More cool Southern Decadence events that didn’t make the Advocate story

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While the New Orleans Advocate ran my perfectly adequate round-up of familiar and offbeat events for the 45th annual Southern Decadence weekend, there’s sooo much more that could’ve gotten in there.

That said, here’s that more part, including some really offbeat stuff:

Decadence ExtravaGAYnza featuring Violet Chachki
Fri. (Sept. 2)
Masquerade, Harrah’s New Orleans Casino
No cover
That Advocate roundup includes Atlanta drag queen Violet Chachki’s appearance at Bella Blue’s New Orleans School of Burlesque, but there are key omissions, including her appearance on Saturday at Bella’s “Dirty Dime Peepshow” Saturday night (Sept. 3) as well as this fun Decadence-themed show. So the Season 7 winner of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” has a chance to own the evening on this one. More acts will perform as well.

Glitter Tits Is a Drag: Southern Decadence Addition
Sat. (Sept. 3), 10 p.m.
Sidney’s Saloon
$5 cover “(with drag/androg/glitter/costume/weird)”
$10 cover (“basic”)
You should go to this party that’s moved over from the Voodoo Lounge if for no other reason the creators make the weirdest-ass videos in the New Orleans social-media world (and that’s saying something). But yes, as one can glean from the dress-code possibilities, this party is about as genre- and gender-bending as Decadence gets (although “CREAM” is in the ballpark, too). Music will be provided by DJ Rusty Lazer and DJ Nice Rack. (Pro tip: Bring and/or wear glitter, because you are probably going to be wearing it by the end of the evening anyway, one way or another.)

Horse Meat Disco
Sat. (Sept. 3), 10 p.m.
Ace Hotel
$20
The folks at Club A present the New Orleans debut of popular British disco party DJs with a mix of “underground disco, Italo and rarities that have been rocking crowds from their base in Vauxhall, London, to dance floors worldwide since 2009.”

Am I missing something? (Or at least something that’s at a club not already listed in the Advocate story — for fairness?) Holler at me at dlsnola@gmail.com and I’ll add to the roundup.

BONUS CONTENT FOR BONUS CONTENT — Check out the trailer for the pilot of “Atlanta’s a Drag,” starring Violet Chachki.

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Jassy reflects on New Orleans Drag Workshop Cycle 4 (Exit Interview)

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INFO:
WHAT:Rat Sh*t, presented by Neon Burgundy; hosted by Hannibelle Spector
WHEN: Tuesday, June 14, 11 p.m.
WHERE: AllWays Lounge, 2240 St. Claude Ave.
ADMISSION: $3

In this second installment of our “Exit Interview” series, New Orleans Drag Workshop Cycle 4 student Justin Gordon (aka “Jassy”) recounts his and her experiences following the “Draguation” ceremony hosted by Vinsantos May 10 at the AllWays Lounge. (I previewed the show for PopSmart NOLA, and then I covered it for the New Orleans Advocate, and posted photos afterward on PopSmart NOLA.) Gordon started off by recounting his first drag experience while a student at Tulane University.

“Once a year (Tulane’s Center for Wellness and Health Promotion) puts on a drag show that’s called Miss Paul Tulane and Mr. Sophie Newcomb, with girls as drag kings and guys as drag queens. There’s one winner each for every year. This past fall was the 19th one. It’s been losing interest lately. I won that show twice because I was the only one who was really putting some interest in it. I’d started going to different shows around town, and I knew that Vinsantos hosted Drag Bingo every Thursday at the AllWays Lounge. (Vinsantos has since left that gig.)

I even won a poster one night! So I knew about the Drag Workshop. After graduating from Tulane, I started looking for drag shows, and Vinsantos had on Facebook talked about starting up the Cycle 4 of the workshop.

(Read more: Slenderella reflects on New Orleans Drag Workshop Cycle 4)

“Since I was a little boy, my nickname was Juicy. As in, I was fat and juicy. It stuck with me my entire life. Friends and family and some teachers called me juicy, and then a friend in college bastardized it and started calling me Jassy. So I think I’m going to stick with that. Jassy is more an extension of myself. She allows me the ability to explore gender in a way that I’m more comfortable with. It’s more empowering through it. I don’t think Jassy is necessarily a character. I have a lot of interests, and this was another one. I do ceramics, I do podcasts, I perform on aerial silks. I like to change things up and do new things each time. Like to be almost like a chameleon. Jassy’s the mastermind!

“I went into the workshop thinking it would be about makeup and lip-synching. It was way more intense than I ever would have imagined. Vinsantos was really good at helping everyone clean up our ideas, and to get us to just push past our limits and really go for it. She definitely pushed us to make our acts more like performance art. The majority of the class was more about how to perform. Like if your wig is ratty, you can still captivate an audience. And then you can alter your aesthetic and be as pretty as you want.

