by J.D. Oxblood
22nd Annual Tournament of Tease: Miss Exotic World 2012, Reigning Queen of Burlesque
Saturday, June 2nd
Orleans Casino Showroom, Las Vegas, Nevada
Reigning Queen of Burlesque 2012: Imogen Kelly
First Runner-Up: Ophelia Flame
Second Runner-Up: Trixie Little
Most Dazzling Dancer: Perle Noire
Ah, the pageant. What could be more fun, more exciting—more divisive? A producer I know in New York claims not to believe in “competition” in burlesque because, “If you’re good, you get booked.” But as we’re told every year, the pageant was merely smoke and mirrors thunk up by Jennie Lee to persuade girls to trek out to the desert—a carrot on a stick, nothing more. My own multiple interviews with past Queens confirm that the title alone does little to raise your annual income. Then there’s the sideline griping that the contest is rigged—and the parallel griping that it’s NOT rigged anymore, making it less of a “True Grit” Oscar award (more lifetime achievement than “best act tonight”) and therefore a crapshoot. My biggest complaint about the pageant is that no one’s taking BETS on it—this is Vegas, after all, and if we really want to raise some cash for the Museum, let’s hire a bookmaker to set the odds, cover everyone’s bets, and let the Hall take a little off the top. I guess we’re just not there yet. But whether you end up wondering what the judges were smoking or just wish they’d share, it is one of the most knock-down drag-out over-the-top entertaining evenings of the year, where you’re sure to see something that makes your jaw hit the floor.
But first, honoring a haiku request, because I get so few requests that aren’t “Please shut up.”
Kellita, your smile
Warms me from within even
When you’re not naked.
“If I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die in rhinestones,” says our profane leporid, adding, to the Legends, “I will never not be Scotty the Blue Bunny.” Scotty either is or is not to your taste; I find it untenable that you are lukewarm on Scotty. You love him or you want to leave the room. I love him, but then again, I have a perverted sense of humor and a filthy fucking mouth, and if a giant homo in a blue bunny suit is going to talk about the pitfalls of getting ass fucked by a big dick, I want to be in the room to hear it. I know some people don’t feel as I do, and I was surprised—and overjoyed—to see that he would be covering part of the pageant in the absence of the Divine Almighty Miss Astrid. (I hear she can still see you when she’s not in the room, and even if it ain’t true I’m taking no chances.) Again, everything you think about BHOF defines you and begs the question: what kind of community is this, whose community is it, and who cares. Who gets asked back to host tells us something, perhaps more than whom the fickle judges pick this year. For me, Scotty is a Legend of a different color, and has been an inspiration to me on a lot of levels. For those of you who may not have seen Scotty before this year’s BHOF, I will say that, for him, he was relatively sober, and therefore relatively tame. You should see how fucking filthy that conejo coño gets after a couple Jagermeisters.
As usual, there’s so much going on that I can’t possibly cover it all—from the spade shape cut out of Harvest Moon’s shorts, Scarlett James managing a water-less bathtub act, Lux la Croix pulling on beaded curtains like something straight out of an 80s music video—and by this point in the weekend my hands are cramped and my handwriting has gone from bad to hieroglyphic. Luckily, I clearly remember Scotty relating what Perle Noire had told him: “Scotty, you gotta set me up right… I’m bringing Af-ri-ka.” Way funnier when Scotty says it.
Perle envelops the stage in a giant white robe, opening it to reveal the sun pattern inside, as well as her orange top and bare belly. As the music goes off, she’s shaking her hips, pinwheels an arm to take her into a half split, brings one knee up and flexes. That. Ass. Just one cheek, mind you, strong enough to crush a pit orchestra. She goes into a slow split and then does THAT shoulder stand, the move that I nominate be hereafter known as the Perle-stand. The music changes. She’s downstage. She stops. Stares. Glares. Breathes through an open mouth, like an animal panting. She’s bringing it—Af-ri-ca. Slow hands up, throws her arms back with such force it takes her whole body back onto the floor, head proud like a panther. If Perle Noire doesn’t scare you a little, you’re not paying attention.
Trixie Little has always been fierce in a completely different way. Strong and intense, yet packed into a tiny package, she really caught the balance this year between acrobatic and sexy. In what I took to be a New Year’s Eve number, she opened on a couch with a champagne flute, balloons above her. Drinking, a long, slow split in a sparkly leotard, and then rising up into a handstand. She lets her hair down with the kind of abandon usually left to Tiffany Carter, and teases herself with a feather, rubbing it gently across her quim. Stepping into a logic-defying backbend, she catches a balloon dropping from above, sits on it and grinds. In the lead-up to her final reveal, she holds the balloon before her; ditching her bra and hiding behind the balloon, she lets the air out, letting it wash over her, blowing her hair back in a minimal, ultra-cool low-fi effect that just brings a smile to my face, and yes, as the balloon collapses she’s revealed to us in all her glory.
