FIERCE! is once again coming to Pittsburgh to thrill and intrigue us with queer burlesque, drag, and variety acts from Pittsburgh and around the world. The festival runs from July 20th to the 23rd at venues including There Ultra Lounge, James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy, and Ace Hotel. QueerPGH was lucky enough to chat with four gorgeous and deliciously queer performers who are all based in Pittsburgh.
QueerPGH: How did you get into burlesque?
Lilith DeVille: As a dancer, completely by accident! Some of the dancers from my troupe, Kabarett Vulgare, were booked to perform at a convention, but the night before, our boylesque dancer injured himself and couldn’t do the gig. I had to step in last minute to fill the spot, never having performed burlesque before. From that moment, I was hooked, and haven’t looked back since! Prior to that, I was emceeing shows for La Petite Mort Burlesque, and Kabarett Vulgare, in Charlotte, NC, so I was familiar with the craft.
Phat Man Dee: I have been performing as Phat Man Dee since 1996 and I think I noticed neo-vaudeville, variety and burlesque shows start popping up about 1998. I have always found more acceptance in stages dedicated to the variety and circus arts. They were more open to my combination of music and performance. I have emceed for notable burlesque festivals like Americana Burlesque Sideshow Festival (Asheville, NC), the Ohio Burlesque Festival (Cleveland) and I am really looking forward to emceeing Saturday night festivities at FIERCE!
Luscious D: I learned about burlesque in high school, but never imagined that I would be performing in this medium at my size, let alone the impact it has had on my life the past few years. I saw my first burlesque show in 2011. I took the stage for the first time, as a therapeutic exercise in getting my creative side back after my divorce. I have been performing and helping out ever since. In July 2016, I became the Troupe Manager of The Velvet Hearts Pittsburgh. I also have successfully produced several of my own shows and have one coming up at the Glitter Box Theater.
QueerPGH: Tell me about your onstage personae.
Lilith DeVille: Lilith is the amalgamation of my dreams and fantasies…the canvas that wears my obsessions… My tagline is a pretty accurate summation of my character. “She’s one part Nosferatu, one part Norma Desmond. The Vamp that puts the “V” in variety, Lilith DeVille!”
Ace Phoenix: I’m a bad boy with the sweetest heart you’ll ever meet. On the outside, a lot of times I’m that boy you could never bring home to mom, but then I’m the charm that moms fall in love with. I am also known as Pittsburgh Wildcard because I explore a variety of genres so you never know what I have up my sleeve. From Rock, Country, Nerdy, Rap, Tearjerkers, Flirty, Sexy, Bizarre…. Anything can happen when I take the stage.
Luscious D: Luscious D is curvy, cute and quirky. My tagline is, “Those lips, those Eyes…Keep your eyes on those thighs!” I am passionate about body positivity. Most of my acts are either character (Tina Belcher, Velma Dinkley, Ursula so far) something with balloons, or a surprise that you don’t necessarily expect from me. I started doing spoken word/burlesque last July and that has stuck.
QueerPGH: What inspires your act?
Lilith DeVille: Post-Impression Pop Culture. I pull most of my inspiration from history, especially the 1920’s into the mid thirties. Im particularly fond of the underground culture of Weimar era Germany. My character is rooted in the “public images” of movie stars and cabaret performers of the 20’s and 30’s, like Theda Bara, Gloria Swanson, Louise Brooks, Anita Berber, Marlene Dietrich, etc., but I also pull from other movements such as The Pansy Craze, pre WWII british music hall and pantomime, and American Vaudeville.
Phat Man Dee: My act is inspired by my passion to keep alive the legacy of those who went before, while also using my own voice and passions to help propel our message of being the fabulous you want to see in the world. Beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, genders and we must be ourselves in order to truly be free.
Ace Phoenix: I have 2 numbers for FIERCE!; a solo and a duet. My solo is inspired by the ways I have beat myself up at times for not always being perfect or not being able to do EVERYTHING to help everyone. The second number is a statement a bit about the current state of our nation. It starts out discussing how I feel about it, then ends reminding the audience that we all are the face of change. There is a lot of a background story of growth that strikes home for me in this.
Luscious D: Life events, my current mood or latest interest. Often I hear music and think about how an act would unfold.
QueerPGH: What’s the burlesque scene like in Pittsburgh?
Ace Phoenix: Fan-Flipping-tastic. There is so much support across the city. There are ALWAYS shows happening that you can catch. Always fantastic performers ready to support each other when opportunities present themselves. My favorite part is that our burlesque scene is filled with so many sweethearts!
