Cha Cha Velour looks back on the Vermont Burlesque Festival 2014…
I was an invited guest for the Vermont Burlesque Festival. I felt honoured and excited to be listed on the headliner list along with Ray Gunn, Miss Astrid, Scarlett James, and Lili VonSchtupp.
Thursday 23rd January
My trip to Vermont started on Thursday with the first leg of my flight from Las Vegas to DC. I try to get in a day early to cities that I have to fly into to perform. At The DC airport I ran into Caramel Knowledge from LA. She was on her way to The Vermont Burlesque Festival too and bringing her nerdlesque Nick Fury act. I have recently become a vegan and am still nervous about travelling and finding food I can eat. I was happy to find a Mexican food place in the DC airport that had a vegan ‘no meato burrito’. Yum!
The second leg of my flight had me on a super tiny plane. Burlington, VT is so small and has a tiny airport so only small planes can come in. Arriving in Vermont was ice cold at 20 degrees. That’s a big difference from the great weather of the Las Vegas desert. I picked up my rental car and headed to the Windjammer Hotel to get settled in. The Windjammer was the host hotel and located close to both the Friday and Saturday performance venues. I arrived mid-afternoon. My roomie Lili VonSchtupp wasn’t getting in till midnight. I was excited to see my friend and have a snuggle party!
In the evening I explored Burlington to find a Vegan friendly place to eat. I found a great independently owned grocery store called The Healthy Living Market. I got a few things and headed back to the hotel. I love staying in hotels! I ate dinner in bed, turned the heat up, and got to binge on some TV. I napped on and off waiting for Lili to arrive. She came in a bit after midnight. She’s a lovely roomie. We talked so much over the weekend about producing, performing, and festivals. Lili and I both produced our first burlesque festival recently. Lili put on the Hollywood Burlesque Festival and I put on The Las Vegas Burlesque Festival. (And a little FYI: The Las Vegas Burlesque Festival is now The Las Vegas Spectacular and will be happening again in November of 2014.)
Friday 24th January
I got up early to hit a Bikram yoga class. I found a studio in Burlington and had a nice session and was happy to be warm in the cold Vermont weather. Later that morning the production team needed some help checking performers in, so as we were available, Lili and I helped out. I also was able to help out by picking Ray Gunn up at the airport.
In the afternoon we went to tech rehearsal to find out the pipes at the Friday night venue had frozen and they had no running water. OMG, disaster on the horizon! How can you have a show with an audience of over 200 people and not have working bathrooms? I was thankful I was not in the producers’ seat to have to deal with this dilemma. Fortunately the frozen pipes situation was fixed (one hour before doors opened) and disaster was averted.
Before heading to Venue (which was the actual the name of the venue the Friday night show was held at), I had a drink with Ray Gunn and Miss Astrid at the hotel bar. When we arrived at Venue I had to skip the red carpet to go and get ready to perform. Now, when I have my hair and makeup done for performing I look completely different to when I have no makeup or my wig on. A lot of the performers that I had met at tech did not recognise me backstage and introduced themselves to me; I had to let them know I met them at tech and I just look completely different when I apply my drag.
The dressing room at Venue was great. It was so spacious and had plenty of mirrors and lights. It made it easy to get ready with no stress. There was a nice spread of healthy food, including fruits and veggies; I was a happy vegan. I especially like to be in a dressing room with performers I don’t know. I love meeting new people in burlesque, especially when they are new to burlesque. They are so excited by everything and happy to meet performers that are visiting from outside of their local scene. Their burlyworld is ahead of them! Many of the local Vermont performers are newer performers and it was nice to be around all their positive energy.
The Friday night show opened with a screening of Brian Janes’ short film All That Glitters. Brian had published a coffee table book a couple of years ago also called All That Glitters, and Lili VonSchtupp and I were in it. The film consisted of interviews Brian conducted during his cross country trip photographing burlesque dancers in their homes.
Now for the Friday Night Show. There were 24 acts! The first set was hosted by Lief and Peter Peepers, local Vermont performers. They played off each other well and were very funny. Most of this show was made up of local performers. I saw acts inspired by 1980’s workout videos, drag, sexy chefs, naughty librarians, Star Trek and a love of William Shatner, MGM musicals, Scooby Doo, fetish, and classic burlesque. Two acts that really stood out to me were Pixie Trix from Canada and Betty Blaize from Boston. Pixie Trix performed a safety inspector act in drag, complete with a hard hat and sign that read ‘Danger on stage due to glitter’. The act’s big reveal was a furry chest hair piece placed just right to be Pixie’s pasties. It was absolutely hilarious. Betty Blaize did a re-creation of Lorraine Lane’s Satan Dance. It was very good and her movement and manipulation of the devil puppet were spot on.
