Desert Dust and Glitter Lust, by Lola Frost.
I arrived late Wednesday night with my Flapper in Crime, Rita Star, after a three hour flight delay from San Francisco. Fear not! We had wine, costuming projects and people-watching to keep us company until the familiar embrace of the warm Vegas air wrapped its arms around us. Arriving at The Orleans now feels like home; this once a year pilgrimage has found its home there three years in a row, and passing through the doors into the smoke and air conditioning is oddly welcoming.
Waiting to check in we caught our first glimpses of our tribe: Michelle L’amour and Franky Vivid, Sweetpea and Seven, and, bounding down the casino, my little sister and first time BHoF-er, Villainy Loveless, who pounced me so hard and with so much love I almost fell over. I knew why, I felt the same on my first trip; in fact, I still feel that way four years later. This was going to be epic. I could feel it in my bones.
It was already past midnight when we got to our room, and Cherry OnTop and Crystal Precious (who will now be referred to as CP) were already sleeping in another room. We Sweet Soul Burlesque ladies (who will now be referred to as SSB) were performing the next day for the Movers, Shakers and Innovators night, so beauty sleep for maximum sassificaiton was a must. But, if you have met Rita and I, you know we are a bit OCD. We need to unpack and nest before we can rest. The room was set up in about twenty minutes. Our drag (including Cherry and CP’s) was neatly taking up almost every inch in the room. Basecamp established, sickening outfits waiting to be worn, and shoes – so many shoes – begging to be strut in.
Thursday morning was an early start as it always is with Miss Star and I. Priorities were calling: coffee and the internet, pool and stage destruction. After #riseandshine tweets were sent and tech times double-checked, it was outfit-#2-of-the-day-o’clock. Poolside realness. Coming from Vancouver, we need and crave the sunshine; it’s still early July and the West Coast has not yet let summer know what’s up. More love connections were spotted – Roxi D’Lite and Kellita – and more were already being made. Enter new crushes, Elektra Cute and Nikki Knickers (who would, later in the weekend, swoon me on the dance floor).
Our tech was pure invigoration. The team is always flawless and already in full go mode on day one: Mr. David Bishop at the helm, Jonny Porkpie eyeing up opportunities, and Cherry Cheesecake cool as a cucumber. We met Trojan Original, flexing his muscles and looking like mischief. It was obvious from the start we were going to be friends. A very distinct feeling washed over me as we were waiting for our turn to run through. It was a presence, a very strong one. I was suddenly overcome with emotion; it was heartbreaking and elating at the same time. I knew she was there, watching over us, causing a bit of trouble. It was Sparkly Devil. The theatre was thick with the spirit of a woman so near and dear to the whole community. I kept the feeling to myself, but said some blessings to her. In the face of tragedy, there is no better way to spend it than with your international family – holding hands and hearts together as one. She would have had it no other way, and, Jonny Porkpie would later have us chanting as one in her honour – ‘Fuck Yeah.’
Cherry, Rita and I retired to our room. CP was bunking with Paco Fish across the hall and went into full showgirl hippy mode. Yoga, breathing and channelling calm positive energy for twenty minutes before make-up application was in full swing. Listening to Rita practice kundalini is a spiritual experience all on its own; it’s also mildly arousing… Spirit says, ‘breathe and be awesome.’
We shared a dressing room with many, one being fellow Vancouverite Nicky NineDoors, who was about to show Vegas her true colours. I could not be more happy for her and Brother Keys to be showcasing their incredible talent to a hungry audience. Listening to CP warm up her pipes is always a warm fuzzy place for me; it’s infusing and always means business time.
As we entered the stage, after the incomparable Jett Adore and his astounding butterfly representation, I could feel the audience’s faces shift to a slight question of taste. In the beginning of our ‘Apple Pie’ number, we emote a sarcastically cheesecake exaggeration to the commodification of pin-up culture. We were over-the-top camp, and they were all like – whhhhhat? But then the beat kicked in, and Crystal threw down her brand, Strip Hop, like no one else can because she invented it. We served you pie, you saved your forks and there was appropriate slice distribution.
It was perfection.
Cue after party #1. Night one is always one of the best as it marks the kick-off of everyone getting to say their hellos and congratulations. To reconnect after a year or maybe more. To place your heart against the hearts of those you love in long, deep and occasionally pervy hugs. It is, quite frankly, striptease heaven. CP got Vegas tipsy, Rita wore her wig as a merkin, and Cherry and I got told that Toni Elling was rocking out to our number. We called it a success and bid the sleepless city goodnight.
