Grynde Haus - 1999
As a follow up to ‘Boy! What A Girl’ (1998) Leesa Berry teamed up with Gabreïl Spiegelschrift to present the history oriented burlesque cabaret ‘Grynde Haus’ (1999). Drawing from his early beginnings in Vaudeville Tap, Gabreïl choreographed a spectrum of twentieth century burlesque and cabaret dance styles combining the talents of Toronto contemporary dancers, performers and professional burlesque dancers to the music of Tyler Yarema and His Rhythm. Featured performers included Miss Joa, The Dangerettes(Sasha Von Bon Bon), Miss Ottilie, Nichole LaRochelle and host Adrian.
“Two blonde girls, in the tight, long skirts and see-through bras of 1950s pulp fiction, tear each other's clothes off.... And this is only the rehersal! ”The Grynde Haus
Two blonde girls, in the tight, long skirts and see-through bras of 1950s pulp fiction, tear each other's clothes off. As the bigger girl straddles her enemy's chest, her own nipple pops out from under black lace. And this is only the rehersal!
Grynde Haus, Burlesque for the 90s is the baby of Leesa Berry, Toronto's cutest cutie pie. Talking about the participants in the bawdy variety show, she mentions someone from a modern dance troupe, a stripper, and a 60-year-old woman. "All her friends are jealous," she grins. Heather Royce-Roll reports.
So the night of the event, I stroll into the Opera House where table clothes and candles are being set on every table and media are getting a few staged shots of the fighting girls. I am surprised and stunned to see cellulite! Yet as their round butts stick out of vintage undies, all their jiggles are totally sexy. Leesa, however, is searching for a shot of scotch. "Everyone is stressed out right now. You might want to talk to the girls after the show."
Classy Smut, Sleaze and Humor
After the show I intend to be hammered, but I agree anyway. As I leave rehearsal, I watch belly dancers shake and shimmy while Leesa's crew hang photos of the dancers in the lobby and large pin-ups by the bar. Being the Opera House, of course, we had to be treated really badly by a bouncer who didn't know what he was doing. It put a bad taste in our mouths -- and the mouths of other press folks we talked to -- which was hard to wash out until the first flash of flesh. The card girl came out, balanced the sign "Kickline" on an easel and all out troubles faded into smut, sleeze, and humor.
Five girls can-canned their way into our hearts, crude and rude as if we were an old fashioned loggercamp. Breasts, not legs, matter most in the kickline, due to all the jumping -- and bouncing -- about. Host Adrian Barstool swaggered on stage, doing a wonderful job as the shmoozy MC who started by telling us we were beautiful, then demanded more cheers for the women and liquor from the bar. From my view in the balcony, all the tables seem filled -- even at $20 a pop. The Opera House actually looked positively classy!
Next, four 1920s chorus-line showgirls shimmered on stage, feather fans a-flapping, as a real-live pixie woman fluttered down the runway. Her gossamer wings attached by wires to her arms, she covered her torso with gauze and charm. The gauze was dumped, but the charm remained, as she glided about like slow moving torture in black pasties. The man sitting next to me, who so very uncooly had been yelling, "Bring out the sluts!" now conceded that this show was better than Jilly's next door -- Jilly's being known as the town's cheapest strip bar. I quickly realized this lame player must be one of those men's-mag-reading, desperate losers.
Trying To See More
Jilly's my ass! These women were seductresses of flesh, not hard-bodied cunt flashers! The show was following a time-line of burlesque, an art ruled by the customers' continual desire to always see more. Dainty Maire handed her clothes to the crowds in 1912. Millie De Leon stunned 'em in St. Louis in 1915, pulling ruffles off her gown one at a time. By the 1930s, strippers like Gypsy Rose and her sister June Havok were the most important part of burlesque. Tempest Storm and her cuvry sisters of the 1950s were led by their naturally huge breasts to the stage. As one burlesque house was shut down, the next would rejoice with signs like "Susie Blue -- the girl too hot for Philadelphia!"
I looked to the stage, where a cabaret act starring Dixie - and two young women in black lingerie sitting on chairs -- proceeded to give one of the night's most hypnotic and riveting performances. With spellbinding savvy, the long-haired, slight-boned Dixie stood on a chair, grinded her hips with the slow burning sax, and then slammed herself straddled onto the chair. Everyone needed a drink after that. Feeding us cheesecake, two babes in towels blocked the view of the cardboard bathtub as a voluptuous blonde in girlie slippers and robe hopped in and turned on the bubble machine. The shower curtain girls moved aside so the bather, in a bubbly, nearly invisible bikini, could drip water down her back and slide the sponge over her shoulders.
In the Company of Women with Ottilie proved that the sexiest images are the ones that trick you into thinking you'll get more. But you know what? You don't, so go over to Jilly's on your way home!
Hello Boys with Miss Cat was a nice USO number with two sailor boys on leave looking for action, who instead got their t-shirts torn. As the dark and sultry Miss Cat tapdanced and lipsynced "heaven knows, anything goes," the man next to me said she was the best yet, even though she showed the least amount of flesh. Suddenly a mobster ran onto stage, open a bag of cash and threw his money around. Then a shot rang out, a screen came down and then a big shadow of the gun moll responsible for it all was cast across our hearts. She tore that screen open, kicked her way through, and did her own dance with the loot over the poor mark's cold body. Unfortunately her gangster wasn't dead enough, and he shot the dame til she dropped to the ground beside him. The Bonnie and Clyde of Sex found crime does not pay.
The blondes I had seen earlier, the Dangerettes, pushed, circled and taunted each other like slutty 1950s tough girls. The first to make a move yanked her rival's skirt to the floor. More flesh was revealed and the enemies rolled around the floor, legs and arms entwined. When they were left only in lacy push up bras and tight panties, with skirts and sweaters scattered across the stage, a copper came out to put the two in handcuffs. This is what the WWF wishes it could do.
