Trixie Little takes you behind the curtain at the first New Orleans Burlesque Festival…
Day 4: Sunday
11:30am Woke up at noon to thunderstorms rattling the windows of our 25th floor hotel room. It has been a rain and glamour soaked weekend. Sitting in bed wondering how much I drank last night. Not sure I can muster up the energy to perform my own act with The Evil Hate Monkey later tonight LET ALONE watch one more gorgeous girl wiggle out of a dress. Life is so hard. Luckily I have been to enough festivals to know that my boobie-malaise will pass by the time the sun goes down. I focus instead on more pressing matters: making sure I get one more meal at the Green Goddess.
1:30pm Monkey and I manage to drag ourselves to meet friends and wait for passing sheets of rain to disperse before venturing the fifteen minute walk to a narrow little alley restaurant no bigger than a matchbox (seriously – there are THREE tables inside) with brick walls and metallic retro ceiling-paper. Seated inside the Green Goddess, the weekend comes more into focus as I let the epicurean medicine of of a roasted heirloom tomato Bloody Mary with picked okra and green bean do their work.
The first ever New Orleans Queen of Burlesque was crowned last night and her name is Perle Noire! I am delighted by the mental image of Perle’s volcanic rock star performance last night and her win feels really satisfying, even though I lost.
Not only is she a tour de force, but this sultry city is her home town and she brought it home. I wonder aloud how the fuck she can jump so high off the ground. My brunch-mates take this thought up a notch by suggesting that Perle and Tigger challenge each other to ‘Leap-Off’. Tasty sensuous delights pass around the table for the next hour as we mix groans of delight with our recap of the night before:
French toast with chevre and cherries. Lola Van Ella’s naughty body-icing. Amber Ray’s beautiful voice. Lobster mushroom frittatta. Renee Le Roux’s expressive show-face. Catherine D’Lish’s buttery grits… Oh – I mean outrageous figure. Ophelia Flame’s smoldering tease. Vivienne Vavoom’s polish. Arugula salad perfectly dressed. Evie Lovelle’s romantic red gown. Hot sweet potato biscuits. La Cholita’s wild dancing. Mmmmmmmm…
Producer and burlesque historian, Rick Delaup, truly ran such a smooth weekend, that even during the competitive part, I didn’t feel pressured. It was just nice to be with my peeps in New Orleans. After the amazing performances were over, we were all called back onstage in gowns to await the results. Walking out as the adorable Kitten on the Keys announced me, I felt a lot of love in the room and was honored to be standing there flanked by brazen and beautiful women.
The envelopes were opened: Lola Van Ella: 2nd Runner Up, Catherine D’Lish: 1st Runner Up and Perle Noire: QUEEN OF BURLESQUE!
It was clear that these were not just the judges’ but also the audiences’ favorites and the honors were amplified in applause. If I can’t win, I at least want to feel like I was beat by some bad ass entertainers! For myself, my ‘Flea Circus’ performance felt great and I received a lot of warm fuzzy compliments, most memorably from one of my favorite legends – Stephanie Blake. Although I like this number a lot, after competing unsuccessfully twice with it, I come to the conclusion that it is a solid act but not an award-winner. As brunch wraps up, I feel the little seeds of my next act germinating in my head and enjoy just one last spoonful of grits.
7:00pm Nap is over, tech rehearsal complete and I’m in a frilly 50’s prom dress waiting for Monkey to finish putting more rhinestones on his ballet slippers. That Monkey has been the smash hit of the weekend. Possibly because he was the only boylesque performer in a vast sea of women, or because he added a surprising comedic bonbon in an otherwise classic buffet or maybe it’s because everyone just loves a monkey. I tell Monkey the enthusiasm with which everyone has raved about him all weekend, but temper this ego stroking by recounting my conversation on Friday with living legend Rita Alexander – The Champagne Girl.
Rita was a judge for the competition and had read my biography already on the Festival website. When I introduced myself in person, I told her that I also perform as part of a duo with The Evil Hate Monkey. As if contemplating yet another reason why society is falling apart, she said with disdain ‘I just can’t understand why a girl would name herself The Evil Hate Monkey – I just don’t get it!’ I cleared up the misunderstanding and continued a flirty conversation. She asked me how Monkey and I met and if we were a couple. Then, cutting through the chit chat, asked me ‘How long did it take you to GET him?’ Surprised by how bawdily she said the word ‘GET’ it takes me a moment to stop laughing before I tell her that it took a month. She seemed on the edge of her seat like she was reading some juicy romance novel and asked if Monkey and I had ‘that magic chemistry right away’. I tell her that I did indeed immediately recognize that he was something special and when I found out he was straight AND could tap dance, the deal was sealed. Rita smiled a big warm smile and shook her head knowingly for well over a minute and then said the word ‘CHEMISTRY’ again. Love her.
8:00pm It’s just moments before the final Sunday night showcase begins. I’m standing in the dressing room naked and alone with Michelle L’Amour. I’m realizing that I forgot to wash one of my white gloves for the act I’m about to do and it’s covered with lipstick from the last time I shoved the whole thing into my mouth. Michelle glances over to reassure me that it’s not that bad when instead she lets out a surprised ‘OH!’ and laughs at how the glove looks like someone crushed a strawberry with it. I feel like we bond a little. And I’m naked. This makes me feel awesome.
10:45pm Show was great. It’s now two glasses of champagne later and Monkey and I are escorting burlesque legend Tee Tee Red to her hotel room before heading to the Monteleone’s Carousel Bar. As I’m opening the door for Tee Tee Red, the sassy Rita Alexander appears out of no where and scuttles past me to get into the room giving off a strong ‘slumber party vibe’ that prompts me to chide her for not going out with us: ‘Look at you in your pajamas! I thought you were going to stay out until you got on the plane!’ With a frozen half-smile on her face, she slowly closes the door. As I’m giggling smugly to myself about my banter with Rita, I look over at Monkey who informs me with a stern look: ‘She has been wearing that outfit all night.’ My heart drops to my toes. Just told a legend her evening ensemble looked like pajamas. BRILLIANT.
1:30am Recovered some of my dignity with the help of two Sazeracs sipped from the spinning carousal bar at the Hotel Monteleone. Now I’m ambling down the sumptuous, non-douchey section of Bourbon Street with a glamorous gaggle heading for Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. The legendary candlelit tavern was built in 1772 supposedly by a pirate named Lafitte. When we arrive there is a subdued middle-aged female piano player with long blond hair respectfully tinkling her way through ‘New York, New York’ on the piano in the back. I would have wound up here at Lafitte’s regardless because it’s one of my faves, but tonight the Minneapolis couple, Tomahawk Tassels and Cadillac Kolstad, are spear heading a juke joint takeover in this legendary place. I support this mission.
3:15am Finished a Pimms cup and am now slowly enjoying a shot of Chartreuse over ice. Wondering how monks in France came up with this enchanting combination of 130 herbs and spices. Piano lady has packed up and the stools are put up on the tables in back. Slowly we are all given the thumbs up to gather around the piano. Stools come back down. Crowd gathers. Cadillac settles in behind the piano and suddenly his Beetlejuice-meets-Jerry-Lee-Lewis look makes sense. In mere moments, he is banging out some serious rock-n-roll, his pompadour is shaken out of its coif and Tomahawk is hiking up her green gown to climb atop the piano. The burlesque crew in attendance is perfectly dressed for the occasion and knows what to do: foot stomping, butt shaking and wild clapping commence – all with reckless abandon. The blond piano lady apparently never left and shows up to angrily use her camera phone to record the revelry. I’m sure her boss will be real furious about all of the fun we’re having. It suddenly feels like the 1950’s and the irrepressible surge of rock-n-roll is pissing off the parents.
After a few songs, I worry about how fiercely Cadillac thrashes his hair given his close proximity to the wall behind him and the piano in front of him. It occurs to me that his flying pompadour is acting much like whiskers on a cat…keeping him safe in tight places. In true New Orleans fashion, a clarinet player appears out of thin air to back up the piano and is eventually joined by some guy with a guitar. This all fuels the sexiest piano-top dancing I’ve ever seen in my life.
Part pinup, part Cherokee – Tomahawk wore a retro updo with several hawk feathers inserted somewhat horizontally and two long braids that went all the way down to her lovely waist. About five songs in – her gown is gone, she’s in a black sequin hot-pant-situation with suspenders and a black bra. She is all legs and heels, crawling and clapping like some wayward Pentacostal poster child. Tomahawk’s mixture of good, clean fun and sweaty sin combined with Cadillac’s balls-to-the-wall piano playing was truly intoxicating – and absolutely the best ending to this delicious weekend. If the boobs-n-booze alone didn’t do it, the Juke-Joint-Coup of 2009 would definitely result in a hangover. Careful to enjoy the moment, I step back one more time to soak up the delirious lack of inhibition – to see all of us holding onto the rafters, letting our hair down and shaking it because it needs to be shook.
Thank you, New Orleans, and good night!