Kool Kitten of the Week: One Gorgeous Gamble: Roula Roulette Puts Theater Back Into Tease in PASSIONS: A BURLESQUE DEVOTIONAL and Beyond

Posted on: Jul 30th, 2014 By:

Roula Roulette. Photo credit: Ginger Snaps Photography. Hair and make-up by Roula Roulette.

At PASSIONS: A BURLESQUE DEVOTIONAL this Saturday Aug. 2 at  11:30 p.m. at the New American Shakespeare Tavern, audiences will have the opportunity to worship the female body through the lens of a divine Retro art form. The show is the first production from Hearts Ablaze Entertainment, a collaboration between two of the Atlanta burlesque scene’s most notorious stars, Talloolah Love and Persephone Phoenix (read their own Kool Kat profiles here and here). The line-up also includes Kool Kats Southern Fried Burlesque Fest Queen of 2013 Lola LeSoleil (check out her Kool Kat here) and Ursula Undress, headmistress of the Atlanta School of Burlesque (Kool Kat here), and Roula Roulette, this week’s Kool Kitten. Yes, so much happening this weekend in ATLRetro that we couldn’t resist double trouble in Kool Katland!

Roula is a great example of the new talent graduating from The Atlanta School of Burlesque. But she’s no stranger to live performance. Prior to moving to Atlanta in 2013, she earned an MA in theatrical production and traveled the East Coast working behind the scenes at well known Opera houses and theater festivals. Her burlesque resume already includes acts for Kool Kat Katherine Lashe‘s Syrens of the South Productions, Glittering Moon Productions and Southern Fried Burlesque Fest, as well as teaching at the Atlanta School of Burlesque. And she also will be gracing the stages of the Syrens’ 7th Anniversary Show on Sunday Aug. 3 at 7 Stages and at DragonCon this year!

ATLRetro caught up with her recently to find out more about her own passion for burlesque, as well as what she has planned for PASSIONS and beyond!

ATLRetro: What’s your secret origin story and how did you get your name?

Roula Roulette: I’ve always been involved in the theater community and what is burlesque if not theater? I traveled a lot after I got out of grad school, so when I moved to Atlanta I really wanted to create but on my own terms. I work, so joining a theater and doing live shows was not something that I wanted to commit my time to. I remember telling my friends that I was really interested in trying to get into burlesque. Then a few weeks later the school opened literally across the street from me. It was kismet!

My name is really a conglomeration. I’ve always loved alliteration, and I also wanted to be cognizant of picking a name that defined me without labeling me. Roulette was perfect for obvious reasons, it gives me the freedom to explore all facets of my art, it’s a game of chance for my audiences. Roula is akin to Mary, which was my mother’s name and so it holds a special place for me. Depending on the translation, it can also mean rebellious. And we’re all here to defy the norm, right?

Who are three burlesque performers, legends and/or contemporary, who inspire you and why?

Historically I was always enamored of Gypsy Rose Lee and Lydia Thompson. Both were women who were pioneers of their own right in the theatrical arena, and I knew and loved them long before I understood burlesque in such a personal sense. But it’s hard to really label any particular legend a single inspiration as they all inspire me to some degree with their innovation, class and relentless drive to make art. Locally I find myself inspired by the women that I teach with at the Atlanta School of Burlesque. There is such a diverse community that they each inspire me in their own way. I know I cheated that question a little bit.

Photo credit: LegsUp! Pinup, Winston Jeffrey, with hair and make-up by Roula Roulette

That’s so hard! But I think up to this date my favorite performances have been the birthday parties of our local performers. Never have I felt so safe to explore my art than I do when we are doing a private party for another sparkle sister/brother. There is so much love and support in the room, it’s intoxicating!! It really provides a safe environment to really explore who you are and to give your sparkle family a glimpse at your vulnerability.

Can you tell us a little about PASSIONS this weekend and why are you personally excited to be performing in it?

The show this weekend is packed with some of the best talent that Atlanta has to offer. These women inspire me everyday to think bigger, be better and try harder. For me, a lot of  it has to do with the venue. I feel like burlesque is going back to its roots. The Shakespeare Tavern is as close as we’re going to get to what it was like to be a burlesque or variety performer in the formative years when there was still a vaudeville feel . So to be doing our art in a space that can be viewed as historical to our art is really very exciting.

What can you tease us about your own performance?

For most of the show I’ll be backstage running operations, but you will see me onstage at the end of the show. All I can say about that is that I’m so fortunate to be sharing the stage with some of the most beautiful women I know. It’s also very musical theateresque, which I LOVE. So you really don’t want to miss it. Ursula Undress is an amazing choreographer.

