The BHOF Survival Guide

OMFGBHOF!

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.

DRINK WATER

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.

SHOPPING

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.

EATS

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.

JUST BREATHE

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!

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The Only One-y: Scotty The Blue Bunny

I first met Scotty the Blue Bunny at New York Burlesque Festival in 2003; the exact incriminating details escape me, but I know we were both loud, drunk and obnoxious. In other words, love at first sight.

It’s hard not to be drawn to a guy in a blue spandex bunny suit who’s pushing 7 feet from the tips of his ears down to his size 13 Lucite stripper heels — especially one with such an acerbic and fearless wit. Over the years I’d see him at various festivals and events, and we’d engage in our backstage ritual of hurling good-natured insults at each other while tossing down Jager bombs and spewing glitter and profanity. But it wasn’t until Scotty moved to San Francisco that I really got to know the man behind the bunny suit, and was struck by what a smart, eloquent, introspective and sensitive (yes, really) person he is offstage as well. A gifted yoga and Pilates instructor, Scotty is actually quite down to earth and always refreshingly free of pretense. Whether onstage or off, he lasers in on bullshit and mercilessly mocks it with his trademark brand of utterly outrageous humor and razor-sharp delivery.

In one of his opening bits, Scotty stomps onstage to the Godzilla theme, and it’s a truly apt comparison: he’s the motherfucker who will storm into your burlesque show, stomp all over your preconceived notions of emcee protocol and etiquette, rip your face off in front of everyone, and you’ll only love him even MORE for it.

I asked Scotty to take a few moments to sit down and answer some probing questions about the man, the myth and the bunny. I hope you enjoy this peek behind the ears as much as I did.

Tell me a little about how Scotty the Blue Bunny came into being. When did you first don the suit? How did you come to emceeing?

I date my genesis to my first tour with the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus in 1996. As a lead up to that, I had been doing small shows with them locally in Williamsburg, Brooklyn for about a year prior, as well as late night drag shows and not so late night spoken word slams. The Cirkus gave me room to be interdisciplinary without thinking too much about it. So I experimented with clowning and fantasy and the “female impersonation” naturally faded out. One turn with bunny ears stuck as a trademark forever. And since there is a strong tradition of wearing animal outfits in the circus and sideshow it felt natural. After a few years of touring, variety and burlesque shows were now happening on dedicated earlier evenings instead of late night clubs – and there was a need for hosts. It seemed, and still does, like a perfect niche. I could bring all my little circus tricks and banter to glue a show together.

You’re infamous for saying some utterly outrageous, shocking shit on stage. Do you think you get away with it if you weren’t dressed in a blue bunny suit?

Probably not – but it’s not like I’m hitting the stage in a pair of khakis anytime soon. And I haven’t gotten away with everything just so you know. I made someone so mad once they bit me…

How do you approach hosting a burlesque show, or any show for that matter?

Girl, the spandex helps me get caught up in the excitement of the show. Shows are exciting! Dixie Evans said something to the effect that there was a time before Facebook and DVDs – when people went out. They HAD to go out and it was fun and active to be in the audience. The audience might come to the show to see the performers, but the performers come to see the crowd. I think of the proscenium as a meeting place. I still romanticize performing and doing shows and I remind myself to get caught up in the magic. Also Jo Boobs told me to never ever get tired of being a bunny: “Don’t you dare!” Period. So I keep a mental Rottweiler growling at potential boredom or habituation. I mean, god forbid I was a lucky SOB cast in Cats – I’d have to be a pussy Tuesday through Friday with matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Every time I step on stage it’s fresh; there’s always someone who hasn’t seen me before. PLUS it helps to have new costumes and shoes and stuff – even if the material is old, (girl!) it’s a sweet little trick to play on yourself to have something new to show off.

You’re part of the “old guard” that’s been around since the burlesque revival really exploded. How do you see the old guard meshing with the new guard?

Actually – I think I’m part of some intermediary guard. I’m old enough that for me, burlesque never really disappeared culturally, but young enough that I never really saw contemporary burlesque until I saw my peers do it. I don’t mean to downplay my experience. As we go along it really does seem I witnessed and was part of a pivotal time in the genre, in New York anyway, but it would also seem that it was a pivotal time for Burlesque globally as well.