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“I decided to perform to the Bjork song ‘Oh So Quiet’ when, a few months ago I was listening to the song and thought that would be good for an Anne Frank character. It had all these loud sounds and then the shushing. So I started thinking up this funny little Anne Frank piece. At first, I was confused how I would incorporate the love theme. I remember there was a news headline controversy about Justin Bieber writing in the Anne Frank House guest book (in Amsterdam) that she if she were alive today she would be a ‘Belieber. So I started thinking about conceiving my character a Justin Bieber-obsessed Anne Frank. That was concept I was going for. For the first section, I decided to write an original diary script that the audience hears over the speakers while I’m performing. Then I used the website Fiverr, which offers a variety of tasks for a small fee, after I’d Googled ‘German voiceover actress,’ to get someone to record my ‘diary entry’ in German. It’s totally absurdist, but it makes sense in the context of what people are doing. I was excited that that many people (in the audience) got it. I was a little nervous they wouldn’t quite grasp it. But the AllWays Lounge is a great place to do these kind of conceptual pieces.

Slenderella reflects on New Orleans Drag Workshop Cycle 4 (Exit Interview)

INFO:
WHAT: “The Dollhouse Revue,” hosted by Nicole Lynn Foxx and featuring Slenderella, Wednesday Bonet Iman, Ivy Dripp and Pussy Hertz
WHEN: Friday (May 27), 10 p.m.
WHERE: Golden Lantern Bar, 1239 Royal St.
ADMISSION: Free

As part of a series we’ll call “Exit Interview,” I’m cleaning out the reporter’s notebook from my coverage of Vinsantos’ New Orleans Drag Workshop Cycle 4 Draguation (for PopSmart NOLA, including a look at the rehearsal and show, and for the New Orleans Advocate), starting with thoughts from Cory Greenwaldt — aka Slenderella. Slenderella makes her professional debut Friday (May 27) in the “Dollhouse Revue” show at the Golden Lantern in the French Quarter. Here, in his own words, Greenwaldt discusses how he came to the workshop and his drag persona:

“Draguation night was one of the most liberating nights of my life. I’d have to say that it was on par with taking my final exams during my last semester of university. We spent two months constructing these drag personas and acts, with the help of Vinsantos, all for one special performance for our families, friends and fellow drag lovers. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything … however, I do wish the air conditioner was on full blast. We were melting backstage.

“Not only did the Drag Workshop provide a positive space to expand our creative minds, but it also gave us a networking platform. The class had such a diverse crew of talented people. Whether they were experienced performers, makeup artists, body painters, costumers, sound engineers … everyone brought something to the table. I learned valuable tips of the trade and how to properly communicate with future promoters, event coordinators, which in turn will help me with my future gigs/performances. I basically owe everything to our Headmistress Vinsantos DeFonte!

“He would probably snicker if he heard my say this, but he really was an inspiration to us all, which is why I wanted my performance to reflect that. At times during my number, I found myself giving him most of the attention rather than the crowd. He was front and center with the biggest smile on his face and I couldn’t help but show him how grateful I was. He’s one of the most talented artists in the New Orleans community, and I’m incredibly grateful for the time and effort he put into this. I can’t imagine the patience it took to get a bunch of artists to finish things on time!

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“The character Slenderella is a play on how skinny, and well, slender I am. I used to be very self-conscious about my slender frame, which is why I wanted to use Slenderella to help me feel comfortable in my own skin. However, she really is an extension of my personality. Silly, bubbly, a bit ditzy, and a laugh you can hear a mile away. I chose to do the song ‘Primadonna’ by Marina in the Diamonds because it perfectly represents Slenderella (and myself) as a whole. It truly represented my inner need to be perfect in an imperfect world — which can be dangerous at times. I’ve learned through the creation of Slenderella and the Drag Workshop that not everything is perfect, and at times, I just need to loosen up and have fun!

“Prior to the workshop I studied art history and architecture through the University of New Orleans and Charles University (Univerzita Karlova v Praze) with a concentration in Central and Eastern European art and architecture. I finished my studies and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in fine aArts on December 18, 2015. In all honesty, I wanted to do the workshop in order to find a creative outlet for myself. I’ve always had a passion for the arts but never really found an avenue that best suited my creative abilities. Drag became a way to express my inner creativity and personality through a developed persona, while earning some dollar bills. It turned into a way for me to create a living piece of art and become a fierce drag performer.”

Snapshots from New Orleans Drag Workshop Cycle 4 “Draguation” (Photos)

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My recap of the New Orleans Workshop’s Cycle 4 “Draguation” ceremony Tuesday (May 10) ran in the New Orleans Advocate (Tuesday, May 17), featuring some truly beautiful backstage and onstage photos by staff photographer Matthew Hinton.

Hinton captured the craziness in the dressing room as performers furiously applied makeup and costumes to prepare for their big debut in front of the packed house at the AllWays Lounge on St. Claude Avenue.

