In 18th century English poet once said variety is the spice of life.
It’s hard to say if William Cowper’s most famous quote was in reference to romance or dating in his epic 1785 poem, “The Task” — I haven’t read it and am in no hurry to do so, as CliffsNotes suggests it’s a rambling and digressive tome featuring a sofa as the main subject.
What’s not hard to imagine, though, is that a grown, bewigged man who seemingly spent all his time in knickers and white hair was into at least a little kink, some sort of “spice” of a sensual — or sexual — nature.
And if Cowper really was into wigs and lacy underthings as much as his pictures suggest, then he’d have been right at home at a contemporary burlesque show.
If you’re looking for some “spice” on your next date, perhaps you and your partner will also enjoy the candor and provocation of vaudevillian entertainment like burlesque.
I’d say most people would. With its variety of contemporary and classic styles of fashion, dance, sketches, magic and comedy, neo burlesque and vaudeville appeals to a broad audience, from the young and hip to older folks — like those with restructured hips. That’s probably because there’s a little something for everyone, beyond just getting a glimpse of some skin. (Though, there’s plenty of that, too.)
For those first-time daters, burlesque is a chance to see someone fully exposed — and we’re not talking about just the performers. Burlesque as a first date can serve as a great barometer of what kind of person you’re dealing with here. Prudish? Piggish? Burlesque provides for a wide range of emotions and reactions. Watch and learn.
And for those couples feeling the humdrum of cohabitation, burlesque can be a naughty spark, a chance to laugh out loud, lust faintly and love without judgment. Burlesque is bawdy in a way that appeals to even the most bland personalities: It’s like soft, soft porn, but with much better plot lines and costuming, less like a strip club and more like a Broadway musical, where everybody winds up topless and with terrific pasties.
Its vintage sexuality, lounge-act humor and pop culture references also serve as a welcome respite to today’s more severe sexuality, spilled out in shock-value doses and relying so little on imagination. There’s innocence and intrigue in traditional burlesque that just can’t be found at, say, Shotgun Willie’s, or at the far spectrum of cable TV channels, where 60 minutes of footage will cost you beaucoup bucks — and probably nix any chance at a second date.
Burlesque offers a return to a simpler time when sexuality was more nuanced and subtle, but somehow sexier? We’re not talking about mere turns of an ankle or a peek at a lady’s bloomers here, but to be sure, neo burlesque focuses much more on the tease than the reveal. And so, it’s certain to spice up any romance, new or old.
Here’s a few other reasons to consider booking a reservation at your local burlesque house the next time you want to get to know somebody new, or fan the flames of an old, familiar relationship:
Let’s not beat around the bush: You will see some serious skin at a burlesque show. After all, those ladies (and gentlemen — they’re called boylesquers) didn’t spend all that time gluing rhinestones onto their undies for nothing.
But chances are, the average burlesque-goer isn’t a supermodel or a movie star — and neither is the average performer. Rather, part of the charm of burlesque is its inclusivity, accepting the human form for what it is, no matter whether that be curvaceous and comely or svelte and slender. Burlesque talent is always glamorous but that’s where the conformity ends. Performers come in all shapes and sizes, and so that helps audience members — including your date — feel comfortable in their own skin, and in the knowledge that the only thing separating them from the people on stage is some lingerie and a high-powered glue gun.
At The Clocktower Cabaret, inside the historic Daniels and Fisher Tower in downtown Denver, the only thing keeping guests off the stage is a few extra bucks: VIP guests can join Fannie Spankings under the spotlight for a bump-and-grind tutorial, complete with boas, props and enough embarrassing pictures to last a lifetime. And if your date is game, consider the ice broken.
Aside from the awkwardness that might arise from trying to shimmy your shoulders or shake your booty for the first time in front of a roomful of strangers, burlesque shows often provide a comfortable setting where pretenses can just fade away.
The Clocktower and other burlesque venues, like Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox on 20th Street in Downtown Denver, offer ornate but wittily decorated showrooms with low lighting and craft cocktails — the kind of place where you can really cuddle close with an old loved one or a new friend and get to enjoy one another’s company.
For those who prefer a barstool over a ballroom, bourbon straight and beer in a can, places like 3 Kings Tavern on South Broadway or Tennyson’s Tap in the Highlands bring sexy and semi-seedy together. They ain’t your average skin bars, but then there’s no telling what happens after a few shots are thrown down.
No matter where you go, performers — be they Kitty Krimson at 3 Kings or Vivienne VaVoom at Ophelia’s — know how to offer a warm welcome with a cozy smile and a well-timed wisecrack. So nestle in or belly up, enjoy the hospitality and each other’s company.
With all the bare bottoms and bouncing bosoms, it’s easy to forget that burlesque was first rooted in comedy — not nudity. And every good date benefits from some heartfelt chuckles.
Fortunately for you, almost any show worth its weight includes a healthy dose of humor, along with various other vaudevillian acts — from song and dance to magic and staged mayhem.
On a Thursday evening at The Clocktower, longtime host Pierre Jean Pierre — a faux Frenchman who will tell you he sounds more like a Mexican because of how long he’s lived in Denver —leads the laughs with jokes, songs and sketches that often go beyond the pale, in all the best ways.
On his sexuality, Pierre — owner Jefferson Arca by day — says of himself: “I go both ways. I’m equal opportunity.” Regarding his immigration status, Pierre worries of a Donald Trump administration: “Hey, listen, all my papers are in order. I do good work, honest. I tell jokes,” he reassures the audience. Describing the show itself, Pierre makes a reference only true Denverites will understand: “This show, it’s like Casa Bonita for grownups.” And Pierre loves to talk about Colorado’s top crop: “There’s so much weed in Colorado, they have to tear up Highway 36 to Boulder again and add two more slow lanes.”
But Pierre does not dole out the funny alone. On a given night, guests might find Fannie Spankings spoofing Mother Mary or Joan Jett, or Peggy Tulane appearing as downtrodden former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Show themes — based on season — can include everything from Broadway musicals to Hollywood horror. Anything goes.
Now, I might be partial since she’s my wife, but seeing Mother Mary play a bong like a sax is just good fun. And whether or not your date thinks so may say a lot about how far your relationship will go. Is it gonna be all tease, or will they reveal their whole self?