That bevy of Baltimore beauties known as Bawdy Shop Burlesque have a busy next few months. I recently got a chance to catch up with them and chat about their next show, Don’t Knock the Block and beyond.
What is Don’t Knock the Block and why is it called that?
Cherie Nuit: This show is a fundraiser to help support these living legends of burlesque and bring them to the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender Festival.
Ruby Rockafella: Charm City’s vibrant burlesque scene of today owes much to the (in)famous Block of yesterday, which gave rise to Blaze Starr, inspired HL Mencken to coin the term “ecdysiast” and where venues like the Two O’Clock Club got their sassy start. The Block is Baltimore’s strip club row, if you will.
Kay Sera: It’s dramatically smaller than it used to be. Many clubs have been shut down and that began in the 70s when burlesque had mostly disappeared and had been replaced by a different kind of strip club …
Do you know who the legends are that the money is being raised for?
Kay Sera: The Burlesque Hall of Fame will be posting the names of legends performing soon.
Cherie Nuit: There are still a few that perform.
Kay Sera: … and the funds go to help them–there are nearly 40 this year, the largest number ever! There will be folks from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s on stage at the 58th annual titans of tease.
Very cool! So for the unpopped pasties amongst us, what is this weekend like and about?
Kay Sera: The Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend is the world’s biggest, most prestigious burlesque gathering and also the longest running. Continuous since 1957, the weekend has its roots in BHoF founder Jennie Lee’s annual gathering of stars from the art’s heyday. Since Jennie’s passing in 1990, Dixie Evans upheld that dream, growing the reunion from a private gathering of retired dancers and performers into the internationally renowned four-day Las Vegas extravaganza now known as the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend.
Is it broken up into different segments? You mentioned Titans of Tease …
Cherie Nuit: Yes, that is correct. It spans over a weekend and there are multiple nights.
Kay Sera: The Burlesque Hall of Fame celebrates its 50th anniversary at the museum’s annual Weekender event, Thursday, June 4–Sunday, June 7th at The Orleans Hotel & Casino Las Vegas. Thursday’s Movers, Shakers and Innovators show features international performances from burlesque’s cutting-edge. Friday’s 58th “Titans of Tease” Reunion brings together classic stars from burlesque’s heyday, showcasing vintage-style striptease. Saturday’s 25th Annual Tournament of Tease puts the world’s top burlesque entertainers in competition for best debut, small group, large group and boylesque categories, and for the coveted title “Miss Exotic World,” the Reigning Queen of Burlesque. Sunday’s All-Stars & Icons Gala rounds out the weekend with a spectacular line-up of inspirational icons and BHoF titleholders past and present, including the largest gathering of Miss Exotic Worlds in history.
And speaking of a bazillion performers you all have about that many for Don’t Knock the Block …
Kay Sera: Yes, we have more than 20 involved. It is, to our knowledge, the largest burlesque and variety show in B’more history.
Cherie Nuit: Exactly! And it is a wide variety of performers as well.
Sunny Sighed: We wanted to get as much of the local community involved as is humanly possible! I’m working on a brand new act with Bal’d Lightning; it’s going to be epic. EPIC! EEEEPPIIIICC!!!
OMFG, I got it!
Ruby Rockafella: I am also working on a new act.
Is everyone performing burlesque or are there other variety artists?
Cherie Nuit: There are definitely Variety Acts.
Ruby Rockafella: Comedy, sideshow, go go dancers …
Giddy Go Go: And some surprises to be announced!
Cherie Nuit: We wanted to ensure it represented the community as a whole.
Kay Sera: We will also have an exhibit of regional burlesque memorabilia curated by BurlyQNell.
Ruby Rockafella: And amazing raffles!
Kay Sera: OMG, the raffles!
Giddy Go Go: Three raffles!
Cherie Nuit: AMAZING prizes!
Can you give us an example?
Cherie Nuit: Like, goes on forever.
Ruby Rockafella: Photo prints from Sean Schiedt’s (link NSFW-ish) before and after burlesque series.
Kay Sera: Not to mention all the cool stuff from the performers!
What do you think makes an act a “classic”?
Ruby Rockafella: I think these days it’s all about doing something clever within the act if you want to do a classic bump and grind, find something creative to do within the act that sets you apart from just the regular ole glove peel.
Kay Sera: Originality and ownership – meaning even a “classic” act, in the sense of a bump and grind, stroll and peel, can be made unique by the performer who owns it.
Sunny Sighed: Also stage presence and purpose.
Giddy Go Go: Originality and confidence – own what you’re doing.
Cherie Nuit: I think classic can be defined as the type of burlesque that is highly glamorous. I think “classic” is a style that comes from the hyper feminine. It can apply to both classic and neo-burlesque but is quintessential to classic. In neo we play with those roles and identities. Classic is the hyper feminine while neo bends and explores the boundaries of sex and sensuality gender identity, power, and character are all topics often explored in a neo context but that boundary can be blurry!
Does it have to be hyper feminine? What about the boys?
Kay Sera: Burlesque is, at its core, low art mocking the high. Men in early burlesque were mostly of the vaudeville style.
Sunny Sighed: Boylesquers are really burlesquing burlesque.
Cherie Nuit: There is still something hyper feminine even in boylesque, and it is that exploration that makes it neo.
Kay Sera: Not all, of course. Bic Carrol was a male stripper, through and through.
Ruby Rockafella: And you know … Magic Mike, kidding!
Giddy Go Go: XXL!
What’s up next for Bawdy Shop?
Kay Sera: We’re wrapping up a series of burlesque classes called “Work Dat Bawdy.”
Cherie Nuit: Class One was all about the face and mind (burlesque from the neck up) and that was taught by Kay and Ruby, Class Two was all about acting and theatrical technique and that was taught by Sunny and me. Today is about marketing and professionalism and that is taught by Kay and Giddy, and the final session is a peer review with everyone!
Cherie Nuit: Great Big Scripted Show!
Sunny Sighed: We’re currently working on our second scripted show.
Kay Sera: We have a show at The Creative Alliance – said Great Big Scripted Show on July 3, 2015.
Sunny Sighed: Also WORLD DOMINATION. I mean … what?
Cherie Nuit: That too!
This event is for 18 and over.