Lydia DeCarllo shares her Oregon Burlesque Festival experience…
There is something indescribably special about being asked to headline a festival. It’s like getting the biggest kiss on the lips from your glitter tribe! One big love festival is how I felt about my experience with the 1st annual Oregon Burlesque Festival. Love all around, from the festival organisers, the venues, the performers, and most of all the appreciative and supportive audiences. Portland gave me a heart-on.
The festival opened with the Thursday night showcase at Funhouse, a circus themed bar with a clown room that delighted me, but terrified most of the other attendees (see a video of it on my Instagram @lydiadecarllo). I love opening nights of festivals; it gives everyone a chance to get familiar and have a drink together. I love my community.
But, first things first: you must always take a photo of yourself next to a giant photo of your face!
Annnd good. Now on with the show.
Many of the performers from the showcase were graduates from All That Glitters Burlesque Academy. I was blown away by their costumes! Crystals EVERYWHERE. In my day, we used upside down sequins, and walked uphill BOTH WAYS in stilettos to our gig! Kidding of course, but seriously, they had their costumes on lockdown.
Personal highlights of the evening:
Rizzo Rogue (California) who commanded the audience and shook it like a true professional with her Rockabilly influenced Gene Vincent number.
The Taco Lady! Ruby Rounds, because a number about Tacos and enchiladas? Seriously? You own my heart.
And the shining star of that evening, Baby Le’Strange from Portland with her Tina Belcher from Bob’s Burgers tribute act. I died! If you haven’t heard about that TV character, she is vital to your being and totally legendary. You need Tina Belcher, and the world needs that act.
On Friday I had a day of leisure: walking around local shops, yoga, and my personal pre-show rituals. I’m the ultimate creature of habit.
For me, no Portland trip is complete without a trip to Mary’s , the tiniest most endearing little strip club. Mary’s, known as ‘Portland’s first topless’, opened in 1954 and has been supplying entertainment of the girlie variety since 1965. I decided to venture there before the start of the Friday night show. Portland, as many of you know, has the most strip clubs. Like, ever. So, you’re basically in a town surrounded by your own kind. It’s amazing! And their strippers are some of the best I have ever seen. Mary’s was a trip! I walked in and they all knew me (probably because my face was all over Portland that weekend promoting the festival) and it was just such a delightful moment for me! The dancers knew me, the servers knew me – hell, even the two old guys at the bar knew my face! It was a lovely moment. Remember where you come from: Mary’s has been around forevahhhh! So I sat myself down (under Tana the Tattooed Lady’s picture that hangs on the wall) and had a pre-show cocktail, sass all around.
The Friday and Saturday night shows were both held at Dante’s Inferno. You’ve seen pictures of the ‘Keep Portland Weird’ sign right? That’s the place! Dangerously close to Voodoo Doughnut. It has a great big stage with a large dressing room, excellent sight lines, and everyone that worked there was lovely.
Friday night brought the goods. Personal highlights:
Fringe Benefits with their killer crowd work and outrageously synced twerking! I can’t wait to see more from this group. They were definitely not for the faint of heart.
Holly Dai, one of the festival producers, showed us why she’s the boss lady. Her stunning costume and twinkling smile made her a vision in feathers and class.
Jacquline Chanton from San Diego (who was dancing for two!) looked radiant with her sparkling baby bump. Busting down beauty norms: check!
I loved Ruthe Ordare‘s (Vancouver BC) Blues for Mama. Her swirling duster had complete control of the room. Each hair toss, every item removed, was calculated to make you fall more and more in love with her. Wanda Bones and Dee Dee Pepper (Portland): their duo had me fully entranced.
And of course, Miss Tana the Tattooed Lady, AKA the other co-producer of the festival. She did the most adorable and funny cowgirl number. That girl, I tell ya – sexy, funny, all of it! It’s easy to be cute, it’s easy to take your clothes off, but to be effortlessly cute, and funny, and sexy, all with a wink and a smile? That’s Tana the Tattooed Lady.
That night, I did my ‘Tiki Tiger’ act. Although I could not bring my large tiki prop (because you can’t explain that one to the border guards), it was so fun to attack that stage without interference! I left the stage with a full heart.
Friday night post-show, my Vancouver clan and I enjoyed a meal out. I then I stole Villainy Loveless and Ruthe Ordare away with me, because what do you do when you’re given a hotel room to yourself? You add two more friends and make it cosy and extra giggly, obviously! Slumber parties: we do them right.
On Saturday I had the pleasure of teaching two classes at The Analog, a unique venue that does live music and circus classes, as well hosts the classes for the All That Glitters Burlesque Academy. I taught my Strong Showgirl (stage presence) and Showgirl Sparkle (stage makeup) classes. In the spirit of the weekend, it was a love fest. Wonderful students from near and far filled the room. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend my day. Again, thank you to all my students!
Saturday night boasted an overflowing pot of talent! From outrageously talented contortionists, to classic bump and grind, to the delightfully bizarre, the performances never failed to impress. Personal highlights:
Sandria Dore was the definition of eleganza with her Lilac Wine number. Draped in white chiffon and delicately playing with a white oversized balloon a la Sally Rand, she had us all in a trance.
Ruthe Ordare and Villainy Loveless‘ duo. Although I am no stranger to this number it always touches my heart. Their hypnotic movements backed by deep emotion make for a powerful statement. They deservedly walked away with Best Group.
Another personal favourite was Nani Poonani, who won a well deserved Wild Card. She has been on my radar for some time now and I finally got a chance to see her perform live. Boy did Nani deliver! Also, her name is just plain ol’ fun to say. Do it! Do iiittt!
Always a crowd pleaser: Bunny Pistol. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Bunny for a long time now and damn that girl is like a fine wine! She just keeps getting better and better. She blew the audience away with her ridiculously fun, fringy number. Whaling horns + fringe + Bunny Pistol = Perfection.
Angelique DeVil and her ‘Happy’ number. Totally infectious. You cannot deny that woman’s talent.
And finally, Valerie Veils with her beautiful, vibrant costume, radiant dancing and epic stocking peel. Girl, you truly deserved the title Queen of Roses.
All the winners of the evening:
Siren Santina – The Palm D’or. Angelique DeVil – Twerkilicious. Ivizia – Keeping It Weird. Villainy Loveless and Ruthe Ordare – Best Group. Bunny Pistol – Stay Classy. Nani Poonani – Wild Card. Valerie Viels – Queen of Roses.
I left my heart on the stage that Saturday. It was one of those performances you have where you feel like you and the audience have the same heartbeat. Everything went perfectly and I enjoyed every second on that stage, bathing under the lights. I was very pleased to debut my new pink tail that The Shanghai Pearl made. It is fluffy, and pink, and perfect.
Can you feel the love and excitement? The total elation of the cast that makes my heart melt? I love burlesque, I love our community, and I love that we make this world a better, happier, sparklier place! Y’all complete me. So thank you, and thank you Oregon Burlesque Festival for everything.
On the Sunday we were treated to a lovely performers brunch, which gave us all a chance to connect again and bask in each other’s love. Because there just isn’t enough time to chat at shows, it was so nice to have this time together. I then had the immense pleasure of spending my Sunday afternoon with Angelique DeVil and Zora Von Pavonine of The Fringe Benefits, who took me to do my favourite thing: shop for fake hair and eyelashes. And dayuumm those girls knew all the best stripperwear stores! It was amazing to instantly feel the connection with those girls trading stories and giggles. I felt like I was in a sparkly dream cloud all afternoon. That’s what the glitter tribe is all about; meeting girls and, in under five minutes, they are your best friends forever.
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.