New Orleans traffics in titillation, and though tastes change, the compulsion to see a little skin is the same as it was 60 years ago. “If tourists go down bourbon now-a-days, they probably still find what they’re looking for,” Rick Delaup says. “But it has more of a “Girls Gone Wild” reputation; it was much different in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s.” Delaup founded New Orleans’ Bustout Burlesque and is putting on the inaugural New Orleans Burlesque Festival September 11-13.
“We bring an entertaining show that couples would want to go to, that’s a little naughty and a little risqué, but classy and glamorous. Not the sleazy atmosphere you find in the clubs on Bourbon.”
Along with women, the shows will also feature magic, dancing, singing, and comedy, all sharing the stage with a live, five-piece jazz band led by local musician Matt Dell. Delaup says, “This is the first national festival with a live jazz band accompanying the main event—the Queen of Burlesque competition— and many of the other shows. This is the way burlesque used to be, with live music, and I think it’s a very important part that we’re trying to bring back.”
Several headliners from across the country will compete for the Queen of Burlesque title and participate in other performances, workshops and panels. The main performances will be at Harrah’s Theatre and the House of Blues, while other venues will host the smaller events.
“Burlesque stars and the clubs were really promoted by the city because they realized it was a tourist attraction and they could make money from it,” Delaup says. “Now, they’re trying to bill New Orleans as a family-friendly destination, which is a shame. I hope by starting this fest, it’ll put more of a spotlight on the history of burlesque in New Orleans and how it was culturally significant at one point in time.”