Burlesque Hall of Fame 2015 Hangover Highlights:
25th Annual Miss Exotic World Tournament of Tease
Your Hair of the Dog for Sunday morning
[Full show coverage and photos by Photolena to come. Complete list of winners at the bottom of this piece—Ed.]
Saturday, June 7, 2015
Orleans Showroom, Las Vegas
[Discussing what it means to be Miss Exotic World] “I know what it means—you don’t get to perform on Saturday night anymore!” —Dirty Martini
This one is for all the marbles. And no matter how it turns out, it’s going to be bittersweet. We want more than one person to win—and more than one person can’t win. Calling it a competition adds a lot of fun to the festivities, but it also leaves some people feeling dashed, wrung out. Artists are sensitive types—even as audience members, we can be easily rattled. Add to that the emotional intensity of the entire weekend, the sheer length and breadth of the show… come Sunday, everybody’s gonna need some Netflix, a couch, and a favorite delivery menu. Our heart’s go out to everyone who gave it their all.
Hosted by Seattle’s Armitage Shanks—his first-ever attendance of the Burlesque Hall of Fame—we knew, as always, that we were in for a long haul. It truly is like the Oscars—you can’t wait, you want ALL of it, but you still wish it could be a tad shorter. Was the first intermission too long? The (OMG thank you) seventh-inning stretch too short? Should someone pass out snacks? Spray bottles for face misting? B12 shots? Will the Orleans ever give us more than two bartenders? Will Rachel and Ross get back together? Oops—but y’know, some questions just make the answer disappointing.
Opening the evening—always a tough spot—was Pastel Supernova from Toronto, a skilled dancer who made a nice entrance in a red dress and began with shoulder moves and castanet hands. In a wardrobe malfunction, she ditched a shoe and ably executed the last section of her act in one heel, taking the energy level up a notch.
We got nice moments from the New York freshmen, as Poison Ivory, moving upstage, took a high leap to land quickly feet to knees—in heels, natch, and the cherubic Bunny Buxom executed a letter perfect glove peel with one hand behind her head, elbow up, sliding the other hand into her neckline and stretching her dress tight over her hand to pull it free, sans glove.
Vancouver’s August Wild presented in a diaphanous white gown, a sensual, slow emo piece to the moody “Bloodstream” by Stateless. In a clever reveal, she spun her thin body like a carousel pole, sending the fabric billowing out around her and up to reveal the long fringe draped over her body, also spinning.
In the most distant debut from classic, Calgary’s Raven Virginia appeared in harlequin garb and clown face, doing slight-of-hand to toss a couple of clown noses to punters. Her wide skirt was revealed to hide a hoop apparatus, like three continuous hoops folded over each other, which she spun, threading her body through it and spinning like a gyroscope.
Tova de Luna from Los Angeles was gorgeous on pointe in a sky blue peacock bustle, with teeny bikini and a ’50s ‘do. To the dreamy sounds of The Flamingos’ “I Only Have Eyes for You,” she took to the air on a small ring, slowly spinning, struck extended poses on the ring; then stepped back to the ground—a nice break—before setting the ring swinging and striking further poses, moving above the ring upside down and wrapping herself in the web for a slow fall, to end still swinging, steady as a pendulum.
The big crowd pleaser of the evening was Dallas Texas’ Renee Holiday’s “uptight soprano,” in which she sang opera in a fully formal brocade gown, and began to titillate herself with her feathers. The first clue was a quick deepthroat, but the climax—double entendre intended—was her sitting with a leg up and ticking her coochie as her vocals chimed “Aaaahs,” and then open-legged stroking it as she trilled to orgasm—and then copped the big one to scissor kicks, bringing down the house.
In a dramatic downlight revealing barely a silhouette, it was already obvious that we were in for a Josephine Baker tribute—feather headdress, banana belt. The leggy and thin young lady with the devilishly cute face and Baker-like short hair launched straight into a fast Charleston, executed a crazy backbend, and then the up-down bootie move exemplified in Triplets of Belleville. Extremely well received, and the winner of this year’s Best Debut: Zelia Rose.
We went into small group expecting it to be a knock-down dragout, and it did run the gamut across the spectrum of burlesque possibilities. We got a classic ‘20s dueling duet from the fabulous pair Gin Minsky and Perle Noire—both of whom were also competing for queen—with fun bits like Gin’s look down at her own tits after Perle took hers out, with an emoticon-frowny-face look. We got fun, circus-styled ridiculousness from Japan’s Circus de Moccos in an ode to cartoons, which started wonderfully silly and turned left at Albuquerque, with Undaroos, flying cartoon heroes, and comic-strip “Oh” and “Wow” g-strings. We got Kitten N’ Lou’s cowboy fantasia kitsch to Doris Day’s “There Was a Man,” complete with standing cactus and old-timey money bags. And we got a redux of Chicago’s “I Can’t Do It Alone” by the Original Twins as a crowd-riling pas de deux. The Originals won the category, and a screaming standing ovation, despite the fact that when Catherine Zeta-Jones said, “This we did in perfect unison,” on that move, one of the twins was almost a half a beat behind.
In the Large Group category, the Sizzling Sirens Burlesque Experience from Sacramento offered up a fun version of the board game Operation, with a ball-gagged brunette strapped to the game board, wrench, pail, et al stuck to her body in strategic spots. As each a new dancer—in hospital scrubs—took the stage, forming an ever-enlarging ensemble, she got a turn at the game, revealing more of the patient or getting buzzed, as the docs danced it up to “Can’t Touch This”—and yes, they nailed the Hammer pants sideways walk on the “break it down.” The patient’s head-nodding throughout was a nice touch.