Friday morning was, again, far too early for being a lady of the night. Rita and I snuck out so Miss OnTop could sleep; tweets, coffee, and away we went on a little mission to Walgreens by foot. Six Vegas blocks in the summer heat is no joke, but at that time of day it was perfectly manageable. Six gallons of water, a portable cooler and three bottles of champagne later, we arrived back ready to hit the pool and hit it hard. I speak for myself of course, as Rita, Cherry and CP had legend duties. I, as Tigger! so generously said, had a full dance card this year with three performances.
Day drag and bikini on, I headed down to the pool. One of my favorite parts of BHoF is seeing all of ‘us’ amongst the ‘muggles’. It’s quite obvious. It’s like we shine a little brighter and walk a little taller. Wearing our purpose and intentions on our sleeves, we are a hard bunch to miss. After some re-merchandising of lawn chairs, I found a cozy yet open and inviting spot to perch solo. I’m like a mobster; I need to be able to see everything and hold court if necessary.
I finally got to meet Bella Blue; we have exchanged the social media together, but nothing could prepare me for her hotness, kindness and accent in real life. I melted, and not just from the Vegas heat; I was a drippy puddle of flirtation. (I would, later that night, hoist myself up in the elevator and wrap my legs around her waist. She called it scissoring, I called it sassing. We could both agree it was truly BHoF-ing).
Joined later poolside by my sister, Beatrix Hotter, Paco Fish, Rufio Van Hoover and Trojan Original, the day was shaping up as only it can when surrounded by hundreds of people like us – hazy, dreamy, sparkly, warm’n’sticky. Cherry was first of the Sweet Soul ladies to come after assisting her legend, and Rita soon followed. They came just in time for a visit from the very dear and extremely generous Maurice Cavada. What we did to endear ourselves into this lovely man’s heart I am unsure, but it’s a welcomed place to be.
Time for a dip. This is where the mischief of Trojan came into full swing. I knew it. What seemed like an innocent lark in the pool and an even more innocent shoulder ride was in fact a clever disguise for a dunked LadyPomp! As I came up and tossed the glistening water behind me a la Baywatch, my mouth pursed and I raised an eyebrow. One might describe what I said to Trojan next to be like a scolding from a temperate mistress, but naturally it was all in good fun. Messy hair is reserved for late nights in bed or on the dance floor, son. That was my cue to round up the ladies and dress for the show.
Making our way through the blur of colour, bling and whimsically lackadaisical smiles, we scooped tacos, took a shower and prepared our finest pink frocks. As appointed by the current queen, Imogen Kelly, the Legends Night’s colour was pink. Thank goodness for Misty Greer or I would have nothing to wear. Last time I checked, black was not a shade of pink.
Legends Night is one of my favourite nights and truly the whole reason we are there. I love it because, as I mentioned earlier, there are ALL the emotions. This weekend was already full of them on every spectrum and there was no relenting on this night. Things become so clear, so quickly that we are here for life – we are dedicated followers and influencers to the magic created by the striptease arts. The speeches and introductions by World Famous BOB and Imogen resonated with such devout reverence to these women (and men) that I was moved to tears. Every year I am, but it was heightened this year. A fine gentleman tapped me on the shoulder to offer me a tissue. I thanked him warm-heartedly, diamond tears on my cheeks.
There are many moments worth mentioning performance-wise, but really, you had to be there. But, if I may, one special shout out to British Columbia’s own Grand Dame and Mumma Beaver Judith Stein, who in this year’s Walk of Fame did her signature gesture that would be used by us for the rest of the weekend and beyond. Left hand, double tap the pusoir, grandly sweep the hand out and across as an offering, and beam a radiant smile to go with it. Fuck Yeah.
Cue after party #2. Which I did not attend. Saturday was a big day and even bigger night in my life. Also, I was meeting up with my couture wife (and souls spirit lover) Misty Greer. Naturally, there was just a *few* more rhinestones that needed to adorn my robe for tomorrow. Just a smattering; radiating out, calling in the goddess powers.
