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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Kool Kat of the Week: Growing Up in a World of Pure Imagination: Heather Henson Talks About Her Jim Henson Connection and Sings Along with The MUPPET MOVIE to Celebrate The Center for Puppetry Arts’ 35th Anniversary

Posted on: Sep 19th, 2013 By:

Kermit, Jim Henson and daughter Heather Henson at the grand opening of the Center for Puppetry Arts, 1978. Photo credit: Center for Puppetry Arts.

When Kool Kat of the Week Heather Henson was just seven, she accompanied her famous father, Jim Henson, the creator of The Muppets, to the 1978 ribbon-cutting of The Center for Puppetry Arts. Today the Center is world-renowned, and the youngest of the five Henson children is coming back this Saturday September 21 at 4 p.m. to lead an audience singalong with the original THE MUPPET MOVIE (1979), just one highlight of the Center’s 35th Anniversary Celebration (Sept. 21-23).

A puppeteer extraordinaire in her own right, Heather founded and directs Ibex Puppetry, an Orlando, Florida-based entertainment company which among other activities, produces the annual Orlando Puppet Festival, the HANDMADE PUPPET DREAMS film series, the Puppet Slam Network and original environmental theatre spectacles. In that role, she’ll be teaching a Community Building Through Puppetry Workshop at the Center, too, on Mon. Sept. 23 from 7-9 p.m. She serves on the boards of the Jim Henson Foundation, the Jim Henson Legacy and the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center.

We caught up with Heather to find out what it was like growing up with such a creative dad, her own road to puppetry, why she’s so jazzed about her recent environmental projects and why to really feel that Rainbow Connection, you and your family should consider costuming as Muppets when you come to the Center on Saturday!

ATLRetro: Being the baby of the Henson family sounds like it has to have been a magical experience. Was your father as imaginative in playing with you as he has been in his public creative life, and do you have a favorite memory of that?

Heather Henson: Yes, he was very imaginative as a dad. We grew up in a house with a ton of crafts projects. You know, today you can get just go to Michael’s and find all these crafts projects out of a box, Michael’s didn’t exist when we were kids. We just had all these craft supplies. We had the little rock tumblers, a silk screen, an enameling oven, a weaving station and an animation station so we could do stop-motion animation. The whole basement was like a crafts project laboratory. So that was really, really, really fun.

That playpen downstairs was amazing. I do a little PowerPoint presentation called “A Daughter Remembers,” and I show some pictures from that basement. We had a set of wooden boxes that were numbered one through 10. I think he must have done them around the same time as SESAME STREET because I look at the counting films and they look so much like that. He painted them in this beautiful limited color palate of the ‘60s—I think it was pink, orange and yellow. On one side, it would have a number, and on the other side us kids got to paint whatever they wanted—animals or insects of that number. It was like one elephant, two butterflies, three horses, four cats. They were so cute. I love those boxes. Again no Michael’s, no Hobby Lobby, no IKEA.

Heather Henson promises a carnival sense of fun at THE MUPPET MOVIE singalongs. Photo credit: Ibex Puppetry.

Did you always know that you’d go into puppetry, too? Or did you ever rebel, and say, no, I’m going to be a fill-in-the-blank?!

Well, I went to college for animation. I guess in high school, I wanted to get into politics, not to become a politician but I liked international relations. I actually still do. A big love of mine is the way that different countries, different cultures come together. In high school, I thought that fell under a political science major. That was the only thing I could think of that would allow me to study other cultures other than anthropology. Right now, I do puppet shows internationally, and that’s still my favorite thing—to go into other cultures and see those relationships.

But then I guess I started college studying art. I thought for a while I could be a political cartoonist. Then I went into, no, I’ll do animation and illustrations, and I wound up right back at puppetry. It took a little bit of a roundabout way, but it’s a total circle. My final project I did in college was in animation, and then when I got out of college, I re-told the story with puppets. I actually found it was a much more satisfying process—the build process and especially delivering it to an audience. Having the live feedback of an audience and the communication between performer and audience was much more satisfying. But it came about from a very personal process. It was not like I’m the daughter of a puppeteer, I have to be a puppeteer.

Photo credit: Ibex Puppetry.

