Modern burlesque may have its roots in retro culture (and the objectification that was prevalent in the past), but today it's become an undeniably empowering form of expression for the women who do it and a unique form of entertainment for an avid fan base that goes way beyond the turn-on.
Cheesy interpretations aside (that Christina Aguilera movie, The Pussycat Dolls pop group), Los Angeles may have the most copious and creative burlesque in the world. Every shape, size, ethnicity and age is represented, every genre of music drives the dancing and every pop culture reference continues to get explored thematically. Thanks to the ground-breaking gals of the Velvet Hammer in the early '90's and the mainstream success of Dita Von Teese, L.A. is considered tops when it comes to babes their shaking bottoms in these glitzy bits and vampy vignettes.
Here, ten of best burlesque clubs and locales in the city, all of which boast troupes with oodles of T&A (talent and attitude), and one of which has a special event (hint, hint) coming up on Cinco de Mayo.
10. The LaLa's
Choreography and dramatically driven vignettes are a huge part of the LaLa's seductive presentation, and they should be- most of these ladies are professional dancers and actresses. Choreographer Erin Lamont (Lady Gaga) helms the hotness so expect a mix of music video vampiness and old fashioned glamour. At various venues around town, most regularly at Federal Bar. 5303 Lankerskin Blvd. N. Hlywd. (818) 980-2555, Thelalas.com.
9. Dollface Dames
Foxy folly sets the tone for Dollface Dames show, every Monday at the Britannia Pub and at other Santa Monica locales including Trip and Magicopolis. Song and dance with a theatrical thrust (pun intended) these ladies may be dolls, but they aint playin' when they tackle a theme (“Vagina Monologues” as burlesque show? They did it). See show calendar at Thedollfacedames.com.
8. Harlow Gold
The saucy sistas of Harlow Gold shine in more ways than one… and they don't limit it to the stage either. An interactive spectacle that meshes vintage elements with a modern twist, these golden gals have been known to trample bar-tops (and audiences) during their audacious shows at Harvelle's in Santa Monica. Best bump n' grind on the West Side.1432 Fourth St., Santa Monica. (310) 395-1676, Harlowgoldshow.com.
7. Dirty Little Secrets
The sultry moves of this rock n' roll themed troupe are no longer a secret, especially in the O.C., the HQ for these heavy metal-lovin' heavenly bodies. Synchonized dance bits set to badass sounds, done by a mix of sweet girl-next-door types and perky punkettes… what's not to like? L.A. likes 'em when they take the stage at the One Eyed Gypsy, which doesn't happen nearly enough. See their site for schedule and venues: Dirtylittlesecretsburlesque.com.
6. Jumbo's Clown Room
Ok, it's a bikini bar and there's not a “troupe” here per se, but hear us out. For the last few years, Jumbo's has been in a class of its own, a place where costumes, music and theatrics infuse virtually every performance. The gals here have fun with their dances and their outfits (and on special occasions, as in photo above, even perform as a group). There's an anticipation in the air before each girl takes the tiny stage (many of whom perform in burlesque events around town too). Yes, there's a pole on the stage, and dollar bills shower each dancer after she's done, but Jumbo's these days is way more about the tease than the strip. 5153 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd. (323) 666-1187, Jumbos.com.
5. Miss Dakota's Burlesque All-Stars
Miss Dakota made a name for herself as headline dancer at Forty Deuce Las Vegas & Hollywood, but these days she can be found at the saucy speakeasy style bar La Descarga. Her “All-Stars” troupe consists of dancers, singers & a live band, but Lady D is the star, a performer that's all-pro au-go-go. She's got a “Burlesque Body Work Out” program and a “Burlesque Academy” instruction under her garter belt, but watching her in the club environment provides a most exotic kind of education. La Descarga, 1159 Western Ave., Hlywd. (323) 466-1324, Burlesqueallstars.com
4. Monday Night Tease/Friday Night Happy Hour
L.A.'s longest running burlesque show goes down twice a week at the Three Clubs and there's a reason for its longevity: promoter Lil VonSchtupp keeps things fresh with different, often subversive themes, and a revolving cast of lovelies from the local burlesque circuit, none of whom seem to take themselves too seriously, but all of whom are seriously sexy. Three Clubs, 1123 Vine St., Hlywd. (323) 462-6441, Mondaynighttease.com.
3. Victory Variety Hour
Definitely the most envelope-pushing burlesque in Los Angeles, Penny Starr, Jr. and her stable of tough temptresses, vampy vixens and funny femme fatales offer a wicked and wanton variety show at Skinny's that's for the wild/wacky at heart (and definitely not for the faint of heart). Don't think we could say it better than we did when we reviewed Margaret Cho's appearance at the show. 4923 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd. (818) 763-6581, Skinnyslounge.com.
2. Devil's Playground
A favorite with the sci-fi, comic nerd and pop culture junkie crowd thanks to their epic “Star Girls” shows featuring tattoo'd tarts in (and out of) Star Wars-cosplay, Devil's Playground has more recently incorporated wrestling into its erotically-charged extravaganzas at the Dragonfly. Themes and schemes are always on point, with great music, costumes and sets enhancing each enchantingly erotic performance. The Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd. 323-466-6111, Facebook.com/devilsplaygroundburlesque.
1. Lucha Va-Voom
When it comes to the biggest bang/bump/grind/headlock for your buck, Lucha Va Voom at The Mayan is the winner and still champion. It's the biggest burlesque-themed spectacle that takes place in Los Angeles on a regular basis (usually holidays such Valentine's Day, Halloween and of course, Cinco De Mayo) and the ladies involved are pretty much all pros when it comes to pin-up style… and pinning your heart. VaVoom is truly two great tastes that taste great together: the excitement of masked Mexican wrestling and the enticement of old-fashioned strip tease with a rockin' flair, plus a wry comedic tone via the show's announcers. Led by Rita D'Albert (aka Ursulina) — who co-created the Velvet Hammer troupe along with Michelle Carr — Lucha Va Voom often features V.H. alums and these ladies more than hold their own next to the masked mayhem that goes on in the ring. The Mayan, 1038 S. Hill St., dwntwn. (213) 746-4674, Luchavavoom.com.