Written by Jacqueline Ryan
Attending The Vancouver International Burlesque Festival was like stepping under The Big Top for the deliciously naughty… right down to the cheeky monkey and the organ grinder! Candy little girl? Yes please! Sweet treats came in all flavors, shapes and sizes as the most talented gems from around the globe came together and shimmied their way into our hearts! From the poignantly moving to the my-face-hurts-because-I’m-smiling-so-hard absurdities, nothing could be more entertaining than these provocative gents in their scandalous skivvies, and alluring ladies prolonging that hotly anticipated snap of a stocking from their pointed toes. Vampy, trampy, classy, sassy and elegantly engaging, every performer was a jewel in the crown of the Little Vancouver Burlesque Festival that could. The saucy event is all grown up now, and showcased a bevy of sumptuous creatures – each bestowing upon us all they’ve got – and that’s a lot! Every costume was a confection as unique and extravagantly detailed as the one before, while the lavish lineup came pouring out like hankies from a magician’s pocket.
Curvaceous cutie Crystal Precious, mega talented dream girl and queen of her signature “Striphop,” (whose recent video “Apple Pie” showcases her creative brilliance) radiantly emceed the first two thirds of the evening. In a red and nude trademark Misty Greer underboob cutout gown, she got on with the show by quipping, “Good evening Sasspots, I hope you’re making your way to your seat ‘cause you’re going to be sitting on the edge of it! Mmmmmmkay?”
And darlings, she was oh, so right! She instructed us to “Pay attention!” Yes ma’am! We obeyed our Mistress of Ceremonies, slipped into our seats, sipped our cocktails and settled in for a thrill ride. It went a little something like this…
Villainy Loveless lit the night on fire. Her sizzling act opened the show in a red-hot dress with a flame job licking up her bountiful bosom, and burning up the stage with sweet jazz. Loveless swiveled her hips to “I’m a Hot Mama,” and heated things up with fiery flowing silk fans, dancing and flickering straight up in the air… Villainy knew exactly how to fan the flames to our deepest desires.
Ruth Ordare provided a touching performance as a pretty broken doll in a blue dress who was carried onstage by a man we believed loved her, only to drop her with a thud and leave her alone in a crumpled puddle… we were very sad for her. She pulled our spirits back up as she danced around in her striped knee socks and red ruffled bottom panties… but alas, she could not hide her true feelings as she revealed a giant sparkling red heart pastie over her left breast, and peeled away half of her broken heart.
Calgary’s Miyuki Divine offered up a Japanese Western feeling. Her skill at unlacing and popping open her red silk corset was rivaled only by her expertise at fan flipping, spinning, and her ass shaking shimmy – coaxing the long red fringe to dance across her lovely tush. The subtle raise of her eyebrow enchanted the adoring crowd. Such a tease!
April O’Peel and Whatshername were a scream! Comedy is alive and well in burlesque, and this is by far the funniest act I have seen so far! Suited up in a furry monkey bikini and a moustached man in a bowler hat, these two had the audience squealing in delight! Hilarity ensued when they pulled accordians out of their boobs, booties, and *ahem* there too! They played those squeeze boxes ferverently while the crowd went wild! Cheeky, cheeky, monkey!
Sexy Olatsa Assin from Seattle carried a dramatic element to her performance, seducing us with her cloud-like white tulle boa, her body reverberating in a dubstep dance, culminating with a long shake of her superlative bottom swishing fringe like a silky car wash. That was the first time of many that the fawning man sitting directly behind me cooed in his deep, breathy voice… “Yeeeah, Baby!”
Next up, the Vogue stage was chock-full of Dirty Vanities: an entire tribe of hot, nearly naked, cannabalistic female savages preparing boylesque favorite Tranny Zuko for dinner. Wicked choreography had these voracious headhunters dancing thriller-style in perfect sync, parading Zuko over their wildly coiffed heads to his ultimate demise. He survived, of course, but if you have to be eaten, these are the ferocious babes you want nibbling on your flesh!
The darling, gum-booted Cheesecake Burlesque Revue from the oft times drizzly Victoria, cast off their sparkly raincoats and twirled their hot pink umbrellas while we cheered for them to reveal their sunflower laden bikinis and bring the sunshine into the night!
