Burlesque at the Voodoo: Denver Burlesque At Its Best!

Frenchie Renard's Follies Voudou Burlesque ShowcaseThe denver burlesque scene is on the rise and Burlesque at the VooDoo is ready with sexy entertainment that your and your friends won’t soon forget. Voted Best Burlesque Night in Westword’s 2013 Best Of Denver awards, Burlesque at the VooDoo is full of music, sexy fun and and all around outrageously good time. 

Whether it’s Frenchie Renard and her Follies Voudou or Cora Vette and her Restomod Burlesque Revue, we’re certain that a night spent at Denver’s VooDoo will be one you’ll be discussing over the water cooler the next morning!

Cora Vette brings classic burlesque to the stage but with some modern additions in her show at The VooDoo on Thursday nights.  She’s sexy and sassy and you’re not going to want to miss a minute of her performance so make sure you book tickets in advance as they’re likely to go quickly!

To keep up with all that The VooDoo has to offer, make certain that you follow us on Twitter and watch for showtimes and advance ticket purchase specials.  You can also find a calendar of events on our Facebook page.  Go give us a like and stay current with all of the happenings at Denver’s VooDoo.  

If you have any questions for us or would like to inquire about our nightly lineup at The VooDoo, please contact us for more information.  We’ll do all that we can to make sure that you have a wild and crazy night that will stay with you like a lip stick stained kiss from Cora Vette herself!

Vaudeville And Burlesque: The Comic Origins of Classic Striptease

vaudeville2Today, most audiences would define burlesque as a provocative comedy show performed by liberated young ladies in vintage feathers and corsets. Go back a couple generations, and the term is synonymous with striptease, the only titters erupting from tipsy, excited patrons. However, the interpretation best remembered can be traced back to vaudeville: traveling variety shows featuring comedy, music, and when attendance needed a boost, burlesque.

According to The Concise Oxford Companion to the Theater, the term was conjured from the Italian word, “burla,” meaning to ridicule, and the first aficionados of Italian burlesque referred to it as, “burlesco.” Initially, sexuality played a bit role; a work described as burlesque, either literary or live, could be distinguished by its satirical tone and bawdy content. Once the word gained popularity, it was retroactively applied to such masters as Chaucer and Voltaire. 

By the mid-19th Century, co-ed burlesque shows spoofing every aspect of popular culture enthralled audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. Within a few short decades, the scantily-clad female performers became the stars. From Musicals 101’s History of Burlesque

In the Victorian age, when proper women went to great lengths to hide their physical form beneath bustles, hoops and frills, the idea of young ladies appearing onstage in tights was a powerful challenge. 

In 1868, Broadway burlesque hit, “Ixion,” earned $370,000 in its first season, cementing the fad’s popularity across the upper, lower, and bourgeoning middle class. However, the medium was soon pushed from legitimate theaters due to predictable, cyclical Puritan outrage. From there, it continued in designated burlesque clubs and occasionally as a sly, seat-filling ingredient in vaudeville’s eclectic variety shows.

The petty internal hierarchy of entertainment in the early 20th Century is dizzying to describe. Broadway turned its nose at vaudeville, considered lowbrow entertainment and too close to the freak shows that would later evolve into carnivals. In turn, vaudeville entertainers sneered at burlesque, and the male comedians working among the bubbly women in bustiers often used pseudonyms to preserve their future careers. Legends such as Bob Hope and W.C. Fields were among the many young comedians who either earned their chops working burlesque or retreated to its dark corners in times of financial strife. As the decade progressed, burlesque clubs became targets for law enforcement. According to Albany.edu’s “History of Burlesque:”

In 1942, Paul Moss, the commissioner in charge of licenses in New York City, forced the burlesque theaters to close; in response to this action the owners of the Gaiety Theater sued Moss… [a Supreme Court judge] ruled in favor of the state. Trials like this weren’t uncommon, nor were trials over anti-obscenity laws concerning burlesque dancers that the government deemed too revealing.

By the 1960s, male comedians had vanished from the burlesque stage, and humor was considered an optional portion of the act. Ten years later, the term was obsolete, and burlesque theaters were replaced by the modern strip club.

