Photos and text by Photolena
Friday, April 12, 2013
Gladstone Hotel, Toronto
Every year, the organizers of the Toronto Burlesque Festival put on a hell of a good fundraiser for the upcoming festivities in July. This year was no exception with not only stellar performances by local talent, but a huge silent auction of all kinds of goodies from photo shoots to goody baskets, as well as the big item of the evening, a live auction of dates to the Festival brunch with some of the hottest performers in town.
Hosted by Toronto’s favourite hairy beast Great Canadian Wolfman and the always slick and sexy Daryl Scorpio, the evening was a unique twist on the traditional cabaret show. Called “Let’s Du-et!”, all the acts were twosomes, with some performers having worked together before in troupes or in special performances, and some getting together for the first time just for the fundraiser. This made for quite an interesting mix of performances and you never quite knew what you were going to get.
The lovely Belles Jumelles took the idea of a burlesque duet in a completely different direction than the rest. A beautiful girl in her boudoir, she falls asleep, pining away for her lover who comes to her in her dreams. Gorgeous and talented, Johnny B. Goode appears in his tight little soldier’s uniform to serenade her with “Moondance” and they dance a sultry striptease on gossamer wings. She awakens on her settee to find herself in a shocking state of undress and wonders, was it really a dream?
I have to give props to Barely Legal Leelando and Betty Quirk from the Underground Peepshow for the most appropriate use of a song in a burlesque act. Coming from Toronto’s most successful monthly nerd burlesque production—their themes have included Marvelesque, Apocalust, and The Nightmare Before Stripmas—they put together a fantastic duet based on the X-Men. Gambit and Rogue duel it out on stage to MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This” and I tell you, the crabwalk was absolutely perfect. This act was so well done and brought back so many memories (still have that damn song in my mind), that I found myself singing along and hooting and hollering with the rest of the audience. I’m surprised I have any photos at all. I never thought that you could turn that song into a striptease, but they did, and we had two nearly naked X-Men at the end of the act. (For the one or two people out there who never go to movies, read a comic, or watch TV, Rogue is an X-Men character that saps your power when she touches you, hence the song usage.)
What the hell can you say about Kkunt Factory? Ever since Obskyura and Percy Katt came together to form this dynamic duo, Toronto has never been the same. They are a powerhouse of eclectic, frenetic, in your face, no holds barred creativity that just grabs your nipples and keeps on twisting until you yell out “More! More! More!”. This performance had what I like to refer to as their Dueling Beauty Queen personas – both of them dressed to the nines in sparkly floor length bubble gum pink strapless gowns, identical blond wigs, and blinged-out tiaras. Obi’s queen, on stage first and sporting a somewhat enhanced derriere—baby got back!—had what I can only call a “Oh no you didn’t wear that!” moment when Percy came on stage in the same exact outfit. They try to outperform each other, vying for center stage and one-upping each other in the exaggeration of their striptease. It degenerates into the best diva fight ever seen on a burlesque stage when, standing and staring each other down, opera gloves in hand, they proceed to try and girly fight by bitch-slapping each other upside the head with the opera gloves. Classy yet white-trashy at the same time. One rips the other’s dress off, the other reciprocates, wigs get thrown about, and next thing you know, they’re stripped down to their heels and g-strings, heaving from exertion. But girls will be girls and they cry and make up.
Whenever I hear that Mahogany Storm is going to be performing—and on the pole!—I get very very excited and tingly all over. I dare say that I consider him to be the best male burlesque pole dancer that I have seen to date and he continues to astound me with every new performance. I was intrigued as to how he was going to perform a pole duet—and especially with the beautiful and lithe Coco Framboise. These performers are powerhouses of creativity and skill on their own, but we found out that when you put them together, the sultry heat on that stage is almost too much to bear. Coco intrigued us immediately as she came out on stage to Prince’s thumping bass in the background and revealed herself as the ying to Mahogany’s yang, decked out with full sideburns, ‘stash, and cropped beard. With slow deliberate movements, she took to the pole and we waited with bated breath to see what this diva would do. Ingenious it was—her sexy assistants came out to aide her in her pole routine, lifting her up and holding her through each pose, making sure she never broke a sweat or actually had to truly pole dance. Even the split was performed by the acrobatic St. Stella. This was a truly unique and creative performance and shows Coco’s continuous desire to adapt and grow with her routines, regaling her audience with acts that are one-of-a-kind. Mahogany made his way onto the stage to show us how it’s really done of course. In every pole dance he throws in something new—this time playing along to the piano music while suspended by his strong, gorgeous leg muscles. From his liquid hand gestures to the graceful way he arches his body, these are the little details that, along with his acrobatic skill, put him above the rest. Give me a gorgeous man with a six-pack—nay 12-pack—corset, stockings, and ultra high heels crushing a pole between his thighs any day.
Great Canadian Burlesque Hall of Famer Tanya Cheex channelled her inner Madonna and donned her slick black pantsuit for a hot rendition of “Human Nature.” With newcomer Muff Diamonds quite eagerly playing the part of slave boy, we watched him endure humiliation after humiliation as Mistress Tanya performed a general audience appropriate S&M striptease. She commanded a powerful presence on stage, dominating not only poor Muff but also teasing the audience into submission. When Muff Diamonds’ leather hood was finally pulled off at the end of the act, all I could think was “Dang, why didn’t that come off sooner?” Mrowr! Welcome to the scene gorgeous. May I call you Muff?
There were over 25 items in the silent auction up for grabs including studio photo sessions from my colleague MOPO and myself, some portraits of Roxi D’Lite shot by the lovely Roxi D’Lite herself (she’s so multi-talented that one), and a big basket that included a gold pass to the entire Toronto Burlesque Festival as well as private performances by Mysterion and burlesque performers from Great Canadian Burlesque! I don’t know how much money was raised from the silent auction but 4 burlesque duet dates were auctioned off (most to the same person) including Mahogany Storm & Coco Framboise, Tanya Cheex & Muff Diamonds, Sauci Calla Horra & Mark Brown, and Charlie Quinn & El Toro and I’m pretty sure the night brought in some good cash for the upcoming festivities.
I’m so proud of my fellow Torontonians for stepping up and supporting the festival. I saw a lot of the regulars at the show, but there were quite a number of new faces and it’s always great to see a whole new group discovering the wonders of burlesque. A big shout-out goes out to Sauci Calla Horra and all the other organizers and volunteers who put together this amazing fundraiser, the performers who gave the audience such a fantastic show, and all those organizations and individuals that donated prizes to the silent auction.
Check out news and photos from the Toronto Burlesque Festival’s 2012 fundraiser, Battling For Glory at the Toronto Burlesque Festival Strip Search.
More coverage, photos and stories from the Toronto burlesque scene.
Olena Sullivan (Photolena) is a Toronto-based model and performance photographer who specializes in onstage burlesque photography. All photos ©Olena Sullivan-Photolena and used here with 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.