2014 Burlesque Hall of Fame Tournament of Tease: Best Debut
June 7, 2014
Orleans Casino Showroom, Las Vegas, NV
So here it is – the night that everything’s been building up to, the one with all the superlatives like the “best” or the “most,” and truly the longest night of the entire weekend. Even with step-down numbers being scattered throughout the weekend, this show was still listed in the program as 8pm-1am. That’s five hours, people. With only two breaks to pour enough alcohol into me to numb my aching feet (you see, I had to stand the entire time – because photography. And I would do it all again, and yes I wore comfortable running shoes. But I digress.) Point being, you can’t rush greatness, and the performers competing for the 5 titles are truly great.
The Burlesque Hall of Fame Tournament of Tease judges this year – and I don’t envy their monumental task – were from all over the creative globe: TV personality Kaitlyn Regehr, Judith Lynn Hanna, author of Naked Truth: Strip Clubs, Democracy, and a Christian Right, co-host of the hit show American Pickers (and burlesque star) the beautifully tattooed Danielle Colby, Miss Exotic World 2005 Michelle L’Amour, burlesque performer Lou Lou Roxy , Holly Madison from 1923 Bourbon & Burlesque at Mandalay Bay, and burlesque legend Gina Bon Bon.
So let’s see who they had to pick from in the Best Debut category…
The minute that Aurora Galore set foot on the stage, I knew I was going to be in for an awesome experience. If you’ve been reading my articles (of course you have!) then you know I lean towards the more, how you say, twisted, quirky, eccentric, alternative, in-your-face chaotic non-traditional burlesque. I like a little psycho circus with my cabaret. From her nightmare inducing makeup to her dishevelled hair, she brought the house to its feet with her brand of aggressive sexuality and power. Dressed in red and gold fringed circus attire, she did not go softly across that stage, did not peel and reveal smoothly and seductively – she was all harsh lines and jagged thrusts, hip snaps and shivers, with sneers and growls for all. To watch her brilliant chaos unwind upon the stage is something I will never forget.
I have a soft spot for the 20s and 30s – when I was in art school my favourite styles were Art Deco and Art Nouveau and both have influenced my work and pastimes (looove, the old musicals). My first tattoo is an Art Nouveau piece I designed – not telling where it is. London’s Bonnie Fox reminds me perfectly of everything I love about those eras – she is like an Erte statue come to life… and dance. With porcelain skin, this modern Clara Bow had us mesmerized with her Charleston, the dazzling fringes of her dress shimmying in the air with every move. When she shed her dress – which I so wanted to run down and steal off the stage, like gorgeous! – she revealed one of the most beautiful light blue sparkling corsets I’ve ever seen, perfectly matching her blue feather headpiece. And what a pinup body! Her poses were divine and her skin sparkled in the light. It was such a shame to take the corset off – but in the end (no pun intended) this is a strip show after all, and take it off she did to reveal a milky smooth petite body all glittery under the stage lights – a beauty in just heels and a headpiece.
Switzerland’s Emma Mylan had a dark act with a backlight and, unfortunately, from where I was standing at the back left of the showroom it was very hard to see most of it. Everything was subtle shades of blue light. There were feather fans and long draped fabric with lots of skin showing and luckily near the end of the act a spotlight finally appeared to illuminate a bit of fan work and show us all that is the gorgeous Miss Mylan. I hope to see her perform again so that I may be able to appreciate her work in better lighting and get some photos that do her performance justice.
If you want some hard burly action, look no further than St. Louis’ Jeez Loueez. The second powerhouse act of the night – and there seemed to be a pattern of those for the debuts – her performance hit you in the face right from the start. Performing her signature act Rufiooo! – the character from the Peter Pan movie Hook – she eschewed traditional burlesque costuming and swapped in Converse for the shoes. With Michael Jackson’s Bad as truly appropriate accompaniment, she owned the stage, hell, the whole showroom! It felt like a #tbt mashup with her killer breakdancing poses, booty popping, and twerking. Throw in the attitude, the bad ass body rockin’ encore and the entire showroom chanting “Ru-fi-o, Ru-fi-o, Ru-fi-o!” like some Thunderdome battle cry and the striptease felt more like a sexy rumble in some dark burlesque back alley. It certainly answered the question… who’s bad?
Australia’s Lisa Fa’alafi blew me away with her Polynesian-inspired performance. Her reverse strip was unique. Starting on a mat of green leaves, as soon as she stood up the performance racked up sixteen notches. Her costume was an amazing multi-tasker with long train splitting to form a majestic back piece, which in turn came down over her shoulders to become a jacket. All was made from the same green leaves, even a pair of couture Lady Gaga-style slit glasses. Miss Fa’alafi strutted across the stage, werkin’ it like a pro with chest out and shoulders back, luscious locks caught up in the breeze from all the applause.
Russia’s Madame Romanova’s Queen of Hearts routine was a mashup of sleight-of-hand, quick change, and balloon work. I’ve seen her perform her quick change routines before and she truly is a master at it and this time she went from a tuxedo and top hat clad magician to the Queen of Hearts in the playing card in her hand – wearing nothing but a big red heart with long pink fringe and pink feather headpiece. Oh my! And to add even more sexiness to the act, not that there wasn’t enough there already, she tossed the fringed heart and got down to heart pasties in time to play with a huge red balloon.
Dallas’ Missy Lisa was the one classic neo-burlesque act of the evening and when you’re surrounded by all that eccentric chaos, it’s quite a nice breather to see a bit of old school burly-q. And Missy is the embodiment of classic style and grace – a pinup body, blonde bombshell style, and poise and charm for miles and miles. Her dress was to die for, a big white sparkly number that was a jewel on the stage and when it was off – ooh look out. That girl can bump and grind like nobody’s business. She was liquid sex poured into glittery heels.
There’s a reason they call her Montreal’s “Tall Glass of Bad Ass.” The amazonian blonde bombshell that is Lady Josephine is known for her burlesque with attitude and I have always been a fan of her eccentric brand of creativity. From Voguing to performing with a giant eyeball, she’s always charismatic and sensual and her new performance – this was her first time at BHOF – did not disappoint. Dressed in a burlesque rendition of fencing attire, she used her rapier (the sword, not her wit) as a means to an end as it sliced off pieces of her costume here and there, slowly revealing the gorgeously tall glass of water. Throughout it all she postured and pranced across the stage, immersed in the attack, remise, and parry with her invisible opponent.
Two ladies who knew how to use their assets were Lepizig’s Mama Ulita – a stunner in shades of green from head to toe with layers of velvet, feathers and sheer fantasy – and Vancouver’s Voracious V – a vision in purple and white with a stunning costume that included side bustles with delicate trailing silk. With thigh high sexy silver boots and sparkly headpiece, Miss V rose from her silver throne to strut across the stage, silk train billowing in the breeze. She spun and spun, silver fabric catching the spotlight, as she shed her costume to enthusiastic applause. What a sizzling beauty!
Award winners from this list include:
Best Debut: Bonnie Fox
Most Innovative: Aurora Galore
Most Classic: Missy Lisa
Most Dazzling Dancer: Bonnie Fox
Next up: Boylesque, Goup and Duo. Check out all our Burlesque Hall of Fame coverage. Stay tuned!
What did you think of the debut competitors at BHOF Weekend 2014?
All photos ©Olena–Photolena–Sullivan for Burlesque Beat. Performers may use shots for promotional purposes, but please credit properly with photographer’s full name and a link to this piece. All other requests please contact us to acquire permission.