I do apologise for the radio silence, it is getting very close to Edinburgh and my hands have been full of plans and programming for my variety show – Another F*cking Variety Show! I have a little time now, so I thought I would sit down and tell you all about Vegas.
So, the day of ‘The Big Show’ arrived. For those of you unfamiliar with the Burlesque Hall of Fame ‘Miss Exotic World’ Competition, it is like the Superbowl of burlesque. Performers from all over the world compete for titles in categories of ‘Best Debut’, ‘Best Troupe’, ‘Best Group’, ‘Best Boylesque – The King of Burlesque’ and the most coveted title ‘Miss Exotic World – Reigning Queen of Burlesque’.
I arrived in the empty theatre at quarter to eleven in the morning, with coffees in hand for my co-host, Kingfish from San Francisco, and I. I was early and the theatre was peaceful with the technical staff setting lights and the crew discussing the show details. I sat on the edge of the enormous stage and just took in the space. Gradually, burlesquers from all around the world began to drift in with fans and heels. Kingfish arrived and we sat down at the front of the auditorium and began to watch every single tech, we’d never met before, so it was a great chance for us to get to know each other a little before hosting a show together. I really love watching ‘mime burlesque’, that is, the burlesque that performers do when they are running through their routine in rehearsal so the tech wasn’t a chore. It also gave me the chance to see every routine that I’d be introducing, so I could get a feel for their style and intro them appropriately. It was really fantastic to see everyone do their thing before the audience that evening, and the tension was palpable even when everyone was in rehearsal clothes. My darling friend Aurora Galore was there and Bonnie Fox too, both competing for Best Debut.
I dragged my case backstage and the stage manager, the completely adorable Nikki Knickers, showed me to my dressing room which I was sharing with Lou Lou D’vil, Kingfish and Melody Sweets. I had five costume changes for the five hour show as well as the corresponding heels, sparkles, gloves and headdresses.
After the tech, late in the afternoon, I went upstairs to my room and gave myself ten minutes of peace, then I threw my face on and having seen the size of the venue made sure to drag up even more than usual. I literally had all the eyes and enough contouring to make RuPaul proud! I headed down to the theatre and slipped backstage where what seemed like 5000 burlesquers were buzzing around conversing in many different languages. There were more Swarovski’s per capita than I had ever seen. In fact, I’m sure that Burlesque Hall is solely responsible for keeping Swarovski afloat!
The show started with a troupe of dancing girls and semi-nude Kingfish. I was behind the curtain and my heart was in my mouth. Just get out onstage, don’t trip over your gown. Remember not to breathe and swallow at the same time, (you’d be surprised how much I do that!) The curtains opened and there were 800 people staring at me. Famous faces from the world of burlesque; producers, performers, teachers and legends. I sang an opening number – something short and sweet – no time for soliloquies! And then with a clap, a cheer and a “Lili, who’s your daddy” we were into the show.
First out of the blocks were the ladies competing for “Best Debut”. I was blown away time after time by the uniqueness and style of all the different performers. The UK performers, Aurora Galore and Bonnie Fox knocked it out of the park. Bonnie Fox’s Charleston-based routine was so slick and stylish that she made everyone else who attempted Charleston for the rest of the night look like beginners, (as well she should as she is one of the best Charleston dancers in the world!!). Aurora Galore was the final Debut and she was an astounding ball of wild energy. Dance-based and frenetic, Aurora managed to cram so much into her four minutes. Her poi-style fan work is astoundingly fast and she has the most awesome curves too, a tiny waist and a peachy ba-donk-a-donk. She has to be seen to be believed and although she is often imitated in the UK, she is never bettered for sheer out there weirdo-ness which stood out a mile amongst so much classic beauty. We all need a little weirdo in our lives and Aurora is more than a little!
As the night rattled on through amazing act after amazing act, the audience managed to stay focussed and enthralled even thought the show was easily the longest show I have ever hosted. As we made it to the potential Queens, I was in my second to last costume, my feet were killing me, my make up was still looking on point – but only because I was wearing so damn much of it and I had sprayed my face liberally with hairspray. I think I would still have been wearing it today if I had left it to fall off naturally! The Queens-to-be were all absolutely beautiful. Stylish, classy and elegant. I adored Medianoche, her routine was beautifully old-school and she has a very Catherine Delish-esque poise. Her sea-green and blue gown was literally heaven to me and the Swarovski’s on her nails caught the light and flashed most hypnotically.
We came to the end of the show and whilst the judges deliberated, Loulou D’vil, the Reigning Queen 2013 performed her outgoing dance. She was astounding. The glorious mix of utter sex and devastating glamour is a heady combination and Loulou has charisma in bucketloads. And did I mention that she might be the most beautiful woman I have ever seen?
The moment came to announce the winners. We announced the adjectives first (‘Most Innovative’, ‘Most Dazzling’ etc) and as I glimpsed in to the envelopes, I saw that both Aurora and Bonnie had won ‘Most Innovative’ and ‘Most Dazzling’, respectively. I was so proud of the both of them but I was especially thrilled for Aurora, she works so so so damn hard to create look that is so out of the norm, especially in the sea of beauty that is Vegas, and she is a fearless performer. It was the icing on the cake when Bonnie won ‘Best Debut’. We announced the other winners, Mr Gorgeous won the King’s crown and with it, a deliciously saucy kiss from the outgoing King Ray Gun and Boylesque legend Tigger! I’ve popped all the winners below for you. I would have loved to see Medianoche win but it was Midnite Martini who took the crown and deservedly so, as her routine had ladders, silks and some fascinating stocking work.
Miss Exotic World 2014, Reigning Queen of Burlesque: Midnite Martini (Denver, CO)
1st Runner Up: Medianoche (New York, NY)
2nd Runner Up: Ginger Valentine (Dallas, TX)
Best Boylesque: Mr Gorgeous (New York, NY)
Best Debut: Bonnie Fox (London, United Kingdom)
Best Group: Land of the Sweets (Seattle, WA)
Best Troupe: The Ruby Revue (Dallas, TX)
Most Classic: Missy Lisa (Dallas, TX)
Most Comedic: Kitten & Lou (Seattle, WA/New York, NY)
Most Dazzling: Bonnie Fox (London, UK)
Most Innovative: Aurora Galore (London, UK)
So that was my weekend in Vegas. The following day, we lounged by the pool at the BHOF pool party
– you have never seen so many incredible people – with what a gloriously diverse community the burlesque world is blessed.
Now onward…to Edinburgh.