It all came full circle when I got the invitation e-mail from Michelle L’amour. I’ve always wanted to participate in Stripper’s Holiday, ever since I wanted to pursue burlesque. Not many people know this, but back in 2010 I moved from sunny San Diego to snowy Chicago. It was the big blizzard they hadn’t had in years, and I was experiencing the Midwest at its extreme. I came to Chicago for my muggle job as a flight attendant, and working on call in the winter was quite depressing for this SoCal girl. Tragic, I know. I missed my dancing days back home. I missed having a creative outlet. I missed my livelihood.
I started researching Chicago dance studios and I came across Studio L’amour and was immediately intrigued. I attended the Wiggle Room and Stripper’s Holiday shows and was completely enamoured with the art of burlesque. I couldn’t breathe watching Michelle L’amour move. She was indeed the trigger that inspired me to learn more, so naturally I reached out to take classes with her.
It wasn’t very long before I had to move back home to California. I was so excited to dive into the burlesque scene, performing at several festivals and attending BurlyCon year after year. There is always so much to learn and I was super stoked when I got the opportunity to train again with Michelle, but this time on a more intimate level.
I was excited but also very terrified. Only because I knew she would rip me a new one. I was familiar with her classes and how in the past I couldn’t walk for days after taking her Tease ‘N’ Tone class. Also, I knew she was aware of my dance background and I figured she’d challenge me even more. Then of course on Day 1, she admitted with that grin and raised brow, how she loved breaking down dancers to focus more on the slow burn and striptease. She is exactly what I needed; the initial fire under my ass to take on burlesque, and now at this point in my career, the kick in my ass to be better.
Waking up in her beautiful home of antique decor, surrounded by a library of erotic literature and the scent of Franky Vivid’s cooking… was very surreal. This was Stripper’s Holiday. I was especially appreciative of being among a group of girls who hadn’t attended this special retreat before. We were in this together, and I immediately felt the sense of unity and support in our own respective journeys as burlesque performers. For the most part we all wanted the same thing: to be polished in our acts with smooth transitions, and feel positive and essentially fall in love with our act whether it was something new or revisited.
We were a quiet bunch compared to previous Stripper’s Holiday groups, but we played well with each other. We were the first group to experience the retreat at the new Studio L’amour and at Michelle and Franky’s new home. Surprisingly, our working days at the studio went by extremely fast. It was great to have Michelle break down different aspects of burlesque, milking the time to work on details of the strut, styled hands, floorwork, feather fans and boas, strength and conditioning, and bringing out the ‘Super Pussy’. It was a fairly brief Stripper’s Holiday, consisting of only three days, compared to those of the past. But still, Michelle has a wealth of knowledge and can certainly go on a full month of vigorous training. If that ever comes to fruition, sign me up!
Vino nights around the dining table were hilarious. It was fun to share ridiculous stories and get to know each other. We were honoured to share in their favourite rare bottle of wine (which they only have up to twice a year), raising our glasses to a heartfelt and touching toast from Franky. One evening we tagged along with Michelle and the Chicago Starlets to a fancy private gig in the city. Not only did we have fine dining and craft cocktails, it was really neat to watch them in their professional element.
We had a running theme of references to ‘Super Pussy’. (Back story: Michelle tried to text “super pissy” to Franky, and sure enough her phone auto corrected it to “super pussy”. Just go with it.) We even had a mystery to solve regarding Michelle’s sudden deactivation of her Twitter account. Apparently, as she says, “Twitter couldn’t handle her Twatter.” Alas, her Tease Tips were up and running after a few days.
Our final performance, the Old Time Strip Show, displayed each dancer’s unique style. We were so different but we certainly complimented each other well in our set list. It was nice to have some locals approach us in appreciation of us coming out to Chicago. They too look forward to Stripper’s Holiday year after year just to experience dancers from out of town. Sammy the Tramp was a fun addition to the night as she hosted the show with her uncanny celebrity impressions. And it was so special to reunite with friends in town who came to support us. I mean, who couldn’t miss that distinctive Jeez Loueez yelling from the back of the house, “YAAAASSS!!”
My Chicago stay was not long enough, but I know now that I have gained seven more friendships to last a lifetime. Leaving Stripper’s Holiday was a little bittersweet as our group number dwindled down one by one, like the season finale of MTV’s Real World. All in all, the experience was wonderful and absolutely rewarding. It was especially nice to dance next to Michelle L’amour again; to share that space and energy with someone who shares her beauty so generously with the world. It’s not often that industry icons willingly share their knowledge and passion for their art in this intimate and intense way. For a price perhaps, but in this case it was very well worth it.
Much love goes out to this year’s cast: Talloolah Love, Bianca Boom Boom, Eva Strangelove, One Chance Fancy, Sirena Santina, and Audrey DeLuxe. I’m happy to have spent quality time with you all, and I look forward to sharing the stage with you again someday. It’s already been some months since our time together, but I appreciate our little online support group! It’s great to see how much we’ve improved in our dancing and hustle, ever since Stripper’s Holiday.
Thank you Michelle and Franky for the beautiful experience set in your home. You both went far and wide to make us feel comfortable and uncomfortable at the same time—at of course the given lesson. On behalf of this year’s SH group, we are honoured and humbled by what you have given us and will take it with us on stage, and in life… And out to the world, as ‘SUPER PUSSY!!’
For more information about the next Stripper’s Holiday, contact michellelamour.com .
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.