Mention the word “burlesque” and what comes to mind? The term generally conjures up images of voluptuous female dancers stripping down to pasties in smoky bars, while many LGBT people might immediately think of Gypsy Rose Lee and the iconic musical “Gypsy.”
But burlesque is so much more, argues Bambi La Fleur, an internationally-acclaimed performer and producer of the third annual Florida Burlesque Festival, and she wonders why burlesque isn’t more popular with gays and lesbians.
“Burlesque can be sexy and decadent,” she said. “It celebrates seduction and is never tawdry…sometimes it’s extremely funny.”
Technically, the term burlesque is derived from the Italian word “burla,” meaning “a joke, ridicule or mockery” and was generally applied to particular works of literature and theater beginning in the 17th century.
In the U.S. by the 1860s, burlesque came to refer to traveling vaudeville-style variety troupes featuring bawdy comedy and striptease acts. By the 1930s, burlesque, like vaudeville a generation earlier, had largely fallen out of fashion.
La Fleur’s festival is part of a recent revival of that nearly forgotten form of entertainment and it’s not just intended for sexually-frustrated, middle-aged men:
“We have an amazing line-up,” she said. “We have femme fatales, a female ventriloquist, a singer and, in my humble opinion, it will be the best show ever.”
Among the world-class performers she has booked is Hot Toddy, the king of “boylesque,” whose performances “lean towards comedy,” said La Fleur. “He’s hilarious.”
Hailing from London, England, Ms. Tickle has been called the “mystical mistress of tease” and her act features the most beautiful costumes La Fleur has seen.
South Florida-based Greek fire dancer Angeliki will debut her unique fire “tango” at the festival, while the festival’s “legend,” 74-year-old Camille 2000, will offer an unforgettable tribute to the Marquis de Sade.
And La Fleur, who has been planning the festival for months, will even take the stage on Saturday “by force,” she said with a chuckle, promising a taste of the act she will perform during her upcoming European tour.
Popular South Florida female impersonator Electra will serve as the mistress of ceremonies for both evening performances.
Like previous festivals, a tribute will be offered to the legendary Bunny Yaeger, the former pin-up girl turned photographer—and South Florida resident—who passed away in 2014 at the age of 85.
“Bunny is widely credited with helping turn the erotic pin-up into high photographic art and is one of the country’s most famous and influential photographers who helped define the art of erotic photography. (Her) images broke through her subjects’ obvious physical beauty and shone a spotlight on their personalities and inner world. She was an actress, author, model and not only an inspiration to many, but also a dear friend,” La Fleur wrote on the festival website.
The Florida Burlesque Festival will be held on Friday, April 27 and Saturday, April 28 at 8 p.m. at Savor Cinema (formerly Cinema Paradiso), 503 S.E. 6th St. in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets are $35 – 55 at FloridaBurlesqueFestival.com.