Spring is for love letters: a long distance Q&A with Jett Adore.
Ah, Jett Adore. The name rolls gorgeously off the tongue, sending one into a reverie of fleeting moments shared recently in Seattle… there was the brief but flirty warm-up at the debut of Waxie Moon in Fallen Jewel at Central Cinema, a set of blush-inducing seductions at Boys! Bois! Boyz! at West Hall, and the absolutely stunning dalliances (both solo and with handsome counterparts The Stage Door Johnnies) at KINGS: A Boylesque Extravaganza last week at The Triple Door. We’ve fallen in love with Jett Adore. And we’re not the only ones.
Jett has traveled extensively, headlining all over the world in over 50 cities, touring most recently throughout Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. As some may recall, he was awarded the Burlesque Hall of Fame’s “Most Innovative 2011” as well as sharing the title “World’s Best Duo 2012” with Ms. Frenchie Kiss. Jett is also one of The Stage Door Johnnies, Chicago’s premier male burlesque trio, who scooped up the Burlesque Hall of Fame’s “World’s Best Burlesque Group 2011”. The troupe were awarded “Artists of the Year, 2010” by The Burlesque Innovation Guild and are ranked among the World’s “Top 10 Performers” by 21ST Century Burlesque. All this, and they manage to star in their own weekly show in Chicago. The Stage Door Johnnies are magnificent together; individually, they’re unique and just as sublime.
Paul and Jessica of Burlesque Seattle Press recently took a moment to get to know the delightful man referred to as “The No-Pantser Romancer”- Jett Adore:
BSP: Hi Jett! Where are you writing from now? (You’ve been traveling quite a bit from your home base of Chicago we know, including a few recent stops in Seattle. You also toured Australia last year…)
Jett Adore: I am back in my palace in Chicago, Illinois. Yes, we Stage Door Johnnies have been very busy. In the last several months, we have had our show in NY also starring Liza Minnelli and Alan Cumming, and we toured our show late last year in Australia for a little over a month with the Schlepp Sisters, Minnie Tonka and Darlinda Just Darlinda, and host Nadine Dubois. Since then, I journeyed on my own to headline in New Zealand for a few weeks for the 20th anniversary World Busker’s Festival in February, then a few big shows in Detroit and Chicago, and finally on to my Mini-West Coast Tour which brought me to your divine city.
BSP: Can you tell a little (for those that don’t know you just yet) about how you discovered burlesque, and a little about your trajectory as a performer?
Jett: I was born on the Isle of Romantica, where I was reared by my royal family with the virtues of love and sensual expression. Since childhood, and on my magical journeys since leaving my homeland, I have continually been offered the great fortune of working in the worlds of professional theatre and dance. Along these journeys, I had been involved in several annual events incorporating choreographed, polished, highly stylized dance into an elaborate exotic male theatrical experience. I have also been dear friends with burlesque icon Hot Toddy since we were both but wee sproutlings, and it is he who had the vision to bring together the three Stage Door Johnnies: Bazuka Joe, Ray Gunn, and myself. The ladies within the world of today’s exciting burlesque revival have since been largely responsible for our opportunities to shine our bright naughty bits all across the world. Without their continual welcoming embrace, we would have gone nowhere.
BSP: How would you describe your personal style and/or individual take on male burlesque?
Jett: First, I imagine, I pretend…that nostalgia actually exists for male burlesque just as it does for the legendary ladies. I dream, what if, when burlesque was at it’s original height of popularity, male performers had been just as prominent and mainstream as women who have made history? How would those men have translated the genre? I aim to allow indulgence in a fantastical male character who, just as so many of the divas of burlesque history, has a playful sense of humor without sacrificing legitimate sex appeal. I aim to explore masculinity, and to draw on icons and images which promote it, exploit it, twist it, exaggerate it, expand it. I never intend to bend gender, but I ask, always as a man, what can be provocative in the contrasts between delicacy and muscularity, softness and brawn? Is there a bit of fancy in football? The iconic romantic male image, in and of itself, may indeed be considered in many ways inherently feminine, what with all his writing of love letters and giving gifts of thoughtful bouquets and trinkets, his tenderness, charm, and immaculate, glamorous elegance, despite his brute strength. The rest of Jett Adore is mystery and secrets and plenty of gemstones, and to try to sort through it all would spoil the magic.
BSP: In recent years, men in burlesque (many of whom have been performing since neo-burlesque’s initial resurgence) have been more widely recognized, put ground-breaking work out there, and been a strong creative influence on the art form as a whole. Do you feel like in your travels, people outside of the performance community are starting to wake up to the fact that men can embrace this form of performance too?
Jett: We Stage Door Johnnies have been immensely fortunate that our aesthetic has always been well received in the burlesque community and beyond. We have never had to struggle to be embraced as men in this art form, but have never taken that fortune for granted. It has since the beginning been our mission to embody a male counterpart to classic female burlesque in a way that does not mock, but rather glorifies the art of the striptease.
The vast majority of audiences I encounter, though, are largely virgins to burlesque of any kind, and come, I think, expecting less than the life-changing adventure they eventually experience. This is, of course, one of the most exciting things about burlesque. There is both great opportunity and great responsibility to bring the most polished, most innovative, most moving representation possible of this theatre we call burlesque, as it is often the first impression the audience will have to this genre.
I believe burlesque at its very core is universally rousing regardless of a performer’s gender or an audience member’s sexual preference. Though the crowd may roar at the glimpse of an exposed bottom or rhinestoned nipple, what they are applauding in that moment is an innovation, a surprise, a brilliant bit of artistry. From the elderly who attach to the nostalgia, to the stylish gay men who can’t get enough of the glitzy divas and elaborate costumes, to married couples, to bachelorette parties and fratboys, the beautiful melting pot of the burlesque audience all join together to embrace and rejoice in the fun and freeing art of striptease, whether or not the performer’s gender matches that of their usual sexual desire. What I have found fascinating is the positive and enthusiast feedback I and the other Johnnies have received from heterosexual men. They come for the ladies, but, to their astonishment (indeed, it is often all they can do not to groan and squirm as soon as a male performer is announced), they somehow find a cleverness and theatricality to our acts, which allows them to watch and enjoy and be roused, even inspired and empowered, by a guy getting naked. That’s breaking down boundaries. I love that.
BSP: Did you ever imagine that being involved in this art form would hold such opportunities for you, and what have been the most cherished moments for you so far?
Jett: Before I was awakened to the rather obvious fact that theatre is much more exciting when people are getting naked, I never dreamed anything close to the life I am living. I am continually touched and overwhelmingly inspired by my beloved friends who are in this business. There are cherished moments at every turn, and heartbreak at every farewell. Attending the annual Burlesque Hall of Fame shows and awards ceremonies these last several years has certainly concentrated many of those kinds of moments. It is hard to top the gratitude felt at the recognition extended by some of the best of one’s peers. Better even is having the opportunity to acknowledge those peers for their own magical inspiration.
BSP: Finally- how would you characterize Chicago burlesque in a short sentence or two?
Jett: Chicago has some of the best of neo and classic burlesque and it is being produced in more and more spectacular venues. I am so fortunate to be part of the scene here; we’re all upping the bar for each other.
Visit the spectacularly talented, spectacularly handsome Stage Door Johnnies HERE.