This state's very first Florida Burlesque Festival will take place this weekend at Fort Lauderdale's eccentric hot-spot Cinema Paradiso. Before you start thinking it's just another cheap peep show adorned with pasties and glitter, executive producer Bambi LaFleur is quick to dispel any misconceptions.
"As many people in Florida don't know," she began in her breathy voice," around the world and in the U.S., there are strong communities that have burlesque fests. It doesn't seem right that we don't celebrate it here. I wanted to bring it back for that reason," she continued, laughingly adding: "Most people think it's the movie [2010's Burlesque]. It's not the movie! The movie has nothing to do what burlesque really is."
In fact, the fest has a local and personal slant. It's dedicated to late pinup model and photographer Bunny Yeager, a friend of LaFleur's who passed away this May.
Yeager is best-known for her photos of Bettie Page and titillating pics of herself that were featured in Playboy, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Pageant and Redbook.
LaFluer also stressed that the intention of the fest is to bring back the glamour of costumes from the '40s and '50s and to empower females in a setting evocative of that golden age of burlesque. She wants to celebrate performers and pinup girls like Dixie Evans, Bettie Page, Dusty Summers, Big Fannie Annie, and, of course, Bunny Yeager.
"The purpose is to bring something beautiful and new to the Floridians so we can enjoy it. Why don't we have it here? Someone has to do it, and I guess that's me. I promised the legend [Bambi Jones, who is still alive] that I would bring burlesque back to life. And that's what I'm doing."
Regarding her role, LaFleur wears many hats -- literally and figuratively. She is the organizer of the whole event, and she is doing her own show on Saturday night. Also performing is Ophelia Flame, first runner-up for Queen of Burlesque at the Burlesque Hall of Fame, and the 2013 King of Burlesque, Ray Gunn.
The impressive lineup for this weekend includes comedians, vaudeville acts, Las Vegas personality Blanche DeBris Burlesque, and some of 21st Century Burlesque Magazine's Top 50 World Burlesque Performers such as Bazuka Joe, the Schlep Sisters, Minnie Tonka, and Darlinda Just Darlinda. And no, Christina Aguilera and Cher will not be in attendance.
Florida Burlesque Festival, 8-10 p.m., September 5 and 6, at Cinema Paradiso, 503 SE Sixth St., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $30 for general admission and $50 for VIP. Visit floridaburlesquefestival.com and brownpapertickets.com.