The burlesque revival really seems to have come of age, and there’s a very vibrant scene in Atlanta. Do you find it an dynamic and energizing time to be performing? What excites you the most?

I do! I know I’ve said it so much through this, but I am really so inspired by the creativity of my fellow artists. They push me to be a better, more expressive performer. I think what excites me the most are all the newcomers to the art. I love seeing these new girls come through the school that are so excited about the art and so expressive of their sexuality. It’s really wonderful for them and for me to be in a community where we accept women of all ages, shapes, sizes and  sexuality. But there is also something really satisfying about helping women embrace their sensual side and showing them that it’s okay to be sexy, [that] everyone can be sexy.

Where would you like to see the burlesque revival and the scene in Atlanta go in the future?

I would really love to see more male performers in Atlanta and I’d love to see more performers take advantage of the school and the collaborative advantages it has. You can never stop learning, you know? I find that some of my best work comes after I’ve immersed myself in classes for weeks at a time. It opens your vocabulary as a dancer and choreographer. I’d also love to see more love for our burlesque community in the press! We will always be fighting for the best show nights. I’d love to see more regular burlesque shows on prime weekend spots. Soon, hopefully! With every show and every fan we get, we’re that much closer to having the ability to book bigger venues and better times.

Photo credit: Pin Up Girl Cosmetics, with hair and make-up by Kellyn Wiley.

What do you do when you are not performing? I understand you also are a pin-up model?

I am! I have been dipping my toes in the modeling world for a few years now. I’m actually hoping to get published soon; you’ll have to check out my Facebook for more information on that! Outside the sparkle world, I’m in the lighting entertainment industry. I work with theaters, event spaces, schools and television production companies on their lighting. I’m all around immersed in the entertainment industry, and I really wouldn’t have it any other way!

What’s next for Roula Roulette?

There are some exciting things on the horizon for me in my burlesque life. I really can’t say too much about a lot of it right now, but I’m hoping that it comes to fruition soon. I think burlesque in Atlanta is on the cusp of something big, that can be a game changer for us as a community. But for now I’d love to see you at PASSIONS: A BURLESQUE DEVOTIONAL at the Shakespeare Tavern on Saturday. I’ll also be performing at 7 Stages on Sunday for the Syrens of the South Anniversary Show. And of course you can find me almost every evening at the Atlanta School of Burlesque teaching women to love their bodies and explore their sensuality!

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Kool Kat of the Week: Lola LeSoleil Talks Feathers, Fun and Frolic at Southern Fried Burlesque Festival 2014

Posted on: Mar 19th, 2014 By:

Lola LeSoleil. Photo credit: Your Mojo by Jojo.

The Southern Fried Burlesque Festival is back for its fourth sizzling year March 20-23, bringing the best performers from all over the world to Atlanta for a weekend full of burlesque classes, panels and performances  at the Wyndham Atlanta Galleria.  Founded and presented by Syrens of the South Productions, it’s not just bringing a high standard of burlesque entertainment to the city but also getting Southern performers noticed on the national scene.

One of these is Lola LeSoleil, who won the crown of Southern Fried Festival Queen 2013 in last year’s pageant competition. Lola will be giving a special farewell performance on Saturday night before this year’s queen receives her crown, but in the last year, she’s come a long way, baby. It’s our royal pleasure therefore to declare her Kool Kat of the Week and find out more about what she’s been up, her plans for the future and what she’s looking forward to the most about Southern Fried 2014!

How did you get started in burlesque? 

In 2001, my mom and I went to Las Vegas. While there we saw Gladys Knight, Charo– in all of her “Coochi-Coochi” glory – and the signature JUBILEE show at Bally’s. JUBILEE is the quintessential glamorous Las Vegas floor show  – huge feather headdresses; elegant, statuesque ladies dripping in rhinestones; and lighted staircases. I was in love and realized come hell or high water, I needed a big feathery headdress. And sequins. And rhinestones.

It took a few more years before I saw a few burlesque shows in Atlanta – Big City Burlesque, Dames Aflame – and realized this art was in my city! I just needed a way in. After detouring to pole dance class and a one-off burlesque choreography class, I attended a Blast Off Burlesque show with a friend who introduced me to Talloolah Love -at the time of Syrens of the South [Read our Kool Kat profile of Talloolah here]. They offered a burlesque class series. I couldn’t get my butt to class fast enough.

Lola LeSoieil. Photo credit: Derek Jackson

Is there a story behind the name Lola LeSoleil?

Burlesque names can be a challenge. I wanted a name to reflect my abundant energy and honored who I am, but also paid tribute to beauty icons I grew up with. LeSoleil is my heat, my sun. Lola was for Lola Falana who was a black actress and entertainer in the 1970s, and who also appeared on THE MUPPET SHOW.

