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: School of Va-Va-Voom: Ursula Undress Teaches Atlanta a Tassel or Two About Burlesque

Posted on: Sep 5th, 2013 By:

Photo courtesy of Ursula Undress. Credit: Derek Johnson.

Curious if you have what it takes to tease? This Saturday Sept. 7, the Atlanta School of Burlesque is offering a sneak peek behind its doors for a Grand Opening Launch Event Day with a chance from 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. to sample a variety of classes for just $5 each (see list of classes and times at the end of this article) followed by a party from 2:30-5 p.m. with refreshments, prizes, vendors and discounts on School merchandise. The burlesque revival has been thriving here for over 15 years now, but unlike other major cities, Atlanta has not had its own academy for this art form until Studio Burlesque opened last winter. Unofrtunately, it was shortlived but the demand was so great that The Atlanta School of Burlesque has quickly taken its place, and veteran performers have a place where they can share their techniques, both classic and contemporary, with aspiring dancers and anyone who just wants to spice up their love life or enjoy a fun, different exercise program.

ATLRetro wasn’t surprised to learn that the headmistress and founder was none other than the dynamic Ursula Undress, regular performer with Syrens of the South Productions and co-consprirator at the first Southern Fried Burlesque Festival, which will celebrate its fourth year next spring. We’ve been eyeing Ursula as a Kool Kat for a very long time, so this week seemed like the purr-fect time to check in with this self-proclaimed “naughty girl next door” to find out more about the school, as well as her own secret origin story and what else she has up her sexy sleeves.

What drew you personally to the burlesque revival and when/what was your first performance?

I was a performer in musical and dramatic theatre for about 15 years. Personally, I was trying to find my identity again after returning to school and sort of immersing myself in classes and projects, etc., not to mention finding friends I could connect with when I first moved here and didn’t know anyone. So, burlesque – something I was already excited about – seemed a good fit.

Did you have any early role models, either classic or contemporary, who helped shape your approach to the art form?

Yes – Dirty Martini. The first performance I saw of hers was a YouTube video of her performance at the HOWL festival in 2007. I could not take my eyes off of her. She was the one who gave me the confidence to get on stage. But as for my performances being shaped by something, I would have to say that it was the music that did it.

Photo courtesy of Ursula Undress. Credit: Nimh.

Some said that Atlanta just wasn’t suited to an annual burlesque festival, but you helped Katherine Lashe prove them wrong. How do you feel the Southern Fried Burlesque Festival (SFBF) has changed the burlesque community here and Atlanta’s burlesque reputation around the nation?

In some ways, SFBF has pulled down some walls that divided a lot of performers here in the city and showed performers that there is a fairly strong community here. I think nationally that it has put Atlanta and burlesque in the southeast on the map, and helped to inspire other cities around us to do the same. I am continually amazed at the talent and innovation that comes from Georgia and the surrounding states, and am so glad to have a place to bring it all together on one stage.

It seems like you’re now putting the bulk of your energy into the Atlanta School of Burlesque. Why are you so passionate that we need an actual school here?

Well, I was actually running the first full-time burlesque school that had a previous owner – Studio Burlesque – and the passion for this project comes from the hordes of emails and phone calls when it closed. It was apparent that we had created this community and this amazing place for women where they could come and explore other sides of themselves and just have fun. So, I pulled my resources and did what I had to do to re-open a school for not only these students, but for all of us performers to learn from each other and keep fuel on the creative fires we tend every day.

Photo courtesy of Ursula Undress.

I understand the School’s students are a mix of aspiring performers and ladies who just want to get more fit in a flirty way. Can you talk a little about that? 

It is amazing – we don’t have a real target audience. We have women of all shapes, sizes, ages, backgrounds. Of course, we have students that want to go all the way and be performers, but I think the common thread is that they all just love feeling glamorous and graceful and sexy, and most of all – CONFIDENT. I think all of the instructors provide an environment that really fosters all of those things.

Who’s teaching at the School and how do you select your instructors?

I am very adamant about people learning the art of burlesque from actual burlesque performers who have studied the history and actively tour, compete, and perform. I select performers to teach based on their love for constantly learning and working on their craft, along with their ability to lead a class and make it fun and interesting. I am very fortunate to have performers of the caliber of Talloolah Love, Lola LeSoleil, Katherine Lashe, The Chameleon Queen, Fonda Lingue, Rebecca DeShon [hula hoop] and Sadie Hawkins [aerialist]. I also love that I have the opportunity to bring in outside talent and their knowledge and expertise in with workshops and specialty classes.

What are you teaching personally this Fall?

I am teaching both Beginning Burlesque Choreography and a class called Slow and Steamy Bedroom Burlesque that is for intermediate students.

Is this Saturday’s event for current and aspiring students only? Who should come and why?

Anyone who is interested should come – it is going to be a blast! The first class – Burlesque Fundamentals is actually co-ed, so I do mean ANYONE.