Each of the 10 performers presented a distinct drag persona, which I sneak-previewed earlier. I’ll have a more expanded look at the show and interviews with some of the performers to kind of clean out the reporter’s notebook, but here’s an excerpt from the Advocate piece, noting the participation of the tall, lanky Cory Greenwaldt, who put his 6-foot-3 frame to silly affect:

Greenwaldt said he was looking for a way to feel less self-conscious about his slender 6-foot-3 frame, and thus invented Slenderella — “silly, bubbly, a bit ditzy, and a laugh you can hear a mile away.” Slenderella swayed and flopped her away around the AllWays Lounge stage, wrapped in a long white wig, a white leotard with matching stockings and a blue plastic miniskirt — all to the tune of “Primadonna” by Marina and the Diamonds. “It truly represented my inner need to be perfect in an imperfect world, which can be dangerous at times,” Greenwaldt said after the show. “I’ve learned through the creation of Slenderella and the drag workshop that not everything is perfect, and at times, I just need to loosen up and have fun.”

Look for more on the site later this week.

 

For Vinsantos, Tuesday’s another “Draguation” day with the New Orleans Drag Workshop

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WHAT: New Orleans Drag Workshop Cycle 4 Draguation
WHEN:
Tuesday (May 10), 8 p.m.
WHERE: AllWays Lounge, 2240 St. Claude Ave.
COST: Tickets $15. Click here for tickets.
Cycle 4 class: Cate Swan (aka Tarah Cards), Dane Baxter (aka Kedavra), Rocharlotte Raphael (aka Bellagio Showers), Angie Zeiderman (aka Shebrew Internationale), Cory Greenwaldt (aka Slenderella), Sadie Edwards (aka Mx. Mystic), Evan Spigelman (aka Carrie Mehome), Logan VanMeter (aka Candy Snatch), Justin Gordon (aka Jassy), AJay Strong (aka Boy Gorge)

Kedavra is nearly flawless.

Working the AllWays Lounge stage to the sounds of “Bring On the Men” (from the Broadway musical “Jekyll & Hyde”) on a recent weeknight, the aspiring drag queen struts and preens and glares at the audience, shifting from the main stage at various times to the piano at left or over toward the right. When she’s finished, Kedavra’s audience — fellow students in the fourth iteration of the New Orleans Drag Workshop — applaud wildly both out of support and awe.

As the applause fades, a voice booms out from the back of the room, up in the sound booth.

“I actually have some notes for you.”

It’s Vinsantos DeFonte — aka the New Orleans performer Vinsantos — who oversees the workshop and never misses a detail. This is where the “nearly” in “nearly flawless” is revealed.

“I feel like you straight up stole two of Jassy’s moves,” DeFonte says, noting for starters a cartwheel that Kedavra did, almost as an afterthought. But it’s a move heretofore only done by Jassy, one of the other classmates, and DeFonte is clear about each act of the 10 students being singular and unique. No borrowing allowed. Jassy smiles, almost as if to say, no harm done. Still, DeFonte concludes with, “I’m just letting you know you stepped on some drag toes.” With that, and a note to use the main stage more, Kedavra’s last rehearsal before the class’ “Draguation” day on Tuesday (May 10) looks promising.

That Kedavra seems promising shouldn’t be that big of a surprise. Her creator, 26-year-old Dane Baxter, also happens to be one of New Orleans’ most popular and in-demand body-paint artists — a fixture at BUKU Fest, Voodoo Fest, Jazz Fest, you name it, whose social media presence includes more than 31,000 followers on Instagram. (He took his drag name from “Avada Kedavra,” or the “Killing Curse” from the “Harry Potter” series. He’s a fan, and has the shoulder tattoo to prove it.)

Several of the other classmates also are known as creative in other areas as well. There’s Angie Zeiderman, who as Angie Z was voted one of New Orleans’ most popular burlesque performers (and a talented vocalist) but in this workshop has created the hard-rocking persona Shebrew Internationale and will lip-synch to Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” And there’s Logan VanMeter, who as Danger Rockwell is one of New Orleans’ few regularly working boylesque performers.

Then there’s Cate Swan, an in-demand makeup stylist by day who on Tuesday night will transform into Tarah Cards, dancing a crazed dance to Diamanda Galas’s “I’m Gonna Live the Life.” And, perhaps most unlikely of all, there’s AJay Strong, a recently transgendered male who will revisit his previous feminine life onstage as a whip-cracking Boy Gorge performing to Marilyn Monroe’s “Teach Me Tiger.” This run-through is being done without costumes, but it’s their last time to get their act just right.

This Cycle’s class is a study in diversity: There are men, women, transgender, white, black, gay, straight, performers from other disciplines, and newbies. Like many drag queens, several tuck their junk, while others pump up their boobs, and yet another creates the illusion of junk — with a codpiece.

