Thursday, May 30, 2013
Orleans Casino Showroom, Las Vegas, Nevada
After covering Toronto’s and Montreal’s burlesque festivals for a handful of years, I knew it was time to come out to the mother of all burlesque extravaganzas and see how they throw down in the City of Sin. Showgirls, outrageous costumes, and bling, bling, bling! I was ready to take it all in. I read the Burlesque Hall of Fame Survival Guide, brought some comfortable shoes, extra memory cards, and figured I was ready for anything. I never knew what hit me.
With a name like Movers, Shakers, and Innovators, I knew I was in for a gut-punching, no-holds-barred show. The opening act was a step down by last year’s Best Group winners Peek-A-Boo Review. A big troupe, they reminded me of an eccentric circus troupe — something dark simmering under all the stockings and crinoline. They tumbled, somersaulted, twirled and gave us a sinful fanny peek to the lyrical tune of You Gotta See The Show. Boy, now there’s an understatement!
Host for the evening Johnny Porkpie did a fantastic job of keeping the show moving along all evening. He spoke beautifully about the community’s loss of Sparkly Devil (more in tribute article) and reminded everyone that when a tragedy strikes, we tend to think “Oh no!” but Sparkly was not a woman of “Oh no!” She was a woman of “FUCK YEAH!” This was to be our chorus for the rest of the evening, for the rest of the festival.
If you’ve had the chance to see Jett Adore’s lonely butterfly routine, then you know just how stunning it is. When you see it on the Orleans Showroom stage, it’s truly beautiful. His butterfly feather fan wings are so majestic that it takes such a grand stage to truly show them off to their fullest. And show them off he did — even though they didn’t impress the lady butterflies — and was one of them the gorgeous Michelle L’Amour? It was almost impossible to keep your eyes off those stunning wings — they’re as striking as the man holding them. Jett Adore — and who doesn’t adore him, really?
I understand that the world is divided into two types of fans — you’re either into Star Trek or you’re into Star Wars. No matter which you are, you couldn’t help but love the space-themed performance by Calgary’s Miyuki Divine and Raven Virginia. Paying homage to Kirk’s famous fight sequence in the Arena episode, a redshirt and the Gorn fight it out, go-go style, to the tune of Soul Bossa Nova. As they rip each other’s clothes off, the Gorn is revealed to have quite the hot little bikini-clad green body. Kudos!
The first two of the weekend’s Vancouver contingent wowed us with some hot, hot, hot numbers. Sweet Soul Burlesque troupe came out swinging their rolling pins and singing a chorus of No Pie For You. The luscious Nicky Ninedoors, accompanied by Brother Keys on the piano, belted out a bluesy tune while performing a super sensual fan dance. Smooth, silky skin and a voice from heaven, her fan moves were so fluid she looked like a graceful swan floating across the stage. The Vancouver contingent was big and strong with performers and supporters alike and they drowned out everyone in the audience with their appreciation. What a fantastic burlesque community they have!
One cannot continue with such a kick-ass and diverse burlesque show without the Bishop of Burlesque getting all in the room to participate in the Burlesque Blessing — after all, it’s important to have the cabaret powers that be smiling down upon us:
Homen-um (note – this could be Homo-num – hard to hear)
Who among us hasn’t grown up on the story of the mysterious songbird nanny, sailing in on a bitter wind with her magical carpetbag in hand, all to teach a dysfunctional family a myriad of obvious life lessons? Change that to a carpetbag full of cocaine and you have a completely different, and much more fun, story! Boston’s Lolli Hoops showed us a Mary Poppins hopped up on crack, working four hula hoops in a drug induced frenzy while stripping all her prissy clothes away. A spoonful of sugar sure does go a long way — so says the standing the ovation!
I love my hardcore burlesque ladies and I had the chance to see two of them on opening night — Iva Handful and Viva La Muerte. Both of these ladies are hard rock, grab-you-by-the-balls and take no prisoners performers. Viva upped the ante on her Cthulhu act this year with some sexy new towering hair, complete with tentacles. (If you know my tattoos, you know I have a thing for tentacles.) Tentacle mask, tentacles in her hair, sleek green gown — this lady was all alien sex fiend up on stage. On the flipside, Iva Handful showed us that feather fans can be both soft and sensual as well as sexy and seductive. Wearing only the thought of a dress, she strutted around the stage in her leather boots, rockin’ her grey and black fans like a powerful titanium-haired dominatrix with her leather whips. For both of these gals a rousing chorus of “Fuck Yeah!”
Kabuki and burlesque mashup! What an awesome concept, and Tokyo’s Gilbert de Moccos is the go-to guy for this artform. When you think of kabuki, you imagine the stark makeup, flashy costumes, and bombastic and bold poses and tricks seen in Edo kabuki. That’s exactly what Gilbert brought us, grunting and yelling as he marched back and forth across the stage and posed menacingly, his face painted white with bold red stripes. But this is BHOF — you know there’s a twist. It was kabuki striptease — and underneath all those gorgeous fabric layers we were treated to a half-naked man with a belt of small drums. Fuck Yeah! Definitely the most unique performance of the evening — and a standing ovation.
They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but I am now convinced that’s not so true. I have heard — but have not tried it myself — that the washing machine can create quite the vvvviiiiibbbbbrrrrrationnnnns that can be lovely on the lady parts. Melbourne’s Willow J seemed to think so. What she did with that washing machine! I especially loved it when she straddled the machine in complete ecstasy — we were all there with her. It was hilarious to see her feet poking out of the machine when she fell in!
I was completely entranced by the step down routine from Russell Bruner, last year’s winner of Best Boylesque. This was my first time seeing him perform and I am in love with his style of old-school burlesque/cabaret. The story he wove as he danced across the stage was mesmerizing and he just oozed old vaudeville from his look to his affectations. Watching him glide across the stage, attempting to gracefully extract an umbrella from his beautifully dressed partner had me reminiscing classic Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire. So smooth, so romantic, it just made you swoon. Even when he went all Silence of the Lambs at the end, completely nude on stage, his manly bits tucked in between his thighs, it was still kind of…. cute. In a creepy sort of way?
What an amazing opening night! If this was the caliber of performances I had to look forward to then all I could say was… Fuck Yeah!
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.