I know you don’t want to play favorites, but is there one of your students who you’d especially recommend our readers to watch out for?

Wow – I think the awesome thing is that ALL of our previous graduates from the Spring are amazing on stage, and have continued to perform regularly. Greta Von Trollop is so charismatic. Nina Charrise and Roula Roulette are both competing at the Shakespeare Follies this weekend, and then Rena Rhinestone has some incredible stuff planned for her next number. Oh! And I am really looking forward to what A to Z does next; he seems to be this glue that keeps them all wanting to work together on fun stuff. So yeah,it is impossible to play favorites!

Photo courtesy of Ursula Undress.

Will you be involved with next year’s Southern Fried, and if yes, can you share anything about it?

I think I will always be involved in some capacity. I really enjoy working with the legends and being a sort of liason with them and the headliners. It takes a village, and I am proud to assist Katherine with that.

What’s next for Ursula Undress performance-wise?

Well, I recently took a workshop with [burlesque legend] Gabriella Maze and am seriously in love with the cape! I have one number where I work with a large duster, and I am now looking to expand on that with what I learned from her. Combine that with some secret talks with burlesque legend Satan’s Angel, and well, that is all I am going to say. Yep, even in interviews, I have to tease!

Finally, what’s one thing about the school or about you that readers might be most surprised to find out?

Hrm….I think that people find out in our classes exactly how non-intimidating burlesque actually is.

Grand Opening Day Class and Event Schedule:

10:30 – 11:20AM – Burlesque Fundamentals with Syrens of the South & Southern Fried Burlesque Fest Producer Katherine Lashe.

This CO-ED class is designed for absolute beginners! Learn how to walk, bump, grind, and shimmy in easy, broken down steps, and then perfect them in drills and short combinations.

11:30 – 12:20PM – Classic & Glamorous Burlesque with Southern Fried Burlesque Queen Lola LeSoleil

This beginner class will help you to learn the grace and elegance of the early Burlesque style from the 1930s and 40s. This class begins with a simple, graceful warm-up, and then switches into the sultry but elegant moves of a Burlesque Queen. This class will also help you be a little more graceful in your everyday life.

12:30 – 1:20PM – Beginning Burlesque Choreography with Studio Owner & Performer Ursula Undress

This is the perfect class to get a taste of what burlesque can do for your inner and outer self while learning fun choreography to boot! Learn the basic standing and walking movements to start your journey into burlesque along with bumps, grinds, shimmies, and arm movements.

1:30 – 2:20 PM – Dance like a Mermaid with Professional Bellydancer and Mermaid Karma Karmelita.

As a professional mermaid and aquatic entertainer, Karma has gained extensive knowledge and experience in working in the water. This has given her a unique perspective on three dimensional movement when on the stage. This class focuses heavily on her original and innovative technique and teaches part of a breathtaking choreography. Recommended for people with previous dance knowledge in belly dance, but not restricted to.

2:30 – 5PM – Open Shopping and Grand Opening Soiree!

Join us for light eats, drinks, shopping, and hobnobbing with other students and performers!

Note: Wear comfortable low heels or flexible dance shoes to any class. Prices will be $5 per class, and advance reservations are not required. Due to the dramatically reduced class price, social deals will not be honored on this day. The Atlanta School of Burlesque is located at 1745 Defoor Place, Ste. D Atlanta, GA 30318. For more information, visit www.atlantaburlesqueschool.com

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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: Born to Tease: Retro Fatale Katherine Lashe Puts the Sizzle into Southern Fried Burlesque

Posted on: Jun 10th, 2013 By:

Katherine Lashe. Photo credit: PinUp Girl Cosmetics.

Atlanta’s burlesque scene right now is hot, hot, hot, and one lady is right at the sizzling heart of it – Kool Kat Katherine Neslund, aka Katherine Lashe. This week alone, Syrens of the South, her production company, is giving Atlanta a new monthly burlesque showcase with Tease Tuesdays at The Shelter on June 11 (specific Tuesdays will vary per month). She’s also a key player in the city’s first Debut-Tease Ball, featuring Katherine and a mix of experienced and new talent either teaching or taking classes at Studio Burlesque, Atlanta’s own burlesque school which launched just last winter.

Perhaps most of all, Katherine is the driving force behind the Southern Fried Burlesque Festival, which celebrated its third anniversary this year. Finally Atlanta has an annual event that brings together local, regional, national and even international burlesque revival stars and legends. Tease Tuesdays are fundraisers for SFBF. And that’s not even beginning to talk about Katherine’s own talents as a performer who has graced nationwide stages including the Burlesque Hall of Fame in Las Vegas.

ATLRetro caught up with Katherine recently to find out more about this week’s events; her own path to burlesque via theater; what else she has coming up, including a significant partnership between Syrens and 7 Stages theater in Little Five Points; and much more.