I’ve had the good fortune of seeing Darlinda Just Darlinda’s “Moby Dick” act more times than I can count, and she did it better tonight than any other time I’ve seen it. This was full black light, with her costume glowing, her orange eyes and earrings scalding, her pink lips just neon, and even her BHOF wristbands becoming part of the costume. If you know the Led Zeppelin song, you know that it’s basically John Bonham’s great masturbation piece. Perhaps the most famous drum solo in popular music, Bonham would occasionally play it without sticks, and we’re certain that he never played it the same way twice. The genius of Darlinda’s act is that she works her body the way Bonham worked a drum set—utilizing all of it, and never missing a beat. Forget the beginning and the end—the centerpiece of the act is Darlinda categorically doing every tassel twirl in the repertoire: arms-up bounce, arms-down bounce, alternating-shoulders shimmy, one-shoulder-up bounce, manual, shoulder shimmy, single-shoulder pump, single-shoulder shrug, rib-pops—she does every twirl imaginable, shaking her fringe, working the entire breadth of the stage and making everyone in the audience feel exhausted as she checks her watch and yawns while twirling, an arrogant pause before the intrepid rush for the jugular. By the time the guitar drops back in, you’re ready to scream your head off. This is a great act.
From now on, I’d like to refer to her as “Oh-phelia” Flame. She had me from the way her arms came around from behind her back, as the lights came up and we saw her face framed in scarlet tresses, framed again in the spiky halo of pheasant and turkey feathers, her shocking sunshine yellow corset. This is a slow build… a bend, a hair flip, a spin and a half split. Arms held in a geometric shape, now crawling, growling. The moment we’re leaning into—and you can feel the moment lean—is her approach to the fans set downstage, and ruffling inside her corset, not yet, not yet… now working it open as the flames billow within it. When she throws it all open, shakes it and struts, the crowd takes a collective breath.
But we’re not done yet. The dim lighting only reveals a pile of pink fluff lying center stage. As the cloud starts to move, two small flamingo heads rise from the puffball, peck at each other, perhaps playfully. The cloud sits up. The pink fluff stands, and a giant flamingo head rises from within it—and reveals pink fans as wings, a big pink bustle. It’s Imogen Kelly as a giant showgirl flamingo. She removes a glove and offers it to a man in the audience—snaps it back, denying him and tossing it aside. The melting moment happens upstage, almost bare, as she drops her fans, looks over her shoulder, and drops her boa, turning to pull it through her legs, grinding all the while, a proper crotch floss. A wink and a grin, and a major ass shake that I feel… way… down… under.
And then, THIS happened:
It speaks volumes about Indigo Blue’s personality and inclusive spirit that, given the opportunity to rule the stage solo before her peers, she chose to share that stage with a veritable army—an army that represented every body type, sexual identity and sexual orientation known to Goddess. And a whopping “it takes a village” number it was: Queen cape by Echo Boudoir; gold gown from Seattle Opera; backup dancer wear by Danial Webster; Indigo’s undergarments by Charlotte; Crown fashioned by Dixie Darling, embellished by Charlotte and Echo Boudoir. The first and second songs were contributed by Scott Ewalt, the third recommended by Lola Spitfire and Bronwyn —the fricking ridiculous “Crown on the Ground” by Sleigh Bells (a beat so loud and aggressive, that after realizing mp3s and computer speakers could never do it justice, I promptly ordered that shit on vinyl so I could blast it at speaker-bleeding volume while writing this—plus rock it the fuck out in the Blue Room at the next Tuesday Night Dance Party). Inga Ingenue was the dance captain for the whole act, and the group choreo to “Crown” was by Lux LaCroix. I’ve seen a lot of crazy shit in my days—two bulls fighting each other on a muddy field in Western Sumatra, “MacBeth” performed in Maltese on Malta, the stars above the Sahara desert—but that “Crown on the Ground” number was just… untouchable in the world of burlesque. My pen and notebook dropped to my waist, and I stared slackjawed, taken aloft long before Indigo was literally hoisted up into the eaves. To quote Miles Davis, “Man, that shit was a motherfucker.”
—JD fuckin’ X
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