Kay Sera reports on the 59th Annual Titans of Tease Reunion Showcase at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend 2016.
There are so many fabulous reasons to attend The Burlesque Hall of Fame, but perhaps none more so than the opportunity to ‘bare’ witness to the Titans of Tease Reunion Showcase, featuring the living legends of burlesque.
This year’s show featured the most legends ever—which made for a pretty long night. But what a wonderful ‘problem’ to have! Seeing the stateswomen and men of burlesque’s past is a glittery and important vibrant reminder of not only our shared history, but our individual and collective future. As the show’s long-standing emcee, The World Famous *BOB* put it, “These women didn’t just pave the road—they moved boulders.”
As the opening performer Julie Mist was brought on stage like royalty, carried on a litter by handsome showmen, one couldn’t help but harken back to the first BHoF Weekend in Las Vegas in 2006, when Liz Renay appeared in similar regal style. That bittersweet recollection was quickly supplanted by the new burned-in-our-brains image of the vibrant Mist owning the stage with a bold and delightfully brash striptease, culminating in an appearance in—well, it’s hard to call it a ‘headdress’ when it created a beautiful frame around her entire torso and head! A glorious piece from Grant Philipo’s collection, he has noted that its wearer has to be very careful on stairs, because you can’t even see your own feet!
The sultry sound of Black Velvet heralded Gypsy Louise onto the stage in an envy-producing crystal-covered dress. When *BOB* announced (at the performer’s request) that Louise is not only a proud grandmother but a proud GREAT-grandmother (of four!) the audience practically squeed at the incredible positive inspiration she represented.
There were several new legends gracing the stage this year, and Tess Larue (who had been part of the Walk of Fame in 2015) was the first among them to perform. Her wide, open-mouthed smile communicated without a doubt the joy she was experiencing, and that joy was shared by the audience watching her. La Rue’s sassy red dress and red fascinator gave her an aspect of devilish mischief, and it felt like we were being let in on a personal moment when she tossed her glove to Big Fannie Annie.
Suzette Fontaine, also a ‘debut’ performance, took possession of the stage with leonine hair and a fierce attitude to match. Her classic-disco style mash-up was delightful.
Val Valentine’s languid movements were punctuated by bright, sudden turns and butt-slaps. She engaged the audience with terrific ‘face’ that made one think, even knowing better, “She’s looking at me!”
It would be hard not to break into a smile at the ever-charming Lovey Goldmine, who crooned through a lounge version of All About That Bass. Goldmine somehow brings a combination of coyness and boldness into her acts, and it’s a very effective juxtaposition. Yes, they lip-synced, but it was her and her back up performers’ voices on the recording and they were entirely on point. (Well done, Missy Miss and Lilly Star.)
Never one to disappoint, Marinka, ‘Queen of the Amazons’ presented herself as every bit the tigress—not just in her to-die-for super-sparkly tiger-print gown, but the ferocity of her presence. And yes. Yes, she f*cked the curtain. For which one can only say, “Thank you.”
Having been fortunate enough to see Dusty Summers, ‘The Nude Magician’ at previous BHoF Weekenders, I have to admit my frustration. With her? No—with the fact that I *STILL* can’t figure out where those darn birds come from! Or go! Her impressive sleight of hand is matched by her ever-confident striptease. Her rhinestone-covered cowgirl costume—which one assumes is a recreation (or maybe even an update!) of the outfit that graces her pamphlet from back in the day: ‘How to be a Professional Stripper’—also answers that statement. ‘Be Dusty Summers.’ One can only try!
Kim Gaye attended her first BHoF, and the Hawaii-based performer appeared, rather charmingly, to be a bit overwhelmed by it all. Who could blame her? In elegant red and white, she sashayed on the stage and we hope that she’ll come back again and continue to treat us.