My spirit wakes before my body does; it’s like I can feel Saturday’s light burning a hole in the blackout blinds. My smile comes before my eyes open; I am ready to take today on, one buoyant and intentional step at a time. The SSB ladies were on a mission that day – more supplies from Trader Joe’s and a trip to the showgirl market. They had promised to procure me a “Frost” necklace, as I have wanted one for three years now. With two tech times today and my Mumma flying in for less than twenty-four hours to see both her daughters on the BHoF stage, my day was too full to attend the sparkle market. After coffee and #riseandshine tweets I made a mission to find my duet partner, Melody Mangler. We have a term for the soft and flowing interactions we were doing onstage this year – we call it ‘Tease Chi’. Mapping the ebb and flow of each other’s sensuality throughout the number. We would spend the afternoon together vibing and aligning energies in true West Coast stripper fashion.
Walking into the theatre today was exciting. My sister and Ruthe Ordare were just about to start their run through. I think Villainy’s eyes were as big as the moon; there was just the right balance of nerves and joy pulsating out of her. As Ruthe and Villainy started to move onstage, I immediately started to weep softly. I was and am so incredibly proud of her, how far she has come and what she has overthrown to be a performer. The number they did was a perfect reflection of this, and Ruthe in all her struggle and strength was the perfect counterpoint.
I told Melody I was not allowed to watch them tonight as to not cry. I did anyway. It was one of the only acts I got to see, and it was perfect.
Melody and I spent some time practicing our lift, fixing my shoe, and stretching. We parted ways for food and a visit with my Mumma, my second tech and some grounding. While I was rehearsing in my room, the air-conditioning technicians arrived to fix our unit. Thank gawd, it was unnervingly warm in the room mid-day! They were very polite in my state of undress and wished me luck for the night. Second tech went very well and I can’t express the dedication and the calm, cool and collected nature of the stage crew. I have deep and heartfelt blessings to all who make that happen every year without a hitch.
Fellow flapper in crime Cleo Viper was poised in the audience watching, smiling and being her usual sassy self. When I came down from stage she said with a sarcastic smirk, ‘Fuck you, Lola. Any chance you will get injured between now and tonight?’ I burst out laughing and hugged her, replying, ‘You want to Tonya Harding / Nancy Kerrigan me?!’ Being from Italy she did not catch the reference, upon clarification she simply stated, ‘exactly.’ Oh how I love that woman!
Melody and I snuck backstage at the top of the show; I would not reemerge until after my solo that night, so sadly I did not get to see any of the show, save for the blurry monitor in the green room. But hearing the music and the audience react in waves of glee and delight, passion and pleasure was enough to keep me riding high.
Melody and I sailed smoothly and sensually through our voyeuristic pas de deux. It felt flawless and exhilarating. We had been waiting to share that story with the BHoF for two years now and unleashing it was like fulfilling a long awaited desire. The next period in time was a blur. The backstage bustle of changing faces, various states of undress, nerves, perfectly quaffed pre-number outfits, sweaty bodies and red cheeked after states. I let myself flow in the mix until it was time. Gin Minsky was crushing it as I waited in the wings. Her smile could light the whole casino; she was pulsing with the sheer joy of doing what she loved and the audience was loving it! Lights down, curtain down, Blanche Debris was cooing to the crowd but I didn’t hear a thing.
I stood in place behind the curtain. In an exhaled breath I asked politely to the stage manager helping me if my robe was in place behind me. He said it was perfect. ‘Thank you,’ I exhaled again. I took in some breath, called on my goddesses, exhaled and closed my eyes. ‘Let them love you. Give them everything.’
The curtain came up, the music started and the focus came on sharp and clear. Time slowed down and the steps came naturally. I looked out at the darkness, seeing nothing but feeling everything. I can only describe it as being held by a thousand hearts. All those people that supported me up until that moment and everyone watching in the moment was a perfect culmination of love and camaraderie. I finished wholeheartedly, whisked myself offstage with my heart beating the rhythm of pure elation. I dressed quickly so I could catch Imogen’s step-down number – what a vision, what an innovation, what a beauty.
As the awards were handed out one by one, it was cute to see people charge the stage and jump up to receive them. They changed the format this year and had all the Queen contestants come back to the stage. It was a sea of colour, sequins and smiles. When my name was called for 2nd Runner Up, I had to catch my heart from leaping through my chest. I was so grateful for Blanche; it was like looking over at my Fairy Godmother. Her beautiful smile and excited eyes receiving me was a solid grounding in the floating my body was now doing.
