Kitten LaRue (photo by Bobby Miller)
Kitten LaRue is like the Patti Smith of Seattle burlesque. She’s an independent creative force and a woman of multiple pioneering talents. Many of these cross into other art forms: Kitten is a choreographer, musician (in the bands The Intelligence and Puberty), and event promoter (some may recall drag/burlesque/punk dance night Trainwreck, the brainchild of Kitten and Lars Finberg). Most recently Kitten has added artist management and booking agent to her résumé. But we’ll get to that in a moment. Her biggest accomplishment- the one for which she is best known- is of course, Kitten LaRue the performer and Producer/Artistic Director of burlesque supertroupe The Atomic Bombshells.
Like many, Kitten’s before-she-was-Kitten story involves a lifelong love affair with dance- ballet, tap, jazz, as well as a stint with the “Dixie Darlings”, the University of Southern Mississippi’s drill team. (“Your typical small town dance background,” she calls it). After college she moved back to her home state of Louisiana, where the burlesque revival was already taking shape. It was there that she came across the famous Shim Sham Revue. “New Orleans has a long history of burlesque,” Kitten explained. “And they were really doing it right…very classic, and with a ten piece jazz band.” When Shim Sham held auditions, she went- and with her dance background plus a passion for glamorous MGM musicals imparted from her grandmother, Kitten the burlesque performer was born.
She performed with Shim Sham from 2001 to 2003, alongside Fanny N. Flames, future co-founder of The Atomic Bombshells. Kitten credits her time as a Shim Shamette, as well as the timeless vision of creators Ronnie Magri (band leader, musical director), Nina Bozak (casting, choreography) and Carl Walker (director) with setting the tone for both the long-running Shim Sham and her future Bombshell DNA. “They were re-creating burlesque in a very authentic way,” she said of the experience. New Orleans legends Kitty West and Wild Cherry were brought in to workshop with the dancers, teaching them bump and grinds, finely nuanced hand gestures, and other tricks of the trade. It was quite an education.
“In some ways, this set the stage and really allowed me to dream big for The Bombshells,” she explained. Fanny and Kitten, remaining Shim Shamettes until the club was sold in 2003, eventually wound up in Seattle where the classic burlesque niche had yet to be filled. The pair talked their way into a performance at The Showbox before they had even assembled a cast or show. But they did have a strong name and clear concept- The Atomic Bombshells.
Within a month they held auditions and worked up choreography and costumes for their first show ever, opening for Dita Von Teese. The five original members (Kitten, Indigo Blue, Fanny N. Flames, Lily Verlaine, and Honey D. Luxe) were a sensation. Within two months they were handpicked for a 30 city tour sponsored by Camel, who lavished the girls with a tour bus and hotel rooms. Of the windfall opportunity for such a young troupe, Kitten says “That doesn’t happen now. You have to really be on top of your production, your management, everything, all the time.” And the rest is history. The Atomic Bombshells returned to Seattle, paying their dues and paving the way for our own burlesque revival. Ivy St. Spectre, Ruby Mimosa, and Inga Ingénue (Miss Viva Las Vegas) have since joined the troupe, but as Artistic Director Kitten has stuck to her original vision- creating grandiose, thematic shows that appeal to a huge audience. The Atomic Bombshells have launched hundreds of fledgling burlesque careers in the process.
Of the larger circuit, Kitten keeps a relatively low profile. “That’s never been the most important aspect of burlesque for me,” she says. “The most interesting part of this work for me is making this entity of a show, directing this amazing group of people, and seeing the reaction that it brings. It’s not so much a personal thing.” Kitten keeps life in perspective by dedicating the same energy to all her endeavors. In 2009, she met Ben DeLaCreme and was so wowed that she immediately asked him to guest star in J’Adore! and later, host and guest star for the troupe’s annual shows in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
As one of Seattle’s top solo performers (not to mention a wizard of headpiece and prop-making), Ben’s burlesque and drag are well known through Homo for the Holidays and Terminally Delightful. With two over the top stage personas between them, it was only a matter of time until Kitten and Ben began dreaming up fantasy revues that demanded to be realized. The first flirtation was Trainwreck‘s beautiful chaos; the second will be Freedom Fantasia, the inaugural event for newly christened DeLaRue Presents.
Kitten is guarded about what the pair has in store, but does say that Freedom Fantasia will be an annual Fourth of July offering for those that might feel marginalized or disenfranchised from the usual red white and blue hot-dogging. Reclaiming patriotism has never seemed so “muey eleganza” (as the show’s press release says). And as far as Kitten and Ben are concerned, two hairsprayed heads are better than one.
Here are the details, and a ticket link is RIGHT HERE
WHAT: “Freedom Fantasia”: A liberty encrusted, justice soaked, apple pie scented pageant of patriotism!
STARRING: Ben DeLaCreme, Kitten LaRue, The Cherdonna and Lou Show, Lucky Penny, Jinkx Monsoon and Major Scales, Jim Kent, and Markeith Wiley
COSTUMES: J.Von Stratton Designs
WHEN: July 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, 9pm
WHERE: West Hall at the Oddfellows Building, 915 Pine St., Seattle, WA
Always one to have at least a dozen plates spinning at once, Kitten the entrepreneur is also now an artist advocate in the form of The LaRue Group. Artist management and booking, quite common in music, are not so available in the worlds of burlesque, dance, and drag. Kitten brings years of expertise in touring and managing The Atomic Bombshells to good use with her latest endeavor.
Says Ms. LaRue:
My goal for The LaRue Group is to use my years of experience booking and managing to have a production, booking, and management company that is essentially a one-stop-shop destination for clients to find the creme-de-la-creme of Seattle talent in all its many facets: burlesque, cabaret, dance, drag, etc…
As of now I am representing The Atomic Bombshells, Dance Belt, The Cherdonna and Lou Show, and Ben DeLaCreme, and will be looking to add more talent to my roster in the fall.
Info and Inquiries at TheLaRueGroup@gmail.com
Ben DeLaCreme in J'Adore! (photo by Chris Blakeley)
Freedom Fantasia is the first event for DeLaRue Presents.