Who are a few of your role models in burlesque, both classic and from the burlesque revival, and why?

To be honest, Carol Burnett was my first comedic variety role model. She was silly, endearing, dynamic and versatile. I didn’t really know conventional burlesque tease artists until I started taking classes and began  research. Toni Elling and Jean Idelle are two special ladies whom I’m delighted to have met, and their lives as entertainers resonate with me and I have immense respect for them. Contemporary artists share my Gen X/Y perspective on balancing art and work and creativity. It’d take more space than I have here to name them, but suffice to say I’m delighted to have perfomed with and for revivalists whose opinions mean a lot to me.

A few years ago, you were interviewed about being an African American performer in the burlesque revival. Traditionally there haven’t been as many but at least on Atlanta stages, I’ve been seeing more. Can you talk a little about why this has been so and do you see a change or not?

Having more faces that look like mine in the burlesque revival I believe comes down to exposure to the art, and a desire to participate. The burlesque community in Atlanta is welcoming and supportive of everyone’s artistic journey. The change is gradual, and what I’ve seen is encouraging!

Lola LeSoleil. Photo Credit: Marc Turnley

What did winning the Miss Southern Fried Burlesque crown mean to you, and how has it affected your career over the past year? 

The joke of my winning Southern Fried Burlesque Queen was that my third time was the charm. I competed in 2011 and 2012 winning awards, but not the BIG one. Turns out there were a lot of people who were excited to see a nerdy/fandom-inspired act win a burlesque pageant title. I had the opportunity to be invited to perform in cities I may otherwise not have. It’s been a damn fine year!

Without giving away any big spoilers, can you give us a little tease about your farewell performance?

If I told you, I’d have to exterminate you.

Are you teaching any classes at SFBF?

In year’s past I’ve taught, but this year at SFBF, you’ll see me volunteering and being a student because I heartily believe there’s always room to improve as an artist. And I like helping.

What else are you looking forward to personally about SFBF?

I am really excited to have my Beginning Burlesque Choreography class perform in the Newcomer’s Showcase on Thursday night! And of course, I’m abuzz to see friends I’ve met at other festivals and shows come in to town for a gigantic glittery weekend! It’s like the start of “Burlesque Summer Camp” season.

What’s next for you?

I’m fortunate to be performing at the first Nerdlesque Festival in New York in a few weeks, and I’m opening my travel horizons to other festivals and events outside the South. Windy City [Burlesque Fest], here I come! I’m really looking forward to teaching more at  The Atlanta School of Burlesque.

Anything else you’d like to tell ATLRetro readers about Lola LeSoleil?

Follow your strengths as a performer, but don’t limit yourself. Take all the classes. Learn anything/everything and don’t allow yourself to stagnate. As long as you have breath in your body, you can improve.

To read ATLRetro’s preview of the Fourth Annual Southern Fried Burlesque Festival, click here.

 

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ATLRetro Preview: The Fourth Annual Southern Fried Burlesque Fest Will Tease and Thrill March 20-23, 2014!

Posted on: Mar 11th, 2014 By:

Feathers and fringe and rhinestones, oh my! Founded and presented by Syrens of the South Productions, The Fourth Annual Southern Fried Burlesque Festival brings the best performers from all over the world to Atlanta Thurs. March 20-Sun. March 23 for a weekend full of burlesque classes, panels and performances  at the Wyndham Atlanta Galleria.

This year, the festival kicks off with the Just Hatched Newcomers Showcase Thursday night highlighting newer performers like Melody Magpie, May Hemmer, Duchess Dakini, as well as local Atlanta performers Roula Roulette, Nina Charrise, and some student group performances from classes at The Atlanta School of Burlesque.

Friday Night brings The Free Range Burlesque International Showcase, featuring performances by Burlesque Legend Penny Starr Sr. and her granddaughter Penny Starr Jr., and headlined by Queen of Burlesque 2008, Angie Pontani, and King of Burlesque 2013 Ray Gunn, as well as other amazing performers from all over the world!

Saturday night, get ready for the main event: The Southern Fried Burlesque Pageant has performers competing for Best Group, Variety, and the Southern Fried Burlesque King and Queen!  The Pageant will also include a farewell performance by the 3rd Southern Fried Burlesque Queen, Lola Le Soleil!

After the awards ceremony Saturday night, let your hair down at the Southern Scorcher Showcase with performers from all over the Southeast, like Robotica and the Professor, Dee Flowered, Violet Vixxxen, and headlined by Ursula Undress!

