by J.D. Oxblood
Orleans Showroom, Las Vegas
21st Annual Tournament of Tease
Saturday, June 4, 2011
Nothing brings down the house at the Hall of Fame weekend like a hot boy taking it off. Again and again, it’s the boys that get the audience—99.9% women—to gnash their teeth and rent their garments, and it’s the Boylesque category that gets the tongues wagging in the lobby—about awesomeness, and about how this other act “shoulda” been part of the competition. And it’s not just a boy stripping does it, either—we’ve all seen bad boylesque. But the good stuff sells like sasparilla in the desert.
Are there more boys in burlesque than there were five years ago—or ten? That I can’t answer, but for those boys who may secretly consider getting onto that stage, expect two things: The judges may underappreciate you, but the female performers will eat you alive.
Jett Adore flipped an utterly sick-ass epic straight out of Venice, aria booming, striking poses and peeking over his cape in a bird mask, bending as the cape becomes the bird’s bustle, an arm becoming the bird’s extended neck. All tableau and emotion, Suzuki holds and grandeur. Bazuka Joe came out in only a towel, and before you can wonder where he’s going from there, strips down to a smaller towel, a smaller towel—you get the idea—all pizzazz, winks and straight-up TEASE. And Australia’s Captain Kidd was a sailor on shore leave spinning his hula hoop with a quickness bordering on alacrity, sickly specific, deft and athletic. All three brought the house to their feet. Australia took it home.
But just in case the boylesque category wasn’t destined to dominate the afterparty conversations, we had the Stage Door Johnnies totally dominating the group category, absolutely eclipsing what would have otherwise been a very close competition amongst a bevy of skilled performers. The Schlep Sisters performed their charming, delightful, uplifting polka-dotted umbrella duet that was seen at the New York Burlesque Festival in October; Brown Girls Burlesque performed their charming, delightful, uplifting international can-can upskirt act that was seen at the NYBF—and in both cases, the acts were even stronger and benefited greatly from the larger, deeper stage and the supreme lighting skills of our God Aaron. Rounding out the charming and delightful were the Dolls of Doom (sic)—aka Lola Martinet and Tila Von Twirl—last year’s winners in the variety competition—which, btw, was missing this year, making Group all that much more important—and Teddy Bare, performing an act that began with an entrance on water skis and quickly descended into a blue-scrimmed ocean framing a Busby Berkeley synchronized swimming act, complete with an enigmatic mustachioed octopus. I didn’t get it, but I didn’t get “Yellow Submarine” either—ok, that may have been the acid—but anyway, not understanding does not always interfere with enjoyment (eg, I’ve never claimed to understand women).
In complete opposition to these acts was the seedy, gleefully gutter-delving offering by the Razzle Tassel Tease Show, aka Melody Mangler, April O’Peel and Violet
Femme, a trio of beauties who upend the classical Neapolitan into a fantasy of sorbet proportions— orange, lemon and grape. This act can only have come from Canada. I’m trying to remember the last time I saw burlesque set to Tom Waits, and a friend from Vancouver shrugs and says, “We had a whole night of Tom Waits.” (They started with “Tango Till They’re Sore” before leading into a glorious noise track.) The act’s genius revolved—literally—around three rolling garment racks trussed up with curtains, creating a three-part stage moved and manipulated by the three players, revealing the three lovelies in increasingly creative poses and positions in a steady progression downstage. Cap it off with a triple tassel-twirl, one upside-down.
Not that any of this fucking matters to a house full of women and a judging panel full of women when three absolutely gorgeous guys—the Stage Door Johnnies, aka Jett Adore, Bazuka Joe and Ray Gunn—deliver an absolutely flawless act of carefully choreographed strip tease. And don’t read that as sarcasm—their act was fucking ridiculous and even I had to pinch myself: the last time I heard that many women scream that loudly I WAS dreaming.
All photos ©2011 Melody Mudd. Contact email@example.com for permissions. Performers, please do use shots for promotional purposes, but please credit properly with photographer’s full name and a link to this piece. Performers who would like hi-rez images, get in touch.