Red Hots Burlesque makes steamy nights at El Rio
In a flourish of feathers, sparkles, and sass, Dottie Lux invites voracious crowds to hoot and holler to their hearts’ content at Red Hots’ twice-weekly burlesque show.
Red Hots Burlesque
When: Wednesday and Friday evenings
Where: El Rio
Cost: $5-$10 on a sliding scale
Patrons must be 21+
Wednesday and Friday evenings at El Rio are about escaping the monotony of cubicles and lecture halls and enjoying fun, sexy performances in a satisfying environment. For five years, Lux has brought in a steady rotation of new and seasoned performers drawing in enthusiastic and diverse audiences.
“Performing, producing, and teaching burlesque, and keeping El Rio promoted is my full time job,” Lux said. “It’s very easy to concentrate on something when you love it.”
When Lux moved Red Hots from New York to San Francisco five years ago, she had her eye on El Rio in Bernal Heights from the beginning. The queer-friendly, but not exclusive, environment was perfectly conducive with the community the bar strives to reach.
“Every type of person you can imagine can be on our stage,” Lux said. “When you see what creates attraction is confidence, you see what creates sexual appeal is smarts and wit. You will be forever changed and forever educated to know that anything is possible.”
Performers like the world famous *BOB*, who closed out last Friday’s show, use the stage to both captivate and make a statement. In a piece titled “The World Famous *BOB*: She’s a F—ing Genius,” *BOB* performs a classic striptease to a recording of insults she has actually endured in her life.
“I have a strong feeling that we all have this negative tape in our head, and sometimes it’s faint in the background, and sometimes it’s so blaring, it actually stops us from following our dreams,” said *BOB*.
While the act often induces uncomfortable audience laughter, it has also inspired audiences who have encountered such negativity, including *BOB* herself.
“It gives me a lot of strength to exorcise those demons on stage,” she said.
Red Hots is also a place where performers and spectators with quirky tastes can thrive. Pickles Kintaro, September’s featured performer, had the audience in stitches last week during her French poodle act.
“I’m kind of an odd bird,” Kintaro said with a laugh. “Boudoir burlesque is beautiful, but I’m not a dancer. I’m not incredibly graceful. I like to have fun and I like to make people laugh.”
When she is not the featured performer, Kintaro performs at Red Hots at least once a month. She calls it a “home away from home.”
“It’s such a welcoming, warm, friendly environment. It’s just so much fun, and everybody is so sweet,” she said.
When the performers are happy, the audience is happy too. Spectators revel in the camaraderie created by the weekly shows.
“I think it’s a fun, queer-friendly space,” Sarah McDonald, a regular Red Hots attendee, said. “And, you know, I like seeing women take their clothes off, and I love that it’s a body-positive space.”
Sarah suggested the show to her sister Jessica McDonald who, after seeing it twice, has come to adore the welcoming space as well.
“As someone who’s bigger, I love stuff like this. It gives me confidence to go out into the world, if they can,” Jessica said. “I think especially since that movie Burlesque came out with Christina Aguilera, and that’s not what it has to be. It doesn’t have to be someone with a ‘perfect’ body – ‘perfect’ in quotes. Anyone can do it and just have fun.”
Red Hots fans can have fun and support a good cause all in one night. A raffle is held at each show and the winner gets to pick a cause to send all the proceeds to. Last Friday’s winner took Lux’s suggestion and the $52 raised will be going to Planned Parenthood – in Mitt Romney’s name.
“The amount of love and respect for the raffle that we do has been immeasurable,” Lux said. “We have raised now close to $10,000, given to different charities.”
Red Hots will donate the winner’s money, no matter what the cause, just as they will invite people to their shows, no matter who they are or how they identify. The only rules Lux has for the audience are to have fun, and to not take photos. She is passionate about the joys of live performance.
“YouTube is not a viable way to receive live entertainment,” she said. “Allow people to spit on you when they’re on stage. Smell them, see them, and have a real tangible experience.”
Tickets to Red Hots Burlesque shows on Wednesdays and Fridays at El Rio are $5-$10 on a sliding scale. Patrons must be 21+.