The Southern Fried Burlesque Festival also features lectures, events and classes Friday through Sunday for all interest and skill levels. Whether you are a history buff, into crafting costumes, want to learn the basics, or finetune your performance, this festival will have activities for all levels and aspects of burlesque. Learn entirely from seasoned burlesque performers, teachers, and legends, and leave the festival with all the tools you need to be the next Burlesque Aficionado! Don’t worry guys – all genders are welcome to attend classes!

Burlesque is the art of the striptease, with a focus on the tease.  Performers occasionally strip to pasties, but there is no nudity in any festival productions. This festival is dedicated to the preservation of an art form that has become an international movement.

For advance tickets to Fourth Annual Southern Fried Burlesque Festival events or the whole weekend, click here

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Kool Kat of the Week: Ooh-la-Love! Talloolah Love Embraces Her Inner Geek Girl Power and Finds It Gloriously Glamorous at Dragoncon 2013

Posted on: Aug 27th, 2013 By:

Hair, makeup and photography by Pin Up Girl Cosmetics.

By Gretchen Jacobsen
Contributing Writer

Burlesque and pin-up culture have been a part of Dragoncon back to the Bettie Page Contests of the 1990s. But this week’s Kool Kat, Talloolah Love, is taking it to another level as producer of DragonCon Burlesque, A Glamour Geek Revue and other titillating events throughout the weekend.

Talloolah has long been a force in Atlanta’s burlesque revival, cabaret and Retro scenes. Known across the United States and even internationally, for her burlesque performances, the “Sweetest T in the South” is an instructor at the newly opened Atlanta School of Burlesque. She is also one of the founders of the retro arts organization, The Artifice Club, known for splendid steampunk events extraordinaire including Mechanical Masquerade: The Retropolis, Sunday Aug. 31 at 8:30 p.m. at the Westin Peachtree Plaza, as well as bringing the growing electro-swing movement to Atlanta.

The lovely Ms. Love somehow managed to find time out of her crazy schedule this week to talk to ATLRetro and share a bit about her fascinating career, her perspective on the burlesque revival today, and how she’ll be entertaining us this weekend at Dragoncon. We couldn’t be happier!

ATLRetro:What drew you to burlesque?

Talloolah Love: I grew up watching musicals, blue comedy, Carol Burnett and THE MUPPET SHOW.  My idols were Betty Grable, Rosemary Clooney, Mae West and, of course, Marilyn Monroe. But it all started with belly dancing. I had taken classes in Colorado, but when I moved here, I found the community difficult to move around in as a newcomer. Burlesque embraced me with both arms, and I haven’t looked back since.

Who inspires you as a performer?

Besides the aforementioned stars of yesteryear, my modern inspirations are Amber Ray, Immodesty Blaize and Russell Bruner [Editor’s note: read our Kool Kat on Russell, the 2012 King of Burlesque here]  All three are ferocious on stage. They leave indelible marks of inspiration on my soul when I watch them. Amber and Immodesty both for their fierce stage presence and mind-blowing costumes. Russell for his incredible timing, charisma and musicality. All of them have a devotion to their craft that really takes my breath away.

What is your philosophy as a performer?

To me, it doesn’t matter what style of burlesque you do. It doesn’t matter what size, shape, color, sex or race you are. As long as what you bring to the stage is polished, cared for, speaks from the heart, and makes you happy to do it, I call it burlesque.

Hair, makeup and photography by Pin Up Girl Cosmetics.

Does it look like they are having fun? Does it look polished? Are you having fun watching them? Burlesque is so subjective. What I love about it is you cannot like that first act, but the second one lives with you for years. All you have to do is wait five minutes, and the channel gets switched to something new and different. You may love it, you may hate it, but wait till you see what’s going on in the next five minutes. Variety is the spice of life, you know?

Do you think burlesque is “girl power”?

I do. I grew up being told I wasn’t right for one part or the next. Burlesque gives me the power to say, “Oh yeah? Well, I think I was stellar for that show, so I am going to do it and there’s no one who can tell me I can’t.” You have to have some brass balls to get up on stage and own everything you do in spite of the fact that not everyone will love you. Burlesque has given me the ability to say, “Well, I hope some of you liked my form of art.” It’s how I express myself. When I am on stage, or even rehearsing a number in my unitard, I feel empowered because I make the decisions on my hair, my costume, song, choreography, absolutely everything. Sure I want opinions on things, but I have the final say on what goes on stage. There’s something exhilarating and very empowering about that.

You’re the one of the founders of The Artifice Club. What is the club all about?

