Skip to Store Area:

CALL US: 01983-565245

0 items

Battle for Madam Jojo’s

One of the biggest battles in British burlesque is quietly talking place in London - and yet it’s perhaps the most heavyweight contest the UK burlesque world has ever seen. Lined up on the one side: Benedict Cumberbatch, Stephen Fry and Roger Daltrey. On the other side - property developers. The subject of the dispute? Madam Jojo’s - one of London’s most established (and establishment) burlesque joints, in Soho.

Soho Estates, which owns the venue, has received planning permission to demolish the property and convert it to a complex of shops, offices and flats. The issue is complicated by the fact that Madam Jojo’s closed in November after an ‘unruly customer’ was attacked by club bouncers, with a baseball bat! So it’s definitely unsavoury, but for those trying to save the venue, that’s the point - they fear that Soho in general and Jojo’s in particular, is being sanitised, whilst those who visit are seeking the authentic experience of a rough, transgressive, counter-culture in the heart of London’s naughtiness. What they are likely to get is a disinfected version of late night life in London’s red light district, according to campaign’s organiser, Tim Arnold. Arnold is not just an aficionado of burlesque, he’s known as the Soho Hobo and writes and performs songs dedicated to the seedy side of life. And it’s not just his preferences - Arnold’s His grandmother was a circus performer whilst his mother was a Windmill Girl - a long history of eclectic living!

Soho Estates is fighting back, claiming ‘We recognise the rich and creative history of Soho and the importance of venues such as Madame Jojo’s,’ and offering to created two new nightclubs to replace the one they are demolishing. But those who want the original Jojo’s are asking London Mayor, Boris Johnson, to intervene and save the venue.

Read More
Posted By Rowena Yee

Burlesque background

Welcome to FKA Twigs! The singer/dancer actually named Tahliah Debrett Barnett, now FKA (standing for formerly known as) Twigs, is a British born performer, currently dating Robert Pattinson, and she’s just outed herself as a burlesquer. Not just any old burlesque performer either, but she’s put on turns at The Box, one of London’s most transgressive (and upscale) venues, frequented by Prince Harry, amongst others.

Her work, which has recently been lauded as ‘feminist dancing’* by cool and hip publication, Pitchfork, is based in part on her experience in cabaret, or, as she put it herself, ‘I’ve been in front of … a room full of drunk rowdy men who came … because they think they’re going to see naked girls. But when they get there, they see me singing jazz … you have to be able to control that crowd, to hypnotise and captivate them on stage.’

Read More
Posted By Rowena Yee

Too dirty for Harvard

 The Harvard Club is home to the richest folk of New York - not the young celebes who come and go but the super-rich who maintain the Opera and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and they hold an annual Halloween party at their very exclusive club. What they weren’t expecting as part of the entertainment this year was Dirty Martini, international burlesque star, naked on a chaise lounge!

 As the late great Kenny Everett used to say, it was ‘all in the best possible taste’. Ms Martini was posing for a sculpture being created out of wire by Skye Ferrante, himself a New York notable; a former professional ballet dancer who now makes his wire sculptures as performance art (but they sell for $1000 dollars each, so it’s not exactly pocket money activity). Even so, some of the guests were shocked and complained. Club management informed Dirty Martini that she had to wear a Halloween cape and pasties as “This [was] the first time there [had] ever been nudity in the history of the Harvard Club, founded in 1865, and definitely the last.”

Oh, and if you’re loving Dirty Martini’s shoes, we’ve got just what you want! Gold sequinned burlesque shoes just like hers!

Read More
Posted By Rowena Yee

Bermuda cruise with burlesque star

She danced with Elvis Presley and not as a fan - he asked to dance with her! Tempest Storm was already a huge star when Presley hit the world in the 1950s. She was the face of what was then called exotic dancing in a period when exotic dancing was the biggest entertainment. She describes herself as a ‘class act’ or, as she put it herself, ‘… Beautiful wardrobe. Big band. Opening act. It was sexy, teasing … nothing vulgar.’ and she delighted in showing her 40 inch bust to the audience after her first boss, Lillian Hunt who ran the Follies Theatre in Los Angeles told her at her audition that her nervousness about her breasts was pointless because, ‘They don't make 'em too big in this business’. Hired on the spot, she never looked back, taking ballet lessons, and changing her name to Tempest Storm.

In addition to her little fling with Elvis, Tempest cosied up to Mickey Rooney and Nat King cole and even met John F Kennedy alone, although that didn’t go anywhere. Now, in her nineties, she’s leading a burlesque cruise* to the Bahamas - New York to Bermuda, 15-22 October 2015, if that takes your fancy.

Read More
Posted By Rowena Yee

Jemma is more than an Apprentice!

Jemma Bird sounds like somebody who invented her name from the  burlesque name creator system we shared with you in our last blog post but in fact she’s one of this year’s contestants in The Apprentice - and an accomplished burlesque artist.

Now Jemma hopes to win over Lord Sugar and to develop her performing arts coaching business called Amplify. She’s also part of an all female burlesque troupe called The Pin-Ups which operates as an ensemble, allowing people to book as few as three of the participants or all twelve for a gala event. Jemma trained in dance and in dance tuition and now runs a cabaret agency that scouts for performance artists, gets them bookings and markets the whole process.

Read More
Posted By Rowena Yee

Before and after - burlesque performers revealed

Burlesque is an art form, a way of speaking truth to power and damn good fun!  Sean Scheidt focuses on one area of burlesque … the transformative nature of the art itself - his series of before and after portraits are not so much an expose of burlesque as an unravelling of the nature of the burlesque persona and its role in creating different realities, not only for the viewer of burlesque who is generally seeking some glamour, excitement and subversive fun, but also for the performer. Using costume, make up and performance art to explore being a different person is not limited to burlesque, but the high number of amateur burlesque performers does suggest that there is something powerfully effective in the art. Scheidt himself says that the photo-documentary series is partly inspired by what Harpo Marx had to say about Judy Garland creating a persona in his autobiography … no, we’re not sure either, we’re going to have to buy it and find out for ourselves! He also said, “…I realized the stage has the power to transform a person into someone else. The question I wanted to explore was finding the reality within that transformation.”

We particularly liked this before and after image, both for the artistry of the performer who has really created a stunning persona and for the sheer beauty of the shot. You can see a lot more of Scheidt’s work here.

Read More
Posted By Rowena Yee