ATLRetro: What’s the one thing that happened to you during childhood that made it your destiny to be a burlesque performance artist?

Katherine Neslund/Lashe: When I was younger my Mom made costumes and clothing for drag queens in Knoxville, TN.  I ended up wanting to be a drag queen when I grew up because they had the best clothes! Later it was explained to me that, being a girl, I couldn’t technically be a drag queen. I was pretty disappointed  with this childhood realization. I’ve obviously since realized my passion and have been doing theater in some capacity my entire adult life. I’ve always felt pretty at home on the stage. Burlesque seemed to unite the whole drag queen dream with my theater experience.

I understand you kicked off your burlesque career in Atlanta by opening for Dita Von Teese. That’s a pretty exciting beginning. How did that happen and can you share something about that experience? Did Dita impart any words of wisdom that have stayed with you.

I used to be the head performer at The Chamber, and one day Howie, the manager, told us we were opening for Dita von Teese in two weeks and we should do something burlesquey.  I had no idea what that meant since I had very limited experience with burlesque having only seen The Doll Squad and Torchy Taboo perform a few times at that point.  We ended up putting together a Fosse-style group number that incorporated burlesque, dancing and a little bit of that Chamber touch.  It’s kind of funny that out of that group came myself, Renea’le Roux and Gia Nova as professional burlesque performers.

Katherine Lashe. Photo credit: PinUp Girl Cosmetics.

The Syrens of the South is a production company, not a troupe. A lot of people don’t know the difference, so can you clarify what this means in the burlesque world?

A troupe is traditionally a group of people that works together on a regular basis; going through routines and rehearsals, every member focused on a common vision of what the group should embody as a whole, and then also on what every member will perform exclusively.  Syrens of the South treats all of our performers as independent contractors, and I have always encouraged everyone to have their own identity – to perform whenever and with whomever they want.  Each performer creates their own personal vision of what they want to be, and they own and control their personal performance.  Syrens is like a playground on which these amazing folks can show their talent. Thanks to this freedom, performers can feel free to include everything from classic, to comedy, to just plain weird stuff.  I also try to make sure that we have a good variety of acts, including, of course, vaudeville type acts to break up the boobies, making it an interesting evening for everyone!

It’s been long overdue for Atlanta to have an annual burlesque festival, and Southern Fried really seems to be putting the city on the map. SFBF has made it to its third year and seems to be really hitting its stride. What did you personally enjoy the most at year’s festival and can you give us a little preliminary tease about your goals are for next year?

My favorite part each year is the Legends.  I have a passion for burlesque history, hence why I teach a very in-depth class on it, and have been collecting burlesque legend interviews for a very long time now.  My goal is to gather as much information as possible before the information is no longer available.  I was lucky enough to interview Tura Satana before she passed away, and I am so very grateful I was able to do so.

This particular year I was really excited with how many people from the local Atlanta burlesque community became involved.  In between volunteers, performers and even those that just showed up in the audience to come and see us, plus so many regular Syrens of the South performers, members of Hot Toddies Flaming Cabaret, The Imperial OPA Circus, Minette Magnifique and Musee du Coeur showed up both on stage and off.  The hope is that Southern Fried can help show Atlanta a taste of what goes on in the rest of the world, as well as showing the rest of the world the amazing talent we have here in Atlanta and the Southeast.  Many performers don’t travel, so this is a great way to show off all that we have to offer here!

Funding a festival must be challenging. Where does Tease Tuesday fit in?

The goal of Tease Tuesday is to help raise money so we can continue putting on this amazing festival.  It costs around $20,000 to put on each year, and we make less than half of that from ticket sales each year.  The rest of the money comes from our vendors, sponsors, application fees, Syrens of the South shows and out of my pocket.  We need approximately $2,500 to pay off the remaining bills from last year before we can start moving on to next year.  Tease Tuesday events, at 10 acts for only $10, gives us  a nice inexpensive monthly show to help us get the remaining bills paid off and then hopefully help us get the deposit for the hotel next year so we can continue going forward with the festival.

Another thing we love about Tease Tuesday is that it’s going to be monthly. In New York there are multiple monthly and even weekly burlesque events, but Atlanta audiences have had to wait several months between shows by the same troupe or producer. Can you tease our readers about the Syrens first Tease Tuesday and how you plan to keep a monthly show fresh and exciting? Will shows be themed and will you just feature local performers or regional and national performers as well?

Our first Tease Tuesday show was in May as a straight up fundraiser and test show.  We were lucky enough to have the current Southern Fried Queen, Lola le Soleiland two time SFBF winner Bourgeois Betty, Little 5 Points Rockstar Orchestra founder Rob Thompson doing an acoustic set, as well as Talloolah Love, Nipsy Tussle from Knoxville’s Salome Cabaret, Tora Torrid, Persephone Phoenix, Edie Akimbo, Tru Bliss, and my Wednesday night Beginning Burlesque class from Studio Burlesque.  Fritzengreuben was our Master of Ceremonies with Tupelo Honey as our stage kitten.

