It’s been almost two months since the world’s biggest burlesque festival draped its glittery terror all over America’s Sin City. The Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend 2012 has come and gone, leaving us with a new monarchy of rhinestoned royalty and another year for title-seeking hopefuls and title-holding heavyweights to refresh, revive and get re-inspired. We’ve all returned to our homes, sobered up (even if only for the briefest of moments), and life goes on as usual. But before our already hazy memories are replaced by fresher, hazier ones, we wanted to take a minute for one last look at the Retrosexual’s Holiday.
Wednesday, May 30th
The Patron Saint of Travel, Christopher, must have been asleep on the job. Airports all over the U.S. were overrun with burlesquers looking for any reason to get frisked by TSA. Electrical storms, highway accidents and forest fires were grounding planes and detouring cars from every direction this year, but apparently NOTHING can stop the spirit of the stripper. Performers were still rolling in at 4am that night, determined not to let a little thing like a tornado keep them from making it to the Mecca of burlesque.
Thursday, May 31st
The first day of the festival brought an unexpected calm to that night’s performers (including our own Bazuka Joe). Those chosen to open the festival in the Movers, Shakers, and Innovators show seemed to feel a collective mixture of ease and excitement. The energy was very different this year and rather than being overwhelmed with nerves, performers were excited to party backstage and just put on a spectacular show. The line-up was solid from start to finish and the acts could not have reached further ends of the spectrum.
During the day, we Johnnies were honoured to spend most of our morning with burlesque legend Gypsy Louise (more on her later). But if you’ve never had a chance at a costume fitting at the home of Grant Philipo, your wildest, gayest, showgirliest dreams have gone unfulfilled. Grant’s house was a virtual palace of Vegas show history. From the chandeliers, to the mirrored walls, to the Athenian statues, his home/workshop was decked out in more crystals than Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. Mannequin installations showed off the most elaborate dresses and headpieces you’ve ever seen. We nearly had to drag Jett Adore out of there kicking and screaming, and we definitely had to check his bag for stolen goods.
Friday, June 1st
Gyspy Louise hadn’t stripped in thirty years. When her second daughter was born, this gorgeous mother of two gave up her life as a Las Vegas burlesque performer to focus on raising her family. That all changed in one night. ‘Legends Night’ producers Nadine Dubois and Sweetpea sent out a call for help when Gypsy’s three Vegas back-up boys bailed. We answered the call with honour. Not only had Gypsy not graced the stage in over three decades but her daughter was arranged to see her perform for the very first time right up in the front row. Needless to say nerves were wracked and emotions were high.
“…if you’re reading this, it means you belong to a community – albeit a crazy, hedonistic, and wild one. But most importantly, it means you belong…”
Meanwhile, there was a war going on in the upstairs bowling alley. The Barecats Bowling Invitational, produced by Midnite Martini and Kerran Dunst, was raging on with teams like the Baltimorons, The Playful Peacocks, The Dolls of Doom, Ebony and Ivory, The Hubba Hubba Big Ballers, and many more. Ray Gunn and Bazuka Joe represented Team Fur-Tards with Buster Hymen. Things were getting pretty intense with all the trash talking, death threats, and distraction strategies (and us without our vuvuzelas!) but everyone had a good time. Bazuka Joe won the trophy for ‘Best Ball Handling’ but there may have been some swaying with Judge Tigger! Big apologies go out to any hotel civilians who got caught in the crossfire!
That night, Gypsy stood behind the giant curtain while World Famous BOB greeted the crowd, clutching hands with Bazuka for what seemed like an eternity. The crowd hushed, the music boomed and the curtains opened. Instantly, a wall of sound came hurtling towards her as Gyspy made her entrance. She floated across the floor giving the audience some classic burlesque realness, but when her corset refused to budge Jett Adore swooped in and ripped it off like an unbridled groom on his wedding night. The audience went insane and the four minute act flew by in a heartbeat. Though the crowd were on their feet that night, Gypsy Louise stood the tallest.
Saturday, June 2nd
The big day. Over fifty performers (solo, duets and groups) were slated to compete in the Tournament of Tease. While tech rehearsals were chugging along, legends were signing photos, artists were vending in the burlesque bazaar and the rest of us were just trying to stay out of everyone’s way! The energy had shifted to one of great anticipation. This is what we all came for! Ray Gunn had a close call during tech when he discovered that the theatre didn’t have the projector he needed after all, but the world’s finest project manager, Mig Ponce, came to the rescue when no one else could and personally found and paid for a new one that Ray could use so he wouldn’t have to forfeit his solo spot in the ‘Best Boylesque’ category. Thank God for Mig!
The Tournament of Tease is always a gripping show, but the competition was particularly tough this year! It’s unimaginable how the judges can decide on just one performer for each category! There were multimedia acts, dazzling groups numbers, live music, massive props and more glitter than any craft store could ever keep in stock! Not to mention Queen of Burlesque 2011 Indigo Blue‘s life changing step-down act. No, not ‘act’ – SPECTACLE! The pinnacle of which included her floating to the ceiling, surrounded by a throng of dancers and BHoF Kings Tigger!, Evil Hate Monkey, and Captain Kidd.
Congratulations again to Ruby Joule, Russell Bruner, The Peek-A-Boo Revue, Frenchie Kiss and Jett Adore, and Imogen Kelly! You’ve got a year to work on passing the torch to next year’s winners! Use that time wisely to represent the burlesque community!
Sunday, June 3rd
For most BHoF-ers, Sunday meant lounging by the poolside enjoying the fashion show. For others it meant learning from the burlesque legends and hearing the wildest stories you could imagine about stripping in the mid 1900s. And for the final few, Sunday meant one last day spent on stage rehearsing and running tech cues for the Icons & All-Stars show – the final show of the weekend. That night’s show was jam-packed with the modern big-wigs of burlesque doing what they do best. There’s no more fitting way to end such an epic weekend than with a tribute from some of the biggest names in the business to their fellow performers and colleagues. The title-holders show never ceases to impress and inspire.
Monday, June 4th
The final remaining stragglers from the weekend spent their day in the poolside cabana at the hotel. One by one, performers disappeared into taxis headed to the airport and the hotel staff swept up the trail of glitter they left behind. Once again, the Burlesque Hall of Fame weekend proved to be the brightest collision of stars – ensuring its status as the most anticipated burlesque festival in the world!
A Personal Note from Bazuka Joe
One presence that was sorely missed this year was Holli-Mae Johnson from 21st Century Burlesque Magazine. She acts as the pulse of burlesque journalism and we can’t deny we look forward to seeing her work – particularly at the start of each year with the World’s Top 50 list. Next time you see her at BHoF, buy her a drink! She deserves it! [Aww shucks. Love you, Joe x Ed.]
Finally, though titles and competitions are exciting, we should NEVER let it change who we are. Burlesque Hall of Fame is an event to celebrate our community and see how the art is evolving and expanding from beyond our own home towns. Of course a title is a great honour, but in reality just making it there is a strong testament to the skill and talent of all the performers involved. No title is worth devaluing yourself just because you’re not holding a trophy. And if you’re reading this, it means you belong to a community – albeit a crazy, hedonistic, and wild one. But most importantly, it means you belong…
Bazuka Joe, Jett Adore and Ray Gunn.
Quoted in major international newspapers and held in high esteem and affection by the international burlesque community, 21st Century Burlesque Magazine has documented the contemporary burlesque scene since 2007. Founded and edited by Holli-Mae Johnson.