Brown Paper Tickets is proud to have handled ticketing for the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender, the annual gathering of the glitter tribe in Las Vegas, June 4 to 7. This was my first year attending the Weekender and it was a fantastic opportunity to meet many of our burlesque producers and performers in person.
Sunday night’s co-host Ernie Von Schmaltz dubbed the event “summer camp for sexy weirdos.” That’s definitely a fitting description. But to me it’s more of a big, glittery family reunion as I get to catch up with performers I’ve worked with or have seen perform.
Titans of Tease
I missed Thursday night’s Movers, Shakers & Innovators Showcase, but I did catch Friday night’s 58th Annual Titans of Tease Reunion Showcase, which featured burlesque legends from the 50s, 60s and 70s.
Early burlesque performers were often outcasts from mainstream society and even mistreated by family members. One shared a story of how, in the early 1960s, her religious mother made her burn all her burlesque costumery. She obeyed. Years later, while looking through her grandmothers’ attic, her daughter found the one dress that wasn’t lost. She performed her routine for the showcase in that dress and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house (including mine).
These ladies live loud and age isn’t slowing them down. It must feel so empowering for the performers, now in their 70s, 80s or even 90s (the oldest dancer was 93) to be celebrated and looked at as role models. Our charming, graceful host, The World Famous BOB summed it up. “These women are redefining what it means to age as a woman in our society.”
On Saturday afternoon, I caught Tigger’s “Let’s Have A Kiki” live daytime talk show. Tigger cracks me up. The show featured interviews with Burlesque Beat founder J.D. Oxblood, famed burlesque photographer Don Spiro and performances by Edmonton, Alberta’s River City Revue.
Saturday night’s show was the 25th Annual Tournament of Tease hosted by fellow Seattleite and old friend Armitage Shanks, the Carny Preacher. At five hours long, it was a marathon of a performance, but as a testament to the quality, it didn’t seem long.
And the Winners Are…
Keep your eyes out for the best of burlesque, performing around the world. They’re well worth your time.
Zelia Rose – Melbourne, Australia
Best Small Group
The Original Twins (Paris Original & Trojan Original) – Seattle, Washington
Matt Finish – Tucson, Arizona
Best Large Group
Jenny Rocha & Her Painted Ladies – Brooklyn, New York
And, finally, the Reigning Queen of Burlesque, the winner of Miss Exotic World 2015 is:
Trixie Little – New York, New York.
Trixie killed it in her banana dress. She has been a large presence in the burlesque scene since 2002, when she debuted as part of the award-winning acrobatic burlesque superduo Trixie Little & The Evil Hate Monkey. Since then she’s performed with John Waters & The Flaming Lips and was featured on season 4 of “America’s Got Talent.” Not only that, she’s been a mentor and inspiration for many within the community. Way to go Trixie.
Meanwhile, at the Pool …
Sunday night’s show was the Icons & All-Stars showcase hosted by Ernie Von Schmaltz and Victoria Deville. This show featured past winners of BHoF’s past as well as the presentation of the Sassy Lassy Awards to burlesque pioneers.
The Sassy Lassy was the name of the bar that legendary tassel twirler, Jennie Lee and her husband owned in California. Lee was a veteran of the 1950’s burlesque scene, known for inviting all her burlesque friends around for impromptu performances. Purportedly, one morning after picking up stripper refuse from a wild night with her friends, she started nailing bras, gowns, pasties and g-strings to the wall, creating the Burlesque Hall of Fame Museum’s first home. The first BHoF gathering took place in that same bar in 1965, creating the tradition that celebrated its 50th anniversary with this year’s Weekender.
Making this Weekender extra special, Dustin Wax, Burlesque Hall of Fame President announced that they will open the museum in a new space in downtown Vegas, expanding their square footage by 20 times and allowing them to (finally) put their large collection on display. From a dive bar in San Pedro to a legitimate museum in Las Vegas, BHoF’s come a long way, baby.
For more detailed coverage of the weekend, visit Burlesque Beat and 21st Century Burlesque. If you’re a burlesque event organizer or performer who wants to support the Burlesque Hall of Fame, check out our Burlesque Hall of Fame Fund, which allows you to add an additional fee to your ticket price, 100% of which goes directly to the nonprofit museum. Or donate directly.
That’s a wrap. Can’t wait until next year’s Weekender.
Photo credit: Museum interior photo courtesy of the Burlesque Hall of Fame.