Our show on Tuesday, June 11, will have some amazing burlesque – Florida’s Tokyo Bell incorporates fire into her stripping, Atlanta favorite Ursula Undress will be there, Jed Drummond will be singing and playing his ukulele, there will be sexy juggling, some sultry singing and many more burlesque dancers.  Remember -10 acts for $10, so it’s a surprise as to who the other performers will be!  The next one on July 16 is so secret I can’t tell you anything other than it’s gonna be awesome!

Katherine Lashe. Photo credit: PinUp Girl Cosmetics.

Studio Burlesque is another milestone for the Atlanta burlesque community. How did that get started and what was your role in its fruition?

I have been teaching burlesque classes for almost six years in borrowed/rented spaces. It was really only a matter of time before someone realized the popularity of burlesque was on the rise and that there should be a studio dedicated to it.  An investor approached multiple members of the Atlanta burlesque community until he found the right fit which happened to be the valedictorian of the very first Syrens of the South graduating class: Ursula Undress.  She and I had a long talk about it after she was approached, and her mission statement was beautiful and her heart was in the right place, so I decided to move my regular classes to Studio Burlesque.  I’ve given a little advice just because of the six years of previous experience, but with the festival taking off, it’s really nice to get to just show up as a teacher rather than organizing all the classes like I used to.  Many of my former students became teachers in the Syrens of the South class series and now teach at Studio Burlesque.  I am very proud of all of them and love that there’s a home for everyone in Atlanta Burlesque to be able to come to learn and to teach.

Are classes just for aspiring burlesque performers? Could any of them be an alternative to a conventional boring exercise class?

The regular weekly classes are for anyone at any level of dance experience.  My Beginning Burlesque class on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. has people who have never danced before and a few seasoned performers, however, they all work great together in learning the new choreography we do each month.  For those who want to try performing, I’ve been offering a performance spot for that class at each of the Tease Tuesdays.  Students get a little firsthand taste of the performance experience and can then decide if it’s something they want to try.  The performance track classes are for those that are interested in becoming burlesque performers or at least getting a solo opportunity on stage.  It consists of three months of classes; we focus on getting them on stage for a student showcase at the end of the three months.  The next performance track series will be starting in July after July 4th.

Debut-Tease is coming up this Saturday. Some people might be reluctant to come to a beginners’ show. Tell us why they’re wrong.

I love student showcases!  There is that excitement of it being their first time, and you can see the nerves, the joy, the fear and the overwhelming feeling of accomplishment when they walk off the stage.  It’s like watching someone be born without all the gross parts!  However, even if you’re not a big fan of watching newbies, myself and many of the other teachers will be performing as in this show, so many professional performers will be gracing the stage as well as all the newbies.  Ursula Undress, Talloolah Love, Fonda Lingue and The Chameleon Queen will be performing, just to name a few!

Are any of your students performing? Any star student in particular to watch out for?

Every student that is debuting on the 15th is part of the Studio Burlesque Performance Track Classe Series so I have gotten to teach them all as I teach the History of Burlesque and Tassels and Gloves classes in that series.  Many of them also come to my Wednesday night class so I’ve gotten to know a few of them fairly well.  If I had to pick one to watch I’m going to have to say A to Zee as he is the only boy making his debut that night.  I’ve seen his work in progress, and I think everyone will have fun with it. Being the only guy, I think he’ll succeed in inspiring other gentlemen to come out and learn the art of boylesque!

Finally, burlesque is just one of your talents. You have a background in theater and were heavily involved with 7 Stages‘ hit DRACULA: THE ROCK OPERA. Anything you’d like to share about that experience and what’s next for that production? Or anything else you’re up to?

Yes, I was honored to be the stage manager for DRACULA: THE ROCK OPERA!  The finished recording of the awesome soundtrack from our show will be finalized and out for sale on CD sometime soon.  We’ll be doing a concert version in February so do keep your eyes peeled for that!  I went to school for musical theater and am now finishing up a degree in technical theater to balance out my onstage and off-stage experience, which is good since I was just the lighting designer for LADY LAY, a great play at 7 Stages Theater that closed out the 2012-13 season.  I’ve also been a stage manager for The Imperial OPA Circus for a few years, and look forward to continuing at 7 Stages in the 2013-14 season.  After Dracula, I really just found my home at 7 Stages as I love everyone who works there and what they are trying to do through art and community building.

Katherine Lashe. Photo credit: PinUp Girl Cosmetics.

