Burlesque Festival Brings “Sexy” Back to Fort Lauderdale

Sweet Baby Rock will host the second annual Florida Burlesque Festival, Sept. 5 – 6 at Cinema Paradiso in Fort Lauderdale. Submitted photo.

Gay Performer Helps Put the “Sexy” Back into Burlesque

Burlesque isn’t just for paunchy, middle-aged men in smoky dive bars anymore. In fact, it’s not just for men promised Pretty Boy Rock, the master of ceremonies for the second annual Florida Burlesque Festival in Fort Lauderdale.

Last year’s inaugural event at Cinema Paradiso was a complete sell-out and producer Bambi La Fleur has assembled another world class line-up, including Miss Dirty Martini, Dixie Dynamite and Rose Rainbow, as well as the king of “boylesque,” Ray Gunn, for the ladies and many gay fans.

Pretty Boy Rock, stage name for singer and entertainer Jade Esteban Estrada, has traveled the world, hosting festivals from Amsterdam to Australia and will be serving as master of entertainment, as La Fleur calls him. It’s a role he takes seriously.

“I’m honored to usher in these performers and be a guide for the Florida audiences to what they are going to see,” he said.

“Many times you want a comic to be an emcee at a burlesque show because we’re living in a world where words have a lot of weight and people can be easily offended and empowered by what you say,” Estrada explained. “The mostly female cast should always be and feel empowered. It’s easy to be sexist in a burlesque show, but being sexy and suggestive presents a very thin line with sexism.”

Ultimately, he pointed out, burlesque is all about sexy seduction, not just bare boobs and butts.

Estrada discovered his love for burlesque while hosting his first show in Austin, Texas, six years ago.

“I’ve always been tuxedos and boas anyway, kind of a rare bird in comedy, and something magical happened,” he recalled. “I could easily stay home and work stand up comedy clubs because they pay a lot more, but there’s something about being in the middle of a movement that is steering the zeitgeist. That’s exciting.”

After the South Florida performance, he will headline shows in Poland, Malta and New Zealand. He predicts the entertainment form will continue to gain global popularity, but fears in 10 to 15 years, burlesque will become commercialized and “watered down,” not nearly as exciting as it is today.

Estrada understands the art form intimately because he himself has taken the stage to take it all off.

“I’ve jumped in the pool with all of these performers and taken off my clothes. My understanding deepened tremendously when I became a boylesque performer. Wardrobe malfunctions happen much more frequently than they do at the Super Bowl,” he said with a chuckle.

Why does he continue to put himself on stage, show after show? Certainly, his family still has difficulty reconciling his fascination and dedication.

“Once you see what burlesque is and experience the best, you’ll understand. After watching a 94-year-old burlesque legend stripping, I will never complain about anything again, like ‘my leg hurts’. It’s a life changing moment,” he concluded.

Bambi La Fleur presents the second annual Florida Burlesque Festival, Friday, Sept. 5 and Saturday, Sept. 6 at 8:30 p.m. at Cinema Paradiso, 503 SE 6th St. in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets are $35 -100. For more information, go to FloridaBurlesqueFestival.com.

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