Cigarette-smoking Brittany Spears
Exotic Taste starred a busty brunette in red and a curvy-hipped blonde in pink who knew how to convert high brow bellydancing for low brow parties. The woman in red's hips and bosoms could probably shake for a good, long hour. Her fringe just swung and vibrated and bumped til ground. At this point I noticed that I was really drunk, which was good, because Mr. Barstool kept yelling we needed to drink more. "Toronto, you are beautiful!" he hollared, and indeed we were. The spectators, as if to hide their own indecent dreams, came dressed to the nines.
As the card girl walked out dressed as Uncle Sam, he cheered, "Do we love women? Do we love sailor boys!?" Two girls with feather boas began to strut their stuff but were interrupted by an older lady in a tight fitting sequin dress. She sent the mere girls thirty or forty years her junior away and the audience exploded with applause. No wonder her friends were jealous! She received the night's only standing ovation.
My date's favorite, Heidi Hoe, was next: a tall, Texas-sized broad stacked and ready for action in her little cowgirl suit. Our southern Amazon held exploding flares and fulfilled all the crowd's Dallas Cowboy cheerleader wet dreams. This was a babe built for adventure, perhaps as close to bionic perfection as woman can get. Next a cigarette smoking Brittany Spears snuck on stage, followed by a little friend. In matching micromini Catholic schoolgirl skirts, the high school hussies made an exploration of their own sexuality. As the curvy, shy one giggled, her brazen, long-limbed chum took off her top. Seeing that her friend wasn't about to join in, the lithe brunette started to unbutton her schoolpal's shirt for her. Now shy no more, our teenage tease flashed her bra, and then made out with some guy at the stage's edge.
Like Something Fierce with Nichole, who must have been the modern dancer, was a tribal S&M dance. One by one, half a dozen girls in black leather, vinyl and chains stomped and slithered across the stage, then formed a backdrop of today's sexuality for the pint-sized woman in a red flowing dress and huge slave chain around her neck summersaulting down the runway. The girls in sleazy black outfits groped each other like a Madonna video. Meanwhile, the powerhouse in red preformed flips and splits and an array of moves I wouldn't know how to name. Like a seven-year-old about Sporty Spice, I wanted to be her. All the dancers returned to the stage for roses and cheers, then forced Leesa and Mr. Barstool to do a pretend strip of their own. While Leesa called for the crowd to stay, drink and dance, I stumbled home.
UPath.com / December 1999
“Call it a striptease with a historical twist.”History of striptease has lots of ap-peel.
Call it a striptease with a historical twist. Grynde Haus comes to the Opera House tonight, converting it into an old-fashioned flesh-pot. The novel show combines burlesque dancing, peelers in pasties and bump-and-grind jazz.
But get those notebooks out - this is part variety show, part theatre piece and part history lesson, and should educate as well as titillate.
"We're running the show as a history of striptease, going all the way from 1910 up to the 1990s," says show organizer and pop-culture vulture Leesa Berry.
Grynde Haus marks Berry's second foray into the world of old-school strip performance. Berry is not a performer herself - just a burlesque enthusiast, pin-up collector and strip fan who was so tired of the meat-and-potatoes porn style of modern peeler bars that she decided to offer a change.
She made an auspicious debut as a promoter in the summer of 1998 with Boy! What A Girl, a cavalcade of dancers and rock 'n' rollers - legendary Detroit sleaze 'n' soul man Andre Williams among them - that filled Lee's Palace to near-capacity and ultimately made several critics' picks for the year's best club concerts.This time, Berry is thinking bigger.
"It's the same sexiness," she says. "Just with more girls, more theatrics and better costumes."
The show is choreographed by the eccentric Gabriel Spiegelschrift, while local swing staples Tyler Yarema & His Rhythm supply a jazz~based music backdrop.
"We don't have a band at the end of the night, though there is a DJ," Berry says. "I decided there's a lot of eye-candy in this show, so it would be nice to let everyone let loose and party rather than make people sit through another performance after."
While Berry shrugs off her fledgling status as First Lady of Toronto's classy-strip revival there is evidence of a trend in motion, She already has been approached to put on shows for parties and events. Meanwhile, The Pilot tavern in Yorkville has shown similar ideas with its own, semi-regular burlesque nights.
Grynde Raus actqally features a cast of professional strippers, modern and jazz dancers, belly-dancers, actresses and, Berry says, "a couple of girls who just want to do it for fun."
No full nudity
In keeping with tradition, none of the dancers perform completely nude.
Besides, rules are rules: Ontario strippers and clubs require what are actually called "burlesque licences" in order to do , something that is hardly burlesque at all - that is, get down to the Full Monty.
Without such'a licence, what does that mean for Grynde Haus' take on the 1990s rather, um, gynecological strip culture? "That's what kind of scares people about this," Berry says with a laugh. "People are like, 'Does that mean you get naked?' But that's where the twist is. From the'70s, where it starts getting raunchier, we don't. It's just the confidence, attitude and style of the women that changes."
She adds: "If I had the money to make this show four hours long, I would. There's so much I want to do with it."
Toronto Sun / Oct. 29 1999
- created and choreographed by
- developed with/performed by
Miss Joa, Megan, Sasha Von Bon Bon, Nichole LaRochelle, Alexis, Apple, Ayesha, Barbara, Miss Cat, Heidi Ho, Lecia, Nina, Miss Ottilie, Renée, Madame S.O.B., Dixie Strutt, Tiffany with Fawsia, Justice & Mark, and host Adrian.
- live performance
Tyler Yarema and his Rhythm
1999-10-29 Opera House, Toronto, Canada
- suited for
thrust stage cabaret