Spectacular Striptease: Living Legends of Burlesque

When and Where

Saturday, April 10, 2021 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm
Zoom webinar


SPECTACULAR STRIPTEASE is a zoom panel that allows attendees to have an inside peak at the lives and careers of the surviving “Exotics,” or stripteasers, who worked in the golden age of burlesque performance. Such performers are colloquially referred to in the burlesque community as our living “Legends.” These women, whose careers span from the late 1950s to the 1980s, will provide invaluable personal accounts of their lived experience pertaining to histories of sex work and queer performance.

The panel has been curated to combat revisionist histories of 20th century burlesque which erase the presence of Performers of Colour, Trans performers, and the vibrant touring circuit which existed throughout North America, including here in Canada. Each of our panelists’ careers disprove this popular false archive and instead work to describe the labour conditions, lifestyle, celebrations, and challenges that a life in burlesque presented to them. Furthermore, many of the panelists worked in different decades and in different territories, meaning that they each can offer a unique perspective that helps to paint a picture of the larger burlesque circuit throughout the 20th century.


JUDITH STEIN: Judith Stein the “Canadian Legend of Burlesque” refers to herself as “Just a small town Woodbridge, Ontario farm girl who sought adventure and discovered the bright lights and opportunities of the stripping life.” Beginning as a go-go girl while attending University of Oregon to supplement her meagre student budget, she soon discovered the art of stripping would fulfil her wish for travel, adventure—and yes, money!— thus beginning her international stripper career of 17 years. From lowdown beer parlours to internationally recognized venues in New Zealand, Guam, and the United States, Stein delighted in bringing some sassy, sexy entertainment to each and every audience she served.

A journey of many insights, discoveries, joys and dismay, and armed with this new and evocative knowledge, she retired to a small mountain town in the Kootenays of BC, to exchange her g-string for ski boots and began her own independent business of creating vintage inspired nightgowns and burlesque dusters. However, “no rest for the wicked" as the saying goes. On a whim in 2010, she googled ‘burlesque’ and was delighted to discover that our noble art was alive, thriving at the Burlesque Hall of Fame museum and its Weekender event!  Without a second thought her suitcase was packed to discover the joys of BHOF and especially reuniting with long lost legendary stripper friends, and finally meeting those whom she admired from afar. Well known legends like Fannie Annie, Holiday O’Hara and Satan’s Angel endorsed her as a Legend of Burlesque from Canada and thus with the support of Vancouver and Cheesecake Burlesque Revue Community, Stein found herself once again upon the stage to her amazement and delight. From there, she would eventually perform again internationally in New Zealand, Finland, the USA, and her beloved Canada. A subject of many burlesque podcasts, publications, and documentaries including Rama Rau’s League of Exotic Dancers, she continues to support, mentor, and giggle with those who love her chosen art.

KAENA: Dramatic and diverse are the islands of Hawaii, born of fire and water, when the volcanoes burst from the sea. Rich and varied is the land itself…and from the people who live upon it…comes the beautiful Kaena! Kaena began her burlesque career in Hawaii in the 1950s, quickly becoming an international marquee performer, working throughout the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Japan. She captured audiences with her performances and dances of the traditional past and stimulated them with those of the present. An exciting highlight of her performances was her dangerous knife and fire dance, a feat performed by few. However, Kaena’s performance skills exceed burlesque alone. She also maintains her practice as a traditional Polynesian performer to this day! Impossible to duplicate, get excited to meet the beautiful Kaena! 

SHAWNA THE BLACK VENUS: Shawna, known as the “Black Venus” started her burlesque career in 1972. She took a dare from a friend at an “amateur night” contest and won! That was the beginning of her professional dancing career. Inspiration came from headliners she was lucky to work with, including Leigh Sharon, Tempest Storm, and Terry Starr just to name a few. Shawna appeared in Guam, Puerto Rico and became famous throughout the East Coast and Mid-West in the 70s and 80s. Shawna was asked to participate as a bridesmaid in a nude wedding at Ponderosa Supper Club in Indiana. Shawna was well known for her “country Western” and spectacular “fire show” in which she twirled tassels with fire! She formally retired in 1994, but has since returned to burlesque to teach tassel twirling and do the “walk of fame” at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender in 2018 and 2019. Shawna has been featured in the book Legends of Burlesque: Then and Now. Shawna now works in healthcare for well-known clients. 


It is with a heavy heart that Spectacular Striptease announces the passing of one of its scheduled panelists Marinka, the “Queen of the Amazons”. The event will feature a tribute to her incredible legacy. 

Marinka was born in Havana, Cuba in 1940, and moved to New York City at 19 in the wake of the Cuban Revolution. She headlined as a bellydancer and female impersonator before becoming a striptease feature in the early 60s in New York City, where she appeared in Ann Corio's famous "This Was Burlesque." Briefly mentored by Rose La Rose, who gave Marinka her signature move of "love the curtains" — her performance style is an embodiment of glamour and grace. Marinka worked across the globe in all burlesque theatres and nightclubs, including Switzerland, Spain, Italy, France, Lebanon, and Argentina, and was a fixture of summer entertainment in the Catskills in the late 60s and early 70s. She appeared in several films, most notably in Bob Fosse's "All That Jazz." Marinka has been a member of the Burlesque Hall of Fame since its inception and just recently published her memoir, Marinka: From Havana to Burlesque.

Donations to assist with Marinka’s final expenses can be made here: burlycares.com/active-fundraisers/
Marinka’s autobiography can be purchased here: marinkabook.com/

ACCESSIBILITY NOTE: ASL interpretation will be available. 

Register in advance for this webinar:
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Download the Spectacular Striptease event Zoom background photo.

For more information or questions about the event, please contact Julia Matias at julia.matias@mail.utoronto.ca

Special thanks to the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies and the Mark S Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies for their generous support of this event.