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Some highlights of the evening: Talloolah Love sheds her saintly white garb in favor of an S&M outfit replete with pasties and riding crop. Hannibal the Magician, sporting a pair of enchanted red-and-white wingtips, pops five double-edged razors into his gullet, then fishes them out with a line of dental floss, followed by some pretty amazing card tricks. Miss Lolly Pop cheerfully strips to a perky tune after knocking off her cad of a hubby (who miraculously springs back to life at the end of the number to clear the props from the stage). Sideshow Bennie eats enough fire to barbecue the three-foot prop hot dog Monique Honeybush so profoundly relishes in an upcoming act, and later lets audience members staple tip money to his chest. Hick'ry Hawkins, the lovechild of Tom Waits and a Kewpie Doll in a rhinestone cowboy shirt, plaintively plucks his guitar and wonders, "What kind of panties are you wearing tonight?" The Fettuccini Brothers, as gifted at gab as they are juggling, swap pins to the old Monty Python standard, "Sit on My Face and Tell Me That You Love Me." Veronica Lashe and Tits McGee perform a couple of rousing, 21-gun, "Jell-O in an earthquake" tributes to the troops that could compel even a pacifist to enlist.
The evening is a major hit. As Big Mamma and Johnny Anonymous exchange vows, it's the icing on the cake.
Big Mamma's next show at the Visulite will be Sept. 8, but she's got something even bigger in the works: The 2008 Great Southern Exposure Convention. The coming Easter weekend, burlesque performers from across the country will descend on Charlotte for a five-show extravaganza featuring today's top acts along with several living legends. "Let me tell you, you have not lived until you've seen Tempest Storm do a 10-minute bump and grind," says Big Mamma, who plans to set up the proceedings so that people in the industry can meet one another to network. "I want them to be able to learn things, too," she says, "like how to run a business, how to promote yourself, how to work on the next show, get the costuming you need." So far, she's got confirmations from New York, California, Atlanta and Nashville. "I'm just building it. I want to get everyone out here so they can have some fun."
And if Big Mamma builds it, rest assured, they will come. "At birth, you're like a spinning compass," she says. "You don't know which way you're going, or what you're going to do, but you just want to get there, so you keep moving and moving. 'I want to dance. I want to sing. I want to be onstage. I want to play the violin. I want to be a doctor.' That was me. Then I slammed into True North with this burlesque thing, and as far as true burlesque going on in Charlotte, there is nothing going on except for what I'm doing" -- although, she says, nothing would please her more than to see another troupe start up in the area. "With my show, I have to pull the cart and put the wheels on it, too. I do it all. And I'm perfectly willing to do that, as long as it keeps the show going. I had nothing to start this convention with, but whatever I need, I am going to get, and there's not a damn thing that's going to get in my way."
Somehow, we don't doubt it.