With so many people walking around with handlebar moustaches and tweed vests, one can easily get annoyed with the current wave of retro-enthusiasm. Bars calling themselves “speakeasies” are popping up everywhere and every 20-something seems to be learning to play the banjo, riding a penny-farthing or waxing poetic about rye whiskey. Surely, this trend will pass and the hipsters will find another by-gone era to emulate, but for hardcore retro-enthusiasts like Russell Bruner, this is more than a trend, it’s a lifestyle!
I first met Russell on a trip to Portland back in October, where I checked out one of his swing dance nights at Kelly’s Olympian. I’d been meeting with burlesque performers that whole weekend and all of them had nothing but great things to say about Russell. When I saw him in action that night at Kelly’s, I could see why. I was blown away by his pleasant demeanour, his style and, most of all, his dance moves.
Russell is the founder of the Portland, Oregon-based production company Swing Time PDX. He started Swing Time “as a project to provide and create more opportunities for swing bands and swing musicians to encourage and help them to provide dance events to the public.” Over the better part of the last decade, he has incorporated more than just swing bands and dancers into the mix. He now hosts circus events, vaudeville shows and, of course, burlesque. All with his decided old-time flair.
Russell was named the King of Burlesque in 2012 after winning “Best Boylesque” at the Burlesque Hall of Fame’s Tournament of Tease in Las Vegas. As a result, he has become much more known amongst burlesque circles worldwide. Most of the past year he’s been on the national burlesque tour circuit but he’s back in his home state of Oregon and has a great show coming up in Salem at the Historic Grand Theatre on Friday, April 5th. This show will feature not only Russell doing his thing but also world-class juggler Curtis Carlyle, cowboy clown Leapin’ Louie Lichtenstein, contortionist Brittany Walsh, burlesque “peeler” Ellie Darling and sideshow circus entertainer Neil E. Dee. All of this will be accompanied by a hot jazz soundtrack courtesy of the Pink Lady and Her Swing Jazz Quartet. As you can see, this is a real live vaudeville extravaganza in the true, classic sense of the word. Tickets are flying out the door so be sure to get yours now, right over here.
You can also catch Russell in Seattle on Thursday, May 9 alongside the “Queen of Burlesque” Australia’s Imogen Kelly in “ULTIMATE GRAND SUPREME! A Night of Burlesque Royalty.” Presented by the Atomic Bombshell’s Kitten LaRue this ONE NIGHT ONLY appearance is your chance to see the crown jewels of the international burlesque world in the shockingly intimate setting of the Oddfellows’ West Hall. This is also your opportunity to see Russell strip down to his sock garters and, strategically placed, bowler hat!
Hats off to the King of Burlesque! We can’t wait to see what the future has in store for this top-notch producer and dapper, man-about-town. It’s an honor to work with such a unique talent.