After months of hard work and preparation, (not to mention nearly five hundred votes from friends and fans around the world!), I arrived in Las Vegas ready to model in and direct What Katie Did’s debut US fashion show, and to perform in the 14th annual Viva Las Vegas Burlesque Contest. On Thursday morning I met What Katie Did founders, Katie and Richard, at our hotel for the short drive over to The Orleans Hotel and Casino. It was the day of fashion show and burlesque rehearsals, and I was as anxious as I was excited!
We met the fashion show organiser, Rockin’ Kitty and her team in the 700-seat Orleans Showroom and were introduced to our specially selected What Katie Did models: pin-up icon Sabina Kelly, Viva Las Vegas favourite Johnnie Mae, the sultry Frenchy La Femme, raven-haired Vivi Louise, coquette cutie Smexcksy Ziza and Swedish sweetheart Tifa DeLeone. It was certainly nerve-wrecking to be in charge of directing the creme de la crème of pin-up! With so many companies waiting to run through their choreography it was a rush to practice all of the sections, but the girls handled it like absolute professionals and I was glad that they picked up the choreography I had prepared!
As the fashion show rehearsals came to an end, a plethora of elaborate burlesque props, including a giant tiki head, exploding volcano and life size polar bear rug, were wheeled out from the wings. Victoria Vengeance, the burlesque show producer, arrived to set up for rehearsals, giving the burly competitors a chance to meet and chat about the show. Charlotte Treuse, Scarlett DeVille, Catherine D’Lish and I were in agreement that it was looking more like a grand showcase than a competition!
Several of the girls had performed on The Orleans stage before, but the rest of us were glad to have time to practise on the enormous stage. With eleven acts on the burlesque bill, including special performances from MGM Grand’s Crazy Horse Paris and Miss VLV13, Ruby Champagne, it was important to get the lighting and stage set up just right for our respective costumes props and performance styles.
After eight hours in The Showroom, I was more than ready to stretch my legs and explore the vending rooms. Art and automotive paraphernalia, vintage clothing, record stalls and favourite retro brands like Stop Staring, My Baby Jo and Bettie Page clothing filled the upstairs rooms of the casino. It was every pin up girl’s treasure trove! I was delighted to pick up a teal fifties sheath dress in pristine condition for $30! Eventually, jet-lag set in and I managed to prise myself away from pretty dresses and rockabilly bands for an early night before the fashion show!
The next morning, all of the models and designers were gathered in The Showroom at the rather un-glamorous hour of 9am. All of us in roller-sets, coffee in hand and a few wearing sunglasses to hide the previous night’s Vegas excess! I overheard more than a few regretful whispers of, ‘two hours sleep’ and, ‘never again!’ Thankfully we had the adorable Diamond Bettys on stage to entertain us with an energetic rehearsal of their routine for the fashion show.
Designers and models were ushered into the green room and greeted by a team of specialist retro hair and makeup artists. The makeup brief for What Katie Did was, of course, a classic fifties face using Besame products. The makeup team all did a fantastic job, despite having just forty minutes to transform nearly sixty fresh faced models into pin-up beauties. Besame Red Hot Red was certainly the lip colour du jour and their full coverage foundations and blendable eye shadows gained the seal of approval from all of the models backstage.
Once all of the models were dressed and lined up for a few quick snaps against the VLV media wall, it was show time. Katie was in position by the catwalk entrance to perform final checks and make sure models were on stage at the right time. The show opened to an excited audience and, with parasol in hand, I strutted out to Rum and Coca Cola. Smexcksy walked the runway in the SS11 black tie bikini and Vivi Louise in the black tie bathing suit. I found it a little strange to see myself on enormous screens as I walking and posing in front of seven hundred people! Thankfully no one was distracted enough to fall down the hole in the centre of the U shaped run way but it did cross my mind!
