Saturday, September 26, 2015
B.B. King Blues Club, Manhattan
I admit, it’s taken me a bit longer this time around to get everything together from the Saturday night show of the New York Burlesque Festival, but when you’re working on photos from over 20 acts that just blew your mind, trying to cull them down to a reasonable number and realizing you just can’t…it can get a bit daunting. You’re like—“But I need to show everything! It was just so damn awesome!”
So let’s get you what you really want—pictures, pictures, pictures. Less with the talking and more with the burlesque shots. After all, a picture says a thousand words, right? Let me just give you the rundown on some of my favourite acts of the evening, which ran smoothly and effortlessly due to the spot-on hosting by World Famous *Bob*.
One of the things that makes this evening so special, aside from it being held at B.B. King’s which is such a glam venue, is the chance to mellow out to the smooth jazz stylings of the Brian Newman Quartet before the burlesque begins. The quartet is super tight, and Brian is an amazing trumpeter and crooner that I could spend hours listening to. And this is coming from one who doesn’t generally listen to jazz.
We got a fabulous performance by Maine Attraction who channeled her inner Josephine Baker, putting her own personal touch on a classic act. She traded in the traditional bananas for big purple balloons popping down to a grape skirt. Midnite Martini wowed us again with those amazing finger fans she we saw during her Reigning Queen step-down number at Burlesque Hall of Fame this year. Not one to sit on her laurels, the act is always evolving, improving, and the finger fans have gone from a unique prop to become a smooth and natural extension of her body’s movement.
Ginger Valentine and Missy Lisa pulled double duty with both a duet and solo acts. Ginger’s classic strip was all purples and pinks and bling. A gorgeous feathered duster provided some beautiful motion before showing off one of the most stunning gemmed out corset/thong/glove combos I’ve ever seen. So much brilliant shine! She just oozed sensuality and we all soaked it in. Missy’s top-n-tails “New York, New York” chorus line act included a great line of high kicking backup gals. A broadway burlesque act with legs for miles… Their duelling Betties duet piece is always a hoot to watch. Who doesn’t want to see two gorgeous gals spanking each other and taking each other’s clothes off? Amiright?
What makes a flawless routine? Everyone has their own ideas about that I think, but to me there are several criteria: a) a compelling story that draws the audience in, b) charismatic characters that engage the audience and give you the feels, c) music that is perfectly suited to the routine, d) personality, and e) (this is so damn important) timing. To me, Kitten ‘N Lou, both as a duet and solo performers, have all of these in abundance. When they perform together, as they did with their kitschy 90s throwback clown routine, they were in perfect unison, so attuned to each other’s moves they moved as one. No one else out there does it so well. It was non-stop dance movement, from their polka-dotted hoop skirt kissing clowns entree, to their black censor bar clad barrel dance, to the fashionable tassel and assel twirl combo climax.
Kitten LaRue brought the room to its knees with her big pouty-lipped glammed up party diva performance. Cocooned within the second biggest boa I’ve ever seen (Waxie Moon still has the record), she emerged in the ultimate 80s bumblebee bullet bra dress. With my absolute favorite Tones on Tail song (Go!) as accompaniment, this living Patrick Nagel art piece posed in all her bitchy glory and stripped down to smaller and smaller and smaller bra sets. This was her, the popular trend-making heart-squashing “it” girl at the club that everyone either wanted to be with or wanted to be (or both). And here we were, reliving those days again. Now that’s an amazing act.
What’s a burlesque festival without a legend? Exactly my thoughts too. Festivals should not only be about tomorrow’s rising stars and today’s great performers, they should also celebrate those who worked hard to get the craft to where it is. Burlesque legend Judith Stein—Momma Beaver—is always a huge pleasure to watch on stage. She’s a vibrant, kick-ass, take-no-prisoners character who just looks like she’s having a ball up there. Plus, I just love that big red dress she wears in her showgirl act, so many sparkly beads!
Dirty Martini was one of the first performers I ever saw at my first-ever burlesque show oh so many years ago and I completely fell in love with her right from the start when she performed a balloon pop number and a gangster piece. My admiration has only grown over the years and I was over the moon to see that she would be performing at B.B. King’s. And what a great piece, and simple too. Just her and her (dirty, dirty) swan. It was a huge prop, with her arm as the swan neck and head and large feathery wings on either side. Such an elegant swan… until it started ripping off her clothing. Dirty bird! Dirty wasn’t the only one with arm props—Jo “Boobs” Weldon had an act with a lothario on her arm who was only too happy to seduce with a rose in exchange for getting to second base.
The Peekaboo Revue showed us what stamina really looks like with a fabulous Tina Turner Salute piece. I’ve seen a doc on Tina and Ike that included a famous performance of Proud Mary and just how much work went into the energetic and tight choreography for that piece and The Peekaboo Revue did a fabulous job of it. Another fabulous act with a lot of energy was from Lux LaCroix, someone new to me, and I’m now huge fan. Some great non-stop sweat-inducing dance, dance, dance.
Although we didn’t get a Helen and Angie Pontani duet, Helen Pontani performed a great solo act with a real Art Deco meets futurist flair—all decked out in silver, with a poofed out skirt and matching gloves and headpiece, she was a vision in the purple-tinged lights. I seriously have a big case of coulrophobia—it’s the face paint, I can’t tell what they’re really feeling. Luckily Tigger!’s sad, scared clown act was so sad that I was too busy empathizing to be freaked out. No one should cry while they’re stripping. It’s just not right. Even his elephant underoos with the big loooooon tusk that doubled as tissue paper just couldn’t cheer me up.
The highlight of the evening for me was a complete wtf performance by the always creative Julie Atlas Muz. Where most only fantasize “I wonder what it would be like to…,” Julie turns these thoughts into burlesque acts. As porn actress Juicy Hardcore from an eastern European country next to Jenniferanniston (is that near Romania?) she told us in her (OMG so great) Slavic accent the sad tale about the death of her co-star dog. Announcing she’d be doing an interpretive dance, dressed in clothing the 80s don’t want back, she spazzed out on the stage and had me laughing so hard I was crying, coughing, and barely able to shoot. The climax of her act had her spreading peanut butter on white bread placed on her honey pot, then closing her split legs to make sandwiches which were thrown into the audience. Because sharing.
A huge shoutout to Jen Gapay for the amazingness that is this year’s New York Burlesque Festival, and to Angie Pontani with little mini-Pontani (congratulations!). To all the stage managers, kittens, volunteers, and staff—fabulous job. As always, I wish I had enough room to gush about all the performers from the evening, but I’d like to give huge kudos to Kitty Bang Bang and Phil Ingud for their drunken stripping duet, Miss Orchid Mei for her beautiful classic striptease, Donna Denise for the best resting bitch face ever, Gal Friday for her dark and moody performance, Jenny Rocha and her Painted Ladies for giving me a chance to guffaw out loud again at their boob job act, and 2 To Fly for their acrobatic butler routine.