Bring on the dancing girls

You could see more skin, but you couldn't have more fun

You can watch burlesque seven nights a week in Los Angeles and never see the same thing twice.

You won’t see any strippers, either. The only thing hardcore about these dancers are their hoofing skills.

Never a hub during the heyday of burlesque, Los Angeles is making up for lost time. Trendspotting pushed the revival into the mainstream as Forty Deuce expanded to Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas and became a limited-run Bravo reality series. The Pussycat Dolls are now 21st-century Spice Girls with the hit single “Don’t Cha” and have their own lounge in Caesars Palace.

However, local girlie shows continue to grow and morph, taking on forms that bear little resemblance to the early work of Lili St. Cyr and Tempest Storm.

“I had an act about Joe (DiMaggio) and Marilyn,” says Dixie Evans. Born and raised in Long Beach, she grew up to become the dancer billed by Harold Minsky as “The Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque.”

At 79, she can still mimic Monroe’s breathy little-girl delivery: “You’ve gone off and left me flat/I’m sure glad you left your bat.”

That was the extent of the raunch. “We wanted to put on an act to entertain you,” says Evans, who now oversees the Exotic World Burlesque Museum in Helendale, Calif. “Strippers — that’s just sex and money.”

Ivan Kane and his wife, former ecdysiast Champagne Suzy, fan the flame of modern-day burlesque four nights a week at Forty Deuce. They’ve just launched “Royal Jelly” on Wednesday nights, which features dancers who striptease in spotlights that seem to beam them across the club.

“Women love it,” says Suzy, who adds that they comprise as much as 65% of their audience. “We have parents come. You can see anything you want on the Internet, but I think people have nostalgia (for) the lost art of flirtation.”

It’s also a chance to create something new. “It’s not that I don’t find it interesting, but I’m not a Civil War re-creator,” says Bella Baretta, who oversees the Pin-Down Dolls, a dance troupe in which the girls aren’t afraid to stomp as well as bump and grind.

“Lucha Va Voom,” which just closed a two-night stand at the Mayan, will now take its patent-pending blend of Mexican wrestlers and dancing girls to the Comedy Festival in Las Vegas. And Harvelle’s hosts “The Toledo Show,” a long-running freeform funk cabaret with a tight six-piece combo and bandleader Toledo’s slithering, Fosse-infused dancers.

“The dames are no joke,” says Toledo.

In a feat of reverse engineering, even local porn stars have turned to a kind of burlesque with “Porn Star Karaoke,” which began two years ago as a way for denizens of the adult industry to blow off steam. Straights now make up as much as half of the PSK audience, but anyone expecting to see live re-enactments of their favorite scenes will be disappointed.

Sardo’s owner Seymour Satin is quick to point out that while PSK may be burlesque in spirit, it definitely isn’t in the flesh. Burlesque is illegal in Burbank, and no matter what the performers do for work, at Sardo’s they stay fully clothed.

“At first, we had people flashing,” says porn director and PSK emcee Wankus. “We had to tell them, ‘Get as crazy as you want, but keep your clothes on.'”

V Life Weekend uncovers the girlie shows

Royal Jelly ($10; call 323-465-4242 for reservations a must)
Location: Forty Deuce, 5574 Melrose Ave., Hollywood
Raunch Factor
What to See
Wednesdays (Luscious Peaches play Thurs.-Sat.) “The emphasis is on the strip rather than the tease,” says Champagne Suzy, but flesh flashes are oh-so-brief. Ivan Kane says it’s his take on “Flashdance,” but he damns with faint praise. This show is a knockout. Girls mysteriously pop up in every corner of the tiny club, including the rafters.
The Toledo Show ($7)
Location: Harvelle’s, 1432 4th St., Santa Monica
Raunch Factor
What to See
Sundays Hot. Costumes evoke “Chicago” with a few more holes in the fishnets, but these dancers get in your face. It’s more a floor show than a full-fledged burlesque, but Toledo’s magnetic performance means you won’t get the short shrift. As Toledo croons “Hot Box Cigarette,” dancer Mindy pours herself onto the bar, customers and their drinks be damned
Porn Star Karaoke (No cover)
Location: Sardo’s, 259 N. Pass Ave., Burbank
Raunch Factor
What to See
Tuesdays, although Sardo’s has karaoke every night Virtually non-existent, unless you catch one of the porn DVDs that emcee Wankus occasionally throws into the crowd. Porn stars with their clothes on, singing their old-fashioned hearts out. And yes, they can sing. The aud’s freestyling burlesque that accompanies “Baby’s Got Back”; Olivia O’Lovely’s take on “White Rabbit.”
The Pin-Down Dolls (No cover, but pony up when they pass the hat)
Location: The Derby, 4500 Los Feliz Blvd.,Los Feliz
Raunch Factor
What to See
Mondays Highest of the bunch. While some never drop their tops, others send their sequined pasties twirling. The show changes every week, but expect old-school burlesque and plenty of jiggle – not to mention tattoos. A recent birthday show for dancer Ruby White, scored to songs by the White Stripes.
Lucha Va Voom ($30-$50)
Location: The Mayan Theater, 1038 S. Hill St., Downtown
Raunch Factor
What to See
Plays Halloween and Valentine’s Day shows every year Raucous and bizarre. “Audiences are not well behaved,” says Vera Duffy, half of the Poubelle Twins. “They’re completely rowdy and out of control, and we love it. Lucha Libre wrestlers, alternating with elaborate stripteases. Sometimes the lines blur and you get wrestling strippers, but you’ll never get silicone. Lucha co-founder Rita D’Albert’s Ursulina, who goes from Victorian widow to sequin-bikinied go-go girl in platform combat boots and a horse tail.

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 0

Leave a Reply

No Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More Scene News from Variety