Kay Sera reports on the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend 2014 57th Annual Titans of Tease Reunion Showcase…
21st Century Burlesque Magazine Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend 2014 Coverage is sponsored by Fancy Feather.
The World Famous *BOB* is a self-proclaimed granny-chaser. As the host of the Burlesque Hall of Fame’s Annual Titans of Tease Reunion Showcase, *BOB* always makes a point of reminding the audience about how it all started: with Jennie Lee and Dixie Evans, the Exotic Dancers League, a goat ranch and a dream. But this year at the 57th annual reunion show, *BOB* had a bit more to say.
*BOB* scolded-in-absentia the missing Tournament of Tease competitors, tasking those in the audience with reminding those competitors in no uncertain terms that the Legends are the heart-and-soul of the Burlesque Hall of Fame, of the Weekender, and fundamentally of the art of burlesque itself. And so we members of the audience that night are honour-bound to carry the message: REMEMBER OUR LEGENDS. In fact, consider this: The Titans of Tease Reunion Showcase has been going on for nearly twice as long as the Reigning Queen of Burlesque Midnite Martini has been alive.
Jennie Lee spearheaded the EDL to fight for better billing and pay, and for dancers’ safety. But it wasn’t in the general ongoing battles that they made their mark. It was when the EDL mounted a public relations campaign and work stoppage in protest of a club firing several performers whose pasties washed off while doing an underwater mermaid act. The EDL emerged as a viable organisation with industry clout and respect and became part of the American Guild of Variety Artists.
Starting in 1957, Jennie created an annual awards party to celebrate burlesque, uplift it, present it as a legitimate, reputable entertainment form and show that those in it had a sense of humour about themselves. And today, the Titans of Tease showcase carries on, presenting the legendary stripteasers who made burlesque history.
‘Create the future you want by giving the Legends the love they deserve,’ said *BOB*. And so the performances began.
The showcase opened with Penny Starr Sr., ‘Miss Bump-and-Grind ’63’, whose ear-to-ear grin carried an artful turn-and-tease as she seamlessly swapped her boa for a dressing gown (with an assist from her granddaughter, Penny Starr Jr.).
A drop into a split marked the first BHoF debut of the evening from Lovey Goldmine. Returning to the stage for the first time in thirty years apparently without missing a beat, she strutted to Too Sexy in a white boa suspended on and across her back in a way that suggested wings.
Holiday O’Hara, ‘The Lady Who Loves to Love You’, came out in a wheelchair, Stuck in the Middle between two lovely assistants whose garments Holiday removed. And as she herself began to strip, cleverly and confidently from her seated position, Holiday then brought the audience to its feet by standing up on hers.
Val Valentine, ‘The Queen of Hearts’, lived up to her introductory statement. As read by *BOB*: ‘[They] wanna see something glamorous, and we try not to disappoint.’ In a silver dress that caught and reflected every bit of light, she most certainly did not.
Always a delight, Dee Milo, ‘Venus of Dance’, commanded the audience’s attention with her gentle ease and clear confidence, using her flexibility and grace to remind us of the power of demonstrating, as Jo ‘Boobs’ Weldon instructs, ‘that you’re fun to touch’.
In a flowing light blue costume, Shannon Doah, ‘The Good Bad Girl’, moved smoothly across the stage, bumping her hips and twirling her tassels before being escorted – nay, carried – offstage by the future Best Boylesque winner, Mr. Gorgeous. It would be hard to say which of them was smiling more broadly.
April March, the ‘First Lady of Burlesque’, gave her performance debut at BHoF, seducing a clearly smitten Jett Adore who obeyed her every command and anticipated her every whim. When she floored Jett, April March truly raised the roof.
Perle Noire (Best Debut 2008, 2nd Runner-Up 2009 and Most Dazzling 2012) presented the 2014 Legend of the Year Award to Toni Elling, whose sweet, sassy and straightforward glamour demonstrated the epitome of the class and confidence to which many performers aspire.
Thanks to additional support from the community, both financial and in terms of research and outreach, more and more legends are able to attend the Weekender event, and many are eager to take the stage once again. The Walk of Fame was created to give them that opportunity and featured a cavalcade of charm and a powerful demonstration of what it means to command attention with a strut and a smile. This year’s parade included Daisy Delight, Tessa La Rue, Gypsy Louise, Suzette Monique, Tai Ping, Judith Stein, Ezi Rider, Toni Elling, Viva La Fever, Big Fannie Annie, Gina Bon Bon and Bic Carroll.
The performances recommenced with Harvest Moon presenting an homage to the late Haji, channelling the Russ Meyers icon with ferocity, followed by the talented Tana the Tattooed Lady providing back-up vocals to El Vez’s singing of ‘Dixie’s Land’, a tribute to legend and Burlesque Hall of Fame founder Dixie Evans. This also harkened back to the flag ceremony that used to take place on the goat ranch and was one of Dixie’s favourite events.
The ‘Provocative and Enticing’ Liza Jourdan made her BHoF debut with a polished and butt-polishing corset reveal that had the audience cheering. Gail Winns, ‘the Original Twister’, then sang up a storm, accompanied by renowned pianist Joey Singer. She punctuated When You’re Smiling with genuine laughter, sharing some good ol’ fashioned ‘bad’ jokes.
Making her BHoF debut was Gabriella Maze, whose steely gaze was perfectly complemented by her silvery Isis wings and whose sheer fierceness was practically palpable. ‘The Untouchable Ellion Ness‘ then pulled out all the stops – and marabou – in a clever leg reveal that lead to a dazzling bit of floor work. And, in the final debut and performance of the night, Julie Mist proved that her word was Bond as she delivered with the classic Goldfinger.
As the show concluded, *BOB* encouraged the audience to, ‘…become what you [saw] tonight.’ Dream big, everyone. It’s a tall, wonderful and sparkly order, but our legends deserve it!
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.