Burlesque star lives for bump, grind, mind
BAR: CRUISE ROOM
The Cruise Room at the Oxford Hotel, 1600 17th St., is Denver’s most storied cocktail lounge. It opened Dec. 5, 1933 — one day after the repeal of Prohibition — and it’s been serving drinks in an art deco setting ever since. A few people can make this 900-square-foot space bustle. Bathed in red light, it gives the impression you’re seeing the world through rose-colored (cocktail) glasses. Twelve etched panels in the walls toast you in as many languages. Eight vinyl booths enclose black Formica tables. Twelve bar stools invite you to order martinis by the shaker. The jukebox has Sinatra’s “Fly Me To the Moon” and Perry Como’s “Kewpie Doll” — what a throwback.
GRILLED: VIVIENNE VAVOOM
Take it off. Take it all off. That’s what Vivienne VaVoom does. Well, except for the pasties and the G-string. As Denver’s preeminent burlesque queen, she perfects the art of strip tease with co-star Reyna Von Vett at “V Burlesque,” formerly at the shuttered Denver Civic Theatre and this summer at Comedy Works South. At 35, VaVoom is a bona fide vintage burlesque star, thanks to gigs in New York and Boston. She competes this Saturday in Las Vegas for the Burlesque Hall of Fame’s Miss Exotic World title. Her day job has her at Fulcrum Publishing in Golden where, as Michelle Baldwin, she manages events and trade shows. The author of “Burlesque and the New Bump-n-Grind,” she’s a graduate of Columbine High School and the University of Colorado Denver and a serious scooter driver. She arrives decked out, vintage style, and orders a sidecar, up, with sugar.
BH: Having two jobs and two names, two different identities — is it like being a superhero?
VaVoom: It is. Sort of. But everyone knows about the other. I feel charmed that everyone is fine with everything I’m doing. Which is terrific.
BH: You’re wearing a VaVoom outfit.
VaVoom: Yes, but I did wear it to the office today.
BH: What appeals to you about vintage?
VaVoom: There’s just more style to it. I love the ’20s to the early ’60s. I love the show “Mad Men.”
BH: You were on your way to a baseball game tonight. What does baseball have in common with burlesque?
VaVoom: I think baseball became really popular when burlesque did, in the ’20s and ’30s. Babe Ruth and Tempest Storm. Americans were fascinated about the lives of these people.
BH: How did you pick the name Vivienne VaVoom?
VaVoom: I thought the Vivienne was very French. And the VaVoom was saucy.
BH: What do you think of strippers and strip clubs?
VaVoom: I have no disrespect for it, but it’s very different
from what I do. I have a lot of friends who are stripping, and they make a very good living at it. But I wouldn’t be comfortable doing that. Strip clubs are guided by where the money is. Burlesque is taking off a glove, then taking off another glove. It’s all so slow. It’s dance, theater.
BH: Why are men so fascinated by the female body?
VaVoom: What’s not to be fascinated with?
BH: Do the men in your life like you being a burlesque dancer?
VaVoom: So far.
BH: How are today’s audiences different from when burlesque was at its height?
VaVoom: There are a lot more women in the audience. Most of our audiences are 50 to 60 percent women. They come to the show, and they see someone on stage that looks like them.
VaVoom: Paris. And New York.
BH: What’s your house like?
VaVoom: It’s like a museum. People come in and just walk around like this, looking at everything.
BH: Do you go home and listen to vinyl?
VaVoom: Yes. I still collect vinyl. I just found this awesome record an old boyfriend used to own called “Erotica: The Sounds of Love.” It’s bongos and people having sex. It’s hilarious. I love stuff like that.
VaVoom: I’m kind of nerdy, so I like books that have a historical bent. I love this trilogy about New York by Kevin Baker. And “Paddy Whacked,” the history of Irish gangsters. And I did read
all the “Twilight” books.
VaVoom: I was a Hillary person. I think the dream of every little girl is the idea of a woman president. And my parents are fabulous.
BH: What quality do you like in a woman?
BH: In a man?
VaVoom: The ability to do what they say they’re going to do.
VaVoom: I like interesting places. Beatrice & Woodsley, Steuben’s, Star Kitchen, Cafe Brazil, Jonesy’s.
BH: Are you going to get married?
VaVoom: That would be nice.
BH: Have you had a broken heart?
VaVoom: Of course. I’m 35 years old.
BH: How would you like to die?
VaVoom: When I’m very, very old.
BH: Would you like to die on stage?
VaVoom: Sure. Doing my last fan dance.
BH: Biggest defect?
VaVoom: Sometimes trusting too much.
BH: What are your favorite names besides Vivienne and VaVoom?
VaVoom: My grandfather’s name is Neville and my grandmother’s name is Mildred.
BH: Do you have some words to live by?
VaVoom: I believe in the Golden Rule.
BH: Do you believe in karma?
VaVoom: Yes, totally.
BH: Good luck and bad luck?
VaVoom: I do. I didn’t step on cracks for a very, very long time. I’m not afraid of black cats because I have one.
BH: What’s your idea of utter misery?
VaVoom: A football game.
BH: What do you think of cosmetic surgery?
VaVoom: It’s not something I would do, but I understand if someone doesn’t feel great about themselves. I think it’s ridiculous that people go overboard and don’t even look human anymore. But maybe someday I’ll get to the point where I want to get rid of my crow’s feet.
BH: You don’t have one wrinkle on your face.
VaVoom: It’s the lighting!
BH: Are you happy right now?
VaVoom: Yes, I am very happy. My life is good; I know good people. I have a good drink in front of me. And I have a lovely hat on.
Interview conducted, condensed and edited by Bill Husted: 303-954-1486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.