“My drag family was always a healthy mix of men, women and trans folk that were exploring their identities on and off the stage,” DeFonte says. “I’m glad I was raised in this kind of drag world. If there’s one thing that drag should not be, is narrow-minded.”

While there are plenty of complete newcomers to any kind of stage performance, the New Orleans Drag Workshop also gives New Orleans artists a chance to tap into something different, to add another arrow in their creative quiver.

But it’s also helped fill New Orleans nightclubs with fresh drag talent; “draguates” of the workshop over the past three years include Hannibelle Spector, Liberaunchy, Dasani Waters, and Neon Burgundy, a performer and producer known for such shows as the monthly “Gag Reflex” show at the AllWays Lounge.

“I’ve had many talented performers pass through the Workshop,” DeFonte says, but also notes, “The best thing about the Workshop is that it is completely transformative. It works for the people involved, including myself, on so many levels. It’s definitely a confidence builder. Whether or not a student chooses to pursue a career in drag, they leave the class changed.

“The group dynamic really creates a family style bond,” DeFonte adds. “Each of the cycles have their own connections, and most of them draguate having made life-long friends.”

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Kitten N’ Lou’s “OVEREXPOSED!” reveals life for “world’s show-busiest couple” at One Eyed Jacks

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For Kitten N’ Lou, life is no picnic, even when they’re having one. That was one of the key themes bubbling up from their “OVEREXPOSED!” show, their first full-length effort, which they brought to One Eyed Jacks on Sunday (April 17) before heading back out overseas for more touring.

Featuring former Shim Shamette Kitten LaRue, Kitten N’ Lou prove for New Orleans audiences who hadn’t seen their set at the “CREAM!” show they co-produced with Bella Blue last September that they’re doing what no other burlesque artist is doing today.  Through a curious mash-up of burlesque, boylesque drag and multi-media, Kitten N’ Lou reveal with “show within a show” cheek that gender isn’t the only thing that’s fluid in variety acts.

(Learn more: Kitten LaRue on “OVEREXPOSED!” and returning to New Orleans.)

Essentially, “OVEREXPOSED!” is a series of set pieces (presumably pulled from several of their popular acts) that speak to what it must be like to be in love and onstage together. At various times lip-synching, pantomiming and straight-up dancing, the duo checks myriad influences, whether it’s Lou Henry Hoover’s obvious love of Charlie Chaplin while doing a drag king bit or Kitten LaRue (a native of Ruston, La.) offering an expressive camp that is as reminiscent of our own drag queen legend Varla Jean Merman (without ever saying a word) as much as any striptease artist.

Their frequent collaborator, BenDeLaCreme, provided the unseen, pre-recorded narration that propels the show from one set piece to another, sometimes as basic narration, sometimes in a sort-of meta conversation with the performers. That, and some incredibly risky but often rewarding moments of total silence, give “OVEREXPOSED!” a distinction that keeps the audience on its toes. Sometimes the silence worked against them, as over-served members of the audience took to hooting, often unnecessarily, thinking they were either filling in the silent moments to help out or simply to hear themselves howl. (At one point a women checked an audience member behind with a dismissive “Not your show,” to which the other replied, “Oh, sorry, I’m really drunk.” OK…)

While 80 percent of the time they spent their moments either trying to put up with or woo back the other — during a picnic scene, Lou keeps pushing over a beer bottle to Kitten as a sign of affection, which she responds each time by semi-politely sliding it right back with increasing frustration — the show ends in a kiss, and applause.

It should come as no shock that following Sunday’s performance Kitten N’ Lou ultimately will head to the Vienna Boylesque Festival (where Bella Blue served as the headliner in 2015) — further evidence that the world is not over this couple’s exposure.

(NOTE: New Orleans’ own Perle Noire will serve as this year’s headliner at the Vienna Boylesque Festival.)

 

Kitten LaRue: Former New Orleans performer on Kitten N’ Lou’s “OVEREXPOSED!” show at One Eyed Jacks, Lady Gaga, and returning home

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INFO:
Kitten N’ Lou in “OVEREXPOSED!”
Sunday (April 17), 9 p.m.
One Eyed Jacks
Tickets $18 advance, $20 day of show (VIP table seating available)
Click here for tickets

Kitten LaRue has come a long way since her days in the Shim Sham Revue in the early 2000s as a part of the burlesque renaissance that emanated out of the Shim Sham Club on Toulouse Street. Moving to Seattle, she helped kick-start the burlesque scene there with the Atomic Bombshells. But the Ruston native has never lost her love of the Crescent City, so it shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise that her other project, Kitten N’ Lou — with her onstage/offstage partner, Lou Henry Hoover — actually was birthed on a dare at the Bourbon Pub in 2011.

