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 is a selection from the wonderful New York photographer, Ed Barnas…
“The Burlesque Hall of Fame weekend has a special appeal to me, primarily due to the long history of the event. While the pageant has been in existence since 1991, its roots go back to the Exotic Dancers League and the meetings/parties started by Jennie Lee in 1957, and carried on by Dixie Evans after Jennie passed. It is the presence of so many ‘Legends’ at the event that I appreciate – meeting with them and seeing so many of them still performing on stage and captivating the audience is a particular pleasure.
Of course, the weekend also offers a chance to experience an international array of performers, not just in the competition but also in the showcase events that bookend the weekend. While I may have seen some of their numbers before, the bar is raised even higher when performing before an audience of peers and Legends.
I have attended the weekend since 2006 when it moved to Las Vegas, and have a number of fond memories of making new friends, meeting old ones, seeing great performances and just hanging out. However, I am primarily a performance photographer and document many of my memories with photos. My biggest problem with shooting at the weekend is that I take so many photos that the sheer volume intimidates me. It takes me months to plough through the images, eliminate the ‘misses’, fine tune the survivors, and get proofs out to the performers. I hesitate to list my favorite images for fear of running on far too long…”
Liz Renay (2006)
When Liz Renay appeared at the 2006 Exotic World Weekend, she was borne on stage by a quartet of scantily clad men. After delivering a monologue that filled the audience with laughter, she left the stage at the Celebrity Theatre in the same high style. What makes this image poignant to me is that it was her last appearance at Exotic World (she passed away the following January). Knowing that makes me wonder if she were somehow subconsciously aware her time was short and chose to make such a fitting exit for a Legend.
In 2006 the Miss Exotic World competition moved to Las Vegas and, for the first time, added a category for
Satan’s Angel (2007)
I have seen Satan’s Angel, the Devil’s Own Mistress, perform a number of times and it is a challenge to capture the energy of her performance given the vagaries of stage lighting. Luck was with me at the 50th Annual Striptease Reunion in 2007 when I was able to capture her in a moment of stasis while her swirling cape formed a dynamic backdrop to her body.
Trixie Little and The Evil Hate Monkey (2007)
Trixie Little and the Evil Hate Monkey are an inventive duo who never fail to entertain with their stage personae. Winners of the Best Duo category in 2006, this photo is from their performance at the 2007 Exotic World Weekend. Aside from the graceful curves of their bodies, I love their facial expressions, especially the open-eyed (and open-mouthed) stare of Monkey at Trixie’s breast as she pressed his head into her chest. I also wonder in which direction his left hand is moving...
Catherine D’Lish (2009)
I have seen Catherine D’Lish perform a number of times and her work continues to entertain and amaze. In this photo from the 2009 Burlesque Hall of Fame weekend, I like the way her body hangs from the web, thrust forward almost like the figurehead of a ship but with a lovely, almost dreamy, expression on her face. The mixed colour lighting was distracting, so I converted the image to monochrome to emphasize the lines of Catherine’s body.
Roxi D’Lite (2009)
Although I have seen Roxie D’Lite’s diamond ring number in other venues, the stage at the Orleans made a perfect setting for this act in 2009, giving the audience a clear view of her skills on the ring. I like the way her body appears to both float and be in motion at the same time and the way the spotlights converge on the diamond to emphasize the scale of the space.
Julie Atlas Muz (2007)
I had seen photos of this particular number by Julie Atlas Muz in Michelle Baldwin’s book, but had not seen her perform it until the 2007 Exotic World Weekend. As Julie struggles to unwind herself from the rope, Lesley Gore sings her 1963 hit You Don’t Own Me. The combination of the visual imagery with the song’s lyrics make for a powerful statement and I hear the music whenever I see this image.
Dusty Summers is one of the many Legends I have had the pleasure to meet at EW/BHoF over the years. I like this particular image for the way it captures the motion of her negligee while managing to keep her face and upper body sharp.
Kitten on the Keys (2009)
Kitten on the Keys has hosted several times at BHoF and is known as much for multiple costume changes as for her silly songs. In 2009 her vodka pasties provided her with a bit of refreshment while on stage and her expression while sipping really makes this image work.
Kalani Kokonuts (2009)
Kalani Kokonuts won the title of Reigning Queen of Burlesque in 2009 with this number. It is that bright shining jewel on her right arm that draws my attention to the wonderful interplay of curve and line in her body, with the flare spot to the left of her head pulling my eye back up to her face.
Kitten DeVille (2009)
I find this particular image of Kitten DeVille from 2009 emblematic of the interaction between performer and audience. It is an energetic number and in this photo Kitten works close to the edge of the stage, looking down at the audience, knees forward but body held back while teasing them with her fans (can you feel the breeze as she moves them?). She is playing to the audience, giving them her attention, ignoring the photographers who often converge at the edge of the stage, but still aware of their presence.
Madame Rosebud (2009)
Being able to capture a clear image of a performer while still conveying the fluidity and motion of the act is a never ending challenge. The photo of Madame Rosebud competing for Best Debut in 2009 manages to do both and I am especially pleased that I was able to catch her en pointe.