I recently came back from my trip to Florida and it was a trip home unlike any other thus far. I was on the fence about whether I had what it takes to apply, but decided on a whim to apply at nearly the last minute. Almost to exact, actually.
From a producer prospective, I could only imagine what it's like having to go through all the applications. So I was surprised to not get an email, but a PHONE CALL back from Bambi La Fleur of the Florida Burlesque Festival. Not only was it delightful to see a Florida area code displayed on my end of the phone, but how delightful she was as a person too. I apparently got a direct link to the application page, despite her already closing the applications and had her cast already picked out. She offered me to come down and help stage manage the festival, which was an honor in itself but also to be escort to living legend Camille 2000! In a way, that was more of a privilege. It was a quick decision, but within a day I found myself booking a flight to Fort Lauderdale. Not only did I get to visit home, but my first time being there as Sincerely Yours. A far cry from the chubby Hot Topic little goth girl I left behind there.
For a stage kitten, stage manager, I felt like I was treated like royalty. An adorable and sweet Brooklyn boy named Victor from Brown Paper Tickets picked me up from the airport and took me to the hotel. The Sea Club Resort was the perfect hotel to house burlesque performers out of all the mega hotel chains on the beautiful beach strip. The hotel was absolutely authentic and charming, opening I believe in 1958. If Pee Wee Herman went to Florida, he would have stayed at the Sea Club Resort. I arrived before Camille 2000 so decided to settled into our hotel room and met Victor at the Tiki Lounge to begin the festivities. Bambi was nice enough to give us the first evening off, which was spent nursing fresh sunburns from falling asleep on the beach (hey New Yorkers need their Vit. D after a long winter) and walking the shore barefoot with Miss Tickle and Ruby Joules from Texas. Not only did I soak up too much sun, but scored a pair of adorable vintage 1930s pineapple lamps and made friend's with our Swedish waitress who wound up coming out to the last night of the festival! Florida is a such crazy state like that, you never know who you will meet or what one will find.
The festival, was beautifully curated. Bambi La Fleur and Lila Starlett really did a remarkable job. The theater was a historic gem, the cast was incredible and featured not just burlesque but variety & drag. I got to run tech and work with the sound and lighting technicians, I was much more than a panty wrangler. Backstage helping out to was a great gentleman named Roger, who once was Sally Rand's agent. The after party at the Mai Kai lounge was the best Tiki Bar I've ever been too. Growing up in the navy, I've seen my share of Tiki Bars! Bambi and Lila really curated the entire festival down to every single detail.
Camille 2000 herself, how to even begin. Any aspiring neo burlesque performer should meet
her, it would be the best thing for your soul.
My time with her was too important for me to dish out details, except that I cherished each moment with her. One of the best pieces of advice she gave me was "If anyone tries to tell you no, you go f**king do it anyway! Don't let anybody stop you!" Which I've held with me since. At the after party of Friday night at the festival, we watched a documentary about the Living Legends. Myself and many of the other performers there said watching that alone gave a whole new appreciation for the art form, and gave a breath of new life for many of us. I developed an elevated amount of humility and respect for those who paved the way for what we have today. Also, a grief of what we lost in the 1970s and the power of keeping this revival alive. I believe in the power of spending time with the burlesque community at large, from other areas and walks of life, and that many of us felt the benefit of being around new perspective. I met some incredible people, made new life long friends, gained new skills and got to challenge myself by upholding responsibilities to an out of state festival. Looking forward to returning next year!