It has been almost two weeks since Girlesque 13 in Toronto, and i am still coming down off the glittery high. When Mysterion The Mind Reader (founder of Great Canadian Burlesque) booked me for the show, I was excited beyond words for two reasons. This was my first burlesque festival... As a starving performing artist in the middle of the prairies, its not easy travelling to the distant festivals. Also, it was an opportunity to further put Winnipeg on the burlesque map.
I'm going to start from the beginning, as the adventure started from the moment i set foot on the plane and sat next to 73 year old Petrina Hodges from England. "Why are you off to Toronto?" She asked. "Because I'm a burlesque dancer and I'm going to be in a festival!" I am obviously unable to contain my excitement. "Oh i knew that dear the moment i laid eyes on you." She said very matter of fact.
"Why are you going to Toronto?" I asked.
"Because I'm meeting my family for the first time ever!" She exclaims, unable to hide her excitement as well.
|Me and Petrina|
I arrive in Toronto only to learn my planned ride had fallen through, this is the beginning of a series of comedy of errors, which only make this story better. I hop in a cab and it's off to the famous El Mocambo, also a place my mom used to hang out in her college days.
When i arrive I'm reunited with my Burly Family. People i adore and share a very naked (literally) familiarity with from the backstage. My favourite part about doing shows in Toronto is the naked, glittery, feathery excitement backstage. Where i remember such quotes as "Not enough glitter" and "She almost lost her nipples" (Canadian Wolfman recounting when a burlesque dancer used rubber cement to attach her pasties). Backstage is where you see the guts of burlesque. But i digress...
Mysterion tells me to doll myself up and go mingle with the crowd. I'm dragging my bags to the backstage area when to my right i see... Tempest Storm. The burlesque legend, and one of my biggest inspirations! As well, Tiffany Carter Miss Nude Universe 1975, is sitting right next to her. Can it get any better? Yes it does.
Tempest's face starts to turn towards me... I hide my face and push forward to the backstage area... I have this idea in my head that i must present myself to Tempest Storm in full Miss La Muse glamour!
As i step through the curtain i immediately bump into Jo Boobs Weldon... Okay, seriously, my panties are wet at this point. I already knew what i was going to say to her as well... On the flight i had a Nancy Drew moment as i was scrolling over Jo's book The Burlesque Handbook. In the book she mentions a stripper who used to perform with a white tiger, but her name at the time she could not remember. I suddenly remembered a story the owner, John, of Alive In The District was telling me when he booked me for NYE. He told me one of his ex girlfriends was friends with a stripper who performed with a white tiger. A few texts later i knew her name, Jane Jones. So i asked Jo "does Jane Jones mean anything to you?" and she was delighted.
Everyone backstage was a peach! I sat down at the makeup mirror next to a stunning, sparkling creature. She turns to me and in a soft Marilyn type voice says "Hi hunny, whats your name?"
"I'm Miss La Muse, whats yours?"
"I'm Bambi La Fluer."
I had heard of Bambi before, and knew she was a class act. I'm giggling and my brain is sizzling as Bambi and i share a glass of wine at the makeup mirror. (Bambi was an absolute doll and i would like to credit her for the great advice she gave me throughout the weekend as well).
Mysterion rushes me out. Oh yea, I have to mingle! I'm wearing my favourite dress from The Foxy Shoppe, it's black and baby blue, with vintage black leather gloves, black studded heels and a black hair snood with a big burgundy flower. I approach Tempest Storm, she looks up at me and smiles, and i reach out to hold her hand and say hello... I find myself bowing my head like I'm meeting the Queen of England. We exchange pleasantries and then the show begins. Everyones act was fun and fearless! Jo Boobs was a shimmying delight! At about this time I'm joined by Gio... It's actually my first time meeting him. He saw me perform last time i was in Toronto and then we connected on face book. I agreed to meet him while i was in town. Gio is in a punk band called Skunx. He's tall, solid build, Latino and shaven head.