I think young and old are meshing just fine. Living in San Francisco especially, I catch glimpses of it being an inter-generational scene. Some of the seniors will put high-heels on their walkers and come to see our shows, or be in them! It’s not all about immortalizing them at BHOF. It’s great to have idols, but it’s nice when those idols come down from Olympus to suck on a whiskey sour and yell out at you.

Recently you stated that performers should “strive to suck.” I interpreted that as “strive to take risks” but would you care to expand a bit more on that?

A bit of irreverence would do us all some good, for both the performer and the audience. Yes, we all exist within the confines of a genre and audiences come with expectations built on that, so you gotta knock that shit down. Striving to be good is great, but I also want to be passionate, playful, furious, horny, careless and wild as well – and in burlesque we get to work it out on stage.

Performing can be a transcendent experience (ritual) for the performer, which makes for great theater. It doesn’t have to be written off as therapy, and people should really be open to “sucking” in the name of experiencing their performances differently than their audience. Go ahead, get on your knees, scream and pour blood all over yourself in the name of Satan. This is Burlesque for Christ’s sake – irreverence is built into the definition of the damn thing.

I also appreciate to see a little struggling with the form. Creators struggle with their respective forms in order to transcend raw materials and really make art. All the rhinestones and all the feathers have to add up to something that blows people’s minds and suspends reality – aka entertainment. We come to and perform in shows so we can re-enter our everyday lives with new awareness. We destroy to create.

What are your thoughts on the spectrum of performer quality that we see today, from boring to genius? Can you talk a little about that “grace period of suck” that you mentioned?

Well, maybe 15 years ago, we had more places to experiment, and audiences were not quite sure what they were looking at, so we got a way with some unfinished shit. I mean I was doing drag – and as much as I look like a real rabbit to you now, that’s how successful my female impersonation was. Blech! We were doing shows that grew out of nightlife. I mean, I’ve seen gorgeous go-go girls dancing while licking soft-serve ice-cream cones in front of video monitors playing scenes of people vomiting. When I first met World Famous *BOB* she was eating cheeseburgers on a go-go box at an after-hours club where I showed up in a metallic kilt to eat fire and our boss was a giant lime green drag queen. Now look at us. Honestly – we were werking it out!!! We didn’t have schools with handouts and charts. We were weird and walked the streets when New York was the place for that. Kids today don’t have that – they have to step onto the stage with much more intention and seriousness than we ever did. Bow your head to your own creative process and do your own best work. Foster uniqueness. Everything else will take care itself.


Copping a feel at NYBF ‘03

As someone who makes a living from performing, what do you think of the whole professional vs. hobbyist debate? Is this going to divide us as a community?

The truth is that most people don’t care – they just want good show. We have these beautiful Living Legends and heaps of black and white photos of dancers past – but we don’t know anything about the qualities of their shows or productions. Really, there is far too much glamorizing going on – far too much nostalgia and projecting.

The truth is you can’t be in every show. Performers need to just relax and accept that they don’t fit every bill – and it’s not always about being good, or professional. It’s pretty obvious what you have to do to perform on all the different levels.

Making a living in burlesque is making a living as an artist, and I think that if people thought of themselves in the broader spectrum of performance instead of rhinestoning the shit out of the status quo, they would be better burlesquers. Sparkle is great – but if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that audiences want the whole diamond. You have to express yourself through your skills. You have to live on stage.

Originally, this debate was very emotional for me because I found my way into a bunny suit through experimentation and exposure to all kinds of freaks. I don’t have any formal education in the arts besides my abandoned violin career, which ended in highs chool. Joey Ramone never took voice lessons and Rober Mapplethorpe was a drop-out. I don’t think anyone would dispute they are professional world-class artists. I model myself on that.

One of the first times I first met you, the first thing you said to me after I got offstage is that I should close my mouth while I perform. At first I was taken aback, and then I realized you were giving me real constructive criticism instead of a meaningless “oh that was great.” Do you think a lot of burlesque performers aren’t used to receiving real feedback? Or that they just don’t want it and would prefer the “that was great”?

Shit, everyone I know jumps off stage asking “Wasitgoodwasitgoodwasitgooddidyoulikeit?huh?huh?” Everyone I know is interested in refining their art and making it better.  I think everyone is talking to everyone about their shows all the time. Critique has a language and timing all its own, and it’s better just to ignore a bad performance and pour enthusiasm all over something you love-love-without-a-doubt love. The majority of performances I see are just fine – the rest, should just be gracefully left alone to figure it out. There is a kind of innocence there you don’t want to fuck with. The joy of being in showbiz for so long is watching people figure it out.