“It was summertime,” she recalls over the phone at her home base in Seattle. “We were both living down there for a month or two, just because my sister is having her baby, and so I was spending the summer there. We weren’t married yet, and we just went and saw this drag show, and we met the Carnival Kings, who were performing, and we were like,‘Oh we’re performers, too.’ And they said, ‘You should do an act, and we just kind of threw together, a little fun, dance-y lip-synch act, and that’s kind of where it all started.”

The song? Big Sean’s “Dance A$$.”

And so began Kitten N’ Lou, which over the past five years has become one of the most original, funny and popular burlesque acts in the world. The couple was named Most Comedic Act at the 2014 Burlesque Hall of Fame festival in Las Vegas. Months later, they performed as showgirl dancers (along with burlesque star and friend, Angie Pontani and two others) backing up Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett in their “Cheek to Cheek“ concert as part of their appearance on PBS’s “Great Performances” series and from their duet album of the same name.

Kitten N’ Lou made a return to New Orleans in 2015, co-producing the “CREAM!” show with Bella Blue and held at One Eyed Jacks, the former Shim Sham Club, and hosted by their frequent collaborator, BenDeLaCreme.

“They’ve taken a combination of many elements of burlesque and then added their own flair to it,” said Bella Blue. “And they have also added an element of drag to it well with their makeup and costuming. Like if you watch their acts you’ll see dancing, tassel-twirling, striptease. Those are the basic elements. But, when you are dancing to ‘Last Dance’ in a 1970s-inspired costume with heavy choreography and camp and gender fuckery (Lou as a drag king), it makes it uniquely Kitten N’ Lou.”

And 2016 is off to an amazing start, considering that the duo was voted the most popular burlesque act in 21st Century Burlesque’s poll of the top 50 performers.

Now they’re back, bringing their first-ever full-length show, “OVEREXPOSED!,” to One Eyed Jackson on Sunday (April 17) at One Eyed Jacks. LaRue discussed the concept for the show, which plays on their married life at home and onstage, as well as their long-term plan to make New Orleans their home base, among many other topics in this edited Q&A.

Let’s start with “OVEREXPOSED.” This is your first full-length show, but it also incorporates some of your previous acts, and you get to extend those, or simply draw out everything a little bit more, and there’s also a little bit of a more thematic approach at work here as well, correct?

Yeah, that definitely is, so this is our first evening work as a duet, and it does indeed include some of our more icon acts that we’ve created over the years, but it tells a story. It’s sort of a show within a show. It kind of follows the ups and downs of being the world’s show-busiest couple, so to speak, what that entails, and there are some acts that are also new material, and theater, and all kinds of stuff in there. The premises is essentially that we start the show with one of our bigger acts, and then we quickly discover that we are the only ones in the show, and we didn’t get that memo until just now, so there’s a narrator (BenDeLaCreme, pre-recorded) who interacts with us, and speaks to us, and kind of guides us through. And so it’s really funny, and it’s has some serious moments as well.

And a lot of it is meta thing, right? Where your show-biz people are talking about show biz, but also there’s a lot about being a couple as well. You can kind of expand on that a little bit.

Absolutely, yeah. I mean it’s kind of a we sort of talk about how we artist to reveal truth, and our drag, and in our work. It’s kind of about who are Kitten and Lou without Kitten and Lou. What happens when you strip that away? What happens when the goal of success on the stage interferes with your personal relationship? It explores some of those ideas.

Is it tough being a couple, and performing?

Yeah, I mean it definitely has its challenges. It’s also obviously it’s like we’re the luckiest people in the world to get to do this together, and do it all over the world, but it’s definitely not without its challenges. We’re together like 24 hours a day, and you have to make a real group effort to carve out non-work time with each other. Where we’re just us, and this show supports that. What the concept of just us means, and it’s also at levels of exploring what it’s like to be a queer couple in the world. What that sort of otherness means.

Kitten N’ Lou are… OVEREXPOSED! sizzler reel! from Kitten N’ Lou on Vimeo.

You said something in the Huffington Post, I’ll read the quotes it says, “It’s really thrilling to get to bring to the stage both our biggest show biz acts, along with the kind of theater that only works in longer perform. And we use the duration in a way that doesn’t really work in a five-minute act.” And you expand on that a little bit, but I really love the idea of talking about making it thematic, cabaret act of where the length matters, so to speak. Pardon any puns, but you really get to kind of stretch things. What is the beauty in this stretching?

Within this context of a burlesque act, we’re trying to tell a story within five minutes. And that story has a beginning, middle and end, and you have to really make a lot of very clear vast choices of how to do that. With an evening length work we’re able to play with this idea of duration in that we can have awkward silences if we want to.

So there’s this section where I essentially like eat my feelings with a bag of potato chips for three minutes, and people really responded to it. That’s exciting, and that’s not something I can just do in the context of an act. I mean I guess I could, but it would not kind of work. There’s a section where Lou and I have a very uncomfortable, awkward picnic. Where we cast a beer bottle back and forth. And that has within the context of our show has different layers of meaning, and metaphor that we get to play with, and explore.

