6 Days in Vienna: A look back on the Vienna Boylesque Festival and Life Ball, by Russell Bruner.
After about six weeks of touring on the endless road, I woke up in the banana palace of Trixie Little and The Evil Hate Monkey. We had quick coffee and rushed away so Trixie could drop Monkey and me off at the JFK Airport. He and I were to catch a flight to Vienna to be in the first annual Vienna Boylesque Festival!
On the flight I was comfortably seated on the same jet plane as Tigger!, Mr. Gorgeous, Jonny Porkpie, Jett Adore, Evil Hate Monkey, and in the middle of us all, World Famous *BOB* was trying to avoid sexy distractions and study for a math final.
I had very little funds to my name, and I didn’t exactly know for sure that I had a return flight to get back to the States. I was a bit worried about that as well as other things that come with being in a foreign land, but I was confident that everything was going to be fine. To pass the time in-flight, I had a few sewing projects and a collection of romantic poetry. Jett Adore and Mr. Gorgeous also brought along sewing projects. Jett was sewing ruffles on a fancy jacket, and Mr. Gorgeous was hand stitching shiny beads on his personally designed spandex superhero shorts.
The flight route arched northward as we had a layover in Moscow. We also nearly had an emergency landing in Iceland due to one of the passengers being unable to stop bleeding. During this crisis, I wondered about what the policy is for people that pass on mid-flight. The overhead bins, closets or restrooms don’t seem like they’d be a suitable place for a corpse, so they probably just buckle them in to their seat and continue on like Weekend at Bernie’s, I thought. I never did find out what the policy was, but the bleeding passenger ended up recovering well enough for us to continue onward to Moscow.
Our connecting flight was thankfully uneventful, but very packed, hot and uncomfortable. We were happy to arrive in Vienna in the morning.
Upon arrival in Vienna, we were greeted by our driver and we were shuttled to meet our hotel host who seated us in the courtyard and treated us to white wine spritzer while we took a load off. Moments later we were greeted by Jacques Patriaque, who welcomed us and made sure our rooms each had a gift basket. We were all very joyed with the gracious welcoming and were happy to have some time to rest up and refresh ourselves.
That evening Jacques treated us to dinner and drinks and introduced us to Conchita Wurst the Vienna Boylesque Festival headlining closer and very recent winner of Eurovision. Not knowing anything about Eurovision, I was a bit underprepared for understanding the level of celebrity obtained by Conchita Wurst, but it was thankfully explained to me. You see, the winner of Eurovision is selected by the votes that they receive from countries that aren’t their own in the final stages. So, Conchita winning showed that she was not only accepted in her homeland, but also that most of Europe was progressive enough to bring this bearded lady a well deserved victory on multiple levels.
I found Conchita Worst to have enchanting eyes, a calming sincerity and a graceful demeanour. It was delightful to enjoy drinks, exchange chatter, and receive her flirtations as well. Throughout the evening, observing her favouring of Monkey and myself, we were lead to suspect that she had a particular fondness for men with moustaches.
I enjoyed every minute of the generous and enjoyable hospitality. I had a Viennese dish called Tafelspitz (boiled beef, often served with apple and horseradish sauces) it was absolutely delicious. I was very grateful and felt it was very sweet of Jacques Patriaque to make the evenings arrangements and pick up the tab for our food and drinks.
We met up in the afternoon with Leopold, aka Poldi. He took us on a Vienna tour to see sights, architecture and tell us a bit of the history. It was nice to see it all, and I’m happy he showed us around. I would have hated to make it all the way to Vienna and not take in any of the beautiful sights.
Later on was the first show of the two day festival. I arrived a bit late, but I was happy I didn’t miss too much. All the acts I saw were fantastic, and the theatre was packed full with a happy and enthusiastic audience.
To name a few highlights, I felt a stand out audience favourite was Dave the Bear who did a very sexy masculine routine that involved black leather, chest hair, squirt guns and confetti cannon. I also saw a well executed number by Aurora Galore who tore up the stage in clown face with fast fan work and dubstep music. She seemed to leave the audience a bit stunned by what they had witnessed. A personal favourite of mine was a nod to Charlie Chaplin executed by sexy, classy lady La Dandizette. I found myself captivated by her beauty, charm and creativity.
Conchita Wurst closed the show with her angelic and inspirational singing. She brought a roar and a demanding encore from the audience, and was joined by the entire cast on stage for a final bow. The night was really amazing to see.
This day was to be the final night of the Vienna Boylesque Festival. I felt as though I spent most of it backstage with all the handsome hunks that were in the show. It wasn’t the typical scene that I usually see backstage. As you can see from the backstage photo, there was a lot to take in.
Being that boylesque is most often a welcome guest as opposed to a show focus, in the woman’s art of burlesque, it’s not too common for us male performers to see each other in the same show. This opportunity was special and it was inspiring to see the other gentlemen in the art and rub shoulders with them.
We all had our moments on stage. I was joyed to watch the men from the backside curtain view and also to see their expressions as they left the stage. It was very clear how the audience felt and how each performer felt about their performance. I’ll go ahead and attempt to summarise what happened in words:
Jacques Patriaque started off the show right with a proper group number and was followed by the dapper Sir Willy Waterlily who had a very haunting dramatic presence on stage. Soa de Mus, which is not at all pronounced the way I first guessed, had a solid unique dance number and colourful costuming. Birthday boy Matt Knife was charming down to his birthday suit, and Lewd Alfred Douglas was like a properly dignified perverse member of a royal family.
Mr. Gorgeous showed off his ability to manoeuvre his giant self gracefully on a tiny chair. El Toro brought out his rugged Canadian ruggedness. Dew Lily followed with more Canadian Mount-tease. Albert Cadabra showed off his ability to deepthroat rubber and mostly had his balls covered. It was magical. That took us to intermission.
The Evil Hate Monkey started Act 2 with his high energy primate ballet. Bobby Barnaby brought out a well executed dapper dance number. Jonny Porkpie took the audience by surprise with his comedic ‘Humpty Fan Dance’. The Gentleman (Christian Van Schijndal) brought out his calm and collected, smartly dressed self onstage, and offstage had a deep sexy voice.
Charly Voodoo pleased the audience with his svelte physique and graceful movement. I, Russell Bruner, was next and did my old timey comedic dance and hat rack manipulations. Jett Adore brought his heightened dramatic and ultra masculine peacock tear jerker. Father Tigger! was sacrilicious (sacrilegiously delicious) and Conchita Wurst closed out the night majestically just like she did the night prior.
That was the First Annual Vienna Boylesque Festival!
On this day, I attended the Life Ball opening gala. I got to hang out with celebrities, enjoy free drinks and upon exiting, received beauty products and a nice pair of socks.
The Life Ball! Benefit for AIDS Research.
We got to Life Ball early to drop off all of the stuff we would need later that night so we wouldn’t have to carry anything while we walked down the red carpet. Tigger! was especially popular on the red carpet for reasons that are self explanatory in the photo. Everyone together looked fantastic. I enjoyed wearing my classic tuxedo with tails.
The show we did was fun and it was great to be a part of all the fun things that were happening all around us. The event had several rooms with DJs, celebrities doing stuff, and there were lots of condoms on all the tables. All these things are great in the formula for a huge party.
We partied all night and made it back to our hotel with just enough time to gather our things and scramble to catch the Life Ball flight back to New York City. I slept the whole way back on the plane.
Looking back, it all came to pass like a joyous dream, even with all the sleepless nights. I hope this is the first of many Vienna Boylesque Festivals. I hope to find myself there again some day!
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.