesque. “Throughout the years of burlesque revival, that’s been a big concept. It’s not too hard to find jazz musicians in New Orleans. It just goes together.”
Part of the reason Delaup chose to focus on traditional burlesque was to set it apart from the proliferation of burlesque festivals around the world, he said.
“They’re exploding, ” he said. “I wanted to do something that was more concentrated in focus, so we’re focusing on classic and traditional burlesque.
“You’re not going to see anything outrageous in terms of the crazy performance art-type pieces I’ve seen. There’s nothing wrong with that, but my main interest has always been in classical and traditional burlesque.”
Over the weekend, the festival will host parties, shows and competitions, featuring more than 50 performers from throughout the country, Delaup said. Friday’s Mondo Burlesque revue will feature dancers, singers and variety acts. The main event Saturday at Harrah’s Casino is the Queen of Burlesque competition, in which 11 exotic dancers from across the country and England — well-known performers such as Annette Betty, Evie Lovelle and local dancer Perle Noire, the Black Pearl — will strip to live jazz music in hopes of earning the festival’s top prize. Saturday also will feature a Late-Night Burlesque Bash at the House of Blues, in which burlesque star Catherine D’Lish will attempt to set the Guinness World Record for the largest feather fan dance.
Delaup said he hopes the festival helps the city as it regains its once-storied title as a hub of burlesque. With several established local troupes and some recent newcomers, it doesn’t seem like the revival will fade anytime soon.
“One of the reasons I’m doing this is to really bring attention to (burlesque) as a permanent entertainment fixture in New Orleans, ” he said.
• NOBF Opening Night Reception, 5:30-8 p.m., Green Bar of the Westin Hotel, 11th floor in Canal Place, 100 Iberville St.
Burlesque legend Evangeline the Oyster Girl joins fellow dancers at the hotel bar to kick off the festival. Free.
• Mondo Burlesque, 9 p.m., Harrah’s New Orleans, 8 Canal St.
The opening-night showcase features singers, dancers and a magician performing to recorded music. $35 and $40.
• Queen of Burlesque, 8 p.m., Harrah’s New Orleans
Classic striptease dancers gather to compete for the title “Queen of Burlesque.” Each solo performance is set to live jazz music. Celebrity judges include actor/radio host Jay Thomas and Miss Louisiana USA Lacey Minchew as well as former burlesque stars. $45 and $50. Tickets available at Ticketmaster.com or 800.745.3000.
• Late-Night Burlesque Bash, 11 p.m., House of Blues, 225 Decatur St.
More than two dozen dancers will perform, and Catherine D’Lish will attempt to set a world record by performing with the world’s largest feather fans. $20, available through Ticketmaster.com, www.hob.com or the venue box office (504.310.4999).
• Legends of New Orleans Burlesque panel discussion, 2-3:30 p.m., Westin New Orleans Canal Place Hotel, third floor
Meet Bourbon Street striptease stars of the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. At a time when glamour, real talent and live jazz were a mainstay in the nightclubs of the French Quarter, these women were headline acts. Hear about their adventurous lives on and off the stage, as they tell the stories that made headlines in newspapers and magazines throughout the country. Kitty West; Evangeline the Oyster Girl; Tee Red, the TNT Girl; Wild Cherry, the Firecracker of Bourbon Street; and Rita Alexander, the Champagne Girl, will remain after the presentation to autograph their old publicity photos. Moderated by Rick Delaup.
$5, free to festival performers.
• The New Striptease Superstars panel discussion, 3:30-5 p.m., Westin New Orleans Canal Place Hotel, third floor
Long after the heyday of burlesque, a renewed interest in this bawdy form of entertainment emerged in the 1990s. Meet some of the modern-day dancers who have really brought sexy back. Find out what it’s like to be a burlesque dancer in the new millennium, a time of emerging technology, new media and female empowerment. Panelists include burlesque superstar Catherine D’Lish (Los Angeles); Michelle L’Amour (Chicago); Vivienne Vavoom, author of Burlesque & the New Bump and Grind (Denver); Lola Van Ella, the Derriere Beyond Compare (St. Louis); Renea’ Le Roux, the Southern Belle from Hell (Atlanta); La Cholita, the Latina Queen of Burlesque (Los Angeles); Amber Ray (New York); and Ophelia Flame (Minneapolis). Moderated by Jo Weldon of the New York School of Burlesque.