One of the things that really struck me, just from a very zippy, snappy highlight reel is everyone talks, and you talk a lot about theater and drag, and burlesque and more. What I got was that this extended time kind of brings a mime-style theater into the act more.

We both draw heavily from mime, and clown, and we’re both like deeply interested in the different levels of meaning that it can be found in a gesture, and a real economy of theater in that way. I mean we love like bringing the over-the-top element with our burlesque acts. It’s just over the top, but we’re also interested within this kind of work this evening lengths work were we’re exploring that sort of economy of how much can we convey within a single gesture, or movement or eyebrow raise.

You’re blurring so many lines in there, whether it’s burlesque, boylesque, cabaret and drag. Do you see a kind of (audience) acceptance of your blurring these lines more now compared to five years ago? In other words, do audiences get it more than they did five years ago?

I think they do, and I feel like in our world it sort of depends on what they’re looking at, but this is what we have found to be true for ourselves, and we can only really speak for ourselves is that what we aimed to do with our work was give the spoonful-of-sugar approach. So we’re sort of like of delivering these subversive notions, or these subversive scenes of queerness, and drag, and there’s definitely like political under-curtain in what we’re doing because of that, but we wanted to do it in a way that was just pure eye candy, and pure 100 percent show-biz entertainment so that a broader audience would be open to receiving that message.

I guess when you say spoonful of sugar, you’re trying to make it as fun as possible to get this acceptance shot through your own filter a little bit.

Exactly, the things that we come from, we’re all like the different musical-theater world, and Lou actually before Lou got into burlesque kind of career as a contemporary dance choreographer and performer (as showgirl Ricki Mason), so Lou is coming from contemporary dance world. I’ve been in the theater and burlesque world for years, and we’re really just kind of interested for the two of us in creating this sort of new kind of performance that wasn’t just one thing, and then actually pulled from all of our influences, and both of our backgrounds, and could appeal to a really broad audience that also all the while delivering the inherent subversive message of us being clear performers.

The other part of your life that I’m curious about is, how you as a person and your sexuality evolved, was something that, one became more apparent before the other as a performer? Or was that something that was always you was aware of as a younger person?

Yeah, that’s a good question. I definitely have always been aware of my queerness since I was a teenager maybe, perhaps even before that, but I just didn’t have a word for that because I live in a small town in the Deep South (Ruston, La.), so there weren’t really like a lot of examples for me to look to, or a lot of people talking about it, but I definitely had been aware of it for a long time. But your question about its relationship to burlesque was really interesting, I think, because burlesque definitely helped me feel more comfortable with my sexuality in general, as I think it does for many burlesque performers, and it also really helped me kind of discover a way to express femininity and to perform femininity in a way that felt comfortable to me.

And here you are discovering things either about yourself or your performances, and both seem to have been playing also and maybe an emboldening the other. Whether creatively or emotionally. I’m not trying to dimestore psychoanalyze you, but it just sounds interesting that your creative side, and your sexual sides were kind of able to really meet in these really cool places.

Well, actually because as a queer person trying to figure that out about myself, burlesque kind of helps you reclaim your sexuality and reclaim performing femininity in a way that’s not strictly about the male gaze. So it’s like using drag — first of all bringing drag into my performance plays with that idea of femininity as a construct. And femininity can be a fun, playful thing. and it’s not exclusively for the purpose of attracting male attention. 

Right, but most guys think that it still is (laughs).

Yeah, well, I think that’s one of the reasons why in the burlesque world a lot of people have responded to what Lou and I are doing, is because there’s kind of like no questions that what we’re doing is not exclusively for men to look at. It’s like we’re clowns, and we’re obviously like queer women who are together and Lou is his own weird character. It’s not like it’s not for men to enjoy. It’s for everyone to enjoy, but it’s very clear when we are onstage doing what we do that this was not created to attract male attention.

Was winning Most Comedic Act at the Burlesque Hall of Fame weekend in 2014 a flashpoint that started getting you more and more attention, or were you already in ascendance when that happened?

We already had a lot of people excited about us, but there’s something about performing at the Burlesque Hall of Fame, where so many of your peers get to see your work in one place. They’re all there like Mecca for burlesque, so everyone is there and so, so many of your peers, so many producers are there watching you, and so doing our act on that stage for the first time really like brought our public profile up to a different level, and after doing that and winning that award we then got Lou to perform at like 15 festivals that year or something as headliners. And before that we were kind of maybe still like not people were aware of us. They didn’t really know what we did, but then after that event we started getting calls to headline festivals, which is really great, and then from that point on you have people from other countries or all over the world who become aware of your work.

