Your Hair of the Dog: The 2014 New York Burlesque Festival Teaser Party
[Additional show coverage and photos by Photolena to come—Ed.]
Thursday, September 26, 2014
The Bell House, Gowanus, Brooklyn
Twelve years in, the NYBF still has relevance.
Sure, every town with two pairs of pasties to rub together is starting its own burlesque festival, and sure, there are a hundred burlesque shows a night in NYC, but this weekend, this time of year, even New Yorkers who don’t follow burlesque can’t help tripping over a stripper’s rollerboard and, in The World of Topstick*, all eyes turn to the festival that started it all. (*Still working on that. But I refuse to say, “Glitter Tribe.” Sounds like some Burning Man bullshit. Or what you’d get if you re-shot Peter Brook’s Lord of the Flies in a Bangladesh garment factory.)
Due to the Jewish holiday—L’Shana Tovah, y’all!—we rolled in a tad late, and sadly missed Foxy Vermouth opening the festival—a tough gig but I trust that she nailed it—as well as Francine’s delirious Blue Velvet. As I wove through the crowd, the gorgeous Aurora Black was onstage in a black bob, devilishly robotic—I only caught glimpses but I’d like to see the full act.
I positively loved Boo Boo Darlin’s “Gesundheit” (Luchese Liebhaber) act, in which she literally sneezed off all her clothes except what stuck to her, which was somehow alluring and not at all icky. And there’s something so simple and charming about Legs Malone’s half-nervous, rock-out strip to the early aughts hit from The Darkness, the way she plays with the audience to beg for more. And Matt Knife was fun in a gay steampunk costume, or like something from “Weird Science,” half-punk and half-yuppie, a lot of pins on a vest and kilt. A nice studded belt tease, and a clever removal of dark shades to reveal the white-framed glasses beneath.
A stunning debut from Anna Evans, a gorgeous, flawless blonde who decided to “do” Marilyn Monroe–and nailed it. Facial expressions, great movement, positively working the crowd like butter from the apron. She finished up with a fantastic display, arms up and wrists lightly crossed, a heart over her goodness, bathed in red curtain—invoking Marilyn’s famous Playboy pose. I thought it was just creamy*. (*a slang term for “good,” used heavily in Marilyn’s How to Marry a Millionaire.)
Some promising performers to watch out for in the future, like Di’ Lovely, who was bouncy and energetic, and Rasa Vitalia, who can spin wildly and nailed the sword-on-head classic belly dancer’s move.
There were some low points, like a baffling recreation of an old movie scene, and a few acts that dipped in energy or simply weren’t polished. Thursday night is a tough gig—there were a lot of “foreigners” and “tourists” (burlesque non-regular-attendees) in the house, it’s a weeknight—performers have to work a little harder. Cassandra Rosebeetle has a beautiful body and sported a beautiful costume—an octopus, by Miss Tickle—but otherwise lost the crowd. Bianca Dagger, who gets major hardass points for performing last night, flying to Dallas today to compete in the first Latin Burlesque Festival and coming back for the Golden Pasties Sunday, seemed a little disengaged despite an otherwise clean act. Tinkerbell from Helsinki, in a gorgeous costume to pounding Brazilian drums, forgot to move her hips, to dance appropriately to that music; and Strawberry Fields, predictably setting up “A Fifth of Beethoven” in Antoinette drag—apart from the attempt at popping, where were the classic disco moves? The Hustle?
Then there was the Gypsy Lane Cabaret, three girls in neon wigs doing canned, clichéd chair choreography. I can’t give a pass to a group from the Berkshires—they’re close enough to Boston and New York to know that burlesque is not a schtick invented by Christina Aguilera. It was disappointing to see this in our festival.
No matter what, we have The World Famous *BOB*, who is always so breathlessly enthusiastic and self-deprecating. About one performer, she said, “She’s going to Rome next week… I think I’m going to the store.” And calling Bettina May, “An Alien of extraordinary ability,” our hearts leapt.
