This year’s Florida Burlesque Festival at Cinema Paradiso in Fort Lauderdale was proof that sexy comes in all different shapes and sizes. Performers like Dirty Martini — “Miss 44 and a whole lot more” — and burlesque legend Dusty Summers (who is still stripping in her 60s) prove that the art form is more about confidence and creativity than beauty.
Saturday night, I was so impressed by every single performer that I couldn’t pick a favorite. Pretty Boy Rock from Comedy Central was the MC on both nights and kept me laughing for all three hours. After Yummy Hearts did a traditional Chinese ribbon dance using rainbow-colored ribbon, Rock followed with, “Not hiring her for next year’s gay festival would be a mistake.” His sassy and sultry satire was a perfect addition to the night and included three costume changes. Rock opened with a glittery, rainbow-colored bow tie and a red feather boa, then made a grand finish in pink and silver.
Dirty Martini, who headlined the event, opened with a tribute to Mae West and captured the spirit of the weekend, which was to honor and preserve an authentic-style burlesque from the Golden Era. Not only did producer Bambi La Fleur show a slideshow presentation to honor model and photographer Bunny Yeager but many of the women also celebrated icons of the past, including Madeline Sinclaire, who did a tribute to Bettie Page.
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Since I love music from the ’40s and ’50s, I personally appreciated that almost all of the acts were done to jazz, big band, or blues songs by greats like Ella Fitzgerald. Judy Patootie impressed me with her creativity by doing an act to the song “Blueberry Hill” by Fats Domino and dressing up as Violet, from the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, who turns into a blueberry. After chewing a piece of gum, her outfit inflated into a blue balloon, but she later squeezed it off down to a dazzling violet ensemble.
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Dixie Dynamite and Rose Rainbow, who came all the way from Germany, did multiple shows together, performing a military-inspired striptease on Friday night, then a dance to the song “Queen of the House” as French maids on Saturday.
Angeliki, who was a favorite from last year’s festival, returned doing her jaw-dropping fire and fan dance. And King of Boylesque, Ray Gunn, brought an impressive routine where he enters the stage on his two hands, strips down to his bare buns via backflips, and then ends the scene how he started: standing on his two hands, showing off a sign “The End” on his package.
I suppose the only unauthentic acts that diverted from a true vaudeville style were those that included puppets — which I didn’t expect to be in a burlesque show. Rose Rainbow and Dirty Martini incorporated this new trend into the show. Dirty Martini ended the evening with a sensual and humorous act in which she has a swan hand puppet undress her, even pulling off her
There were 20 acts on Saturday and more than 25 performers over both nights, giving the audience more variety than it could ever ask for. All said and done, the entire event was glamorous, classy, cultured, creative, surprising, and sentimental. I walked away wishing and hoping for more live entertainment such as this in South Florida.