This Friday, the inaugural Hollywood Burlesque Festival kicks off in Los Angeles and we are especially excited for this one as it’s produced by longtime Brown Paper Tickets supporter and producer/hostess of Monday Night Tease, LA’s longest running weekly burlesque show, Lili VonSchtupp. Lili is the perfect example of what is possible if you are passionate and devoted to your art form. To host a weekly show that packs ’em in week in and week out is no small feat and burlesque producers could learn a lot from Lili. She’s definitely got the skills to pay the bills!
Lili’s taking her incredible production skills to the next level this weekend as she hosts the first ever burlesque festival in Los Angeles. She’s got four days of shows, classes, tours, movies and parties planned and I’m especially excited because I get to go down there and be a part of all the fun. If you’ve ever wanted to meet me or know more about Brown Paper Tickets, you can look for us in vending where we’ll have a table set up all weekend or come to the Three Clubs on Sunday, December 8 from 6:30pm to 8pm, where we’ll be hosting a meet and greet with anyone that’s curious about us, what we do and how we can help you out with your burlesque show, festival or classes. If you’re going to be in LA this weekend, please find me and say hi.
I got a chance to catch up with Lili and pick her brain about the LA burlesque scene, her personal burlesque history and the festival. She even offers some valuable advice to producers out there that are thinking of starting up their own festival.
So, without further ado, I give you, the one and only Lili VonSchtupp!
I started burlesque a little later in life than most, I was 37 (2004) when I took my first step onstage to strip. I was doing radio at the time when a co-worker found a burlesque class on Craigslist. They thought it would be fun to talk about since I had a collection of burlesque memorabilia and erotica. So, I took the class and performed for the first time at the legendary World Famous Derby in Hollywood. It was quite frightening and exciting to be the oldest woman on stage and with large natural breasts in a city of infants with breast implants. It seemed so odd at the time. But it also seemed so natural. The women in burlesque were trailblazers of the sexual revolution. And much like them I never apologized for being comfortable in being a sexual being.
In 2007 I took over co-producing that weekly show. Fast forward to 2013, and we are celebrating ten years of that show, now called Monday Night Tease, and I have produced over 400 shows. In the nine plus years I’ve been performing and producing, I’ve had the pleasure to meet and work with many of the women whose photos I had collected at estate sales as kid. I’ve performed across the country and I run Lili’s School for Wayward Girls in LA teaching the art of burlesque. I love watching newer performers take the stage and experience the joy of entertaining an audience in an art form that is so liberating and open. I never thought when I was 16 watching Busby Berkley films with my mom that I would one day be running a show weekly filled with amazing performers in fabulous costumes, it still feels like dream I get to do this for a living.
What do you feel makes burlesque in Los Angeles different from other scenes around the country?
Considering the stereotypes that come to mind when you hear the words Hollywood and Los Angeles, we happen to be one of the most diversified cities doing burlesque. I recently spent a weekend at Burlycon, an educational conference for burlesque professionals, and the issues in other cities seems to be much less of a problem here. Burlesque shows in LA feature a great cross section of women. We are still a industry predominately run by women. On an average show here you’ll easily find women of all sizes, all ethnicities, and sexual orientation. The community of performers is as varied as the tastes of the audience members. We are very lucky to have audiences that support more than the traditional looks that are often sold in magazines and advertising. Plus, Hollywood has always had a plethora of amazingly skilled performers. We have great dancers, singers, circus and variety performers to book into shows as well. And don’t forget our hot boylesque performers! While entertainment is our business, we have managed to bring it out in so many varied ways. Burlesque, boylesque, nerdlesque, sci-fi, pop culture, BBW troupes, women-of-color troupes and drag! We have it all in abundance.
It’s hard to believe this is LA’s first burlesque festival. Why has it taken so long for the City of Angels to get its own festival?
When I started doing burlesque in 2004, there were only 2 shows happening on a regular basis. Velvet Hammer was just winding down and the neo-burlesque scene was just starting to explode. We now have 60 shows a month across LA and the surrounding areas. The scene has finally matured enough to have a wide enough group of performers and producers to support it. Several of the producers in LA had kicked around producing one, but it is such a huge production with four days of shows, vending and classes, it’s hard to say “Okay! Let’s do this!” It took me five years to finally be confident that Hollywood was ready. And boy has the community come out to support it. Thank you all!
Tell me a little about what folks can expect from the festival this year.
We have four shows, classes and vending. Our first two nights at the Hayworth Theatre are filled with competitions and amazing headliners. We have nine titles we are giving away to performers, troupes and variety artists. And we have a special award being presented by Richard Simmons whose mother was a burlesque dancer in New Orleans. Paying homage to the performers whose glittery shoes we follow is very important. We have burlesque legends Stephanie Blake (two time Miss Exotic World) and Kitten Natividad (two time Miss Nude Universe, Russ Meyer film star and pictured to the right) performing, and Tiffany Carter teaching in our two days of classes. Plus Sunday and Monday at 3 Clubs will be parties and showcases both nights. Over 100 performers will be hitting the stages from all over the world.
Any plans for the future of the festival?
This has been such an amazing experience and received so well, we are already looking to do it again next year for sure, but I can’t tell you about what might happen, that would ruin the tease. And you know we are all about the tease!
What are some of the performers that you’re most excited about that will be performing this year?
