Stripping With A Story

Deena Bustillo

By Deena BustilloPLAY Editor

It’s not a strip club – or an adolescent boy’s daydream for that matter – but it is four women, stripped down to their pastel bras and lacy panties, prancing around the stage in a mock slumber party pillow fight. They collapse on the floor as the tempo of the Big Band-reminiscent Bjork song playing in the background slows, and come alive again with the next trumpet blare – all the while engaging the hollering audience with coy grins and flowing limbs.

The energetic number ends and the velvet curtains close in front of Vivian Velvet, Fanny Tastic, Miss Dominique Trixx and Holly Wouldn’t – Starlets of the “Star and Garter Burlesque” show. The weekly show, located just north of Belmont, is part of the neo-burlesque movement that is gaining popularity in Chicago and other cities.

After the final sleepover-themed group number, the show’s host, burly comedian C.J. Sullivan, cracks a few jokes about “Caulk Shots” for sale at the back, says goodnight and within 10 minutes the upper level of Fizz Bar & Grill (3220 N. Lincoln Ave) is nearly empty.

But for over an hour on this Thursday night the tables of men – and some women – sat, transfixed by slinky garters, fishnets, corsets and enough lace to rival a Victoria’s Secret store.

About half a dozen striptease performances are featured in the “Star and Garter” show: Little Red Ridinghood drops her cape, basket and then her bra as she licks her lips, garnering a piercing call of approval from a man in front; VivianVelvet sits on stage at a 1920s bar, devouring fake shots of Jack Daniels, then strips down to pasties (nipple stickers) and a thong – you get the idea.

In between the cheeky teases, one of the comedians pokes fun at his personal lack of aesthetic appeal.

“A girl came up to me and said I was good looking – from here to here,” comedian Mike Homes says, pointing to the region between his nose and forehead. So, he says his peak attractiveness would be in a Zorro mask showing only his eyes.

Second time around at the Second City

The mix of comedy and near-naked dancing is characteristic of the burlesque that developed out of multi-act, vaudeville theater in the late nineteenth century. It included adult entertainment along with lowbrow acts like fire-breathing. It also contained elaborately choreographed, witty routines that mocked the aristocracy.

Burlesque lasted through the 1940s the first time around, until the risqu