Burlesque Hall of Fame Tournament of Tease: Miss Exotic World, Reigning Queen (BHoF 2014)
Kitty Bang Bang reviews the Miss Exotic World, Reigning Queen of Burlesque category at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend 2014. Click here for her thoughts on the Debut category…
When the list of competitors for this year’s Miss Exotic World, Reigning Queen of Burlesque category came out, I was really happy to see some real surprises on there and I was looking forward to an exciting and diverse competition. I definitely wasn’t disappointed. It was refreshing to see elements of neo-burlesque, circus and rock ‘n’ roll up in the Queen competition alongside the traditional classic style that seems to have been favoured in previous years. Long live innovation and originality!
21st Century Burlesque Magazine Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend 2014 Coverage is sponsored by Fancy Feather.
April O’Peel kicked off proceedings in a powder blue negligee. She gave us classic but with a sassy, cheeky edge and that cherubic face pulled us all in. You have to admit, April is kind of adorable. She was really working that voluptuous cleavage of hers, and I think if you’ve got them then you might as well use them. We got a masterful tassel twirling finale, but while the act was enjoyable, it never really felt like a serious play for the Queen title.
Hot on the heels of April was another Canadian (they were everywhere) Burgundy Brixx. Her show opened with a film projected either side of the stage called ‘The Spirit of Ecstasy’ which we quickly learnt to be the hood ornament adorning the Rolls Royce. The stage lit up and Burgundy was resplendent in silver, arms outstretched on the bonnet of a Rolls. She immediately shed the silver and was left in a sheer pink gown. A wind machine (the second of the evening) started up somewhere in the car bonnet and she flipped her hair and struck a pose with the pink silk billowing around her, as though she were on the hood of a Rolls Royce taking a drive to some fabulous country estate. I loved the initial concept of the act, but once Brixx got down from the prop it felt like the show lacked some momentum. Some of the striptease felt throwaway and forgettable and it wasn’t until she climbed back up onto the prop and the wind machine kicked back in that the act really got going again.
The gorgeous Ginger Valentine was next up and she absolutely tore the house down. She slunk onto the stage in a hot pink robe which undulated around her in time to the bluesy soundtrack. As the track built, Ginger worked the robe, making shapes but never losing eye contact with the audience who were basically in the palm of her hand. She shed the robe which then got caught on her dress, but she recovered beautifully. I often think that the mark of a great performer is someone who can have everything go wrong onstage for them but make the recovery somehow look like part of the act. To not be phased by a mistake in such a major competition is quite a feat, and Ginger carried on, cool as a cucumber. After tossing her dress aside, she got down to some serious floor work with some jaw dropping stocking removal, pulling a stocking off through her crotch and showing the crowd her… flexibility. Ginger just exudes hotness and the whole act was beautifully confident, sexy and slick. Classic done to perfection.
There was probably only one performer who could have followed Ginger at that point, and when the crowd guessed that Ophelia Flame was up next there was no controlling them. They went wild before she even hit the stage. Then the guitars of Led Zeppelin kicked in and she appeared, back lit, wearing a collar of spiky black feathers and oozing rock ‘n’ roll attitude. Props again to the lighting designer; Ophelia looked like a rock god at a stadium gig. She crawled across the stage, all feline intent and attack. Experience tells, and Ophelia owns the stage. Amid the fire, there were also moments of stillness where she drew us in and just held our gaze. A confetti cannon concealed within some fans exploded out over the audience and then the act came to a crescendo with some hair-flinging, head-banging action. Great attitude and a real crowd favourite.
Melody Manger walked onstage to the chimes of a clock, dressed in a traditional Quaker gown and bonnet. She took centre stage and Season of the Witch kicked in. I absolutely love this track! The black gown is ripped away super fast to reveal flame-coloured hair and a flaming costume. Mangler is a riot of colour and movement. She slinks around the stage, all fluidity and fire but occasionally it seemed like the connection with the audience was slightly lost when working the various elements of her costume. She had lots of layers on her complicated costume, not all of which wanted to do her bidding immediately. That said, it was a strong, confident act and I loved that she didn’t do something classic.