We were so delighted to have over 150 people enter to compete in the show. It was delightful to see non-USA performers apply. I can’t comment on performers who are competing, even though I am not a judge, but I really look forward to watching the first Miss Hollywood Burlesque crown placed on the head of one of these amazing performers. I know every performer competing in the local category and each one is fantastic. I don’t envy the judges, the competition is extremely good in every category.
For me personally Roxi D’lite, 2010 Queen of Burlesque (BHOF), was on my wish list and we managed to get her to headline. She embodies classic bump and grind burlesque, but brings so much more. She’s skilled in many other performance styles and really tingles all your senses. Russell Bruner, 2012 King of Burlesque (BHOF), is performing solo and with his reigning Best Troupe (BHOF), Swingtime PDX Trio. He’s WC Fields, Gene Kelley, Fred Astaire, and little Magic Mike thrown in for good measure, circus trained and an amazing entertainer. Locally, Lux LaCroix and Evie Lovelle both make me so proud that there are out there representing Hollywood as they tour.
Do you have any advice for burlesque producers out there that might want to put on a burlesque festival in their own town?
Producing a show is a skill set that should be mastered before even attempting a large scale festival. If you can’t turn a profit on a small show, you won’t make it up in volume. You have multiple shows, classes and workshops, vending, volunteers to manage, and much more to balance. Make sure you have a great sales team in place, a real plan for the weekend with goals and targets, a good marketing strategy, and support from an awesome ticketing company helps too. But mostly, produce because you love it. When the passion is there, the audience finds you.
A big thank you to Lili for taking time out of her insanely busy schedule to talk with us. There are still a few tickets available for the festival and you can pick them up here. Can’t wait to see you all in Hollywood!
If you’re not planning on being anywhere near Hollywood this weekend but still want to experience some world-class burlesque, we suggest these upcoming burlesque shows happening this weekend.
Friday, December 6
Stripped Screw Burlesque presents: The Best Burlesque Pageant Ever – Seattle, Washington Revamped for 2013 with hilarious new acts dripping with sex appeal, Stripped Screw takes on the true meaning of Christmas in this throw back to your childhood Christmas pageants. When the Screws show up at the Burlesque Pageant auditions due to an innocent mistake, everyone is horrified. Why? Because they’re horrible; raunchy, gaudy, pushy and each one deliriously delights in being the terrors of the neighborhood. In the blink of a rhinestoned eyelash, The Screws find themselves, much to the shock and bewilderment of everyone (especially Miss Kitty Baby’s very special students) starring in Miss Kitty Baby’s annual pageant! This show has nightly performances on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Burlesque S’il Vous Plait – Portland, Oregon Burlesque S’il Vous Plait is Zora Phoenix’s monthly showcase of the best burlesque that the Rose City has to offer. S’il Vous Plait is a classic burlesque show with a contemporary variety twist! This show happens on the 1st Friday of every month at the Crush Bar and Zora’s got an extra special show in store for you this month! Don’t miss it.
Black Cherry Burlesque – Tucson, Arizona Surly Wench Pub is home to the beloved Black Cherry Burlesque, a monthly striptease spectacle created by the owners of the pub itself. Black Cherry has been running for seven years, charming the pants off desert dwellers with creative and original productions. Live theatrics, stunning striptease, dancing, singing, and bawdy humor all tip a hat to burlesque’s extensive history.
Saturday, December 7
Girls On Film- A Tribute To Willem Dunham – Austin, Texas Join That’sWhatSheSaid!Burlesque for a night filled with dazzling cabaret and burlesque talent. This fundraiser will lovingly honor Willem Dunham and celebrate his continued photographic contributions within Austin’s performance art community. Featuring numerous high-end artists, along with rotating MC’s who will keep you entertained with their sharp wit and showmanship skills. All proceeds will help Wil who suffered a very serious car accident in November. Help us show support to one of Austin’s favorite performance arts photographers. Event will feature burlesque, comedy, and side show acts.
Naked Girls Reading “Christmas Carol” – Chicago, Illinois It’s the sexiest holiday tradition ever! Join Naked Girls Reading Chicago for the 5th Annual naked reading of Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol. The flagship Chicago cast puts the “ASS” in classic by reading the original “public reading” version edited by Charles Dickens himself. Plus, between sets, watch classic holiday cartoons projected on the bare derrieres of beautiful ladies. All that and hot chocolate too? You betcha. Let the Naked Girls unwrap their gifts for you!
Sunday, December 8
Byrlesque At The Byrd: Holidays At The Movies – Richmond, Virginia Get ready for the 2nd annual Byrlesque At The Byrd: Holidays At The Movies classic burlesque & vaudeville showcase at Richmond’s Byrd Theatre! Presented by Deanna Danger Productions, BATB is the only burlesque show ever held in this historic landmark movie palace! Hosted by that rascally vaudevillian, Mark Slomski together for the first time with Richmond’s voted #1 Drag Queen, 3-years running, Miss Magnolia Jackson Pickett Burnside! Holidays At The Movies pays tribute to many holiday movie favorites from The Christmas Carol, to A Christmas Story, Rudolph and new classics like National Lampoons Christmas Vacation in true variety show style! Featuring many of Richmond’s top performers: Deanna Danger, Deepa de Jour, Bitsy Buttons, Buster Britches, Puppie Buffe, Scarlet Starlet and Kelli LiMone. And special guest all the way from NYC, award-winning burlesque performer and television actress, HAZEL HONEYSUCKLE!