Perhaps at some point during your usual foggy weekend crawls through the pubs around Lakewood you’ve rubbed eyeballs with one of the city’s wildest acts, the uncanny burlesque troupe known as the Red Hot Heathens.
Celebrating their fifth anniversary this year, the Heathens have made a name for themselves as a notoriously uninhibited squad of freaky and funny entertainers devoted to totally dynamizing their audience. Featuring a blend of poetically psychedelic performance art and tastefully titillating striptease, every show is a guaranteed blast for anyone down for a walk on the wild side.
Gearing up for the Seventh Annual Heavy Metal Food Drive in December, the Heathens’ current lineup is no less than stellar. Aurora Sans, the team leader, often incorporates humor, sex, and her appreciation for classic rock into her act. Foxy Moon is the sassy resident hula hooper and poi spinner. Ooh La Lola is the fun and flirty girl-next-door type. Phoenix is the coy little sex pot. And Inferno Joe, the shameless lone male Heathen, is…pretty much up for anything. With their powers combined, they are the Red Hot Heathens, and we hit them up for an inside peek behind the velvet curtain.
PressureLife: When did the Heathens first form and how did the group come about?
Aurora: The Heathens formed in 2011 due to a lack of fitting in anywhere else in the current Cleveland burlesque scene. We wanted to do something different. Our vision was to perform in dive bars, which did not designate sexual preference, as a lot of the shows at the time were being performed in gay bars. We wanted to bring burlesque to the average Joe or Jill and not have to charge a hefty cover in the process. We are a merry band of outlaws who don’t give a fuck about what other people perceive as what we should be doing and how we should be doing it. We’re punk as fuck.
PL: In what ways is Cleveland a prime spot for burlesque?
Aurora: Cleveland offers many different styles and varieties to choose from along with their designated venues. It really depends on what sort of show you’re looking for. In our case, we’re nine times out of ten putting on free shows, which is a topic of debate in the burlesque community. Our aim was never to make money, but to have a good time with our audience. We do this because it’s like a high to get to entertain people.
PL: How has the community responded to your epic display of creative sexiness? Tell me about your fans and the type of culture that embraces your art.
Aurora: We’re the Andrew W K of burlesque…our only aim is to have the biggest party that night. It’s not about how much money we can make, or notoriety we create—although we do like a good publicity stunt. We have had a pretty damn good following since our inception. There are several regulars that attend every show and somehow we still manage to entertain them. Our culture equals fun
PL: Where do you draw inspiration for your performances? How do you choose your costumes, music, and routine?
Foxy: If there’s a certain song I’m digging, I’ll try to work around that. I like to just be a goof and quirky off-beat kinda stuff. If I’m working with my hoop, it has to be complimentary to my hooping skills.
Lola: I have to like the song and be able to move to it. I feel the need to incorporate humor into my acts whenever possible.
Aurora: Inspiration usually comes to me when I’m in the shower or on the toilet—always the most inopportune times. The music must be classic rock, for one, and for two, everything else comes to me in some sort of weird psychedelic magical way.
Phoenix: Mostly things with a lot of bass. “Big bottom, big bottom, talk about mud flaps, my girl’s got ‘em.”
PL: What’s been your most glorious experience on stage? What keeps you coming back for more?
Foxy: Performing with the T-Town Tassels in Toledo on their monstrous, gorgeous, historic stage. Being able to dance around in my underwear keeps me coming back for more.
Lola: Looking out and seeing everyone laughing both at me and with me and just having fun because that’s what life is all about.
Phoenix: I can’t deny the cheer of an excited crowd.
Aurora: Emceeing and being able to introduce my friends and their talents to a welcoming crowd of people who simply want to be entertained. What keeps me coming back—and there’s been a lot of times I’ve hesitated—is the camaraderie that we have in our group and the special relationship they’ve shared. They enjoy what they’re doing and that motivates me to keep going.
PL: How do you strike a balance between uninhibited freakiness and tasteful exhibition? Have you ever had the inclination to go sans-pasties or perhaps even full monty?
Lola: Only if it involves a merkin (look it up).
Foxy: No, nobody wants to look at that.
Aurora: I dig the allure of leaving some things to the imagination. I like to push the envelope, but why buy the cow when you can drink the milk for free?
PL: Have you had any awkward or strange moments during a performance? What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened on stage?
Aurora: If I had a dime for every time my damn pastie popped off my boob, I would be rich. One time though, I did walk on stage and trip, skin my knee—in the dirtiest bar ever—and begin my performance with half of my leg covered in blood. Alas, the show must go on.
Phoenix: I forgot about 70% of my costume at home once. Luckily no one noticed because the dress I’d worn to the show worked for the character I was doing.
Lola: My dress got stuck and I had to pretend that I just pulled it over my head, but it worked, nobody knew.
Joe: I once stapled my fake zebra-print suit to myself, but the staples didn’t hold, and I ended up just bleeding everywhere in my underwear! Thank God the audience was entertained by the chaos.
Foxy: Pastie pop…
PL: Inferno Joe, what’s it like being the only dude in the group?
Joe: When I first started, I was a bit apprehensive because I thought no one would want to view me, as I am not an attractive woman. However, guys are sort of novelties in burlesque, so they can pretty much get away with murder as long as they strive to be entertaining, energetic, and interesting. Me? I douse myself in mousetraps and staple things to myself! Our latest guy member, Booze McKoot, who hasn’t been able to come around recently, was a huge influence.
PL: How have the Heathens managed to prevail this long in the burlesque scene?
Aurora: There is a very special connection between all of us in our gang. Can’t quite put our finger on it or describe it other than it’s enough to fight for and want to maintain. Perhaps it’s our creative energies joining forces. Hell, it’s probably because we’re all fucking awesome—and we all have great boobs, except Inferno Joe.
Hot off of their recent Halloween blowout at Iggy’s and the Veteran’s Day benefit at The 5 O’ Clock Lounge, the Heathens are in full swing for their final show of the year at the Seventh Annual Heavy Metal Food Drive at the Beachland Ballroom on Saturday, Dec. 5. While they refused to hint at any surprises they have in store, the Heathens promise to demonstrate exactly how heavy metal they really are. Expect a headbanging good time with the Red Hot Heathens and keep your motor running for more tantalizing heathenism around town next year.