As I frantically type this, an army of burlesque starlets across the country are frantically packing, rhinestoning and trying to cram one last vintage gown into a bursting suitcase…. which means it’s almost time for Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend!
In just a few days, hundreds of performers and fans from across the globe will descend upon Las Vegas for the largest and oldest burlesque competition — which is also the primary fundraiser for the world’s ONLY non-profit museum dedicated to preserving the history of burlesque as an art form.
In addition to a reunion and four nights of jaw-dropping performances, there are daytime activities, group outings, pre-parties, after-parties, and hob-nobbing galore. This is one big crazy weekend overflowing with glitz, glam, glitter and sensory overload.
And although BHOF is a delight for the soul, it can also wreak havoc on your body. I’ve been going since 2003; and I still haven’t learned how to pack properly or bring the right shoes. However, here are a few bits of wisdom that I’ve accumulated over the years, which will hopefully guide you through the next few days, whether you’re a BHOF virgin or a veteran of Helendale.
No, seriously. Drink WAY more water than you think you need, all day, all night. Do not skimp on the water. Pretend you’re at Burning Man.
Dehydration is the #1 cause of BHOF crankiness and exhaustion. It’s hot as hell in Vegas in June, you’re in the desert, and going from the pavement-melting indoors to the brisk chill of the A/C in the casino is going to affect you. Bling a water bottle, and carry it with you all day. If you’re drinking alcohol, have a glass of water in between each drink. Even if you’re not drinking alcohol, hit that H2O hard.
BRING COMFY SHOES
I CANNOT STRESS THIS ONE ENOUGH! I still have yet to learn this lesson properly myself, and every year I wind up limping around in flip-flops by the third day. Something about flying + the desert/dehydration combo will most likely make your feet swell up like balloons – add on to that a couple of hours a day in fabulously impractical skyscraper heels, and your dogs will be barking like they never have before. Bring at least one pair of heels that are comfortable and will accommodate for swollen tootsies.
MEET THE LEGENDS
Again, I can’t emphasize this enough! Seek out the legends and strike up a conversation. Offer to buy them a drink, a cup of coffee, or a meal. Some of them may be a little shy, just like you – so just introduce yourself with a big smile, tell them where you’re from, and ask them a question or two. This is your chance to hear the stories of how it used to be firsthand from the ladies who lived it. And you can learn a trick or two from them at the BHOF Finishing School classes.
BE A HIPPY
Take multi-vitamins daily; try to eat well and sleep lots in the days before you hit Vegas; because once you land you likely won’t be doing much of either.
TWEET IT UP
Use the #BHOF tag when Tweeting about your adventures – this helps drive awareness for the museum, and your enthusiasm will be infectious!
SEE THE MUSEUM
The Burlesque Hall of Fame is located at 520 Fremont Street inside the Emergency Arts building, in historic downtown Las Vegas. It’s about a $20 cab ride from the Orleans, or you can take public transit. This area is commonly known as “Old Vegas” and is a lot of fun to wander around. Gather up a group, hit the museum, get a fried Twinkie and check out the Fremont Experience.
Edited to add: Here’s a teaser from BHOF Executive Director Dustin Wax about the museum’s current exhibits:
The current permanent exhibition is a timeline of American burlesque from 1865-present and features one of Blaze Starr’s dresses, a chorine’s dress from the Minsky era, Tempest Storm’s beaded g-string, magazine covers, records, sheet music, shoes, and of course plenty of photos and posters. The new exhibit, “Las Vegas Stripped”, explores burlesque in Las Vegas and includes one of Liz Renay’s dresses and a cat costume from Tiffany Carter.
Don’t forget to hit the BHOF Bazaar! Beyond that, if you’ve got the bling bug and you’re looking to get your shop on, here are a couple of great spots:
-Fantastik Indoor Swap Meet – Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 10am – 6pm. This isn’t a swap meet, but a huge indoor flea market geared towards drag queens and burlesque chicks. You’ll find $1 lashes, cheap hair flowers, wigs, sparkly heels, costume jewelry, dresses, knives, churros, and god knows what else. This is also where you can find the customized rhinestone name necklaces that were all the rage last year, which are in the DuBarry’s booth. Get a group to share the cab over; be warned that it’s easy to catch a cab over there, but pickup will take a lot longer, so keep that in mind if you need to be back at a specific time.
-DuBarry’s – DuBarry’s has a huge booth at Fantastik, but if you still want even more rhinestoned bling, check out their brick & mortar store. It’s packed to the bursting point with costume jewelry, accessories and fabulousness. There’s also free music and champagne on Sundays.
-William’s Costume Company. Outstanding collection of unique trims, chainette fringe, and a large selection of rhinestones, plus lots of assorted costumes, props and ridiculousness. Ask for Glenda the Rhinestone Lady, and tell her you want to see her collection of rhinestone handiwork.
The Orleans has a 24/7 café, a food court, and a buffet. But if you’re a vegetarian, on a budget, a fussy eater or just not a fan of the buffet, consider hitting up a nearby grocery store to stock up on some essentials for your room. The Orleans rooms do not have mini-fridges, so stick to non perishable items like fruit, granola bars, snack packs, etc.
REMEMBER TO PACK
-Your ID! You need it to pick up your tickets!
-Sunscreen, parasols and floppy hats; shade is limited at the Orleans pool.
-Bandaids for blisters (in case, like me, you ignore the sensible shoe advice.)
-Waterproof mascara & Kleenex for the Friday night Legends showcase. You will cry.
-Lotion, moisturizer, chapstick, and baby power if you’re prone to chafing. You will feel like a lizard come Sunday.
-Your business cards & flyers.
-Cardigan or shawl to cover up in the cold casino.
If you’re performing during the weekend, you might be a little stressed. Or freaked out. Or you might be in full-blown meltdown mode….so just take a minute to breathe. It’s natural to be a little stressed out, so set aside some you-time to unwind and relax: take a quiet bubble bath in your room, find a secluded part of the pool to get in some reading, or book some time at the spa. Remember, you’re here to have FUN, right? So just go with the flow, don’t sweat the little shit, slap on another layer of sparkle and be fabulous, baby!
If you’re traveling with your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner/spouse, make sure your S.O. is attended to and has what s/he needs to stay entertained and happy. Try to book something alone time for just the two of you, whether it’s watching the fountains at the Bellagio or enjoying a nice meal together away from the hustle & bustle of festival.
OK, you crazy kids — I still need to create a packing spreadsheet for my handbags and dresses, finish sewing my Barecats Bowling costume, and buy at least one damn pair of sensible shoes since lord knows I don’t own any.
I’ll see all of you in VEGAS, BABY!