Seattle’s Glitter Goddess Persephone Illyri in figure hugging baby blue satin, had a southern style decadence that was smokier than a Memphis blues bar and as smooth as fine scotch. She is a master of the strip tease. In true vaudevillian fashion, she unlaced her corset to free her ravishing body, embraced her long white boa, and twirled and tossed her glove with style… She exuded true femininity and elegance.
Move over Fembots! The Hot Pants bopped onto the stage with a punch of sixties sass and shiny white Go Go Boots – energetically shaking their pastel fringes, paying homage to the Go Go’s “We Got The Beat!” These sexpots put on a show that Austin Powers could only have described as “Groovy Baby!” Oh behave!
Nicky Ninedoors and John Ninedoors eased the crowd into a sultry French salon. He on his stand up bass, plucking deep, vibrating notes… and she a sultry songbird, flawlessly belting out the aria ‘Habanera’ from Carmen, captivating us with her pretty voice and stripping down from her scintillating gown to her vixen stockings and glittering red, t-strap mary janes. Bending all the way over to share her perfect derriere with the audience, she reached up through the centre of her luscious legs to slip off her panties in the most provocative fashion imaginable! Ooh la la Madame Ninedoors!
Wrong Note Rusty made working with a box full of paperwork so erotic it should have been criminal. As he loosened his tie and dropped his suspenders, we had to catch our breaths! He went on to reveal a toned chest a secretary would surely want to run her slowly pencil down! He rolled up his sleeves, tossed his shoes across the stage and peeled his socks off as well as any seasoned diva. Rusty proceeded to briskly shake his bottom line… It was a hot, hot night at the office!
“The Original Triple Mocha Latte” laid it out up front: “My Momma told me never to give it away!” Stacked in all the right places, wild child Foxy Tann took the stage in a teeny-weeny, skin-tight minidress and a sky-high afro. With a cocktail perpetually in one hand , a wickedly huge smile and a palm sized blinged-out “mary-jane” medallion necklace, she made no secret of her fondness of BC green. She was profane, unapologetic and funny as hell! With the commanding presence of a dirty evangelist, she preached to the choir and the whole damn congregation with her performance of “You ain’t getting not a goddam thing around here for free!” and Hallelujah, we ate it up! Miss Tann co-hosted the event both evenings and gave us big, beautiful, booty shaking show that fortunately for us, can never be unseen!
Burlesque Star Shannon Doah’s version of “Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat” whipped up her worshippers! She prowled like a sexy feline, seductively licking her long leg with the tip of her tongue. With a career that spans 40 years, her body is still as stellar as it must have been when she starred in the original Crazy Horse Saloon once upon a time. Her chaise lounge, fan and boa “Never on a Sunday” routine, was both stirred and shaken. She wrapped up her performance with an awe inspiring tassel twirl!
When you talk about original, you must be referring to outlandish Gorelesque virtuoso, Bloody Betty. A deranged girl with oversize stitches tattooed around the circumference of her right breast, she is dedicated to her twisted craft. She treated us to a frantic drug induced frenzy, freaking out in a paranoid mania to Oingo Boingo’s “Controller.” Betty slashed open her plastic bag of white powder and shook it into the toilet; panicking at what she had done, she snorted it back up! The psychosis escalated until she finally injected herself in the arm and collapsed dead to the ground! That’s just Bloody Betty on another berserk and demented jag! She’s got bats in the belfry, Baby!
“There’s someone knockin’ on my door I think they’re looking for me, I think they’re looking for me. Pretend there ain’t nobody home… Don’t make a sound, don’t even move… Don’t give them nothing to see… I think they’re looking for me. I got to run, I got to run, I got to run…” – Oingo Boingo
The room transformed into a soft, lunar lit evening when incandescent Lydia DeCarlo draped herself around her sparkling crescent moon… biting off her gloves with perfect white teeth, a come hither snarl, and a beckoning wink to “My Momma Done Told Me…” her sultry, deep red lips shimmering as brightly as the stars. Stretched out on her long boa tipped with foxtails and glittering silver balls, DeCarlo was as steamy as a hot August New Orleans night.
Burlesque photographer extraordinaire Voodoo Bill, commented before the show that he was going to switch his camera to the fast lens “Cherry On Top” setting… because she never stops moving! Clearly adored by her disciples, the audience screamed and applauded at a fever pitch when she hit the stage sporting a Fifth Element-esque astronaut costume and helmet, hip-hopping her white space suit off with unmatched intensity! Cherry was out of this world!
