Director Rama Rau and Producer Ed Barreveld at the 2015 Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender in Las Vegas with Camille 2000 and Bambi the Mermaid
There are many reasons I’m excited to present League of Exotique Dancers to the world! The opportunity to make a film about Legends of Burlesque was, for this producer, a little bit like a kid being handed the key to the candy shop…
To say that this was the most fun film we’ve ever made - a sentiment shared by everyone who worked on the film - is an understatement. It’s easy to see why; League of Exotique Dancers features nine amazing Titans of Tease - aged between 65 and 86 - who trail blazed and wowed audiences from the late 1950’s to burlesque’s waning days in the late 1970’s. Now, decades later, they show that they’ve lost none of their spirit or enthusiasm to please today’s idolizing spectators. In fact, like good wine, they’ve gotten better with age!
Las Vegas’ annual Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender reserves a special night to celebrate the Legends of Burlesque and we had the good fortune to be invited twice to interview and document our Legends in action. This familiarity gave our all-female crew, director Rama Rau, DOP Iris Ng, sound recordist Mary Wong and production assistants Stephanie Corfield and Shasha Nakhai, unprecedented, intimate access to our Legends. Subsequently the crew hit the road and traveled all across North America to film the Legends in their homes and old haunts collecting many humorous and sometimes heartbreaking stories.
Editor Rob Ruzic then had the unenviable (or maybe not, dude sure was smiling a lot…) task to sift through over 100 hours of original footage and many more hours of archival material sourced by researcher Erin Chisholm. I told Rama and Rob to make the film they wanted to make and not worry about any censoring. To his credit, when Bruce Cowley from documentary Channel, who was a very early supporter and commissioned the film, saw the first cut, he commented that “Your characters are essential, engaging, quirky and ultimately triumphant. I really got to fall for them and would love to meet them. This is a sexy, spicy, bald-faced tribute to a bygone are and its stars”.
From the film’s glitzy Las Vegas opening accompanied by Count Basie’s Orchestra to the dreamy closing theme by Toronto saxman Richard Underhill, with plenty of music in between by other artists and maestro Ken Myhr’s superb original score, Rama Rau’s documentary becomes a little time capsule which captures an extraordinary art form largely ignored and misinterpreted by mainstream media. Rich with beautiful original photography and rare, sometimes never seen before, archival photos and footage our Legends - from various ethnic, geographic and socio-economic backgrounds – open up and tell it like it was.
Producer Ed Barreveld having a bit of fun at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender bazaar. Magenta might just be his colour!
In a rare opportunity to test the film on a critical and informed audience, we returned to the Weekender in 2015 to show a very early version of the film to our Legends and their fans. There was laughter, hooting, hollering and tears and as luck would have it, BurlesqueBeat.com was there and, ignoring the horrible projection of the film, declared the film “a great living document of a great living art form”.
Today burlesque is alive and well, practised by performers of all size, shape, age, gender and ethnicity. I hope that our film will help give a true appreciation of the art of burlesque and its legendary performers. After you see our film we hope you will go out and support the real thing. Oh, one more thing…. After seeing League of Exotique Dancers you will never look at your grandmother the same way again!