You’ve got your hands on the strings of a lot of projects from IBEX Puppetry to the boards of various Henson-related foundations. What’s one thing you’re especially excited about that you’re doing right now?

The environmental spectacle shows and trying to do them internationally. I do shows without words. We just came back from a puppet festival in Indonesia where we performed CELEBRATION OF FLIGHT, and I’m most excited to do this for an international audience in ways that are also helpful and are of benefit for the community that we go into. I try to make our shows informative about the environment but not going into someone else’s culture and being preachy.

I like to do that for my own community, too. Right now I am in Milwaukee because we are going to be presenting CELEBRATION OF FLIGHT at the International Crane Foundation gala next week. This group does a lot of education about cranes and wetlands. Crane education is really about habitat restoration because cranes need wetlands and the wetlands are being destroyed. They are advocates for the cranes, but they are really advocates for the environment. So I am presenting this show to them and to a school. That’s the work I’m really excited about—trying to do stuff that is being an advocate for the environment. If it’s at all possible that I can use my energies in that direction, that’s exciting to me.

As a child, you attended the ribbon-cutting of the Center for Puppetry Arts.

I know!

Jim, Heather and Jane Henson at the Center for Puppetry Arts opening, 1978. Photo credit: Center for Puppetry Arts.

What do you recall about that day and how does the Center fit into preserving your father’s legacy today and into the future?

I cannot recall anything about that day. I look at that photograph, and I remember the Snoopy sweatshirt that I was wearing. It was one of my favorite sweatshirts. I look at that picture, and I can see that I am wearing SESAME STREET Big Bird corduroy pants, and I remember those pants. I look at that picture and I can remember my clothes.

September 24 was my dad’s birthday. What was amazing about this story was that my dad was in the middle of shooting THE MUPPET MOVIE in LA, which was the first movie that they had. This was like his company’s ultimate creative success at this point. My dad had worked so hard pitching the Muppets to an adult audience for so long, and [THE MUPPET SHOW (1976-81)] was finally picked up in London, and as soon as it was on the air, it became a huge hit. Now he got that opportunity to make THE MUPPET MOVIE. The movie is not about THE MUPPET SHOW, which was based on vaudeville theater in London; it is about the Muppets coming together to make millions of people happy. They all find each other, and they say we’re going to work together, and at the end, they make it to Hollywood. It’s so beautiful.

So my dad was in the middle of making that movie, and that’s when the Center for Puppetry Arts opened. My dad left that movie to come to the opening on his birthday. He didn’t even tell Vince [Anthony, founding executive director of the Center for Puppetry Arts] it was his birthday.

So he thought the Center was pretty cool; it was a sure sign that he thought that something special was happening here?

Yes, he thought it was worth coming to. It’s like, oh, my God, he’s in the culmination, in such a peak in his creative career, and he stops what he’s doing and comes to Atlantato open the Center. It means he really believe the Center was an important place.

The grande finale of THE MUPPET MOVIE. Photo credit: Jim Henson Company/Walt Disney.

Coming back to THE MUPPET MOVIE, what’s your favorite part or scene and why?

It’s such a beautiful movie, by far my favorite of the lot of them. All of them have a special place in my heart, but that one I love just because how pure the message is, how clean the story is. It’s just all these amazing, idealistic people that came together, such as Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher who wrote some amazing music.

My favorite part is the ending, “The Rainbow Connection.” [The Muppets] are so excited, they’ve made it to Hollywood and they’re finally getting a chance to their movie. It all crashes down and then the rainbow comes through. It’s so beautiful.

Can you share a little bit about what’s happening on Saturday and why folks who grew up with the Muppets should attend and bring their children?

And dress up! We’ve got to tell people that they can dress up! Come dressed up as Muppets, and we’ll bring you up on stage.

We’ve found the show works so well for all audiences because the kids like it, the adults like it. We’re getting a lot of kids that are seeing it for the first time. I can’t tell you how many times people say they loved the movie as kids, and now they are bringing their kids. Sometimes the kids know SESAME STREET but don’t really know the rest of the Muppet gang. Or sometimes the parents will show the kids the movie before coming, so the kids will already know all the movie and the lyrics. It’s really funny. The parents and kids can enjoy it together. It’s a big party. It’s a big laugh. We have a really good time. We’re really loud. It’s just like a big carnival for a couple of hours. We sing and dance and just revel in the joy.

