Heading On Down to the Audubon Zoo with Meschiya Lake & The Little Big Horns

Here in New Orleans music permeates pretty much everything and Audubon Zoo is no exception to that rule.

Immortalized in The Meters’ song They All Ask’d For You  – written by Art Neville, George Porter Jr., Leo Noncentelli, and Zigaboo Modeliste – Audubon Zoo is also famous for its annual philanthropic event the Whitney Zoo-To-Do, a black-tie fundraiser replete with New Orleans’ customary signature blend of great food, great cocktails, and great music.

This year is Zoo-To-Do’s 40th anniversary and as part of the celebrations will feature performances by Walter “Wolfman” Washington and the Roadmasters, Jessie’s Girls, Julio Y Cesar, and Meschiya Lake.

“I am pretty excited to be performing at the zoo,” said Lake. “I adore animals and it is for a good cause. I always enjoy that.”

From a circus performer with the Know Nothing Family Zirkus Zideshow and the End of the World Circus to her current career as one of New Orleans’ best Jazz-singer-with-an-edge, Meschiya Lake is no stranger to the ups and down of showbusiness and, according to Lake, playing at Audubon Zoo definitely falls into the up category, not least because she is excited to bring her four-month-old daughter Saiorse (which means freedom in Gaelic) on her first visit to zoo.

Over the more than ten years that Lake has called New Orleans home, Lake has performed on the streets of the French Quarter, New Orleans music clubs, and even at Celtic Connections, Scotland’s biggest folk music festival held yearly in Glasgow. She was also took home the Big Easy Music Awards “Best Female Performer” of the year for 2010, 2011, and 2012.

In January 2018, she and her band are heading back across the pond to revisit Celtic Connections, something  that, she says, she is very much looking forward to.

“I loved Scotland,” said Lake. “I found Scottish people to be funny and down to earth. And they loved to hang out. Really looking forward to going back.”

“Sometimes when I sit down and think about it, it is pretty nuts,” said Lake. “Ten years ago, I was working all kinds of other jobs with bands on the side. I drove a forklift. I did migrant farm work. I worked in a lot of kitchens. In 2007, I started street performing and now I make my living with music and that is pretty cool, but, you know? But I still like to play on the streets. It is all part of the musical experience and as long as people are having a good time, that is what is important to me. It is always seat of the pants, as we say.”

Zoo-To-Do will take place on Friday, May 4, 2017 at Audubon Zoo, 6500 Magazine St, New Orleans, 70118.

More information about Meschiya Lake and The Little Big Horns is available at http://www.meschiyalake.com/

More information about the Audubon Nature Institute is available at http://audubonnatureinstitute.org/zoo

Mixing With The Minx

As I walked towards The Marigny Perk to meet Ms. Trixie Minx – the artistic director of New Orleans Burlesque troupe, Fleur de Tease – I never for one second thought that I would fail to recognize her.

But when I arrived at the coffee shop, and looked around for that outrageously blonde, slyly hilarious coquette, Trixie Minx, she was nowhere to be seen. But one wave, and shouted hello later, I found myself sitting down to chat about the art of burlesque, and its place in New Orleans’ history with Trixie’s brunette alter ego.

On her days off, Trixie goes by the name of Alexis. Dressed in a perfectly fitted 1950’s style sleeveless dress – the iridescent stormy grey-green color matched her eyes exactly – Alexis is taller than I expected. Very slender, with her dark brown hair braided into two short pigtails looks she looked like platinum bombshell Trixie’s equally pretty but slightly more subdued sister.

“A lot of times people will miss me,” said Alexis, as, for the briefest second, Trixie’s brilliantly mischievous smile flashes, and sparkles across her face.

“Once I was handing out flyers for a Fleur De Tease show after a Pilates class,” she said. “So I had yoga pants, a tank top, and a hat on. I handed out this flyer to someone who said, ‘Oh, I don’t need one of these, I know Trixie.’ I was looking them right in the eye, and they didn’t recognize me.”

I am a longtime fan of burlesque shows. For me, the louche music, the sly humor, and the sheer beauty of the performers – along with the excuse to dress up and knock back a few cocktails – sing a sparkling siren song that I never really cared to resist.

A good burlesque show – and there are few things sadder, or more uncomfortable to watch, than a bad burlesque show – both fascinates and entertains me. And Ms. Minx’s burlesque dance troupe is nothing if not entertaining.

Fleur De Tease’s changing cast of burlesque dancers are equally fascinating, and include the mysterious Madame Mystere, Roxie Le Rouge, Mamie Dame and Ooops the Clown. While titillation is obviously on the menu, said Alexis, the best burlesque performances successfully dance the line between revealing all, and revealing just enough.

“I think that people’s perception of burlesque is very different from the outside,” said Alexis. “The word ‘burlesque,’ when you break it down, means ‘to joke,’ so the idea behind burlesque is more about humor than stripping. Its roots are tongue-in-cheek, so it is actually more about being silly, and making the audience laugh.”

In terms of both performance and entertainment, explained Alexis, burlesque reveals more about performers’ thought process and imagination than their physical body.

“Strip clubs are all about the flesh,” said Alexis. “Burlesque is all about the performance. It’s a circus show. It’s about breaking the barriers between performer and audience, so everyone can just enjoy a moment together – without being creepy.”

A trained ballerina, the first step Alexis took on her journey towards Trixie Minx started with a broken foot. Unable to continue ballet dancing due to her injury, she dabbled with other dance genres, before being persuaded by a fellow dancer to give burlesque a try.

“My first thought was no, no, no, no, no!” laughed Alexis. “I am a dancer! I don’t do the naked thing! But when I started performing as Trixie Minx, it felt very much like I was two different people – like Clark Kent and Superman. And the more I performed as Trixie, the more the character of Trixie took shape. Everything that I am too shy to say – or too nervous about what other people might think – Trixie has free range to say. And that is such fun.”

New Orleans has long been famous for welcoming art forms that might raise eyebrows in other less adventurous cities. While New Orleans’ casual permissiveness has not changed, the character of what might arguably be the Crescent City’s most infamously permissive street – Bourbon Street – most definitely has.

According to Alexis, in the 1940s and 1950s, both men and women would dress to nines to take in one of the many risqué shows performed nightly in famous clubs such as The Sho Bar or The Casino Royale. Since those halcyon French Quarter days, Bourbon Street has transformed into a neon Golgotha of gentlemen’s clubs, T-shirt shops, and daiquiri shops. In the French Quarter’s roiling mix of old and new, Bourbon Street can still be said to be synonymous in the minds of many with ‘a good time,’ but it can no longer, by any stretch of the imagination, still be thought of as synonymous with glamour.

Or can it?

Reclaiming Bourbon Street’s lost ‘grace and glamour,’ is something that Alexis feels is important, and, to that end, visitors to New Orleans can catch weekly Fleur de Tease performances, starring Trixie Minx in all her blonde glory, at the Royal Sonesta Hotel, 300 Bourbon Street, and the Saint Hotel, 931 Canal Street.

“We rotate the cast at both hotels,” said Alexis. “It’s a little raunchy, but it’s also classy, and there is a nice ‘speakeasy vibe’ to it all. Showing everything would negate the tease. A lot of people dress up to the nines for it. And they are simply dazzling.”

Alexis’s face is once again illuminated by that blonde 10 million gigawatt smile.

“And I think I should also mention,” added Trixie Minx, fluttering her thick eyelashes demurely. “That burlesque dancers are actually born with pasties. You know that you are meant to be a burlesque dancer when you look down, and your boobs are all sparkly.”

More information about Fleur de Tease is available http://www.fleurdetease.com/shows.html