Colorado Creatives

100 Colorado Creatives: Burlesque and cabaret queen Cora Vette

#42: Cora Vette

Cora Vette, aka Reyna Von Vette, is larger than life, with a big sassy voice, a ribald sense of humor and a sparkly way with a needle and thread, which all come in handy when she tackles her many roles as a burlesque-show hostess-with-the-mostest, costume-maker and show-tune belter. She's the complete package, and when you see her in action onstage, you have no doubt about who's running the show...which she does, regularly, here in town with her own burlesque troupes and on the road at burlesque fests across the country.

Her newest local weekly show, the retro-inspired RestoMod, opens tonight at the VooDoo Comedy Playhouse (see below for more details from the horse's mouth); to note the occasion, we asked Vette to tackle our 100CC questionnaire. Read on -- the lady has a lot to say.

See also: 100 Colorado Creatives: Michelle Baldwin

If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?

It would have to be Ella Fitzgerald. She is my all time favorite singer. Her voice is pure joy to my ears and her phrasing is gorgeous. To somehow magically be able to sing with her would be amazing! Also, Mae West. She was a strong woman way ahead of her own time. She was sassy but still classy, and she really knew what would draw in a crowd. Her play simply titled SEX was scandalous and a sellout. It also got her arrested, which only gained her more notoriety. She was a ton of fun, totally bold, uniquely herself and a brilliant businesswoman. 

Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?

I would have to say Imelda May. She is a rockabilly singer from Dublin who cut her teeth as a burlesque singer. I love her style. She is retro glam, but with a harder edge. She also sings the most beautiful ballads and jazz standards. Actually, she is doing exactly what I do, so it's inspiring to see someone make it work on a much larger scale. It proves to me that there is a market out there for what I do as a musician in addition to my work as a burlesque-show host. She is headlining the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly weekend next April, and I've been asked to host their burlesque competition night, so I'll get to see her perform live. I'm pretty excited about that!

Continue reading for more from Cora Vette.

What's one art trend you want to see die this year?

With the increased popularity of burlesque, there are more and more shows popping up all over, not just in Denver, but all over the country. Seeing a poorly produced burlesque show can convince a potential audience member that they do not care for burlesque. There are too many people producing burlesque shows without the proper experience. It's not enough to take a class and put together a show. The onus is not just on the people putting the shows together, but also the bars or performance venues. Everyone wants a burlesque show now...but seeing a bad one can really hurt the art form as a whole. Yes, art form: burlesque has been around since the late 1800s in Europe. America added the striptease aspect in the late 1920s/early 1930s (there are conflicting claims as to who actually was the first). So, yes, the striptease aspect of burlesque specifically is a uniquely American art form, and it should be protected and celebrated.

What's your day job?

My full-time job is being a mom to my seven-year-old son. I travel and host burlesque festivals all around the country. I run my shop "VaVaVette" where I make burlesque costumes and vintage clothing reproductions. I run two burlesque troupes -- the VaVaVettes (burlesque) and the Hot Rods (boylesque). I make all my own costumes and most of the costumes for my performers, so right now, that takes up a lot of my time. The rest of my day job is coming up with the next crazy idea...

A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?

Open a theatrical burlesque/cabaret club and have the money to get it off the ground. Hands down. I've always been of the opinion that burlesque shows belong in a proper venue. We had our own space we were leasing at the Denver Civic Theater, but we lost it in a scam by a crooked landlord. So, I guess all I want to do is to get back to where we started five years ago. 

What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?

To the people in Denver and Colorado, go out and see live events! See different shows at different venues, get out and help make art a for-profit business. Every butt in a seat makes a difference. I'd like to see the artists in this town get a tiny percentage of the recognition that we give our professional sports teams. Denver is a great city. Get out there and enjoy it and support the little guys!

Continue reading for more from Cora Vette.

Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?

Man, is this a hard one! There are so many! If I had to pick one, I would have to say John Moore. His tireless and selfless dedication to the Denver theater community is staggering. I'm sure most people know of him and have read his theater reviews over twelve years as the theater critic for the Denver Post. After he left that position, he started his own website and began independently working to assure that the Denver theater scene didn't fall off the grid. Very recently, John Moore was hired as the Associate Director of Content Strategy for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts in a position they created just for him. This will allow him to continue covering Denver theater and reaching new audiences. He also recently started the "Tap Shoe Initiative," which is a fund designed to help performers facing medical emergencies. All this from a guy who is usually just watching and reporting...pretty inspirational.

What's on your agenda for the rest of 2013 and beyond?

I am opening a new Thursday night show at the VooDoo Comedy Playhouse on October 3. I am so excited to be able to have a sit-down show in a theater space again! The show is called Cora Vette's RestoMod Burlesque. I chose the name RestoMod because it describes a car that still retains its classic vintage exterior, but has been modified and updated under the hood. That's what I am going for with my new show. Vintage, classic, but built for speed! There'll be updated remixes of classic songs, classic versions of contemporary songs...and much madness and insanity in between.

In addition to the new show, I will also be continuing my monthly shows at Rock-A-Billies in Arvada, and traveling quite a bit. I just got back from hosting the fifth year of the New Orleans Burlesque Festival and will also most likely be hosting the Southwest Burlesque Showcase, the Texas Burlesque Festival, the Southern Fried Burlesque Festival, Viva Las Vegas and others. Also, in addition to the burlesque shows, I also have a Sunday-night jazz show that I do weekly at the Black Crown Lounge here in Denver. Plus, I still have my shop at the Wazee Union...who knows what will happen next year?

Who do you think will get noticed in Denver's arts (burlesque, cabaret, etc...) community this year? 

Me! No, but seriously...I hope that more people notice Steve Wilder and all the hard work he has been doing to put the VooDoo Comedy Playhouse on the map. It's a great, small, intimate theater with an amazing tech setup and lots of really fun shows. Also, Michelle Baldwin (aka Vivienne VaVoom) has a new book coming out soon called Timeless Tassels: Vintage through Modern Burlesque that should be amazing as well! 

To learn more about Cora Vette visit her website and the VaVaVette Facebook page.

Throughout the year, we'll be shining the spotlight on 100 superstars from Denver's rich creative community. Stay tuned to Show and Tell for more, or visit the 100 Colorado Creatives archive to catch up.

Do you have a suggestion for a future profile? Feel free to leave your picks in the comments.

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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd