Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend 2016: Titans of Tease Reunion Showcase
Friday, June 3, 2016
The Orleans Showroom, Las Vegas, NV
The Orleans showroom was packed to the gills on Friday for the 59th Annual Titans of Tease Showcase. A welcome sight since, in years past, attendance has been light. Given the large amount of newcomers, it was apparent the newbies were feeling all the feels watching women in their twilight years reaffirming their sexuality in front of an audience. As host World Famous *Bob* put it, these women moved boulders to be who they are and redefine what it means to age in our society.
Julie Mist kicked things off with a characteristically elegant act. Arriving on stage like Cleopatra, carried on a palanquin by a cadre of scantily clad hunks, she stalked the stage, wrapping herself around whatever stud was closest, even groping one’s package. From a sultry exotica soundtrack to an upbeat mambo, her act began with sensual striptease and ended in upbeat Latin swing. The finale found her in an elaborate yellow-feather adorned head dress, one of Grant Philipo’s designs. Stunning.
Gypsy Louise followed in a beautiful golden rhinestone dress, performing a striptease to “Black Velvet” that concluded with her in a gorgeous corset. She asked *Bob* to mention that she is the great-grandmother of four! Stunning, given her youthful energy and fit physique.
Tess Larue made her Burlesque Hall of Fame debut this year, having not graced a stage since 1978. This was surprising given her confident movements and stage presence. She began the act in a sequined gown, adorned with a red feather boa and finished in a sheer black robe. World Famous *Bob* shared her favorite quote from Miss Larue: “I never had children. I just did it for fun.” Judging by her coquettish demeanor, she still loves being naughty.
Another newbie to the BHOF stage, Suzette Fontaine was a Latin revue dancer in the late 60s and early 70s. Her act kicked off with a jazzy version of “Harlem Nocturne,” with her making good use of her hot pink boa. Halfway through the act, the music switched to Love Unlimited Orchestra’s “Love Theme,” transforming Suzette from classic burlesque peeler into disco queen. It was easy to imagine her shaking her thing in the disco era and she effectively transported the audience back in time. She showcased how, despite not performing in decades, Legends never lose their skills.
Val Valentine, the Queen of Hearts, shimmied all over the giant BHOF stage in her white boa and gold sequined bra, slapping her ass and working the audience into a frenzy. This is how they did it in her day and Val, like Suzette, performed as if she’d never retired.
I was enraptured by Lovey Goldmine the minute she hit the stage in a tight black dress and white gloves, adhering to the color theme of the night. Joined by Lily Starr and Missy Miss, she danced and sang a jazzy version of “All About That Bass.” What made it special was each performer actually recorded their own vocals over the backing track. Tonight they were lip syncing because, as World Famous *Bob* said, “It’s fucking hard to strip and sing.” Lovey’s playful personality made age irrelevant. She was a commanding presence alongside the other, much younger, performers.
Crowd favorite Marinka is one tall drink of water and she uses her statuesque frame so well. This year’s act had a jungle/exotica vibe and Marinka captivated in a gold-sequined, tiger-striped dress and feather fan. She was confidence personified. Not surprising given her very impressive resume, including Ann Corio’s This Was Burlesque. She stripped down to a red dressing gown and black pasties, driving the crowd crazy.
Dusty Summers was next with her signature “stripper magician” routine, this year with a cowboy theme. She began in a sparkly cowboy get-up, dancing to K.T. Oslin’s “Do Ya.” Once the music changed to Ferlin Husky’s “The Wings of a Snow White Dove” I knew we were in for some magic. Sure enough, Dusty’s disappearing doves made an appearance (with one taking a shit on the Orleans stage). Dusty always delivers and she dedicated the act to her ninth and current husband of 27 years, Texas Ken.