Burlesque’s current incarnation combines its comedic beginnings with the flirtatious fun that once made it a worldwide sensation. Soak in the high heels and history any Tuesday or Saturday night at the Voodoo Comedy Playhouse, recently voted Best Burlesque in Westword’s 2013 Best of Denver Awards. Check out our calendar for show times and a full list of events, or contact us for information on our comedy workshops or to schedule a private event.

3 Of The Most Off-Kilter Burlesque Shows

It is probably a well known fact by this point, but many burlesque performers tend to have a nerdy streak. Do not be surprised if you ever see the bookworm with back-to-back 800 verbal SAT scores you haven’t seen in a decade up on a stage wearing pasties shaped like the Death Star and now calling herself “Duchess Tangerine.” (Kudos to the “burlesque name generator.”)

Part of the beauty of burlesque is the creativity on display, though some troupes have taken some extreme liberties with what they are willing to present to the public as “sexy.” This is exemplified by the following three shows.

piggy-584-1291308378The Muppets

It takes a lot of courage to mess with what is for many a beloved childhood memory. It takes even more courage to try and visualize what Oscar the Grouch looks like under his trashcan.

Screen Shot 2013-08-30 at 1.20.10 AMStar Wars vs. Star Trek

Maybe I didn’t emphasize the “nerdy” part enough, but with this show you need no further proof. Video games, anime, comic books, and other pop culture sources are mainstays of burlesque performance, and we should be honest that most of them are ripe with characters that work well in a burlesque routine. However, this show acts out one of the nerdiest things that exists – a battle of sci-fi universes.

Screen Shot 2013-08-30 at 1.20.28 AMWeird Al Tribute

Yes, this is real. You’ve seen the flyer and now you can’t unsee it. While it’s easy to picture the music of Weird Al Yankovich in the background to a burlesque show, this is one theme we would have never seen coming.

First Striptease Artist of Louisiana: Burlesque Legend Blaze Starr

600full-blaze-starr-1These days, most audiences know burlesque as funny, seductive live entertainment performed by women reveling in their sexuality while donning elaborate vintage costumes. The telltale feathers and garters reference the twilight years of burlesque’s first run of popularity, after striptease became the main event, and burlesque houses became synonymous with modern strip clubs. 

Naturally good-humored, the legendary Blaze Starr furthered burlesque’s comic precedence nearly a decade after laughs became secondary to legs. Born and raised in West Virginia, Blaze sauntered into Baltimore’s burlesque scene in the mid-’50s while still in her teens. A giddy dream inspired her trademark “exploding couch number.” Blaze describes the act to the LA Times:

I had finally got my gimmick, a comedy thing where I’m supposed to be getting so worked up that I stretch out on the couch, and — when I push a secret button — smoke starts coming out from like between my legs. Then a fan and a floodlight come on, and you see all these red silk streamers blowing, shaped just like flames, so it looked like the couch had just burst into fire.

Starr found herself in a real life comic burlesque when she became involved with the eccentric and notoriously theatrical governor of Louisiana, Earl Long. Their romance began in 1959, and rather than a tawdry affair, Starr recalls a sweet love story. In 1989, she told People:

Earl came [to the club] every night. Finally I did go out with him, and he really started to get to me. He was so kind. We dated for two months before he made a move.

The governor happened to be married, a fact glazed over in the 1989 biopic, Blaze. The Paul Newman film also overlooks Blaze’s dalliances outside her gubernatorial tryst, namely with President-To-Be John F. Kennedy. From the same article:

One night before he was President, Jack Kennedy came to the club and watched the show from the balcony with Jackie. I had met Jack in Washington before he married… But neither of us let on that we knew each other when Earl made introductions. That night we all went to the Roosevelt Hotel. Jackie left, and while Earl was elsewhere, I wound up having a quickie in a closet with Jack.

Long passed away the same year his fling with Starr began, at the end of a long-shot Democratic primary run for Congress. Blaze continued to strip until 1985, after an illustrious career including work with Irving Klaw, best known for his black and white photographs of Bettie Page, a profile by art photographer Diane Arbus, and several starring roles as herself in a string of ’60s sexploitation films. 

Starr went on to purchase the club where she performed in her youth, the iconic Two O’Clock Club in Baltimore. Now 81, Blaze is rarely seen at the club, but memorabilia from her salad days line the establishment’s walls.

