Tanya Cheex reports on The Grand Burlesque Show in Montreal…
Poutine may as well be the national dish in la belle provence of Quebec: french fries covered in gravy with squeaky cheese curds.
I’ve been told this is most important. Poutine has nothing to do with burlesque (to my knowledge!) but it was a topic on a few of the lips of the five-star lineup Montreal performer and producer Scarlett James had assembled for her Le Grand Burlesque show earlier this month…
Click here to watch a fabulous video about the show, in French and English, with show footage and interviews…
This event was more champagne and caviar, because Scarlett sets her bar high. Along with an impressive twenty-piece swing band (The Montreal All City Big Band) and some local vaudeville acts, Scarlett invited the creme of the crop in modern burlesque; Amber Ray, Renea Le Roux and Michelle L’amour from the US, Coco Framboise from Canada, Gentry De Paris from France and of course the headliner, Immodesty Blaize from the UK!
The night before the big show I met up with the ladies for cocktails at Excentris. I immediately felt like I was at a glamour summit! When do you get to sit down with this much meow? I finally got to meet Gentry De Paris, who up until now was only an internet friend. She has a way of making you feel like she has been your girlfriend for ages.
After a martini or two it was over to the next room for the Canadian Premiere of Immodesty Blaize’s documentary ‘Burlesque Undressed’. The ‘Southern Belle from Hell’, Renea Le Roux, convinced me to sit up the front with her. After a few neck cranking moments, I realized that this position was more comfortable for the impossibly cinched Renea! She is the type of gal you’d get thrown out of class with and I love her for it!
Immodesty Blaize’s film centers around her prep for The Tease Show at Koko in the UK. It features modern performers such as Michelle L’amour, Kalani Kokonuts, Perle Noire, Dirty Martini and legends like my fire-tassel Mama – Satan’s Angel, Joan Arlene – ‘The Sexquire Girl’, April March, and Lily Ann Rose.
Immodesty comes across as a well spoken authority on the history of burlesque and its modern revival. I enjoyed listening to her speak and her girlish excitement. As a costumier it was a real treat seeing her costumes up close as well as the process of their design. Yes it was rhinestone crack for the modern showgirl! The cinematography was quite lovely, especially on the Ziegfeld Follies Technicolour romance that was Michelle L’amour’s Sally Rand giant fan tribute, and the gold saturated explosion on Kalani Kokonut’s wings-of-Isis routine. Satan’s Angel left me wanting someone to make a documentary on her. The Lady’s tales are wild!
After the film we went to Scarlett’s favorite restaurant, Pois Penche. I must mention here that I came to Montreal as a reporter not as a performer. I stood on the curb to catch a taxi to the restaurant but I was yelled into the huge limo with all the showgirls. Ok, pinch me – I’m in a limo with Michelle L’amour and Immodesty Blaize! (I resisted the urge to Twitter – I did it later!) We pulled up to the restaurant to the flash of cameras and were thrust glasses of champagne. This is how this former punk rocker likes to roll!
I noticed poutine was suspiciously absent from the menu so I settled for steak tartare. I sat across from Immodesty transfixed on her ridiculous beauty. Life is just not fair. She had me in stitches as she told us her story of piling all her jewellery on like Mr.T so she had more room in her luggage ,only to be told by airport security that, as lovely as it is, yes it was all going to have to be pulled off. All in all a memorable evening.
I woke up the next morning realizing I didn’t have the anxiety of performing! I had the seldom-realised thrill of being an audience member! My press pass guaranteed I had a good seat at Club Soda, where Le Grand Burlesque was being held. I held court at my place, as a Who’s Who of Montreal Burlesque stopped by to say hello.
The show started with sexy little teases by Montrealer, Betty Wilde. Homegirl Coco Framboise started the strips with the debut of her ‘cat burglar’ routine, resplendent with giant safe…
Gentry De Paris, who is equal parts Natalie Wood and Bewitched’s Elizabeth Montgomery, performed a lovely traditional fan dance. Amber Ray, decked out in white, worked the crowd with her uber dolly-girl charms. Scarlett James in red and purple swung like a bird in her gilded cage. The contortionist Mimi, was scarily bendy!
Although most of the ladies used the live swing band, I feel that Renea Le Roux really rocked it. Her infectious va-va-voom factor and impossible figure had the audience driven deep in her cleavage. This personality driven performance was definitely a favorite of the near-capacity audience.
Michelle L’amour has a certain ability to make you feel like your face is turning beet red. She did this and more with her super slinky red lips couch and champagne dance. This was a canned music piece and watching the male swing band members catch flies as she performed was a bonus! I have seen her perform this act twice before and it never ceases to leave me squishy…um – you know where!
The audience was well warmed up for Immodesty Blaize, who performed to a signature piece of music by Barry Adamson. Immodesty is the love child of Anita Ekberg and Brigitte Bardot. She drips sex and diamonds with every haughty head turn and switch of the hips. I wanted be each piece of her clothing instead of just coveting it, and every eye in the crowd wanted to be that chaise she unwound on!
After all that glitter and gals, I got into an empty limo back to Pois Penche for post-show champagne. I could get used to this! I did take stupid photos this time! After some girly chit-chat and a few oysters on the half shell, we were still hungry. In full pinup girl circa 1940’s drag we went to a fluorescent light infested fast food joint at the corner of Montreal’s main drag. A big plate of squeaky cheese poutine was thrust in front of us and we dug in – pearls and all!
The next day, dazzled by all the VIP treatment but racing home to Toronto’s Naked Girls Reading launch with Michelle L’amour and husband Franky Vivid, we talk about how despite all the glitz, Michelle, as a world class showgirl, is still is paying her dues. Hell yes – she’s driving us to her own headlining gig in a rent-a-car!
For all the champagne you receive you will still want poutine and you will remain satisfied!
Gentry de Paris was so smitten by poutine she wrote this haiku:
O ! Poutine you rule.
Rubbery salty cheese curd
And lush gravy sloshed on fries
My God you are good.
Here’s a big thank you from star headliner, the one and only Immodesty Blaize, who says her hips are grateful she didn’t eat the poutine:
‘I was touched by how much of a welcome I received from Montreal, what a fantastic audience. Thank you so much for having me. Scarlett (and her husband!) is to be commended for the huge effort and care she is putting in to preaching to the unconverted in Montreal to spread the good word about our wonderful genre, and also for presenting it to new audiences with a big investment of time, commitment and quality, not to mention her own irrepressible enthusiasm.’
I want to thank Scarlett James and her husband, David Grodin for their tremendous hospitality and friendliness they showered on me that weekend…
TANYA CHEEX is one lethal combination of hip shakin’ and heart breakin’! She staged her first ‘strip show’ at the age of eight in her neighbours’ backyard. Founder and Artistic Director of Skin Tight Outta Sight since 1998, Tanya’s acts are full of surprises, incorporating giant feather fans, puppetry, or pyrotechnics. She has taken off her clothes all across Canada and the USA, at The Calgary Stampede, in NYC, Hollywood, Las Vegas and even in the Mojave Desert!
Tanya also runs a blog, Rhinestones and Whiskey, where you can read about her adventures…
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.