That was a tough act to follow, but Minnesota’s Red Bone played it white collar cool in her silky suit and fedora, blowing on her bluesy harmonica and slipping off her tie like she meant serious business. Hostile takeover anyone?
The reigning King of Burlesque Russell Bruner, looked every bit like a silent film scoundrel when he rolled out in his pinstriped zoot suit, top hat and Snidely Whiplash moustache. His melodramatic, black rimmed eyes and villianous expressions charmed me enough to want him to tie me to the train tracks! He flipped his topper and swayed with his coat rack, but when he jumped offstage and had the ladies on the floor use his suspenders to slingshot him out of his trousers, we were out of control! With a skillful tuck of his nether regions, he gave us a little dance, an eyeful of wishful thinking, and just like “that” he hung his stovepipe on his “you know what!” Yes he did! The dastardly rascal was born for the stage!
The wonderfully witty and much adored Purrrfessor, co-producer and emcee of Vancouver’s beloved Kitty Nights, opened the show on Saturday Night with his mysteriously fetching accent and acoustic guitar. He welcomed the Board of Directors to the stage who along with himself, put the entire extravagant Burlesque Festival together. The Purrrfessor is a master host with the perfect knack for finessing the live stage, throwing us jokes like, “Do you know what a stripper does with her bum before she goes to work? She drops him off at band practice!” Badumching!
Everything was coming up roses when Melody Mangler glided her way to centre stage, adorned in a bell jar shaped skirt enveloped in lavish red posies, with a blossoming bosom to match. As decadently lovely as it was, she soon slipped out of her flower bell and into our fantasies with her smoldering gaze, green sequins and chartreuse chiffon – twirling round and round while seductively unlacing her sparkling corset. With a ba boom, ba boom, Mangler and the giant snake tattoo wrapped around her left thigh, draped themselves onto a chair and into a spectacular upside down backbend. With a passionate tassel twirl, and a glimpse of her red paillet panties, the flaming haired vixen bid us sweet adieu.
Enter Tarantino from Nelson, BC… His 6th burlesque performance ever began with a top hat and tails, and a purple silk hanky that with a little *abracadabra* turned into a magician’s cane. But as he reached into his hat… what? No white rabbit? Hmmm… “Where could it have gone?” He excited our inner Brat Pack when he soft-shoed to Sinatra – pulling his shirt ruffles, up, up and up some more until… a long feather boa emerged teasingly from his trousers! Whoa! C’est magique! He hocus pocused us all the way down to his… Wait! What is that fluffy bulge? Oh! Hello, Mister Bunny!
As the purrrfessor put it, even World War II can be sexy – if it’s the Kabuki Guns Burlesque, that is. This wartime group of gals in their blue jumpsuits took us to a bygone era with an Andrews Sisters jitterbug-style performance, captivating with their hip-to-hip partner dancing and tight formation changes… finally blasting us with a confetti cannon! Any soldier would go AWOL for these dolls!
Gorgeous Aussie redhead Strawberry Siren ran away and joined the Fruit Fly Circus – the world’s only child circus – at the tender age of eleven. After twenty years with that company, she was a sight to behold on our very own Vancouver stage… sashaying to a jazz trumpet in a lavishly ruffled emerald green gown, capelet and floral fascinator. But she seemed so very, very hot… poor thing… What to do? Slipping out of her skirt, unlacing her corset with a wink an a smile while a flurry of petals poured out of it, she tantalizingly peeled away the sumptuous layers – revealing an extravagantly flowered vine, wrapping itself around her body like an adornment from the Garden of Eden. If anyone would want to sin with a forbidden fruit, it would be with The Strawberry Siren.
Adorable Connie Cahoots was the cutest thing I have ever seen! In true Charlie Chaplin style, she captured perfectly the essence of his loveable spirit and innocent charm. That little Lady who was ‘The Tramp’ tried her very best to solve the puzzle of what those sticky things with long tassels were all about! With perfect comedic timing, she tried everything she could think of, including sticking them to her eyes to see if that would work… Nope… until at long last, she lit up like a Christmas tree when she realized they could adhere to her bosoms and twirl, twirl, twirl! A brilliant performance by Cahoots led to uproarious applause and she thanked us by dropping her drawers!
