Kitty Bang Bang shares her experience of the 2013 New Orleans Burlesque Festival as only Kitty can. The weekend was pretty much one long glittery bar crawl, apparently, with some fabulous burlesque and catching up thrown in. Enjoy!
Wednesday 18th September
The night before I was headed to New Orleans, I had the pleasure of performing at Bushwick Burlesque (Darlinda Just Darlinda and Scary Ben’s awesome night in Brooklyn, NYC) which ran quite late. I have a long and colourful history of missing flights due to excessive alcohol consumption followed by a nap, so I decided that it was best to just party on through to my 6AM flight time. Obviously this was a popular option, because the lovely Italians Dixie Ramone and Albodoro Gala had also been performing at Bushwick, and when I was heading back to Manhattan at 4am to pick up my suitcase they were still going strong, too. Upon arrival in New Orleans, we as a party were all slightly less chirpy. And all wearing very large and very dark sunglasses. We all shuffled out of the airport and waited for Rick Delaup‘s lovely Mother to pick us up and drive us to our hotel, panicking silently about if we would be allowed to check in at 9am, because the red wine hangovers had definitely kicked in.
Once ensconced in the glorious air conditioning of the Hilton, however, I had a change of heart and decided that a shower would probably fix me right up. Joining me on my visit to America was my partner-in-crime (and my actual partner), Bioux, who needed no convincing to head straight out to explore. Neither Bioux or I had ever been to New Orleans before and so we headed to the only place that either of us had ever heard of, Bourbon Street. This, we realised quite quickly, was a mistake. Bourbon Street is… interesting, but maybe not totally representative of New Orleans a whole.
We went to the Absinthe House for a couple of beers. By this point we’d been awake for about twenty-five hours, so pre-lunchtime drinking was totally justifiable. We gave in after a while and headed back to the hotel for an afternoon nap, and we had just got in our room when we heard insanely loud drumming. So we ran downstairs to check it out and there was an actual massive marching band, marching along past the hotel. They had people on stilts dancing behind them, one of whom gave us some beads and shouted at us to join them. So we danced down the street with about one-hundred other people for about half an hour until I nearly got run over by a police motorcycle during a particularly jubilant bit of choreography and we decided we should probably head back to the hotel and get ready for the pre-festival meet up drinks.
The meet-up took us back to our old haunt, Bourbon Street. The English were well represented with Miss Miranda, Vicky Butterfly and Havana Hurricane all in attendance and looking fabulous. And I got the chance to meet up with my international friends. One of my favourites, the gorgeous Miss Redd, was in town and I was so excited to catch up with her. I hadn’t seen her since I did the last New York Burlesque Festival and I couldn’t wait to give her a squeeze. The Strawberry Siren was also out and on good form. I met some of the lovely locals, GoGo McGregor and Charlotte Treuse. The Stage Door Johnnies and Russell Bruner wafted in and brought a bit of sartorial elegance to the proceedings. There were free cocktails on offer, courtesy of New Orleans Burlesque Festival, and we all made merry until about 3AM when we decided to call it a night. Havana, Redd and I all tottered back to the Hilton in our high heels. Bioux declared that he looked like a pimp with all the hot women hanging off his arms. The reality was, high heels and cobbled streets don’t mix.
Thursday 19th September
We decided that a lazy day was in order and that it probably wouldn’t hurt to catch up on a little sleep. So we got up at midday and then ordered room service.
The food in New Orleans is crazy. And they only serve it in portions the size of your actual head. I ate a po’ boy so big that I was forced to visit the hotel gym before we got ready to head to Harrah’s Casino for the opening night of the New Orleans Burlesque Festival. Apparently this was the first year that the New Orleans Burlesque Festival has included a boylesque night and I was excited to see the show because I’d seen most of the acts before in Vegas and I knew that they were all going to bring something amazing to the stage. Bioux was less excited about the prospect of spending his evening watching loads of men strip. Ah, the perils of being a burlesque boyfriend. But, as expected, the boys put on the most amazing and hilarious show. We laughed the whole way through.
