Chicago has a prolific and ever-evolving burlesque scene. In the past couple of years, tons of quality performers have appeared - and I've been fortunate to work with many of them. As you know, a sense of community within the art scene is very important to me, and to that end, every Friday, I will introduce you to a performer within the Chicago burlesque community that I admire. Enjoy!
Find Out More about Other Chicago Burlesque Performers
Chicago Burlesque: Spotlight on Bazuka Joe
by Red Hot Annie
What I admire about Bazuka Joe is his radiant personality, onstage and off! He's a honorable role model for the community as a performer - always bringing well-executed acts to the stage, complete with adorable costumes. I also find the way that he interacts and includes performers to be personally inspiring! Oh...and is he hot? Well, naturally! He's one-third of The Stage Door Johnnies!
Name: Bazuka Joe
Height: 5'11" (6 feet on a good day)
Zodiac Sign: Leo (ROAR!)
Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio
Burlesque Specialty: Bubble Popping
Favorite Color: Pink
Favorite Cocktail: Was the Gin and Tonic, now it's The Bazuka Joe (really, 3 Olives Vodka has a bubble-gum flavor!)
Favorite Quote: "When I'm good, I'm great. When I'm bad, I'm even better!" - Mae West
Biggest Crush: Christiano Ronaldo
Pet Peeve: People who stand in doorways or at the of stairs!
Special Skill: Abnormally vivid dreaming
RHA - Where are you from?
Cleveland, Ohio originally - now, CHICAGO!
RHA - When and how did you find out about burlesque?
Well, I knew about burlesque in college when I saw a production of Gypsy. I did my research and fell in love with the idea and nostalgia of it, but wasn't aware of the modern burlesque scene. Fast forward about 10 years later and I accidentally fell into it by a push from the crafty Hot Toddy.
RHA - How would you describe your approach to burlesque?
I definitely veer more towards the vintage style of burlesque and I've tended to focus more on the absurd side of sex, sexuality, and entertainment. Of course I try to touch on the grandeur of it all, but I really like to consider what would be the most ridiculous set-up to take my clothes off! Being a guy, I like to construct my pieces to be universally appealing. If you're not interested in the sex appeal, then maybe the comedy and invention will win you over.
RHA -Do you ever find that people are unsure of what to expect when you tell them that you are a male burlesque dancer? If so, what's their typical response or expection?
Ha, ha, ha. Virtually NO ONE knows what I mean when I say I do burlesque. Most people give me a weird look as though to think "I can't imagine you in drag!" The rest are generally like "So you're a stripper?"
RHA - Who are some of your favorite local performers and why?
Wow, this is a loaded question! Over the past year, I've met so many incredible performers - too many to name. My inspirations are, of course, Michelle L'amour, Red Hot Annie, and Hot Toddy by way of their constant reinvention of themselves as performers AND producers. As far as my style goes, I particularly connect with Frenchie Kiss - she can do no wrong in my eyes!!
RHA - What's your favorite costume?
Well, it was my sparkly, pink Cowboy Joe costume (complete with pink assless chaps) but I think my Snow Bunny costume trumps it now!
RHA - What's your favorite act to perform?
Dixie Biscuits or good ol' Steam Heat - always finding new things about those numbers.
RHA - Have you ever had a wardrobe malfunction? What was it like?
Yeah, I was in Indy with Lola Van Ella doing "Dixie Biscuits", at the point I rip my pants off, my codpiece (read: crotch cover) came unglued! And I still had half the piece left! Fortunately, I strip out from behind an apron, so unless they were looking very closely, they didn't see anything, but I had to finish the piece with one hand covering myself!
RHA - What are your goals in performing?
Well, I'd just like to get my name (and the other two Johnnies) out there. It's really awesome seeing people take on a different view of guys in burlesque and if there's anything I can do to further that, I'm in! We're definitely working up to producing a bigger main stage show, but I feel like I need to get a lot more experience under my sequined belt before that happens. In the meantime, I'm trying to hit up as many festivals, venues, and cities as possible!
RHA - As a performer, what are some of the biggest challenges you face?
Personally, the perception of guys in the field. My main challenge is that there are so few guys doing this and many of them gravitate towards the gender-bendy performances or spoofing the art. It's tricky to make a reputation of giving an homage to the women, but also still coming across as a man. As far as progressing as a performer, my biggest challenge is to keep creating something new, something no one has seen me do yet - keeping it fresh and ahead of the game. It's not too long before there will be more and more guys out there, so I wanna keep pushing ahead. The worst thing I could hear is "His pieces all look the same".
RHA - Do you have a "pet peeve" when it comes to burlesque?
Phew, hmmm...tough questions, Annie! I think it would have to be when performers forget to have fun onstage. Nerves are one thing, but focusing so much on the sets, or costumes, or choreography to the point where the audience isn't included is another. Oh! And that's another thing - having AWESOME props and not using them!
RHA - What are some of your hobbies outside of burlesque?
I love playing soccer! I've played on a co-ed rec team for about 5 years now and can't get enough of it. Other than that, I see a lot of shows and movies and am constantly looking for inspiration that way. Also, I help my sister, who is a single mom, raise her 2-year-old, Annie (who has alarmingly developed a liking to taking her clothes off and dancing to Yo Gabba Gabba! Might run in the family!)
RHA - How would you describe your family's reaction to your performing?
They love it! My mom has seen me perform twice now and is even offering to help make costumes. I send my dad videos and photos and he passes them around to his co-workers (which, now that I think of it, probably isn't the best thing to do at work). Having their support is a HUGE boost, especially coming from parents who were Mormon for over 30 years!
RHA - Where's the best place for fans to find out more about you?
TheStagedoorJohnnies.com but I'm on our Johnnies' Facebook page a lot - just give us a shout out and we can chat in person!
Find Out More about Other Chicago Burlesque Performers