Jessabelle Thunder’s Hollywood Burlesque Festival Diary
The luscious Jessabelle Thunder is your guide for the first annual Hollywood Burlesque Festival, which took place at the end of last year. Read on!
December 6, 2013
Today did NOT start off well. A negative work review, had to take my car to the shop, and traffic EVERYWHERE! Needless to say, I was more than ready to kick off the first annual Hollywood Burlesque Festival. When I arrived at the Hayworth Theatre, I was greeted by many familiar faces and escorted to the most spacious dressing area I have ever seen. Typically I get ready in a broom closet, but this area was like 100 broom closets put together, minus the mess. Before I became aware of who was in the space with me, my eyes were delighted by a smorgasbord of snacks, waters, M&M’s, almonds, cookies (baked by the lovely VV Triple), pizza, etc. All the things I shouldn’t have eaten before getting naked on stage, but, oh well! I didn’t care. I collected a handful of almonds mixed with M&M’s and found a space to get ready.
The Green Room antics were a plenty as more and more performers began to show up and get ready. The highlight was when Dizzy Von Damn began to talk about the process of putting on her C-string, and Iza La Vamp and Mercury Troy decided to take a closer look. There was also some pelvic thrusting going on, and I hope my picture does that moment justice. Everyone was in such good spirits and the energy level was high. Yes, I was pretty nervous (per usual) but being around such amazing people helped me calm my nerves down and remember that it was all about having fun. If I’m having fun on stage then so are the audiences and the judges. After getting out of my head, I was able to enjoy the night even more! In fact, I had the opportunity to meet two beautiful new burlesque friends: Maxi Millions and Matt Finnish from Arizona – fantastic individuals!
Now, as for the show that night, I can’t really speak much to it because a) I had to compose myself and it freaks me out to watch a show before I perform sometimes, and b) seats were full that night (awesome!). I can say that there were smiles on everyone’s faces upon entering the Green Room after their performances. Waiting backstage for my turn, I was able to hear the audience reaction to Maxi Millions and Joy Coy and the Coybots and it was a loud enthusiastic one. Oh! You know what?! I did get a chance to see a few headliners while I was waiting for the curtain call. I saw Red Snapper dance it up in a beautiful pink duster, Evie Lovelle be her uber sexy self in an A-mazing yellow and green sparkly costume, and the LA return of Dizzy Von Damn! Dizzy performed her beautiful Liz Taylor tribute act. Each time I’ve seen her perform the act, I am in awe of the costume and the confident way she struts across the stage. So inspiring!
Well, the show was over; everyone packed up their things and headed over to The 3 Clubs for the after party where the booze was a-flowin’ and the bass was a-boomin’. Details of those moments would take up a hundred more pages AAANNNNDDD what happens at the after party stays at the after party (well, at least that’s my motto).
‘Til tomorrow night!
December 7th, 2013
Tonight I got to be a spectator and it felt so good. Each and every performer brought it tonight and I was so happy to sit there beside Miss Mercury Troy and cheer them all on. Now, if I sat here and listed every performer that stepped foot on that stage tonight, I‘d be sitting here for days not only mentioning them by name but talking about their performance. In lieu of that I’m going to just talk about the performances that I was really captivated by.
Let’s begin with headliner number one, Lux La Croix, who opened the show with her legendary Prince routine! What a way to open up a show! She omits so much energy when she performs that routine and everyone in the audience feels it. And speaking of making the audience feel something, Poison Ivory probably had everyone feeling a little something in their pants during her routine (she competed for ‘Miss Starlet’). Her movements were super sexy and had so much force and confidence behind them; it was the perfect blend of hard fast movements and slow sultry striptease. Perfection! As I sat there drooling in my seat, I thought, ‘Just give her all the awards!’ I needed some time to calm down after that hot ass number but, alas, there wasn’t any, because up next was Victory Variety Hour and Nikita Bitch Project.
I was so excited to see VVH perform the ‘Epic Egyptian Epic’ on a stage that could hold them. Myself and fellow VVH’er Mercury Troy cheered on our troupe members and leader Penny Starr Jr. as they tore up the stage with an immense bout of ‘epicness’. Not a single person could say that, after that seeing that number, the song Filthy Gorgeous and those dance moves were not stuck in their head. The costumes, created by Penny, were nothing less than epic as well: Egyptian era with tons of modern burlesque sparkle!
Next up was the amazingly talented local gal (thank you Japan for giving her to us) Nikita Bitch Project performing her Michael Jackson tribute number. Every time I see this lady she says that she wants to be a little like me, which absolutely absurd because she is far beyond anything I could be. I want to be like a Bitch Project in training! From watching this particular performance of hers, you could see what a huge fan of MJ she is. Her moves were his moves to a T, but with some of her own flare in there as well. She rolled around on stage, threw her hat to the side, and pelvic thrusted so much that I wanted to faint like many MJ fans before me.