The mirror image duo of Villainy Loveless and Ruth Ordare brought chills and misty eyes as we were drawn inside the love/hate relationship that is inner turmoil and self-love. In their glittering white gowns, these two blonde bombshells passionately explored the deepest regions of their one collective psyche. She fought herself aggressively and angrily, hating her reflection, but then… empathy, compassion and sensuality poured freely as both sides flowed together like gossamer butterflies. Gently wrapping herself up in silky bandages, then finding freedom from her own restraints and gazing deeply inside her own eyes… she surrendered to herself with a soft kiss… Breathtakingly beautiful.
Raven Virginia, a delicate ballerina in a fluffy tutu, twirled and fluttered on her pink pointed toes to ‘The Dance of The Sugarplum Fairies,’ but when she tasted some hard driving hip hop she was overcome by surprise! It took over her like a wild possession and she become unleashed: grinding, spanking her bottom, throwing herself into the splits! She mercilessly chucked her toe shoes, pulled out her bun, and licked her ravenous lips! Virginia leapt off the stage and gave the bump and grind to unsuspecting spectators at the VIP tables… Careful what you wish for when you get that close to a feral little ballerina!
White smoke crawled across the stage floor as purpled haired Voracious V – adorned in blue crystal eyebrows, voluminous lips and her one silver thigh high boot, tantalized us in a jazzy haze while she straddled her silver chair. Her Elizabethan collared costume was fantastical! As if by magic, her paniers transformed into flowing purple fans which then morphed into a diaphanous cape. Her jewel encrusted bondage-style body suit and g-string sparkled as it captured the spotlight. She strutted offstage… veiled behind the sheer, flowing silk.
Victoria BC’s “Boxers are Brief Boylesque” offered up magnificent marvels Johnny Bottomsworth and Clam Chowda – a rollicking, comedic Strongman duo. Their high energy acrobatics amazed and amused with a playful rivalry of pushups, wheelbarrows and a glittering gold bar bell schtick. Part circus act and part athletic wonders, Johnny and Clam provided delightfully powerful entertainment! Worthy of their own side show caravan, these two carnies could wrestle lions and tigers and bears! Oh my!
Beguiling beauty August Wiled performed a sophisticated number called “Addicted.” She wore a french chignon with a veiled fascinator and a black lace bodysuit that she peeled off inch by inch, slowly unzipping the back of her long, swanky legs. Her routine in smoky blue light left us hooked as she elegantly draped herself over her chair. Addicting indeed…
Belly dancers and multi-dimensional entertainers Luciterra and Chris Murdoch, were a highly stylized group demonstrating flawless choreography! In their black and silver pirate pants, they wowed us – performing to a deep bass rave sound with mad skills in juggling and acrobatics… one double jointed member blew our minds by locking her arms behind her back and pulling them over her head to the front of her body! It was a wonderful show by this troupe who I earnestly recommend you see any chance you get!
When the girls from The Cheesecake Burlesque Review traveled to do a show in Nelson, they asked BC’s own Burlesque legend Judith Stein if she would like to perform with them. Having not graced the stage for twenty five years, she agreed to fluff her feathers and slip into her fishnets. ‘Silk E Gunz’ told me, “Three years ago she rocked the Burlesque Festival where people were pounding on their seats and on the stage – loving her – and she’s been traveling, enjoying it, and doing workshops ever since.”
Stein entered the stage as she did in the 1970’s – with confidence and command. She skillfully played with the boys in the front row, effortlessly working her massive turkey feather boa and showing her devotees – all the way down to her twirling pasties – how it’s done. She still looked amazing and inspired us all to leap out of our seats into a roaring Standing O.
Judith chatted with me after the show: “What burlesque was to me, back in my day, was that I got to travel! I got to make a lot of money, I got to have sequins and fans and feathers, but most of all I got to travel… and they paid me for it! I’ll take it from The Rolling Stones: “I know, it’s only rock and roll but I liiiiike it!’” She tossed her head back and let out a long, deep, throaty laugh.