The Internet obviously is a very useful tool as well. We now have people will go … We’ll be headlining a town we’ve never been to for example and we’ll have people say to us oh my God I’m your biggest fan. I watch all your videos on YouTube. They haven’t actually seen us even perform live, but they are aware of our work from what’s been posted on the Internet.

Was performing in “CREAM!” with Bella Blue at One Eyed Jacks over last year’s Southern Decadence kind of one of your bigger moments? Coming back to New Orleans to perform as Kitten and Lou?

For me, personally, it was so cool to come back to the stage that I started doing burlesque on. I have such a history with that stage. Just being on that stage, and being backstage, and there’s something really meaningful for me about producing my first big show in New Orleans on the stage that I got my start on. It felt really like a full-circle moment. It was really thrilling.

 

http://player.pbs.org/viralplayer/2365352892

How did your involvement in the PBS show “Cheek to Cheek” with Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett come about?

Lou and I were performing in Provincetown at the time, and we got a call from Angie Pontani, who’s a burlesque star …

And a pretty big one.

She was one of the originals, and we worked with her before, and she couldn’t even tell us what it was. She just said I have something really big on the horizon. She said send me all of your press stuff, and so we sent in our press stuff. Lady Gaga  wanted five burlesque dancers, burlesque performers to be part of that show, and we were two of the ones chosen. We had just dropped everything, hightailed it to New York, and spent three very intense days learning like in the dance studio with Lady Gaga and her choreographer. Learning, like, three different dances, and then performing it to be taped.

And this was with Lou as a dancer …

A glamorous showgirl. It’s interesting they chose us out of all the people who submitted, because we submitted Kitten and Lou as we are — Lou, with the mustachioed character. But they still just picked us anyway.

So tell me about some of the meetings. What were the moments like?

The moments? They were very intense moments! Just a couple of highlights where in one of the rehearsals, the choreographer wanted Lou and I to be flanking Lady Gaga, to be on either side of her. So we were just standing next to her in rehearsal, and (the choreographer is) like, “Don’t stand so far away from her. Get in close like she’s your homegirl! So we kind of scooted up a little closer to her, and she just looked at us and was like, “Are you having fun?” I was like, “Yes, Lady Gaga, I’m having fun. Actually it’s like the most nervewracking job I’ve ever had in my life! (Laughs.) Another real highlight, which you can even see a little glimpse of on the TV special, is that it choreographed us to be doing a dance around Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga. And they had one of the pieces of choreography was for us to be backing up, like with our backs towards up stage, and Tony Bennett was supposed to head and move to the side of the stage when we did that, but during the filming he didn’t do that. So I basically just like crashed right into him, because he was directly behind me, so that was a special moment.

That’s one way to meet a star.

Mmm-hmm!

Vinsantos: Cabaret and drag shows turn into fundraisers after French Quarter fire

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For weeks, New Orleans cabaret performer Vinsantos was looking forward to welcoming performer Kitten on the Keys to New Orleans for their “BACK2BACK” show Wednesday (Feb. 3) at the AllWays Lounge in a thrilling double-bill show.

And then came a very blue Monday, as a fire swept through Priestess Miriam’s Voodoo Spiritual Temple, next door to his apartment on the 800 block of north Rampart Street. The fire headed straight up and into an upstairs closet that held all the costumes and other belongings of friend and drag performer Hannibelle Spector.

“We live in a very special compound on north Rampart Street that consists of the Temple, Deity Arts, our home as well as the homes of five residents,” Vinsantos said. “Now that the dust has settled, it’s time to put the pieces of these people’s live back together, The Voodoo Temple suffered a huge amount of fire, smoke and water damage and will not be reopening in its long-standing location.

“Both Hannibelle and the tenant adjacent to her have lost their homes. This is painful to us as we had the best neighbors that we could ask for. This isn’t something that can be fixed with a little drywall and some paint. This mixed-use building will be out of commission for a long while.”

To help out, Vinsantos is turning the “BACK2BACK” show at the AllWays Lounge into a fundraiser to help support the Hannibelle, who will emcee Tuesday’s “RATSH*T” show at the AllWays Lounge as well.

A GoFundMe campaign titled “Starting Over from Scratch” also has been started.

All proceeds from the shows will go toward Hannibelle Spector and housemates, said Vinsantos, who added a that a third fundraiser, “Rampart Is Burning,” has been scheduled for Feb. 13 at the Voodoo Lounge, organized by Akrum Salem and Daniel Ford.

“It’s really hard to put a price on loosing everything and having to find a new home and start all over from scratch,” Vinsantos said. “Thank all of you for getting involved, spreading the word, making donations, and coming out to these shows and helping us raise the money the old fashioned way.”

