The Florida Burlesque Festival This Weekend at Cinema Paradiso

These days, burlesque is largely known for its striptease, filled with beautiful costumes and tantalizing dances. But originally burlesque, which by definition means parody, began as a comedy act where men and women performed satirical social commentaries on culture. By the time of the Great Depression, vaudeville variety shows included acrobatics, singing, comedy, plays, magic, and the scantily clad beauties. This was known as the “Golden Era” of burlesque, and performer and producer of the Florida Burlesque Festival, Bambi La Fleur, is preserving this original style and bringing it to Florida audiences on Friday and Saturday at the Cinema Paradiso in Fort Lauderdale. Though many modern acts have strayed from the original concepts, putting their own spin on an old pastime, La Fleur is committed to producing what she calls “true burlesque.”

“If you study the history of burlesque, it’s got very little to do with sexuality,” she says. “It has more to do with the art of imitation, elaboration, and theatrics. Today, burlesque has branched into several different arenas, like nerdesque burlesque, where a woman in a Wonder Woman costume strips — grotesque burlesque, where the girl grosses the audience out. That is not burlesque. I call that performance art.”

Dedicated to bringing Florida audiences a true variety show based on a glamorous history, La Fleur decided to bring the Florida Burlesque Festival back for its second year. For 2015, she is dedicating the show to Miami native, model, and photographer Bunny Yeager, who passed away last year. The show will open with a slideshow presentation of her work that will include photos of Bettie Page — whom she is most widely known for shooting.

“Every year going forward with the burlesque festival, I plan to begin it with a tribute to Bunny to keep her name alive,” La Fleur says. “Unfortunately, I think more people know who Betty Page was than Bunny, and really Bunny was the master behind it all.”

Headlining the show is Dirty Martini from the Dita Von Teese Tour, Ray Gun the King of Boylesque, and Pretty Boy Rock from Comedy Central who will MC the evening. La Fleur will be on stage as well performing her original carousel horse routine.

“We are trying to make it true to a real Vaudeville experience,” La Fleur says. “It’s not just strictly the stripping. You are going to see what’s common from the 30s and 40s when you would go to the theater and see a show. There will be comedy, magic, music, and burlesque of all types. Everybody has their own gimmick, and it will be done differently by every artist.”

Both Friday and Saturday night have the same lineup of performers, but they may do different acts on each night. So if you want to make a weekend out of it, you can. Tickets are divided up into three levels — Swarovski Crystal for $100 (which is guaranteed front row seating), VIP for $55, and general admission for $35. But those seated in the front row shouldn’t expect to be treated to a strip show.

“I think a woman’s sexuality can be more sexy showing very little than showing it all,” La Fleur says. “My mom always said, ‘Keep them wondering.’ You gotta make people wonder or be excited about something — not necessarily sexually excited — but there has to be an element of surprise in there. And that’s the beauty of burlesque.”

Florida Burlesque Festival, 8 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, September 4 and 5. Cinema Paradiso, 503 SE Sixth St., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $35 to $100. Visit or
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Michelle de Carion