$5, free to festival performers.
• Naughty New Orleans, Harrah’s New Orleans, 8 p.m.
The final night’s showcase features the popular “Bustout Burlesque” show, featuring dancers, singers, variety acts and special guests, all accompanied by a live jazz band.
Admission: $30. (Harrah’s also is offering a $100 package deal for the three shows at its venue. Package does not include the House of Blues event.) Tickets now on sale at Ticketmaster.com or 800.745.3000.
• Closing night party, 10:30 p.m., Carousel Lounge in the Hotel Monteleone.
Join a bevy of burlesque beauties for the last hurrah. Kitten on the Keys entertains, along with special guests. Free.
Saturday and Sunday
• Burlesque workshops, Westin New Orleans Canal Place Hotel, third floor
The New York School of Burlesque will offer workshops by instructors from around the country. Schedule can be found at www.neworleansburlesquefest.com
. . . . . . .
Molly Reid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 504.826.3448.
Posted on September 10th, 2009
The Dazzle Troupe will present another outrageous Burlesque show on Wednesday 23rd and Friday 25th September at their usual Strait Street hangout, Chiaroscuro.
This time the Dazzle Troupe take their audience on an unforgettable adventure through time into the nostalgic world of the past. The show will be accompanied by a photographic freak show, lead by the evil freak show keeper, Hortensia Vulgaris.
Directed by Nicole Cuschieri, the Time Travelling Burlesque show brings together the best of local talent in music and songwriting, comedy, dance, theatre and poetry.
Artistes involved are Marie Claire Camilleri, Veronica Stivala, Chris Galea, Alex Vella Gregory, Lizzie Eldridge, Teo Reljic, Alex Spiteri Gingell, Bettina Borg Cardona, Peter Farrugia, Ellen Pace, Tribal Dance Malta, MarieClaire Pellegrini, Philip Leone-Ganado and Althea Corlett.
A photographic exhibition by Matthew Attard Navarro, Tonio Lombardi, Aldo Cauchi Savona, Denise Scicluna, Gilbert Calleja, Kris Micallef, Tony Camilleri and Francesca Galea will be on during the night.
Doors open at 2030 CEST with the show commencing at 2100 CEST.
Seating is limited. Booking can be made via email at email@example.com or through the facebook event: The Time Travelling Burlesque Show.
By Anne Marie Green
PHILADELPHIA (CBS 3) ―
It’s sexy, it’s sensual. Burlesque is a lot of things, including popular. What was once considered the domain of the no-so-modest is attracting a whole new crop of fans—regular women. Just look at the audience at this show at L’atage in Old City.
Burlesque dancer Annie A-Bomb (that’s her stage name) says, “Usually after a show, I have a bunch of people running up to me saying, ‘Oh, how did you get into this? I’d love to do it!’”
And so Annie A-Bomb started a four-week course for wannabe burlesque dancers, whether they plan to stay home perform or take it to the stage. It’s part movement, part props, and part arts and crafts.
She demonstrated a glove move: “If you put your arm over your head, you can pull inside out.”
She’ll even teach you to make your own pasties.
Most of the women in tonight’s course were a little too shy to show their faces. But Randi Warhol (a stage name) credits Annie’s tutelage for, well, exposing her whimsical side.
“I play a French woman, so I have croissants,” she said.
When it comes to burlesque, what Randi finds the most appealing has nothing to do with peeling off clothes.
“It’s not just your exposing your body. You’re also exposing your creativity and your mind,” Randi said.
Annie teaches traditional burlesque. It’s more satire than striptease.
“Traditionally it included making fun of high culture, which including skits and comedy and big production numbers,” said Annie.
Her students learn that what may seem lewd to some can actually be quite liberating.
“As long as you’re comfortable with your body, that’s all that should matter,” she said. “We have curvier women in our show. The audience still loves you. It doesn’t discriminate.”
