Just west of the Strip, in a nondescript industrial park, sits Boomers Bar, a divey joint with dartboards and cheap drinks. Boomers also has a back room that, once a month for the past three years, has earned the nickname “the Boom Boom Room”—its live burlesque night attracting so many people, you’d think it was 1935. At a recent showcase, the room was so packed, folks sat on the floor, kneeled in corners and stood in rows at the back, all to get a peek at performers working that onstage magic hard.
- LIVE BURLESQUE IN LAS VEGAS
- Last Saturday of each month, 8:30 p.m., $12.
- Boomers Bar, 3200 W. Sirius Ave., 368-1863, liveburlesqueinlasvegas.com.
Burlesque has been back in a big way for a while, but like any DIY-driven movement, the quality and seriousness of a given company can vary wildly. One issue more specific to the burlesque revival in recent years: an erosion of its humorous heritage. Yes, burlesque should be sexy, but it’s also meant to be frivolous, playful and laugh-out-loud hilarious. Too often, modern burlesque creates an atmosphere that feels strip-club sexy but leaves the Benny Hill behind, squeezing too much charm from the experience.
That’s why I was so excited to see a diverse modern burlesque company that clearly remembers its roots. It has a lot to do with the MC. The company Live Burlesque in Las Vegas—run by burlesque superstar Cha Cha Velour (“burlesque beauty, tattooed cutie”)—has one of the funniest and most endearing MCs I’ve seen, Blanche DeBris.
Her stage presence marries Phyllis Diller with Miss Piggy, then somehow makes it funnier. Sporting a sparkly, skintight evening gown and two pounds of bright blue eye shadow, the middle-aged DeBris uses a high-pitched, breathless voice to tease the audience and half-heartedly seduce the dancers. All that would be plenty, but it’s the one-liners that make her a true find. I almost spit my drink across the room when she huffily announced that “anyone who thinks more than a mouthful’s a waste doesn’t deserve to have a booby in his mouth.”
The other good news is that Blanche doesn’t have to carry the show on her own. Blending classic and neo-burlesque styles, the company puts on a show that veers from Bobbie Baltimore’s seductive Billie Holiday number and Aya Fontaine’s unforgettable green goddess routine to Red Snapper’s hip-hop-inspired dance and Moana Marie’s S&M act, set to Garbage’s “I Would Die for You.” They even threw in some boylesque, a riotous Davy Crockett routine by Mr. Snapper. And when Fontaine shook her emerald skirt free from her pale hips and gave her red hair a shake, I’m pretty sure steam rose from a few heads in the crowd.
Despite tight quarters, the audience stayed for the whole thing, intermission and all, and egged on the dancers with such hoots and hollers that the Boom Boom Room nearly went boom. As we filed back to the bar after the final act, I realized I’d become a big fan of Boomers. I also couldn’t believe I’d paid just $12 for the best show I’d seen in a long time. Thankfully, the seven people I came with felt exactly the same way, so I knew I hadn’t simply been mesmerized by twirling tassels.