You’re also doing a workshop on Monday.

Yeah, it’s a webinar, and it’s on community engagement. Megan Boye and I are doing it together. I don’t just like making shows that are one-sided. I like doing things that are interactive. We are giving audiences things to do, to dance and sing and play. It all started with THE MUPPET MOVIE singalong, and then the LABYRINTH singalong. We’ve added this interactive element to a lot of our [IBEX’s] shows.

We have this whole show called ENDANGERED SPECIES PARADE. We book it like a show, but it’s more like we bring a whole presence to your event. We set up a musical station where kids can play instruments. We set up a tableau of all of our puppets, a display where you can walk around and see them. We set up workshops where you can make puppets. And every hour or couple of hours, depending on how often the venue wants us to do it, we do a parade where we pick up a puppet and we parade around. That type of engagement is something we now do in a lot of our shows, so we’ll talk about how we do that.

Finally, in a world of CGI, where do you see the future of puppetry as an art form? Do you have concerns or do you think it has a special quality that will keep it vibrant and sought-after?

I deal with some film and video, but right now only in my HANDMADE PUPPET DREAMS film series, which is another project of mine that I bring to Atlanta to the Center for Puppetry Arts every year. In my personal work, I don’t do much film work, but when I do film it’s all about practical objects. CGI has been beautiful in a lot of areas, and my brother Brian [Henson] is really into it. I know the Jim Henson Company has invested a lot of time and money and energy into it.

I’m not that scared of [CGI] because I think also the pendulums will always swing. People are interested in new technology, but at the same time, they’re interested in real things, too. Lately I’ve been into live things, so I guess CGI has a place there, too—I guess I have seen live events with CGI creatures—but it really hasn’t come into my world that much yet. But no, I don’t have concerns. I think people are always going to want the craftsmanship of the built physical thing. There’s always a place for that because you want something real in front of you.

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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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Retro Review: THE DARK CRYSTAL: Returning to “Another World, Another Time – in the Age of Wonder” at the Plaza

Posted on: Jun 7th, 2011 By:

By Geoff Slade
Contributing Blogger

Art Opening & A Movie Presents THE DARK CRYSTAL (1982); Dir: Jim Henson and Frank Oz; Conceptual Designer: Brian Froud; Starring Jim Henson, Kathryn Mullen, Franz Oz; “The Small Game of Revilo”art exhibition featuring works by Brian Colin; also appearing will be Heidi Arnhold, artist, LEGENDS OF THE DARK CRYSTAL. Tues. June 7, opening reception 8-11 PM with movie at 9:30 pm; Fri. June 10 at MIDNIGHT; Sun. June 12 at 3 PM; Plaza TheatreTrailer here.

Jim Henson was at his creative peak when THE DARK CRYSTAL first hit theaters the week before Christmas in 1982. His Muppets were already firmly established cultural icons thanks to over a decade on SESAME STREET, five seasons of THE MUPPET SHOW, numerous television specials and two feature films. The song “Rubber Duckie” (sung by Henson as Ernie from SESAME STREET) had spent seven weeks in the Billboard Top 40 in 1970. Kermit the Frog had even filled in for Johnny Carson as guest host of THE TONIGHT SHOW in 1979, for God’s sake. And despite the mass-market, multigenerational appeal of the Muppets, Henson’s bearded genius was still, and always would be, artistically sound. This is likely because he never considered what he did as an entertainment exclusively for children. The original producers of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE agreed and featured “adult” Muppets in their own skits during the show’s inaugural season.

Jen the Gelfling pauses in a beautiful place on his quest to restore THE DARK CRYSTAL. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

There would be additional triumphs on television and in film before his unexpected death in 1991, but THE DARK CRYSTAL stands as Henson’s greatest achievement. The movie tells the story of Jen, the world’s last hope to end a thousand-year reign of evil and bring harmony back to the universe by returning a lost shard to the cracked Dark Crystal. “Of all projects that I’ve ever worked on, it’s the one that I’m the most proud of,” he said at the time.  Sure, he probably said something similar at LABYRINTH press junkets four years later, but THE DARK CRYSTAL achieves more without the benefit of a single human performance on-screen. Not to mention the charisma of David Bowie.

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