Blaze Starr’s full story is documented in Blaze Starr: My Life as Told to Huey Perry. Sadly out of print, the book can still be found used in paperback and hardcover.

Ready to check out burlesque‘s latest incarnation? Grab a drink at the Voodoo Comedy Playhouse on a Tuesday or Saturday, and enjoy an evening of girls, giggles, and garters, recently voted Best Burlesque in Westword’s 2013 Best of Denver Awards. Take a look at our calendar for show times and a full list of events, and feel free to contact us with any questions or comments.

Burlesque: Fun, Flirty, and Female Empowering

frangelica-voodoo2Fun fact: Burlesque didn’t always involve striptease. In its early years, bubbly chorus girls satirized popular culture, fusing sexuality and comedy in live vaudevillian routines. Male comedians shared the stage or the street, wherever the performance was taking place, and both genders poked fun at society’s taboos. Once the first garter dropped, the sexual element overtook the medium, and it was eventually replaced by erotic dancing and the modern strip club.

During the last fifteen years, grassroots burlesque troupes have cropped up in bohemian hubs around the world. There’s even a burlesque show in Dallas, not normally known for its progressive youth culture. It would appear tattooed women in their twenties and thirties have found a new favorite hobby: performing in variety shows that are equal parts dance, striptease, vintage lingerie, and provocative winks. While the revival started with Gen-Xers, it’s spread to the Millenials and is now more mainstream than ever.

One possible reason for the resurgence in feather boa-based entertainment could be how women perceive themselves. These days, women feel freer than ever to flaunt and enjoy their own sexuality. This area of oppression within American society has nearly evaporated, and with it, the shame in utilizing the feminine form’s natural power to enthrall. For this new crop of performers, burlesque is an outlet, not a job.

With the dancers having so much fun taunting and tantalizing, it’s almost impossible for the audience not to have fun with them. Plus, who doesn’t love a variety show with a cast of lovely ladies in garters? Check out the glitter and lace for yourself any Tuesday and the first two Saturdays of every month at the Voodoo Comedy Playhouse, voted 2013’s Best Burlesque Night by Westword’s Best of Denver Awards.

Details and show times:

  • Tuesdays: Frenchie Renard’s Follies Voudou
  • Saturdays: Bella Diva Dance Showcase, Merry Widow’s Artisan Operetta

Contact us with any questions or comments, and enjoy the show!

Get Turned On Weekly By Burlesque At Follies Voudou

Quick…2010 movie starring Cher and Christina Aguilera that bombed at the box office but has a flashy name? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? BURLESQUE! Ok, so the movie was not a success (gee, wonder why) but that is totally the opposite of any burlesque show you’d actually see performed. Wait, what?!? What is burlesque? You’re kidding, right?

Ok, burlesque is dance. Well, and striptease. Oh, and comedy. It’s sexy. It’s sultry. It’s glamorous. Men, women, children…no, not children but men and women alike will be drawn in and turned on by a good burlesque show. A good burlesque show will have some satire, some improv, and, of course, some sexiness.

Burlesque performances started in the 1860s in the United States and changed with the times through the 1990s. At first, burlesque shows were variety acts performed in cabarets and clubs. Then, they grew up into sexier versions of themselves. You could say that they hit puberty. Honey, puberty was kind to burlesque shows. Audiences everywhere agreed. Between the striptease and the comedy, these were shows that were well worth the price of admission. Well, almost everywhere. In New York in the 1940s, the mayor had a little problem with burlesque shows and closed them down. This ridiculousness spread and by the 1970s, burlesque had lost its popularity crown.

Not to fear! In the 1990s, a wave of innovators longing for the sultriness of years past revitalized burlesque. They went back to the roots of the show and breathed life back into the satire and striptease that is the essence of burlesque. Today, burlesque has a cult following that is growing and becoming more main stream. It’s not quite there yet, so to find a good show, you have to search.

Luckily for you, there is a top notch burlesque show that happens weekly right here in LoDo. That’s right, weekly. Each Tuesday night from 8:00 to 10:00pm you and your friends, partners, lovers, coworkers, and neighbors can come down to the Voodoo Comedy Playhouse and have some food, some drinks, and watch the Follies Voudou do what they do best – Burlesque. Contact us for tickets and information.