Your Hair of the Dog: 2014 Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend Tournament of Tease
by J.D. Oxblood
[Additional show coverage and photos by Photolena to come—Ed.]
Saturday, June 7, 2014
Orleans Showroom, Las Vegas
Best Debut is my favorite category of the Saturday competition, a chance to see the new talent coming up from other cities. Opening the show last night—always a difficult post to draw—was Brisbane’s Lisa Fa’alafi with a delectable Polynesian act, set to the bold musical choice of “212” by Azealia Banks—a wonderfully modern soundtrack to kick off the evening.
Following on her heels was Jeez Loueez as Rufio from the Peter Pan movie Hook, sporting a red Mohawk and absolutely rocking the stage to Michael Jackson’s “Bad.” Loueez was all posturing bravado, flipping onto the stage on entrance and blending MJ moves with modern twerkness, at one point booty popping on her knees and jerking herself backwards across the floor. After she left the stage and the curtain fell she came back on for encore moves as the music faded, and did it again. The crowd inhaled her, and rose to their feet.
London’s Bonnie Fox ditched a red coat for a short silver sparkly dress with mad fringe on bottom, and proceeded to put her sparkly silver shoes through the Charleston’s moves. She took off her dress, pausing to admire her blinging corset, and shook her ass, did a shoulder shimmy, and then a perfect double 360. At that point she just started showing off—showing us her flawless ass, extending a leg and “reeling” it back in, and after peeling the corset faded between slow and fast, hyperbole and “look-at-me,” working her amazing body with flawless control. Very charming, and another standing ovation.
Emma Mylan, from Geneva, did something completely different, as she stood still center stage in all white, hidden in fans and caressed by the sound of the wind. The mood was spooky, and she appeared unnaturally tall, bathed in a white dress, articulating fans before dropping them and executing sculptural arm work. As the dress fell away she was revealed to be standing on a box, and also to be a stunning, rail-thin brunette. A moody and beautiful act.
Lady Josephine is one of those performers whose impossible not to like—always pushing it, tough as nails. She turned in a rapier act wearing a mask, set to “Fanfare,” by Black Violin, ripping off her pants in a flawless single-move flip, sliding her rapier into her shirt to cut it off. Last to go was the mask, in an act full of attitude and executed with exaction.
We were also treated to a delightful classic act by Missy Lisa, an intentionally nightmarish twitch-circus conniption from Aurora Galore, who won most innovative for her efforts, Stalingrad’s Madame Romanova as the Queen of Hearts, Mama Ulita from Leipzig, Germany, with a classic piece with a lot of glitter, and the devastating Voracious V, who delivered her space-lady act that I so enjoyed at the New York Burlesque Festival.
This year, Best Group category was for two or three performers, and Best Troupe for the larger teams. For best group, Vancouver’s Lola Frost and Rita Star performed a fun-loving duet from the jazz age, with Rita in tux and mustache and Lola as flasher, both drinking from a flask and peeling each other in swift unison choreo, occasionally a split second off for a deft and deliberate syncopated effect.
Kitten and Lou killed it with their suicide pact, which I’ve seen twice before and can stand to see a few more times. They added a wonderfully low-fi 2D effect, drinking Drano out of 2D martini glasses which flipped to show blue when “full” of Drano and back once imbibed. This pair have a wonderful sense of humor, and turn their suicidal “Last Dance” into a celebration of life.
Farther afield in the ridiculous category was Tokyo’s Circus de Moccos in Seussian red bouncy wigs, blue collars, and dark blue body suits, with light up balls on their feet, swatting and pulling at each other to music by The Circus Contraption Band. Like many things Japanese, I didn’t understand it, but I loved it—a bing-bladdeny, rompous revampation of perflooposity, a boy and girl clowning, as the boy hid the girl’s boobies with his wig, the girl hiding his junk with hers, in what felt like a burlesque of a tease. Circus de Moccos is Go!
At the complete other end of the spectrum was Land of the Sweets, a woman and two men burlesquing ballet in pseudo-Arabic outfits, surrounding a giant cup of tea, set to “Arabesque Cookie,” Duke Ellington’s rendition of Tchaikovsky’s “Arabian Dance.” They passed her along in an ever-complicated series of poses, disrobing her like a mannequin, the movement and the music working a hypnotic spell over the room. The men carried her to the teacup, pouring milk over her—it looked like they were using sand, a clever stage trick at a venue that doesn’t allow water effects. As ever more steam billowed from the cup, she writhed, like a human sacrifice in beatific bliss.
In boylesque, Eddie Van Glam turned in a funny burlesque of “Macho Man” Randy Savage, complete with Slim Jims, but towering head and shoulders above the rest—sorry, I couldn’t help it—was Mr. Gorgeous. His brilliant and hilarious take on the ice cream man was well-loved by the Legends at the Mother’s of Burlesque Show in New York.
