By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
It's midnight on a Friday as a limousine pulls up to Ain't Nobody's Bizness, a gay club on Indian School Road.
Four corseted women in satin gloves, glittery go-go boots and fur coats emerge from the stretch. With deliberate grace, they strut sensuously toward the entrance.
Their makeup is heavy glam, their wigs slick bobs in pink, platinum and black. Their exaggerated curves are scattered with piercings and tattoos.
When they open the door and step inside, the lights in the club go down. The anxious crowd of 200 cheers raucously in the darkness.
The women snake through the center of the room, mount the stage and assume their positions, backs to the crowd, as "Erotica" fills the air.
Strobe lights pulse as Madonna coos:
"If I'm in charge and I treat you like a child, will you let yourself go wild, let my mouth go where it wants to?"
Madonna's subsequent moan is their cue to begin a routine that combines choreographed dance moves with sensual raunchiness. This is what the crowd has come for. Jazz hands and pirouettes are spiced with lurid sensuality that borders on the obscene.
Within seconds, the women are paired up on the floor groping and fondling one another. Legs encircle waists as the music throbs. The crowd whistles and screams.
The women respond with sultry smiles as they dance their way back to a standing position and swap partners, fondling breasts, grinding up against each other while eyeing the crowd as they pose, vamp and wiggle under the spotlight.
The crowd bursts into applause and catcalls, but it's not over yet.
The dance performance is followed by a muff-diving contest, in which members of the audience don scuba masks and consume a pie plate of whipped cream placed provocatively in each of the four dancers' crotches. The performers, perched on stools, have their backs to the audience. Thus, the pie plate isn't visible, just the bobbing heads of the women in their laps as their legs flail.
The winning contestant receives $100 for simulating cunnilingus onstage.
Club manager Andy Bryant couldn't have been more pleased. "The show went great," she says. "The crowd was absolutely enthusiastic."
It's this kind of performance that the dancers and founder of the all-lesbian burlesque troupe Lezbosagogo say will soon make them superstars.
Bryant is a little more cautious in her predictions for their future success. "I don't know if they're ready to go national," she hedges. "That takes a lot of dedication and time." Yet Bryant admits Lezbosagogo has garnered quite a following among her customers. "I get a lot of people telling me we need to have them back."
Neither dedication nor time seems to be a problem. The Gogos travel to the outer reaches of Ahwatukee to practice three mornings a week with choreographer Jessica Joseph. They're keen on adding whips and chains to the act. They're meticulous about practice, repeating moves until they are perfected and dissecting every aspect of the routine as a group. And they're smiling all the way despite the tedious rehearsals. They have the kinetic energy that comes from being on the cusp of fame, or at least believing they are.
"Wait until they see us," says Lezbosagogo founder Angela Pulliam, referring, it seems, to the entire universe. "They're going to love us. Nobody does anything like what we do."
What Lezbosagogo offers is a hybrid of burlesque, go-go dancing and nasty girl moxie that is unique and vibrant enough to have won them a gig performing at this year's Dinah Shore Weekend in Palm Springs, a huge annual lesbian gathering at the end of this month. Pulliam is confident that the Dinah Shore show will lead to bigger and better things.
Huge things, even. Pulliam's vision of Lezbosagogo's not-too-distant future – and no, she's not on crack (anymore) – includes appearances on Howard Stern and Jay Leno, opening Lezbosagogo hot dog stands in downtown Phoenix, and eventually "conquering the Greek isle of Lesbos" by performing on the symbolic island.
To hear her and her dancers talk, fame is not only probable, it's inevitable.
Lezbosagogo is riding a wave of renewed interest in burlesque that has swept many major American cities over the past eight years. Los Angeles has the Velvet Hammer, with a regular burlesque revue (they even perform dual shows with Mexican wrestlers). Also L.A.-based, the Pussycat Dolls (whose members have included Carmen Electra, Christina Applegate, Gwen Stefani and Christina Aguilera) perform regularly at the Viper Room on Sunset Boulevard and have been featured in People, Rolling Stone and US Weekly. San Francisco has the Cantankerous Lollies performing can-can and silhouette shows to rave reviews, and New York has clubs like the Slipper Room, where the perfectly synchronized Pontani Girls dutifully re-create vintage MGM numbers.
Burlesque fanatics even have a yearly convention to attend, the Tease-O-Rama, where they learn the ins and outs of making pasties and proper tassel-twirling techniques, and enjoy performances by dozens of burlesque acts from around the country.
Burlesque was born in circus side shows where carnies knew that displaying exotic beauties in the flesh was a quick way to make a buck. America got its first taste of burlesque at the Chicago World's Fair. Twenty-seven million people attended the fair in 1893, and many took in the then-oh-so-scandalous performances on the fair's midway featuring topless local blacks billed as "half-naked savages," and "hoochie coochie" dancers purported to be from the Far East (read: the U.S. East Coast).