Burgundy Brixx just makes me happy! When she takes to the stage, the fiery redhead radiates absolute joy, and her creativity and sense of humor know no bounds! A vivacious vixen from New York CIty, Brixx keeps her talents here in Vancouver, and for those of us who just can’t get enough she shares her passion by co-producing and hosting Kitty Nights West! At the Burlesque Festival, she shone as brightly as the sun with her grand, circular headdress and a startling gold costume featuring a yellow and white peacock tail… but with a flick of her artful wrist, she finessed it into a set of fluffy fans that she flaunted with panache! She took us jubilantly down to her bare necessities where a smiling happy face on her… *meow* brought lively cheers from the crowd! Exuding light and inspiring all with her prowess and command of the stage, Burgundy Brixx makes the world a happier place!
Razzle Dazzle Tease, a black X-nippled, braided hair trio, guided us into the taboo world of bondage: pulling, wrapping and twisting each other in perfect sync using nothing more than their wicked talent and a few strips of spandex. Their hypnotizing dance echoed the act of mutual mastery and erotic asphyxiation. Gasp!
Stunning Lady Josephine entered the stage in her black Steampunk costume, opening her performance with eerie music setting a Hitchcockian mood. Building to a full blown symphony, the graceful time traveler revealed the sweetest little butterfly flitting gently on her finger. Enchanted, she marveled at the delicate creature, put it to her parting black lips as if to kiss its soft wings, and devoured it… chewing and swallowing it whole! We reveled in her carnivorous appetite and watched in wonder as she used her mechanical moves to slip out of her gear grinding getup into a risque little number that made us forget all about her mastication of the pretty little bug.
VaVa Vunderbust, you wild tiger, you! When Foxy Tann promised we would see something we’ve never seen before, it was fun to imagine. What with this crowd could possibly prove that to be true? We delighted in anticipation when Vunderbust hit centre stage in her orange and black fun fur tiger dress that reminded me of my favorite ice cream, then shimmying in long black fringe to the beat of Miami Sound Machine’s “Do The Conga.” There was a conga drum downstage… waiting… The beats got stronger and with jungle fever she stripped down to her green tassled boobs of plenty, took them in her hands and banged on that drum! Grrr, tiger, grrr! Her percussive talents made the natives restless and completely thrilled by her… instruments!
Lola Frost strutted onto the stage with a blue kimono, a champagne bottle, a long stemmed glass… and scorching bedroom eyes. She melted us right from the start, and it was the sort of party we all wanted to be at with this powerhouse of a burlesque diva. She was sultry and moody – her facial expressions the epitome of pleasure and pain. I bit my lip as she slid into long, slow splits and proceeded to pull off her stocking… slowly… slowly… snapping it off… spilling sparkles all over the stage! But oh no, that was not enough glamour for Miss Frost! Taking her bliss to the next level, she poured out the entire contents of her champagne bottle loaded with gold glitter, and splashed it all over her shimmering body. She shook the theatre to its core! Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets!
Decorated in a voluminous tulle skirt that hugged her tiny, jewel encrusted waist, red haired siren Catherine D’Lish resembled an hourglass dipped in fluffy whipped cream. Oozing sex appeal, she held the room and her giant feather fans in the palm of her hand and we were glued to every nuance of her scintillating show. D’lish was Old Hollywood Glamour personified with an extra dose of Va Va Voom! Pure ambrosia!
What Russell Bruner didn’t see coming was her summoning him back to the stage where she instructed him to unlace her corset, and proceeded to straddle him on the chaise lounge – obliging him to watch closely as she unhooked her opulent underpinnings and liberated her magnificent mammaries! Bruner had a sly look on his face – like a cat with a feather sticking out of its mouth – and together they brought the evening to an exalted crescendo! D’Lish sealed it with a kiss… and the seduction was complete!
It was a lavish weekend to be remembered and cherished. From one end of the artful spectrum to the other, the sheer level of dazzle on the historical Vogue stage was flabbergasting! With charismatic highs, laughs galore and smoking stripteases, the festival brought together magnificent burlesque stars, and the aficionados who love them! Scandalous and cheeky, fun and frothy, sexy and sublime, the spectacle was the cat’s pajamas and the most fun you can have with your clothes on! Hats off to all of the amazing performers who took theirs off, providing us with a rip roaring good time! I will savor every bite of deliciousness that was The Vancouver International Burlesque Festival 2013, and bide my sweet time for next year’s frolic!
My very personal and special thanks to the amazing photographers who contributed their beautiful works of art to this article:
Jess Desaugniers – Lea
Tiffany Ireland Photography