Archive for the ‘news’ Category

The big tease: Burlesque grows in popularity
August 28, 2009

By MARTHA IRVINE / AP National Writer

Michelle L'amour

Michelle L'amour

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.

Martha Irvine is an AP national writer. She can be reached at mirvine(at) or via

Mel B Leaves Vegas
June 9, 2009

Melanie Brown has reportedly been left disappointed after bosses of her Las Vegas revue failed to renew her contract.

The former Spice Girls star has been appearing in Peep Show at the Planet Hollywood Casino Resort since April, starring alongside actress Kelly Monaco.

But now the singer is set to leave the burlesque show after just 12 weeks when her run ends later this month.

And Brown is said to be fuming about the decision, according to British tabloid The People.

A source tells the publication, “Mel’s contract for Peep Show has not been renewed. She is gutted, she loved doing the show.”

The news comes as a double blow for the star, who has reportedly also been forced to postpone plans to launch her Catty Couture fashion range in the U.S. after failing to secure enough orders from stores across the country.

The insider adds, “That has really disappointed her too. She was furious when she heard the news. As far as her clothing line is concerned she did launch it to a number of buyers in America earlier this year. But it has not developed as quickly as Mel would have wanted it too. Things are still in the pipeline, although it has not gone into production.”


World Entertainment News Network

The Pussycat Dolls Hit Chicago
June 6, 2009

June 5, 2009

By Bob Kostanczuk, Post-Tribune staff writer

What to make of the Pussycat Dolls?

Well, they can be a little punky, a bit burlesque — and I guess, hot.

This female pop/dance franchise has a “Doll Domination Tour,” with a Friday, Aug. 28, stop at The Venue at Horseshoe Casino in Hammond.

Tickets — $35 and $45 — go on sale at noon today; 473-6060.

The Pussycat Dolls have won a couple of MTV Video Music Awards. Their current single is “Hush Hush; Hush Hush,” a dance-friendly ditty.

Trouble for Montreal’s red-light district, June 5 story
June 6, 2009

Montreal’s red-light district faces uncertainty

By Andy Blatchford, THE CANADIAN PRESS

Strip Joint Closure 20090605

MONTREAL – With her feathered eye patch always snapped in place, Velma Candyass and her troupe of neo-burlesque, vaudeville “zombie” girls have carved out a niche in Montreal’s alternative arts scene.

The Dead Doll Dancers’ favourite place to shine is under the stage lights of Cafe Cleopatre, a hub for fetish, drag-queen and drag-king shows.

But “Cabaret Cleo,” one of the few remaining icons in Montreal’s shrinking red-light district, could soon face the wrecking ball, which would force Candyass and her group, including Hussy Loveless, Cammi Mudflaps and Foxy Glitterbush, to dance elsewhere.

“We’re basically zombie girls who are very sexy and hot,” Candyass said.

Candyass, along with a group local artists, a sex-trade workers’ association and Cafe Cleopatre’s longtime owner, say they won’t let it go down without a fight.

“It does have a history and it does have a heritage – it certainly reeks with atmosphere,” Candyass said of Cafe Cleopatre, home to the upstairs show bar as well as a main-floor club where strippers dance in the warmth of black lights.

“There’s a thriving scene that’s going on.”

The once-bustling stretch near Sainte-Catherine Street, long known for its peep shows, pimps and pushers, now features a row of boarded-up businesses.

As part of the city’s plans to add cultural venues to its downtown core, the section of Saint-Laurent Boulevard that has been a decades-long home for Cafe Cleopatre could be slated for expropriation.

The city will hold public consultations on the proposed project next week and councillors will vote on a report of the meetings at the end of the summer, a Montreal spokesman said.

“A lot of people complain to the city about the problems in the surrounding area – prostitution, drug dealing and squatters,” Darren Becker said.

“Obviously it merits a serious look but at this point there’s no final decision.”

Montreal wants the area to eventually make way for the expanding Quartier des spectacles (or performing-arts quarter), a district the city hopes will become a tourist destination.

At first, a few denizens on the strip, such as Cafe Cleopatre owner Johnny Zomboulakis, greeted the news of a local overhaul with excitement.

That was until the developer, who has offered to buy out Zomboulakis, dropped off notices a couple of months ago saying the Cleo could be expropriated.

“I always hoped for someone to rebuild, to revitalize, to do something with those properties, and we get to today’s date – the person is there but he wants to do it without me,” said Zomboulakis, who has owned the 33-year-old Cafe Cleopatre since 1985.

“I have no room in his plans.”

The developer aims to replace part of the block, which is also home to a century-old hot-dog joint called the Montreal Pool Room, with a 12-storey office building and storefronts.

A spokeswoman for the developer, Societe du developpement Angus Development, declined to comment on the project until after Tuesday’s public hearing.

“It’s quite discouraging to hear that there’s no proposed plans for show bars or small bars,” Candyass said.

“There’s low-brow, there’s high-brow art and alternative arts and this is just another aspect of the arts scene and we have as much right to have a place.”

Cleopatre supporters have planned a rally called “Friends of Cabaret Cleo,” which will be held Saturday evening at the bar. They’re also ciruclating a petition and have set up a Facebook group.

Emilie Laliberte, who works for Stella, a sex-trade workers’ organization, thinks the city should rehabilitate the area, but not at the cost of communities that are already there.

She said Zomboulakis has had a big impact on people in the neighbourhood and often lends out his upstairs space to up-and-coming artists.

“He offers excellent work conditions for the women who are on the first floor – the strippers,” she said, adding he hires women of all ages and body types.

“That’s something you don’t necessarily find in the other strip clubs.”

William Weintraub, a Montreal historian, author and filmmaker, said the neighbourhood was a “very lively, colourful, raucous” place filled with brothels, bars and gambling houses in the first half of the 20th century.

“The liquor flowed here much more easily than it did in other parts of Canada,” he said.

It was also a destination for merchant seamen who made their way up from the nearby port, Weintraub said.

“It seems to me that one of the last vestiges of a gaudy era in Montreal’s past is now going to disappear,” said Weintraub, who wrote the book “City Unique: Montreal Days and Nights in the 1940s and ’50s.”

“We have to reconcile ourselves that not very much of our past is permanent.”

The Dead Doll Dancers have been performing a tongue-in-cheek, contemporary form of striptease in “cute underwears and tights and stuff” at the venue regularly for five years.

“There’s a traditional style of (Le) Lido, Crazy Horse type of lighting around the stage – all sorts of crazy flashing lights and stuff,” Candyass said. “It’s just a very creative sort of venue.

“It really feels like home.”

June 4 Las Vegas Sun article on the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend
June 4, 2009


Rich heritage of exotic dance

By Kristen Peterson (contact)

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: 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:

1. Entertainment

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.

2. Art

“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.

4. History

“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.”

5. Education

“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.