About 12 million years after the event, here’s my diary from the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender 2016! Enjoy!
After so many years of hearing about the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender, watching all the videos over and over and wishing I could be there, this year I actually got to go to this epic event! Along with my fabulous pal Ceri (who used to perform as Didi Curv’e), we arrived in Las Vegas on Thursday afternoon to be hit in the face by temperatures unlike any I’ve experienced before. It went up to 117 degrees during our stay – phew! We made our way to The Orleans Hotel and Casino, checked in and got ready for the first show – the Movers, Shakers, Innovators Showcase.
Seeing that iconic stage in real life is awe-inspiring. It is massive! I have so much respect for anyone who can get up there and entertain an audience of a thousand spectators. What Surname had me hooting with laughter at her hilarious Celine Dijon act, and I also loved J.Von Stratton‘s inventive use of her mega-long swishy ponytail. Other highlights were The Duet That Do It!’s impressive LED-lit robotic duet and Matt Finish‘s magical step-down as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. A great night to start off the weekender!
Friday we had a fun-filled afternoon at ‘Let’s Have a Kiki’, run by Bazuka Joe and hosted wonderfully by Tigger and Ernie Von Schmalz. With a talk-show style, we heard fantastic stories and interviews from amazing contributors to the burlesque scene, on stage and off. My favourite interviewee was legend Bic Carrol – he had some incredible stories, I could have listened to him all day long! Also, Ray Gunn smooshed himself into a chocolate cake, topless.
The evening saw the 59th Annual Titans of Tease Reunion Showcase – an awesome, epic show with performances and appearances from the Legends of burlesque. Seeing these amazing women in their 60s, 70s, 80s shake their stuff with such glamour and charisma was so inspiring. It was great to see the Legends partying into the early hours over the weekend too – boring beige old ladies they are not! And why would anyone want to be?
On Saturday morning we caught the Shimmy Shuttle (an air-conditioned party bus complete with a pole and disco lights) to the Burlesque Hall of Fame Museum. For those that are unaware, the BHoF Weekender is a fundraiser for the museum. You can find out more and support it by becoming a member here! Although there was only a very small collection on display it was wonderful to see this important establishment keeping burlesque history alive. I’m looking forward to seeing the full collection of artifacts when the museum relocates to it’s huge new home, which we drove past and had a glimpse of. Next stop was Du Barry Fashions – showgirl bling heaven! Floor-to-ceiling of jaw-dropping dazzling jewellery and bargain accessories. There was even a wall of $1 hair flowers! We bought stacks of stuff, obviously. It was great to bump into British burlesquers Wildvixen, Allouetta La Zouch and artist Tony Heath here too.
Then there was The 26th Annual Tournament of Tease; a big night of outstanding performers competing for acclaimed titles. Highlights in the Debut category for me were Cherie Nuit’s hilarious performance as a tourist with bumbags (fanny packs) galore, Memphis Mae’s immaculately-costumed, slickly funny internal monologue act, and Gaea Lady’s beautifully graceful veil piece. Another favourite was in the Best Large Group category – Don’t Blink Burlesque’s ingenious and memorable ‘wacky inflatable arms man’ act. In the highy-anticipated Miss Exotic World – Queen of Burlesque category, I adored Iva Handfull’s striking 1980s style performance influenced by artist Patrick Nagel. Bonnie Fox’s beautifully choreographed and polished classic fan dance was also a joy to watch. Lada Redstar’s powerful political piece- a reminder of the 20-year anniversary of the Bosnian War, complete with video projections onto her dramatic costume and cries of ‘power to the peaceful!’ stunned us all. I was amazed by Trixie Little’s step-down act (as Miss Exotic World 2015). After being hit by a car and breaking a knee only a week before BHoF, not only did Trixie travel and attend the whole Weekender in a glitzy wheelchair (complete with glamorous nurse), she made a whole new act in a matter of days! A fantastic piece about a showgirl waking up in hospital, complete with spot-on comedy timing, Dirty Martini and Edie Nightcrawler as nurses and messy feather pillows, BRILLIANT! We ended the night with cocktails and dancing with our Swedish friend Fraulein Frauke and chatting to the Legends in the enchanting surroundings of the Sublime Boudoir after-party, falling into bed around 5am. A long but wonderful day!
If I could have only attended one event at the BHoF Weekender, it would have been the Legends Panel. A Q&A session with burlesque performers from the 1950s through to the 1990s, this was an unforgettable afternoon. Expertly hosted by Neil Kendall, we learned SO much from them. There were compelling stories of their successes and struggles, the rivalry and gimmicks, along with a fascinating debate and difference of opinion and ethics between the performers of different eras. I thoroughly enjoyed this and am so glad that their stories are being preserved by being shared. It was an honour to meet some of the performers I’d read so much about and seen on documentaries. I also took the opportunity to have a chat and a signed photo from Val Valentine as I loved her performance on the Friday night. Next time I would definitely like to spend more time with the Legends, through volunteering or taking one of their classes.
It was then, sadly, time for the final show of the Weekender- the Icons and All-Stars show, with my favourite hosts of the weekend- Ernie Von Schmaltz and Victoria DeVille. I loved Russell Bruner and Kelly Ann Doll’s impressively energetic performance. Roxi D’Lite’s sassy new act was stunning- I’ve wanted to see her perform live for so long and I was not disappointed! My favourite performance of the night (and probably the whole weekend) was Koko La Douce’s ridiculously funny telephone act, with hilarious conversations between her and certain parts of her body….
Monday – Thurs
Exhausted and sad that the Weekender was over, we were also pleased that we were staying until the following Thursday so we could see a bit more of Vegas and the surrounding area. We took a day trip to the Grand Canyon, via the Hoover Dam and the curious town of Boulder, which were all AMAZING. The grand Canyon has some of the most spectacular views on Earth, absolutely incredible. Big thanks to our wonderful tour guide Dwayne from Sweetours, who made the day thoroughly entertaining. For the remainder of our time we alternated relaxing by the lovely pool and appreciating the ‘all you can eat’ buffet restaurant with exploring the big casinos on the Strip, doing the tourist thing at Fremont Street and the ‘Welcome to Las Vegas’ sign.
Overall, it was a FANTASTIC experience and I can’t wait to go back there!
Links to info, title winner lists, photos and articles on the BHoF Weekender: