TAKE FIVE: BURLESQUE HALL OF FAME WEEKEND:
Rich heritage of exotic dance
Thu, Jun 4, 2009 (2 a.m.)
Burlesque legend Dee Milo, “the Venus of Dance,” who is now in her 70s, will perform Friday in the Striptease Reunion Showcase.
If You Go
- What: Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend
- When: Today through Sunday
- Where: The Orleans
- Admission: Prices for events vary, and some events are free. Weekend passes are available.
- More information: burlesquehall.com or the Orleans box office, 365-7070
That the annual Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend takes place in Las Vegas seems logical — what with the boas, the costumes and the Strip’s all-around “sex for sale” mentality.
But if this weekend’s events teach you anything, it will be that equating today’s pole dancers with yesterday’s burlesque performers is a big faux pas, especially among the women who carved out careers combining the artistry of theater, costuming, character and even comedy with the ol’ bump and grind.
“Burlesque is so big right now. It’s become this catchall phrase for adult entertainment,” says Laura Herbert, Burlesque Hall of Fame representative. “But not everybody who takes off their clothes is a burlesque performer.”
The Vegas-based Burlesque Hall of Fame celebrates burlesque’s storied heritage, its legends and today’s stars. It traces its roots to former dancer Jennie Lee, who formed an exotic dancers league in the 1950s as a way to advocate for strippers, and started collecting memorabilia.
The nonprofit organization moved to Las Vegas from Helendale, Calif., in 2006, bringing with it the costumes, photographs, programs, signage and accouterments from the heyday. The plan is to eventually have a permanent home for the collection.
The annual Hall of Fame Weekend is its biggest fundraiser.
Here’s a look:
Two main events are the “Titans of Tease Reunion Showcase” on Friday and the “Best of Burlesque” 2009 Pageant on Saturday. Tonight’s bowling party will include music by DJ Goo Goo Muck. All-night after-parties will be held each night. The Burlesque Bazaar held each day from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. features an assortment of industry goodies.
“Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School” is a live model drawing class hosted by Cha-Cha Velour from Vegas’ own Babes in Sin. Photographers of all levels can pay $20 to hop aboard a double-decker bus for an around-town photo shoot of burlesque performers at various Las Vegas sites.
3. Ladies (and gentlemen)
Performers from all over the world, including men, participate in this multigenerational hugfest in which retired dancers mingle with contemporary stars. Past events brought in Tempest Storm and Tura Satana. Dixie Evans, the former “Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque,” Hall of Fame curator, pageant founder and all-around burlesque historian, is always in the limelight. Many legends now living in Las Vegas, including Marinka, Gina Bon-Bon, Dusty Summers (the nude magician) and Big Fannie Annie, are featured. World Famous *BOB* and El Vez are among the hosts in this weekend’s lineup.
“Jazz and burlesque are America’s only true folk arts,” Herbert, the Hall of Fame representative, says. “Burlesque has its own language; it wasn’t taught in schools and most people just sort of found their way into it. It includes of a lot of history in terms of First Amendment rights, feminism, dance, pop culture, gender politics and music.”
“Stars of Classic Burlesque Q&A,” moderated by Dr. Lukki and Tigger on Sunday, examines the legends of burlesque, many of whom will be at this weekend’s events. Props, costumes and other memorabilia on loan from the museum will be on display at the Burlesque Bazaar. The Burlesque Hall of Fame Finishing School on Saturday will offer courses on costume secrets and plumage and the art of undressing.