Kool Kat of the Week: A Man of Style and Song: New Orleans Jon Serves Up a Swingin’ Soundtrack at Meehan’s Roaring ’20s Gourmet Dinner

Posted on: Jul 30th, 2013 By:

Johnny Pines, aka New Orleans Jon. Photo credit: No Rest Photography.

Johnny Pine, aka New Orleans Jon, has a well-earned reputation as the swankiest burlesque MC in Atlanta from his perfect pompadour to his after-eight moustache and signature soul patch, his Rat Pack-ready suits, shiny ties and dress shoes, not to mention a penchant for attracting a bevy of vintage vixens wherever he wanders. He’s also an ace crooner  of swing, lounge and jazz, and it’s that persona that he’ll be showing off this Thursday Aug. 1 at the latest in Meehan’s Public House Sandy Springs themed supper clubs, a Roaring ’20s Gourmet Dinner. (See our ATLRetro feature on Chef Val Domingo’s Elvis Beer Dinner here.)

New Orleans Jon began his burlesque career as the original MC for the now-retired Big City Burlesque & Vaudeville and also hosted one of the first cabaret shows at DragonCon. Recently, he has had two sold-out solo performances in Alpharetta and also hosted and performed at AnachroCon in February and MC’d the Free Range Burlesque Show at The Southern Fried Burlesque Fest in March. He also serves as MC and part of the Directorship of the vintage performance collaboration known as Musee du Coeur, but you’re likely to find him crooning and cocktailing at just about any burlesque, swing, vintage, cosplay or rockabilly event in Atlanta.

In other words, New Orleans Jon is just about the bee’s knees when it comes to Kool Kats in this city, so ATLRetro was delighted to have the opportunity to find out more about his lounge legacy, as well as his plans for the Roaring ’20s Gourmet Dinner and beyond.

ATLRetro: How did you get the name New Orleans Jon?

 

Johnny Pines: I got the name New Orleans Jon in 1999 when I moved to Atlanta after I graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans. New friends would say, “Jon’s coming out with us tonight!” “Jon who?” “Ya know, New Orleans Jon.” The name stuck and has been my stage name ever since. I thought about changing it, but that’s how Atlanta knows me.


Can you share any secrets about maintaining the perfect pompadour?

My hair is one of my best trademarks. They aren’t any secrets about maintaining it; I roll out of bed looking like this. Don’t everybody?

The flirty side of New Orleans Jon with Colette Alesi, aka Dahlia Danger. Photo credit: Dim Horizon Studio.

You are certainly a man of Retro style. Where do you shop, and what’s your favorite find or accessory?

My favorite retro find is my signature yellow smoking jacket. When I really wanna knock ’em dead that’s what I wear. I don’t really ever share with people where I find my duds, but lately my best connection has been Nathaniel Self. He knows my style and size, and when he finds something he knows I’d like he gets it for me. You can always find him alongside Jezebel Blue. She makes all of my custom accessories.


How did you get into MCing burlesque and what’s your favorite show as an MC so far and why?

I’ve been a retro/swing kid since 1997. I got into emceeing and burlesque when I was put in touch with the original production of Big City Burlesque through Evil Sarah. The director and I met, and he showed me a drawing of the character he wanted me to play, and I then showed him a picture of me at a club. And although he and I had never met, the drawing and I matched to a T. I got the gig, and 12 years later I’m still doing my thing.

Johnny Pines, aka New Orleans Jon. Photo credit: No Rest Photography

My favorite show so far is the Free Range Burlesque Show at this year’s Southern Fried Burlesque Fest. I got to share the stage with some true legends and amazing performers from all over the country and worldwide. I was humbled and honored to have been asked to do the show, and it was the best performance I ever gave as an MC. That whole weekend was career-changing for me.


What’s the secret origin story behind Musee du Coeur, and what’s its unique niche in the world of Atlanta burlesque? 

Musee du Coeur is a collaborative project in which each performer eats, sleeps and breathes our craft and history. We aren’t just a burlesque troupe. We are more of a vintage performance group. We’ve carved out our own niche because we have our hands in all types of art. We are musicians, artists, seamstresses, flyers, magicians, dances, singers, carnies, historians and the list goes on and on. We all bring something different to the group.


