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New Orleans Burlesque 

July 20

The Big Busk!

9 p.m. Tuesday

Howlin' Wolf, 907 S. Peters St., 522-9653;

Tickets $5

July 22

Oh! You Pretty Things: A Burlesque Tribute to David Bowie

9 p.m. Thursday

3 Ring Circus' The Big Top Gallery, 1638 Clio St., 569-2700;

Tickets $10

New burlesque meets classic rock in a show with a David Bowie theme.

click to enlarge rec-1.jpg

Think certified public accountants aren't the most fun-loving lot? All it takes to loosen their ties, Zac Kushner learned, is a CPA-centric drink special, a few burlesque dancers and some apropos theme music.

  "(The Beatles') 'Taxman,' (Pink Floyd's) 'Money.' Lots of fake $20 bills flying around," the producer and OpenHouse Music founder recalls of his first event in New Orleans, an April 15 striptease at Cafe Prytania. (Tagline: "Show Us Your Hidden Assets.") "There was a private party scheduled that night. I had already put a hold on for a burlesque show, so we were like, 'Why don't we just do a tax day burlesque show? Maybe they'll stick around.' They did stick around."

  For Kushner, a New York City transplant who relocated here in August 2009, the gig was the start of a monthly series of freelance burlesque tributes: in May, a bow to Prince; for June, a reanimation of cartoon temptresses like Jessica Rabbit and Betty Boop. They were mere warm-ups — undressed rehearsals, if you will — for this week's main event, he says: a nod to David Bowie titled, appropriately, "Oh! You Pretty Things."

  "It's a concept I've always enjoyed," says Kushner, whose family has vaudeville and Broadway ties. "I could not think of an icon that works any better for this kind of thing. David Bowie is more than a musical icon. Having there be some sexiness, some fashion, some theatrics — this is definitely the one we've all been looking forward to."

  Kushner's original group of Tillie Vermillion, Lana Allure and Jessa DeNuit has grown to encompass dancers of differing experience levels from outfits across town. "It's kind of a rotating group," he says. "At the Prince show, we had six different troupes. The guys from are kind of freaking out. It's a good place to see a sampling of a lot of performers, as well as traveling performers. For this show, Vivienne Vermouth is in from Texas."

  Sprinkled between the monthly tributes is a less-structured weekly residency at the Howlin' Wolf dubbed "The Big Busk!" The variety show features a house band, often the Dirty Bourbon River Show, as well as jugglers, magicians, comedians and dancers. "It's a great opportunity for new performers, a place where girls can come work on acts," Kushner says. "Tillie and Jessa had only performed like once or twice in front of an audience. Tillie is now doing Burlesque Ballroom. Jessa's got a great following as well."

  At the Big Top, he says DJ Yrs Truly will spin tracks from every stage of Bowie's career, Ziggy Stardust to Labyrinth. "A couple of girls are still working on a few acts. I'm desperately trying to talk someone into doing 'Love You Till Tuesday' — the really early, Davy Jones-era Bowie." There will also be some Bowie acolytes — "Prepare to hear everything from T. Rex to Of Montreal" — and perhaps a live surprise. "(Silent Cinema's) Micah McKee did a whole set of Prince covers. We're trying to interject a little of that."

  OpenHouse Music is on hiatus in August, but Kushner is already planning his September tribute; Dusty Springfield is one target. ("My first concept," he says. "It's one that the girls seem to really want to do.") He's also conceptualizing something larger for the fall, a narrative show about a deity that kidnaps burlesque dancers on vacation.

  "Beach Blanket Bingo meets Polynesian tiki god horror movie kind of thing," Kushner laughs. "With lots of boobs."


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