As a “celebrity,” I’ve gotten to judge a bikini contest, 2 gumbo contests, a beauty pageant and the Greasing of the Poles, but judging the Queen of Burlesque contest was the best time I’ve had yet. The jewel in the 3-day, 6th annual New Orleans Burlesque Festival crown, the contest featured a lively M.C., singing, a jazz band and top burlesque dancers from near and far. The show opened with a performance by last year’s winner, “Medianoche.” I’d seen a VIDEO of her winning performance and by the end I had laughed, cried and been overwhelmed by the wonder of woman.
The show opened with New Orleanian, “Athena” in a fun tropical number, complete with a hammock strung between palm trees and a Carmen Miranda-inspired costume. The next act with Indianapolis native “Tessa Von Twinkle” honored burlesque traditions with a lot of sass and a sexy with-a-wink style.
But things kicked up a notch when the United Kingdom’s “Havana Hurricane” blew onto the stage. Curvy-as-heck and a blonde ball of energy, she wiggled and jiggled and I couldn’t stop smiling. Next up was the Betty Page-like Canadian, Lydia Decarllo, the only dancer to enter the stage without a gown over her adorable pastel pink and blue corsetted-costume with a plush pink boa bustle.
We enjoyed a musical break with songstress Miss Emma. Her “band of boyfriends” slipped her clothes off as she sang, stripping her down to just pasties and a g-string like the dancers.
The next half of the show started with a huge bang as New Orleanian “Elle Dorado” ice-skated onto the stage in a glistening crystal-covered white gown. Yes, I said ice-skated. During the break, they’d set up an indoor rink and Miss Elle managed to dance, twirl and strip – all on blinged-out skates with a mile-long white boa. It was beautiful, sexy, spirited, original and athletic. Once she was down to her pasties, in a twist of genius, she hopped up onto her gold-encrusted toes and bounced. Who doesn’t love watching women bounce?
I worried for whoever had to come next but I needn’t have. Donna Hood of Los Angeles started off in a flouncy white wedding gown. She threw her bouquet to the crowd then proceeded to play out a whimsical wedding night fantasy. The capper was when she threw herself down onto a brass bed, tore open a pillow and playfully tossed a flurry of feathers into the air.
Dallas’ “Iris Le’Mour” had a trick up her sleeve as well. A chanteuse, she sang as she stripped out of her gorgeous black & gold beaded gown. Of all the women, I think people most-anticipated seeing her ample bosoms revealed (and they were marvelous) but it was her beautiful voice that really set her apart.
Last to take the stage was New Orleanian “Charlotte Treuse” atop a bejeweled carousel rocking horse. She had an oops-sorry-I’m-so-sexy innocence broken by moments of vigorously potent seduction. And she used her magnificent pony-prop so well, sometimes dancing around it playfully, sometimes ignoring it and sometimes vivaciously riding it. It was delightful.
We were treated to a sometimes hilarious striptease by dapper dancer Russell Bruner before hearing the results – 2nd Runner Up : bride Donna Hood, 1st Runner Up: pony-girl Charlotte Treuse and the newly-crowned Queen of Burlesque: ice-skater Elle Dorado. Seriously people, that was hard to top.
I was honored to have judged alongside Rita Alexander, the “Champagne Girl.” In the 1960’s (when Bourbon Street was still glamourous) she would balance champagne glasses on her breasts, grabbing them with her mouth and tilting back to drink them with no hands. Other judges included body make-up artist and star of Skin Wars Craig Tracy, actress Stephanie Blake and writer/director/producer of the documentary Behind The Burly Q as well as author of the book by the same name, Leslie Zemeckis.
But perhaps the real star of the show is the spotlight-shy Rick Delaup, founder and producer of the Burlesque Fest. In 2005, he began producing his hit show, Bustout Burlesque featuring such stars of burlesque as Ginger Valentine (Queen of Burlesque 2011), Angi B. Lovely (Queen of Burlesque 2012), Medianoche (Queen of Burlesque 2013), Missy Lisa (Miss Viva Las Vegas 2102), Donna Hood (Miss Viva Las Vegas 2014) and Ruby Joule (“Best Debut” and “Most Classic” Burlesque Hall of Fame 2012). Considering all 3 winners of this year’s Queen of Burlesque perform in Bustout Burlesque (which I only realized while researching this blog post), he certainly has selected the very best of the best for his show.
I met Rick when I attended a screening of his documentary on local eccentric, Ruthie the Duck Girl. Not only was the film a lovingly honest portrayal of the odd duck with a duck, he managed to reunite Ruthie with her long lost love during filming. It was sweet and strange, as weirdly wonderful as our city. Rick’s dedication to researching, documenting, preserving and advancing local culture inspires me.
Perhaps Bourbon Street is doomed to be a trail of t-shirt shops, cover bands, strip clubs and Big Ass Beer bars, but many of us long for the former grandeur of the supper clubs, live jazz bands and burlesque shows of the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s. Judging from the reaction of the crowd of dancers (like local favorite Trixie Minx), burlesque lovers and first-timers, I’d say many others agreed.
Thanks to the kind soul with the phone who took these photos while I judged.