You seem to have a real joie de vivre and sense of adventure. What’s the craziest adventure you’ve had in the world of burlesque?

The craziest adventure I’ve had in the world of burlesque took place at this year’s Southern Fried Burlesque Fest. After Saturday night’s show, the reigning King and Queen of American Burlesque From The Burlesque Hall of Fame, THE Canadian Burlesque Legend, we’ll call her Judy, a certain journalist we know, and I went to a gentlemen’s club together. We had a blast! The dancers could get enough of Judy. It was a dream come true for me!

The Roaring ‘20s gourmet dinner at Meehan’s Thursday night sure looks delicious. Meehan’s has done a bunch of rock-themed dinners, too. Were you at all involved with the menu planning, and what can diners expect when it comes to the total experience – food, ambiance and entertainment? 

The planning of the menu was a collaboration between Chef Brian O’Rourke [of Meehan’s Public House Vinings] and Chef  Val Domingo [of Meehan’s Public House Sandy Springs]. The food at Meehan’s surpasses any expectations you may have of eating at a pub of any kind. The atmosphere is quite quaint and comfortable with an amazing staff. Since this theme is so different from what they’ve done in the past, they asked me to do my stuff. I’m what’s called a crooner. I sing Jazz Standards dating from the 1920s to the 1950s. I cover them all. Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett and so many more. I truly LOVE what I do. I hope the guests enjoy it as much as I do.


The invitation says reservations are required. Is there any standing room, too, to hear you perform?

Reservations are truly recommended and spaces are almost filled. I strongly suggest that people call ahead for availability.

Is it true you’ve also launched a burlesque ladies night out on Tuesdays? What’s that about?

The ladies night out isn’t really a burlesque event. Anyone can come out. It’s at Atlantic Seafood Co. in Alpharetta. They do a ladies night  starting at 4 p.m. featuring me and my buddy Monroe behind the bar, and live music, by George Martini, starts at 7:30.


You’re always so busy hosting and crooning. What’s next for New Orleans Jon?

After The show at Mehann’s, I begin preparing for DragonCon here in Atlanta. I’m MCing the Pool Side Pin-Up Party at the Sheraton Atlanta, Friday August 30, and I’m performing in The Glamour Geek Review the following Saturday night!

Meehan’s Roaring ’20s Gourmet Dinner is a mouth-watering $50 five-course price fixe dinner featuring pairings with New Holland Brewing and vintage-inspired cocktails.Call (404)-843-8058 to reserve your spot. For more information, including the night’s full menu, visit Meehan’s Public House Sandy Springs Website or the Facebook event page.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Dancin’ to His Own Boylesque Beat: Russell Bruner Takes Off His Top Hat and More at Southern Fried

Posted on: Mar 20th, 2013 By:

Russell Bruner, Reigning King of Burlesque. Photo credit: Insomniac Studios

Stars both of the Burlesque Revival and of classic tease arrive in Atlanta this week for the third annual Southern Fried Burlesque Festival Thurs. March 21-24 at  the Wyndham Atlanta Galleria. Read our full festival preview here.

Just a quick glance at the line-up suggests this year will be just as good performance-wise as the first two, if not even better. But we have to admit that we’re especially excited to see Portland, Oregon’s Russell Bruner, reigning King of Burlesque, at the Free Range Burlesque show on Fri. March 22, after seeing him perform at our own Kool Kat Kitty Love‘s first Sultry Sunday of the year back in January. Male exotic dancers may be notoriously boring, but dressed in a pin-stripe seersucker suit, top hat and debonair curled moustache, let’s just say Russell wasn’t just sexy but sassy–really capturing the spirit of the tease in ways that most male dancers simply don’t. Of course, that underlines the essential difference between burlesque, or in this case “boylesque,” and striptease/exotic dance. Burlesque comes from vaudeville and variety and is all about having fun–which, well, they say gals love a guy with a sense of humor.