|My outfit & Bambi La Fluer|
The show ends and I'm realising how burnt out i am. I only had brunch and the trip has taken its toll on me. Mysterion tells me there is a change of plans and instead of staying at his place, he's put me up in a hotel. I will be sharing a room with burlesque headliner CoCo Lectric... Effing sweet. But at this point Mysterion is also quite inebriated and he doesn't want to get something to eat. I also cant leave without him because he has to check me into the hotel. Gio suggests we go just two doors down. I tell Mysterion i wont be far and go. Gio and i are joined by the delectable Miss Mitzy Cream and Tanya Cheex. Both burlesque hall of famers.
By the time the food arrives i check in on Mysterion... They have left... Also the hotel is insisting i don't have a room booked in my name. I'm worn out, there is some commotion trying to resolve the problem but so far no one is coming to my rescue.
"You can stay with me. I have a spare room." Gio offers.
I stare at him suspiciously. Hmmm, stranger danger?... Well, I'm out of options. So off i go with Gio.
We arrive at Gio's. It's a basement apartment... and covered in porn. Porn on the walls, porn on the fridge, porn everywhere. But it's mostly retro 70's porn...And there are a few pictures of Marilyn Monroe as well. So i rationalise he at least has some class in his artful taste in porn. He sets me up in the spare room with lots of blankets, pillows and a heater. I'm just thankful to have a bed.
Gio turned out to be a gentleman, he really took care of me. Next day he left me the keys, his tablet so i could find my way around the city and invited me to the restaurant he manages for breakfast. I have no time for breakfast though, i am on my way to Jo Boobs workshop. Tassel twirling! Which was the most fun I've ever had in a room full of naked girls... And i find myself in that situation often. My favourite new moves learned was one that was passed down from Tura Satana, which engages the peck muscles and you really look like you are rocking out while doing it. And the ass tassels. Imagine a big group of girls with a tassel on each bum cheek and Jo Boobs instructing "Now wag your bum like a happy dog and say 'happy! happy! happy!'" and the group starts vigorously wagging "Happy! Happy! Happy!".... "Now run in one spot like a football player!"
Too much fun.
Fast forward, I'm at the Mod Club with my burly family and enjoying the stellar show, day two of Girlesque! I join my friend Ross Thompson of Rawesome Photography, who is always a welcome sight at a show because you know he is going to catch your best moment on stage! I am blown away by Tiffany Carters performance. Soon to follow, Tempest Storm takes the stage, her arms linked with Mysterion.
"Isn't he great?" She asks the audience.
And the answer is yes. Although i hate it when he pinches my cheeks, he has been a true friend to me and i can always rely on him for advice. He tells it like it is, and i respect that.
Back to Tempest Storm... She is radiating! As she was recovering from an injury, she could not perform. But she got up there in dazzling costume and then teased us with a little bit of wiggling and shimmying her swarovski crystal studded bra. Tempest Storm is over 80 and she's still got it.
|Tempest Storm and Mysterion The Mind Reader|
|Me with Tempest Storm.|
Day 3 of Girlesque 13. An Intimate Moment With Tempest Storm & The Night I Perform:
This is a day i will never forget. I woke up early dispite having only had a few short hours of sleep after a pretty swank hot tub after party. Not only was i going to perform that night, i was about to go meet Tempest Storm. She and her manager were hosting a meet and greet at a nearby studio. What a way to start my day!
Naturally i am the first person there.
After a short wait Tempest Storm arrives with her arms linked to Mysterion. She is moving slowly, she seems fragile this morning and yet i imagine she insisted on wearing her heels; but she looks dynamite and her spirit is strong.
"You should sit on my lap." Mysterion says
"That's better!" Tempest Storm snaps back with a laugh.
She is wearing a leopard print long coat, a black and white polka-dot dress by Bettie Page and red cow boy boots.
