Its been a sad month in burlesque with the passing of two legends: Joan Arline and Candy Caramelo. I had the pleasure of seeing both perform and speak at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend in Las Vegas last year and both deserve to be fondly remembered for their work, but it is the passing of Candy that touches me most deeply on a personal level.
Due to its social history its an accepted generalisation that American Burlesque tends to focus more on the striptease aspects of burlesque (as opposed to British Burlesque which is synonymous with comedy) so you can imagine that the BHOF Weekend show is one of the biggest celebrations of striptease around. As a performer who enjoys the artistic diversity of burlesque this was at times a little overwhelming and I started to feel lost over the weekend looking at my own work in relation to all of these striptease queens……then… WOW… On to the stage burst the biggest and most full-of-life performer I had every seen. Candy Caramelo, ‘The World’s Biggest Showgirl’ proceeded to hold the audience in the palm of her hand for about 15mins in which she talked, burlesque’d, sang, danced, cracked jokes, pulled a gentleman up on the stage and generally entertained the hell out of everyone in sight.
To see a performer with a personality that lights up a whole room just by being themselves is to see a true star. Candy’s star quality defied her age and what society tells us about beauty and it was amazing to watch. Her wide use of performance skills and her comedy re-inspired me to keep believing that one of the beauties of burlesque is its variety and its ability to entertain.
The next day in the exhibition hall I saw Ms Caramelo sat at a table all on her own surrounded by pictures that she was signing for a few dollars and I went and told her how inspiring I had found her. She looked at me and asked me if I would get her booked in London - this was before HOB and at the time I was just a gigging artist myself so I smiled politely and said I would certainly tell people about her. She looked to me with glassy eyes and said thank you.
As I walked away, I turned back to see her sitting in the out-dated conference hall at an empty table, all on her own surrounded by pictures. An image now that makes me feel sad.
Watching the amazing Candy Caramelo taught me vast amounts about performance, comedy and personality on stage but it also showed me the fickle nature of time and success.
I could only find one clip of Candy on Youtube and its quality is not great, but it tells you a bit about Candy’s glittering career and will hopefully give you a small glimpse of this wonderful lady’s shining personality.
Thank you to both of these ladies for their contributions to an art I love so much.