Weekend’s At Rock Clubs Are Typically For Rocking. Was Elm Street Tease’s Friday Night Offering At Three Links A Sign That Peak Burlesque Isn’t Far Off?
It was another Friday night at Three Links. And, as usual, dozens of flickering candles reflected off crisp white tablecloths onto the faces of the obsequiously bow-tied staff as they escorted patrons to their reserved seating for the evening. The band was ready in the orchestra pit — a jumble of brass and brushes and mutes and tiny little music-stand lights. Howard and Cynthia, the tag-team of mixologists hand-selected for the evening, readied the bar and surveyed the room with a steely-eyed calm. Scott, the manager, absentmindedly polished his cigarette stem while his partner Kaia wryly brushed microscopic debris from his tails.
Kidding aside, Friday found the staff at Three Links, in their usual “uniforms” of black T-shirts and tattoo sleeves gently and subtly pushing under-age rockers and their buzzed, doting parents out the door after an early rock show so that they could sweep up the stage detritus. Seems even little Johnny and Janey managed to leave tumped-over plastic cups and straws all over the stage, just like grown-up bands. Other staffers re-arranged a few tables, and and some techs resisted sneezing at all the glitter that had just wafted out of the unrolling temporary stage surface, while managers quickly scrawled out the names of reserved seat-holders for the night’s second show, the Elm Street Tease.
This was not the first time a Deep Ellum rock club has given over a weekend night to a burlesque show. Wit’s End does it on the regular with Deadly Sins Burlesque, and Trees has some big events a few times a year. Three Links has given over its stage to burlesque performers before, too — but usually in the context of a bigger event like the Elm Street Tattoo & Music Festival or even a wedding. But conventional wisdom for live rock venues of a certain size has always been that you leave the weekends for your bread-and-butter door-busters so that you can afford to take risks on other things — baby bands, other music genres, burlesque shows — during the week. Even the first iteration of Elm Street Tease, produced by rising star Minxie Mimieux, was thrown on a Sunday last November.
Turns out conventional wisdom can suck a bag of gummy-bear dildos, at least when it comes to Three Links and especially as it comes to burlesque.
“It’s selling well,” managing partner Scott Beggs said before Friday’s burlesque show, which would end up selling out all its reserved seating. “With the Tuesday night [CoLab] show doing so well, it gives me a little wiggle room to do other stuff. It won’t be the same as a rock show, but who doesn’t like boobs?”
Very few people don’t like boobs, it seems.
But just in case Al Quaeda, breast cancer, Mayor Mike Rawlings or other notable anti-boob partisans walked by, the Links team stretched a five-foot-high black drape across the glass panes of the bar’s signature garage door, obstructing the view of any lookie-loos and giving an even cozier vibe to the club on the cold, rainy Friday the 13th. Though there was heavy representation by Dallas burlesque luminaries, the tables and chairs meant that the club filled up quickly with people who probably don’t make it to many Three Links rock shows. Plenty of date-nighters and (in a bizarro echo of the earlier show) even a couple of the performers’ proud parents beamed from the floor.
What were they beaming at? They were reflecting the beams of some seriously high-wattage talent from all over the country. Producer Minxie Mimieux was already a well-booked and well-liked guest showgirl at venues and troupes around the country, but when she won this year’s New Orleans Queen Of Burlesque title, she became even more of a magnet and her show is reaping the rewards. Most of the cast of Friday’s show included national award winners, including her predecessor Queen, the tiny and powerful Elle Dorado from New Orleans, and headliner-among-headliners Sydni Deveraux, the Golden Glamazon from New York City who has won titles in the burlesque world’s biggest international circles.
From Hot Springs, Arkansas, were Doris Night and Ruby Lead, who performed as a team and separately and also as the two “stage kittens” for the evening. Host Gogo McGregor, another star from New Orleans’ Bustout Burlesque, mused that another name for “stage kittens,” especially in Texas, is “panty-wranglers” in part of her schtick — not the bit where she schticks a nail into her cranium, mind you, which is probably a fairly rare talent among burlesque hosts, and especially those who are as seriously funny as Gogo and who can’t manage to keep their clothes on. Local talent also included Iris LeMour, who made a classic return to the stage after some time away.
In other words, every single performer Friday night was a head-turning headliner. You can see that from the pictures, so we won’t bore you with play-by-play descriptions. These women — and they were all women in this show, although many local shows also feature boylesque, drag-king and non-binary performers — are exceptionally good at their jobs.
Was the show perfect? Of course not. Burlesque shows in rock clubs always have their drawbacks. Seating and tables are usually awkward and cramped. There’s never any time for tech rehearsals, yielding the odd missed audio cue. And lighting — already an afterthought or at least under-specified in most rock venues — is even worse when performers move around the full depth of the stage. Without careful re-aiming and re-focusing, the performers will invariably spend a great proportion of their set with their face in the dark while, say, a feather boa is brightly lit. Follow-spots (and an operator) would help, but aren’t typically in the budget for a rock club, even if they could find a place to put one. But Three Links did a truly great job making the stage seem like a completely different performance space instead of the usual gray, threadbare, tape-marked, setlist-strewn carpet stages that most rock clubs provide.
But as recurring burlesque shows prove themselves as money-makers and proliferate across the rock clubs, as well at the burlesque-dedicated venue Viva’s, at Tuesday Tease at Sue Ellen’s, and at regular Oak Cliff shows at The Kessler and the Texas Theatre — not to mention Ruby Revue’s monthly double-header at House of Blues — is there a chance Dallas will reach peak burlesque?
We’d like to see them try. Really: We’d love to see that.