How to Bring a Burlesque Legend to Your Event and Make Them Feel Like Royalty (Business of Burlesque)

How to Bring a Legend to Your Event and Make Them Feel Like Royalty

Image Above: Toni Elling, Escorted by Butch Charming C. Photolena
Onstage at The Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender 2019

There is no thrill quite like seeing a Legend of Burlesque bring their decades of skills to the stage. It is a unique experience that every festival should bring to their audience. However, if it is your first time hiring a Legend, you’ll find they may have different needs than newer performers, so here are some tips on how to treat your Legend like the royalty they are and make them feel safe, comfortable, and happy. These tips are based on conversations with Legends and with people who have hired Legends. Communication is key.

  1. Be prepared to talk with your Legend on the phone. You may follow up with emails confirming the details of your conversations to make sure you are in agreement and to have a record of what those agreements are, but you must have those phone conversations. A contract is essential for clarity.

  2. Legends will require an appearance fee, all travel costs including ground travel, and a comfortable place to stay without unexpected animals, children, or others having access to their bedroom. They may require a private bathroom. They will require a comfortable dressing room at the venue where they can keep their costumes and makeup separate from others’. If they have mobility issues, they may not be able to use stairs. Some Legends may be traveling with companions or nurses, for which you may be entirely responsible with regard to travel expenses and lodging.

  3. Keep very clear records of all money conversations and keep very clear records of where all the money goes, especially if you are doing a fundraiser. Provide them promptly to your Legend upon request.

  4. If you are a newer performer who travels, you may be used to sleeping on floors, using kitchens as dressing rooms, and hoofing it up and down stairs with your heavy costume bags. Legends have paid their dues and should not be expected (and may not willing or able) to do it anymore. 

  5. Provide an escort who is on time (preferably early) and fully available to them, who does not have other obligations during the Legend’s stay. 

  6. Do not ask them to do many events in one day. Two at the most, and be sure they do not entail rushing from one venue to the next. Make sure they have ample space, resources, and time to prepare for everything they are doing.

  7. They should be given a full printed itinerary upon arrival, and should have a dedicated and reliable assistant immediately available at all times to drive them, escort them, and convey reminders to them.

  8. If they are teaching a new class, make sure they have an assistant who is an experienced teacher to help them with the class description and onsite flow of the class. Do not expect them to keep track of attendees or time. Plan in advance for and provide all possible music playing options. Many students will not wish to pay for class time that is about the instructor selling their merch. Make this transition into photo signings clean and easy. Leave ample post-class time for selfies with the legend and class photos. 

  9. Legends cannot be unreasonably expected to assist with promotion or posts, since many of them are no longer building their careers and are not used to doing so, and if you are using a Facebook group for performers, make sure they are Facebook users. All promotion and social media with regard to their visit is entirely your responsibility. If you need hi res photos, legends may have already given physical photos to another producer to scan. Some Legends are not currently in the habit of providing promo material You can reach out to to see if they have a high resolution scan available. Print the Legend’s 8 x 10s for them to sell.

  10. Be aware of any medical concerns and be prepared. Many people with medical concerns may be self-conscious about them or may not want to trouble you, and Legends are no different. Make sure you do your best to understand what they need. In addition, be sure you have made it easy for them to get food, and know what kind of food they want -- they may not want alcohol or pastry, so as fun as it is to surprise a guest with a hospitality basket, you do need to know what they truly find welcoming.

Above all, make sure your Legends feel appreciated! Tell them what they mean to you. Give them gifts and flowers. Frame and hang their portraits. Tell the world what an incredible experience it is to hear their stories and know their talents. They have often spent a lifetime without their art form being appreciated/legitimized until now! Very few performing arts honor their forebears in the ways we do, and it is part of what gives the neo-burlesque movement its unique warmth and power. 

Provided by BurlyCon and the Burlesque Hall of Fame.

Feel free to make suggestions or critiques to make this document better!

Make them in the comments or email to


Remember, being a Legend host or escort is an honor, and it's a full-time 24/7 responsibility. If you take the job, you are going to have a different level of availability throughout your event. You may not be mingling as much or going offsite. Be prepared to give your full attention, and to assist with any unexpected conditions or events. That's what makes you a true Legend Supporter!


Popular posts from this blog

Girls in Giant Champagne Glasses

How to Get Started as a Performer in Burlesque

Tami Roche