I’ve recently been made a member of their fundraising committee and am helping to put together a brunch at Our Way Cafe on June 23.  Brunch will include a concert by the awesome local band Till Someone Loses an Eye, and benefits will go to 7 Stages.  Mark your calendars!  Also, our Syrens of the South 6th year anniversary show will be held on the main stage at 7 Stages on Aug 3.  I’m splitting the profits with the theater to help them with their fundraising goals.  As 7 Stages is now going to be our new home for our big shows, for instance our Anniversary, Tits for Toys for Tots (Nov 23) and our Vixen’s Valentease show, we want to make sure to start our new marriage by giving them a decent dowry!

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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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Third Time’s The Charm: Revival Stars, Legends and Rising Ingenues Add Spice to Southern Fried Burlesque Festival

Posted on: Mar 18th, 2013 By:

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. Bras off to Syrens of the South Productions, and in particular Katherine “Lashe” Neslund, with assistance from Ursula Undress, who had a dazzling dream to start a festival in Atlanta.As a lover of classic burlesque but appreciative of the creativity that revival performers show, ATLRetro has to say that the big evening shows at the first two SFBFs were among the best in Atlanta. We loved the chance to see some of the nation’s and Southeast’s best, including legends that sizzled stages in the ’60s and ’70s, without traveling to New York, the West Coast or the Burlesque Hall of Fame. Aspiring performers can take classes taught by these talents on topics ranging from costuming to performance to the history of the art form, as well as shop from a host of vendors selling everything from pasties to vintage items.

Just a quick glance at the line-up suggests this year will be just as good performance-wise, if not even better. First, we have to admit that we’re pretty excited to see Portland, Oregon’s Russell Bruner, reigning King of Burlesque, after getting a peek at him during 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 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.

Russell Bruner

OK, yeah, that was a lot of getting hot and bothered about Russell. SFBF 2013 also features a bevy of lovely ladies. Friday night’s all-star Free Range Burlesque will be headlined by Miss Exotic World 2010 Roxi D’lite, who also stars in BURLESQUE ASSASSINS, a Canadian comedy/action indie feature film which will have its Atlanta debut at SFBF. Set in a 1950s Burlesque theatre, it stars top burlesque performers from around the world and and follows a trio of sexy super-spies as they seduce their way within killing distance of a trio of villainy hell bent on global Cold War domination. How can one not want to see a movie whose description provocatively teases: “WITNESS the fatal fan dance of Koko La Douce! BEHOLD the brutal boa striptease of Bombshell Belle! SEE Bourbon Sue, a bad girl with a taste for booze, boys and Rock & Roll. Experience the carnage and the cleavage as the enemies of The Burlesque Assassins discover that when it comes to these women, LOOKS CAN KILL!” Catch the trailer here.

Known for having the “mouth of a sailor” and the “voice of an angel,” Cora Vette will be on hand as pageant mistress of ceremonies on Saturday night. She performed for more than one million guests over three years as Tanya in MAMMA MIA! at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. She now runs a burlesque company called Black Box Burlesque and also has a troupe of male burlesque performers called Cora Vette’s Hot Rods. In fact, she may be one of burlesque’s most diverse talents, having also written two burlesque musicals, the critically acclaimed Victorian comic burlesque operetta, LEADVILLE OR BUST! and a pot opera called REEFER MANIA: DENVER’S GONE TO POT.

Cora Vette.

Notorious for her costumes, 2012 Southern Fried Burlesque Queen, Denver’s Orchid Mei, returns. She gracefully combines traditional Chinese dance with influences from classic burlesque femme fatales and has performed with the Dresden Dolls. Also back are last year’s best group, New Orleans’ Slow Burn Burlesque! Atlanta’s own lovely Talloolah Love and Knoxville’s Kisa Von Teasa will be featured performers at the Southern Scorcher showcase, hosted by Minette Magnifique‘s Baroness vonSchmalhausen which also includes Fonda Lingue, Ursula Undress and many more talented performers  from all over the Southeast!

late night Saturday. SFBF’s legends this year are Canada’s Judith Stein and Detroit’s Toni Elling, who will both be performing Friday. And that’s not even counting Atlanta’s New Orleans Jon, who emcees on Friday; all the way from Stockholm, Sweden, Adoria Amoria – if you had any doubt that the revival had reached Scandinavia; Knoxville’s Sweet Little Psycho Kisa Von Teasa, and many more.

Here’s a quick rundown of SFBF daily highlights:

Thursday March 21

SFBF kicks off with a happy hour mixer, which also will double as the monthly meet-up of the Atlanta Burlesque & Cabaret Club from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., then get a sneak peek at burlesque’s future stars at the Just Hatched Newcomers Showcase and watch the Atlanta premiere of BURLESQUE ASSASSINS at 10 pm.

Friday March 22

The festival teases into full gear with classes and vendors during the daytime, the Free Range International Showcase headlined by Roxi D’lite and featuring performances by local and national stars at 9 p.m. and an after-party at 11:30 p.m with music by Till Someone Loses An Eye featuring Kool Kat Aileen Loy and Good Golly Svengali.

