Burlesque Hall of Fame 2017: Movers Shakers and Innovators Showcase
Thursday, June 1, 2017
Orleans Hotel and Casino Showroom
Thursday’s show at the Burlesque Hall of Fame weekender is kinda my favorite—the anticipation is fresh, the excitement is palpable, and the exhaustion of multiple days of multi-hour shows has yet to set in (ditto the second-hand-smoke lungs, socialization overstimulation, and nudity desensitization).
Nasty Canasta opened the weekend’s festivities with a fun act well-known to New Yorkers, her vintage “Harlem Nocturne” with Groucho Marx nose/glasses—not just on her face, but also as pasties, and, ultimately as *ahem,* with a cigarette between the legs to complete the mask.
Paris Original turned in a deft drag act to the blistering cover of “Oops I Did It Again” by Postmodern Jukebox (dig, Haley Rinehart’s vox are to die for). In a blue ruffled skirt and sapphire heels, it was all dance and all classic—Paris should consider submitting for Queen. Sizzle Dizzle cracked us up with a simple gag: she stopped to take a selfie before starting her act, and that was the hook—a little strip, and stop to take a pic. A true burlesque, she basically made fun of all of us, and the topper was having nowhere to stick her phone but up in her wig.
I particularly enjoyed Toronto’s Genie Emerald’s slow, expressive act in tux, tails, and cane, a classic Victor/Victoria act to Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man,” greatly aided by the fact that the tall Emerald is classically, empirically gorgeous. Not innovative, perhaps, but stylish and well-executed—and I wondered why she wasn’t included in the Debut category on Saturday. Next time, let’s hope.
Rare musical choices were represented by St. Stella’s act to spoken word, and Bella Sin’s act to Chingón, an Austin band steeped in mariachi and ranchera. Perhaps qualifying as an innovative move was Lola Le Soleil’s of Atlanta, in an act about getting stood up: a great stocking roll, where she gave it a firm push and it appeared to roll down on it’s own—a nice trick.
Unquestionably clever, Lola Martinet brought the house down in full-on Pinhead from Hellraiser garb, truly terrifying, and kicking it up a notch with the self-inflating balloon rig she debuted on the BHOF stage in 2014.
Set to pop the balloons with pins from her head, she proved burlesque can be inordinately successful while still being absolutely nobody’s sexual fantasy. (Well, rule 34 says that can’t be true.) Hilarious, and a crowd burner. Lady Satan also impressed with her sparkly Mary Poppins, pulling out a spoonful of sugar and snorting it—and doing a solid lip synch before the needle scratch to “Mary Mary,” by Run DMC.
Hosting duties were shared by Fancy Feast, Jeez Louise, and Sailor St. Claire, posing the possibility that we have moved past the trend of characters (eg, Scotty the Blue Bunny, Miss Astrid) and firmly into the realm of hosts-as-people-who-talk. All handled their lines well, and perhaps Fancy Feast took the cake with witticisms— “None of us get paid enough to let anyone else tell us what to do”— while Jeez Louise introduced the art of the Diss Track into burlesque.
The evening also featured the stepdown from Harden Reddy, Best Boylesque 2016, and Virago Nation, a “collective of aboriginal artists” from Vancouver, in an act that involved throwing off store-bought “Indian” Halloween costumes, and brought about a standing ovation.
I watched the crowd carefully and noticed that it was a little stingy with the standing O’s for non-political acts (there were also quite a few empty seats, TBH), but there were at least a couple of partial ovations. One was for Chicago’s Vertical Sideshow, which includes luminaries such as Ray Gunn, Bazooka Joe, and Midnight Martini, who has recently relocated to Chicago. The curtain teased a group tableaux of sheer decadence, then closed to give us a little at a time: a solo to Carmen, and then another—Ray Gunn in heels— and then two women with fans. Almost a steampunk mish-mash of partial acts strung together, they kept returning to the tableaux, the holding pattern of the slatternly simply lying around. It probably shouldn’t have worked, but it did—quite well—and got people out of their seats.
As did Ickymuffin, the Dallas boylesque who, frankly, should have competed for Best Boylesque with this excellent aerial ring act in a white tail coat. He peeled off this innovative move: spin in the ring, lean back to unbutton the pants, then accelerate the spin to let centrifugal force pull the pants off. He also flipped the ring up against the rope, hanging himself off of it like so much laundry—a fun, fast act by a gorgeous athlete.
Perhaps my favorite act of the night was Lila Luxx, of Brisbane, who brought the kind of neo sh*t that I love and is seldom seen on the BHOF stage. To “Stonefist” by HEALTH, a moody, punked-out industrial track, she performed a moody, punked-out goth act, armed with strobe flashlights that she aimed at herself before standing on a light box to pose—simple, dark, sultry, sexy.
Hot and wonderfully effective.