At intermission, a hundred million performers took the stage to twirl tassels at the same time, a delirium tremens of delicioso that could only have been dreamed up by Jo Boobs, setting—hopefully—a Guinness World Record for Tassel Twirling. AND—hopefully, sez Angie Pontani—encouraging other festivals to try to beat our record, in an ever-escalating bounce to glory.
Gin Minsky’s exuberance is inarguable, her command of stage, feet, and crowd approaching mastery. In a top and tails, she tapped it out, and stripped to a flapper dress—waved a hand at the cheering crowd, mouthed “Oh, stop,” and got into it during the kazoo solo, from high kicks to an invisible cane. Stops. Cold. To unhook her dress—readying the crowd for a final reveal. Gin gets hardass points too this weekend—she’s taking the train to Providence to be in Kristin Minsky’s wedding, and will be rhinestoning on the way back to perform with Perle Noire on Sunday.
Stella Chuu has been a fan favorite since she first started gogoing at the Parkside Lounge, with natural beauty, a killer body, and a vivid joy to move. But she killed it last night with a vivid sharpness in a black vinyl corset with light-up blue lines, holding a lighted Tron disc above her head to Glitch Mob’s Daft Punk remix “Derezzed,” looking way serious in a severe anime bob and wielding light-up daggers. She slowly opened the corset, almost mannequin, then the choreo went suddenly loose, sexuality introduced like an injection. She ripped her pants off, and finally displayed light-up pasties, holding the disc over her head with a solemnity bordering on religion. I would have liked to see this act on Saturday Night’s stage.
My other favorite of the night was Pistola De Luxe, who tramped on in a rat costume, evil rat head and swollen rat belly, swinging her tail and scavenging in Wall Street bags, playing slovenly, scratching herself as blasé sinister as Archie Bunker. This is a little high-concept, subway sounds and Scissor Sisters’ “Filthy Gorgeous.” The rat costume vanishes for black-and-sliver corset with Metrocard fringe, “NY” on her no-no, and in Soho shades and shopping bags she takes a victory lap around the stage in the act’s best bit—becoming one of the smiling, happy, laughing piece of shit 1% motherfuckers destroying our city that we working-class stiffs and starving artists have learned to loathe and—self-hatingly—envy. Because you’re filthy, and you’re gorgeous. The hair comes down, the bra is snapped off, and in case I forgot to mention, Pistola is hot box. One more reason to hate her.
Darlinda Just Darlinda did the act I like to call “Goody Proctor Gets Possessed,” where a severe black habit with cross and bible gives way to the most satisfying hair let down this side of Tiffany Carter. And dig that demonic facial expression. Darlinda could make a compelling act with nothing but a… I mean, with nothing. Plus, headbanging to Dio’s “Rainbow in the Dark”—burlesquers, try to remember that the music will be heard on a big, loud sound system, and big, loud music works. I still don’t hear enough heavy metal or hip hop in burlesque, and think the musical range is still far too narrow. Has anyone set an act on Control Machete’s “No La Recuerdo”? Or Missy Elliot’s “Pussycat?” Or Anything by Le Tigre? Because if they have, I’d like to know about it.
Closing the show was Perle Noire. I never have any decent notes from Perle’s performances because I’m always caught spellbound just watching. Last night’s demonstration in transcendence came wrapped in an ink negligee, to “The Man with the Golden Arm,” and a seemingly endless dreamlike parade as she swished from one end of heaven to the next. Sheer magnificence, strutting, arms up, the negligee over her head like a veil, holding her bra out to the side, taking a lap. Word from the front row was that she even smelled amazing. Watch and learn, kids.
Tonight at Brooklyn Bowl, the Festival continues, with the Schlep Sisters, Evelyn Vinyl, Rosie 151, and the inimitable Nasty Canasta, with Dangrrr Doll in the Perle Position.
See you at the bar—
P.S.: Happy birthday to the King! Reigning King of Burlesque Mr. Gorgeous submitted to the hottest spanking train ever assembled.
Check out all our New York Burlesque Festival coverage.