Hurricane Fran was born between the racks at the Thrifty Bargain. Lulu Fatale was kind of an accident. Ryan Rulet came alive in a spirited living room dance. And if you ask Starlett Eve’s parents, she was practically born singing and dancing.
No matter their origins, the co-founders/co-producers of The Stardust Revue—a new burlesque and drag group in Chico—all came together for one goal: to share erotic and other creative performance art with the community, baring it all on stage in an act of radical self love.
The Stardust Revue producers met while performing with The Malteazers, the house troupe for The Maltese Bar & Venue. When that bar announced its February closing, the four decided to create their own performance company to put on drag and burlesque shows, Starlett Eve told the CN&R. The Malteazers continue to perform, and the two groups have a supportive partnership.
The Stardust Revue debuted at Duffy’s Tavern in February and the plan is to do shows there every other month. The producers are focusing on creating diverse lineups featuring well-known local performers as well as out-of-town acts from throughout California.
For its most recent show (April 30, at Duffy’s), The Stardust Revue put on an electric show that was sexy, campy, engaging and inspiring all at once. Emcee Charity set the tone as equal parts bawdy host and the ultimate hype-queen. Hurricane Fran, clad in a leopard-print number, performed a rousing routine to Cardi B’s “WAP” as the audience spontaneously sang along. Between the show’s acts, two audience members whipped off their shirts and participated in a tassel twirling contest that became so spirited, a tassel flew through the air and onto the stage.
Lulu Fatale performed a classic number with giant red-feathered fans, complete with “assles” on her bum. Ryan Rulet was the embodiment of glitz and glamour, with roses in his hair, stunning corsets and matching rhinestone tassels and thongs in his numbers. Val Shapero, Sacramento’s “Superqueero,” arrived on stage decked out in a cape and belt with a lightning bolt “V” emblem and did backbends and splits of heroic proportions.
The show was also punctuated by touching moments, in which the performers drew upon personal experiences to create routines that were empowering. Starlett Eve danced to a mashup combining Elvis Presley’s “(You’re the) Devil in Disguise” and Lesley Gore’s “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows,” transforming from someone lucky in love to pissed off and over it. After the show, Starlett Eve told the CN&R it was a inspired by two difficult moments in her life: Her grandfather passed away earlier this year (the pair loved to listen to Elvis together), at the same time she was dealing with some relationship issues.
“Through the years, I’ve learned that I can actually work through some of my emotions with my numbers,” she said. “I’ve come up with some really great numbers for burlesque because of what I’ve been going through in my life. It’s the one place where I feel myself and very secure. … For that one song, the world just kind of calms down.”
Katrina Paddlemore, who also performs with Glitter Coven Cabaret in Modesto, did a topical number that began with her covered up, visibly pained by cat calls and criticisms from men about her looks. As the number progressed, she became stronger and more confident, until finally standing proudly in her red undies and purple and blue pasties as a voiceover played: “You are a divine being. Live out loud, and fuck the patriarchy.”
Most of The Stardust Revue co-founders/producers/performers/pals are long-time burlesque artists. All of them were drawn to burlesque, cabaret and performing in some fashion when they were growing up—Hurricane Fran had a costume chest when she was a kid, and she’d walk around in those iconic pink heels with the feathers. Starlett Eve started out in local theater at places like the Blue Room Theatre and Chico Theater Company, then took the leap into burlesque after a friend encouraged her.
Ryan Rulet said that burlesque has offered him “a way to be seen.
“For a long time I felt like I was quite the ugly duckling,” he continued. “It was kind of a way of combating that interpersonal struggle with something that forces you out of your comfort zone and gives you a bit of glamour.”
Lulu Fatale, who became a performer after spontaneously joining a friend for a burlesque troupe interview, shared a similar sentiment: “I have never felt as confident as I do when I’m on that stage.”
And that confidence is infectious.
“When I’m on that stage, I don’t feel naked at all, I just feel sexy and powerful,” Hurricane Fran said. “And it’s always the women that come up to you afterwards and they’re like, ‘You’re beautiful. Wow, you’re awe inspiring.’ I don’t do it for the men. I do it for the girls, the gays and the theys!”
Starlett Eve added that it’s nice getting attention from a cute audience member, but at the end of the night, after the gloves, skirts and corsets have come off, “it’s really cool to get that support from the people around you that you know are like, ‘I see you and … I get it and this is also something that I go through.’”