by Sean K. Young – Photos By Tonya Armbruster
Saturday, September 15th, 2012
Harrah’s, New Orleans
This is it. The big night. The climax: the Queen’s competition. With each night being larger than the last, tonight’s crowd was shoehorned into the theater like an 19th century Chinese woman’s foot in a lotus shoe. A who’s who in the burlesque world filled the theater. No one wanted to miss the crowning of this year’s Queen. The competition is focused on traditional burlesque performances accompanied by a live jazz band – yay for all lovers of live music! This year’s panel of celebrity judges included Kitten De Ville, Dan Whitsett from Secrets in Lace, Ms. Kitty West among others.
The reigning Queen of Burlesque, Ginger Valentine, opened the show with a repeat performance of her recently debuted version of Ms. West’s original Evangeline the Oyster Girl act. Ginger has big shoes to fill in this honored role, but if anyone can do it, Ginger can. She is spectacular, and can rock that giant pearl like nobody’s business.
Our emcee for the night was the fabulously talented Kitten on the Keys – both tickling our ivories and pulling our strings. In one of her countless costume metamorphoses, her portrayal of Honey Boo Boo was outrageously entertaining.
But hey, let’s get past all the frivolous setup and get to what you are really here for…boobies. Well, performers who happen to have boobies, but boobies none the less. The first of the contestants was the alluring and seductive Tansy from NYC. When people say that she is the young Elizabeth Taylor of burlesque, it is not an exaggeration. She is simply stunning, and the Cleopatra number just enhanced the resemblance. Though I have to say, the fans on the long staffs reminded me a little too much of high school flag team. That image in my head almost ruined the steamy moment when Tansy seductively licked the staff of one of her flags.
If Angi B. Lovely had simply danced the opening half of her act, it would have been one of the most sensual numbers I have seen all year, but she really kicked it up a notch when she took to the air. When that near-perfect rear end was dangling from an oversized chandelier and wrapped in aerial silks, twisting, turning, precariously posing, the audience gasped in awe, or maybe it was a low moan. Finally, when she came tumbling down, the silks flipping in controlled chaos leaving her suspending inches above the stage, the crowd erupted.
It was Lola Van Ella’s fourth time competing in the Queen’s competition and my money was on her taking it all this year. Lola is an extraordinary performer. Her sultry voice, stage presence, and over-the-top personality remind me a bit of Carol Burnett, only way more sexy with her “derriere beyond compare.” Lola’s rendition of “Let Me Entertain You” certainly did just that. In a more-bang-for-your-buck move, Lola had the addition of extra boobies on stage when her Hoochee Coochee Girls lent their bods as supporting cast. If for no other reason than to see Lola perform on her home turf, I need to get to St Louis.
If you’ve read my previous fest coverage, you know that I have now seen Medianoche a couple of times and unless you are particularly slow on the uptake you have realized that I might be a little infatuated with her. The elegance of her ballroom background is evident as she smoothly glides that delicious body across the stage.
Texas vixen Ruby Joule looked beautiful as her namesake red hair cascaded over her equally vibrant jewel-toned ensemble. Her slow, classic strip oozed sensuality with just the right amount of elegance. Banbury Cross, on the other hand, was aggressive, frenzied, electrifying, beautifully contrasting with her Old Hollywood glamour. Her routine was fast and furious and left me panting and wet thanks to a well-shaken bottle of bubbly.
Gal Friday and Peekaboo Pointe—the ladies who gave us the butt tassel showdown during the Bad Girls show—rounded out the competition with exquisite acts of their own. Gal provided us all with a glimpse of what it would look like if Jessica Rabbit was a burlesque dancer, and let me assure you, I felt as though my eyes would pop out of my head much like Roger’s. If the name “Peekaboo” derives visions of a bubble gum, cutie pie baby doll to your mind, wipe that image away. This Peekaboo is fierce, forceful and fabulous.
Helping Kitten weave her way between the acts were the talented Dr. Sik and Russel Brunner. The good Dr. performed the infectious “Stolichnaya” that had the entire audience singing along and Russel proved once again why he is the undisputed King of Burlesque. One of these days I’m going to get me a bowler and try that hat trick for myself.
After some serious deliberation, the judges announced the winners with Ruby Joule and Medianoche taking 3rd and 2nd places, respectively. Bringing the title to Dallas’ Ruby Revue for the second year in a row, Angi B. Lovely’s aerial antics won the day, and her charming reaction to the announcement (“What the Fuck?”) won my heart.
Congratulations Ms. Lovely. Wear your crown proudly. I feel like I need a cigarette, but I can’t do it. There’s only one more round to go and I’m not throwing in the towel at this point.
New to the burlesque scene, Sean K. Young is the managing partner of a New Orleans-based I.T. firm. He and Tonya Armbruster have recently launched the NOLA culture blog Southern Babylon.
All photos ©Tonya Armbruster and used with express permission by Burlesque Beat. Performers may use shots for promotional purposes, but please credit properly with photographer’s full name and a link to this piece in all instances.