Lorelei Fuller, known professionally as Miss Lorelei Lane, is the genius behind the Shim Shamettes, New Orleans’ (and perhaps, the nation’s) only functioning burlesque company. On December 10 at the Shim Sham Club, the Shim Shamettes will present their Christmas extravaganza, entitled “The Holiday Tease.” The A&E Channel will air “It’s Burlesque,” featuring the Shim Shamettes, on February 11, and no Christmas stocking is complete unless it’s stuffed with the Shim Shamettes’ 2001 calendar, available at the Shim Sham Club, Fifi Mahoney’s, Trashy Diva, Lou’s Juke Joint and via the ensemble’s official web site: shimshamettes.com. The glamorous Ms. Fuller, toting a copy of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead in her bag, stopped by to chat about subjects exotic and otherwise.
To be a Shim Shamette, it’s helpful if the woman has some dance training so she picks up the numbers quickly. It’s helpful if she’s something of a ham…if she likes to have fun, if she’s open-minded and comfortable with her body. I like to have women with different body types. And a commitment–it’s a lot of work and there isn’t much money in it so there needs to be an interest in doing it for the fun of it. You’re not going to be paying your rent doing something with the Shim Shamettes at this point.
It can’t even be compared to stripping because burlesque dancing is theatrical, in that we’re using props. We’re using themes for the whole show, themes for the individual acts, incredible over-the-top costumes and live music. It’s a different style of dancing–it’s the “tease” in “striptease.” You don’t give everything away.
The thing about modern day strip clubs is that they’re about instant gratification. A burlesque show is drawn-out, more entertainment value. Women and men love to go to see our shows. It’s comfortable, there’s a lot of comedy involved.
One of the acts I’ve done is a re-creation of Evangeline the Oyster Girl. Kitty West, who’s 73 and still around, was the original Evangeline. It’s an act that she used to do mid-’50s to the early ’60s in New Orleans, off and on. She was quite famous and making really good money for that time period. It’s something that she wanted to see happen–for the act to live again.
We’ve been friends for three years now and we were toying with the idea of her teaching me the act. A couple of years ago, I had the costume made for the act. Once I had the Shim Shamettes happening, Kitty saw it as an opportunity for me to go ahead and do it. She’s really pleased that I’m doing it. She’s got some complaints about the act, of course, because it’s not exactly as she remembers it to be.
The act is a woman that lives in the bayous of Louisiana in an oyster shell and every hundred years, she comes out of the shell to dance in the moonlight, in the creepy bayou. She dances with the pearl and she basically mates with pearl. She has her way with the pearl and she dances. It’s very creepy and campy and funny and sexy. And when she’s done, she’s captured again by the net and she has to go back in the shell for the next hundred years. It’s a very lustful, lustful dance because she’s very horny.
Our Christmas show is named “The Holiday Tease” because we’re going to give people a few more individual strip acts than usual. There’s more “tease” involved and it’s Christmas-themed. We have the little rag doll that comes to life–she’s wound up with a key and comes to life and does her tassel-twirling for the audience. We have a domestic number called “Hot Cookies” with Veronica Vye trying really hard to bake cookies but the cookies burn and the oven catches on fire and it’s so hot in the kitchen she’s gotta strip everything off. That’s a cute one.
We have Go-Go Max singing “I Know What You Want But I Don’t Know How To Wrap It,” accompanied by four girls dressed as little Christmas presents, doing a kick-line. We have a Frosty the Snowman number, a Snowflake number and a “Winter Wonderlust” number with an early ’60s spy/crime novel feel to it.
We’ve got mothers in the Shim Shamettes, students and business owners. Compared to the classic burlesque dancers, all women are skinnier than they used to be. Maybe not all women but the social standard of a female body is thinner. I’d love to get more women in the group with more meat on their bones.
What is it about fishnet hose and burlesque dancers? They look great and they’re sexy. Of course, they have to be seamed fishnet hose. Every woman should own a pair of fishnet hose.