Angie Pontani

Angie Pontani

Burlesque emerged in the late 19th century as a mix of satire, performance art and adult entertainment, featuring striptease and comedy acts. New York City was burlesque’s first home, with its epicenter on the Bowery, the Lower East Side and Broadway. The mid-20th century saw a decline in its popularity, but today New York is again at the heart of the burlesque revival, dubbed “Neo-burlesque,” encompassing a wider range of performance styles. As always, the focus is more on the “tease” than the “strip.” You can see some of the best new burlesque acts at these venues:

The Box
189 Chrystie St., between Stanton and Rivington streets
This Lower East Side destination for dinner and theater brings the energy of vaudeville palaces, concert saloons and burlesque halls back to the neighborhood. A curving staircase leads to a New Orleans-style balustrade overlooking bejeweled wagon-wheel chandeliers and a mirrored back bar. Around midnight, burlesque controls the stage with circus stars, human oddities and avant-garde thespians. It’s a mix as fanciful as the layered wallpaper of cherubs, Chinese fighting fish and flappers. Beware: The $600-a-table cabaret just opened in December, and it has already become one of the city’s most exclusive clubs. 

Scotty the Blue Bunny

Scotty the Blue Bunny

Corio Supper Club
337 West Broadway, at Grand Street
Twenty dollars at this classy, sexy supper club buys dinner, cocktails and “Filthy Gorgeous Burlesque,” a weekly showcase of some of New York’s premiere burlesque performers, with shows at 8:30 p.m. every Friday. The rotating lineup of hosts includes drag king Murray Hill, the world famous *BOB* and Scotty the Blue Bunny. Check out “Employees Only” with Angie Pontani and friends, Mondays at 10 p.m. (Monday nights have no cover charge, and an open bar from 10 -11 p.m.)

The Cutting Room
19 West. 24th St., between Fifth and Sixth avenues
Bonnie Dunn developed her burlesque and cabaret persona as a teenager growing up in New Orleans, but for the past six years she has been the producer and featured performer of “Le Scandal Cabaret,” Saturdays at 10:30 p.m. at the Cutting Room. Le Scandal is a unique blend of neo-burlesque and vaudeville, with a touch of downtown edge and a splash of Coney Island. Indulge your passions for the risque and bizarre with a sword swallower from the Sudan, a belly dancer from the Orient, a magician from the Moscow Circus, a fabulous fire eater and more eye-popping performances. Admission is $20, and food and drinks are served.

Galapagos Art Space
70 N. 6th St., between Kent and Wythe, Brooklyn
The pioneering bar and performing arts space that helped put Williamsburg on the cultural map hosts “Monday Evening Burlesque” every week at 10 p.m., featuring a wide variety of performers. Drag king Murray Hill hosts the Miss Galapagozanga Amateur burlesque contest on the first Monday of each month, and the last Monday of every month offers a showcase for new talent, hosted by the world famous *BOB*. Galapagos is moving to DUMBO next year, but there’s still plenty of time to join the hipsters and see some of the best burlesque in the city for only $5.

The Lounge at Elmo
156 Seventh Ave., between 19th and 20th streets
Hunny Bunny Hot Box, founded in Austin, Texas, comes to Elmo’s underground Lounge every Wednesday, featuring ladies that conjure film-noir traces of glamour, with the comical delights of vaudeville and Broadway. Smoky jazz meets dynamic dance numbers in this medley of theater, choreography, comedy and eroticism that perfectly embodies the polished and intimate neo-burlesque experience. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. and tickets are $15, plus a two drink minimum.

The Lucky Cat
245 Grand St., between Driggs Avenue and Roebling Street, Brooklyn
Every other Saturday, Williamsburg bar and café The Lucky Cat hosts Dr. Sketchy’s Anti Art School, where aspiring artists and burlesque fans participate in a bi-weekly debauched art class from 3 to 6 p.m. The most outrageous New York burlesque performers, such as Dirty Martini and Dani Danger, model for a one-of-a-kind life-drawing session with booze and prizes. But don’t worry if you’re no Michelangelo. “We get a lot of people just doing stick figures,” says Sketchy principal Molly Crabapple. The fee is $10 per three-hour session, or $15 to reserve a table.

Rififi (Cinema Classics)
332 East 11th St., at First Avenue
Every Thursday night, Little Brooklyn and Creamy Stevens (winners of the highly coveted “golden pasties” at the 2006 New York Burlesque Festival) bring you “Starshine Burlesque.” Grab a drink at this East Village bar before heading to the back room, where Starshine turns up the heat with a variety show of eye-popping striptease, magic, acrobatics, vaudevillian antics and “good old fashioned burly-Q.” Sunday nights are “Sweet and Nasty” burlesque, presented by Veronika Sweet and Nasty Canasta and featuring a rotating cast of NYC’s burlesque luminaries and neophyte nymphets. Both shows start at 10pm, with $5 admission.

The Slipper Room
167 Orchard St., at Stanton Street
This unpretentious Lower East Side cabaret bar with a “Vegas/Victorian” aesthetic displays a welcoming blend of opulence and kitsch. The gold-trimmed and velvet-curtained stage is the centerpiece, featuring New York’s best burlesque three nights a week. On Wednesdays, chase away the mid-week blues with burlesque and rock and roll at “Mr. Choade’s Sloppy Seconds.” Every Friday is “Hot Box Burlesque,” and every Saturday is another chance to catch “Mr. Choade’s Upstairs/Downstairs,” NYC’s longest-running burlesque show. Doors open at 8pm, and all tickets are $5.

This article was published in the June 15-17, 2007 weekend issue of amNewYork.