Midnight Martini starts in silhouette, a tiny figure up somewhere in the rafters with an enormous skirt that trails all the way to the stage. The music is strange, atmospheric, and as the lights come slowly up we see Midnight Martini more clearly. She’s artfully draped in blue silks so that they look like a long silk gown. Flashes of a crystal harness can be seen between the silks and she has a slick blue bob to match her silks. She slowly pulls her ‘skirt’ apart to reveal the ladder that she is positioned upon and unravels herself. Then she leans out, defying gravity, all taut body and amazing lines. We’re all waiting for her trademark stocking peel, and Midnight Martini doesn’t keep us waiting too long. Upside down on the ladder she gracefully peels off her stocking with one toe and pulls until the stocking is stretched between her perfectly split legs. Commanding and sexy, she climbs the silks as the ladder is pulled away from beneath her and contorts above our heads, finally shedding her crystal harness. In one final amazing twist, she climbs to the very top of the silks and releases them, riding them back down to the stage like some sort of superhero, where they land in a pile behind her. Somebody behind me yells out ‘That’s how you win Queen!’ and I can’t help but agree with them. Midnight Martini sashays to the front of the stage and throws her hands up. The woman behind me screams so damn loudly that I suspect my ears may never recover and the entire auditorium gets to their feet.
I’d hate to have followed Midnight Martini, but if there is one performer who wouldn’t have been phased it’s ‘sin in an hourglass’ Medianoche. She was performing the act that had recently seen her crowned ‘Queen Of Burlesque’ at the New Orleans Burlesque Festival, so I knew the act and knew that she was going to go out there and own it. Medianoche took to the stage, all killer curves, dazzling corset and a huge skirt which gave her tiny frame real presence on that gigantic stage. She gives great face and just oozes sex from every pore. Medianoche doesn’t just seduce an audience, she orders them with her eyes that they must be seduced. After languorously peeling off her gloves, she whips off her skirt, revealing it to come away in two parts that she throws up and frames herself with. Then the show kicks up a gear; she fills the stage and really works the length of it. She jumps high into the air and lands in the splits, then frees her hair and throws her head back. The crowd squeal their approval and Medianoche finishes centre stage, commanding to be looked at one last time before she leaves.
Lola Frost is a long time favourite of mine and her offering for Queen didn’t disappoint. Wearing a gorgeous flapper costume, she strutted out onstage. Letting us drink her in, she promenaded the length of the stage until it was time for her costume to come off. She then pulls a hereto disguised pair of assels from her headpiece and sticks them on, and then the real action begins. Twerking, shimmying and bouncing, Frost makes her tassels and assels spin every which way. She’s clearly having the time of her life up on that stage and that makes us love her gorgeous derierre even more. I’m officially naming 2014 the year of the twerk and there is none more proficient at it that the fabulous Lola Frost.
The penultimate contestant, Iva Handfull cantered out onstage like some sort of glorious disco zebra to the Scissor Sistor’s Filthy Gorgeous, wearing a black and white suit and sporting a giant black and white striped mohawk that extended down her back and was put to good use concealing her tassels before the final twirling reveal. I loved her energy and commitment, even if she lacked the musicality of some of the other performers.
And finally, all good things must come to an end, so we ended the evening with the 1st Runner Up from last year’s Queen competition, Sydni Deveraux. Sydni floats out onto the stage in a gorgeous peachy/white fishtail gown. She is so statuesque, and with that beautiful face and smile she just looks like a Hollywood star. Her act follows the classic strip and fan dance formula with a pair of lush pink fans. While Sydni is a beautiful girl and this is a solid and competent act, by this point it feels like she needs to pull something extra out of the bag to compete with the other classic acts that have gone before. With a final flash of that Hollywood smile Sydni exits the stage and we all (at least in the bit of the auditorium that we have designated to be the press box, and by ‘all’ I mean me and J.D. Oxblood) make a beeline for the bar to stock up before the winners are announced.
Congratulations to our new Queen Midnite Martini – you were such a deserving winner and the screams around me when your name was called definitely told me that I wasn’t the only person who thought so. And congratulations to everybody else who competed.
Hopefully I’ll see you all at BHoF 2015 and I won’t be so damn distracted by a (my) wedding! Lots of love to all the glitter tribe. See you in a gutter somewhere soon.
Miss Exotic World, Reigning Queen of Burlesque 2014: Midnite Martini
1st Runner Up: Medianoche
2nd Runner Up: Ginger Valentine