She is joined by her manager Harvey Robbins, and Teddy her driver. Teddy comments on how lovely i look this morning. I find myself blushing. Teddy is an older, very dapper looking gentleman. He takes off his fedora hat and combs his silver hair back. He seriously looks like some film noir star from old Hollywood. I suspect he is too good looking to be just the driver, but that's my romanced opinion.
Harvey starts the conversation by telling the story of how he first saw Tempest Storm. He was 16 and heard she was coming to his town. It was the first time ever he played hooky at school. Ran home, put on his dads blazer and sunglasses and went to the theatre to buy a ticket.
"They would have sold me a ticket if i was a foetus." He laughed.
He said watching her dance changed him forever. Later in life he became a producer for an oldies tour of sorts. He got involved in something to do with rockabilly and burlesque, which he was told would feature Tempest Storm, but he thought it was too good to be true.
It was on a cruise ship. He was onstage, the bright lights in his face, the audience a black wall, and he began to tell the tale of being 16 and sneaking off to watch Tempest Storm, and the profound affect it had on him. Suddenly out of the darkness he saw two arms reach out, and then her face, and he said he was 16 again at that moment. Tempest got up there and hugged him and then asked him to dance. As they were dancing she asked him to be her manager.
Now Tempest takes over. She shared her life with us... Around the age of 20, still in Eastman, Georgia.
"A town so small, if you blinked while driving you would miss it"
She decided she wanted to be a movie star and moved to Hollywood. She got stuck working as a cocktail waitress, but a regular suggested she do burlesque at a nearby theatre.
"Taking off your clothes."
"My mother would kill me."
She went and asked them if she was too top heavy for the job. You see, she was repeatedly being told she was too top heavy for acting roles in auditions.
"You are never too top heavy for this job." Was her answer.
Still, she wasn't ready to do burlesque yet. And took a position as a chorus girl at the theatre instead. When they told her they would fix her crooked teeth and up her weekly pay to $60 (which was alot of money at that time) she said "I'll take it!"
It was suggested her stage name be Sunny Day.
"I didn't feel like a Sunny Day." She told the group.
Tempest Storm was the next suggestion and she said "It described me very well and it was unforgettable."
It wasn't until her idol, Lily St. Cyr pushed her with alot of backhanded comments, that she began working with a choreographer and then she really started getting confident.
And when she was invited to make an appearance at a Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis show, she made the paper the next day. That's when her fame really shot up.
Tempest Storm gave some great advice too. It was all burlesque performers present, so we were eager to pick her brain about how to perfect our craft. I think we were all excited to be able to be so engaged in discussion and debate with a legend. For example, Tempest Storm was appalled that we throw, toss or drop our garments on the floor.
"Those are your beautiful, expensive garments. You shouldn't toss them on the dirty floor." She said. Insisting we should have a 'garment catcher' (usually someone dressed in neutral black, or gussied up as fancy as the performer) to take them from you, or a chair or basket to put them on.
She never drank, smoked or did drugs.
"I hope I'm an inspiration to you all. Work hard, live a clean life and be dedicated to your craft."
We begged her for some beauty tips, and she said she was always a fan of creams. She said she puts on three different creams at once, one is a serum, and she mentioned Estee Lauder specifically. (So lots of cream ladies!)
She also instructed: "Never go to bed with your makeup on. Although sometimes you have too... And you can take that however way you want."
Always sassy and confident... Tempest Storm attracted some powerful men.
She met Elvis Presley in 1957. He went backstage after her show at the Minsky Review and then it turned into a photo op with lots of photographers flashing away. They hadn't said much to each other yet, and after awhile she asked.
"Is this going to take long?"
She then left to join some friends who had been waiting for her. Elvis followed, and kneeled next to her.
"Can i join you?" He asked.
That's when the romance started. He was 22 and she was 29. They were together for two years.
I put up my hand like a student in class.