The Artifice Club is a group that DJ Doctor Q and I founded together. It’s a coalition of artists who support artists. Besides my need for passion in one’s art, I believe in collaboration of minds. In the past, the Club did this by doing shows and displays of peoples’ art in hopes for exposure. Now, it is so much more than that. It is a not-for-profit organization that facilitates grants, helps promote, donates back to the community, and holds fundraisers to assist artists in keeping their mind on their creations rather than how they are going to pay for their space, or for a trip to the next festival to show their wares.  It is now an organization with a board of directors and will be doing more good on a bigger scale for anyone who applies to the guidelines of the club.

What events are you involved in at Dragoncon? 

Thursday Aug. 29, 8:30 p.m. at the Pulse Lounge in the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, I will be strutting out in my bunny ears with the ladies at The Annual Bunny Hutch. This isn’t my event, but I am very excited about it.

Hair, makeup and photography by Pin Up Girl Cosmetics.

Friday Aug. 30 8:30 p.m. The Sheraton Atlanta pool will be the location for the Second Annual Pin-ups by the Pool Party. Presiding over the show will be the returning and illustrious New Orleans Jon (see his recent Kool Kat profile here). There will be a pin-up competition and a mermaid competition, so please come see and be seen. I expect it to be quite a spectacle.

Saturday Aug. 31 11:59 p.m. in the Regency Ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta is DragonCon Burlesque, a Glamor Geek Revue. This is the second year I have been in charge of the show, and I couldn’t be more elated! This year has some really out-of-the-park acts. For example, fresh off his world tour the KING of Steampunk Funk, Montague Jacques Fromage, will be the Master of Ceremonies weaving a story of intrigue and sexy interludes throughout the entire show, along with the 2013 Queen of the Southern Fried Burlesque Festival, Lola Lesoleil, and other prestigious award-winning performers. This promises to be the show not to miss!

What is unique about Atlanta’s burlesque scene?

I feel like the scene has changed so much in the past ten years. When I first started out, Atlanta was unique because the troupes were really the only way anyone could perform regularly, and there really wasn’t a lot of cross-pollination.  Each troupe did what they did and that was it. It’s so different now. We all work together, and the independents seem to outnumber the troupe members. Personally, I think that is a great thing. It means a patron can go to a show and really not know who they are going to see. I think that a golden age in Atlanta Burlesque really is on the horizon thanks to Ursula Undress and the efforts being made with The Atlanta Burlesque Alliance and The Atlanta School of Burlesque. Plus, with social events like my Atlanta Burlesque and Cabaret Society and Sadie HawkinsCougar Crawl, we all have a real good time with each other. Kind of like a burlesque SEX IN THE CITY, only we get high on E-6000 rather than sip cosmos together.

What do you think about Atlanta being named the nerdiest city in America?

Oh, I love it. It’s appropriate too. DragonCon is huge, and it’s run privately for geeks by geeks. Besides DCon, Atlanta plays host to at least five other major fan fueled conventions. Add to that the vast LARPing communities and bookstores/comic book shops out here, then throw in that Cartoon Network is deep in the heart of Atlanta’s arteries, and you have a cultural cornucopia of Nerd-dom! I think it’s great.

What are you working on for the future?

I am always looking for what’s next. Fascination was an [electro-swing] event the good DoctorQ and I worked on together this past year, and I really loved the format. The venue was just an issue. Venues tend to be the big issue when it comes to producing big shows. My hope is that we find the RIGHT venue and that we start doing one big bang-out show – a little of the Fascination format with a few other big ideas I have cooking on the back-burner. Otherwise, I plan to do a Midwest tour next year. It’s still in the planning stages, but once it gets off the ground, you can bet I am going to social network the bajeezus out of it!

Who would you like to perform for or with?

I started to list them all out, but that would take all day. I want to perform with everybody. Then perform with them again because once is never enough!

Hair, makeup and photography by Pin Up Girl Cosmetics.

Where can we see you next?

After Dragoncon, I am going on a much deserved vacation, but I will be back at the beginning of October at The Shelter. I am going to be shaking it up as an airship pirate for this new mash-up music club night called Bootie Atlanta on October 5 – $5 admission before 11 and $10 after that.

Anything you’d like to add?

If you are interested in getting into burlesque, I have a few suggestions for you. If you already have an act and just need a venue to perform it in, I suggest auditioning. There are  a lot of troupes and even a production company in Atlanta where you can audition, and then, you’re there!  The best way to get involved in the Atlanta Burlesque community is to come out to Atlanta Burlesque and Cabaret Society meetings at The Elliott Street Pub in Atlanta. We meet the first Thursday of the month at 8 p.m., we go till 10, and at these meetings, you will meet other burlesque performers, photographers and fans of the local scene, you may even get to catch an act on the stage down there for a workshop on new and established performers. It’s a great way to market yourself. Speaking of marketing yourself, you will want to do your research and attend burlesque shows, figure out who the important people are and make sure you let them know you are serious. All of the troupes are very different and have a lot to offer the right person if they fit into their dynamic. If you don’t like how one show runs, that’s ok, check out another troupe!