Judith Stein.

Saturday March 23

Take classes and shop the vendors’ market during the daytime, then see some of the south’s and nation’s finest compete in the Southern Fried Burlesque Pageant, at 8 p.m. It’s hosted by Cora Vette with farewell performances by last year’s winners Orchid Mei and New Orleans’ Slow Burn BurlesqueThen close out the night with the Southern Scorcher Showcase at 11:30 p.m. featuring Talloolah Love, Kisa Von Teasa, Fonda Lingue, Ursula Undress and many more talented performers  from all over the Southeast!

Sunday March 24

Get your final shopping done and catch up with the performers before they leave town.

To purchase advance tickets and peruse the full class and event schedule with performer bios, visit www.southernfriedburlesquefest.com/. And for the latest updates and extras, be sure to friend SFBF on Facebook and follow on Twitter

All photographs are courtesy of Southern Fried Burlesque Festival and the performers pictured.

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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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Tis the Season to Be Sexy: The Second Annual Southern Fried Burlesque Fest Shimmies Into Decatur This Weekend

Posted on: Mar 8th, 2012 By:

Southern Fried Burlesque Fest; Thursday, March 8–Sunday, March 11, 2012; Courtyard Marriot and Conference Centre, 130 Clairemont Ave, Decatur, Georgia 30030; Weekend passes and show tickets available online and at the door. For more info, click here.

The Second Annual Southern Fried Burlesque Festival again is bringing the best performers from all over the world to Atlanta for a weekend full of sparkle, sizzle and spectacle!

Thursday night, the festival kicks off with Just Hatched, performances by new and promising performers (doors at 7 p.m.; show at 7:30 p.m.) Then at 9 p.m. Burlesque Legend Satan’s Angel takes the stage for “Have Tassels Will Travel, a One-Woman Improvisational play about the life and times of the star nicknamed “The Devils Own Mistress,” the Queen and originator of fire tassel twirling.  She has performed this act for over 40 years, lighting her tassels approximately 25,000 times all over the world.  The show chronicles Angel’s career from how she began stripping in 1961 in San Francisco, to a peek at how hers was no ordinary life. From following Bob Hope and the USO in Vietnam, appearing on the Gypsy Rose Lee television show, dating Clint Eastwood, Bobby Darin, Hedy Lamarr, and Janis Joplin, defying the convention of The Folies Bergéré in Paris, working with Ann Corio, Harold Minsky, Barry Ashton and running with The Rat Pack in Vegas, and two near death experiences.

Satan's Angel.

Friday Night brings The Free Range Burlesque International Showcase, featuring performances by Burlesque Legends Satan’s Angel, Shannon Doah and Gabriela Maze; neo-burlesque star such as Perle Noire, and headlined by Miss Exotic World 2002, Kitten De Ville (this week’s Kool Kat) as well as other amazing performers from all over the world! Last year’s Free Range was one of the best burlesque shows ever to grace an Atlanta stage, so in ATLRetro’s humble opinion, this show is not to be missed.

Saturday Night is the main event: The Southern Fried Burlesque Pageant has performers competing for Best Duet, Group, Variety and the Southern Fried Burlesque King and Queen!  The Pageant will also include a farewell performance by the first-ever Southern Fried Burlesque Queen, Siren Santina!  After the awards ceremony, let your hair down at the Southern Scorcher Showcase with performers from all over the Southeast, a special performance by Sadie Hawkins from Blast-Off! Burlesque, and headlined by Atlanta native, The Lady Ms. Vagina Jenkins!

Perle Noire.

Be sure to stop by Sunday, however, for a Burlesque Legends Panel at 1 p.m., with neoburlesque star Kitten DeVille and classic performers Satan’s Angel and Shannon Doah.

From Friday to Sunday, you can also sign up for lectures and classes for all skill and interest levels. Whether you are a history buff, into crafting costumes, want to learn the basics, or fine tune 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!

As lovely and talented festival producers Katherine Lashe and Ursula Undress of Syrens of the South remind us, 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.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Like a Burlesque Girl Should: Shaking, Rattlin’ and Rockin’ Out with Kitten DeVille on Neoburlesque’s Underground Roots, Lux Interior and Headlining Atlanta’s Southern Fried Burlesque Fest

Posted on: Mar 7th, 2012 By:

Kitten DeVille. Photo credit: Neil Kendall.

Anyone who’s spent any time watching Atlanta’s burlesque scene knows we have some amazing performers and troupes, but Southern Fried Burlesque Fest finally put Atlanta on the map as having its own weekender featuring nationally known stars, legends and local and regional performers. At last year’s premiere event, we had an amazing time watching some of the most creative acts ever to hit local stages and mixing and mingling over cocktails in between. So needless to say, ATLRetro can’t wait for the second annual festival this weekend (March 8-11) at the Courtyard Marriott/Decatur Conference Center.