The second set was hosted by Lili Von Schtupp. I was closing the show and had to head backstage and unfortunately missed most of the second set. I did get to snag a red carpet photo with festival producer Cory Royer at intermission, though. From backstage we could hear the crowd going wild with every act. This Vermont audience was really filled with love and they were eating up everything that was on that stage. I closed the show with my Gipsy Valentine act and showed Vermont my shimmy and tassel twirling skills.
Saturday 25th January
I woke up later than I had planned and missed the time to hit a Bikram Yoga class again. But I did take a nice dip in the hotel’s indoor pool. It was snowing outside and I could see it through the pool enclosure’s windows. After my swim I headed to the performer brunch which the producers of the festival put on for the performers. Lili and I attended in our PJs. We were the only ones in PJs. I wore a red flannel set with a white snowflake print and Lili wore a red union suit complete with butt flap. They were serving french toast, bacon, home fries, and real Vermont maple syrup. I couldn’t enjoy any of it, but I brought my own food and enjoyed everyone’s company and some hot tea.
A burlesque bowling tournament was happening to benefit RU12, a non-profit LGBTQ organization. Lili and I were chosen to be judges. We weren’t judging the bowling but the behaviour and attire of the bowlers. The host alley was Champlain Lanes, a family owned business for three generations! The whole bowling alley was closed to the public and we had the run of the place. Besides everyone bowling there were spontaneous times that a dance party broke out. Conga line! Lili and I were judging the teams in these categories: Most Distracting, Best Shimmie, Best Dressed, Best Team Costume, Most Colourful, Highest Score, and Lowest Score. We finished our judging and left Champlain Lanes early because I had to get to tech and teach a tassel twirling class.
The Saturday show was held at Higher Grounds, a concert venue. We found out at tech that the show was sold out! The venue fits more than 400 people and this news got everyone really excited. They were running late on tech and I had to leave to teach my tassel twirling class at Soul Fire dance studio.
Soul Fire dance studio is in an old mill converted to house businesses. The building was beautiful and had super high ceilings and wood floors. My class had sold out pre-sale at twenty students. I had both women and men in my class as well as performers and non performers. We had fun and there was lots of laughter as we all shimmied and jumped around topless.
The Saturday night show was hosted by Miss Astrid. I was excited to see her host a show as it had been a couple of years since I‘d seen her host at the BHoF Weekender. She made a really funny intro joke that went along the lines of comparing the different types of performers in the show to flavours of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream: ‘Vanilla, Chunky Monkey, and Chubby Hubby’. For those that don’t know, the home of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream is Vermont, hence the reference.
The Saturday night show had 33 acts. What a burlesque marathon! I only watched the first and third sets because I was performing my bearded lady act toward the end of the second set. Saturday’s event showcased local performers as well as performers from Canada and all over the US. Ray Gunn and Scarlett James were the Saturday night headline performers. They both brought it with two great performances each. Though the show was very long, it was entertaining. The show may have been too long for some of the audience as the crowd started to thin out after the second set. After the show I was exhausted from a day of being totally on the go. Lili and I headed back to the hotel and crashed!
Sunday 26th January
I was suppose to leave for Vegas on Sunday morning and was bummed I’d be missing the screening of the documentary movie Exotic World and the Burlesque Revival. Bad weather kept me stranded in Vermont until Monday and I was able to have brunch with Lili, Cory, and Miss Astrid and attend the screening of the film.
Exotic World and the Burlesque Revival was shot between 2001 and 2010 and tells the story of Exotic World in Helendale California, The Miss Exotic World Pageant, The Burlesque Hall of Fame, and its move to Las Vegas. The film was emotional for me as I’m certain it was for Lili and Astrid too. We were the ones in the room with a real connection to the story this film tells. It was amazing to me that there were performers in the room that didn’t know who Dixie Evans was. Miss Astrid gave a little talk about Dixie Evans Week and the fundraising campaign to raise money for Dixie’s outstanding medical bills and her memorial celebration, with the remainder going toward Dixie’s final accommodations at the Westwood Cemetery.
I had a great time in Vermont! It was nice to be welcomed so warmly by the local performers. Congratulations to Cory Royer, The Green Mountain Cabaret, and the rest of the team that put on this festival.
Cha Cha Velour
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.