It's more than simple hometown loyalty that keeps Lil' Miss Firefly coming back to the Immundo burlesque show in Denver. During the past nine years, the Colorado native has built an international reputation with her act, a routine she's performed in Las Vegas, New York and Europe. Firefly stands three feet tall and weighs about 50 pounds, but her slight stature is only one part of her onstage antics. She escapes from straightjackets, swallows 6-foot-long balloons and walks on glass. She breathes fire, dances burlesque and stands as a human prop for her fellow, self-titled "freaks." Still, for all the attention her act has garnered from audiences across the country and the world, the Thornton High School graduate makes a point to perform at the monthly Immundo show at the Rackhouse Pub whenever she's in town.
"It's fun to come home and do things at Immundo, to work with my friends," Firefly said before her performance at Immundo Sunday night, a routine that included a straight jacket escape, a balloon consumption and her signature glass walking act. "I do Immundo any chance I get, because they let me do pretty much whatever I want to."
Firefly's hectic touring schedule with the Pretty Things Peepshow makes regular Denver appearances tricky. In the coming months, she's scheduled to appear in New York, Las Vegas and Australia. Still, performing with fellow Colorado burlesque performers like Immundo producer AnaBella LaFontaine and Orchid Mei has remained a priority for Firefly, even if it poses additional challenges and stresses.
"I'm actually nervous. That is very rare," Firefly admitted before taking the stage at the Rackhouse pub. "I know people. I put a big Facebook post and invited everybody, even my good friends from high school."
The promotion seemed to work on Sunday. Despite the steady snowfall and poor weather conditions, a sizable crowd packed the Rackhouse dining room for the January Immundo installment. The show offered the usual mix of dancers, magicians, comedians and drag queens, a mix that's always been part of Immundo's basic artistic mission.
"We wanted a performer-based production company. We wanted to have it non-themed, just a lot of fun for everybody," said LaFontaine, who started the show more than a year ago in Golden. "I think we've become smarter. Moving from Golden to Denver was a good idea ... The biggest thing for me was that we learned to be a much closer group; friendship is really important."
Firefly, who has performed at Immundo three times since its inception, is directly tied to that emphasis on friendship and personal connection.
"I've known Firefly for two years. She just liked the idea of a place where she could drop in when she had the chance and perform anything she wanted, to do glass or whatever suited her fancy," LaFontaine said. "I like that she's different, I like that she brings her own element of sex appeal ... I look at it as she's my friend, she's all of our friends. She's a great performer; she just happens to be a midget.
"If I said 'little person,' she would kick me or bite me," LaFontaine added, pointing out that Firefly detests any push toward political correctness. "I would get kicked in the face."
Firefly's signature glass act begins with walking on jagged shards and quickly expands. She chews glass and dives into the broken bottle pieces, all the while performing a burlesque routine to a Michael Jackson song.
"That's my baby," Firefly said. "I have scars."
Surrounded by a troupe of friends and fellow artists at Immundo makes the risky act a bit easier, Firefly said.
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"I don't let just anybody in my bubble. I'm very protective of myself when it comes to friendships, especially now during tours," Firefly said. "I've toured with Ozzfest and Marilyn Manson. People I knew in high school were hitting me up for tickets. I said, 'The last time I saw you, you put me in a locker. Are you kidding me?' So I'm very protective of my friendships. It takes awhile for you to get into my inner circle."
Magician and mentalist Professor Phelyx, the longtime emcee of Immundo show, said special appearances like Firefly's have made promoting the nascent burlesque show a bit simpler.
"We worked really hard to promote this show. The reason for that is that we knew it was going to be the A-list," said Phelyx, who's been performing since 1981. "Firefly, she's special."