If you’re already gearing up for the Mermaid Parade, you might feel the rush of sweat and glamour pouring back into town from one of the biggest glitter gatherings of the year: The Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender in Las Vegas. Bringing home more than a yearning to eat a vegetable this year is the local performing group Boys’ Night, who won the pageant’s award for Best Large Group. I caught up with the boys via email while they were still dazed (and likely oxygen-starved—the secondhand smoke at the Orleans Casino is notorious) from the win and the weekend.
Boys’ Night has been running in New York for seven years, since its four creators Mr. Gorgeous, Joshua Dean, Jason Mejias, and Ben Franklin met at the Trapeze School New York.
“We started talking about creating a show that was a hybrid of circus arts and burlesque that could be specific to our passions and skills,” Jason says. “We pitched it to Robert Elmes of Galapagos Art Space. He was always such a champion of artists making new things if he believed in what you were doing. He gave us a chance.” Elmes and Galapagos decamped to Detroit, leaving a lot of nightlife artists looking for a home. Then, James Habacker of The Slipper Room “most graciously offered us a new home there for their first regular ‘gay’ show,” Jason says. “We’ve been there ever since.”
“We welcome all audiences,” adds Jason. “It’s a show made by four gay dudes, but our audiences are male and female, straight and gay. We love that we get to put on entertainment that makes people laugh and dazzles them at the same time.”
Cut to winning in Vegas with a fantasia on six-inch heels, four performers carrying each other via acrobatic lifts.
It remains a question as to how much a big burlesque title win helps a performer’s career. When asked, Ben said, “I don’t think we considered the financial opportunity in creating and submitting this act. We did build it specifically for this competition, but the end desire was more to showcase what we do best that is specific to us. We hope that it gives us a chance to travel together, but no matter what, we got to make a funny act that is a blast to perform.”
Jason added that one of the best things about performing at this festival “is that you get to perform on the biggest burlesque stage in the world in front of your peers, it’s an adrenaline rush like no other.”
“One of my favorite Vegas moments,” Josh says, “was a bunch of New Yorkers heading to New York, New York [casino] to ride the coaster and eat some Nathan’s.”
“My favorite part,” Ben chimed in, “was when we actually won and Mr. Gorgeous grabbed the trophy and held it above his head out of our reach.” (Gorgeous, a previous Best Boylesque winner, is extremely tall, even without the 6-inch heels.) “We just went with [the bit] and started trying to grab it. Audience members kept saying how they loved that we planned that. Except that we didn’t.”
The boys say they’re already thinking about the “step-down” routine they’ll do in Vegas next year. “We started chatting about it that night,” Josh says. And meanwhile, hopefully there will be more gigs like their headlining tour with Atlantis Cruise Line. “We got a wonderful week vacation out of it,” Josh says, “and performed for a fantastic audience.” A captive audience, as the saying goes.
The other local win this year is Boo Bess and Jenny C’est Quoi’s trophy “Most Innovative” award for their duo act, an erotic hitchhiker seduction well-known to local aficionados.
One wonders if they will be out to support the Boys’ Night’s homecoming show Thursday night at the Slipper Room. When I asked if they were planning something special, Josh simply said, “If by special you mean eating some pizza from Sal’s and having Scotty make my tequila a double…then yes.”
Boys’ Night returns Thursday, June 7 at The Slipper Room, 10 pm.