Voluptuous, Political And Bawdy: Burlesque In Clevelad

Photographer, Bob Perkoski

Burlesque. The word brings up images of early 20th century stages with scantily clad women dancing and telling bawdy jokes in front of raucous audiences. Photographer Bob Perkoski and writer Erin O’Brien decided to bring that image up to date with the release of their book, “Rust Belt Burlesque: The Softer Side of a Heavy Metal Town.”

You can meet Perkoski and O’Brien on Thursday, August 15, 2019 at 7:00 p.m. in the Main Library Auditorium when they present their newly released book and discuss the history of burlesque in Cleveland.

“Rust Belt Burlesque” tells the story of this art form in Cleveland from the mid-1800s to the present day. Burlesque was always meant to be fun, a parody of more serious theater. In America, it evolved into variety shows with comedy routines and female striptease. Cleveland was well-known for burlesque in the early 1900s, with the action centering around the Roxy Theater, which became a burlesque house in 1931. In its prime, the Roxy was nationally known, but by the late 1960s, the venue was hosting X-rated movies and live strip shows. It closed in 1977.

Neo-burlesque was born in Cleveland when Bella Sin, a Mexican immigrant, came to town with her flamboyant personality and fascination with burlesque dance and culture. In 2004, she established Cleveland Burlesque, which found a home at the Beachland Ballroom in 2010. After photographing a fundraiser organized by Sin in 2013, Perkoski became fascinated by burlesque and its performers. He attended shows and built a portfolio, which eventually led a publisher to approach him about a book. Perkoski enlisted O’Brien to research and write the copy. In the book, O’Brien summarizes the burlesque scene in Cleveland as “feminist, punk, gender inclusive, and nonbinary. It’s queer and trans and classic. It’s voluptuous and political and bawdy. Most notably, it is always entertaining as hell.”

Join Perkoski and O’Brien on August 15, 2019 at the Lakewood Main Library to discover a slice of little-known Cleveland history. Books will be available for sale and signing.

Read More on Library
Volume 15, Issue 15, Posted 2:59 PM, 08.07.2019