If you do not have an act, and just really want to be involved, then I suggest classes at The Atlanta School of Burlesque. Check out their teaching schedule and come to a few classes. There’s a fundamentals class for the very very basic, and then beginning choreography classes. I recommend that you look at videos of the different teachers. They are also active performers in the scene; go catch them out at a show. I guarantee you that going up to a teacher after they have performed to tell them that you will be taking a class from them in the near future is better than bringing an apple to them any day!

 

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Retro Review: Fire, Feline and Frivolity Make for Sexy, Sassy Second Annual Southern Fried Burlesque Fest Pageant

Posted on: Mar 16th, 2012 By:

Orchid Mei, the reigning Southern Fried Burlesque Queen, performs at the 2nd annual festival's Pageant. Photo credit: Kevin McConnell.

By Talloolah Love
Contributing Writer

This past weekend I had the divine pleasure to write an article for ATLRetro on Atlanta’s biggest burlesque event to date, the second annual Southern Fried Burlesque Fest, presented by local honeys Katherine Lashe of Syrens of the South Productions, and Ursula Undress. Not only did I get to review a show, I got to review THE show, the Pageant to crown the next Southern Fried Burlesque Festival Queen! The other exciting addition to this year’s pageant was the advent of the very first Southern Fried King of Burlesque.

What I love about these festivals is the opportunity to attend what feels like class reunions all over the country. You get to see beautiful people, friends and colleagues for an entire glorious weekend. Sometimes I wish the shows began later than advertised, but alas, we all had to hit our seats right on time. No small wonder with the good Bishop involved. David Bishop, known as “The Bishop of Burlesque,” who hails from New York, makes all festivals he is involved with run smooth as silk. He is always a joy to work with and I look for him to be involved in every festival I attend. For two years now, the ladies behind Southern Fried have made David a part of their event. They truly are smart cookies for ensuring that he’s a part of their festivities; he really knows how to make it happen!

As the lights went down, I sat firmly in a seat next to the spotlight, and out came John Carney. I haven’t seen John grace the stage in what feels like years, and it gave me a tingle of nostalgia as he sang his rendition of “The Burlesque Show” (set to THE MUPPET SHOW theme music). Atlanta’s “worst comic in the world” did not disappoint with his bad puns and offbeat humor about his clothes. The judges were announced: Satan’s Angel, Gabriella Maze, Shannon Doah, Perle Noire, Tim Mack and Siren Santina. You can’t get a better panel than that, folks; you just can’t!

Kittie Katrina exchanges a kiss with Stephan, King of the Southern Fried Burlesque Festival. Photo credit: Kevin O'Connell

The whole show was a lot of fun, and John Carney built up a nice sense of suspense for the category and results of who the next Queen would be, without short-changing the rest of the categories. My personal highlights of the show include Donna Touch; I have seen the cat burglar act before, and I thought this was truly the best. She was on fire. Stage Slave Gavin was a very pretty little hoot, and Üla Überbusen brings me to tears with her cat lady number without fail every time!

Next, there was some banter between a very cranky but pink Bourgeois Betty who played with sock puppets while putting John Carney in his place. I am not sure he knew what hit him. Siren Santina did a rousing booty shaker to “I Like Big Butts and I Cannot Lie,” by Richard Cheese, and we all had a great laugh for the experience.

Then, the moment of truth, we got to see Satan’s Angel perform. Never have I seen her so electric as she was that evening! The whole room was positively on fire, along with her pasties, in her signature act. If you’ve never seen Satan’s Angel perform her fire pasties act, the one that made her famous in the world of burlesque, then you’ve no idea what you are missing. She lives up to her name in everything that she does, and we all love her for it.

By the time the Angel’s act was over, we had forgotten we were there for a competition! Here are the final results for the Second Annual Southern Fried Burlesque Festival:

Siren Santina sings a farewell song before passing on her crown. Photo credit: Kevin O'Connell.

Best Group: Slow Burn Burlesque from New Orleans;

Best Duet: Bourgeois Betty and Katarina Von Dutch from Augusta, Georgia;

Best Variety: Safety 3rd from Atlanta

King: Stephan from San Antonio.

