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Classic burlesque star swings into town

Octogenarian dedication
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  November 3, 2010

GETTING THE IMAGINATION GOING Tempest Storm, in a photo from the 1970s.
"I've always been a class act," says Tempest Storm, the 82-year-old Burlesque Hall of Fame dancer. "I have a personality that really connects with the audience — the expression on your face, your eyes, your smile — I've been told that . . . when I hit the stage, something transforms over my face."

Storm still dances, but audiences at Merrill Auditorium won't get the full effect when she hits the stage on Saturday night — she broke her hip during a performance in June and is under doctor's orders not to shimmy for several months. Still, she's certain to display some of the sass and class that took her from a fledgling career in Las Vegas during the 1950s through five decades of dancing — and dating — during which she amassed some exceptional stories.

Here are just a few: Storm and Elvis Presley "saw each other off and on for about a year," she recalls, saying that he was "a real Southern gentleman." She once did a striptease onstage at Carnegie Hall. She's been nominated to have her star on the Las Vegas Walk of Fame in 2011. In fact, her stories are so salaciously unique that she claims that the upcoming film Burlesque, with Christina Aguilera and Cher, which hits theaters on Thanksgiving, is based on her life. But she's not getting the credit. "No one contacted me," she says. "No one ever got in touch with me."

While she's thrilled that burlesque is experiencing a nationwide revival, Storm fears that some modern performers "really don't know what classic burlesque is." Whereas her dancing was once called "the most sinful act in Vegas," she knows that these days "it wouldn't make a dent" in people's sensibilities.

Classic burlesque, she says, "leaves something to the imagination." That teasing sexuality is the backbone of "Tempest Storm's Las Vegas Burlesque Revue," which will have its inaugural performance with local and national performers at Merrill Auditorium this weekend. Miss Exotic World Vegas Queens Angie Pontani and Kitten DeVille will strut their stuff along with local acts Red Hot & Ladylike and Miss E. Cloutier, and Whistlebait Burlesque. The event comes to Portland courtesy of Harvey Robbins, a Massachusetts-based producer who "saw Tempest Storm perform as a young man" and calls burlesque a "wonderful art form of dance and expression."

Although Storm won't be part of this production, audiences can hope that she'll someday titillate their imaginations. She's sure of it: "As long as I have a great body and I look good I'll still drop my veils."

Tempest Storm's Las Vegas Burlesque Revue | Nov 6 @ 7:30 pm | Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle St, Portland | $35-45 | 207.842.0800 |

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