Of all contemporary burlesque performers, it would be difficult to name many others better suited to a Rose La Rose tribute than Darlinda Just Darlinda. In a Rex-Harrison-esque sing-song, Darlinda/Rose told us all about her “Ooo la la” (which is a term I encourage everyone to adapt—it is so much fun to say). Unfortunately, Darlinda’s act was interrupted by two policeman who escorted her off-stage. (Insert cheeky wink here.) It was a delightful homage to an indefatigable person who pushed boundaries at every point.
The 2016 Legend of the Year is Dee Milo, as sassy as she is sweet. When presented the award, she generously thanked the audience, “for loving us!” No, Dee. Thank YOU.
In a new step, the Walk of Fame featured legends themselves as emcees. Bic Carrol (or, as he told us, “Bert Toast”) kicked it off, welcoming the legends of the 50s. His seemingly boundless energy and Puckish demeanor was delightful. Toni Elling was escorted on stage and sat down, and I initially worried if she was fading a bit. Nope. In announcing the legends of the 60s, Elling was sharp, funny, self-effacing and utterly charming. And rounding out the 70s was unrepentant holy terror (and I mean that in the best way), Camille 2000. Always a firebrand, she welcomed her peers with casual and—she might punch me for using this word—sweet informality.
Miss Exotic World 2012 Imogen Kelly congratulated the winners of this year’s Legends Challenge. Miss Kitty Baby threw down the sparkly glove by raising more than $7,000 in two events, and we hope that folks work hard to beat that—we know she will!
Dirty Martini (Miss Exotic World 2004) put the audience in the wayback machine with an homage to Something Weird Video, the pioneers of VHS smut. If you’re not familiar with them, be sure to check out their collection. And if you’re not familiar with VHS, you’re making me feel old. Her routine began with a scratchy black-and-white video (thanks to Jeremy Halpern) using the wonderfully cheesy Something Weird format and then suddenly, Dirty Martini was on the screen and on stage, performing a classic strut and stroll striptease.
Tiffany Carter, lovely as a flower in a lavender and gold gown with veils flowing from her shoulders to her fingertips, later said she wanted to showcase for the audience the use of those veils in classic striptease. Ummm… point taken! Her partners created similar silhouettes, one in black, one in royal blue and with similarly flowing ‘wings’, and together the trio created a beautiful triptych with the effervescent Carter at its center.
Gail Winns, ‘The Original Twister’ is not only a legend, but along with her husband is a great supporter of the BHoF Big Reveal campaign. Her crooning and blue-joke-telling voice is as strong as her stage presence. Accompanied by Vegas stalwart and pianist extraordinaire Joe Darro, Winns held the audience in the palm of her hands.
Dee Milo reappeared to share a performance in what has become her signature red dress—literally spared by fate from the flames of a repent-your-sins bonfire. Her confidence was given additional gravitas as *BOB* told the story of the costume’s near-burning when Dee reconciled with her mother and shunned her stripper past, with Dee reminding us that we will do anything for love. It was truly touching.
‘The Good Bad Girl’ Shannon Doah lived up to her tagline in a striking blue gown over a blue bustier. The audience about lost its collective mind when she pulled off parts of her panel skirts and whirled them about. She then went from a matching blue sparkle-mesh bra to a silver sparkle-mesh bra before literally chewing up the scene—specifically, a rose. How do you make spitting flower petals gorgeous? Ask Shannon Doah.
The closing act was a return to the BHoF stage of The Grant Avenue Follies. Having recently lost the spirited Ivy Tam, the troupe nonetheless shone in a spot-on and thoroughly tight tap-dance and kick-line performance of All That Jazz. Resplendent in golds and blacks, with fringe moving perfectly and frenetically, their smiling faces and joie de vivre was absolutely infectious and a perfect way to conclude the showcase.
*BOB* (of course) said it best. “The legends are redefining what it means to age. Hashtag ‘welcometothetemple’.”
Let’s make it trend. #welcometothetemple
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.