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By Dianne R. Davis
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Photos by Dianne R. Davis or Burt Davis

Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend Held in Las Vegas

They came from all parts of the US and beyond. They ranged from retired burlesque performers to would-be performers. The young girls and older women shared stories, techniques, and advice about their chosen profession. The occasion was the Burlesque Hall of Fame’s 2010 weekend at the Plaza Hotel on June 3-6. The BHF is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of American Burlesque "as it was," including but not limited to the art, artifacts and personal histories of its biggest names and brightest stars.

The gathering included “Titans of Tease” Burlesque Reunion Showcase and the 20th Annual Burlesque Competition. Called the “Striptease Olympics” by the London Daily Mirror, it is the most prestigious competitive burlesque event in the world; drawing bump ‘n’ grind’s best of the best, year after year, from Tokyo to Toronto.

Also on the agenda was the re-opening of the Burlesque Hall of Fame Museum at Emergency Arts.

Photo by Don Spiro

Mayor Oscar Goodman was joined by (L to R) Dixie Evans, Miss Exotic World 2002 Kitten Deville, Tempest Storm, Miss Exotic World 2008 Angie Pontani, Miss Exotic World 2009 Kalani Kokonuts, Miss Exotic World 2004 Dirty Martini, and Miss Exotic World 2006 Julie Atlas Muz in the boa ribbon cutting at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Museum grand opening Friday, June 4.

Photo by Don Spiro
Josh Strickland and Holly Madison check out “Sequins in the Sand: Celebrating 20 Years of Miss Exotic World,” the first installment in the Burlesque Hall of Fame Museum


There was a burlesque bazaar featuring contemporary and vintage burlesque/pinup-inspired wares; the 5th Annual Pinup Safari and Cheesecake Camera Club; Keep A Breast burlesque cast sale to benefit charity; the Pinup Pool Party hosted by Sabina Kelley ; the inaugural Hall of Fame Car Show; Texas Tease ‘Em Poker Tournament; the Burlesque Hall of Fame Finishing School Master Classes, and an all-star Dr. Sketchy’s live drawing event.

I was only able to attend for a short time, but it was worth the trip downtown to the Plaza to chat with some of the big names in the business. Joan Arline is well into her 70’s but still performs. She boasted to me that she still wears the same size costume that she did when she was 22. Just two years ago, she appeared in Bret Michael’s “Rock of Love.” She was known as “The Sexquire Girl” during her appearances at top clubs throughout the United States.

Joan Arline

In addition to performing, Joan teaches dance to the girls at a local American Legion facility. I asked her what advice she has for women in the business today. “To remember it is tease. Don’t give it all to them at once. Enjoy it.” She wishes today’s shows, “had more of the comedy bits, not just the stripping.” Joan tells the young women to “sell it with your face. Be sensual, tantalizing, versatile. Be all of that and sell it” Be subtle. Let them get the message.”

Joan has a cabaret act which pays tribute to the four legendary blond bombshells of the 20th century, Marline Dietrich, May West, Marilyn Monroe. And the other I asked. Well, Joan Airline of course. And Joan is still looking for bookings for the act.



There were a few men at the convention as well. “Scratch” runs the world’s only professional development conference for Burlesque performers. “We teach everything they need to know to be professional performers”. He said that the women also learn off- stage skills such as how to do their taxes.


I met Athena who performed in New York when she was 21. She spoke at one of the panel discussions and told the women to “Feel the music, make eye contact and be sexual. Make everybody feel equal,”

Candy Baby’s Bust is being sold to help fund Cancer research

Candy Baby is a generously sized woman with quite a history. She was taught by the famous Sally Rand and Evelyn West. “I still do my fans in memory of Sally Rand,” she told me. Candy opened the first burlesque theater in New York after burlesque had been banned for many years. She proudly told me that, “my boobs are real.” In those days, she said, “they wanted them big so the last row could see them.” Candy worked the Moulin Rouge in Paris. “The world has been my playground.” She proclaimed. Just before my arrival, Candy had been recorded for a documentary with Sally Rand’s fans.

Liz Cortez came to learn

I turned my attention to a young woman by the name of Liz Cortez. Why had she come? “To learn from the masters. This is an art form and I want to preserve it. It is often misunderstood.” I think people wonder what the difference is between burlesque and stripping so I asked. “Burlesque artists have some control over what they present, “ Liz said. I wondered what her future in burlesque might look like. “If it feels right, I’m going to do it until it doesn’t.”

The weekend included the opening of the Burlesque Hall of Fame which is temporarily being housed in a small space in the newly christened Emergency Arts building on Fremont Street, across from the El Cortez. For the official opening, Holly Madison of Peepshow and Playboy fame joined other burlesque performers and Mayor Oscar Goodman for a ceremonial cutting of a feather boa. I’m told that Goodman was without his usual showgirl entourage because the place was already full of replacements.

There was also a Striptease Reunion (now in its 53rd year), at which newer performers could learn tricks of the trade from surviving superstars of the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s.


Performers also could attend a bazaar where they could purchase many tools of the trade.


The winners of the 20th Annual Best of Burlesque Pageant:

Best Debut: Ms. Tickle (Brooklyn, NY)

Most Innovative: Ms. Tickle

Most Dazzling: Ms. Tickle

Best Group: Chicago Starlets (Chicago, IL) – worked with Miss Exotic World 2005 Michelle L’amour

Best Boylesque: The Evil Hate Monkey (Baltimore, MD)

Most Comical: The Evil Hate Monkey

Most Classic: Mimi Le Meaux (San Diego, CA)

Best Variety: Lolo Martinet & Tila Von Twirl (Chicago, IL)

Queen of Burlesque / Miss Exotic World 2010: Roxi D’lite (Windsor, Canada) – last year’s runner up.

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