If four weeks is a bit much for you, Annie A-Bomb is developing a series of workshops so you can be a burlesque dancer for a day.
To sign up for a class, you can email Annie A-Bomb at: firstname.lastname@example.org
HEADS were turned when four provocatively dressed burlesque dancers took to the streets of Bolton town centre.
Miss Vivacious Grace, Champagne Paris, Coco Malone and Willow Blue caused quite a stir as they donned corsets and short bustle skirts before handing out fliers around Nelson Square, Victoria Square and Le Mans Crescent.
Women covered their boyfriends’ eyes as they walked past, while one man was so excited he fell off his bike.
The women were promoting their forthcoming show at the Pack Horse Hotel in Nelson Square.
They posed for photos with members of the public and shop staff as they went about their business.
Miss Vivacious Grace — real name Sarah Spencer, aged 30, of Edward Street, Farnworth — says her show will be Bolton’s first proper burlesque performance for many years.
She said: “If you’re from Bolton and you’re into burlesque, then you have to travel. There’s nothing like this in Bolton, so we thought ‘why shouldn’t there be’?
“It’s traditional comedy and dance, not the sort of thing that some people try to sell as burlesque to get around the adult entertainment licensing laws.
“The word burlesque means to send something up. It’s about teasing and titillating rather than stripping, as some people think.”
Mrs Spencer admits that the show, which does contain some nudity, may cause some controversy.
But she hopes no one will be offended.
She said: “There may be a brief flash of flesh, but we’re a classy, lady-like event.
“I’m not a lap dancer, I’m a burlesque dancer, and I find the comparison quite insulting.”
As well as the four who were in town on Sunday, the show will also feature performers with names like Suzie Sequin, Miss Pink and Fluffy and Twinkle Starr.
It will take place at the Pack Horse Hotel on Thursday, September 24.
The UK Versus US Burlesque show at the Alea Casino in Clarence Dock on Saturday will be the first of its kind in the city.
Performers will be trying to tease their way to win the crown for their
The UK team features five dancers, including Miss Alternative World 2009 winner Fancy Chance and Leeds’s very own burlesque diva Bella Besame – Bella Taylor.
Miss Besame currently runs her own burlesque night, The Slippery Belle, every month at Subculture, Leeds, as well as burlesque classes in the city.
She said: “This is the biggest event ever for Leeds burlesque. It’s going to be a spectacular show.
“We have the best performers from near and far and I can’t wait to shake my stuff.”
The US team includes 2007 Tournament of Tease winner Siren Stiletto and renowned bellydancer Kimberly Mackoy.
Miss Besame added: “I’m glad we’ve got Fancy Chance on our side as she is amazing. It could still go either way because the performers are so good. It just depends on the audience.
“There’s no doubt it’ll be a success though, and it might change peoples perception of burlesque. I’ve been dancing 10 years and I’ve seen seedier dancing on MTV than at any burlesque show.”
The show was organised by leedsburlesque.co.uk, a site set up by burlesque performer Cecilia Rouge.
Doors open at 8pm.
The event is black tie and glamour but vintage/burlesque style dress is welcome.
* Tickets start at £15 and are available at www.leedsburlesque.com and Hellraiser in Leeds city centre.
By MARTHA IRVINE / AP National Writer
CHICAGO — In the Depression-era days of Gypsy Rose Lee, burlesque dancing was about as naughty, and as nude, as it got in public. The emphasis was on the tease more than the strip, until Playboy and harder-core pornography came along in the 1950s.
Now burlesque is back with festivals and club performances, from Amsterdam to Alabama. It’s seen as a chance for some bawdy fun and, some would say, even a little empowerment for the performers who are often amateurs with other day jobs.
But its growing visibility, in mainstream clubs and theaters, is also sparking a debate, and some confusion about what it is and whether it’s appropriate in those settings.
Is it performance art, as some contend? Or is it, as others say, just a (very) thinly veiled excuse to strip in public, even if most performers end a routine in pasties and G-strings?
“The performers are interested in being sexy, but not being pornographic,” says Rachel Shteir, a DePaul University professor who’s written books about burlesque. “They’re trying to strike this middle ground. But that’s very difficult to do in our culture.”
A few recent cases highlight that point.