Kim Gaye was another first timer to the BHOF stage. In fact, she hadn’t performed in 57 years. Her show business resume is long and impressive. Back in the day she performed with the likes of Little Richard (much to World Famous *Bob*’s excitement) and Chubby Checker. She is also related to 80’s R&B act El DeBarge. She wore a gorgeous red and white boa, white gown and flowery head piece, performing to a sultry R&B number.
New York’s Darlinda Just Darlinda did a tribute to Rose La Rose, known for challenging the obscenity laws of her day, often ending up behind bars. Darlinda sang/spoke a number about her “Oohh La La,” inquiring as to whether the audience wanted to see it. Damn right we did! Luckily, she had no problem showing it off. That is until two policemen ran down the aisle, demanding she put on a g-string. She pulls one out of her “lady purse” only to be hauled away by the unamused law enforcement. Burlesque historians, is this something that happened or just a dramatic interpretation? Feel free to comment as I’d love to know more about Miss Rose La Rose. Sounds like my kind of gal.
Before intermission, Titans of Tease producer Sweetpea came out and presented the 2016 Legend of the Year award to Dee Milo. We were treated to a brief synopsis of her incredible career and some stunning shots of a younger Dee.
The Walk of Fame kicked off the second half with each MC chosen to represent their given era: Bic Carrol represented the 50s, Toni Elling the 60s and, my new hero, Camille 2000, the 70s. I could write a whole piece on how bad-ass Camille was but I’ll save that for another time. Australia’s Imogen Kelly then highlighted the winners of this year’s Legends Challenge winners. Massive props to Seattle’s Miss Kitty Baby for taking the number one spot by raising over $7,000.
Dirty Martini followed with a tribute to Something Weird Video. Specializing in sexploitation films from the 30s up to the 70s, those videos were, to my generation, our first exposure to the work of the Legends. Dirty put together a compilation of Something Weird snippets, performing a great traditional routine in homage to those seminal VHS tapes.
Tiffany Carter followed Dirty with a multi-generational group strip to The Supreme’s “Baby Love.” The costumery was gorgeous with a purple, black and blue color scheme. Tiffany, the centerpiece, was stripped throughout the act by her partners, at first revealing lovely rhinestoned gowns, then gorgeous beaded & fringed boustiers. Tiffany’s energy is contagious and she exuded a playful confidence throughout.
Gayle Wins sang a number with Vegas piano-man Joe Daro, harkening back to the good ‘ol days of Vegas cabaret. She sounded great and brought the crowd to their feet. I did feel a lump in my throat when she parted, saying “God willing, I’ll see you next year,” driving home why it’s important to celebrate and learn from the Legends while they’re still with us.
2016 Legend of the Year Dee Milo performed next following the heartbreaking story of how her religious mother made her burn all her burlesque memorabilia in order to repent for her sinful past, only to have her daughter find one last dress that was forgotten years later in the attic. She performed in that same, now infamous red dress, to a New Orleans-influenced soundtrack. I doubt there was a dry eye in the house and she demonstrated why she’s so deserving of such a prestigious title.
Shannon Doa wore a gorgeous blue sequin dress with a blue veil, delivering a solid traditional act. She used the sheer cape beautifully, windmilling them at one point, simulating wings at another. Shannon worked every inch of the huge BHOF stage and stripped from a blue rhinestoned bra into a silver sequined bra. She set her act to The Smithereens “Blood and Roses” and ended by spitting rose petals at the audience. Nice touch.
Grant Avenue Follies were the final act of the night. Their routine opened with two dancers in traditional Chinese costumery introducing a five-person tap-inspired dance to “All That Jazz.” Their costumes were stunning with a heavy gold and black theme and they were well-synced. I loved their routine last year and this year was no different.
Then, just like that, it was over. The Legends gathered on stage while the audience snapped pictures on cell phones. There was no shortage of talent on that stage and the older generation still have much to teach the younger. I walked into the smokey casino feeling inspired and energized, reminding me why this is my favorite night of the weekend. Long live the Legends!