When last we met, gentle readers, I gave you an exclusive behind the scenes look at the New Orleans Burlesque Festival’s Thursday and Friday night. A peelers work is never done, and it’s been a while, so let me recap by saying IT WAS FABULOUS! The latter half of the festival was no less spectacular, glittery and delightful.
On Friday night, I was too excited to sleep. I rolled out of bed around 8 a.m., disregarding that I went to bed around 4 a.m. With my morning face tended to, and my curls repositioned, I rushed out the door to have breakfast in town with the dark and delightful emcee from the previous evening, the one and only Armitage Shanks. I must say a note as a performer, there is nothing more nerve wracking than going on stage first for any show. On one hand, you know the producers of the show are putting faith in you to really set the tone for the entire evening, as if that isn’t pressure enough, the audience expects it too, as do your fellow performers, in essence, the expectation to not suck is a lot to put on a performer’s shoulders. Much more so for me than any other moment in an evening’s show order. That is, unless you have an incredible emcee like the fantastic carny preacher himself, Mr. Armitage Shanks. The ease with which I slipped into the first slot was effortless because the audience was hot and ready to go before I even did my first prance on to the stage. For that, I wanted to pour praise more than coffee that Saturday morning at Cafe Fleur-De-Lis, which was a nice little bistro, I had to say.
Once food was eaten, I tried to hook up with my little Mafiosos but to no avail, so I made my way to the legends panel to see the tantalizing temptress herself, Tiffany Carter who, if you did not know, was Miss Nude Universe in 1975. Always entertaining and dear, it was fantastic to see her. I had the pleasure of getting to see Wild Cherry for the first time, and may I say, what a lady! Another first for me was Ms. Rita Alexander, “The Champaign Girl” who had some amazing stories to tell, backed up by Rick DeLaup who walked around the room showing-and-telling actual articles from the era. It was very quaint, and incredibly interesting, my only note is that the festival will only get bigger and a PowerPoint presentation might serve their purposes a bit better, as well as a projector screen and such.
Next were classes. I was very excited about taking a class with Dollie Rivas. She is the choreographer for Bust Out Burlesque. I enjoyed this class so much! She started us out with a great warm up, and we all definitely got our “glow” on because WHEW!!! What a work out! There were about 16 girls in the class, and we all had a great time.
I was sad that I couldn’t make it to any of the other classes but, by this point, I needed to grab lunch, get my car out of the expensive parking lot, and get back to the house to take a quick cat nap and get ready for the evening’s festivities!
The first show of the night was The Queen’s competition held at Harrah’s Casino. What a beautiful stage! And thanks to Derek Jackson, What incredible seats! I sat next to the lovely Heaven Leigh, who looked, for all the world, like a Grecian Goddess. She had this to say about the evening’s experience:
“The excitement leading up to the Queen of Burlesque show was completely warranted as the show certainly had all the glitz, glamour and grace that I had anticipated—and then some!
(My favorite performance of the night was) Coco Lectric’s heartfelt performance brought me to tears. I’ve never been moved by a burlesque performance quite like that… it was simply a joy to watch and showcased the true heart she has for burlesque.”-Heaven Leigh
I had to agree with Ms. Leigh. You could almost taste pure joy and a freedom to express herself through every move in Coco’s stance. You could tell she loved being the queen. She did a beautiful strip to a slow sultry version of “When the Saints go Marching In.” I could think of nothing more appropriate for The Queen of New Orleans Burlesque to dance to, it was a heavy dose of sweet with a sprinkling of nostalgia. Pure, classy, and genuine, I will remember that performance for a very long time. The former Queen had this to say in a blog on the Website:
“The Burlesque Festival in New Orleans is deliciously steeped in talent from all over the world and the roaring audience, for me, has yet to meet its match. It has truly been an honor to perform for such amazing people and on such big beautiful stages in New Orleans. It has been my great and humbling pleasure to spend a whole year as the New Orleans Burlesque Festival Queen of Burlesque.” –Coco Lectric
The competition was absolute candy. Unlike a lot of competitions I have seen in the past, I have to say the biggest compliment I can hand Mr. DeLaup is that every single girl on that stage had a right to be there. There were only eight. The competition was stiff as could be. I did not envy those judges in the slightest. Everyone I talked to had their favorites, so what the competition seemed to come down to was numbers and personal preference. This means, it was a very entertaining show that went by so quickly, you wondered where the time went! Derek Jackson had this to say:
“I loved the live jazz band. My favorite of the night was Ginger. I’m glad she won. I love watching her every time I see her. Then, MediaNoche. She was stunning.”
At the end of the evening, we all waited with bated breath and our own personal roster for who should take the crown and the subsequent second and third place. I am positive; the difference in numbers was positively minuscule for the amount of talent that entered that stage.
In the end, the judges found Lola Van Ella to be third, LouLou D’ville second, and the delightful Ginger Valentine as the reigning queen. Ginger had this to say about her crowning :
“Recently, I was crowned “Queen of Burlesque” at the New Orleans Burlesque Festival. I’m still trying to process everything, but with a little bit of distance behind me, I’m left feeling immense gratitude to my friends and family who have supported me through all the highs and lows. Thanks guys, I can’t do this without you.” –Ginger Valentine
Going into the weekend, I was a bit apprehensive as praise for the event is very high, but Rick DeLaup does have a reputation for favoring very thin, un-tattooed, extremely classic performers for the competition, so I approached with cautious optimism. As a matter of fact, I was told going in not to expect to ever even compete, that I was too big and not within the mold of what the producer would allow. In the end, it seemed quite evident that The Queen’s competition did favor one body type. Personally, I think plush can perform just as well as lean, it really does come down to how much you work at it and own it because who can disagree that confidence is damn sexy no matter what your dress size. To that point, there was not a single contestant who was just a pretty face with no substance.
Consistently, every girl was there because she worked hard, performed with poise and intense grace, each wore exquisite costumes and used their props perfectly. They were everything a Queen should be. (As a side note, fear not my inked beauties because there were plenty of tattoos to be had.) It really was a beautiful thing to behold. So why complain? Being a “plush” girl myself, I did find it a little sad that there was no contestant that I could really relate to. As a performer who does the best with what genetics gave her it’s my hope that this festival shows a little love to the lush in the future, but really, that’s just me digging for any critique that does not ring consistent with everything else I had to say about just how fantastic a time I had at this festival.
After the show, we all cluttered about the stage hoping for a shot at posing with the beautiful winners, happily I got a really beautiful one with the two brunette bombshells thanks to Derek! Then, it was on to the fabulous Queen’s Ball, where it was VIP all the way for those of us involved with the festival. Here’s what my little Mafia had to say about the show:
“Knowing the festival was nearing the end was nostalgic for everyone. As an attendee to all shows, the best part, by far, was mingling with all of the performers at the after party on the balcony. Cora Vette and Pearle Noire stole the show. Maybe because I have a love for hip-hop or the utter ridiculousness of Cora Vette rapping, but all I wanted to do was have that act never end.” – Pearl E. White
“I liked the republic theater…” “…I loved the two-story tall red curtains. All in all, the lighting at all venues was superb. I loved the floor lights at the republic. Favorite act? Hmm. Petite Coquette bath tub would have been great in a strip club, but it certainly was sexy. I Loved Perle & Cora singing. She told me that was totally put together at the last minute and was completely adlibbed. I think they did a great job. Kitten DeVille is always a favorite.” –Derek Jackson
After the show champagne flowed freely, elbows rubbed ecstatically, and a fun time was had by all! My highlight of the evening was getting to hobnob since I hadn’t really had the opportunity, though I did take a moment to watch Atlanta’s reigning queen of the Southern Fried Burlesque Festival, Ms. Siren Santina perform her award winning number. She sure wowed the audience with those um… pipes!
Later that night, reality set in that we would soon have to leave. That all these beautiful faces we get to see but few precious times a year would go back to their home towns as we would with their own stories about the festival and what a time was had by everyone. I had a late night snack with Derek and Ms. Leigh, we picked up the beautiful blond bombshell, Ms. Jolee Blon’ and reminisced about everything we had done. It was a lovely time. Yet again, I did not get to bed until four. It seemed there simply weren’t enough hours in the day to enjoy everything.
To sum up my experience with this festival, Rick DeLaup has a vision. It’s a very specific vision of what he wants the festival to be, and how it should look. He transported us, made us forget and loathe going back to the real world. Coming down off that high was quite a drop. All of us Atlanta Mafia left with heavy heels to our respective flights, already planning a strategy to come back next year! I highly recommend you do the same!