New Orleans Burlesque Festival bump and grind this weekend
September 10, 2009

by Molly Reid, Staff writer, The Times-Picayune

Thursday September 10, 2009, 11:33 AM

Steven Forster / The Times-Picayune
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 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 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.


Friday Night

• 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 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, 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 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
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Molly Reid can be reached at or 504.826.3448.