A little online research revealed that Bruner is a Vancouver, Washington native and Mormon-raised boy who eschewed football for the cheer squad and comes to burlesque via swing dance (He won a trophy at the Balboa Tempo Marathon in 2006) and a stint as the acrobatic Villain of Portland’s Wanderlust Circus. Needless to say, we had to make him Kool Kat of the Week just to find out more about what drew him from a tech career with a dancing hobby to a professional performer, how he developed his unique style, his influences and his act at SFBF!

So you were working for Intel, your job ended and you ran away to join the circus? Is that basically how your career in burlesque/variety got started? 

Well, the electrical engineering field wasn’t too bad. I enjoyed the work, but kept thinking about how if I was ever going to do performance art, I should do it before I get any older.

Russell Bruner, Master of the Hat and Cane Routine. Photo credit: Adam Scherer.

Just about every lady I know thinks there’s nothing duller than watching a Chippendale. You have a completely different look and approach to dancing off your clothes. To what extent do you think that playing against the expected is the key to your success? 

You’re right, I’m no Chippendale. I cater to the audience as I understand them with what I have to offer. I’m not playing against the idea of the Chippendale; I’m just more turned on by men like Gene Kelly, Tom Waits and Ray Bolger.

Your routines remind me of a cross between Fred Astaire – who also danced with a hat rack in a famous number and you’ve said is an inspiration -to ‘20s comedy cinema actors like Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin. Did you grow up on classic movies with dance and comedy numbers or when/how did you discover them? How influential are they on your routines? 

I didn’t see very many movies or see much television growing up, but there was this great movie place that I discovered when I first moved to Portland that’s called Movie Madness. They have nearly everything with Fred Astaire, WC Fields, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, etc. I’ve since taken advantage of the inspiration found there, and in other sources that have old vaudeville acts film.

Were you at all nervous when you first stripped down? Any advice to men who want to do burlesque but are a little shy about it? 

I was nervous about it. Any time I do something in front of an audience for the first time I’m always concerned about things going well. If someone is shy about performing, I think it’s normal and shows they too have concern for doing well.

Who are your inspirations, either male or female, classic or revival, in burlesque?

Aside from the mentioned persons of yesteryear, for males, I am inspired by Leapin’ Louie Lichtenstein, Armitage Shanks, the Stage Door Johnnies, Burlesquire, Tod Alan, Evil Hate Monkey, Mr. Gorgeous, Waxie Moon, Captain Kidd, Curtis Carlyle, Dahktur Sick, Jonathan Burns, Scott Maxwell, Luther Bangert, Nanda, Neil E Dee, Funny Eddie Dot Com, Bobbie Burlesque, Bellini Twins, Charlie Brown the Juggler, Donny Vomit, Scotty the Blue Bunny, Ben Delacreme, Jasper St. James, the cast of Meatfest in LA, the Boxers are Brief Boylesk, William Batty in Wanderlust Circus, and many others. All those are variety performers and not necessarily burlesque. The women that inspire me is a much longer list, so let me get back to you on that when I have more time to list everyone.

Russell Bruner. Photo credit: PEZ Photo.

Where/when was your favorite performance and what made it so special?

My last performance with the Carnivalesque Tour at State Theater in Falls Church, VA, was a recent favorite of mine. It was special because it was the last show of a great run. I had a lot of fun working with Gilded Lily Burlesque & Co., and I really enjoyed the spacious stage with a nice wood floor. I really enjoy performing on stages with nice wood floors.

Without ruining any surprises, what can you tease us about your performance at SFBF? 

I think we’ve already given away that it involves working a hat rack like Fred Astaire. So other than hanging my hat up, you’ll also see some nice cane work.

What’s the secret of coiffing the perfect moustache? 

I use beeswax. I’m constantly running out of it or losing it as I’m on the road a lot, so I’m constantly using different products that have beeswax in it, and I use a woman’s personal trimmer that looks like a vibrator to trim it. And I just futz with it a lot. I stopped making circles at the ends because I can never get them to match so now I do more of a Salvador Dali type of styling.

Finally, what question do you wish someone would ask you to do but they never do? And of course, what’s the answer? 

I do wish I’d be asked to perform my partner acts more often. It’s harder to fit it in the budget for promoters and sometimes the stages are too small, but I enjoy doing partner acts the most. I would love to perform partner dance acts more often on the road.

 

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