All photos by Luis Anthony Chavez

If you made it through the packed house and bellied up to the bar, you’d see the very appropriate plaque mounted on the Blue Bayou’s bar: “Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez”. Indeed, the good times were rolling. They were also shimming, shaking, twirling, and doing some pretty impressive back bends at Friday night’s Windy City Burlesque Fest’s opening night party.

The long awaited Windy City Burlesque Fest kicked things off with two shows featuring a few dozen performers including Chicago all-stars and some of burlesque’s brightest stars from across the country. It was a warm night in the Second City, but things really heated up inside as the shoulder-to-shoulder audience roared, whistled, and begged their favorite bombshells to roll down their stockings.

Hosted by Dick Dijon (who always seems to be having as good of a time as the audience), the opening night was pure fun. Since the Blue Bayou is a non-traditional venue for burlesque, it strips the acts of tricky stage gimmicks like smoke machines and heavy theater lighting. There’s nothing here to distract you from the shtick. The bevy of burlesque beauties carefully step down the length of the bar (in between drinks) to a small slice of stage and let the sequins fly.

First timers were treated to a smorgasbord of the modern burlesque scene from Vancouver’s Madame May I’s traditionally glamorous strip tease to Chicago’s own Jeez Loueez and her show-stopping number mixing high-energy modern dance with burlesque. Chicago’s Claire de Lune artfully danced with two bird puppets perched on her hands and Violet Vogue, covered in purple balloons, grew barer as she popped the pesky inflatables. Hollywood’s Penny Starr Jr. had the confidence of a tightrope walker and the always crowd-pleasing Wham Bam Pam submitted a bawdy number involving a banana that would make your mother blush. After their sets, the burlesque dancers walked among the worshipping crowds to greet their fans while still dressed in glittering top hats, corsets, and sequined panties.

As the night drew to its inevitable close, the audience was left breathless and clamoring for more. Lucky for us, there’s still one more night of the Windy City Burlesque Fest to enjoy.

Tonight’s your last night to catch the first annual Windy City Burlesque Fest- don’t let it blow by you! Featuring a mix of local Chicago talent and special guest stars, the WCBF shimmies through the weekend with a dizzying seven additional shows at the Greenhouse Theatre (2257 N. Lincoln Avenue). Saturday April 17th concludes the festival with a staggering five shows: an 8pm Main stage show featuring Minneapolis’ Foxy Tann, a 10pm show featuring Kitten de Ville, and three shows running simultaneously at 10:30pm. The shows are $20 a piece and tickets can be bought online. For more information and a complete list of all the bawdy broads performing, visit the Windy City Burlesque Fest’s website.

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