The Stage Door Johnnies were predictably fabulous. Ray Gunn performed his acrobatic winning act from Exotic World, all steampunk visuals and hot bod. Bazuka Joe gave us his hilarious vault-pole unicorn act and some cheeky speed racer action. Russell Bruner took to the stage and informed the room that he was about to grace us with some beat poetry, which nearly made me get up and head to the bar. But I’m glad I stayed; what followed was perfectly burlesque and fittingly NoLa, dripping with the sleaze that we’ve all come to expect from Mr Bruner. He was accompanied by a live percussionist who had a couple of show stealing moments, and the crowd all sang along too. I enjoy watching burlesque and boylesque performers who actually have a voice onstage. It’s not something that a lot of performers bring and so it was food for thought to see it done so well. Russell also performed his winning routine from Exotic World last year; we had a stage full of Kings. My own personal highlights of the evening were the genius that is Hot Toddy and then Jett Adore‘s magnificent new butterfly routine which Bioux dubbed “One of the best things my eyes have ever seen.”
Hot Toddy is a performer that I had heard of and maybe seen a brief clip of on YouTube, but I had no real expectations of him and he absolutely blew me away. His acting is superlative and his comedy chops impeccable. Then Miss Redd leant over and told me that it was actually Hot Toddy who put together The Stage Door Johnnies, which made me love him even more. His martini act was beautifully put together and maybe the best ‘drunk’ act that I’ve seen. The Liberace act was just full of absolutely beautiful attention to detail and had a ingenious piano key ending. I didn’t think anything would be able to top that act until a swarm of beautiful butterflies fluttered out onstage. Jett Adore SLAYED the audience with his insanely brilliant butterfly act. Why the hell hasn’t somebody given this man a crown yet?
Post-show, I had my ass groped by the wonderful Stephanie Blake‘s friend who I think is called Glitter? Another Harrah’s highlight for all concerned. Bioux, Redd and I then met up with our friends from Sublime Boudoir who were official New Orleans Burlesque Festival sponsors, and we all tottered over to House of Blues to go and catch ‘Siren of the South’ Athena, a big-lunged brunette with some special burly guests, including Havana Hurricane who I’d met the night before. There was some serious shimmy action going down on that stage. We had post-show dinner with the Sublime Boudoir crew and then headed to Frenchman Street for live music and dancing. Miss Redd caused quite the dance floor pile up when she demonstrated how she could ‘twerk’ her breasts in time to the live band. I think there is video somewhere. One man’s jaw actually looked like it was about to unhinge while he was watching. I don’t really remember getting home. But God Bless America, Land of the Free Pour. Hic.
Friday 20th September
Ok, so I have a confession to make. I know this is a diary for a burlesque publication, but I didn’t manage to see any burlesque on the Friday. I mean, obviously I planned on going to the shows, but I had one of those alcoholic slushy thingies really early in the day and it was a slippery slope downhill from there. The sun was out, we hired bikes and got too hot. We were forced to stop at an awesome gay bar and eat free pizza and drink really stupidly strong rum and cokes. Then somebody bought us an alcoholic ice cream thing with lots of brandy in. I think it tipped me over the edge. I nearly asked if I could move in. It was like gay Cheers in there. I immediately messaged David Bishop and told him that I was taking him on Sunday; turned out he’d already been. The barman promised me free shots on my return. I hugged a drunk old man. It was a great day. A meeting of minds. I nearly fell off the bike when we rode off to return them. My only regret is that I missed the Bad Girls Show at House of Blues that night, which meant I didn’t see Miss Redd’s new devil act. The pictures looked epic. Bad friend. Sorry Miss Redd.
For all of the Friday Night action, check out Vicky Butterfly’s New Orleans Burlesque Festival diary (opens in a new window), which includes more gorgeous photos!
Saturday 21st September
Saturday morning loomed and meant that I had to get up and do something I’d been putting off for days. I had to go and buy a stupid trash can. Those of you who may have read my previous diary about getting hold of a trash can in Las Vegas will understand that acquiring this prop isn’t something that has always gone completely smoothly in the past. At least this time I knew that I needed to ask for a ‘trash can’ and not a ‘rubbish bin’, and I’ve learnt my lesson about propping fire doors open.
I located a Home Depot that was supposed to be about twenty-five minutes walk away. What Google failed to mention is that it was twenty-five minutes walk only if you skipped down the hard shoulder of a motorway and scaled a fence or two. What the actual fuck? We ended up getting a cab to the Home Depot which meant picking a trash can that was small enough to fit in the trunk of a cab, but was still big enough for me to fit my ass into. Bioux sat on the floor of the trash can aisle hungover while I attempted to fit into a variety of trash cans. I’m sad that we didn’t take pictures, especially when he tried to put the lid on one and lock me in. I found a relatively small bin that I was about 75% sure I could actually get out of onstage. It just about fit in the trunk of the cab on the way back. Then I went out for pizza, slashing the odds to about 50/50. We dropped the bin off at the venue and then headed back to the hotel for a pre-Queen competition snooze.