OH MY GOSH! Let’s move on to THEE performance of the night that blew my mind and made me even more drooly and shaky: Jay C. Handbalancer from France. Words on paper could not express how I felt watching his performance, but I’ll try. When he came out I turned to Merc and said, “he’s pretty cute and he’s got long arms!” I had no clue just what he was going to do with those arms! He basically did a striptease whilst balancing in the air on these two sticks for the entirety of the song Feeling Good. What the eff?! I had never seen anything like that before and probably never will again, unless I start stalking him. When he finally came down out of the air, the whole audience was on their feet for a good minute. I just kept repeating “Damn!” over and over again while shaking my head in disbelief, but that awesomeness totally happened right in front of my eyes.
Now, on to the beautiful Miyuki Divine from Canada. Her routine was a change from the fast paced routines before, but it encompassed all the movements and energy. Her song, I believe, was an infectious Japanese song that I wish I knew the words to but hummed the tune to long after she exited the stage. Her costume was reminiscent of fire and her small fan work was beautiful and obviously something she had been practicing for years. Most of the time I’m not so drawn to slow, classic striptease, but this Miyuki had me in the palm of her hands and smiling ear to ear during the whole thing. Beautiful!
Diary, my hands are starting to cramp up a bit from writing about all the amazing things I saw Saturday night, but I must go on because this show was perfect from beginning to end. Although I haven’t quite mentioned all the local talent, it doesn’t mean there wasn’t any. My friends brought it, dammit! From Tito Bonito’s hilarious Cuban routine, to Cici Stiletto’s powerful voice and body, to Mr. Snapper and Mr. Buddy’s vaudeville-esque comedy, LA has talent aplenty and the whole festival showed it. With that said, let’s talk about a somewhat local friend of mine, Blanche DeBris from Las Vegas (I say local because it’s not really that far and I want to claim her). This was yet another performance that had me and the other audience members on their feet. She sang the hell outta Rubber Ducky, and from her bright yellow costume pieces to her sparkly blinding rubber ducky hat, everything about that number was great. She always puts a smile on my face!
The headliners for the end of the night were Stephanie Blake (extremely sexy), Russell Bruner (always entertaining) and the incredibly sexy lady that I look up to and want to be like, Roxi D’Lite. She always amazes me – ALWAYS – and that night was no exception. She is such an inspiration to me and one day I hope to learn directly from her. She performed her gorgeous ‘Lavender’ number and I could watch her twirl around that stage for hours. Roxi is one of a handful of performers who encapsulate my idea of burlesque. Enough of my gushing and onto the awards for the night – well, not ALL the awards, but a few.
So, Richard Simmons was totally in the audience that night and, at the end, came up on stage and presented the Shirley Simmons ‘Most Classic’ award in honour of his mother (a former burlesque performer), but not before giving an awe-inspiring speech filled with laughter and a few tears. What a lovely man he is! The award was given to Maxi Millions. Others that won awards that night: Poison Ivory won ‘Miss Starlet’ (as she should’ve), ‘Most Comedic’ went to Matt Finnish, ‘Best Troupe/Chorus Line’ went to Victory Variety Hour (of course!), and ‘Leading Man’ went to the mindblowing Jay C. Handbalancer. The main titles, ‘Mr and Miss Hollywood’, went to two of my lovely and talented friends, Bobbie Burlesque and Sheila Starr Siani; two people who were very deserving of the them.
After all of the sashes and crowns were handed out, the night ended with the most beautiful nod to old Hollywood: a classic showgirl chorus line complete with headdresses and boa tails – beautiful! The chorus line was joined on stage by many LA performers as a perfect wrap up to the end of the night! Then it was on like Donkey Kong at the after party!
December 8 and 9th 2013
Sunday and Monday night were so much fun! Monday night was the Film Strip show at The 3 Clubs. It was a mix of burlesque routines inspired by movies, and improvised routines to random songs from movies. The most fun show to watch ever! For the improvised numbers, the ladies had to spin a wheel and dance to whatever song from a movie the needle landed on.
Sgt. Die Wies, my homegirl from San Francisco, ripped up the stage and brought the house down when she randomly landed on Sweet Transvestite. It was the perfect song for her and she stole that whole show, hands down! I adore her so much and her performance was infectious! Before the show started, we had a nice little 30 minute film from Brian C. Janes’ book and Q&A, It’s All That Glitters. He previously had clips from the project and put a thirty minute documentary together for the festival and it worked very well.
Monday night’s closing party was pretty fun, too, and ended in a ton of balloons being thrown around the room and strewn about the floor. The show was hosted by Eddie Medrano and included performances from local talents like April Showers, VV Trippple, Bella Luna, Miss May and Madeline Sinclaire to name a few, as well as out of towners like Mercy Beaucoup and Pandora Von Kit. The highlight of that night, for me was from Kami Oh!, a new import to Los Angeles. Her superhero inspired number was hilarious and soooo much fun! She owned that superhero persona from start to finish.
Phew! What an overall epic and fun four days! The first ever Hollywood Burlesque Festival was, in my eyes, a success. Lili VonSchtupp put her heart and soul into it, and it definitely showed. It was such an honour to be a part of the first Hollywood Burlesque Festival and hang out with so many of my friends and meet tons of new people, which is what festivals, in the end, are all about. A big thank you to Lili and her team of amazing people who helped everything go so smoothly and kept it fun for everyone! I can’t wait to see what they do next year! I know it’s going to be even bigger and better.