He opens balancing a tray of sodas on a cane, balanced on his chin, and shifts the mood by taking off his glasses—I mean, this guy is so tall and so charming and so wonderful, the glasses peel really says it all. He rips off his pants, gets on top of a giant ice cream cone and humps it, then pulls out the waffle cone fans, as the audience laughs uproariously. Someone near me literally said,: “I love that he’s making fun of us!” The silly finale is his cherry, which he licks, lowers—and sticks to his banana. Then kind of sloppily lifts a hand up. Like, whatevs. So charming. When I asked him how it felt to win king, he said he was just excited to see what he could do for BHOF. I mean, seriously, this kid is a dream.
There is an elephant in the room. Had this been a Thursday night Innovator show, I wouldn’t mention it, but this was our Saturday Tournament of Tease—the best of the best. As host, London’s Lili La Scala left something to be desired, and her combative co-host, Kingfish, could be the subject of harsher criticism. After the show there was a lot of buzz concerning disappointment with the hosts, and musings on the whereabouts of Scotty the Blue Bunny, Miss Astrid, Bastard Keith, etc. It’s upsetting and discomfiting to see someone bomb. We should encourage new talent, but Saturday is not the night for testing the untried or giving second chances. These two were oil and water, and nowhere in burlesque is there latitude to calling anyone a “loser,” as Kingfish did—since when did we have to resort to booing at BHOF?
Let’s talk about the Queen category.
Ginger Valentine fucking killed it—she was on that shit like a duck on a junebug. (You don’t have to understand, it’s a Texas thing.)She wore an oversized, heavy-looking, New Orleans-ish coat, and as the horns began to build, she flipped the coat, making waves on the stage, flipping it off—and gracefully correcting a slight wardrobe incident, so I hope she didn’t lose points for that. This very classic act deliberately spiked in the final crescendo, as her floorwork went from one stocking pull—which she stretched and played like a bass—to two, when she suddenly flipped, pulled the stocking through her crotch and flipped again faster than I could type. Fierce, strong, and unbelievably sexy.
Melody Mangler, pulling a Goody Proctor, entered to the “Hell’s Bells” intro in a Quaker outfit, then exploded with her flame-colored hair and costume, erupting through in the first chorus of Donovan’s “Season of Witch.” Mangler is hot, twisting with a mean writhing of her body, exuding raw heat—positively torrid. Ophelia Flame rocked to Led Zeppelin, raising her claws to the sky, crawling to the lip of the stage in animalistic pursuit. She surprised everyone by shooting yellow streamers into the crowd from a device hidden in her fans—a heavy appreciation of the music, and a triple dose of attitude. And Iva Handfull always seems to inhabit the stage, this time black and white stripes and a giant zebra Mohawk that continued down her back like a bustle, becoming coverage for her Handfull once the suit was off, stalking the stage like it was the Serengeti.
Lola Frost stunned in her Erté-influenced number, and fluttering her hands, put on assels and twerked it, then spinning her tassels, then assels, then both at once, slamming her hands on the stage and kicking both feet up. Spinning assels in a downward dog pose, reaching one hand to the audience with her mouth wide open in sheer joy, she was clearly having the time of her life. Jazz age, turned up to 11.
To a spooky intro, with no real idea of what was happening, we were shown the silhouette of a massive, ten-foot crinoline. As the lights came up, we saw it was a giant blue dress with Midnite Martini at the top—sitting on a ladder and holding a circus drape, in blue hair and not a lot else. Leaning over the ladder, holding herself upside down, she executed her trademark stocking removal via toe, pulling it to a widening stretch between her feet, holding the pose. As she grabbed the drape, the ladder was pulled away by a rope—a nice effect—and she took the pretzel pose, throwing contorted shadows on the back walls. She climbed up, then rode the silk down to the floor, pulling it free. Then she just sauntered the last three steps to the lip of the stage and threw her hands up. Sauntered off. Like some kind of Queen.
PS: Big thanks to Trixie Little, Sweetpea, and Lola Spitfire for helping get me a spot to type this live.
2014 Burlesque Hall of Fame Royalty:
Miss Exotic World 2014, the Reigning Queen of Burlesque: Midnite Martini
1st Runner up: Medianoche
2nd Runner up: Ginger Valentine
Best Boylesque: Mr. Gorgeous
Best Debut: Bonnie Fox
Best Group: Land of the Sweets
Best Troupe: The Ruby Revue
Most Innovative: Aurora Galore
Most Classic: Missy Lisa
Most Dazzling Dancer: Bonnie Fox
Most Comical: Kitten n’ Lou
Check out all our Burlesque Hall of Fame coverage.
J.D. Oxblood is a contributing editor to BurlesqueBeat.com. His writing has also been seen in New York Magazine’s Bedford + Bowery, Burlesque Magazine, 21st Century Burlesque, and Zelda. His academic work appeared in Borrowers & Lenders. Follow J.D. Oxblood on twitter.
Melody Mudd is co-founder and Editor-in-Tease of BurlesqueBeat.com. All photos ©2014 Melody Mudd for Burlesque Beat. Please respect copyrights and request permission for usage. 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. Performers who would like hi-rez images, get in touch.