Down tools this instant and enjoy this achingly cool, seductively smooth and fabulously choreographed Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend 2013 closing number from The Stage Door Johnnies and a mind-blowing supporting cast of some of burlesque’s most loved and celebrated performers. The video of the number is now available below with a full cast list, and I have also included an extract from my post-BHoF recap interview with The Stage Door Johnnies – Bazuka Joe, Jett Adore and Ray Gunn – which discusses the creation and execution of the number… Ed.
Joe, let’s talk about the astonishing finale you put together for Sunday night! Talk me through the inspiration, planning and build up to the performance, as well as the performance itself – although I can imagine that might be a surreal memory!
Bazuka Joe: Ha, ha, ha! ‘surreal’ is an understatement! The whole act now seems like a fantastic dream! The original seed of the idea came from an act I created, in which I had intended four girls to dance with me. I debuted ‘The Martini Dance’ at a show we produced in Chicago with local dancers, and again at the Show-Me Burlesque Festival in St. Louis with the Hoochie Coochie Girls. It wasn’t until much later that we got the idea to expand the act into a three part suite. We used Bob Fosse’s Rich Man’s Frug as our point of inspiration, and designed Jett and Ray’s sections to reflect the type of drink we were each carrying, which incidentally spoke most to each of our personae (champagne, martini, and rocks glasses). We wanted each section to have the same construct, but to be distinctly different from each other. We also wanted to create a story arc that moved from smooth and sophisticated to rowdy and raucous.
Did you always plan to involve so many of your fellow performers in the act, or did that develop as things went on? Did they, in fact, through their advice and support, help to make the production what it eventually became? Was it an emotional experience to have them all with you on that stage?
Joe: The original intention was always to have dancers from the community with us. At the point of conception we didn’t know who those dancers would be, but as we travelled from city to city with this act in mind, we were naturally drawn to certain performers who we felt most accurately fit into our own sections. Each of us built our own casts based on how we connected with certain performers, and a LOT of consideration went into overall aesthetic and vibe. We have to say that we consider ourselves the absolute LUCKIEST guys in the world that everyone we approached was into the idea and up for the challenge. We made no reservations in letting our cast know just how fortunate and appreciative we felt having them all involved. That should never be taken for granted!
Putting the act together was a LOT of work! We sent out video instructions to each of our casts, but really the bulk of rehearsals took place in just the four days that we were all in Vegas. Again, fortunately, every single cast member was incredibly responsible and committed to showing up to rehearsal every morning (which, as we all know, is REALLY hard to do at BHoF) and rehearsing on their own, and asking productive and helpful questions. I think that the concentrated rehearsal process created a quick and strong bond between everyone and I know it was super emotional for most, if not all, of us! Even as the curtain was rising and we could hear the audience, our hands were shaking and our hearts were racing! By the end, we could barely hold our composure and ended up breaking into a giant group hug before the curtains even closed!
Did you feel a strong sense of your evolution as you received your applause? Did you imagine when you started out together that you would have the freedom and opportunity to create things like this and be the finale for such a magical and treasured event?
Joe: ABSOLUTELY! Again, luckiest guys in the world here. The best part about what happened onstage that night was that our intention for the act wasn’t to have a powerhouse star-studded piece onstage for name value only. What we really wanted to present was a sense of community, cooperation, and artistry. Basically, it’s how we envision the mission of BHoF to be. Sort of a ‘See what we can do when we all work together?’ Foxy Tann could not have introduced the act more perfectly, telling that audience that ‘This act is for YOU; this is our gift to our community.’ The added bonus for us personally was a chance to work alongside people who we consider our mentors, inspirations, and innovators. These were all people who we look up to as artists.
Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend 2013: The Stage Door Johnnies All-Star Finale
Tila Von Twirl
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.