#NYBF Night One
Thursday, September 24th, 2015
The Bell House, Brooklyn
Holy Unlucky Numbers, Batman—Can you believe bona fide badasses Jen Gapay and Angie Pontani have been producing the New York Burlesque Festival for THIRTEEN Thirsty triskaidekaphobic years? This makes the festival old enough to be the next Justin Bieber. And big ups to Frances Rodriguez, who’s helping out this year since Angie has her hands (and boobies) full. Yes, Angie Pontani is now officially a MILF, a proud new mommy with baby-daddy (and legal husband, if you believe everything you read in the Daily News) Brian Newman.
Evelyn Vinyl opened the 2015 New York Burlesque Festival—a tough job, and somebody’s gotta do it—with a sturdy grease-monkey act. Best of all, she began in mechanic’s coveralls, hiding her body and making the crowd look at her face—OMG how cute is her face? Because every MC (and probably me) has gone on and on about her body until she’s probably as tired of hearing about it as Lady Gaga is of hearing “meat dress.” The act, set to a version of John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom,” was everything a burlesque act should be—tight, well-choreographed, with a cohesive theme (TNT plunger) and a hot reveal—a ripped-off wife beater and “Boom Boom” pasties.
As burlesque has become more widespread, has it gotten better? Are there more “hobbyists?” Do seasoned pros, watching their pay decline, sometimes phone it in? There are so many New Yorkers in this year’s festival—did fewer outsiders apply? With burlesque festivals popping up like mushrooms, are performers, like, “Why bother with New York when Iowa is so much closer?” If there were more people writing about what happened at a burlesque show instead of re-writing press releases to promote shows, would the audience become more discerning?
Anyway, these are some of the things I was thinking about during the largely disappointing first half of last night’s teaser party. The audience seemed to respond to the show and to hostess Shelly Watson, but too many acts failed to hit the standard we’ve come to expect from a major festival, or didn’t come close. Gigi Bonbon is an incomparable dancer, but I was glad there were no servicemen in the house—an infantry helmet with a flight suit? The can-can to John Philip Sousa? Seems sloppy. And Delilah’s White Stripes/Eurythmics mashup had a stunning early reveal—entering as Jack White then turning sidewise to reveal the Annie Lennox half of her split costume—but then wasted its potential as she faced up or downstage the rest of the act. And the giant-winged costume made by Dangrrr Doll is fucking beautiful, but it can’t carry the act on its own. (Full disclosure: Dangrrr writes for this publication, so I’ll be hearing about it.)
While I may be cynical, I do love burlesque, which is why I want it to be good—but even mediocre burlesque is like pizza or sex, in that you’ve still got something hot and wet all over you.
On the upside, Boo Boo Darlin’s simple classic burlesque was tight, succinct, and wonderfully enjoyable, with her expressive face and quirky personality shining through, as was Chicago’s Eva La Feva, who portrayed a dashboard hula girl forced to obey the cues of whatever tune the car stereo dial is tuned to, with a bashful personality and beguiling facial reactions. A supercute act from a stunning girl, we’re looking forward to seeing more from her. And Jonny Porkpie’s latest “Stupidlesque” act proves that he also does bang-up badass animation. He commented to me afterwards that people say to him, “If you’d only focus on one thing you’d be really good at it.” Meditate on that for a moment, I’ll be right back.
We all got drinks and a gogo set, spun by DJ Fresh Prince of Darkness—which means it was a skilled, danceable set, and the Bell House—now packed with latecomers—started to feel like a party. Thank goddess for the second half, delightfully hosted by Bastard Keith, who pumped the crowd with his rendition of “Footloose”—dig them fresh white Izod sneaks—and kept the energy in the room high for the rest of the night. We got three stunners right off the bat: Madame Rosebud returned to form (read: weird, dark form), with a tribute to her (hot) mom’s favorite David Bowie song, “Wild is the Wind.” In a long blonde wig and a tux, with wild black-red-white tuxedo-style patent pumps, she stalked the stage and stripped off her driving gloves, all sinewy and serpentine, smoking—and really smoking—a cigarette, playing with the smoke and finally smashing the lit cig out on her tongue, stripping with a distorted grind and an anguished face.
Then Melody Jane came out in a fucking Morph suit with big pink lips, nips, and clit painted on, and ripped the mask off with obvious relief to “Under Pressure,” her hair whipping around and framing her striking face. The big tits were balloons, popped full of confetti, and when she stripped down to a silver slingshot bikini with a giant stuffed codpiece the crowd went APESHIT. And Corvette Le Face—I mean, wow. This was a burlesque of John Turturro’s Jesus from The Big Lebowski, which in many ways was a burlesque of a Latino stereotype already. And she fucking nailed it—mouthed the dialogue, had the look down pat, polished the bowling ball, did the Jesus dance moves, and just broke the fucking place apart.Sizzle Dizzle achieved her goal of getting me to stop taking notes—her chemotherapy act KILLED at the Burlesque Hall of Fame, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when she pushed away her IV bag and pulled off her wig to reveal her bald head—and the response was similar last night despite the drunker crowd.
The night was rounded out by Jenny C’est Quoi’s visually arresting sinking ship act; a crazy, zany romp from The Incredible, Edible Akynos in a giant afro wig literally sitting on top of and grinding Kita St. Cyr; a new act from Gin Minsky based on waiting for a train—suitcase as tap platform, natch—and of course, Russell Bruner, doing that thing that Russell Bruner does—with tremendous skill—that you’ve probably seen by now and heard enough about.
Do bigger stars phone it in? Because if you’re that really, really good at one thing, doesn’t it get kind of boring? And wouldn’t it be interesting if you took those skills and tried to do something new? Eh, what do I know.
See you at the afterparty Sunday—
This is just a tease. Stay tuned for the full photo gallery of the Thursday night Teaser Party and the rest of our New York Burlesque Festival coverage.
All photos used here with express permission 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.