Even though I was performing right after the Queen’s Competition, I really wanted to go and see the show. It was back at Harrah’s Casino, where we’d seen the boys’ show, STRUT. Harrah’s was a great venue with a nice big stage. My only complaint was their absolutely arctic air conditioning. We didn’t buy our tickets until the night of the event so we were sat fairly far back, all huddled together for warmth. But the big screens either side of the stage gave the whole room a great view, even when it really filled up, which was great for a short ass like me. Kicking things off was Angi B. Lovely in her step down performance. I loved her costume and she did some really pretty stocking work on her silks. Watching people do aerial in burlesque competitions always makes me wish I’d trained at a discipline that was allowed. Instead, I picked fire. Idiot.
Then the competition began with the gorgeous Hazel Honeysuckle, a performer that I’d not really seen before. I can never decide what’s worse with competitions – going very first or very last. Dixie Ramone drew the last slot and did a really lovely, high energy show in a gorgeous shimmy dress. It was a different energy to the majority of the ladies on the stage that night and I enjoyed it. Props to both ladies for bookending the show beautifully. Another couple of stand-outs for me were The Strawberry Siren who gave a very polished performance and had a great costume. I love a good hat reveal and some glamorous hairography. I also thought that Orchid Mei gave a very controlled and sexy performance until an unfortunate slip clearly ruffled her.
But for me, the night definitely belonged to the winner, Medianoche. This may be a controversial thing to say, but I’m really not the hugest fan of classic burlesque, but I always really enjoy watching her. She’s a beautiful dancer and she has an amazing figure. And she designs and creates everything herself. For me, Medianoche is one of the best classic burlesque performers out there. And from the moment she stepped out onto that stage, you could tell that she’d come to win. It was bold and confident, immaculately costumed and hot! She threw herself into the splits and whipped the crowd into a frenzy. I had to run to House Of Blues before crowning but I’d have put good money on her winning. I should have done actually, I was in a casino after all.
As I was performing at the Queen’s Ball I didn’t get to see as many acts as I would have liked. But I made sure I was ready side of stage in time to see Lady Jack perform. I first met Lady Jack in Milan and I loved her act. She’s a really talented dancer and I love watching dancers perform. She didn’t disappoint. I was on just after Albodoro Gala, who threw maybe a kilo of glitter on the stage during her very glamorous show. I crossed my fingers and hoped that the stripper gods would be kind and I wouldn’t break my ankles on the glittery surface. I added a little New Orleans twist to my show by throwing a few empty glasses and some carnival beads (more trip hazards) out of my bin at the top of the act, which seemed to go down a storm with the local audience. It was a full house and the crowd were so lovely and very vocal. I had a really fun show and I came up from the floor work section looking like a human glitter ball. I managed to get dressed in time to catch Ginger Valentine‘s new show, which was just lovely. The Ruby Revue were there in full superstar force to close the show, and what a performance. I’d never seen all the girls together before, and I know them all as a group of talented soloists, but they were a tour de force when en masse. Sparkly showgirl group twirling. The perfect end to a fabulous evening.
Then we drifted upstairs for an after party, lured by the promise of free rum. I have never and will never miss out on free rum. Queen Medianoche arrived, wearing her crown; Strawberry Siren and David Bishop swapped clothes in the middle of the dance floor; and Bioux deposed the DJ and started playing some rock n roll that had everybody up and dancing. I mainly concentrated on drinking the free rum. Just to be polite obviously. House of Blues was a great venue and we partied there until it closed at about 5AM. Then the locals took charge and GoGo McGregor lead everybody who could still walk to Decateur and bought us all shots. There was more rum. Eventually I noticed that my feet were actually bleeding and we stumbled back to the hotel, having promised to meet the newly crowned Queen for beignets in the morning. I was still wearing my cat ears.
I want to say a big thank you to Rick Delup for inviting me and for looking after us all so well. Best backstage catering ever and free rum! Thank you to all the crew who looked after us backstage and thank you to each and every barman that served me in NoLa. The dude who works at the Blue Banana and made the best strawberry daiquiris ever gets a special shout out. Hope to see you all again next year.
Kitty Bang Bang x
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.