Burlesque Performers Trade Garters for Cuffs

Undercover cops learn a revealing lesson at Pink Elephant.

The ladies of Burlesque As It Was had just finished their show at the Pink Elephant at 1515 Madison Street on Friday night when Fannie Spankings, who was standing by the door, got an invitation for a special command performance — from a cop. It was a "request to appear" related to an "incident of burlesque," and was signed by Detective Randy Wagner. Fannie, a performer originally from Chicago (and really named Annie Medina), has been working with Burlesque As It Was for two years now, and you'd hardly call her comic specialty an "incident." It involves "assles, these little short shorts that have tassels you can twirl," she explains. And when she gets the pasties on her breasts going, too, Fannie can do a four-propeller twirl.

Impressive, yes. Illegal? Doubtful. And not that the prudey-pants cops caught Fannie's act, anyway. A few undercover officers had been in the bar next door, then come into the showroom with colleagues armed with bulletproof vests and lots of questions about the nature of burlesque. They asked Fannie for her business license (didn't need once, since the venue has a cabaret license), her performance license (ditto), then her driver's license, and as she went to the dressing room to get it, queried whether her costume covered the subject, so to speak. "I showed them the pasties," she says. "They're almost the size of my palm, so yes, it covers my areola."

Michelle Baldwin, who's led the troupe for ten years as Vivienne VaVoom, researched all appropriate laws when she decided to bring back the ancient art of burlesque, and she knows that her shows are covered by a cabaret license — even if her dancers aren't covered by much more than imagination. Burlesque has become so hip in this town that other businesses are getting in on the act — pole-dance studios, for example — "and the more popular this gets, the more there seems to be some misinterpretation," she says.

Baldwin plans to show up with Fannie for her date with the cop, armed with educational information about burlesque. "Just because we're showing nudity on stage doesn't necessarily make it sexual," she adds, noting that families — including hers — see the shows. "We're your grandpa's porn."

Give Gramps a thrill when Burlesque As It Was returns to the Pink Elephant this weekend (for photos from an earlier show, go to slideshow.westword.com), or be at Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret on February 14 for the special "Be Mine" Valentine's show. And save a seat for Detective Wagner.


Both sides now: Tuesday was caucus day in Colorado, but if members of the Democratic National Convention's host committee have an opinion on which candidate should be the nominee, they weren't letting on.

Of the six members of the executive committee, only Congresswoman Diana DeGette has publicly risked taking sides, backing Hillary Clinton. The others — Governor Bill Ritter, Senator Ken Salazar, Mayor John Hickenlooper and co-chairs attorney Steve Farber and former city councilwoman Elbra Wedgeworth — have remained neutral, says host committee spokesman Chris Lopez, who adds that there's no official policy regarding endorsements.

Still, Hickenlooper went so far as to issue a neutrality statement on January 30.

Salazar is also neutral — but not because he's on the host committee, says his communications director, Cody Wertz. "It's a very close race," he explains. "He knows he has to work with both colleagues in the Senate and maintain those relationships."

Farber has also decided to wait it out, saying an endorsement might inhibit his ability to raise money. "We may well be an open convention," he notes. "Or we may know in the next thirty days."

And at that point, Farber says, he'll put his mouth where the money is.

 
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