Monday, May 14, 2007

Burlescapades! Bettie Page Influence Again : ) Lily White

Bubbly striptease? It must be Lily White

MAKE of this what you will. A beautiful redhead appears on stage, perched on a giant silver ice bucket containing a six-foot bottle of Champagne, with balloon bubbles cascading down the side and over her golden Swarovski crystal- embellished body. She toasts the audience, then coquettishly performs a classic balloon-popping striptease in a cloud of golden glitter.

If such a scene was set before you, you’d probably assume you were in Pigalle, the old red-light district of Paris. Or perhaps in one of the many murky clubs on Berlin’s seedy cabaret scene. Neither is true. It’s all happening tonight at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh’s plush George Street.

The venue, of course, is better known for hosting ceilidhs, private functions, wedding parties and Fringe shows. But tonight there will be feather fans and silk stockings, high comedy and slapstick humour, tassel twirling and balloon popping, daring acrobatics and double entendres, as Miss Lily White and London’s famous Whoopee Club present Burlescapades!

“It’s a night when people of all ages and persuasions will be able to dress up, be themselves, and really let go,” smiles White, the UK’s Queen of Burlesque, who will headline the event with the kind of stunning, show-stopping extravaganza that has become her stock in trade.

Born in Australia and brought up in New York , White became obsessed with the glitz, glamour and romance of bygone eras – Paris in the 20s, Berlin in the 30s, Hollywood in the 40s. Her unusual upbringing in one of the most exciting cities in the world found her surrounded by artists, musicians, performers, drag queens, intellectuals, dreamers and divas.

“There was never a dull moment,” she recalls. “My parents were always getting evicted for not paying the rent and we even lived briefly in a theatre costume storeroom, where I spent many happy hours trying on wonderful outfits and taking bows to imaginary rapturous applause.”
After moving to London to study dance and drama in the late 1990s, White took a few trips back to the Big Apple, where she became aware of Lily St Cyr and Bettie Page, a famous stripper and a much-loved pin-up and bondage model.

If she couldn’t go back in time, the next best thing would be to recreate the style, elegance and humour of those past times in her own burlesque performances. “When I came back to London from New York I started to watch St Cyr and Page repeatedly, and learned all their moves and mannerisms,” she recalls.“Then I started to go into cabaret clubs around London to ask if I could do burlesque dancing. I told them that I wanted to put on some gold underwear and then take it off.”

As the burlesque cabaret boom grew, so did White’s reputation as its star attraction. According to the entertainer, who has just been nominated for Best Female Performer 2007 in the Ministry of Burlesque Awards, the reason for this renewed interest is that people got bored going to clubs and dive-bars. “People wanted to start dressing up again,” she says. “They were sick and tired of going to the same old clubs, playing the same-old music, which they couldn’t even hear themselves speak over.

“When I first started out there were only about two others doing this kind of cabaret in London, and there weren’t any regular clubs to see it in. Later, the Whoopee Club appeared to create that environment.”

White feels that Edinburgh, too, has embraced burlesque cabaret full on over the past few year, “but like London before the Whoopee Club appeared, lacks a proper environment”. Until now that is. “People have being saying for a while that Edinburgh needs a really good club that caters for those who enjoy this sort of entertainment, and Burlescapades! is what the city has been waiting for.

“To those who come along it will be a magical experience,” she promises, “they will feel as if they’ve been transported back in time.”

Burlescapades!, Assembly Rooms, George Street, tonight, 9pm-1pm, £25, 0131 220 3234

No comments: