Monday, October 04, 2010

The 8th Annual NYC Burlesque Festival



This past weekend, I attended The 8th Annual New York City Burlesque Festival.  While the festival itself occurs over a four – night period, I only attended the event on Saturday Night, October 2, 2010.  The first two nights took place in Brooklyn, but I was unable to attend either one of them (despite the fact that opening night was actually just a few blocks away from my very own neighborhood) and the last two nights were in Manhattan.  Saturday night was the big event, a three-hour show of ecdysiasts working their craft for a sold-out crowd at BB King’s night club in the heart of Times Square; Sunday, the festival wound down with several afternoon classes in the art of the striptease being offered by many of the professionals who performed the previous night, culminating with The Golden Pasty Awards being handed out that night. 


The show was scheduled to start at 7:30PM and the doors to open about an hour before; I didn’t show up until 6:45PM, and when I took a look at the long line snaking outside the club and down 42nd street, I wondered if I’d even get a seat, since I purchased a General Admission ticket online only a couple of nights prior.  While standing on line, I managed to strike up a conversation with the two young ladies in front of me; neither of them had ever attended this event before and they hadn’t already bought a ticket because they heard you could purchase them at the box office on the night of the show.  Unfortunately, they soon discovered that this evening’s show was completely sold out and as a result, the only tickets to be had at the box office were of the Will Call variety. 


Behind me was an unescorted woman who was clearly quite pumped-up about the evening – having attended last year’s festivities, she knew full well what to expect and wasn’t at all shy about sharing her experience with anyone willing to listen.  She grabbed my arm and waxed enthusiastically and fondly about what she witnessed the previous year, telling me exactly what to expect this evening.  “The show was very long, but well worth it because the acts got increasingly erotic as the night wore on … “, she reminisced, her eyes rolling up.  “Put it this way”, she concluded, squeezing my arm even tighter, “By the end of the evening, I’m going to be jumping your bones!”  With that for an entree to the night’s excitement, I was ready for a fun Saturday. 


Once we found our way inside the theater, I was soon separated from this woman who would be my night’s “date” and the ushers had no problem finding me a seat for the evening – lucky for me, it was a booth with three women who were in a cocktail kinda mood for a Girls Night Out.  We began by listening to a jazz trio performing the best of The Great American Songbook, as Tony Bennett once called these tunes.  Shortly thereafter, the show began, more or less on time, with host (hostess?) Murray Hill, the famed (in NYC, anyway) drag king comedian (comedienne?) who is the annual Master (Mistress?) Of Ceremonies for this event.   Although I had heard of Murray Hill for some years now, this was the first time I had the pleasure of experiencing his (her?) act in person; he (she?) was quite funny – perhaps the only downside of the performance was Murray’s attempt at singing (twice!).  Stick to the jokes, babe …


Despite the advice I had gotten while queued up for the event, I found that the show was quite the opposite of what had been described to me – instead of the acts getting increasingly better as the night wore on, they seemed to me to be getting worse.  For the most part, the best acts were presented early on and the later the hour, the worse the performers.  In fact, the group of three ladies with whom I shared a booth were so bored that before the two hour mark, they had paid their check and left for more promising ventures in The Big Apple (my only regret being that they did not ask me to join them).  How to describe the majority of the evening’s strippers?  Too old, too fat, too ugly and too bad.  Were these women truly The Modern Queens Of Burlesque or were they merely The Women Of Walmart?  I report, you decide. 


Finally, a comment about the venue – BB King’s Blues Club in the Times Square section of Manhattan.  Depending on why you are there and which event you’re there to see, this could either appear to be a very small club or a rather extensive, comfortably-sized place with Lucille’s Bar & Grill conveniently adjacent downstairs.  Was this a good place for this particular event?  Well, I guess it depends on your perspective.  From what I’ve been given to understand, the event has been held here for as many years as it has been held in NYC.  However, from what I’ve heard from others who are veterans of this event, The Burlesque Festival has greatly outgrown BB King’s – the proof being the speed in which the festival sold out for this evening.  Also, the spotty service accentuated by the $5 “service charge” tacked on to the check for the night suggest that maybe a better location might be in the offing for next year or beyond.