As a long time citizen of the underworld, I like my entertainment to run from the bawdy to the downright obscene. Honolulu, mixed-up trickster that she is, is happy to indulge with a festival devoted to Spam and a vaudeville production of Alice in Wonderland on the same day.
The annual Spam festival, Spam Jam, blocks off the stretch of Kalakaua in front of the Royal Hawaiian Center to create a space for fans to unashamedly indulge in the canned pork product. It is a carnival of the lowbrow; low-taste. Surrounding restaurants dream up new Spam-heavy dishes and sell them at street stalls. You can buy Spam hats, Spam t-shirts, Spam slippers and Spam toys. And, on my visit, there was a live band playing Journey songs too.
Cherry Blossom Cabaret’s variety show was an ambitious mix of burlesque, music, film and aerial dance. The show was an all-knowing referential take on Alice called Alice in Chinatown. Cherry Blossom’s Alice falls down the rabbit hole and has to navigate her way through Chinatown bars–Mercury, 39Hotel, Soho–to gain entry to the Red Queen’s party. The show only ran for two weekends, which is a shame because I would love to see more of this brave, inventive theatre.
When you get a call at 5am from the hotel lobby requesting that you collect your drunk friend because she is causing trouble, you know it’s time to get out of Vegas.
Only the Burlesque Hall of Fame can keep me in Vegas for four nights, and it was worth it. Hard to choose the best, but my favourites were Michelle L’Amour, Renea La Roux, who did a “Rock Me Amadeus” number, Kitten De Ville (above,) Amber Ray, Immodesty Blaze and the unstoppable Tigger, who bounded through the audience to Cheap Trick’s Surrender.
There was, inevitably, an undercurrent of the snottiness that I have come to expect at burlesque shows — and inevitably it came from performers I had never heard of. As for the legends, the real stars and the people we were all here to see: sweethearts! Compare my friend stepping across a nobody’s path and getting a cuss and a snarl to her stepping on Satan’s Angel‘s dress and getting a giggle and told not to worry about it.
It’s too bad that there is this snottiness in burlesque but I think it has a lot to do with its mainstreaming: when we were all outcasts we stuck together.