Tag Archives: BURLESQUE


Last Friday the glitterati of Burlesque came together for the Annual Burlesque Awards 2010 at Café De Paris, in London’s Leicester Square. The opening, by host and ringmaster, Armitage Shanks, bellowed across the crowd: Tonight, we’re gonna make love to you individually and collectively. You’re gonna want an adult but you’re not gonna get one. It’s an evening of inventory and it’s only gonna get stranger from there,”

The fabulously dressed crowd were treated to a variety of tantalising and titillating burlesque acts from across Europe – the UK, Holland, Germany, Belgium and Cardiff – by way of Paris.

The eager front row was sprayed by a magnum of champagne by the gorgeous Banbury Cross, dressed as screen siren, Marylin Monroe. Oh, how I would have loved to have been there. Maybe next year guys and dolls.

Later on Captain Anchor sang, Start Spreading your legs, to the tune of Sinatra’s New York, New York and Catherine Delish cast off her outfit while mouthing along to the words of Judy Garland’s hit songs, Get Happy – at one point whisking a US flag out of her corset.

Our home grown girls did well out of the night. Pixie Frisk won Best New London Act and the evening was rounded off with a triumphant roar when Ginger Blush, also from London, was announced as winner of Best Solo UK performance this year. A big well done all round.


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How gorgeous does pop princess, Christina Aguilera look on her single cover, with a black PVC corseted playsuit, teamed with a metal waist nipping belt. This looks like a torchure device! Still, she looks great. I loved Christina when she went through her 50’s pin up phase but I suppose anything is an improvement on leather chaps and dreadlocks for her ‘Dirty’ video!

Christina Aguilera has released her latest “big news” — the lyrics to her single “Not Myself Tonight” off her upcoming album, Bionic! ALSO, the countdown time on ChristinaAguilera.com has started yet again. Will the song finally get released tomorrow?? Hopefully!!!

Christina is currently filming her acting debut for the film ‘Burlesque‘, so lets hope some of the style carries to run off on her as she has the pefect figure for it.

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LAST Friday, the former Lower East Side burlesque artist Lady Gaga unleashed her video Telephone. Oh my heavens. I felt like it was 1990 again. In 1990, Madonna’s career was already way past boiling point. But things hadn’t yet warmed up for academic pest Camille Paglia. Late that year, the Yale alum took the temperature of the culture and published her results in The New York Times.

When she declared Madonna the degree zero of pop, Paglia herself became white hot.

”Madonna is the true feminist,” wrote Paglia 20 years ago. In her panegyric to smut, the professor hailed the music video for Justify My Love as ”an eerie, sultry tableau of jaded androgynous creatures” and, in short, the future of a liberated art.

At the time, some of us agreed.

Here at last in Madonna’s faintly pornographic reworking of Cavani’s The Night Porter was a positive and empowering vision of female sexuality. We could do that, then. Back in 1990, it was not yet embarrassing to use words like ”positive” and ”empowering”. And, back in 1990, being a feminist was about as much fun as being a bank teller. When Paglia introduced the metrics of sex, we immediately added it to our feminist ledger.

Together, Paglia and Madonna launched a thousand term papers. Hungry for a bit of raunch, feminist art critics wrote essays praising Madonna with titles such as Justify My Ideology.

God. I think I turned something in to my tutor at Sydney about the song Borderline and how its lyric uttered ”Madonna’s transgressive sexuality”. I’m pretty sure I got an HD.

Whenever a woman artist took her clothes off and demonstrated that femininity was a performance, you could be sure an undergraduate would write an essay about it.

For the next little while in the worlds of pop, the avant-garde and academia, things proceeded in this vein. From the Queer performance of Holly Hughes, whose work was praised by The New York Times for scraping ”away decades of encrusted decorum”, to the girl power of the Spice Girls, the new camp feminism could be felt. This was fun for a spell. It seemed that we’d all finally caught up with the prophesies of Susan Sontag, who said, ”Camp sees everything in quotation marks”. It is never a woman but a ”woman”.

