Tempest Storm interviewed by Angie Pontani
Tempest Storm, a true legend of the Golden Age of burlesque, interviewed by the Angie Pontani, Miss Exotic World 2008!
As a burlesque performer, I have always held Tempest Storm in the brightest spotlight. Her high glamour and reputation for unmatched style and class stands alone, she is a true legend.
I have had the pleasure of working with Tempest over the years from a distance, mostly I stood in awe. There are few people who carry the grace of being a lady 24 hours a day and seven days a week on stage and off. Tempest is one of them!
My first encounter with her was the year I won Miss Exotic World in 2008, we posed for a series of photographs and even with my winning adrenaline glory, she intimidated the heck out of me. Even in her 80’s, Tempest’s stature remains perfect, her figure outrageously amazing and always perfectly dressed! This is matched by that magical hair, which I now call the is the eighth wonder of the word.
When I was asked to join the cast for Tempest’s new show, Tempest Storm’s Las Vegas Burlesque Revue, I jumped at the chance, not only would I be working closely with tempest, but the new show would only play real theaters!
I was thrilled, yet full of nerves… would Tempest like my act? my music? I mean this was Tempest Storm we were talking about here!!! As my cast mates my sister Helen, Kitten DeVille and I loaded our luggage into our first hotel I had to take a double take as we rolled into the lobby, sitting perfectly in front of a flaming fire place was the original flaming fox Tempest Storm (dressed in a gorgeous Bettie Page suit) and her manager Harvey Robbins. they were waiting for us, to be sure we arrived safely to the hotel as it was a cold and windy fall night.
That gesture was so kind and generous, the perfect opening chapter of our tours together over the Fall of 2010. Always gracious and kind, I have enjoyed dinners, laughs, my birthday toast and more than one high five with Tempest. After spending these times together, I can truly say she is even more inspiration both on stage and off and I am so lucky to be able to say that I work with Tempest Storm. (Wow, did I just say that!)
And now let’s interview Tempest Storm!
Burlesque, past and present
AP: Have there been a lot of changes in burlesque from what it was in the 50s to what it is now?
TS: Yes, there have been a lot of changes! It is entirely different in many ways. Back in the day, burlesque was sexy and sensual but always classic. We had costumes, production numbers and sets. Now I see a lot of girls get on stage and take off their costumes before 16 bars of music pass. That takes the strip out of strip tease. I give these gals a lot of credit for bringing back burlesque, but I like the classic performances and some girls don’t do that anymore.
AP: You were still performing up to last year, over the decades, have you changed your performance style?
TS: No, I have changed my music and costumes and I don’t have all the big props and sets like I had when I performed at the Dunes, but I’ve stuck with the same routine and no one has booed me off stage yet!
AP: And I really don’t think anyone ever will!
TS: (laughing) I hope not!
AP: You could see it at the shows we did this winter as part of the Tempest Storm Las Vegas Revue, people love seeing you, you don’t have to dance. You can stand there and they adore you!
TS: It was so wonderful to do those shows, the audiences were great.
The beginnings of Tempest Storm
AP: You are a true inspiration to so many performers and woman alike, there are girls out there with you tattooed on their arms! That is amazing, when you first started, was there someone who inspired you?
TS: I was taught from the beginning from Lillian Hunt in Los Angeles. I wasn’t just given a costume and thrown on stage. She taught me moves, costume tips, stage presence advice and more. She said most importantly that it’s about career. Not boozing around and doing drugs and smoking, so take your pick. It’s not a party, it’s a career. I never did any of those things, they age you and really, I never wanted to. I don’t need that, never did…I get high off of life.
AP: But don’t you think a lot of being a great performer is inherit? I mean no one taught you your classic moves. Those seem so much to just be you!
TS: Well, yes. I think a lot of it comes from your personality. You have to have a great personality it not about just being beautiful, having a great personality comes across on stage and that helps you connect with your audience, which has always been something that I have been able to and love to do.
A show to remember
AP: I know your career has been long and full of events; If you could pin point one thing, which was the best moment of your career?
TS: Well, I would have to say performing at Carnegie Hall was one of the greatest the highlights of my career. I was traveling with the James Gang, a rock band on a 6 week string of one nighters in 1973. We played Carnegie Hall and Massey Hall too, which was Boston’s equivalent of Carnegie Hall. It was hard work, traveling like that. But it was a lot of fun, and hey, I played Carnegie Hall!
AP: Burlesque is becoming more and more popular in Europe. Even though the height of Burlesque popularity and culture is considered so American. Why do you think people love it?
TS: I think Europeans appreciate the feel of burlesque. They like the glamour and the way the girls conduct themselves. What is not to like really?
Words of wisdom
AP: What would you say to any aspiring performers trying to make a career out of burlesque?
TS: Get a choreographer first off… someone to train you. Don’t just jump on stage and start stripping out of your costume. Do it properly, with the right costumes, production numbers. That is how you make a career. When I played the Dunes, I had a set and two male dancers, it was gorgeous. Walter Winchell said it was the most sinful act in Vegas. It was sexy and sensual and classic. If you really want to make something of yourself in this world, you have to dedicate yourself to the profession. That is really it.
Tempest Storm today
AP: Tell us about your new show, The Tempest Storm Las Vegas Revue, how has that been.
TS: Oh I love it. You know, working with you and Kitten De Ville was wonderful. I love to see you young girls bringing back classic burlesque. It was a real dream, my manager Harvey Robbins and I were talking and I said it would be so great to bring burlesque back to legitimate theaters and educate the people! Show them that it is a class act, not vulgar but top shelf entertainment. We booked the theaters, and went for it and it was great. Seeing the show in those gorgeous theaters was amazing. For myself, I was very nervous since I was not performing. I’m not used to talking on stage, that was a whole new thing for me, but it was wonderful.
AP: Do you think that you will perform again?
TS: I don’t know Angie, I’ll tell you that I am nervous about it. I’ve got to watch that hip.
AP: Well as soon as the spotlight hit you, you seemed to instinctively start to dance, it was pretty amazing!
TS: Laughs, we will see!
AP: What are you really looking forward to in 2011?
T: Well, we are planning another Tempest Storm Burlesque Cruise for the Fall, probably sailing from New York or New Jersey to Bermuda, we are a few weeks away from finalizing all the details but we will announce everything soon. I am really excited about that trip, The last cruise was amazing, I had a wonderful time. So many fantastic people and fans, we had burlesque performances and a fashion show from Bettie Page Clothing. I’m also thrilled that we will be doing more theater performances of the Tempest Storm Las Vegas Burlesque Revue.
Legendary colleagues: Lili St Cyr and Bettie Page
AP: You have worked with some of the best, any notes on any of the ladies or gents that moved you when you worked with or saw perform?
TS: Lili St Cyr was the first gal I saw perform burlesque, that was it for me. I said, if I can be a class act like her, I would go into the biz. That was right before I started.
AP: What about Bettie Page
TS: (laughing), Oh that movie, that will haunt me forever!!!
AP: Is it bad??
TS: (laughing), It’s just so silly!
AP: Anything to add for your Italian fans?
TS: Ohhh, I have been to Rome and Venice and I just loved it!
AP: Do you think you might return?
TS: Maybe, wouldn’t that be fun!