Portland Says Farewell To Stripteasing Songbird Cherry Valance
-written by Rayleen Courtney, Portland
“I came upon burlesque after clicking on a trashy gossip article about Dita Von Teese’s divorce from Marilyn Manson”, says the fiery redhead sitting across from me, as she takes a sip of whiskey. “I was immediately taken by Dita’s beauty and style. They called her a burlesque star, and I thought ‘There is a such thing as a burlesque star today? I want to be one!’” As she laughs and tosses her mane of curls, it’s difficult to remember the Portland burlycue community without Cherry Valance’s flirty winks and unrivaled voice gracing its stages.
After stumbling onto her new discovery, Cherry immediately got to work researching burlesque artistry and seeking out gigs. Her first performance as a peeler was in local variety cabaret show, Dante’s Sinferno. Says Miss Valance: “I called them and lied through my little teeth, telling them that I was a burlesque entertainer and I would like to audition, and it was set. I scrambled to find some tassels, a pretty dress, and a song to sing, and ended up getting the gig. The first burlesque show I went to was my own.”
She’s been sashaying into audience’s hearts ever since: on the Dante’s stage, as a monthly cast member of The Rosehip Revue, as “Newsy Nelly” in Madison Moone’s Burlesque Revue, and also moonlighting on stages such as Savoir Faire and both of Zora Phoenix’s monthly productions.
Best known of Cherry’s acts is her “Sugar In My Cha Cha Cha” routine. Two stagehands in chef hats carry out a gigantic cupcake with a large, silky cherry on top. Moments into the song “Cha Cha Cha Du Loup”, the cupcake begins to shimmy, and the felt frosting lifts up to reveal Miss Valance grinning mischievously inside her handmade contraption. Emerging with her cherry hat still firmly affixed to her head, she bumps and grinds until the song changes into an instrumental of “Sugar In My Bowl”, which she belts out with a ferociousness that does Nina Simone all due justice. Cherry says of this act’s creation: “I was cruising the aisle at the fabric store, it suddenly hit me: I shouldn’t just have cupcakes in my set, I should be a cupcake! The instant I thought this, I looked to my right and saw a baby pink Rubbermaid bucket that looked like the bottom of a cupcake. I found a corner behind the yarn section and plopped myself in to see if this would work- what do you know, it was a perfect fit! I blurted a strangely orgasmic ‘YES!’ and fist-pumped to the high heavens, as old ladies peeked through the yarn racks to see what all the fuss was about.” And thus, Cherry Valance’s most beloved act was born- and has since taken to stages throughout Oregon and California.
At the beginning of 2011, Portland’s burlesque community received some very sad news: its cupcake-loving enchantress was set to relocate out of state in March. February hosted a bevy of tearful goodbyes as the songbird bid her farewells to her dear friends. “The Portland burlesque scene houses some of the most talented people I have ever worked with, and in my twenty years of competitive and professional performing, I have worked with a lot of people. This burly scene is bursting with talent, and they inspire me as an artist every day,” Cherry lovingly remarks. At her farewell performance, (closing out February 18th’s edition of The Rosehip Revue), the headlining songbird received a standing ovation from a very emotional audience. Ecstatic for Cherry as she heads down her new path- but morose over our city’s loss- the show’s cast held her in a loving embrace before allowing her to take her final bows. Portland’s queen of sultry vocals insists that this isn’t the end. “I will be back often. My band and my family still live here and Portland will always be my home. And I intend to book shows every time I am in town.”
We’re going to hold you to that, Miss Cherry Valance.