Thursday 20 May 2010

Guest Blogger: Kiki Kaboom

Spring 2010 is here and that means one thing in the world of burlesque, The London Burlesque Festival. So we asked one of our previous performers who was a major part of the festival, Kiki Kaboom to keep a little journal for us. The chavvy, geek to freak star and winner of the Best Newcomer Award at last year's festival, gave us this.

Bumped by a one-legged man from Iraq

I had a slightly inauspicious start to the London Burlesque Week 2010. Picture this: 11am at the Cafe de Paris, Tuesday 20th April 2010. I’m in full hair and make-up, having cycled from Brick Lane to Piccadilly Circus in costume. (One of the many great things about living in this city is that no one bats an eyelid). Slightly bleary-eyed since going into burlesque full-time, rising before midday is anathema to me - we waited for London Tonight’s news team to come and film us for their evening edition. But the best-laid plans cannot compete with servicemen returning from the front-line, running marathons for charity. And neither should we. We get bumped. Hey ho, I said to the Halo PR girls as I got back on my bike. It’s fair enough - all we’ve got are tits and glitter....

Norwegian Fan Clubs

Fast forward six hours and I’m back at the Cafe de Paris for the Red Carpet Rollout. It’s tits, glitter and then some. The buzz is infectious. Volcanic ash cloud or not, it seems everyone who’s anyone is here, from movers and shakers of the international burlesque scene, to Chaz Royal and Beeby Rose, the new power couple of burlesque. Press and photographers mill about, mingling with the performers, taking shots and soundbites. As Best Newcomer (London Solo) LBW 2009, and having had a pretty damn good year since, I have a unique press-worthy angle on the proceedings, and am interviewed by several publications. It’s great fun. I consider making my tales of 2009 more and more wildly exaggerated – I perform on a floating stage for Saudi Royal Family. Yes, I have a registered fan club in Norway. No, I never wear the same knickers more than once. But I restrain myself and smile (smoulder? pout? gurn?) for the cameras.

Nice To Meet You Guv’nor

Cafe de Paris is a gorgeous venue, and the surroundings are appropriately decadent for such a celebratory opening showcase. Backstage is teeming, but the atmosphere is warm, convivial, if slightly frenetic. I am only there for the Red Carpet Rollout portion of the evening, and am looking forward to that rarest of occasions for me – actually watching a burlesque show rather than participating in one. Sean Mooney, ever-calm stage manager of the proceedings, manages to get 25 chattering burlesque performers to wait patiently in line in alphabetical order, the most impressive yet most unsung feat of the festival. I am sandwiched between Fifi Fatale and Lady Beau Peep. In front of me is Chrys Columbine, a vision in pink and black. To my right, Equador the Wizard is grappling with his perennial costume dilemma - to turban or not to turban. I hear a gratifying cheer emanate from the audience as the fabulous Ivy Paige announces me. Trying to look simultaneously pleased but not pleased with myself (failed), I walk onto the stage to soak up the applause, and this is when I wished I had thought more about what I was doing. Instead of posing, waving, ANYTHING, I do an unfathomable bob-like curtsy, like a Dickensian orphan meeting the Queen. Completely nonplussed, I scuttle down the red carpet to the blue room at the back. I’m sorry, but the Americans are SO much better at this sort of thing than the Brits.

Stockings Vs Tights

LBW this year was a huge occasion for me, not least because I was booked by Chaz to perform at the VIP Closing Ceremony, but also as I had the privilege of hosting the Newcomers Contest this year. It was held on Friday 23rd April at a new venue for the festival – the O2 Academy in Islington. Usually the home of thrashing rock bands rather than sizzling striptease I’m pretty sure they’ve never seen anything like it!

I’ve been hosting more and more over the last few months. It’s a massive challenge, but a very welcome one. It’s always good in this business to have more than one string to your bow. As Catherine D’Lish said recently said, performers have to diversify to stay ahead of the game, and I wholeheartedly agree. There aren’t many women out there doing it, and I think it’s important not to let the men out there have all the fun of compering, particularly when the stars of the burlesque scene are invariably female!

