Bunny Bravo is a burlesque dancer and producer of the Shimmy and Shake burlesque shows in southern California. She has been selected to perform at the burlesque contest at Viva Las Vegas in April. At her home, she discussed her burlesque beginnings and the differences between burlesque and stripping.
What drew you to burlesque?
Lucha VaVoom, we started going to those shows. Kitten Deville was in a lot of the shows that we went to at first. Then she quit doing them and when we went back we noticed we didn’t enjoy the shows as much. It was really her that was pulling us there. She is the embodiment of burlesque, she’s very entertaining to watch. Exotic World title-holder, Queen of the Quake. She oozes sex, and burlesque, and confidence. I started talking to her on Myspace, and she decided to teach a class. So I was one of the first to take a class from her. I’m really privileged I did because she shortened the classes and upped the price on it. I feel like I got a lot for the money out of it.
I missed performing. I’ve always enjoyed it. When I worked at Disneyland, I enjoyed that, but you can only do that so long. It’s a Mickey Mouse job for sure. I guess I like entertaining people. A lot. Whether it’s making a fool of myself, or trying to be glamorous.
You kind of addressed this already, but how did you get started?
The classes. Then when I started doing shows, they were in LA or Riverside/Inland Empire. I thought, “There’s nothing out here. If somebody did a show here, we could probably get a decent group to come and see it. And I wouldn’t have to travel so far.” Mostly I thought it would be fun to be the one in control. (laughs) And I do like it. I think I do a pretty good job. I think I have pretty good influences that do producing, like Lili [von Shtupp] does the Monday Night Tease and Burlesque 411. Everything they give me advice on, I always listen to or do because they know what they’re talking about. I haven’t been doing it that long, just a year. They’ve all been doing it for a lot longer. I like being my own boss. That’s why I do hair on the side. Putting on my own shows, I’m in control, which is nice.
What do you look for in a song to perform to?
It has to be a song I won’t get sick of listening to over and over again. The first number I did is called “Beaver Shot” by The Periscopes and I hate the song now. I’m sick of it. I won’t do that number unless someone really wants me to. All the other songs I do like “Mint Julep,” “Patricia,” Honey Rock,” I love the songs. They have a good bump and grind quality to them. They have hits and good marks for oohs and aahs. Fun, campy stuff. “Mint Julep” I like. I tried doing the glamorous, classic thing. I just don’t think it’s my style. I’m more of a bubbly, jumpy, almost “laugh at me” personality. It just works better for me.
What are some reactions you get when you tell people you’re a burlesque dancer?
Most of the time they know what burlesque is. But the ones that don’t just ask what it is and you have to explain that it’s not stripping. It’s more like Vaudeville entertainment. What you usually get is “What’s the difference?” Burlesque is more the whole tease, what’s coming off, what’s underneath? Strippers are just in it for the money. Lili always goes, “Look at me! I’m perfect! Can I have a dollar?” We’re obviously not in it for the money, or we would be strippers. We don’t make any money. We usually lose money between the costumes and putting on the shows and everything. What was the question again?
What are some reactions you get?
They just want to know more about it. Who makes the costumes? Where do I pick the music? The same kind of things you’re asking. And what Anthony [Bunny’s husband] thinks about it, since I’m married. And where the shows are. Once I’ve told someone about it, they usually end up going to the show to check it out. It’s addicting.
It is. You can get hooked in pretty easily.
There is such a wide variety from new pop stuff to the classic style. I think it’s all interesting and good.
As a producer of burlesque shows, what do you look for in a dancer to perform in your shows?
Someone that’s really comfortable with what they’re doing. Natural, completely natural. I’ve had girls with plastic surgery that want to be in the shows and I just think if someone is so uncomfortable that they have to mutilate themselves, they shouldn’t be doing burlesque. They should be stripping.
Ones that look that they’re having such a good time that you totally forget about everything. That’s the whole point of putting on these shows. Give people an hour or two hours where they’re not thinking about anything at all, just completely enjoying themselves and having a good time. I like the more lighthearted ones. I do like the girls that are really glamorous, with the fans and everything too. I like a variety of body sizes, shapes, styles. Mix it up so it’s like a vaudeville show.
Give them a little bit of everything.
Yeah. I’d like to start mixing in jugglers, musicians, and comedians with it, but they always have these astronomical guarantees that I just can’t do. Whenever I do a show, we all split. Whatever is from the door, it’s an even split. I don’t even usually take any more for myself as a producer. I’ve been told I should, but I would rather show them how much I appreciate them doing the show, driving here from LA or Riverside. Even the pick-up guy or girl gets paid the same amount. Everyone gets paid the same amount, which I think is fair. We’re all putting in just as much. I might be the one organizing it, but I like that. I know if I got somebody else to stage-manage, I’d end up doing everything for them anyway. Everybody ends up helping out. The girls I have in my shows, I forget how professional they are. I’ll go running back to see who’s up in the lineup and they’re all sitting there lined up, ready to go, just waiting for their cues. They’re professionals, which is nice. They run the show. My shows run themselves pretty much. Lili does that burlesque podcast and mentioned the show we just did at Fitzgerald’s [Huntington Beach] and there’s five producers in that show. No wonder it starts on time, it ends on time and we get paid on time. I didn’t even think about that. Five girls in my shows are producers of their own shows. Professionalism is important. Reliability.
That’s gotta be a big one.
If I even hear about a girl not showing up, doesn’t even call, comes in totally late, I won’t ever put them in mine because I don’t want to deal with that. I’m really fussy. I’m very anal about organizing things. If you’re offering to do a show and you know you’re only going to get paid forty bucks, then you shouldn’t even offer unless you really want to do it. I think a lot of them just do it on the side for fun. I would like to do it full-time as a career. I know that’s not realistic. I have to keep doing hair. We’ll see. Things have been going pretty good for only doing this for a year. I’m thrown back at how well it’s taken off. I think I found a niche. I really like it.
For more information about where you can see Bunny Bravo perform, visit http://www.myspace.com/bravoburlesquephotography.