Jenny Rocha and Her Painted Ladies, who may be new to many folks here, have been tearing it up for years in New York primarily as a dance troupe, and were regulars at the formerly Brooklyn Galapagos, steadily moving deeper into burlesque territory. This act—which the group had performed many times, no matter what Shanks said—also opened with surgeons working on a patient—and giving her breast implants. The surgeons ditched their gowns, the patient reappeared in hot shorts, and the troupe busted into killer hip hop choreo to Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock’s classic “It Takes Two,” the crowd howling at the knee walk. The patient revealed her new boobies—and they fell. Balls on nylons, true knee-shooters—and the nurses revealed identical droopy falsies, doing a tit-spinning routine to Missy Elliott’s “Get Ur Freak On,” the crowd howling. Surreal, hilarious, and winking at political without bogging anything down, the act killed.
Right after the show I asked Rocha if she was surprised to win, and she said, “Yeah, I am. I had no idea what to expect, it’s my first time being here for BHOF. I just wanted to have fun.” She added, “We gave titties, and we got titties.”
Tigger introduced the boylesque, and the “artificial, irrelevant distinction based on the myth of a gender binary.” Lou Henry Hoover’s romantic sailor furlough to “Time After Time” is nothing if not a romantic ode, a heartwarming interpretive dance with a splash of silly—stunning with a spin aaaaaalll the way across the stage. Perth’s Charlie D. Barkle’s Jekyl and Hyde act showed a completely different set of chops, and Waxie Moon brought the house down with a celebratory act set entirely to a medley of musical intros, including Beethoven’s fifth, “Back in Black,” “Carmen,” Edvard Grieg, “Satisfaction,” and finally the outro to “Let it Be.” The winner and our new King was dancer Matt Finish and his West Side Story, bringing wild applause from his meticulous spins, with a nice moment when he stopped onstage after a split to check his nails.
For Miss Exotic World, Texas showed extremely well, with both Coco Lectric and Ginger Valentine turning in strong turns. Ginger again turned in a classic routine with a late-hitting sudden burst of floorwork. Coco truly swung it to Tito Puente’s “Ran Can Can,” in a stunning boa, weaving it around her body. A lovely Latin act with a nice slow section, the final fast-paced tassel twirl ending seemed rushed—was this a longer act cut down for BHOF?
RedBone gave us a strong opening that didn’t quite develop, and Sina King’s act didn’t seem to work as well on the larger Orleans stage as it did when I saw it at the New York Festival.
Gin Minsky’s act also seemed to lack an abandon it had at the NYBF, and may have had something to do with the sound—in New York, her taps were an accompaniment to the music, and last night the two cadences seemed separate, which may have distanced the audience.
New Yorkers Peekaboo Pointe and Perle Noire both turned in devastating performances, and part of the bias of being more familiar with certain performers is knowing what they’re capable of—and both of them represented themselves to the hilt. Peekaboo was stunning in a red dress to “St. James Infirmary,” and got the crowd agitated with her hip wiggle, her (patent pending) one-cheek ass-bounce, and of course, her strong fuck-you walk downstage, tassels twirling like sawblades. Perle took the stage in silence before launching Billy May’s “The Man with the Golden Arm,” a giant pink robe shed for a transparent negligee, both doubling later as props. Her act practically revolved around attitude, and made magnetic use of the pause, holding the audience’s attention.
Trixie Little’s yellow dress is yellow-yellow, primary yellow, 1969 Camaro yellow. She licks, deepthroats, and eats a banana, but this is just the setup for the gag, as the dress itself peels like a banana, opening on all sides, framing her face and making her the fruit—a potassium-rich, bite-sized snack. This dress harkens back to Trixie’s run with Monkey at the Velvet Banana Cabaret.
In the second beat—after the music shifts to Andre Williams’ “Let Me Put It In,”—she peels a glove—idiom intended, I’m sure—and her second glove literally peels, just one finger. Her hair down, savage in a corset, everything peels in pieces—her panties, which fall as she headsstands—and her energy grows as she works the floor, seeming to grow in stature as she becomes more savage, pushes her shoulders back, grinds, peels her bra in pieces, licks her fingers, quickly twirls tassels, and she rubs that banana peel on her apricot before tossing it to the floor.
And yes, Trixie Little is the new Miss Exotic World 2015, and yes, it was her fifth time competing for Queen. I was reminded of the title-holder’s panel where Indigo Blue said she had more experience competing and not winning than competing and winning—and Dirty’s quote (above): yup, Trixie won’t be performing on Saturday night anymore. I asked Trixie how she felt mere minutes after she took the crown, and she said, “I feel fucking great. It’s amazing, fifth time’s the charm. Once I found out that Diana Nyad on her fifth attempt swam from Cuba to Key West, I figured, I can fucking do this.” Is there anything else that she’d like to try five times? “Right now I’d like to try five shots of tequila.”
This is gonna be my kind of monarchy.
Burlesque Hall of Fame 2015 Court
Most Dazzling—Raven Virginia (Calgary)
Most Classic—Ruby Joule (Austin)
Most Comedic—The Original Twins
Most Innovative—Jenny Rocha and Her Painted Ladies
Best Debut—Zelia Rose (Melbourne)
Best Small Group—The Original Twins
Best Large Group—Jenny Rocha and Her Painted Ladies
Best Boylesque—Matt Finish
Miss Exotic World Second Runner-up—Ginger Valentine
Miss Exotic World First Runner-up—Perle Noire
Miss Exotic World 2015: Trixie Little
Read all our BHOF coverage to date. Also, we love opinions. What did you think of the 25th annual Tournament of Tease?
Photos used with express permission for Burlesque Beat. In general, performers may use shots for promotional purposes, but please credit properly with photographer’s name and a link to this piece. All other requests please contact us to acquire permission.