What do you think are the biggest challenges the burlesque community is facing right now?

The biggest challenge is how do you perform for an educated audience, at every ticket price. People know what burlesque is. We need to accept it’s completely cultural now – it’s not neo, or a revival anymore. It’s just Burlesque.

What do you love most about burlesque? And what do you hate?

The thing I love most is watching the nightly transformation from nose-picking fart-smelling scratch-n-sniff reptilian invader into pristine glamour girl (you know who you are). The thing I hate the most is pizza backstage.

Tell me about one of your most memorable moments on stage; something that really resonates and sticks out when you look back at everything you’ve done.

Getting bit.

He’s the only one-y: get more of Scotty the Blue Bunny at http://scottybunny.com

Burlesque Hall of Fame 2011 Lineup

I’m so thrilled and honored to be competing for the title of Reigning Queen of Burlesque at the 2011 Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender!

Here’s the official lineup:

Whatever you want to call it–Miss Exotic World, World’s Best Burlesque, Reigning Queen of Burlesque, “The Superbowl of Striptease” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer), “The Grand National–The Oscars–of burlesque striptease” (London Daily Telegraph), “The world’s top showcase of international burlesque entertainers” (Las Vegas Sun), etc. etc.–we’re thrilled to announce the lineup of top-flight performers participating in this year’s BHOF Weekend TOURNAMENT OF TEASE:

BEST DEBUT

Angelique DeVil (Portland, OR)
Charlotte Treuse (Portland, OR)
Ginger Valentine (Dallas, TX)
Imogen Kelly (Sydney, Australia)
Iva Handfull (Seattle, WA)
LouLou D’vil (Tampere, Finland)
Minnie Tonka (Brooklyn, NY)
Miss La Vida (Auckland, New Zealand)
Randi Rascal (Seattle, WA)
Stella LaRocque (Chicago, IL)

BEST BOYLESQUE

Bazuka Joe (Chicago, IL )
Captain Kidd (Brisbane, Australia)
Jett Adore (Chicago, IL)
Mahogany Storm (Toronto, Canada)

BEST GROUP

Brown Girls Burlesque (New York, NY)
The Dolls of Doom (Chicago, IL )
Melody Sweets & The Candy Shop Boys (New York, NY)
Razzle Tassel Tease Show (Vancouver, Canada)
The Schlep Sisters (Brooklyn, NY)
The Stage Door Johnnies (Chicago, IL )

MISS EXOTIC WORLD, REIGNING QUEEN OF BURLESQUE

Anna Fur Laxis (Yorkshire, UK)
Coco Lectric (Austin, TX)
Miss Indigo Blue (Seattle, WA)
Kristina Nekyia (Los Angeles, CA)
Lily Verlaine (Seattle, WA)
Lux LaCroix (Los Angeles, CA)
Melody Mangler (Vancouver, Canada)
Midnite Martini (Denver, Colorado)
MsTickle (New York, New York)
Nasty Canasta (Brooklyn, New York)
Ophelia Flame (Minneapolis, MN)
Sparkly Devil (San Francisco, CA)
Sweetpea (Minneapolis, MN)
Vicky Butterfly (London, England)

Ricci Cortez

I’ve been thinking a lot about legends lately, especially since I’ve been working hard on the 2011 Legends Challenge for Burlesque Hall of Fame. I’m so thrilled with the response to this campaign, with 14 benefits happening all over North America! I love seeing the burlesque community band together to ensure their elders can be honored at this annual event.

Some of the most profound and moving moments I’ve experienced have been watching legends perform at BHOF. I dug up this remembrance of Ricci Cortez that I posted in 2008 when she died:




Ricci Cortez, a living legend of burlesque, has died.

Ricci was a firecracker of a Texas broad, and I was lucky enough to see her perform once. I will never, ever forget witnessing her completely off-the-cuff performance at Exotic World in 2005, the last year it was held in the Helendale, in the middle of the desert.

I was sitting in the very front row of the makeshift foot-high stage, in a beige and pedestrian cramped hotel conference room, filled to the bursting point with neo-burlesque starlets and vintage vixens. It was nine million degrees, we were packed in there like sardines, and I kept popping out of my backless dress, with my bare legs folded up underneath me and my red glitter toes tucked under the lip of the stage. I was crammed in between Nadine Dubois & Sexy Mark Brown when Ricci was convinced to get up there and do a completely impromptu performance.

