The Orleans Casino Showroom
The Orleans Casino Showroom was packed for the first performance of the festival – Movers, Shakers & Innovators. As guests took their seats, you couldn’t help but notice that everyone was sporting a variety of devil’s horns, and some quite ornate at that. They had all heard the call. Before we even made it out to Las Vegas, it had gone out over Facebook, Twitter, and through word of mouth at The Orleans – let’s all wear horns in honor of Sparkly Devil, who was originally set to perform that evening.* They were available for pickup by anyone who needed them at the venue so that no one would be left out, although many put their time and talent – and probably all their heartfelt love – into producing some truly fantastic horns. The international burlesque community had come together in a monumental show of support and strength to remember and celebrate one of their own.
Just before intermission, our host for the evening, Johnny Porkpie, brought out executive producer Joyce Tang, application coordinator Mig Ponce, and Kingfish who all spoke about their personal relationships with Sparkly. It was moving to hear such heartwarming, and sometimes quite funny, stories about a woman who touched so many lives in the burlesque community.
It seemed that Sparkly must have been listening in. There was a small technical malfunction at the beginning of the tribute piece, and Johnny Porkpie thought that perhaps she wasn’t so happy that she wasn’t there to perform it herself! At this evening devoted to her career, life, and great spirit, her presence was definitely felt by all.
Every performer has a signature piece, and Sparkly was no exception. Detroit’s Twinkletoes McGee performed an homage to her Black & White act that was mesmerizing and moving. Bodypainted in grey tones, he danced across the stage, umbrella in hand reminiscent of a classic Old Hollywood musical. A gift box revealed red sparkly lingerie, matching heels, and satin gloves that transformed him into a delicious duotone devil. You can catch the original routine from the Hubba Hubba review on YouTube and Twinkletoes McGee definitely made Sparkly proud with his rendition — true perfection.
The tributes continued throughout the weekend as Sparkly Devil’s presence was felt at every show. Friday’s Titans of Tease Reunion reminded everyone of her huge impact on the Burlesque Hall of Fame with organization of the Legends Challenge. Through her efforts, this year’s Walk of Fame stage was graced by “The Duke’s Delight,” gorgeous burlesque legend Toni Elling.
The biggest and boldest tribute to Sparkly Devil came via Jo “Boobs” Weldon at Sunday’s Icons & All-Stars show. Decked out in full devil attire, sinful red glitter pasties covering just enough, and sporting the most kick-ass horns I’ve ever seen, she had over a dozen half naked devils on stage with her by the end of her act, gyrating, dancing, and butt-tassel twirling their hearts out to Soul Stripper. It was an orgasmic frenzy of hot bodies, heavy metal, and horns. What a perfect send-off at the end of a frenzied weekend of lavish costumes, over-the-top characters, and performances that were out of this world.
I never met Sparkly Devil.† She hadn’t performed in my neck of the woods yet but I still saw and felt her influence from afar and at BHOF. Before I came to the festival I devoured her great BHOF Survival Guide – the only manual that really helped me understand what to expect from this grand spectacle. From all the stories I heard over the weekend and all the tributes that I watched, I believe in my heart that she was truly an amazing and inspirational performer, award-winning writer, journalist, and woman.
* Ed note: Sparkly Devil was killed in a car crash on Highway 101 south of San Francisco on May 26, 2013. The news was broken by the San Francisco Chronicle and also reported in the Examiner. There is also this piece on Heavy.
† Ed note: I did meet Sparkly Devil. She was kind, effusive, and consistently upbeat—it was impossible not to notice that her friends all called her “Sparkly,” never “Devil.” She’s one of the few burlesque writers to place a piece in a major mainstream publication—for Penthouse, in 2011—and as such was a hero to me. She understood the need to publicize burlesque, and the value of press—any press, even if it wasn’t about her. Not everyone gets that. I miss her already. —JDX
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.