A dozen years into the burlesque revival and the concept has gone mainstream, what with its biggest and most polished star, Dita Von Teese, serving as the fashion world’s muse and exceptionally diluted schemes such as the Pussycat Dolls (who most would argue were never quite burlesque even in earlier incarnations) given to Top 40 stylings.
So it’s inevitable a troupe would emerge determined to take New Burlesque back to its roots. In the case of the motley crew behind Saturday night’s upcoming event at the Key Club, “roots” isn’t so much the original bump-and-grind beat. It’s rock: punk, garage, even a bit of the Guns N’ Roses variety.
“For a lot of us -- the performers, even the audience -- punk rock completely altered our lives in a really positive way,” said Annie Sperling, a.k.a. Ming Dynatease and one of the organizers behind the show, which will take place quarterly.
Sperling, like co-organizer Teri Geary, a.k.a. Kitten deVille, and other performers slated for Saturday’s event, first twirled her pasties as a member of the Velvet Hammer, the Los Angeles-based revue widely considered the pioneer of the revival, dating back to 1995. They have also regularly appeared in the early presentations of Lucha VaVoom, the ingenious melding of burlesque and Mexican wrestling that spun off the Velvet Hammer and now takes place every few months at the Mayan Theater in downtown Los Angeles.
“So many of the people I know are alienated by the popular Britney Spears-type culture. We have no connection to all of that. Although most of burlesque today involves these really campy songs -- which we love -- it was fun to go back to what brought us together in the first place.”
That includes a live band of accomplished session musicians who can knock out a New York Dolls song like it’s their own.
“We love the energy of live music. It’s been an eye-opening experience for the performers playing with these guys,” said Sperling, who by day is production designer to photographer David LaChapelle.
“They really understand all the subtleties of our favorite songs.”
Fronting the band at this sophomore show will be Pearl Harbour, the San Francisco artist who along with her band the Explosions had a new wave hit, “You Got It,” in 1978 (she was also once married to Clash bassist Paul Simonon).
As with many of the ensemble showcases in the neo-burlesque-cabaret scene, the program offers more than pretty women peeling off crazy costumes. There is slapstick shtick, magic tricks from Christopher Wonder (a Silver Lake magician who looks straight out of “Deadwood” central casting) and some death-defying feats. In the spirit of Russ Meyer’s campy exploitation flicks of female empowerment, there is a “sibling” act called the Dagger Sisters.
Whether the references are Meyer’s “Faster Pussycat” or the gritty lore of the Sunset Strip, “it’s this mix of elements that are basically very much stripped down to the basics of rock ‘n’ roll,” said co-producer Joseph Brooks.
A veteran of the music scene here, first as the owner of landmark record store Vinyl Fetish in the 1980s and then as one of the masterminds behind mega-clubs Cinematic, Cherry and Makeup, Brooks spins a heady mix of Ramones, the Damned and Mott the Hoople between the two acts. “We just wanted to throw a party that got everyone on their feet and going nuts.”
“Never Mind the Burlesque: Here’s the Rock & Roll Stripshow,” Saturday at the Key Club, 9030 W. Sunset Blvd., L.A. Doors open at 9 p.m.; show begins at 10 p.m. $20 tickets available at ticketmaster.com and Soap Plant in Silver Lake.