“…I knew that I wasn’t alone, and more than that, I knew that burlesque was more than a fluke; it was a true revolution and we were the generals of this new army…”
Tease-O-Rama is, in many ways, the reason you are reading this right now, on this website. I decided to create this magazine five years ago, sitting at a table in Bimbo’s, San Fransisco. I looked around at the beautiful, generous and endlessly creative people around me and performing on stage, and I realised what I could create and how I could contribute. The majority of my time since that night has been dedicated to documenting and celebrating contemporary burlesque and our wonderful community.
And now it’s back! Co-creator and artistic director, Baby Doe and her co-producer Alan Parowski (two ridiculously skilled and hardworking people) have decided to bring back Tease-O-Rama for 2012, and the excitement is palpable!
For those of you who are still new to burlesque, or have not previously attended, I hardly know where to begin when I try to explain its significance, and the full extent of Tease-O-Rama’s impact. Think back to or imagine a time before festivals and big annual events; before the numerous online forums and social sites; before Facebook and Twitter made it so easy to stay in touch and share media. Tease-O-Rama united and established an international community, and became an annual gathering where people could meet, learn from and celebrate eachother. It is the template for all of the festivals and annual events we enjoy today, and we owe our thanks to Baby Doe and Alison Fensterstock for creating it, and Alan Parowski who joined the team in 2002.
I often think back and look through my albums and remember the unique, magical atmosphere at the TOR weekends I attended (I only wish I had been old enough to attend more of them!) Almost every major name in burlesque has performed at Tease-O-Rama, and established themselves as the titans that dominate and set the standard in burlesque today.
I asked a number of ‘TOR veterans’ to share their memories of Tease-O-Rama, and to describe its influence on burlesque, and their own careers…
(Scroll down for a large photo gallery of TOR photos, including a few from my own scrapbook, and please feel free to share your own memories of Tease-O-Rama in the comments section at the end.)
“Burlesque has boomed, but before the boom there was only the telegraph machine; we all travelled by first class steamship and luggage didn’t have wheels. Okay, so that’s not true, but really, in 2001 when Tease-O-Rama blasted off in New Orleans, there was Dixie Evans in the Mojave Desert and her oasis of teasemania, and a bunch of fledgling performers around the US and some select foreign locations thinking that we were the only people alive who knew about the golden age of burlesque. Boy have times changed! Dita Von Teese is on Perrier bottles, Cabaret New Burlesque won awards at Cannes, Cher made a movie about us (sort of), and there are festivals of burlesque in practically every corner of the globe. It’s hard to remember that Tease-O-Rama was the first place that I saw other burlesque performers that called themselves burlesque performers. Miss Astrid was the first to hear about it from her girls at the Velvet Hammer. We co-headlined with Dita and Catherine D’Lish who were a duo act at the time. I was beside myself with glee to go to a convention. >>
>> I had never seen performers outside of my New York bubble and there were so many different flavours of performance. So many different eras were present and accounted for. Miss Astrid, myself, Julie Atlas Muz, World Famous *BOB* and Tigger! drove from NYC in matching jumpsuits and all weekend made an impressive girl gang. My job on the twenty-seven hour drive down to New Orleans was to make sure *BOB* could get in and out of her tie-back velvet jumpsuit with silver glitter flames up the leg during the many pee stops on our long journey. When we arrived at the first event at check-in wearing one of our four matching looks, I was so confused when someone asked me to describe my act. I thought I was the only classic burlesque performer there, so I responded emphatically, ‘classic burlesque!’ The man gave me the look of a confused terrier and responded, ‘you and everyone else here!’ I thought ‘really?’ and then I saw the show. From then on, I knew that I wasn’t alone, and more than that, I knew that burlesque was more than a fluke; it was a true revolution and we were the generals of this new army…”
“The first Tease-O-Rama in New Orleans was the galvanizing moment of the Neo-Burlesque scene. With its clear mission, tight organization and clever graphics, Tease-O-Rama laid the groundwork for the entire festival circuit as we now know it. At that event I realised that I had an entire nation of peers who had been doing the same thing as I had – we were just unaware of each other before then. I’m so honoured and thrilled to be a part of TOR this year; I always love performing in my home region of the San Francisco Bay Area. I can’t wait to be back on the Bimbo’s stage again, and to share it with my friends!”
“The first Tease-O-Rama was the most influential modern gathering of burlesque performers; it was the very first exclusively neo gathering of rebooted burlesque, and served as a catalyst for how the modern burlesque revival would unfold. During those early years, pinups and baggy pants and fans and photographers of all kinds flocked together to compare notes, enjoy each other’s work, and form bonds of collaboration and friendship that would last for years onward. The energy of those early years was electrifying, and it’s marvellous that Tease-O-Rama continues to showcase the best of Neo-Burlesque, as well as cement its place as a modern form of global entertainment.”
“TOR in 2003 was my very first exposure to the burlesque world. I remember being so excited when my group (it was the Sugarbabies then) got accepted to perform in LA! It was my first trip to LA too. We decided that we would make a splash and do seven numbers in our allotted ten minutes. Talk about quick changes!
I did a striptease while girls changed. My pasties were enormous! Oh my. I was hardly ‘The Most Naked Woman’ back then. It was exhilarating to perform on that stage and to meet people like Satan’s Angel. In fact, we performed after her, and when she walked off stage, she said in her charming gruff voice, ‘Good luck following that!’ Woah!
I also remember watching Marilyn Manson watch Dita perform. She threw her panties at him and I thought that was cute. He seemed scary to me but I was certainly intrigued. What did I know? Nothing!
