Atlanta certainly has earned its place on the map of the Neo-Burlesque Revival with amazing performers and troupes. Now this steamy Southern city finally is getting its first bonafide burlesque festival, too. In case you’ve been too naughty to notice, Southern Fried Burlesque Fest dances into town next weekend, Thurs. March 10- Sun. March 13, 2011, at the Holiday Inn Hotel and Conference Center in Decatur. But co-founders Katherine Lashe and Ursula Undress (Syrens of the South Productions) kindly have agreed to pull back the curtains and strip down to some of the delicious details…
1. Is there any story behind how you hatched the idea for Southern Fried Burlesque Fest and why Atlanta needs its own festival?
Katherine Lashe: Atlanta’s the biggest city in the Southeast and a hot bed for burlesque with guest performers coming in all the time so it seemed to make sense that we should have a festival to show off all of the amazing talent from all aspects of burlesque that the Southeast had to offer, in addition to showing the Southeast what the rest of the world has to offer as well.
Ursula Undress: I had heard some talk about how we needed to do something like it here at a few of the Atlanta Burlesque & Cabaret Meet-Ups and had been to a few other state-specific festivals. So I supported Katherine with wanting to move forward with one here and told her I would do whatever I could to help. We definitely have the talent in the city and surrounding areas—so it has become sort of a regional thing.
2. You have a pretty exciting guest line-up, including some of the biggest stars of the burlesque revival from not just all over the U.S. but around the world. Can you provide a sneak peek into a few of these fabulous dancers who are coming and a little bit about what makes each one special?
Our big headliner this year is Miss Exotic World 2004 Dirty Martini, who won the best burlesque performer in the world in 2009 and 2010. She’s an amazing international sensation and we’re so thankful that she was available for this event. We also have Jo “Boobs” Weldon who literally wrote the book on burlesque with THE BURLESQUE HANDBOOK and runs the New York School of Burlesque—she’ll be performing, teaching, as well as doing a book and DVD signing. We think of her as a burlesque powerhouse. She is very respected in the community.
Also from out of town are burlesque legends Tiffany Carter and Gyna Rose Jewel who traveled all over the world performing in the ‘60s and ‘70s and will be coming to teach, perform and participate in the Legends of Burlesque Panel. Both [are] amazingly sensual, and, to me, evoke the sexy women of their era. We’re also very excited to have the Godfather of Atlanta Burlesque Torchy Taboo who started the neo-burlesque revival in Atlanta. She is one of the most entertaining women on stage and is a hoot! She also really knows her stuff when it comes to costuming and creating solid characters on stage.
3. What local burlesque dancers will be performing and teaching?
Wow, that’s a long list just from Atlanta: Performing and teaching are myself, Ursula Undress, Fonda Lingue, Savannah Rouge. Teaching only are D’lilah D’lite, Galxxy Skky and Stormy Knight. Performing only are Lola le Soliel, Catatonic Racous, Tim Monteith, Curvature, Kittie Katrina, Lah Lah Luscious, Rosie Palms and Tupelo Honey.
The weekend starts Thursday with the screening of Gary Beeber‘s documentary [DIRTY MARTINI AND THE NEW BURLESQUE] and will be followed by a discussion with the director and Dirty herself. Over the weekend, [we] have three main shows and one local student showcase with all brand-new performers making their debuts that will be performed at the VIP after-party on Friday night. Earlier Friday is the The Free Range Burlesque Show that will feature our headlining performers and legends, as well as some amazing seasoned and international performers. Saturday night is The Southern Fried Burlesque Pageant—a competition for Best Duet, Best Variety and the first Southern Fried Burlesque Queen—which is being judged by our legends panel. And afterwards on Saturday is our Dirty South Showcase headlined by Torchy Taboo. It showcases some of the best talent from this part of the country, and Atlanta.
5. What’s the secret to winning the Southern Fried Burlesque Pageant?
KL: It will really depend on the judges. We have some very special people picked out to do the judging so it will be at their discretion.
UU: Well, this is our first pageant, so I cannot say. I am guessing a secret to winning any burlesque title is being a dynamic personality on stage and showing a lot of creativity and expertise in your craft.
6. Can people buy tickets just to the performances?
Absolutely! There are individual tickets available to all the events including the shows, classes, Legends of Burlesque Panel and Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School Atlanta. Each performance show is $25 per person. We even have VIP tables for sale at an additional cost for those who want to be right up at the stage. And this is going to be great—we have tables instead of stadium seating with two fully-stocked bars on either side of the room so that people can really settle in and have a good time! We really want this to be an experience for the audience as well and have everyone feel free to mingle, hoot, holler and have as much fun as we will be [having] on stage!
7. The award-winning documentary, DIRTY MARTINI AND THE NEW BURLESQUE, will be having its Atlanta premiere at the festival, with a Q&A afterwards with Dirty Martini and Director Gary Beeber. In a few words, what’s exciting about this movie and why should burlesque performers and enthusiasts see it?
KL: This movie goes behind the glitz and glamour to show the work and effort that goes into the shows as well as interviews with the amazing pioneers of the New York burlesque scene.
UU: I think it is always good to be emotionally involved in something inspiring, and that is what this film will do if you are a performer. It also will give viewers a background on our headliner, for those who do not know who Dirty is or haven’t seen her before.
8. What else is happening at the festival? It sounds like a real learning opportunity for current and aspiring dancers to hone their craft, learn techniques and also market yourself and transform your hobby into a business.
There will be classes, panels and workshops for all levels of burlesque from novice to the professional. There will be many opportunities to learn from some of the best all over the world that the Southeast burlesque enthusiast wouldn’t normal have access to. There also will be parties, vending, networking and basically getting more involved in the family/sisterhood aspect of burlesque, if you are a performer or aspiring performer. We hope that it will bring us all a little closer together.
9. Anything else you’d like to say about why ATLRetro readers shouldn’t miss the first annual Southern Fried Burlesque Festival?
KL: This is a one-of-a-kind event for Atlanta and is a great place for fans and aspiring performers to come and soak up all the burlesque they can in one amazing action packed weekend.
UU: These shows will be some of the most powerful, exotic, amazing burlesque shows that have ever been in Atlanta. The diversity in each show is incredible! Also, to have all of these great performers in one space over two nights is not something really done around here, so you REALLY get your money’s worth in entertainment!
Years as a burlesque performer: 7
First performance: I was part of the house performers at The Chamber, and one day the manager told us that we were opening for Dita von Teese in two weeks and we should do something burlesque-y. After that I was hooked.
Favorite performance: I have been lucky enough to have performed at many festivals around the country including The Burlesque Hall of Fame; New Orleans, Texas, Dallas; and Windy City Burlesque Festivals; Viva Las Vegas; Americana Burlesque and Sideshow Festival and toured quite a bit with Syrens of the South. Each show is amazing in its own way so it’s really hard to choose a favorite.
Classic burlesque dancer who inspired you: Tempest Storm. Being from Georgia and also having red hair was a great inspiration, but honestly Jo “Boobs” has probably influenced my burlesque career the most as a teacher.
Movie that best embodies the spirit of burlesque: People have different styles and get inspiration from so weird places but I’ve always been a fan of CABARET.
Years as a burlesque performer: 3
First performance: “Wildcat” – the Syrens of the South first-ever Student Showcase at the Relapse Theater in August 2008
Favorite performance: “Santa Drives a Hot Rod” – Unknown Hinson Show at The Earl, December 2008
Classic burlesque dancer who inspired you: Bettie Page, Dirty Martini, Kitten de Ville
Movie that best embodies the spirit of burlesque: I still always think of GYPSY when I get asked this question