Here’s some bio info on Kitten on the Keys:

Suzanne Ramsey aka Kitten on the Keys is a world class burlesque legend and piano chanteuse. She’s toured the U.S. and Canada with Devotchka and Catherine D’Lish, opened for legendary punk band The Damned on the Twisted Cabaret Tour UK 2007, toured with the Teaseorama Roadshow, performed sold out shows in France, Netherlands, Finland, Italy, Edinburgh Scotland, Switzerland, played piano for Jazz Legend Little Jimmy Scott in Las Vegas, MC’d for Exotic World and the Burlesque Hall of Fame, played the Spigeltent at Outside Lands Fest in San Francisco, sang her original songs with a jazz band. Currently she is working with her latest band with none other than Dead Kennedy’s drummer Bruce Slesinger. Kitten on the Keys staked her claim in Europe co starring with Cabaret New Burlesque in the French film “Tournee” with award winning actor and director Mattieu Almaric (2010). The film was an official entry at the 63rd Annual Cannes Film Festival where it won a best director Palme D’or for Mattieu Amalric’s Directing and the Foreign Press Award. Kitten was pleased as punch to walk the red carpet with Mi Mi le Meaux, Evie Lovelle, Dirty Martini, Julie Atlas Muz, Roky Roulette and Mattieu Amalric and the rest of the cast.”

“High Maintenance” dance party brings spirit of Voodoo Lounge to One Eyed Jacks Feb. 7 for Mardi Gras

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Ever since Lori Tipton and Andy Overslaugh took over the management of the Voodoo Lounge, the Rampart Street bar has turned into the host for one crazy dance party after another, blurring lines of sexuality, gender and genres. But sometimes the party can outgrow the venue, which is why “High Maintenance: A Celebration of Humanity” will find a larger home in the form of One Eyed Jacks on Sunday (Feb. 7).

The inspiration for this particular party came from Bobby Carrasquillo, who worked with Tipton at the now-defunct Lucky Pierre’s and approached her with the idea for a huge party where they could showcase friends and performers. Really, she said, the whole night, which will be hosted by Beverly Chillz and comedian Corey Mack, is a group effort.

“We also have a few other friends who have been instrumental in helping to create and contribute to the overall concept, which is a party that is all-inclusive, with performances that flow into the music as opposed to breaking up the dance party with separate, announced acts,” Tipton explained. “One Eyed Jacks has always been my favorite performance space in the French Quarter, and Ryan and Marcy (Hesseling) are nearly extended family to us, since Flanagan’s (which Overslaugh and Tipton previously managed) was around the corner from Fifi Mahoney’s for over a decade.

“We are creating a sensory experience, from the art displayed, to the music and the performances,” she said.

Beats will be provided by several DJs, including Carrasquillo (aka DJ Survibe) as well as DJ Rusty Lazer and Bennett Hendricks, with drag, burlesque, aerial and erotic performances woven into the party. Performers include Charlotte Treuse, Indica Torture, Athena, Nicole Lynn Foxx, Ilaynnah Eve DeLorean, Neon Burgundy, Wednesday Bonet Iman and Eureeka Starfish, and Dara Quick and Markus Davis.

Tipton also said the evening will feature representatives from BreakOUT!, whose mission is to support LGBTQ youth in New Orleans.

“Most importantly, we want all people to feel welcome and to have fun. This is a celebration of humanity. We are just very lucky that the humanity in New Orleans tends to be more debaucherous than other places.”

Bella Blue returns for Mardi Gras with “Touche” Jan. 28 at Joy Theater

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Building on the success of last year’s “CREAM!” show, Bella Blue Entertainment returns with another variety show in time for Mardi Gras with “Touché” on Jan. 28 at the Joy Theater. Drag queen BenDeLaCreme, the former “RuPaul’s Drag Race” contestant who emceed last year’s show (held at One Eyed Jacks), returns as the emcee for this show that promises performers from the over-lapping worlds of burlesque, cabaret and drag.

“In true New Orleans fashion, ‘Touché’ ́promises a night to remember with an eclectic mix of performances ranging from classic Bourbon Street style burlesque to drag, boylesque, neo performance art, and more,” Bella Blue said in a press release Monday. “… We will also be revealing the latest project from Bella Blue Entertainment … you’ll have to come to the show and see it for yourself!”

Tickets start at $20 and are available here; VIP seating is available.

The lineup: Chicago’s Ray Gunn, 2013 King of Boylesque; New York City’s Gal Friday, “The 5 Alarm Fire of Burlesque”; New York City’s Madame Rosebud, “The David Bowie of Burlesque” (watch video below); Nona Narcisse, co-founder of New Orleans’ Slow Burn Burlesque; and Bella Blue. The “CREAM!” show, held during Southern Decadence, was co-produced by the burlesque team Kitten ‘N Lou (with former New Orleans burlesque performer Kitten LaRue) and featured BenDeLaCreme as emcee with performances by New York City’s Chris Harder and New Orleans entertainers Vinsantos, Eros Sea and Lady Satine.

The Thin White Duchess from Abe Goldfarb on Vimeo.