Sydni Deveraux was awarded 1st Runner Up and LouLou D’vil was crowned Queen this year. Watching the faces of all the contestants light up for each other was some kind of special. The happiness felt for each other’s achievements was so genuine and true. LouLou was radiant and humble; it was a wonderful and worthy triumph for her.
I was clutching my trophy with both hands as I left the theatre after congratulations and kind words from so many. It was a bit hazy and I don’t think I had stopped perspiring since they called my name! Emerging into the lobby of friends, lovers, fans and cohorts, the first thing out of my mouth was ‘Mom!’ Like a four-year-old, I wanted to see her immediately. Reconnected with family and saying thank you more times than I can remember, I slipped away to my room to change, eat a snack, and ground. My SSB ladies, Misty and my Mumma joined me. My mom was leaving in a few hours and I had only seen her for five seconds, it seemed. It was a perfect decompress before after party #3 – the one that goes the latest, is the most relaxed and has the biggest buzz.
Well, hello Sunday! My second favourite day and series of events of the weekend. Pool Party! All Stars Night! Super Dance Party After Party with DJ Cherry OnTop! Get with it baby, it’s on!
My first order of business, besides coffee and #riseandshine tweets, was to have a quick photo shoot with Don Spiro and the rest of the winners, or the ‘burlesque royal court of 2013’. Sydni dubbed us the Princess and Duchess under Queen LouLou; I can get behind that 100%. While waiting for everyone to show up, I stepped into the theatre and caught a sneak peak of the EPIC Stage Door Johnnies (and All Stars) group number for that night. Ummm, yep. That’s happening! That happened. And it was one of the best things I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing. Bravo!
The rest of the day and night were exactly how you would imagine it to be. Full of hugs, conversation, laughter, frozen beverages, photos, interviews, swimming, and all around crazy shenanigans. After we had our fill of the pool, we retired for one final full on sassification. The show was early tonight, but the dance party would go late; we were looking forward to Miss OnTop’s mad, drop it low and grindy style.
Watching the All Stars is like a breath of fresh air; with so much talent in one weekend, sitting back to watch those you love and admire just SLAY one after the other is a grand thing. Not to mention a ‘casual’ appearance by Dita Von Teese to award Catherine D’Lish with a Sassy Lassy award. Dita’s candid wit and humour was a treat to behold. Hearing her speak with such esteem to a woman beloved by us all was truly moving.
I can’t play favourites with performances, but I did proclaim out loud, after seeing her new act, that Roxi D’Lite is the best stripper in the Universe. Rita and Cherry also told me they like watching me watch Michelle L’amour almost as much as just watching her. Unblinking, on the edge of my seat, barely breathing, is usually my stance. Jo Boobs’ fierce and blazing tribute to Sparkly Devil was as moving as it was vivacious and left the whole room ignited with fire.
Cue after party #4. No holds barred dancing, vibrant conversations, makeouts and bliss. Later, after we could boogie no more, we went up to our room for snacks and chats. The SSB ladies, Villainy, Beatrix Hotter and Paco Fish did the usual – dished, ate and made ridiculous vine videos with our boobs and booties. We were all leaving at different times tomorrow, except Rita and I. We would leave Tuesday morning bright and early. So off to bed at what seemed quite early for Vegas, a healthy 4am.
We have a tradition in Vegas with Misty and her darling husband Andy. It’s aptly called Luxury Monday. We leave the island for brunch and a pool that is not The Orleans. This year was brunch at Paris and a swim at the Hard Rock Hotel. Quite the capper to the beautiful madness that just ensued.
Rita and I packed most of our gear when we got home and then joined Kellita and her lovely man, Jori, for a quiet dinner. I had completely lost my voice by this time, so conversations were in a low and hushed way. We spoke of adventures, what’s to come this summer, and dreams that were unfolding. With decadent hugs goodbye, we made our way to the room one last time.
In the morning, bright and early, we wheeled away, hauling ourselves, gear, new memories and a giant trophy back to Canada. It was another beautiful day in Vegas, but I was ready to breathe the fresh Vancouver air again.
Until next year, my friends, when we return for our annual pilgrimage of Desert Dust and Glitter Lust.
Rock’N'Roll Flapper, Burlesque Performer, Bad Ass Dance Instructor, Ninja, Make Out Artist, Sass Master, Rebel with a Cause. Co-Director of The Vancouver Burlesque Centre and member of Sweet Soul Burlesque. Lola's thoughtful and eloquent articles have attracted a whole new wave of fans on 21st Century Burlesque. Stay tuned for more.