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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Kool Kat of the Week: Sexual Healing: Kitty Love Celebrates the Goddess in Every Woman at Monthly Burlesque Sultry Sundays at Red Light Cafe

Posted on: Jan 9th, 2013 By:
Step right up to Kitty Love’s Sultry Sunday at Red Light Cafe. Atlanta finally has a monthly burlesque event again, which means that January is suddenly a lot warmer and less boring. This lovely Kitty is rustling up some mighty fine national and local performers for her next show this Sunday January 13 at 7 p.m. Headlining will be Russell Bruner, the Reigning King of Burlesque from the Burlesque Hall of Fame, plus the exotic Mistress Kali of New Orleans performing fire dance, Ursula Undress, Talloolah Love, recent Kool Kat Stormy Knight, bellydancer Haideh of Jahara Phoenix Dance Company, Madame X and Kitty Love herself. Syrens of the South‘s Katherine Lashe will be emcee, and also on the bill are song stylings from Lah Lah Luscious and magic from Chad Sanborn.

 

But what really jazzes us about Sultry Sundays and her other creative burlesque outlet, Cheeky Belles, is Kitty Love ‘s spiritual side. She reads Tarot cards and has been teaching sacred rituals and goddess mysteries since 2000. Given that she believes that “the healing of the world depends on the celebrating the goddess in every woman,” it kind of sounds like a church in celebration of the female body and spirit! Which makes her sound like the purr-fect Kool Kat of the Week!

 

ATLRetro: What’s Kitty Love’s Sultry Sunday? How did you get the idea, how does it differ from other local burlesque shows and how often is it going to happen?

Kitty Love’s Sultry Sunday is a monthly burlesque show on Second Sundays. I met the owner of the Red Light Cafe who invited me to produce burlesque shows on Sunday nights. Sultry Sunday is different in that it is in a cafe and intended to replace dinner and a movie. We are also an early show and hoping to appeal to people that can’t necessarily go out late night or on Friday and Saturday.

How did you personally get into burlesque, and what appeals to you about the art form?

I started as an exotic dancer in 1991. I have always loved to dance. I was not allowed to dance or have any dance training as a child, and stripping was the only dance career that was open to me.

My favorite part of a show is seeing excited women in the audience. I love burlesque because it is so empowering for women and not just the performers. I believe that a woman owning her sexual power in public is a revolutionary act! In 2007, I met Katherine Lashe and Talloolah Love at a burlesque meet-up and soon after attended every burlesque show that  I could find. I admired that Syrens of the South was so inclusive and fun, so I joined their first burlesque classes.  I made my debut with Syrens of the South in August 2008 as my comedic character Rosie Palms.

Can you name a favorite classic and a favorite contemporary performer who inspires you, and why?

My favorite classic performer is Gypsy Rose Lee because of her wit and sophistication. My favorite contemporary performer is The Lady Miss Vagina Jenkins.  She exudes sensuality and power.  She makes the audience feel the heat all the way to the back row.

What’s the story behind the stage name of Kitty Love?

“Kitty Love” is a metaphor for female pleasure.  I am a passionate advocate for female self pleasure. I have coached women as an “orgasm coach,” and my first advice is to practice!

This week’s performance features Reigning King of Burlesque Russell Bruner, Mistress Kali and an all-star cast of local performers. How do you decide who’s on the roster and can you share anything about what they’ll be doing?

I do not travel much, so this will be first time seeing Russell live and I am really looking forward to it!  It only took one video to convince me that he would create an amazing experience for our audience. Soon after I changed the date to January 13, Mistress Kali contacted me about performing in the show because she would be traveling this way with Russell. That’s why I am calling it my “Lucky 13” show.  Mistress Kali will be giving up the fire show.

I choose acts according to how they fit together to make a well-balanced show. But it’s not easy for me to decide; I’m a Pisces! In this show I am showcasing a lot my local friends that I met through Syrens of the South. For Cheeky Belles shows, which will be back in February, I like to showcase new performers from my classes and independent performers who really bring the heat!

Will you be performing yourself? If yes, without giving too much away, can you give us a tease of what your act will be like?

I will be performing.  I hope that my act inspires a lot of female pleasure!

What’s your favorite performance to date and why? 

My favorite performance to date was at the first Sultry Sunday. I did an improv with Paul Mercer and Regeana Campbell [The Changelings] performing live music. I love performing with Paul Mercer because it is always magical. I made my burlesque stage debut with Paul at an event in 2008.

At the last show, I had a very memorable moment! I love my mind and stepped onto a table and started dancing up there! Then I realized that I didn’t have a plan on how to get down. Fortunately, I picked a table full of friends and a gentlemen stood up to help me.

You also have been teaching sacred rituals and goddess mysteries since 2000 and believe that the healing of the world depends on celebrating the goddess in every woman. Have you always been drawn to this way of thinking or was there a specific incident or aha moment?

I have always been unconventional. In 1997, I read a book called APHRODITE’S DAUGHTERS about temple dancers in ancient India. Shortly after that, I dedicated my life to service of the sacred feminine.

How does this spiritual side dovetail with your burlesque?

I feel the most spiritually connected when I am dancing. Dance has been used in worship for thousands of years. I hope that I represent that Goddess energy when I am performing. I try to bring out the inner Goddess of my students so that they can learn to access that energy when they want.

Kitty Love. Photo credit: Kellyn Willey, PinUp Girl Cosmetics.

I teach my students to use the elemental energy in their bodies to enjoy their dancing. There are no choreographed routines or required dance moves. I call it sensual dance because it is about feeling good, not just looking good. My next classes start on January 13 at the Red Light Cafe. To register, contact me at misskittylove@gmail.com.

You also read Tarot cards. What’s your philosophy of approaching the cards, and how can someone get a reading from you?

I look at the cards as postcards from God. Everyone is here to learn on their journey, and the cards are like a map of what lessons are coming next and how to best approach them. I do readings at The Shelter for the monthly Ritual parties [the next, themed Gangster Speakeasy, is this Fri. Jan. 11] and at the Georgia Renaissance Festival in the spring. I am also available for private readings by appointment and at special events.

What’s next for Kitty Love?

I am developing Cheeky Belles into a community of like-minded performers that use dance as a spiritual expression.

Admission to Kitty Love’s Sultry Sunday is $20 at the door or $15 in advance (available on the Red Light Cafe website. And in case you wondered, the Red Light Cafe just got their liquor license!

Editor’s Note: The first photo also should be credited to Kellyn Willey, PinUp Girl Cosmetics. All artwork is courtesy of Kitty Love.

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