Kitten LaRue and Lou Henry Hoover, adored collectively as Kitten ‘N’ Lou, were voted No. 1 in the Burlesque TOP 50 2015. With the 2016 poll results soon to be published, the terrific twosome penned an Ode to 2016 for your reading pleasure.
Holy guacamole. What. A. Year.
Let us set the scene:
January, 2016. We were in Australia finishing up the run of our show Overexposed in Melbourne. Overall, the run went great, but unbeknownst to us, our closing night had been scheduled on the same day as Melbourne Pride… which meant our show was happening at the exact moment every queer in town was rolling around in a glitter pile at a parade waaaay on the other side of town.
So after performing our little hearts and guts out for a whopping total of six audience members (two of whom were a couple of wasted gay dudes who basically just sucked face in the second row through most of the show – yay Pride!), we were having a real “what are we doing with our lives, let’s just get jobs at Amazon or something” moment as we went to bed that night.
The next morning we woke up (on the other side of the world, and therefore hours later than everybody else), and our phones had exploded with FB messages and notifications.
Our bleary, pre-coffee reaction was “oh shit, something awful has happened!” When we realized that all the phone action was because we’d been voted No. 1 on the Burlesque Top 50, we stared at each other in incredulous shock for about a solid minute, then squealed, then cried and hugged each other.
It was incredibly moving for so many reasons: to have that kind of validation from your fans and your peers who you respect so much, to feel like your particular weird gay brand of absurd performance resonates with lots of different kinds of people, to feel seen, and to feel such an outpouring of love and support from our community in a moment where we felt so far away from home and wondering if what we were doing was really worth the risks. It was truly humbling and fortifying in a way that’s hard to express.
(SIDE NOTE: to any friends who texted or called us to congratulate us: we were using temporary Australian cell phones that whole month, so we missed all of your well wishes! We promise we weren’t just being lazy jerks who couldn’t be bothered to text back!)
We spent the day drinking champagne with a lovely friend on a rooftop in Melbourne, and then got on a plane to Perth for Fringe World, feeling revitalized and focused!
With that bit of happy news, 2016 seemed full of progressive promise, and started off on a high.
WELP. Cue the endless parade of horrors that we are all still reeling from. Bowie. Brexit. Pulse. Prince. The continued murder of POC by police. Syria. DAPL. The most insane and infuriatingly misogynist election bullshittery ever. The list is long and this is just the tip. And now we have an angry tweeting orange monster pig dictator who can’t even form complete sentences as the leader of the free world. Super cool move, 2016.
And yet, amidst all this rotten stinking garbage, there still were plenty of highs. We got to travel to amazing places, meet magical people all over the world, produce shows where we’re privileged to work with brilliant artists, and we get to do it all together.
Beyonce AND Solange dropped mind blowing albums. And we even bought our first sweet little dream house in New Orleans! For all of this we feel blessed. But not complacent. This world is WACK. So what could we do to try to find the beauty that still surrounds us?
We often found ourselves wondering, in the face of so much depressing gravity, how we could possibly still feel like hopping around like a couple of rhinestoned idiots on a stage was important or even interesting.
It can be hard to remember that art making is a radical act when you feel hopeless and left wondering what you can possibly do. So we rallied, we protested, we raised money for causes we believe in, and we surrounded ourselves with an army of likeminded artists, powerful women, loud and proud queers, POC friends who continue to demand without apology that their lives matter.
That’s the power that we all still have. Let’s refuse to be invisible, refuse to be silent. Let’s hold each other close and lift each other up. And if all else fails, let’s all move to Canada and start a huge fancy freaky commune.
Huge thanks to Holli-Mae Johnson for creating the Burlesque Top 50, a platform for our industry to acknowledge and appreciate folks. It may not be a perfect representation of everything that’s happening in our scene (and what is?), but it truly was so cool in all our travels to different cities and countries, how many people would come up to congratulate us, how many performers messaged us to tell us that they found it personally really encouraging that a couple of drag clowns could end up at the top of this list.
It’s amazing that the Burlesque Top 50 has such a wide reach, and has become something that burlesque folks from all over the world participate in and look to as a guide for what’s happening in our business we call show. At the end of the day, though, just keep making art that matters to you, that inspires you, that helps you have a voice in this confusing and maddening world. Your audience will find you and connect with you, and that’s the most essential part of all of this.
We love you all a lot. Here’s to keep on keeping on in 2017.
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.