I’m happy to be back at Bimbo’s this year and to work with TOR. They always do a great job putting on this convention. I’m thankful they said yes to me that very first time and I’m happy I’ve come a long way from those ‘big pastie’ days!”
“When I went to TOR in 2005, I’d only been performing for about a year, so my mind was BLOWN! The performances were stellar and I remember just being SO excited to be there. My favorite memory though was the after party on Saturday night and getting to dance with all my new friends. Burlesque dancers at a dance party are AMAZING!”
Darlinda Just Darlinda
“It was my first time performing at TOR. I was so nervous I downed a martini glass full of what I assumed was vodka backstage. The other performer was kind enough to inform me that, ”This is the finest Absinthe in the world; I smuggled it in from Switzerland. Totally clear, none of that green crappy stuff!’ Although not my most magical performance, I am so delighted to be performing at TOR this year. It’s the most perfect Burlesque experience possible!”
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“When I first heard about TOR, I couldn’t believe it. An entire burlesque convention? Burlesque workshops and classes? I couldn’t imagine such a thing, and I was so excited. Most of the strippers and performance artists I worked with had one or two burlesque numbers as part of their body of work, but the idea of an all-burlesque convention was so exciting I could hardly stand it.
When I went it was beyond my dreams. I became aware of the international burlesque performers, and the Legends from Exotic World. I saw Dixie Evans perform. I had been involved with burlesque shows in NYC, but this was the first time I’d seen burlesque as a force to be reckoned with.
I’m very honoured to be considered a part of TOR’s family and its history.
I think TOR was hugely influential in helping people to realise there was a movement and that there were legends performing at Exotic World. It was truly one of the seminal moments in the development of a burlesque COMMUNITY.
In The Burlesque Handbook I recommend people go through the old Yahoo group for TOR, because you can read there some of the first conversations about what burlesque is, can be, and its ability to inspire and empower…”
“I am fuelling up my hot pink rocket ship to the Moon and bringing plenty of Pixie Sticks and Mountain Dew, because my favourite all-round event that is near and dear to my heart is retuning to San Francisco – TEASE-O-RAMA! I owe so much to the dream team of high titillation; Baby Doe and Alan (and Alison Fensterstock too!) have allowed my bawdiness to shine through on the glorious, historic Bimbo’s stage! Accordioning to composer and lyricist, Cole Porter, ‘birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it. Let’s do it…” And ‘do it’ the world has.
Burlesque has shot to the moon since the humble beginnings in New Orleans in 2001. I met folks there who I am lucky to say are still my friends: Dirty Martini, Catherine D’Lish, Rick Delaup, Wild Cherry, The Devilettes… Oh I could go on FOREVER! What a lucky person I am to have found a group of folks that actually like my dirty ditties!
I was astounded by the loveliness of Dita and Catherine’s phone show (and loved seein’ them nekkid in the dressing room too – shhhh!) The Shim Sham revue and band was fantastic, but I just fell head over heels in crazy sugar coated L-O-V-E with the Legends on the panel. The stories were spectacular! Living History…
I have great memories of being in the band with the Fisherman Famous Burlesque and the Cantakerous Lollies – we performed vintage grind core music at the Howlin’ Wolf and met so many cool like minded folks – it has been a saucy sequin theme park ride ever since! Oh and how about that Tease-O-Rama Road Show? I was standing next to Satan’s Angel in Portland gabbing about this and that when a local just walks up to us, unzips his fly, and proceeded to give us an up close and personal shower show, as if he thought he could extinguish the burnin’ burlesque fire. Sorry – we have only just BEGUN! Take your hose elsewhere sir!”
Kitten on the Keys
“I owe quite a bit to Tease-O-Rama. It was the eve before leaving to drive to meet my pals in the Velvet Hammer in New Orleans for TOR that I ran out and bought a camera. I just knew that I had to film this event. And that lead to my documentary on the Velvet Hammer, which in turn lead to me becoming a burlesque performer/producer/instructor.”
Penny Starr Jr.
“My favourite memory is from my hotel room at The Columbus Motor Inn, which is right next door to Bimbo’s. From my room I have a view of the performers entrance. I am having some champagne, gathering my things together for the show, when I hear this band playing. I look out my window and there is Kellita in full costume dancing with the Hot Pink Marching Band playing in the alley . I was privy to a wonderful pre-show. It was a pretty amazing sight.
Besides BHoF, TOR is the first annual event that brought burlesque performers together from around the world. They run a first class show and are very organised with their production skills.
I love performing at TOR. I have performed every year except for the very first show in NOLA . My daughter was just born and the only way to make the baby-sitting work was to fly in one day and fly out the next morning, which was just to stressful to make happen!”
So, what are you waiting for?! Tease-O-Rama is back on 19th – 22nd April, and you still have time to get your ticket and head over to San Fransisco for one of the best weekends you will ever have!
The 21CB 2011/2012 Print Edition will soon be on general sale, and it includes a special interview with TOR co-founder, Baby Doe. Keep an eye on this page for more information, coming soon!
Burlesque Hall of Fame / Miss Exotic World Judge, 2011 Holli Mae Johnson is the founder and editor of 21st Century Burlesque Magazine, a pioneering publication created twelve years ago to unite, document and celebrate the global burlesque community. Holli is actively involved in the burlesque community on a day to day basis and is privately consulted by performers and producers at every level for promotion, critique, recommendations and encouragement. As a documenter and critic, she has seen countless burlesque and variety performances from across the world and provides an intimate perspective and insight into the lives and careers of burlesque’s greatest pioneers, performers and personalities.