Then we had a song from Siren Santina, who was soon to be the former Queen of Southern Fried. I can’t put in writing the name of the song she sang, as it is not exactly all ages friendly, so suffice it to say that it was a gift for all who came out that night, and it was utterly blush-worthy. Now, the final results of the night:

Second runner up: Donna Touch from Chicago

First runner up: Lola Le Soleil from Atlanta

Queen of 2012 Southern Fried Burlesque Festival: Orchid Mei from Denver.

Satan's Angel sets the audience on fire. Photo credit: Kevin O'Connell.

And let’s not forget the Subcategories:

Miss Congeneality: Sunny Midnight

Audience Choice: Stephan

Most Innovative: Orchid Mei

Most Funny: Lola Le Solei

Best Costume: Donna Touch

Most Classic:  Orchid Mei

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From Baghdad to Atlanta: Burlesque Legend Gabriella Maze’s Triumphant Return to the Stage to Support Tits for Toys for Tots

Posted on: Dec 15th, 2011 By:

Photo courtesy of Gabriella Maze.

The Tits for Toys for Tots benefit not only will bring out a bevy of the best local burlesque beauties but also marks the return to the stage of legendary international performer Gabriella Maze Sat. Dec. 17 at the Five Spot in Little Five Points. Born in London, Gabriella first danced in Spainin the early 1970s, embracing a 20-year glamorous career that took her across Europe and the Middle East, even sharing a hookah with the Shah of Iran. “Would I change anything in my life?” she says. “No way! I am a lucky gal!”

Gabriella now lives inSouth Carolina and says she had no idea until recently about the burlesque revival. ATLRetro caught up with her earlier this week to find out more about what the international burlesque scene was like in the 1970s, as well as see if we could coax out a little tease at what she has planned for her Saturday night grande finale appearance—the first time she has performed live since 1989.

Tits for Toys for Tots Details: Doors open at 7 p.m., a Tease U Student Showcase at 8 p.m. and sintastional main show at 9 p.m. which also features last week’s Kool Kat Fonda Lingue, Katherine Lashe, Lola LeSoleil, Ruby Redmayne, Talloolah Love, Kisa von Teasa of Knoxville’s Salome Cabaret and more. Produced by Syrens of the South. Admission is either $20 or just $10 with a new unwrapped toy worth at least $5. Purchase advance tickets here.

ATLRetro: You grew up in England and began dancing in the early 1970s. How old were you, what made you decide to embrace burlesque, and how did you end up performing in  Spain?

Gabriella: I always wanted to dance. I guess I’m just artistic in nature. I began going to different auditions and trying to get into the London dance scene, but it was pretty tough. A girlfriend brought to my attention an ad in the local Variety newspaper. I had that audition in somebody’s kitchen for a lady named Jackie Harris and her husband Luciano Migliorini, after whom the troupe was named. I started as a showgirl at the end of line and worked my way to the front of the line. Then I began doing solo acts which were burlesque acts. In between the quick changes of numbers, they did burlesque acts. The show was an hour, and it was a troupe that worked at a regular nightclub. There were probably five to six different numbers and maybe four to five dancers that danced in between the acts. I never worked inLondon. I worked in Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Dubai, lot of places in the Middle East. I mainly did six-month tours and then come back

Photo courtesy of Gabriella Maze.

In America, it seemed like the art of burlesque was losing its sheen in the 1970s, but you talk about the burlesque way of life, glamour and travel across Europe and the Middle East. Were things different on the other side of the Atlantic?

InLondonat the time, I don’t think there was much burlesque going on. If it was, it was very underground and kind of seedy. A lot of dancers started out as showgirls and you were offered more money if you were willing to do topless. I was like, feathers and rhinestone, why not? It was more money—more money does motivate a lot of people—but also a lot of fun. The clubs in the Middle East were extremely opulent, but there were very tight rules. You weren’t allowed to date waiters or musicians in the band. For instance, I worked in Baghdad at the Embassy Club, and most of nightclub performers were all housed in places that were kind of like a pensione. The doors were locked, but you had young boys who slept on the ground floor, usually with no blankets, and if you needed anything—food, groceries—they’d run and get it for you. We were transported from the pensione to the nightclub every evening and back, and at night there were guards on the door. It was like being in a gilded cage in the Middle East. I got spat on a few times going from rehearsals or from the pensione to the nightclub in Tehran which was called La Boheme and was right next door. Even though we wore  jeans over our leotards, we were spat upon. You couldn’t go into a coffee shop unless you were escorted by a man.

I was there four times when Shah in power, and Tehranwas one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to as far as opulence. Everything was very European with a French flavor, but if you turn the corner, you’d see people living on the sidewalks, lots of beggars. You’d only see two classes—the rich or the poor. It was almost like being in a very unreal place, seeing all this opulence as a dancer, and you’re meeting some of the most rich and famous people—sheikhs and princes. It was a very, very crazy world.

