(All photos by Shannon Cottrell. Click images for entire Devils Playground slideshow.)

Amy Amnesia gets hammered

Not many conversations begin with the question, “So when was the first time you ate broken glass?” Last Saturday night, however, that was exactly how I struck up a conversation with art curator, model and Dr. Sketchy producer Lenora Claire, one of the several women performing that evening in Devils Playground's “Sexy Sideshow Girls” burlesque and variety show at downtown's decadent Bordello bar. Claire's act consisted of chewing shards of a very real — and very sharp — broken light bulb, without spilling a drop of blood. Forget synchronized swimming; eating glass without so much as smudging your lipstick takes real talent.

Taught by her friend the Torture King from the Jim Rose Circus, Claire learned how to eat a light bulb about five years ago and, since, has had only one slip of the tongue, so to speak. “I did have one mishap,” she tells me later over the phone.  “I was hired to eat glass for Playboy television. All these girls were topless, and I don't do topless, so I really thought I had to up my show and use really big pieces [of glass] and really play the camera. It's hard to compete with naked ladies. I ended up slicing my tongue really bad and all this blood came out… it was like Gene Simmons from Kiss. I tried to be professional and had this bloody smile and, you know, I freaked all the girls out [laughs]. But that was the only accident. There's a definite technique.”

Kitty Karloff dances for the Devil

Indeed, if there was one thing that stood out about Saturday night at Devils Playground — besides the scantily clad bartenders and steamy stage moves — it was the fine-tuned technique of each performance. From the masterful, twitch-of-a-wrist string work of Rasputin's Traveling Marionettes, to Amy Amnesia's jaw dropping routine of hammering a nail, a screwdriver and then a power drill up her nose, to Kitty Karloff's impressive ability to swallow what appeared to be a four-foot long inflated balloon, to Lenora Claire eating a broken light bulb — the precision and execution of each stunt was near flawless. As I watched, I realized I hadn't wanted to run away and join the circus that bad since the first time I saw Big Top Pee-wee. Seriously.

Courtney Cruz does double duty

The grand finale, however, came when Devils Playground mastermind Courtney Cruz took the stage around 1 a.m. for a sultry, bi-gendered striptease. Dressed half-male and half-female, Cruz had the entire crowd rapt. By the time last call hit, the audience didn't know what hit 'em.

If you missed the show on Saturday, be sure to check out Devils Playground Presents Wonderland (an Alice in Wonderland-themed show) on February 21st, also at Bordello. We'll see you there.

LA Weekly