Earlier this year in New York, burlesque performer Tara Lee Heffner filed a lawsuit against the Learning Annex for referring to her as a “porn star” in an online ad for classes she was teaching. She claimed the label damaged her reputation.
This summer in London, one club owner also shut down long-standing burlesque shows after being told he’d have to purchase an adult entertainment license, something generally reserved for more traditional strip clubs with dancers who make use of laps and poles.
“There’s no doubt that some men watch burlesque and find it as sexy as other forms of entertainment,” says Alex Proud, whose club in the city’s Camden borough bears his last name. “But at the end of the day, the naked bit lasts about three seconds.”
And many audiences of burlesque shows are filled with women, who often focus as much on the costumes, glamour and dancing as anything.
“True burlesque is more of a kitschy Vaudeville act than anything else. It’s all about the art of the striptease, a cheeky and titillating performance that can induce chuckles, cheers and longing sighs all at once,” says Katie Laird, a burlesque fan in Houston.
“Performance is the key word here, not naked gyrations for dirty dollar bills.”
At recent shows produced in Chicago by burlesque dancer Michelle L’amour, performers donned large feathered fans, in the tradition of Depression-era starlet Sally Rand, and costumes that ranged from a scantily clad secretary to a 1950s housewife. The midnight performances at the city’s historic Music Box Theatre also included slapstick comedy acts and a campy magic show, as well as a couple of male “boylesque” performers.
“Even my super-conservative grandmother is totally OK with it,” one performer, Cherokee Rose, said of her work with L’amour’s troupe, the Chicago Starlets. Still, the 28-year-old Chicagoan preferred to use her stage name, rather than her real name, because she’s looking for a job in the psychology field. “I wish people in my field were more accepting of this,” she says. “But sadly, they’re not.”
Most of L’amour’s troupe are professionals or students who started by taking classes with L’amour and moved onto the big stage when she considered them ready. For them, burlesque is a hobby.
The 29-year-old L’amour is, in fact, one of a few dancers who’s made a living at burlesque since its comeback in the last decade. Other professionals include Jo Weldon, a.k.a. “Jo Boobs,” and Dita Von Teese, who regularly makes red-carpet appearances and who’s become a bit of a fashion icon.
Theirs is a style that is more “classic” burlesque, focussed more on subtlety, artfulness and humor. But, L’amour says, it’s no wonder people are confused about what burlesque is when you have harder-core strip clubs featuring burlesque performances or even pop music acts, such as the Pussycat Dolls, referring to themselves as a “burlesque troupes.” Singers Cher and Christina Aguilera also are set to star in a movie titled “Burlesque.”
“It’s become a bit of a pitch word to hook people’s interest,” L’amour says.
In this latest rebirth, even many women can’t decide what they think of burlesque.
“Is it porn? Is it feminist? I would hesitate to say either,” says Shteir, the DePaul professor, whose books include “Striptease: The Untold History of the Girlie Show” and “Gypsy: The Art of the Tease.”
Others say it depends on the context.
“As a feminist, I do not assume that, when women engage in performances that highlight their bodies or sexuality, this is necessarily degrading,” says Barbara Scott Winkler, head of the women’s studies department at Southern Oregon University.
For their part, performers talk about the camaraderie they feel with one another. Often, they create and oversee the shows themselves and make their own costumes.
“It’s about embracing the female form, no matter its size,” says Ruby Rose, founding member of London’s Burlesque Women’s Institute. She led a street protest of the Camden Council’s adult entertainment license requirement and is in talks to get them to reconsider.
In a statement, the council said its only concern was nudity. And that’s an issue that’s not likely to disappear anytime soon, says Molly Crabapple, a New York artist with ties to the burlesque community.
“When you do anything that involves nudity, even performance art, many people want to stigmatize it,” says Crabapple, who founded a group of burlesque-influenced drawing clubs called Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School.
However it’s defined or maligned, Proud, the club owner in London, says he thinks burlesque makes life more interesting – though he has no plan to buy an adult entertainment license.
“Nightclubs should still be a little risque or on the edge. If they’re not, you can just stay home and drink a bottle of wine,” he says.
Name: George Blair IV as Viktor Devonne
Age: 25 playing 29
Location: New Jersey
My act consists of: emceeing, fan dances, clown, vaudeville skit routines. My music is consistently inconsistent. I range from classic 20’s sound to Top 40 of 2009. It’s about the storytelling, not whether or not a burlesque performer from 50 years ago also danced to it. I have a few personas (costume decisions): the standard emcee in stripes and suspenders; the hobo clown who has lost everything; a vamp/drag; gothic boy — but they are all ultimately Viktor, and even more ultimately-er, me.
I got my start in burlesque: in 2006, helping a friend, who would then become my co-director in managing an burlesque troupe, The White Elephant Burlesque Society. What was intended (or expected, rather) to be a one-shot became a now 5-year development. We have since performed in upwards and downwards NJ, Philadelphia, Massachusetts, Rochester, New York City, and are heading to more expansive locations this fall. But we are very much NJ Burlesque—whatever that they may indicate. It’s who we are.
The special skills and/or gimmicks I bring to the stage are: a wandering accent, fanciful make-up, stripey stockings, and the cabaret charm.
My dream act is: a live band to back us up while bring the bump and the grind. In a theater I own. With money raining down on me.
My influences and inspirations are: Elaine Stritch, Madonna, Joel Grey, Kander & Ebb, the Dresden Dolls, Bette Midler, Alan Cumming, Jonathan Sharp, Cyndi Lauper, Bea Arthur, and Richard O’Brien. Whether they encourage me how to speak, move about on stage, or push forward and continue just doing it, they’re all very important to me.
The five things I couldn’t live without are: hot showers, comfortable bedding, music, water; and as it turns out, the internet.
If I was an article of clothing I’d be: A really comfortable but classy men’s dress shirt that may not be the whitest it has ever been, may be missing a button, and smeared with lipstick.
The best burlesque performance I’ve ever seen or been in was: Dirty Martini stepped it up a notch when I saw her in New York City at Margaret Cho’s The Sensuous Woman, and I think Julie Atlas Muz is fantastic. I also need to see Selene Luna again.
The worst was: I was raised to talk about people behind their backs. Get me a drink—we’ll chat.
The things that make someone a burlesque queen are: fluidity in movement—even if you’re a robot, your body has to make sense with what you’re doing. One of the most important things to realize is: SLOW DOWN. If you go too fast, you’re missing the point. Music is essential. You can strip or dance to anything, whether it’s Lady GaGa or Duke Ellington. Madonna said it: “You’ve got to just let your body go with the flow.” Additional keys include knowing you are fabulous but not essential to anything—check the attitude; be nice. You never know if you’re being rude to someone who’s very influential and could make you, is having a bad day and excusable, or is packing heat and could end you. Oh, and baby powder. It gives your skin a nice finish.
Burlesque – stripping or art? If there’s a single person who just answers “stripping,” they clearly aren’t your bag. But if anyone just says “art,” well, that’s a lazy person right there. It’s of course above and beyond that: it’s a state of mind. If your mind has tassels, go with it. If your mind is Botticelli, go with it. It may not always be grand, but it will always be honest. Being onstage is the biggest lie you can tell. You are anyone but yourself. So you might as well be honest about it, and lie like a pro.
My favorite songs to dance to are: Madonna has a healthy sampling. There’s a remix and a remake album by Shirley Bassey which are fantastic as well. It’s got to have swank, personality, or a va-va-voom quality. A lot of people assume that unless it has horns or that raunchy raaaarrr to it, it doesn’t count. Those people aren’t creative. You should be able to make anything work. My favorite numbers are “Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You,” by Madonna; “If You Hadn’t But You Did,” performed by Kristin Chenoweth (which my cohort, Femme Fae La Butche, admittedly has more work than me); “The Imperial March” from Star Wars, and “If You Go Away,” performed by Cyndi Lauper.
If I could change one thing about burlesque, it would be: the implication that it’s easy.
Something that people would be surprised to learn about me is: I am actually a duo of dwarves in an overcoat.
The movie of my life would be called: Viktorian. A Musical.
If I wasn’t a burlesque performer I’d be: so fucking sad.