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By Eric Campos | April 19, 2004

It takes most people a while to figure out just what exactly burlesque is. And then are those people that will never understand what the term means. I confess that I had a bit of disadvantage in finding out the true definition myself. You see, as a really young kid, my dad told me a story about him and a bunch of his friends wandering drunkenly around the streets of Manhattan. The story took them into a burlesque club where the boys were expecting an eye-popping strip show. To make a short story short, the show wound up being just that, eye-popping, as one of the scantily clad could-be females whipped out a dick and waved it in front of their faces. The story ended with a warning from my dad that burlesque shows are for people who want to see men, dressed as women, stripping down to their bare a***s. So there I was, a ten-year-old kid with this sole idea of burlesque lurking about in my head. Whenever the word would pop up throughout my early teens, dad’s story would come to mind. At the time, the idea didn’t seem too fetching, but now, well…in my later teens, my love for sleazy movies, sleazy music…sleaze in general…taught me what burlesque was all about. My teachers were Russ Meyer, Lux and Ivy of the Cramps, cheap wine…I respected burlesque performers as true artists. These weren’t just people getting completely naked for a paycheck so that they could feed that glass trumpet of theirs. These skimpily dressed women (and men, too…dad wasn’t completely wrong) with their raunchy stage antics and hypnotic dance moves embodied my tastes for the ultimate in sleaze. And these performers still do. This is why Augusta’s documentary “The Velvet Hammer Burlesque” was such a joy to behold.
“The Velvet Hammer Burlesque” grants us the opportunity to meet the members of the raunchy crew of the Los Angeles based Velvet Hammer performers, decked out in tassels, glitter, g-strings and bad girl make-up. Interviews with the various members, as well as their partners in crime – including musicians The Millionaire and Senor Amore – help break down the true meaning of burlesque, as well as present a history on the Velvet Hammer and the dedication of Valentina Violette and friends as they march on to prove that burlesque isn’t a mere strip show. It’s about a blood lust for life, whether it comes in the form of a tantalizing strip tease, a bawdy comedy routine, a bizarre wrestling match, or even the occasional dick in the face. For those looking for easy women baring their all – The Seventh Veil is on Sunset Blvd. But for those looking for a true good time – The Velvet Hammer is sure to please.
“The Velvet Hammer Burlesque” will no doubt clue some clueless in on the world of burlesque and it may just create some new recruits. But I see this film being enjoyed more by people who are devoted to the art. In that sense, watching this film is like being amongst a bunch of good, likeminded friends as you listen to them tell their colorful war stories about walking out on that stage and giving a performance as if it were their last.

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