Exotic World – Capturing the Magic: Don Spiro

One of the most enjoyable and enduring aspects of the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekends, and indeed many burlesque events, is the array of beautiful photographs that are shared around the world. They can make you feel like you were there, capture affection, innovation, inspiration and celebration, and preserve magical memories for many years to come. The photographers who work at BHoF each year are much loved members of the community, and I asked some of them to share their memories, and some of their favourite shots from over the years. I am so grateful to them for their generosity and enthusiasm.

Here are some beautiful photos from head BHoF photographer, the much loved Don Spiro…

“There are so many photos I’ve taken over the past decade that it was hard to narrow down. I have tried to show photos that are representative of the aspect of the Pageant and the museum that are most important to me, the shots off the stage that most people don’t see, the shots that show the history and the community and why I keep shooting.

The reason I keep shooting at BHoF and some other events is to document what I feel is a great American folk art; it’s a traditional art form that is only recently being treated scholarly by mainstream academia. I became involved because I shoot photos of my friends, and many are into different subcultures. When I started there were very few people trying to preserve it and it seemed like a localised genre, now it is everywhere. I’ve been part of the current community, I’ve become part of what I’m documenting, but my goal is still preservation for future generations. There are many people now keeping burlesque alive: my plan is to watch and see where they take it, see how it changes and survives, how it inspires other performance and influences other arts and culture. I shoot to tell the story of burlesque…”

Don Spiro

Erochica Bamboo (2003)

This is a shot of Erochica Bamboo in 2003, just as she found out she had won the title of Miss Exotic World. In the background is Lucy Fur applauding. You can see that the event was still at the goat farm in Helendale, CA, out in the heat and the wind, not inside an air conditioned Vegas auditorium like it is now.  ©Don Spiro
This is a shot of Erochica Bamboo in 2003, just as she found out she had won the title of Miss Exotic World. In the background is Lucy Fur applauding. You can see that the event was still at the goat farm in Helendale, CA, out in the heat and the wind, not inside an air conditioned Vegas auditorium like it is now. ©Don Spiro

Exotic World Contestants (2004)

These are the contestants standing on a platform just to the side of the stage, waiting for the Miss Exotic World Pageant tassel twirling contest to start. The contest, and the pageant, were both won by Dirty Martini, who has the number one on her arm. Foreshadowing other pageants, two future winners, Michelle L’amour (2) and Miss Indigo Blue (3), are also in the shot.  ©Don Spiro
These are the contestants standing on a platform just to the side of the stage, waiting for the Miss Exotic World Pageant tassel twirling contest to start. The contest, and the pageant, were both won by Dirty Martini, who has the number one on her arm. Foreshadowing other pageants, two future winners, Michelle L’amour (2) and Miss Indigo Blue (3), are also in the shot. ©Don Spiro

Diane Naegel (2008)

This is a shot of volunteer Diane Naegel in 2008, setting up a costume worn by Blaze Starr as part of an exhibit in the vending area at the Palms. I love this because it shows two things that I feel are most important about the museum: the collection of costumes, accessories and ephemera that make up the archives of the museum, badly in need of a permanent exhibit, and the vital need for volunteers to keep the pageant and the museum in existence. This shot means the most, it reminds me that the pageant weekend is primarily a showcase and fund raiser, and the real priority is the museum.  ©Don Spiro
This is a shot of volunteer Diane Naegel in 2008, setting up a costume worn by Blaze Starr as part of an exhibit in the vending area at the Palms. I love this because it shows two things that I feel are most important about the museum: the collection of costumes, accessories and ephemera that make up the archives of the museum, badly in need of a permanent exhibit, and the vital need for volunteers to keep the pageant and the museum in existence. This shot means the most, it reminds me that the pageant weekend is primarily a showcase and fund raiser, and the real priority is the museum. ©Don Spiro

Roxi D’Lite (2008)

This is a shot of Roxi D'Lite on top of the double decker bus during our 2008 Photo Safari. Each year, since moving the event to Las Vegas in 2005, I would co-host a photo safari both as a non-show event and as a way to draw attention to the weekend. Choosing a new location each year, Dale Rio, Chris Beyond and Java have all helped to sponsor the safari and co-host with me, ensuring that it runs smoothly and everyone has fun.  ©Don Spiro
This is a shot of Roxi D'Lite on top of the double decker bus during our 2008 Photo Safari. Each year, since moving the event to Las Vegas in 2005, I would co-host a photo safari both as a non-show event and as a way to draw attention to the weekend. Choosing a new location each year, Dale Rio, Chris Beyond and Java have all helped to sponsor the safari and co-host with me, ensuring that it runs smoothly and everyone has fun. ©Don Spiro

Tigger! (2006)

This shot is of Tigger!, winner of the men’s competition in 2006, the first year of the award in that category. The look on his face shows the significance of the moment, one that changed the manner of the Pageant and one that helped to validate the then somewhat controversial idea of men performing burlesque. On stage with him are Miss Exotic World 2005 Michelle L’amour and future winner Monkey.  ©Don Spiro
This shot is of Tigger!, winner of the men’s competition in 2006, the first year of the award in that category. The look on his face shows the significance of the moment, one that changed the manner of the Pageant and one that helped to validate the then somewhat controversial idea of men performing burlesque. On stage with him are Miss Exotic World 2005, Michelle L’amour and future winner Monkey. ©Don Spiro

World Famous *BOB* and Julie Atlas Muz (2006)

The World Famous *BOB* (2004’s 2nd runner up) kisses Julie Atlas Muz after Julie’s win in 2006. I met both of these ladies, and Tigger!, at the first Tease-O-Rama in New Orleans in 2001, when they were with the partnership of the Velvet Hammer and Miss Astrid’s Va Va Voom Room. I got to know them better later that year at Velvet Hammer shows in Los Angeles and we’ve been friends ever since.  ©Don Spiro
The World Famous *BOB* (2004’s 2nd runner up) kisses Julie Atlas Muz after Julie’s win in 2006. I met both of these ladies, and Tigger!, at the first Tease-O-Rama in New Orleans in 2001, when they were with the partnership of the Velvet Hammer and Miss Astrid’s Va Va Voom Room. I got to know them better later that year at Velvet Hammer shows in Los Angeles and we’ve been friends ever since. ©Don Spiro

Indigo Blue (2011)

To me this sums up everything about burlesque in 2011: class and beauty combined with irreverence, sexiness and humor, personified by the newly crowned Queen of Burlesque, Miss Indigo Blue, one of the most respected performers in the community. As a headlining performer, a teacher of burlesque, a veteran of the days when the museum was in a goat farm in Helendale, and a strong proponent of the longevity of the museum, Miss Indigo represented the past, present and future of burlesque with one taste of her trophy.  ©Don Spiro
To me this sums up everything about burlesque in 2011: class and beauty combined with irreverence, sexiness and humor, personified by the newly crowned Queen of Burlesque, Miss Indigo Blue, one of the most respected performers in the community. As a headlining performer, a teacher of burlesque, a veteran of the days when the museum was in a goat farm in Helendale, and a strong proponent of the longevity of the museum, Miss Indigo represented the past, present and future of burlesque with one taste of her trophy. ©Don Spiro

www.DonSpiro.com

www.BurlesqueHall.com

21st Century Burlesque
21st Century Burlesque

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.

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