"Miss Storm, i think i speak for everyone when i ask what was he like? What was Elvis Presley like?" I ask, giggling. All the other women are nodding frantically.
"What do you mean?"
"In bed. We want to know what Elvis was like in bed." I really want to know, and i want details. I'm pretty confident asking her this question.
Tempest Storm smiles. She pauses in thought.
"I taught him everything he knew." She cooed.
We are clapping our hands and laughing with delight.
She was with Elvis for two years.
"I knew him till the end. We were friends. And it was the drugs that did him in. I was always so shocked he got into the drugs, i think it was those doctors that got him hooked. But i was always surprised he got into it because he was such a nice southern gentleman."
She repeated the latter. "He was such a nice southern gentleman." There is a hint of sadness in her voice.
Harvey brings up her other love affairs. She perks, but insists with a soft laugh she is a bit shy to talk about it.
Tempest Storm on President Kennedy: "He was a tough act to follow after all the other presidents."
We want to know if Tempest could change anything about how we perform burlesque now, what would it be. Besides the tossing of garments on the floor.
"Always be classy. You don't have to vulgar."
Tempest Storm is passionate about the old classic era of burlesque. And that's how she feels it should be. She admitted she is not such a big fan of the raunchier acts we tend to see in the neo-burlesque era that is now. She also wants to see performers being expressive and engaging the audience.
This speaks to my heart, as i have always felt like an old soul. This also fuels me with excitement about my upcoming performance later that night, as i chose a burlesque act that is just that, classic style, to pay homage to the old burlesque queens. My inspirations. I think she will approve.
Fast forward to later that night at The Mod Club. I am the third last act... It's been a long wait, but i am grateful for it. I'm usually very bubbly backstage but i am in my head. I am too distracted to take in all of the show, but i couldn't look away from Lucky Minx's burlesque routine to the bluesy song Storm Weather. Her costume looked couture and she was rigged to a harness and lifted herself about two stories above the audiences heads... The song warbling those sultry, sad words "Stormy weather...Since my man and i ain't together, keeps raining all the time..." And she shakes her beautiful, billowing ruffled soft grey skirt (like a sexy storm cloud, if you can imagine that!) and silver glitter falls out of it like rain onto the audience. I had goosebumps the entire performance.
Alright, its showtime... I wait by the side wing next to the stage. Canadian Wolfman who is in the burlesque hall of fame for the sheer amount of shows he has emceed is memorising his lines next to me.
"I'm going to plug my ears when you introduce me Wolfman, because you always make me emotional." I tell him. And it's true, goddam that man gives me such generous introductions. And making me emotional is not a hard task.
"It's going to make you cry." He laughs.
He goes out there, and i really do plug my ears, but not before i hear him comparing me to Venus... What a sweetheart.
Wolfman comes off and my song starts with a bang. I burst onstage. A photo later shows that even the backroom could see my smile, i was that happy to be there.
My act ends with a grand finally of bending over backwards and twirling my tassels, then a saucy courtesy. I blow a kiss to Tempest Storm and Tiffany Carter and i strut offstage.
Backstage i grab my head in awe. I'm my worst critic and i feel really good about what just happened. I think i met every mark!
Mysterion bursts backstage and grabs me by the shoulders. He is crying! He hugs me and tells me how proud he is of me. Mysterion knows the journey i have taken and how hard i work. Then he says.
"Do you know what Tempest Storm said about you?"
My eyes widen. Am i dreaming? Someone pinch me.
"She said 'I love her'."
Tears fill my eyes. Wow... My greatest inspiration loved my performance. It's an incredible feeling. It was an incredible moment. And one i will never forget.
|The moment i burst onto the stage. You can see my smile from the back.|
Tempest Storm also inspired me to produce and classic, old-school style burlesque show. Complete with garment catchers. So watch out for that Winnipeg.
|Bambi Le Fluer, Burlesque Legend Tiffany Carter & Jo 'Boobs' Weldon|