Fifties lingerie followed the swimwear with Johnnie Mae and Tifa showing off their curves in peach shapewear. Sabina emerged to Wynonie Harris’ Lovin’ Machine in a black satin robe before teasing the audience and pealing it off to reveal a bombshell figure in the red and black lace Lulu set. Smexcksy and Vivi Louise oozed pin up glamour in sheer lace corsets, before all of the models and designer, Katie joined us on stage for a finale catwalk. The quick change from swimwear to corsetry meant that I could only catch a glimpse of what was happening on stage, but luckily Tony Nylons had a front row seat and an ever-ready camera to capture the show!
After the fashion show, to my surprise, I bumped into burlesque legend, Tempest Storm standing outside The Showroom. She was very sweet and kindly posed for a picture with me, which drew a fair amount of attention from the audience leaving the fashion show! I was a little dazed and very star-struck as I left the casino for a wild night of last minute costume adjustment and crystalling in my hotel room!
The next evening, I took the shuttle bus to The Orleans for the contest. I was shown to the dressing room I was sharing with Charlotte Treuse and Bettina May. I was so excited to meet Bettina, having admired her pin up pictures for years! Charlotte was the owner of the enormous polar bear rug I’d seen at rehearsals and he was neatly folded and stored in the corner. Quite surreal! I was amazed by how calm everyone was backstage – there was no atmosphere of competition at all. I think we were all just eager to get ready in time to watch the other acts!
The curtains opened on the Viva Las Vegas burlesque competition with a special performance by MGM Grand’s Crazy Horse Paris. Backstage we were all copying their ‘crazy hand’ motion and wondering whether they ever toppled off their chairs during the routine. Host, Scot Nery introduced the winner of last years contest, Miss Viva Las Vegas 13, Ruby Champagne,who turned up the heat with her sizzling sombero act before the first performer of the competition.
Inga Ingenue glided across the stage in a dramatic tribute to Mae West. She drew rapturous applause from the audience as she simulated autoerotic asphyxiation with a stocking at the climax of her act! Next up was a feline Scarlett DeVille in a leopard body suit performing a jungle themed act, followed by Coco Lectric with a skilled and seductive boa tease. Talloolah Love won the audience over with her upbeat, cheesecake housewife turned rockbilly vixen routine, and red hot curves.
Finally it was my turn to take my place behind the curtain. After much deliberation before leaving for Vegas, I had decided to perform my ‘Nearly Nude’ fan dance, reasoning that I couldn’t go to Las Vegas and not wear the sparkliest costume I owned! As Scot introduced me, I was surprised to hear someone in the audience shout, ‘Slinky Sparkles!’ which made me laugh just as the curtains opened! Luckily, I managed to compose myself and was pleased with how the act went. My brand new Frou Frou Feathers fans were the perfect addition to the act, and the extra time I spent crystalling was definitely worth it!
During the break, Miss Redd’s giant glittery train tracks were positioned behind the curtain and she hoisted herself up on to them to play the damsel in distress. After her act, we were all desperate to know how long it took her to master her special boobie jiggling trick! Next up was my dressing room buddy, Bettina May with a playful, showgirl act which left me wanting to ‘touch her tomatoes!’. Donna Touch performed a diamond thief routine with three well placed jewels, and finally the contest closed with Charlotte Treuse and her polar bear. On stage, her fireplace set was completed with moving flames!
All of the acts were then called back onstage for the judging. As each girl stepped forward, the audience cheers were measured. Had I known that this would take as long as it did, I may not have taken my fans on with me! I could barely feel my arms as Coco Lectric was announced as 3rd place winner! Miss Redd and her amazing boobie trick took 2nd place and the winner was Inga Ingenue! As she took her sash and trophy, Minnie The Moocher played for her to pose for photographs. Inga had us all in stitches pulling faces as she celebrated. She was a worthy winner and certainly one of my favourite acts of the contest!
It was so much fun to be part of the Viva Las Vegas Weekend! I’d like to say five hundred thank yous to everyone who voted for me to be part of the burlesque contest; it was an honour to perform alongside such talented and creative acts. The show may be over, but I hope it will be the first of many successful What Katie Did USA ventures!