I’ve looked at the New Orleans burlesque and circus scenes for 2015. This was capped off with a series of “best of” polls recognizing the work in several areas. The reasons for the polls were many. It seemed like a nice way to help put a cap on what became for me a year of covering a vital facet of New Orleans’ performance scene. It also seemed like a nice way to shine a spotlight on both the performers and productions throughout the year, both to provide exposure for the scene and to serve as an informal taking of the pulse on what fans were responding to.
The appearance, rollout, structure and even idea of the poll, however, made things more complicated than expected, and the rollout seemed to enjoy all the smoothness of the Obamacare website — a bit of excitement, a healthy dose of confusion, and some fairly heated discussion about its very existence. So there were basically two concurrent discussions — why do it, and why do it in the manner presented?
The first discussion was by far the most complicated, because for many in the scene it raised the possibility of turning what serious, artistic-minded people do into a popularity contest. (More than one performer told me privately it was like being back in high school again, with the prom queen title up for grabs. Some politely requested not to be listed in the polls.) This particular discussion inspired Bella Blue to blog about it with a post titled “Competition vs. Community.” In it, she set up the two notions as a false choice and argued that, in the real world — one that acknowledges that burlesque is also a business — competition can be just as beneficial as community. She went on to point out that burlesque can be about both the art and the commerce; that polls can be fun and motiving; that going for titles (or “crowns”) and striving to be the best doesn’t necessarily have to come at someone else’s expense.
(Indeed, when Bella Blue was voted the No. 16 burlesque performer by 21st Century Burlesque, and Trixie Minx didn’t make the poll, it didn’t seem to hurt her popularity or business or art at all.)
That’s all to say that, as Bella Blue noted, a discussion about polls in particular or competition in general is perhaps something that might have been needed for some time. On a personal level, I appreciate that ambivalence in spirit while firmly believing the overall benefit is invaluable. I’d add that New Orleans has not one but two awards for the music and theater scenes. When someone as legendary as former Meters bassist George Porter Jr. openly campaigns for votes on Faceook in Offbeat’s “Best of the Beat” awards poll, well, it helps put things in perspective.
As for the structure of the poll, there was discussion primarily about which performers and productions initially were placed on the poll, and where everything and everyone belonged — which led to some unnecessary confusion. If this had been conducted in my previous position, it would have benefited from a larger team in place and perhaps a longer build-up and promotion. But being a “one-man show,” so to speak, I went with my knowledge of the scene or scenes — admittedly a work in progress — in creating a core group of nominees for consideration and added names based on reader suggestions. I also took the advice of some producers and divided the circus and sideshow performers into separate polls.
So I moved forward with the polls, with two clearly stated guidelines: Readers were welcome to add their own candidates/nominees, and readers should refrain from voting multiple times for their favorites. Readers were very good, often passionate about the former, but not so much about the latter. So the votes had to be analyzed, and multiple voting was tossed.
But taking that into consideration, I decided to present the results in a more inclusive fashion, with winners broken down into a “Top 10” or “Top 5” list, and listed alphabetically — along with an occasional “honorable mention” to make note of some pretty tight voting in some categories. A first-time poll, and a rather unscientific one at that, didn’t need to focus too heavily on the very top vote-getters.
For me, ultimately, there were few surprises. The balloting, with some notably obvious exceptions, reflects what in my mind is out there: a lot of talented performers who have made their mark, and productions that are establishing a legacy. As for the future, I might offer some thoughts in another post, but for now, let’s enjoy this informal take on the best of New Orleans burlesque and circus arts.
BEST OF NEW ORLEANS BURLESQUE, CIRCUS AND SIDESHOW
Best burlesque performers in New Orleans 2015
Leo Danger Lace
Roxie le Rouge
Honorable mention: Xena Zeit-Geist
Best circus performers in New Orleans 2015
Chatty the Mime
Ooops the Clown
Honorable mention: Thugsy Da Clown
Best sideshow performers in New Orleans 2015
Kali von Wunderkammer
Honorable mention: Eli Rose
Best burlesque/circus show emcees in New Orleans for 2015
Dante the Magician (Bustout Burlesque)
Chris Lane (Fleur de Tease)
Dr. Sick (Big Deal Burlesque, Bustout Burlesque)
Rev. Ben Wisdom (Dirty Dime Peepshow)
Best burlesque/circus show in New Orleans 2015 — annual production
Cirque du Gras 2 (Feb. 13-16), St. Roch Firehouse; produced by LadyBEAST
New Orleans Burlesque Festival (Sept. 15-18), multiple locations; produced by Rick Delaup
NOLA Nerdlesque (Nov. 19-22), Frenchmen Theater at Bamboula’s; produced by Persé Fanny, Vincent Galliant
Snake Oil Festival (June 19-21), Howlin’ Wolf; produced by the Rev. Ben Wisdom, Ginger Licious and Little Luna
Storyville Rising (May 16-17), Café Istanbul; produced by Kali von Wunderkammer
Best burlesque/circus show in New Orleans 2015 – specialty
“CREAM!: A Night of Decadent Burlesque, Drag, and Cabaret,” at One Eyed Jacks (Bella Blue and Kitten N’ Lou)
“The Demon Boobs of Skeet Street: A Sweeney Todd Burlesque,” at Old Marquer Theater (Picolla Tushy presents The Bluestockings)
“Doctor Who-Ha: A Doctor Who Burlesque Play,” at Eiffel Society (The Society of Sin/Krewe du Who)
“Home: A Burlesque Tribute to New Orleans,” at Republic New Orleans (Remy Dee)
“In Wonderland” (Cirque Copine)
Best burlesque/circus show in New Orleans 2015 — monthly/seasonal
Big Deal Burlesque, at various locations (Roxie le Rouge)
Bustout Burlesque, at House of Blues (Rick Delaup)
Dirty Dime Peepshow, at AllWays Lounge (Bella Blue Entertainment)
Fleur de Tease, at One Eyed Jacks (Trixie Minx)
Fly Movement Salon, at Café Istanbul (Liza Rose)
Honorable mention: Bad Girls of Burlesque, at House of Blues/The Parish (Rick Delaup)
Best burlesque/circus show in New Orleans 2015 – weekly
“Blue Book Cabaret,” Saturdays at Bourbon Pub and Parade (Bella Blue Entertainment)
“Burlesque Ballroom,” Fridays at Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse (Trixie Minx)
“Vixens & Vinyl,” Wednesdays at Spitfire Bar
“Talk Nerdy to Me,” Saturdays at Dragon’s Den (The Society of Sin)
“Comic Strip,” Mondays at Siberia (Chris Lane, Ooops the Clown)
Honorable mention: “Whiskey & Rhinestones,” Thursdays at Gravier Street Social (Bella Blue Entertainment)