Look out for a full preview soon, but in the true spirit of tease, we couldn’t wait to titillate you with an exclusive interview with headliner Kitten DeVille, Miss Exotic World 2002 and the Queen of the Quake. Kitten is the shake-rattle-and rock ‘n’ roll 3-D embodiment of the cat’s meow, the quintessential Kool Kat, and one of the key founders of the neo-burlesque revival. So listen up, kids, as she divulges some sexy secrets about the pioneer days of the early ’90s (to find out how Atlanta’s own burlesque revival began, check out Torchy Taboo‘s tale of the city’s first show here.), as well as what she’ll be up to this weekend. Oh, and we  just couldn’t resist asking her what it was like to shoot the “Ultra Twist” video with The CrampsLux Interior, Kitten and we miss you more than you could ever imagine!

ATLRetro: When you got started in burlesque, the art form was mostly dead. Yet around the country in the early-mid ‘90s, it seemed like there was almost a simultaneous energy to bring it back. Can you talk a little bit about the early days of the Burlesque revival and what inspired you to perform?

Kitten DeVille: At the time  I was go go dancing along with Michelle Carr at an underground gay club inLos Angeles called Club Fuck. I was collecting vintage men’s magazines and had always been inspired by the photos of burlesque dancers. Their photos seemed to capture  incredibly, fierce and glamourous women having  fun on their own terms. Their costumes inspired me to make all my go-go costumes in their style . When Michelle and Elvia ( the creators of [Los Angeles burlesque troupe] The Velvet Hammer) started talking about putting together a burlesque supper club I was sold on the idea. The first Velvet Hammer was held on Valentines Day 1995. Lux & [PoisonIvy (of The Cramps) were in the  sold-out audience. I was hooked from the very start – one-upping my costumes, always in search of the next song. Backstage was like a girls night out – champagne, laughter, catching up on the latest stories. (I still feel this way backstage today.)

Kitten DeVille Miss Exotic World 2002 Promo shot. Photo credit: Don Spiro.

Some things that were different in the start that maybe girls do not think about today [include]:

In the 1990s, there was really nowhere to go for  8x10s. There were no modern pin up photographers like there are today. We had to make it up as we went along, designing our shoots, telling them we wanted a certain mood and lighting. Most photographers did not ‘get it right off the bat.

There was no place to buy costumes. The lingerie industry was pretty boring, very plain compared to what is out there now (also pretty burlesque-inspired if you ask me). There are so many things that seem so common now that were really hard-to-find objects in the ’90s, from hair ornaments [to] shoes, clothing. Most things we could only obtain in vintage form; now there is so much off the rack .

At the 2000 Miss Exotic World & Tease-O-Rama in 2001 there were only a handful of neoburlesque girls. It was an exciting world to ourselves. Each year our numbers grew. We returned with new stories and adventures. Our world expanded. We helped each other along; we were inspired by the legends. We witnessed the burlesque explosion. It is pretty amazing to watch a scene grow, to be a part of it from the very beginnings. Because when you are in the midst of it, you do not understand that you are part of this history, that people will one day be inspired by you, that we were creating and forming this thing that has become modern burlesque. It is quite an honor.

What kinds of people came to those early Velvet Hammer shows?

Gays, straights, hipsters. We had an underground mixed crowd right from the start. It was its own scene. People dressed up. It was an event, a real night out on the town affair.

Today’s burlesque performers can learn their craft in classes through schools of burlesque such as yours. How did you develop your stage style and did you have any mentors/early inspirations/role models in the art of burlesque?

In 1994, when I started creating my first burlesque act, there was no YouTube and very little vintage burlesque easily available on video. I took what I saw in vintage burlesque  photos and blended it with what I believed they must have been doing on stage with their bodies and created my own style of burlesque. My main inspirations for my movements are Lilie Christine‘s photos and Lux Interior’s and Iggy Pop‘s no-holds-barred stage presence.

Kitten DeVille & Lux Interior.

What was it like working with the Cramps? 

Working and performing with the Cramps has been amazing and intimidating. I had been a huge fan of Lux and Ivy for years. At first, I felt so meek sitting in the same room with them. But they are such wonderful people, very friendly and funny.  At one point Lux was asking our opinion on which heels he should wear for the shoot and if we would mind doing an extra scene riding in a back of a convertible with them. Lux also liked to take 3D photos, and backstage at the Key Club, he was doing an impromptu photo shoot of Michelle and me when we opened for their show. Now that was a mix of horror and amazement because the event was over-sold so people were packed in standing room only from stage to exit and here we were opening for The Cramps!  Not really a burlesque show audience, people had only one thing on their minds and that was Lux & Poison or so it felt to me. I remember walking onto stage and looking into their faces. It seemed as if  half the audience was super into what I was doing  and half had that look of, “OK, now bring on The Cramps!  But the best thing from that night was what the DJ and some people in the booth overheard Lux saying to Ivy as they watched me perform. Lux had leaned over to Ivy and said  “now how are we going to follow that!”

