My tattoos all have stories, some more interesting than others. One in particular always prompts the question ‘who is that?’ which is on my left arm, an autograph from the one and only Dirty Martini. Miss Exotic World 2004, pin-up model, and star of print, TV and film. She’s a regular featured act alongside Dita Von Teese, and was voted Number One burlesque dancer in the world by 21st Century Burlesque magazine. She’s also my idol and body-positive inspiration.
Back in July, my best friend Eliza Strange and I hopped on a train to Leeds, hair in rollers and suitcases full of glamour. We were off to watch ‘An Audience with the Legendary Dirty Martini and Guests!’, a highly anticipated evening with an international and local cast of performers, organised by The Slippery Belle. Old faithful Travelodge was our bargain hotel of choice for the weekend, and we dropped off our suitcases and hung up our evening attire before heading out to refuel.
I’ve only ever been to Leeds once before, and it was to go and watch Bianca Del Rio with the heavenly Havana Hurricane and Trixie Pash, a last-minute opportunity that I’ll never regret! I hadn’t seen Leeds during the day, and was pleasantly surprised by how awesome the city centre was. Victorian markets, upper class malls and massive shopping centres, I definitely plan to go back when I’ve got some spare pennies!
Choosing where to eat seemed overwhelming, with Five Guys, Red’s True BBQ and Pieminister all a stones throw away from each other. I was feeling greedy, and Eliza likes to pick at little bits, so when she offered Red Hot World Buffet as an option, the universe aligned and I was grateful for my elasticated jersey-wear choice of leggings and an oversized t-shirt!
One suitably cultural belly-full later, and we headed back to glam up. I wore my faithful Dorothy Perkins Curve high/low lurex maxi (which I didn’t actually get a full length picture in!). I had lusted after this dress ever since DP Curve was first released and George reviewed it. After waiting until I had some spare pennies to treat myself, the dress ended up in the winter sales and cost me about £22.00 in the end! It’s sparkly, flattering and glamorous – perfect for a Burlesque show, and it’s still on the website in larger plus sizes for a mere £20! Here’s me wearing it a few weeks previousin my messy dining room:
After glamming up, Eliza discovered the holy grail of natural lighting at the window, so of course we decided to treat you all with an absolutely spiffing selfie:
I was particularly happy with my makeup that evening, as I had just spent my Love2Shop vouchers (an incentive from work!) at the new NYX counter in Deepdale Boots, Preston. I had all new base products, a new lipstick colour, and a new green eyeliner (my love affair with green eye makeup is presented here). All-in-all, I was thoroughly impressed with NYX and I think I’ll do a haul post soon to truly define how much of a convert I am! Here’s another cheeky selfie to demonstrate my makeup, my different coloured eyes, and the to-scale miniature model of the alps on my chin!:
Just to confirm, I adore Eliza Strange and she was every inch the perfect housewife in the Lindy Bop Vivi Swing Dress:
After a hearty combination of Bacardi white rum with pineapple and coconut juice (ratchet Piña colada), we were suitably merry and tottering across the road to the venue. It was conveniently close, because Eliza is the queen of planning and booked the hotel for this reason. We had VIP tickets which guaranteed us a table with seats close to the stage. We were greeted with a glass of bubbly, and after that disappeared we found the bar was a tad overpriced and only really served craft beer. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good beer festival, but this was not the tipple of choice for a swanky evening. I know there was a venue change long after the tickets were bought, which might have meant the bar wasn’t high on the priorities for the organisers. Either way, we had a few pints while dressed like elegant ladies. Photo taken before bubbles disappeared:
We sat on small plastic stools which were no match for my gigantic tush and became very uncomfortable quite quickly! The stage was also very low, and being only in the 3rd row we found it difficult to see any floorwork (which is a common occurence in burlesque routines). We sobered up quite quickly once we sat down, as taking in the show required a lot of focus! The cast for this show was particularly exciting, and featured some popular UK performers. My favourites included the effervescent Verity Grey, Titsalina Bumsquash (as hilarious as she sounds!), the electrifying Cece Sinclair, and the gorgeous hostess Kiki deVille:
There was plenty of time to meet the performers and reunite with old acquaintances. Shmoozy-ing up to stunning burlesque babes is not a bad way to pass the evening! Reuniting with Havana is always a great excuse for pictures:
She’s a gorgeous little lime green Barbie and I can’t get enough of her!
Other performers included Millie Dollar, who is somewhat of a Burlesque veteran in the North West! She brought her Las Vegas showgirl style to the stage and ruffled a few feathers with her vivacious bump and grind – literally! She also loves a good silly selfie:
Trixie Pash, Patti Cakes, Havana Hurricane and Millie Dollar
Then we come to the star of the show herself: Dirty Martini. She treated the audience throughout the evening to some of her most famous creations, particularly her ever-so-filthy ‘Patriot Act’. I was lucky enough to meet her before the show started (and before I got sweaty, the venue had a lot of people packed into a small space and no ventilation!). I was thrilled that she instantly recognised me.
“Oh my god, you’re the one with the tattoo!” she exclaimed in her New Jersey accent, “how are you, gorgeous?!”. She then reached up and hugged me tight. Here’s a pic moments after:
I was dizzied and delighted that she remembered me. We first met in 2013 when she performed at The Theatre of Terror Grand Halloween Ball, arranged by Goldust Shows. The level of fancy dress at these events is borderline professional, so I spared no effort with my zombie-WAAF offering. This provided a rather scary photo of me first meeting my idol:
The following day, there was a Burlesque Workshop with limited spaces, where Dirty would go through showgirl basics, stage techniques and floorwork with budding and established burlesque performers. My friend Aasia and I immediately booked tickets when they were first announced, and turned up to the cold, post-show Morecambe Winter Gardens a little worse for wear the morning after the Ball.
I’ll never forget how I felt that day, it was my first awakening of true body-confidence. I made a vow to myself that I’d be a happier person, mentally and physically, and I would begin to embrace my post-hypothyroidism-diagnosis body better than I had previously. I had spent an afternoon with the most incredible woman, who was both an idol and a mentor, and I was so inspired I immediately knew what I was going to ask her to do. She signed her autograph on my arm as requested, and joked that it looked like a tattoo. I said “Check your twitter later!” and she laughed. Several hours later:
This tattoo symbolised a new chapter of my life, and helped inspire the woman I am today. I’m a cabaret fueled, burlesque blooded, illustrated broad with vaudeville vocals, and dangerous proportions. I’m Patti Cakes!
Before Dirty went backstage to prepare for her performance, she posed for this wonderful picture with some of my favourite humans:
Eliza Strange, Patti Cakes, Havana Hurricane and Dirty Martini
She then took me over to a table with a large folder and asked how I spelt my burlesque name, before presenting me with this stunning signed print. It’s a photo of her famed Zorita tribute act, taken by the multi-talented North West based Neil Kendall (which I’ve placed in a suitably gothic frame):
“For Patti, love you! You’re the breast! Dirty Martini”
I’m not gonna lie, burlesque really is as fabulous as it looks. I had a wonderful time in Leeds, and created even more memories with beautiful people. Thank you for being my date, Eliza, and I look forward to our next trip to Leeds!
Keep an eye out for my next Burly themed blog post, involving a trip to Blackpool with the creme de la creme of northern Burlesque!