As the application period for this year’s Theatre Bizarre production nears its deadline (July 1st for burlesque performers), read about GiGi La Femme’s unforgettable experience at last year’s incredible event.
If you want to apply to perform at Theatre Bizarre in 2014, you can find details below. Burlesque performers are considered alongside other variety acts, and those accepted will join an exceptional collection of all-star stripteasers who have joined previous Theatre Bizarre casts.
It’s been a month since performing at Theatre Bizarre and I’m still revelling in all its awesome glory.
Like many of you, I had heard my share of debaucherous shenanigans and bone chilling stories about Theatre Bizarre from past attendees and performers alike. I simply knew I was destined to come home with of few of my own and I’m thrilled I get to share my experience with all of you! This trip was also really exciting for me because I have never been to Detroit before and I was going to see so many great friends from all over the country, not to mention meet some new pals I’ve only had the pleasure of being connected to online.
In true Rock City style, I took a super early flight from Nashville, had enough time for a glass of wine on my layover in Chicago, and arrived in Detroit with just enough time to drop off my bags. The evening’s mistress of ceremonies and director of the Dirty Devils Peepshow, Roxi D’lite, made sure us out-of-towners were hooked up with a place to rest our heads at the newly opened Hostel Detroit. Not only was it super comfortable, clean and convenient, but it’s also where I met up with some of my favourite performers: Legs Malone, Darlinda Just Darlinda, Kay Sera and her honey, Richard!
After hugs, kisses and stopping off to get some delicious BBQ (who knew?!), we headed over to the Masonic Temple, thanks to the help of our gracious drivers. Now, I knew this venue was fairly big, but I’d like to set the record straight: it’s enormously MASSIVE. Taking up a decent amount of city blocks, I could only compare it to large city buildings like The Natural History Museum or The New York Public Library on 42nd Street. And to think that it had taken over hundreds of volunteers weeks, if not months, to transform the space was just mind boggling. I couldn’t wait to get in!
We got our All Access passes and were led down a dark corridor which opened into an atrium with more doorways to stairs and levels then I could count. We didn’t have access to every part of the building, but just imagine a space that includes three theatres (one was never completed, but is sometimes used by movie-production crews), a Shrine building, the Chapel, eight lodge rooms, a 17,500 square foot drill hall, two ballrooms, office space, a cafeteria, dining rooms, a barber shop, 16 bowling lanes – 1037 rooms in total – in addition to a powerhouse that generated all electricity for the complex. Also impressive was all the architectural detail in the temple. Between the marble flooring, light fixtures and chandeliers, decorative arches, medallions, plaster decorations in conjunction with all the sets, artwork and carpentry the Theatre Bizarre crew had been handcrafting, the place was really starting to morph into the Devil’s playground. There were rooms solely dedicated to carnival and sideshow performers, bands, kinky fetish activity, a fully operating Ghost Train… You name it, they created it!
After navigating a few more hallways and stairwells, we arrived at The Chapter Room, our home for the night – well, and morning! Upon settling in our spots backstage, we were greeted with more lovelies such as Tanya Cheex, Kalani Kokonuts, Michelle L’amour, Bunny Buxom and Little Motown, just to name a few. Soon more performers started to fill in and we gathered in the main space for our production meeting. The whole staff at Theatre Bizarre really had this shindig down to a science as they filled us in on what we needed to know, what they needed from us, and most importantly to tell us to have the time of our lives.
While folks checked in with the sound crew, I made sure to take a moment to walk the stage. A devil’s head with an open mouth was our gateway from the dressing room to the audience. After stepping out onto a rectangular stage, we were faced with a catwalk on a slight incline which was capped off with a round platform on the other end. It was certainly the most precarious set up I’ve ever had to perform on, but I said a few Hail Dixies to protect me from not falling off the dang thing. Luckily, she was on my side that night!
It was finally time to get our drag on and enjoy some backstage chatter with all the other performers. What a star studded cast it was too! I got to reunite with Dallas’ own Courtney Crave and of course, our host, Miss Roxi D’Lite. It was also a blast hanging and meeting with those I had never (or briefly) met before, like DD Star, Lou Lou, Russell Bruner, Dolly Berlin, Lola Martinet, Sweet Lili Bee and Lushes La Moan. The energy everyone exuded was out of sheer excitement as we strapped on our wigs and taped on our pasties in preparation for a looooong, albeit amazing, evening.
8PM hit and it was time for the show to start. Our host for the evening, the King of Darkness himself, kicked things off for the first set and introduced the first of over thirty performers slated to dance in the Dirty Devils Peepshow. I was a little nervous about that stage, but once I got out there and felt the adrenaline, I forgot all about it. When in doubt, stomp it out! During my final reveal, I also managed to toss my fringed bra behind my head and right into the devil’s eye where it stayed for the remainder of the show. I don’t think I’ll ever wash it again.
Besides watching as much of the burlesque sets as I could, I also made sure to check out what was happening in other areas of the Temple during breaks. I grabbed Darlinda Just Darlinda, Legs Malone and our masquerade masks and we set off to explore.
Imagine over 4,500 guests all roaming the halls and ballrooms completely in costume, which was mandatory for the event. I couldn’t believe everyone’s dedication; it was so impressive! After making our way through the crowds going upstairs, downstairs and all directions in between, we found ourselves in the right spot at the right time: The Procession was about to begin in the main ballroom. We quickly grabbed a spot from the balcony above and there we witnessed a New Orleans style second line, playing a dirge and dressed all in white, making their way through the crowd to the stage. Atop a wooden coffin was none other than Roxi, mourning the loss of her beloved Zombo, the mascot of Theatre Bizarre, created by artist John Dunivant. They finally made it to the stage where she put on a thrilling and seductive performance worthy of waking the dead. Zombo rises and the crowd cheers. You could literally feel the room vibrating; it was amazing.
We made it back to the Peepshow through the world’s creepiest hallway, had a quick impromptu photo shoot and wasted no time putting the finishing touches on our costumes. I rocked out my ‘Spanking’ act in my second set which was totally fuelled from having literally a few hundred people gathered around the catwalk and front podium. The energy exchange with the audience was that incredible; it gave me such a super high!
After cooling off my cheeks and decompressing with some backstage-performer-hang-out-time, we suited up in our civilian garb to try and do some last minute exploring before the party was over. Since it was nearly 4am, things were wrapping up rather quickly, but Legs, Darlinda and I made it to the photo booth in the nick of time for one last shot. Before we knew it, it was time to pack up and head out. I couldn’t believe I wasn’t even tired…
I’ll never forget walking down the Temple’s main steps at the break of dawn, recollecting all that had happened over the course of the night. It was definitely devilish, most magical and I can’t wait to do it all again next year. Thanks to everyone at Theatre Bizarre for such an epic experience. HAIL ZOMBO!
GiGi La Femme
Want to perform at Theatre Bizarre 2014? Here are the sign-up deadlines. All wishing to be a part of this year’s event must register by the following dates:
*July 1st cutoff for Burlesque Performers.*
October 1st cutoff for Volunteers and Stage Hands.
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.