Bristol's Badass Burlesque Show
As much as our history is Tempest Storm, Lili St.Cyr and Gypsy Rose Lee, and our current icons are Dirty Martini, Julie Atlas Muz and oh hell, why not, Dita Von Teese, there is a chapter that I feel is over looked and unloved. The 90’s.
The 90’s brought, along with flannel and Eddie Vedder’s wail, a whole new breed of stripper. I’m not here to go in to the whole history, it’s far too broad and varied, but to look at what changed.
I think there may have been a visual fatigue in 90’s strip clubs. The frosted blonde hair and neon bikinis had spandexed themselves in to a creative cul-de-sac. I think the dancers got bored before the audience did. Same songs, same hair, same shoes and no more feature dancers. The thrill was gone. Meanwhile, out-of-left-field, East Village performance artists are filling in financial and creative gaps by dancing in Strip Clubs.
Strippers are, as we know, a creative people, we frequently come to Burlesque or Striptease after exhausting the creative avenues of other fields or performance. So what are you going to do? Crack out that sewing machine.
This is where it gets interesting. Sometimes something is so good and so much a product of its time that it happens simultaneously in many places. Dita Von Teese was dying her hair black and working a vintage look in Los Angeles strip clubs (as I learned from watching VH1’s Behind the Music: Dita Von Teese, don’t judge me.)
Michelle Carr was using her Rock Promoter connections to create Velvet Hammer.
Which frequently featured Kitten DeVille who was shaking it with Rockabilly bands on the Sunset Strip and recreating the concept of Go-Go.
World Famous Bob, Miss Astrid, Selena Luna and Princess Farhana all became more prominent at this time, shaking it on out and creating modern, West coast Burlesque.
Now move your finger East and down on the map. Dirty South! Lorelei Fuller was leading the Shim Shamettes in a Burlesque revue in New Orleans. The show that inspired me.
Mistress Otter and Squishy are pushing things to a whole ‘nother level at Big Daddy’s on Bourbon Street, covered here in the Times-Picayune.
New York? New York was doing what it always does, pouring it all together in to one melting pot of drag and performance art, applying pressure and creating the diamonds that are Dirty Martini and Julie Atlas Muz.
I’m not trying to present an academic article here or a perfect timeline. I’m telling you to not overlook recent history. The women that cut the path for us are walking and booty shaking among us. Be sure to shake their hand, buy them a glass of Champagne and thank them.