Okay, so I know it’s April and Burlesque Hall of Fame 2019 Weekender happened… well, last year… but it has honestly taken me this long to get my head around such an incredible event and find the words to do it justice!
For those of you that haven’t heard of the Burlesque Hall of Fame, it is the world’s premier burlesque museum in Las Vegas, a non-profit organisation committed to preserving, sharing, celebrating and inspiring the art of burlesque. From its humble origins as the personal collection of legendary tassel-twirler and founding member of the Exotic Dancers League, Jennie Lee, the museum has grown to become the world’s largest and most celebrated archive of vintage burlesque ephemera. If you ever get a chance to visit, it is well worth the entrance fee! Some personal highlights include Jayne Mansfield’s heart-shaped sofa, Dita Von Teese’s original martini glass and a g-string worn by none other than the legendary Tempest Storm!
Every June, the Burlesque Hall of Fame hold a Weekender in Las Vegas, which provides an incredible opportunity for performers around the world to not only meet and network but to support each other as they compete for several of the most prestigious titles in the burlesque world, including Miss Exotic World, Mr Exotic World and Living Legend of the Year. The Burlesque Hall of Fame 2019 Weekender was my first year in attendance, and here’s how it went down…
This was my very first trip to Las Vegas and, with most of Wednesday free, I decided to get straight out there and explore as much as possible! Jet lag had me awake at the absolute crack of dawn, so I jumped in an early Uber over to the Neon Museum to marvel at all the old signage. It was 10am when it opened and already the desert heat had warmed up the metalwork enough to make it almost unbearable walking around! I managed to last about an hour hopping from shaded area to shaded areas before retreating over to Fremont Street for some air conditioning and brunch!
Somehow I’d managed to make it into my thirties without ever really gambling, so today was my opportunity to have a go at that too! After a very quick but very embarrassing conversation with a member of staff who had to explain to me how the gambling machines worked, I traded in some cash for credits and sat down at a machine and had a spin. I won $25 on the first go… and instantly cashed out whilst I was up. Turns out I am not cut out for gambling life!
Thursday marked the official start of the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender, and after surfacing around lunchtime, I headed over to registration and picked up my photography pass for the event before spending the afternoon exploring the vending area upstairs – including purchasing a BHOF branded tee – and taking the opportunity to meet many of the incredible burlesque legends that would be performing on Friday night. Shortly after, I treated myself to a dip in the hotel pool outside, before getting dolled up for the Newcomer Mixer and Kickoff Cocktails and subsequently the Movers, Shakers and Innovators Showcase.
I’d heard a lot about how amazing the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender is from many clients over the years, but honestly, nothing prepared me for just how extravagant the event truly is. The entire audience is dressed up in their finest, so there I was standing in a casino in a beautiful bespoke dress, standing talking to some of the most iconic performers of our time, whilst wielding my camera in preparation for the show! I LOVED IT. Taking my seat in the audience, we were treated to a full evening of impeccable burlesque performers from all over the world, with the kind of great lighting that photographers can usually only dream of. Featuring the likes of Gin Minsky, Lady Josephine, Phathoms Deep, Tiger Bay and Zilly Lilly – plus a step-down performance from Ickymuffin, it would be absolutely impossible to pick a favourite act for the evening, but of course, here are a couple of photos!
Having barely recovered from the excitement of the night before, Friday was a jam-packed day of social activities with the US burlesque contingent, before heading back into the auditorium for the 62nd Annual Titans of Tease Night – also known as Legends Night. I’d been pre-warned by many people before the show that it would be an emotional evening and they were spot on: it was an absolute rollercoaster of emotions from start to finish. From the absolute joy of watching Dusty Summers magic white doves out of thin air and Tempest Storm’s walk of fame to the tears rolling down my cheeks as Camille 2000 performed as part of her acceptance of the Living Legend Award, I was an emotional mess by the end of the show and had to skip the afterparty and take myself off to bed early.
Feeling a little more rested on Saturday morning, I headed out for another day of fun plans with some burlesque icons before catching up with my publishers Bob and Kelly of Working Class Publishing for the best vegan Chinese I’ve eaten at Chef Kenny’s! Scratch that – the best Chinese food I have EVER eaten. Having only spoken to Bob and Kelly via Skype for the past year, it was so lovely to be able to sit down and spend some quality time with them, before heading back to the Orleans Hotel and Casino for Bob and Kelly to introduce me to my first blackjack table experience. Short Story: I ended up in the positive again, but I’m accrediting that mostly to luck and some very good advice from Bob!
That evening was the 29th Annual Tournament of Tease – AKA the Miss Exotic World competition, and it was exciting to have two familiar faces to cheer for in the form of Aurora Galore and Banbury Cross! The calibre of performance was, as expected, INCREDIBLY high, but winner Frankie Fictitious definitely stood out from the crowd with a flawless act; whilst Redbone and Lou Lou la Duchesse de Riere took the very well-deserved titles of Princess and Duchess respectively. Joshua Dean also won the title of Mr Exotic World. Another particular highlight of the evening was INGA’s stepdown act – which you can find the video of here.
They say go hard or go home, so on Sunday morning I was up early to go and hang out for the day with Elektra Cute, Nadi A’marena, Dalia Dulce, Joy Coy and Ariel Helvetica at their AirBnB not too far from the hotel before the Icons and All Stars Showcase in the evening. I had particularly been looking forward to this evening as there were so many incredible names on the line up that I had been waiting over a decade to see perform live, like Jo Weldon, Tigger! and Imogen Kelly. And of course, there was an afterparty to rival all after parties…
Having booked in the Monday as a relaxation day in Las Vegas before heading off back to the UK, it was lovely to have a slightly more chilled out day on the strip sightseeing with Jessabelle Thunder, plus a yummy vegan Thai lunch with some of the wonderful New York burlesque scene before heading off to a pool party to unwind with some of the Burlesque Hall of Fame 2019 cast members.
I had an absolutely AMAZING time at Burlesque Hall of Fame 2019 and honestly cannot recommend it highly enough, especially if you have even the slightest interest in burlesque and its history. Who’s going for 2020?
Looking for a live burlesque photographer? You’ve come to the right place! Drop me an email with details about your upcoming event and I’ll get back to you with a quote as soon as humanly possible. I can’t wait to hear from you!