Tuesday, June 16, 2009

First-Timers at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender!

I am fortunate that I get to teach and constantly see people get excited about music, moves, and routines by which some experienced performers get bored. I also get to spend time with burlesque legends and have my respect for and joy in them constantly renewed. Burlesque just doesn't get old for me!

I was moved by the comments many of my students and other first-timers made to me at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender earlier this month, and I collected a few of them. This is part one--there is much more to come!

Note, none of the photos in this article are by me; all are courtesy of the subjects.

"My experience to landing in Vegas for the first time, partaking in the Pinup Safari and working with various and amazing photographers, seeing my idols on stage, meeting the legends and making friends that will last a lifetime is only a snippet of the amazing experience that I am still processing. This is a weekend that I will continue to make a tradition for years to come!"
Agent N by Don Spiro --Agent N

"Getting the chance to see the Legends, in person, take that stage with such, grace, pride and courage will hopefully make me a stronger and wiser performer. But what struck me was how aproachable and warm all these women were, the Legends, the soon to be legends, the modren performers that I admire. Even after all that fawing and "can I get your picture" they were ready and friendly with advice or a kind word. And I will be eternally greatfull that I did not miss Satan's Angel gettting the Lifetime Acheivement trophy. That was the moment that brought tears to my eyes.
" OK that the all the amazingly fabulous foot wear..ye gods!"
Kisa Von Teasa with Joan Arline --Kisa von Teasa

"The entire weekend was beyond amazing, but for me the Reunion Show was my "I can't believe I'm here" moment. When Dixie stood on stage with an entire showroom of burlesque entertainers & enthusiasts standing to applaud her and the other Legends I was overcome with emotion. Being a part of an audience comprised of performers who share an intense passion for the art and watching those incredibly inspirational women take the stage... I fell in love with burlesque all over again."
Itty Bitty Bang Bang --Itty Bitty Bang Bang

"Since I got back I've been feeling a little dazed and sometimes feel like it was all an uber glamourous dream. Getting the chance to hang out with and meet so many of the performers that I have been inspired by for the past 6 years has been a huge honour and a gigantic thrill! Backstage as I was getting my bags after I won the best debut award, I ran into Tempest Storm, I asked to shake her hand and she said " From one redhead to another, great act." I have never cried so much and felt that I never want to do anything else!"
Melody Mangler at the Burlesque Hall  of Fame weekender --Melody Mangler

The most striking moment was seeing all of the women who came before us on stage. I was so inspired by the Legends and just completely affected by the respect everyone has for those trailblazin' dames. We as a society do ourselves a *huge* disservice when we dismiss people in their later years and focus on young, airbrushed "perfection".
"I have to add I was blown away by performing on the amazing Orleans stage -- what a way to lose my BHoF virginity! And I'm so grateful to be performing as a member of the Chicago Starlets. Michelle and Franky's wedding was a unique experience for certain. I was honored to towel off the Ass (literally) That Goes POW on her wedding day!"
Michelle L'Amour's Bridal Party --Ginny Fizz

Also read stories from JD Oxblood, intrepid New York blogger spending his first weekend at BHoF!

And read what I've felt seeing the legends and students over the years.

Laurie Penny is an amazing person, but she's shortchanging burlesque and the burlesque community.

There's more to come from our BHoF virgins. Feel free to contact me if you'd like to be included in this report at schoolofburlesque@gmail.com, and feel free to add your own stories and link your own photos in the comments here.

Posted by Jo Weldon, Headmistress of The New York School of Burlesque, for burlesquedaily.blogspot.com.

Peepshow at Planet Hollywood

"PEEPSHOW is the new, sophisticated, ultra-hot show starring pop superstar Mel B (of the world famous Spice Girls) and General Hospital’s Kelly Monaco (Dancing with the Stars champion). PEEPSHOW is a full-throttle production show accompanied by a red-hot live band and 25 sizzling dancers and performers from the worlds of pop music, film, television and Broadway. Created by an award-winning team, PEEPSHOW combines sexy striptease, playful storytelling and celebrity star power."

