Photo: Kaylin Idora

Burlesque Boys Perform At The Dirty Show

Chicago Dance Troupe Show Sequins & Skin At 14th Annual Exhibit

By Chris Azzopardi

Editor's Note: The story previously referenced Roxi D'Lite as a drag queen; she is not. She's a female burlesque performer, and just as fabulous as a drag queen. Thanks for taking it in stride, Roxi.

A half-gay burlesque act is coming to town - but without Cher, Christina Aguilera and a really awful script. Bazuka Joe, Jett Adore and Ray Gunn are the fine-looking guys of Stage Door Johnnies, a Chicago dance troupe who will perform Feb. 8, 9, 15 and 16 at Dirty Show 14. Expect special guest bad girl of burlesque Roxi D'Lite, acrobatic pole-dancing and lots of rhinestones when the burlesque men perform at the annual international erotic art exhibit. Will it be anything like Cher's "Burlesque"?

Bazuka laughs. "Not at all," he says when we get him on the phone. "A lot of burlesque, especially if you talk to anyone from its heyday, is the tease element. The movie just didn't capture any of that essence."

But you can bet these boys will capture that - and a lot of curious eyes - when they roll into town.

Go-go? No, no

People either think we're drag queens or go-go boys. Lots of times, what we'll try to do is liken it to something. Like, "Have you ever seen 'Gypsy'?" "Do you know who Bettie Page is?" A lot of people these days don't know these references; we're constantly surprised.

It's striptease but it's really theatrical, so it's way more involved than Chippendales, but it's not as big and makeup-y as drag performing. We still, to this day, haven't found a really good way to describe burlesque, because it is a little bit like Chippendales. We're guys taking our clothes off. And it is a little bit like drag queens because we wear elaborate costumes, but we're not dressing up as girls.

The history of male burlesque

There were guys in and around the scene, but they were really subversive. It was really underground. Way more so than it is now. People just didn't talk about it. Also, at that time, female burlesque performers were almost like superstars. Legends will tell you about having dated Dean Martin and hanging out with Marilyn Monroe and Carol Channing. Then burlesque died out for 20, 30 years, and it's just now starting to see a revival. It's really cool seeing more and more guys getting into it. It's evolved a lot since that time.

Fast fame

It's been three years going on four. We think about that a lot, because a lot of performers have done this for years and years and have not had the same opportunities that we've had. So we're very grateful. We've all been formally dance-trained and theater-trained, so there is a lot of schooling and work behind what we do - but as far as being in the burlesque scene itself, we're relative newbies and got pretty far pretty fast.

Meeting Liza

It was really incredible and crazy. First of all, it came out of nowhere. This producer out in New York gave us a call and was like, "Hey, I'm thinking about having you come up here for this event." It was on Fire Island and we're like, "It could be like a cool little vacation." And then he's like, "Well, but I gotta tell you, you're gonna be performing with another performer. I hope you don't mind, but you're gonna be opening for Liza Minnelli and Alan Cumming." And we're like, "What the fuck? Hope we don't mind? That's absurd." So I talked to the other guys and they thought I was totally yanking their chains. They didn't really believe me until the contract was in our hands and the poster was drafted. (Laughs)

We had this tiny dressing room, and just to the side of the room was the walk-in beer cooler. We walk in and the door to the beer cooler swings open - and it was Liza Minnelli sitting on a stool in the beer freezer drinking a martini. We're like, "Uh, hello." (Laughs) We didn't know what to say, because we were all completely taken aback. For Pete's sake, she was sitting in a freezer drinking a martini! We're like, "This is not the way we thought we'd be meeting you, if ever." (Laughs)

Embarrassing stage stories

We have had costume malfunctions. Zippers get stuck; corsets don't come off. Those codpieces can actually get very heavy because of what we put on top of them - sometimes really heavy material or jewels and things like that. Also, we dance around a lot and sweat a lot, too. Most recently, I was at a show and we did a final reveal facing the back, but my codpiece came off from underneath. So I totally fell out the bottom of it, and there were other people on stage behind me. They saw everything. If you go back and look at the photos, you can see the shock on everybody's face the instant it happened. Their eyes are as big as dinner plates. Jaws dropped. They just froze. And I just had to fake the ending. I covered myself with my hands and played it off as if there was literally nothing there, because there wasn't at that point. (Laughs)

On the Dirty Show

It's one of the craziest, most incredible events. When we went, the place was just packed. The one really cool thing that really impressed us was there were hundreds and hundreds of people there, and they had music going and people were drinking, but it wasn't a party atmosphere. People were really respectful of the art and they really took it in and sat down for the show. They were really into the intention of the event.

The gay question

It comes up all the time, but, I mean, it totally stands reason. It's nice that we can genuinely say that there's a spectrum there, so there's still an accessibility to guys and girls in the audience. It worked out that it happened that way. I can safely say that 1 1/2 of the three of us are gay. We'll leave it a mystery as to who is, who isn't and who's a little flexible!

Dirty Show 14

Feb. 8-10, 14-16

Berts Warehouse Theatre

2739 Russell St., Detroit

http://www.dirtydetroit.com

Upcoming

April 2014

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