To go from competing as a newbie to hosting the showcase the following year – well, it was a pretty big deal for me. I felt very protective of the entrants, some of whom I know very well, and while it was an exhausting job – Equador and I had over 20 acts to introduce – it was a wonderful evening. Battle Royale indeed! The competitive element to this showcase means the all performers give everything they’ve got, and it’s tremendously exciting to know you are seeing the burlesque stars of the future.

And also, I’ll be honest, it’s kind of nice to know you can wear tights pulled up to your waist and not give a damn as you won’t be taking anything off. That’s the difference between being a burlesque performer and a burlesque host right there – hosiery.

By the end of the night I have my favourites, and I’m happy to say that they both eventually won Best London and Best UK Newcomers respectively - Pixie Frisk and Ginger Blush!

Ug, Ug, and Thrice Ug

Sunday 25th April 2010, Cafe de Paris. The Closing Gala. The night I would duet with the irrepressible Armitage Shanks and perform my Judy Garland act at the evening’s climax. And - the day after my birthday. Come the 3pm call time, dark glasses, Red Bull and a cuddle from Armitage were in order. But the wonderful thing about adrenalin is that once it kicks in, the hangover is history. You can never underestimate what a thrill it is to perform at an event like this, and also what an opportunity it is for you to showcase your talent. To say I was keyed up for it would be an understatement.

Backstage we had a lot of time to kill. I ambled around, putting a bit of make up on, lolloping off, chatting to Agent Lynch, Ruby Rose (thanks for the amazing hair Ruby! That woman is a hairstyle GENIE), re-crystalling costumes in the craft corner with the Knickerbocker Glories... At the soundcheck Armitage and I decided to use the beautiful spiral staircase as my entrance before I joined him on stage. We would be singing a gorgeously nuanced Tom Waits song – I Never Talk to Strangers - and I would be performing it for the first time. To add to my nerves there was now the distinct possibility I would have my very own Gone With The Wind moment, and tumble down the stairs. (For a burlesque performer, my balance can be truly appalling. I think it’s fair to say I will never run away with the circus). There isn’t a lot of time to rehearse, so it’s even more important to nail it later on! No pressure...

21 Again Dammit!

Time for a few more interviews and photo opportunities before I had to stop playing at getting ready and really begin. The crowd were waiting with murmuring excitement, the show started, and my god, what a bloody show. The standard was exceptionally high, the atmosphere was electric. Finally the time came for Armitage and I to sing, and not only did I manage to stay upright, I also managed to sing passably well. And most importantly, it was such a pleasure to perform with Shanks. Having met him last year at the Amsterdam Burlesque Festival, I really got to know him when I was performing in Seattle in January. Sadly with him being based there and me in London, it will be a while before we get to perform together again.

He thanked me on stage for the song, I was about to merrily trot off, when he stopped me. Not only did he tell the entire audience of the Cafe de Paris what a drunken little stop-out I had been the night before (outrageous! I was in bed by like, 4am), he also spilled the beans on my birthday. And told EVERYONE that I was now 30. Ye gods. Never tell a host your age... As I flushed pink on stage, I had a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday from the crowd. Soooooo embarrassing. But also, a very lovely moment. Thanks Armitage (I think).

Judy! Judy! Judy!

Mine was the last performance of the night proper before the break, and Catherine D’Lish’s headlining spot. I was hugely honoured to have such a great place in the running order. Peeking at a few of the performances from the balcony upstairs, Siren Stilletto, Dinah Might et al had already wowed the audience, and I knew I had to Bring It. The bar had been set at such a high level. My Judy routine is a bit of an epic: her life in eight minutes, sung, danced and strip-teased. I hope it showcases how varied a burlesque performance can be – story, character, humour, pathos, glamour, sex appeal, surprises.... I’m very proud of it.

I’m thrilled to say that I think it was the best I have ever performed my favourite routine. And what a place to have done it. It was the crowning moment of what had been an amazing year for me - may this coming year be even better. I have a feeling it will.

Kiki Kaboom is currently one of the top acts in the London burlesque scene. She was the Best Newcomer at the 2009 London Burlesque Festival and has since performed all over the country and abroad. She performed her infamous 'chav' act for BABC shortly after her win, in July 2009.

A version of this article can be found in the next Burlesque Magazine. Kiki's new website is currently under construction so you find all about her on facebook instead:

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