I got to see this show while I was in Las Vegas for the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender, and it was definitely some fun!


When I can, I try to go to burlesque shows that happen outside of the burlesque community of which I'm a part. I want to have an informed opinion, after all.

“There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance—that principle is contempt prior to investigation.” http://www.geocities.com/fitquotation/index.htm

Of course the above quote is meant to apply to weightier discussions than debates about what constitutes real burlesque, but when you hear how heated those debates can get, it might seem as if nothing has more gravitas!

In fact, Peepshow is definitely burlesque, if missing the sideshow energy and diversity that characterizes the community that makes my life worth living. In place of those elements, however, it has the kind of big production values, including live music (Mel B! For reals!), that many of our living legends of burlesque say they miss in modern burlesque.

The lobby featured some pinup mosaics and a corset-laced ceiling. I'm a sucker for a sexy room. It was the perfect entry for the show.


Peepshow has a deliberately thin plot line about a vaguely Bo Peepish young woman, played by a rotating cast of celebrities (Kelly Monaco when I went, currently Holly Madison), searching for love and sexual satisfaction. But the plot isn't the point, silly rabbit. It's all about the gimmicks!

Three of my favorite features of the show were: a dancer bursting through a brick wall, wearing brick pasties (a Pastie Punchline!); a group pole dance; and a trapeze act that took place on a suspended saddle.

The show also featured male performers, including an "audience participation" number and an amazing bathtub act, which I had previously seen in Absinthe.

My absolutely favorite number was a milk bath that took place in an elevated clear tank. Three women in the "milk" pressed various body parts against the front of the tank, creating the cutest, naughtiest silhouettes!

While Peepshow didn't blow my mind and change my life the way the weekend of shows at the BHOF weekender did (and have faith, I'll have a worthy article on that shortly), it definitely made me laugh and hoot and whisper, "Hawwwwt!" to my show date. So if you're in Vegas and you like the creativity, sauciness, and unapologetic fun of burlesque, check it out!

Peepshow Website

Posted by Jo Weldon, Headmistress of The New York School of Burlesque, for burlesquedaily.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Interview: Kalani Kokonuts

Kalani Kokonuts and Pearle Noir
Above: Kalani Kokonuts with Pearle Noir at the BHOF pageant this past Saturday.

In honor of Kalani's winning weekend, I'm reposting my interview with her from last year.

Kalani Takes the Stage at MEW 2006. Photo by Jo Weldon.

How did you get interested in burlesque?
I was stripping underage in a topless biker bar in Alaska, when I first saw a ''feature entertainer.'' Features are week long acts that are booked to perform about 3-4 shows a night. They usually have centerfold credits or they can be porn actresses. Week after week the club would book different acts. Some were good, some were not so good. It seemed very glamorous to me. So I watched the features every night and learned. When I turned 21 I decided that if I wanted to perform and improve I would have to move where I thought the best performers were. I packed all my costumes into the back of my truck, I had six trunks and that was all that would fit. So I left everything else. Then I drove from Alaska to Las Vegas. Where I learned to perform real burlesque at the ''World Famous Palomino Club''. By then burlesque was on its last legs, and a year later the owner died, so I went on the road as a ''feature entertainer''. I never really cared for feature entertaining, some of the venues were sketchy and mob owned.

Where did your stage name come from?
My stage name Kalani Kokonuts was a nickname my sister gave me. She also calls me K-nuts or Special K. I don't particularly care for it, but I never thought of anything better.

Kalani in the dressing room at Tease-O-Rama. Photo by Amanda Brooks.

What does burlesque mean to you?
Burlesque is the way I express my art. I am very shy by nature, so I have I this conflict between the desire to reach an audience and the desire to be secretive and esoteric.

