On the Strip

"It's like a live B movie," Fanny Fitztightlee says of Ooh La La, a Denver-based burlesque outfit that she co-founded with fellow peeler Kitty Crimson. "But it's faster-paced, and the story line is easier to follow. We do everything from fan dancing to fire breathing to pillow fights. We're more aggressive than your average burlesque troupe. We always try to have a chick fight in every show."

"You know that when there's two girls wrestling around, some clothes might come off," Fitztightlee continues. "But it's more entertainment than just seeing a girl stand on stage naked. Burlesque is really about the tease more than the strip. We do strip, but it's about how you strip, how you make eye contact with the audience."

Possibly inspiring as much bewilderment as lust, the girlies of Ooh La La distinguish themselves in today's growing neo-burlesque market by thwarting expectations: Rather than rely on rote, sax-driven stripper music for every bump and grind, they toss in an occasional speed-metal anthem by Slayer or a techno-opera number. Instead of reenacting the can-can, they might reverse the stripper's formula by starting out naked, then putting their clothes on. Other skits involve tap-dancing sailors, girls in football uniforms, and a "homeless" lovely disrobing in a cardboard box.

"I do this geek-girl act where I fall down a lot," Fitztightlee says of her clumsy, bespectacled alter ego, French Tickler. "I have grandma panties on, and I'm dancing really badly to hip-hop music. So we always try to keep the audience guessing. If we could have girls parachuting out of the sky, we'd totally do that."

Crimson agrees. "It definitely teeters more on just adult-oriented entertainment with an R rating than it does traditional burlesque," she says, noting that Ooh La La's female fan base is increasing. "Some of us sing, some of us dance. We have a gymnast who does backflips. So it's really eclectic."

After cutting their teeth in Michelle Baldwin's local entourage Burlesque As It Was, Fitztightlee (Michelle Scheffer) and Crimson (Heather Bruck) launched their own company in the summer of 2002. The current rotating ensemble of 23 women includes voluptuous, wisecracking emcee Titsa Galore ("the hostess with the most tits," Crimson notes), as well as Honey Do, Bo Dacious and the dreadlocked Pinky 500.

Ooh La La plans to bust out a burlesque extravaganza at the Modern Drunkard convention later this month at Las Vegas's Stardust Casino. But first the group will present a stripped-down glimpse of the glitz at $pend a Night in Vega$, Friday, May 7, at the South Park Tavern.

"It's the smallest cast we've ever had in a full-length show," Fitztightlee says of the two-hour production. "It's very drinking- oriented, obviously. Some acts are funny, some are sexy, some are campy. There's gonna be an homage to the Rat Pack -- a dueling martini act. A few silhouette strips. And a special guest appearance by the Velvet Elvis. So it's gonna be more of a variety show."

Designing their own skimpy costumes from play money, bottle caps and poker cards, among other gambling-related material, troupe members aim to minimize the need for larger props, relying instead on their own ingenuity (plus ridiculous '80s-era dance moves like the Sprinkler).

"I had much lower self-esteem before I did burlesque," Crimson admits. "And one of the things that burlesque made me realize is that all women are beautiful, and all women are sexy. And it's more about confidence and class and style than it is about age or body type any day of the week. That's what we really try to portray in our shows."

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John La Briola