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Where the Toys Are | Seductive Bars
Such a Tease
Since its revival several years ago, Chicago’s burlesque scene has grown bigger and better. The performances—which typically climax in pasties and G-strings—are largely amateur, affordable, and redolent of soul, camp, and craft rather than exploitation. We sampled the crop, and found the cream.
1 Michelle L’amour’s CHICAGO STARLETS (lavendercabaret.com) serve up superbly conceived old-school fare mixed with cheeky new twists (one number, an all-girl pillow fight, brings down the house). Shows are giddy and ambitious, and the talent is top-notch. The revue’s crown jewel, Michelle “Toots” L’amour (right), is one of the genre’s national stars—demure and alluring, cool and hot, graceful and wild, with hands like trained doves. When she’s introduced, the house explodes, and she always kills.
2 The intimate “NO TELL MOTEL,” Wednesdays at 10 p.m. and midnight at Debonair Social Club (1575 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-227-7990), skews more toward fetish, befitting its Wicker Park hipster setting. Dancers may sport tattoos, piercings, and futuristic Blade Runner wigs and engage in Alice Cooper–style theatrics replete with fake knives, blood, gas masks, and rope. But a spirit of play prevails, and most acts positively burn up the stage. An added draw: free Champagne before the early show; no cover charge.
3 ANGELA EVE, a frequent national and local headliner (see what she’s up to at evesparlor.com), can make even jaded habitués of the cabaret scene shriek with delight as she nails breathtaking splits and aerial acrobatics like an Olympian. (A producer herself, Eve spearheaded “Twisted Tassel Fest,” Chicago’s first-ever burlesque festival, this past winter at the Admiral Theater.)
photograph: jeff millies