Can you talk a little bit about the types of routines you performed and do you have any favorite performances?

One of my favorite performances which I will be performing at Tits for Toys for Tots is a classical piece to Ravel’s Bolero. It’s just a beautiful piece. The music tells the story. The costume is feathers and rhinestones and very elegant, more in a showgirls 1920s time style. Then I also like a lot of modern stuff, and I hope to be doing a second performance called Bedtime Story. It’s basically a story of a young girl’s transition from child to sex symbol to princess and then a little humor at the end. I’m kind of an eclectic person so there’s a mixture of styles and I’d go so far to say even a hint of the Muppets. It’s a very cute show and one of my favorites.

At the beginning, I was told what to do. All costumes were provided by the troupe. But once I was comfortable in what I was doing and I showed that to the choreographer—who always traveled with us—he let me put my own artistic marks into what I wanted to do. There are people who can freestyle to music, but to me, choreographed numbers are best. When I started traveling by myself once I left the troupe, I had total control over what my dancing and costumes. But my experience with that troupe gave me everything I needed to know.

How did you end up in America?

I spent in some time in Germany, where I met one of my friends whom I’m actually staying with when I’m in Atlanta. I’ve known her for 40 yrs. Her father was American and her mother was European. One day I came and visited her and met my husband and got married.

When and why did you stop dancing? And what have you been up to?

Age could be one factor. It was in 1989. I was dancing at one club in Charleston, SC, which was still doing a burlesque style, though mot exactly. That then died out in about a year. I remember the first pole coming into the club and how it changed the nightclub as I knew them. Of course, when the poles came, then the age factor came. I told myself, you had to wean yourself off. My days are up.

What made you decide to start dancing burlesque again after 20 years away from the stage?

My daughter said you need to get on Facebook.  I did, and I put in word “burlesque,” and it’s like my computer just lit up. There was all this amazing stuff. I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. Burlesque is still alive?!”

What I’ve noticed with neoburlesque is that it doesn’t seem to have that age criteria.  It’s really refreshg. All ages, all types, shapes and forms performing. I contacted Angel Walker (Satan’s Angel) and said I want to perform again, I miss the life, this is fantastic. I said, tell me the truth, how do I get back into this? I said, don’t I have to attend these competitions and win prizes and crowns? She laughed at me [and said], no, you don’t need to enter any competitions, we just need to find you some work. So here I am. I guess you’d call it my grand coming out. I’m feeling that hard to describe feeling of nervousness to excitement to pure pleasure. You know what I’m talking about if you’re any kind of performer, whether a singer, magician, actress or a burlesque dancer.

How did you get involved with Tits for Toys for Tots?

I contacted Angel, and she has taken me under her wing. She is my angel. She contacted Katherine [Lashe] and Ursula [Undress] and told them about me and asked if I could still get into the show. Lucky for me, Katherine and Ursula contacted me, and I will be there on Dec. 17, and I am absolutely honored to be doing it. I’m looking forward to meeting all of the wonderful neoburlesque performers.

Photo courtesy of Gabriella Maze.

Did you ever think that you’d be dancing burlesque for a children’s charity like Toys For Tots, or is that another way the scene has changed?

I think it’s fantastic, but no, I don’t think it would ever happen in the ‘70s. Burlesque in the ‘70s or before was kind of taboo and risqué.  In today’s world, risqué is what you see over dinner when you turn on the TV looking at the commercials. In the past, you wouldn’t have a fundraiser unless maybe it was something personal in the burlesque community or a troupe maybe would raise money for another girl. I think it’s wonderful.

What’s next for Gabriella Maze?

I’m not sure. I’m just so excited. Once people see me on Dec. 17 and see what do, my style and the way I perform, I hope I get bombarded with “come join us” emails. That’s be fantastic. I’m hoping it comes to that, and if it doesn’t, I’m just going to enjoy the embrace offered from Atlanta and from the burlesque community. I’m also thinking about teaching. If there is a request for me to, by all means I’d be more than happy to teach or talk with people in the burlesque community and give them my experiences.

I feel like I’m Sleeping Beauty. I’ve  been asleep for a long time and suddenly the endorphins have been triggered in my head. I’m still kind of nervous as to what to expect from the community, but what I’m seeing so far is really loving and very outreaching. I never thought I’d have a second opportunity at this life at age 60. I thought it would be something I’d look back on and have my fond memories and that would be it.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Just a big thank you to Angel Walker, to my costume maker Karma Blake Originals, and to Delorean Chase for my sound mixes.

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