Lilith DeVille: When I moved to Pittsburgh 6 years ago, there was only one troupe/show in the city, and that was The Bridge City Bombshells, and I was fortunate enough to work with them before the troupe disbanded. Since then, there has been a steady growth in the scene all around with troupes like The Steel City Kitty Show, which brings national and international performers to Pittsburgh and tours in their own right; Kabarett Vulgare, which takes a more theatrical approach to traditional American sideshow and burlesque; The Smokin’ Betties, and more!
Phat Man Dee: I am thrilled to state that the burlesque scene in Pittsburgh has grown exponentially in the past 10-15 years. We have amazing artists who work hard to create beauty on stages all over town. I am thrilled to live in a city with such dedicated producers and performers like Kat de Lac, Boom Boom Bridgette, Macabre Noir, and of course the one and unfortunately only Viva Valezz!!!!!
QueerPGH: Why is FIERCE! Special?
Lilith DeVille: FIERCE! is special because it allows us to have a platform to be the queer burlesquers we were born to be. I feel like a lot of the time, as queer entertainers, we’re to a degree seen as the “token” in your standard, more traditional show. “Oh, it’s the drag queen/king!” or “Oh, it’s the lesbian!”; whereas with FIERCE!, our common denominator is that we’re all queer! With that understanding out of the way, we can look past the stigma of sexual orientation and celebrate not just what we are, but WHO we are.
Phat Man Dee: FIERCE! is extremely special because it states that in the world of burlesque there are sacred entertainers who have fought hard to not only exist as LGBTQIA+ people in the world, they have fought to exist and they have done so with grace, style, passion and they are using their artistry to present themselves as a beacon of hope to other LGBTQIA+ folk who need the message that they too can be beautiful, they too can have a creative voice. This world tries so hard to crush so many of us, but FIERCE! is uplifting an entire community as living proof that we can and will be as unabashedly phabulous as we want to be!
QueerPGH: What is queer burlesque? How is it unique?
Lilith DeVille: Queer burlesque is just that, queer burlesque. What makes queer burlesque unique is that compared to the heteronormative ideas of burlesque, queer burlesque allows itself to cross lines and ask questions or give answers that non-queer burlesque doesn’t or can’t. For one, we are a community that struggles with identity pretty much right out the door. We spend years in our youth trying to figure out why we are different, and then have to come to terms with that. sometimes we’re blessed to have a family that is accepting, but sometime’s we aren’t, which opens up another can-o-life struggle-worms. By no means am I trying to discredit anything that heterosexual dancers have to deal and struggle with, but I’m pretty sure when ‘Cindy’ tells her mom she’s into boys, that her life isn’t completely turned upside down. But when ‘Bobby’ tells mom the same thing, well…
Phat Man Dee: Queer burlesque is sensual performance art by and for queer people. That’s not to say straight folk and allies can’t enjoy it and support it, but it is an art form not made for straight perspectives, it is made with a queer aesthetic and from a queer point of view.
Ace Phoenix: Queer burlesque is just as it states: Weird Burlesque. You may see someone in a Star Wars costume stripping…or a gown of Starbucks cups. You may see some very unique performances that are not the typical masculine or feminine personas. You may see gender-fluckery that keeps you wondering. You never know what these brilliant artists are bringing out for this type of festival but you know it will be amazing!
QueerPGH: What can people expect from your FIERCE! act?
Lilith DeVille: I am honored to be hosting the Late Night show on Friday, so I’ll be serving up my world-famous southern charm and sailors vocabulary!!
Phat Man Dee: I am going to emcee the Saturday night performance at ACE Hotel and use my gift of gab to exalt the incredible artists who have travelled to our fair city and describe them in glowing terms that don’t reveal too much! Like the art of strip tease itself, the emcee is there to excite and intrigue, not to give it all away!!! At some point I will probably sing a song or two, and then I will engage in the Sacred Art of Phat Chick Phist Mastication and sing the national anthem while fisting my face, it is my way of praying for the future of America and all those we influence.
Luscious D: My act for FIERCE! Is what I call “#wordlesque”. It’s a spoken word piece about my complicated relationship with my body. It has been evolving in the past 11 months since I debuted it and it has become my signature act, and one that I am extremely proud of.
Ace Phoenix: For my Friday night early act, you can expect a deep, powerful, yet mellower number with an amazing costume. For the Friday night late number, you can expect Ms. Moon (my duet partner) and I to keep you on the edge of your seats as we light up the night!
Catch all four of these sexy performers at FIERCE!, July 20-23!