What about being shot by Bunny Yeager and David LaChapelle?

Bunny Yeager is such a pro, such an eye and very easy to work with. I only wished I would have filmed the shoot so I could remember all the little tricks she was telling me, just an inch here or a hand held there. Her direction and photos came out flawless. I remember she kept wanting me to be naked and in the end I was. Ha ha, she has her ways of getting what she wants, and, well, it’s Bunny and who else should be the first photographer to shoot nude photos of me?!

David LaChapelle is so fun to work with. It is always a crazy party; you never know what to expect out of the day. I had first met him with a mutual friend  in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery watching movies being projected on the wall. He said that he liked the dress I was wearing and asked if he could put my number in his phone. I have done a few photos, videos and commercials with him. He is such an artist and very sweet.

What’s your favorite performance thus far and why? 

I cannot choose only one. Many of my performances have a special place in my heart for different reasons, but the one that shines is “The Casting Couch” that Dixie Evans personally taught to me back at the Ranch.  I love Dixie. She is the most enthusiastic, knowledgeable and kindest lady I have ever met in the field of burlesque. She is the glue that binds this whole scene from the beginnings to the modern day. When I was asked to perform a tribute number at the Burlesque Hall of Fame, I instantly chose Dixie.

I spent a couple  days with her teaching me her routine, filming her, taking down notes on what songs she had used. And in the end she was insistent that I finish the routine with something of myself, with my bumps and grinds, because she had said “no one can shake the way you shake and you have to make this your own.” So I added “The Man with the Golden Arm” song to the end and made her routine have a bit of myself mixed into it.  This is the only time I have ever performed someone else’s choreography and such a well-known routine.  Although it went off wonderfully, it was such a challenge of nerves to perform it in front of her and my peers at BHoF that I put the routine away for about five years. I brought it back out again for Viva Las Vegas and spent the next two years touring with it because I loved doing it so much. Funny how things go sometimes .

Kitten DeVille. Photo credit: Luca Rome.

For us East Coast Southerners, what’s the Rock & Roll StripShow, how did you get the idea and is that still happening?

The Rock & Roll StripShow is a joint effort of Joseph Brooks, Annie Sperling and myself. It came about because of a few different reasons. First, there are no large-venue burlesque shows in Los Angeles. Second I wanted to co-produce something with Joseph Brooks who is hugely responsible for the underground club scene in LA starting in the late 1980s which I loved dancing at. And thirdly I wanted to combine my two favorite worlds – rock  & roll and burlesque – something most people were not doing back in 2005. Rock & Roll StripShow features our own band and guest singers which have included David J of Bauhaus fame, Pearl Harbor, Kitten on the Keys and other wonderful  performers. We handpick a headliner roster of performers, and the night is filled with burlesque performances set to live Rock & Roll in a proper venue with amazing sound and lightin . It is a main event attracting everyone from Dita [Von Teese], David LaChapelle and a who’s who in LA  to attend. Right now we are looking to take StripShow on tour. We also want to attach it to larger burlesque or Rock & Roll festivals .

Kitten DeVille Onstage in New Orleans.

What will you be up to at Southern Fried Burlesque Fest?

I am performing on Friday night [at Free Range Burlesque] and judging the [Southern Fried Burlesque] Pageant on Saturday. I am also teaching two classes. I have a movement class [Sat. 3:15] that is guaranteed to have the students feeling their bodies,  and also a question/answer [Sat. 4:30 p.m.], ask-me-anything sort of a class that should be really fun because I never know what I will be asked and they maybe surprised by my answers.

What else, other than your own performance and classes, are you looking forward to the most at SFBF?

Watching the other performances. I love Perle [Perle Noire, the Black Pearl] and Angel [ Satan’s Angel]. They are both always so inspiring. I am excited to watch and meet all the wonderful  performers. My favorite things about festivals are meeting and making new friends. I have never been to Georgia before so I am also excited to be in a new place, to soak up my surrounding and sample the food.

You’re quite the multitalented Renaissance woman of burlesque. What else are you up to right now in movies, music, modeling?

I have been doing some interesting modeling work with Annie Sperling. I am in talks with a producer about doing  a TV show. I am thinking about doing some writing, and I am working on setting up another European tour for late summer early fall. I am also traveling the states doing festivals. I have Viva Las Vegas and the Texas Burlesque Festival in April and The Windy City Burlesque Festival in July .

What question does no one ever ask you that you wish someone did? And what’s the answer? 

Wow, what a great question! I think I am too much of a Scorpio to give away all my secrets, but now you have my mind spinning for the perfect question. I will have to get back to you on that one.

In addition to Kitten DeVille’s main Website, she invites you to enjoy more pics and clips at http://kittendeville.tumblr.com/.

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