The woman on stage, or ”woman”, could not lose with her new weapon of irony. However, like Madonna, this ironic ”woman” business began to get a little old and patchy.

Anyone who has ever sat through a burlesque routine in Northcote, or seen the movie Spice World, may have seen the cracks. Literally as well as figuratively. At a certain point, an audience begins to wonder: am I seeing tits or ”tits”? And, really, is there a difference?

Often, there is no difference. Often, burlesque or striptease can be so blankly ironic that it has about as much theatricality and power as you might enjoy at the Spearmint Rhino.

But, every now and then, Paglia’s promise of ”woman” might be properly observed.

Ursula Martinez, a woman who shot herself to micro-stardom by sharing photographs of her naked parents, promises to be a ”woman” at the upcoming comedy festival.

The extraordinary Tessa Waters, whose show How To Be A Lady had its debut at last year’s fringe, demonstrates amply that one can upturn traditional notions of femininity by wearing frilly knickers.

But it is doubtful that anyone will demonstrate this more amply than Lady Gaga.

Gaga, performing in Melbourne next week, dialled up the promise presaged by Paglia and co. More than quotation marks, we see, amid a cast of trans-gendered, hyper camp enchantment, entire bound volumes shrieking ”woman”. Within the first 30 seconds of the video, or short film as its auteur would have it known, Gaga evokes the rumour that she has a penis.

Then we rollick through a world penned in equal parts by Tarantino, LaChapelle and Michael Jackson, where ”other” sexuality is normalised to the degree that even all-American Beyonce agrees to set off into the sunset with Gaga.

I searched to find what Paglia had to say about the ”woman” who actually wears real masks in public. There wasn’t much.

In Salon.com, Paglia advised Gaga: ”Give it a rest, and focus on the music.”

In the meantime, I’m turning my old volumes of Paglia into a dress to wear to the Gaga concert.




It’s risqué, decadent and entertaining. Burlesque delights in an image of glamour, mischief and sauciness, and attracts a sophisticated following. It may come as quite a surprise, then, that in one London borough it has been categorised along with strip clubs and lap-dancing acts.

After three years of running the popular Be burlesque night, the Proud gallery in north London has been told by Camden council it needs to apply for an adult entertainment licence.
“It’s unbelievable,” says Alex Proud, the club’s owner. “Burlesque is not about naked women. It’s about the art of removing clothes. It’s nearer to theatre or dance than erotica.”
Since the story was picked up by the local press a week ago, it has been sparking debates over whether burlesque dancing is art or a sex act.

Feminists have been quick to highlight burlesque’s suggestive nature, claiming it is another damaging portrayal of women as sex objects.

Fans are vociferously defending their ‘guilty’ pleasure. “It’s an acceptable way to enjoy naughtiness”, says Robert Harding, a 37-year-old recruitment consultant and burlesque fan. “I could admit to my girlfriend that a burlesque dancer turns me on, but I could never get away with saying the same thing about a lap dancer.”

Burlesque existed for centuries as a theatrical form based on comedy and satire. It only adopted its signature erotic tone over the last century.

It was revived in the UK during the 90s, and has seen an explosion in popularity in the noughties, with the launch of events like the London Burlesque Festival in 2007 and the birth of Club Noir in Glasgow, which can host up to 2,000 people.

With its lavish performances and extravagant costumes, it’s hard to associate burlesque with the sleaze of strip clubs. Yes, it’s titillating, but unashamedly so. Rarely do we get a chance to stimulate our sexual senses in such a publicly acceptable way.

It’s a bold move for Camden council to go against the grain and classify burlesque as sexually explicit as a lap-dancing joint. It could be an early sign of a shift in values; a step towards a tainted image of burlesque.

Perhaps it’s natural that anything slightly risqué will attract dissenting comment. Take striptease itself – today its reputation is far from cultured, but when it was first pioneered in wartime Britain it was considered an art form. The Whitehall Follies, for instance, were one of the UK’s earliest acts, founded in 1942. They were a huge hit and described by theatre critics as a breath of fresh air for embattled Britain.

Or consider nude photography. It originated as a stylised depiction of the human body. The artists’ aim was to show off the female form, not to make their subjects sexually suggestive. The original concept seems to have been lost on today’s photographers and glamour models. Is it inevitable that anything remotely taboo declines in status over time?
Alex Proud has been forced to stop the burlesque performances at his venue. “I am not going to apply for an adult licence. It’s expensive and the residents would undoubtedly object. Nor do I want the stigma of having adult entertainment status.

“What’s ironic is that since I stopped the burlesque performance, I’ve employed normal sexy female dancers. They are far more overt, far less appealing to a female audience and far more suggestive than the burlesque dancers.”

Vicky Butterfly, 25, was part of the burlesque act. “I’m a performance artist, not at all a stripper. Camden council even funded my burlesque dancing training at Central St Martins college; now they’ve taken the work away from me.
“I’ve read the legislation over and over again and I don’t see how it applies to us. We are not displaying genitalia. Many of my acts have full body suits. Legislating about what we can do with our bodies cheapens the view of sensuality.”

A spokesperson for Camden council said: “We are not preventing burlesque troupes from performing in the borough. Under our licensing policy any premises that want to offer entertainment involving nudity, striptease or other entertainment of an adult nature simply need to check with us to ensure they have the necessary approvals.”
One local authority’s enforcement of the law is unlikely to deter burlesque fans. But the row is another dent in burlesque’s reputation as a prestigious art form, and provides more ammunition for detractors who associate it with sleaze.

Article taken from www.guardian.co.uk

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The Skits

From the 1880s onwards, burlesque comedy was built around settings and situations familiar to lower and working class audiences. Courtrooms, street corners and inner city schoolrooms were favorites, as were examining rooms ruled over by quack physicians. Sexual innuendo was always present, but the focus was on making fun of sex and what people were willing to do in the pursuit of it.

Many burlesque routines spoofed social conventions and linguistic idiosyncrasies. The most famous was Bud Abbott and Lou Costello’s glorious “Who’s On First,” which had fun with the sometimes confusing nicknames given to popular baseball players. It was the descendant of several earlier routines that involved two men exchanging an intricate series of misunderstood words.

In the 1920s, the old burlesque circuits closed down, leaving individual theater owners to get by as best they could on their own. The strip tease was introduced as a desperate bid to offer something that vaudeville, film and radio could not.

There are a dozen or more popular legends as to how the strip was born – telling how a dancer’s shoulder strap broke, or some similar nonsense. In fact, it had been around since Little Egypt introduced the “hootchie-kooch” at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and had always remained a mainstay of stag parties. Burlesque promoters like the Minsky brothers took the strip tease out of the back rooms and put it onstage. While stripping drew in hoards of randy men, it also gave burlesque a sleazy reputation. As moralists once again expressed outrage, male audiences kept burlesque profitable through most of the Great Depression.

Strippers had to walk a fine line between titillation and propriety – going too far (let alone “all the way”) could land them in jail for corrupting public morals. Some gave stripping an artistic twist and graduated to general stardom, including fan dancer Sally Rand and former vaudevillian Rose Lousie Hovick – better known as the comically intellectual Gypsy Rose Lee.

The strippers soon dominated burlesque, and their routines became increasingly graphic. To avoid total nudity but still give the audience what it wanted, the ladies covered their groins with flimsy G-strings and used “pasties” to cover their nipples. This was usually enough to keep the cops at bay, even though pasties were far more vulgar that a plain naked breast.

To be continued…


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Bettie Page rules! If ever there was a reason to believe in love at first sight, that reason would be Bettie Page. But what did Bettie offer that the other, more celebrated beauties of her time did not? and entertainment historian Jim Silke dives into these tempting waters and offers his firsthand account of life behind the lens of the 1950s pinup scene with Bettie Page Rules!

This book is bursting at the seams with all-new pinup paintings from Silke, capturing the 1950s’ most beautiful women in sizzling detail, not to mention an incredible selection of never-before-seen photos of Bettie. You have to see it to believe it! Book measures 12-inches tall x 9-inches wide and is full color. 128 pages.

The book can be bought here

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