She was wearing a simple black pantsuit with silver accents — no costume, no pasties, no boa, no rehearsal. She got up there and worked the fuck out of Night Train, and just knocked everyone’s socks off in the entire room, playfully switching back and forth from coquettish faux-shy to flat out freakin’ RAUNCHY. An audience comprised mostly of men & women her grandchildren’s age where literally screaming their voices raw as she worked the stage. I can still see, clear as day, her bright cherry red pout — contrasting against her ultra-bronzed skin — and her hugely expressive eyes, as she leaned over, mere inches from me, and made the most innocent yet totally lascivious gesture towards my friend Mark, who then turned three shades of beet red.

It’s definitely stands out as one of the most striking and poignant performances I’ve ever witnessed, since it just goes to show: you can stick $2,000 worth of rhinestones to your costume, you can hire a professional choreographer and scads of backup dancers, you can spend thousands of dollars on big flashy props, you can plan and plot and obsess over every last minutiae of your routine, but when it comes right fucking down to it…

…a real professional can just get up there, on the fly, at 80 years old in her pantsuit, and knock everyone’s fucking jaws down to the floor, armed only with her humor, style and panache.



Ricci’s performance in Helendale, 2005





Miss Indigo Blue’s amazing tribute to Ricci, performed at BHOF 2010:

Tura Satana gets snubbed by the Oscars

I have been wanting to write about Tura Satana’s passing, and have not been able to find the right words. And then I got royally pissed last night when she was left out of the “In Memorium” package during the Oscars. It was an insulting oversight, and it didn’t go unnoticed by the blogosphere.

True, Tura and Faster Pussycat, Kill Kill! were never even remotely considered Oscar material. But both the actress and the film (which are nearly inseparable, since Tura is Faster Pussycat) have done far more to shape pop culture than the handful of play-by-the-rules ass-kissing Hollywood insiders who were deemed worthy of mention.

Fuck them all – you’re a goddess, Tura, and you always will be.

Like most of you, I was shocked when I heard of her passing, particularly because she has always seemed so lively and full of energy.

I was not close to Tura; I made a point to chat with her every year at Exotic World, but I’m not sure she could tell me apart from the sundry other platinum-haired crimson-lipped tattooed girls who would swarm her at such events.

But even if she didn’t remember your name, Tura never showed it. She would greet you with the same warm, engaging smile that you would expect to be reserved for an old, dear friend.

Tura always struck me as someone who truly valued and appreciated her fans; she always made time for them, and was always

Upon hearing the news of her death, I immediately burst into tears. This one hit hard, mostly because Tura was young (72) and seemed so vibrant.

It served as a sharp and painful reminder that the precious few living legends of burlesque that are still living will not be around forever.

I have many more thoughts on the new generation of burlesque forming lasting bonds and relationships with living legends – complex thoughts that I have yet to organize.

But in the meantime, I wanted to say to Tura:

Thank you for all you’ve shared in your time with us. Even if the Oscars forgot you, us burlesque broads sure as hell never will.

Burlesquer Homes & Gardens

I’ve been slugging through the dreadful process of purging & re-organizing my costume room, which has got me thinking about burlesque-centric tips & tricks for organization, costume maintenance, etc.

I’d love to pull together a Martha Stewart burlesque post – with advice & tips from burlesque performers on how they cope with the day-to-day maintenance of their costumes, storage area, etc.

Do you store your pasties in plastic jewelry organizers? How do you launder your most delicate Swarovksi-encrusted gloves when they get stained with lipstick or smudges? How do you transport your costumes? What’s your secret to keeping your wigs shiny and bouncy? How do you get spilled liquid latex out of a costume?

Stuff like that!

If you’d like to share your Martha Stewart burlesque tips, please email them to me at sparkly.devil@gmail.com along with your stage name and website, so I can link back to you. I will compile all of the tips and post them here, and hopefully we’ll have a handy little resource guide for future use!

Welcome to the Sparkly Side

Hi there, and welcome to my public burlesque blog.

In case you don’t already know, I’m Sparkly Devil, and I’ve been performing burlesque for over a decade now.

I’m also a professional journalist, writer and editor – and after years of engaging in discussions, rants, and provoking commentary about burlesque and the burlesque community, I’ve decided to channel my writings into one centralized place.

Welcome! And please feel free to ask me questions if you’d like to hear me discuss a particular topic that pertains to burlesque, performance, and the community at large.

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