BurleX-Factor at Shimmy Shake Showdown. Viva Lamore Tells Us How She’ll Win.
By Andrew Cottrill . April 28, 2016
We’re a multi-talented bunch, aren’t we? Well, maybe not you… but this next lady certainly is. And this Monday 2nd May she’s going to win Burlesque Entertainer of the Year at the upcoming Shimmy Shake Show newcomer competition. At least we hope she is… She’s burlesque vixen Viva Lamore.
This Shimmy Shakedown will see 16 top burlesque performers from all around the world facing off in front of a judging panel of burlesque scene royalty, all hoping to be named Burlesque Entertainer of the Year at the first annual Berlin Burlesque Week… and Viva Lamore is taking the competition very seriously.
Viva Lamore isn’t just an exhibitionist — getting off while you get off (although we all know and appreciate the type…). No, she creates on-stage art pieces. With her boobs out. She’s literary. The James Joyce of Burlesque. ‘A Portrait of the Artist in Nipple Tassels’. The intellectual person’s crumpet. She doesn’t make costume changes, she makes transformations. She’s lived in a cage… do you know anyone who’s lived in a cage? And on Monday 2nd May, she’s going to be stealing the top prize, along with the judges’ hearts (and jobs).
I had a chat with Viva about the upcoming burlesque showdown at The Shimmy Shake Show:
In light of the Purple One’s recent demise… If you had to dance to a Prince song, which would you choose?
Well, Raspberry Beret comes with a suggestion of costume and nudity. Perfect for a burlesque number! But all of Prince’s songs are great. Someone with better twerking skills could really go off on Sexy M-F, shaking that ass, shaking that ass.
This is a newcomers competition but you’ve been doing this a while now. What got you started in burlesque?
I was a 17 year old runaway living in a cage in the basement of a theater when my best friend brought me to Pussycat Lounge and introduced me to an amazing way to survive on the mean streets of NYC. All I had to do was dance in my underwear and presto! I’d have a fistful of dollar bills. So for the next several years, I worked as a stripper in various clubs while getting off the street and pursuing a career on the legit stage.
One of my favorite places to dance was Baby Doll Lounge. They had a policy that you could just come and dance whenever you needed some dough and consequently, they had some of the most interesting girls. Serious dancers and actresses, college students and single moms, girls with a real life who didn’t want to be tied to an eight hour shift. Well, a few of the girls there and at the Blue Angel down the street were bored with the usual striptease and they began bringing costumes and music with them. So when Giuliani began cracking down on strip clubs in 1997 or 1998 and the money plummeted, some of these girls got together to put on their own shows. Bonnie Dunn was one of the girls at Blue Angel and her show Le Scandal is still running. Billie Madley was a Baby Doll girl and I helped her produce GIRLS TOWN, one of the first burlesque theater pieces. But I wanted to do classical theater so I kind of disappeared from the scene just when it was getting good.
What’s the difference between the New York and the Berlin burlesque scenes?
The biggest difference that I see is that it’s not enough to do a gown-and-glove routine in NYC. Burlesque has been going on in NYC for 20 years now and everyone is totally jaded. If all you’re gonna do is take off your clothes, you’ve got to be a total stunner and have serious moves. But the most interesting burlesque acts in NYC now are more like performance art pieces. There’s more of a story, a bit more of a statement being made than just tada! titties! Check out Julie Atlas Muz or Stormy Leather or Dame Cuchifrita.
I would also say that the MCs are better in New York. I think this is partially because there’s still a thread to the old burlesque of the 1930s to 1950s, when burlesque meant comedy. Dancers were just in between, the icing on the cake. Making fun of being human was the real show. MCs in New York still know that. But the Germans… well, they’re not exactly known for their sense of humor. And another reason there might not be any fab MCs is that all the good ones are making big bucks in the major varieté halls so they don’t need to be fronting small underground shindigs.
What do you have planned for the Shimmy Shake Show competition?
I’m doing my lolita maid act. I start off as a very kawaii Japanese maid and then sort of turn the tables around. There are a few surprises which you’ll just have to see. No spoilers!
What would you say your secret weapon is?
I only look like a cute Asian girl. I’m really a 75-year-old gay Jewish guy from NYC in disguise.
Competition is fierce. How are you going to try to sabotage your opponents?
Cookies or dark chocolate are the best weapons. Honestly, a lot of problems can be solved if people just got together and had desserts. Or better yet, if they baked a cake together. And then smeared it on each other’s bodies and licked it off.
Can burlesque be cut-throat like that? Like in that (great/terrible) film Showgirls? Got any dastardly stories?
Ugh Showgirls. The only stripper films that are out there are written by horny white guys who don’t know anything about women. In all my years of dancing, I never ever saw a cat fight. Not once. Cat fights are something that’s made up by guys. Girls don’t compete in that way. Definitely not in a strip club. And definitely not in burlesque. What is there to compete over anyway? It’s not like there’s a ton of money or that much in the way of fame. And squabble over guys? Puh-lease. Take a look around and get a dose of reality; it’s far more interesting. The truth is that burlesque is an underground scene and there’s a solidarity that goes along with that. That’s not to say it’s all peaches and cream. All the arts are tough – you have to really want it – but I would actually say burlesque is the most open and generous of all performance art disciplines. You want cut-throat? Try theater or film.
Can the Shimmy Shake judges be wooed or bribed?
Well, let’s see… I’ve already cooked dinner for one of the judges and I’ve worked with most of the others. But I’m not sure if this will work for or against me. They might feel like they have to vote against me so they don’t seem like they’re being nepotistic.
Want us to try and sway them for you?
I’m sure they’re utterly incorruptible. Saints. Totally lily-white.
If you could say one thing to the judging panel, what would it be?
Want a cookie? mmm cookies.
Come down to Horns & Hooves this Monday 2nd May at 20:30 to watch all the newcomers compete to be crowned Burlesque Entertainer of the Year. And should Viva Lamore not win, you all know who to blame for all the ‘accidents’ that start befalling members of the judging panel.
Armi von Vep
La Fée Verte
Bustie La Tish
Miss Ellie Mouse
Fanny di Favola
Agent von Unwerth
Mr. Tutti Hide
MC ELSIE MARLEY
Trixie Trainwreck (Pinkys Peepshow)
Lilly Tiger (The Big Tickle)
Evilyn Frantic (Submarine Circus)
Don Rogall (Hoochie Koo)
Ginger Synne (Zum Starken August)
Bana Banana (Gruener Engel)