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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

More Burlesque, If You Please - [OffBeat Magazine]


Burlesque and artful striptease are wonderful. I’m talking about the old-fashioned kind, the definition of which is “a humorous and provocative stage show featuring slapstick humor, comic skits, bawdy songs, striptease acts, and a scantily clad female chorus.”

Bourbon Street, the center of New Orleans’ adult entertainment, wasn’t always the tawdry street it is now. As a main street in the city’s French Quarter, it was a prized residential street and had some of the city’s finest restaurants.

But after World War II, when population soared with the influx of men returning from the war, enterprising developers made it into an entertainment district with music clubs, burlesque clubs, bars and restaurants. Because New Orleans has never really been one to enforce any laws, it devolved over a couple of decades into a free-for-all of vice and almost another Storyville (although prostitution was never legalized). Over the years, souvenir shops, “non-artistic” (shall we say) strip joints and bars began to take over (and still dominate) the street. There’s a lot of money to be made from those tourists who have never experienced the ability to gawk at semi-naked lapdancers and imbibe alcohol 24 hours a day.

New Orleans is known for its reputation as a bawdy city. We’re tolerant of “out there” behavior (probably because the city is more Catholic—no uptight Protestant background) and we’ve always welcomed visitors from around the world, being a port city.

In the past 15 years or so, there’s been a serious revival of the old-time burlesque performers, and I’m glad to see it. But for the most part, these nouveau burlesque performers do not take it off on Bourbon. Instead they perform at local clubs. There’s even a great annual burlesque festival (which just ended) and a serious burlesque school. It’s also extended into the drag community, also a big part of New Orleans’ history. It’s a part of our culture. It’s too bad that no one established a Burlesque Museum here (Las Vegas did it); it would have been a huge attraction.

Bourbon is what it is. It’s fun, it’s raunchy, it’s trashy, it’s a mecca for “sin.” It makes big money for the tourism economy; it’s put New Orleans on the map. But the music, for the most part, is there no more (that’s moved to Frenchmen).

And Frenchmen Street venues are prohibited from offering any “adult” entertainment.

Personally, I think New Orleans could use another permanent zone that offers authentic jazz and old-fashioned burlesque. In the CBD? Warehouse District? St. Claude? Where would that be? Could the city possibly enforce the types of entertainment that are permitted in such a zone?

Yeah, it probably could if some ironclad rules were out on the books, was enforced, and development was strictly controlled.

But then, I’m the person who said 20 years ago that New Orleans should legalize marijuana and prostitution and become the Amsterdam of the South. I wouldn’t have anything against calling New Orleans the Burlesque Capital of the World, myself.

 

The post More Burlesque, If You Please appeared first on OffBeat Magazine.


Source: OffBeat Magazine
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