Do you travel to perform?
Yes, I do often travel for shows, I rarely update the schedule on my site though...I'm lazy.

Who inspires you most, and why?
I am not so inspired by performers as much as I am inspired by music. When I hear music I see images of how I could create an act. Music moves me, frees my mind and distracts my conscious thoughts so I can create from a higher place.

What is your favorite aspect of burlesque as it is now?
I love the variety in burlesque. Please give me more variety!

What would you like to do or see next in burlesque?
Honestly, I would like to see more commitment, and more production quality. Great acts need great costumes. I know that costumes are expensive. For that reason I create only one show a year. It is better to have 3-5 amazing costumes than 20 mediocre ones.

How do you go about creating a show?
I set out with the intention that I would like to create a new act. Then I send that intention out into the universe. I ask creator or God for an idea that is spiritual, beautiful, and powerful. All I do then is wait. It usually takes about a week or less for something to hit me suddenly. I load up my Ipod with potential music and then I space out at the gym or get stoned. If my mind is empty and my body is engaged I get more ideas than I could possibly ever create. After I flesh out the idea in my head, and make sure that the idea is possible, I start to draw out what the costume might look like. I research resources online, then I start. It is important to stay focused and on task, or you never finish the act. In my opinion it's all about the music or song that you choose. Everything else is secondary. You must get the audience's attention in less than five seconds. If I haven't given you goose bumps or had your complete undivided attention, I have failed. Myself and the audience.

Kalani onstage in Las Vegas, 2007. Photo by Mike Albov.

You did one of the most spectacular productions I've ever seen in or out of burlesque at MEW 2007. How much of that is your property is yours? How do you transport it? Who made the costume and props, and where did you learn to twirl fans like that? Can you tell I'm amazed?
Thank you so much! I started to put that show together right after MEW '06. The Japanese Taiko drummers are a local drumming troupe which I had booked seven months in advance. They needed the time to learn the song and choreography. Everything else is mine including the snowmaker. If I am booked to perform the full show, first I have to book my drummers. Then the very large Odaiko drum must be transported by a moving truck earlier on the day of the show. The Odaiko drum is extremely expensive and weighs one ton, so it must be moved by seven or eight people. Of course the drums belong to the drummers. As far as the costume is concerned, it was made by Imagination Costume in Las Vegas. It took them nine months to complete. I drew out exactly what I wanted and how it would be removed. I also perform that same show to different music where I do Mulan or Kung Fu fighting fans. It is very fast and dynamic. I trained with a Kung Fu master from Hawaii for almost a year to perform the fighting fans. Though I prefer the softer version I did at MEW '07. Twirling fans is easy, stick your finger in the slat, and twirl; I swear that's it. You just have to use a professional fan.

Anything else you’d like to say?
Someone once told me that an ounce of presence is worth a pound of performance. With presence in place, everything else can be learned.

A brief clip of Kalani onstage at MEW 2007.
Kalani's Website
Kalani on MySpace

Posted by Jo Weldon, Headmistress of The New York School of Burlesque, for burlesquedaily.blogspot.com.

BHOF 2009 Title Winners

Reigning Queen of Burlesque: Kalani Kokonuts
First Runner Up: Roxi Delite
Second Runner Up: Pearle Noir

Best Troupe: Nanda
Best Debut: Melody Mangler
Best Variety: Gigi and Pop
Best Boylesque: Hot Toddy
Most Comical: Little Brooklyn
Most Dazzling: Kalani Kokonuts
Most Innovative: Arabella Trapeze
Most Classic: Amazing Knicker Kittens


Friday, June 5, 2009

Burlesque Hall of Fame on Twitter

Above: One of my twitpics of the Gotham Glitter Balls Bowling Team from last night's Bare Cats Burlesque Bowling Tournament.

The gang is twittering like crazy here in Vegas. The twitter tag to search is #BHOF.

My Twitter: