Once a year, at the beginning of June, the burlesque world converges on Las Vegas for a convention quite unlike any other, The Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender. Now, as everyone knows, I have been a longtime advocate and supporter of the art of burlesque and I was thrilled and honoured to be invited this year to host the big competition night on the Saturday. Now, when I say big competition night, I mean big. It’s the night when the panel of judges decide who should be crowned Best Debut, Best Group, Best Troupe, Best Boylesque (The King of Burlesque) and finally The Queen of Burlesque, also known as Miss Exotic World. It’s no mean feat, even to get through to Las Vegas, the performers have gone through a stringent judging process. So it’s the best of the best, being judged by the best.
We arrived in Vegas on Wednesday night with three suitcases stuffed to the brim with sequinned gowns, high heels, Swarovski crystals and enough lashes to make a broom. After a short limo ride we arrived at The Orleans, where the conference was being held, and I had just enough time to sling on a frock and some heels before we dashed out to catch Piff the Magic Dragon, Laurie Hagan and Nate Cooper in ‘Rose Rabbit Lie‘ at the Cosmopolitan.
It was a great show, some things weren’t where I would have put them, but hey, it isn’t my show. The acts were all phenomenally talented and I appreciate that in a variety show. By the time the show had finished and we stumbled out, bumping into many old friends on the way (including David Ladderman and Lizzie Tollemache who we have known for years in New Zealand. Big world, small world!) I was shattered and we returned to the hotel to sleep.
Thursday was registration day, we went along and I got my special wristband and a medal. I’m not sure why I got a medal but it was very nice to have one. Then it was time to rehearse for Saturday, I had never met my co-host before and it is terribly hard to create a rapport with someone you don’t know. However, Kingfish was a complete gentleman and put me at my ease and we put the opening of the show together. There were dancing girls, The Fishnet Follies, and Kingfish even had his own reverse striptease to do! After rehearsal I just had time to dash upstairs, sling on a frock and come back down for the first night’s festivities. The first show was the Burlesque Movers, Shakers and Innovators, a show jam packed with people doing new and creative things and for the stars of tomorrow, it also featured step-down performances from Swing Time (featuring Russell Bruner – a fabulous swing dancer and King of Burlesque 2012!) and King of Burlesque 2013 Ray Gunn. It was also hosted hilariously by Blanche DeBris and Jonny Porkpie. Their interplay and banter absolutely stole the show and I appreciated the hard work that had gone into their double act. Blanche, in particular, stole my heart with her cutesy voice and hilarious clowning. The red carpet was amazing, I have never had the honour of being surrounded by so much haute glam – it was a complete delight to see how much effort everyone made. There were lashes, wigs and sequins like you have never seen. The highest of heels, the most sparkly rhinestones – it was almost too much for the eye to take in. The audience response to the show was immense with standing ovation after standing ovation. I was completely overwhelmed by the number of people, the sheer glamour, the excitement of meeting people I admire and I decided to have an early night as I knew what the following days held in store for me.
To be continued…