Thursday, January 24, 2013

Strip Tease Expert Jo Weldon Visits Vegas Burlesque Studio

Photo Credit: Scott Shuster

As I entered the LVBC studio, I saw about 15 female students filling up the seats as New York City's Jo Weldon lectured. The topic they came to learn was two-fold. One: How to Be Prepared for Press, Producers, and Festival Applications was available during the first segment and Two: Striptease Expertise for the latter half which is billed as Weldon's signature class. An amazingly low rate of $30 was asked for the two classes combined, or $20 taken separately.

The award-winning founder of the New York School of Burlesque, Weldon has written the first known 'how to' book on Burlesque entitled The Burlesque Handbook [HarperCollins/ItBooks 2010]. Widely recognized as a leading expert in today's modern world of Strip Tease and Burlesque, this is Weldon's first time teaching at any Vegas studio.

The students were varied: young, old, tall, thin, heavy, casual, to fixed-up pin-ups, just proving Burlesque and Weldon's wide appeal and the varied motivations for learning the craft. But one thing I've admired about Weldon for a long time is she keeps the sexy in Burlesque. Unabashed tease performance is clearly her game and she's touched the hearts and minds of hundreds of thousands of audience members and students world-wide at this point in her over 20 year career (she literally just got back from Italy). And though wise she still looks as fit, young and beautiful as ever.

She talked about details, had students practice with her, and gave specifics that could be used for a multitude of wardrobes. Affectionately known as Jo "Boobs" Weldon, she describes her style as 'shameless and sexy'. While the material cannot be repeated out of respect for the instructor, I'll say that my eyes were opened even further to the body-language that is strip tease. A distinctly American art form born in New York city, few are as versed in its subtleties as Jo Weldon. How to avoid and handle wardrobe malfunctions, how to draw your audience in or choosing to break the fourth wall were just a couple topics Weldon breezed over. She's done this before.

She says her favorite burlesque number in the film "Burlesque" was the guy with the box of cookies. I wondered if people present realized that she helped produced a series of fan-dancing how-to's for Christina Aguilera's website to help promote the film. Weldon begins to wrap-up the class with "Remember, Burlesque audiences come to the shows to like the performers. If you've ever done stand-up comedy, that must be a huge relief to you. They're there to love you. Be grateful for that and give them something to see. Let them know you know they're there. Show them everything you've got. Once you've shown it to them, let 'em drink it in."

Congratulations to Cha Cha Velour who operates the Las Vegas Burlesque Classes Studio for bringing in instructors of this caliber to Vegas year round. Learn about Jo Weldon at and on Twitter @joweldon. Visit Cha Cha Velour's Studio at Look for the upcoming in-depth interview with Jo Weldon in my second eBook out Feb. 2013 entitled "Best of Frankie Tease Magazine Vol 2" via

Jo Weldon Teaching "Strip Tease Expertise" Jan. 2013

Students with Jo Weldon at LVBC Studio Vegas

Monday, January 21, 2013

Burlesque History Comes in Sweets' Release

A Debut Album Event Review of Melody Sweets 
"Burlesque in the Black"

The highly anticipated debut album show was built up with adverts in Las Vegas over several weeks and each major paper in town had done their preview. The star had just released her debut album of originals after well over a year of success as the headliner in what has been voted "Best Show" many times over. The show is a turn-of-the century tribute with live singing and strip tease by Sweets, and world-class acrobatics at-close-range, combined with wild and inappropriate humor by Host the Gazillionaire and Side-kick Sock Puppet Queen Penny Pibbets. Flesh and skill are what holds the show together as well as more up-close views of  aerials than any Cirque show ever offered.

The unabashed sexiness that Sweets exudes for Absinthe is obviously the natural resting place for the artist in her own original music. The release party and show began with a video intro where co-star Penny Pibbets presented the sock puppet Melody Sweets from the back stage dressing room. Interrupted by Sweets as she impersonates the star, Pibbets is busted and the video ends. This media was followed by the world premier of Sweets's new music video "Love Bite" the tune of which is still echoing in my head. The complex and dark lyrics mixed with rich body-painting and slithering snake images created an unforgettable style. Shot at Red Rock Canyon and using local body painters "Skin City" we saw a behind the scenes look at how it all happened, including some of the more funny moments as the male cast members of Absinthe joined her in a choreography for the video. 
The video became the live performance and Sweets finally made her entrance atop the shoulders of a hunk, trailing a huge scaly tail. She was lifted into the Absinthe Fairie's top of the tent position and swirled around as her tail was shed revealing just flesh, beads and pasties. Applause and hoots rang out. "Love bite, love bite.... lose control" Sweets crooned as the spectacle continued.

Penny Pibbets and the Gazzillionaire (who was a new character only for Sweets show) came and offered CD's for sale which was its own spectacle. Costume changes ensued and two women with coal-mine-like head gear flashlights and blonde locks started the next performance, launching into another clever concept ala Sweets. House lights down, the headgear lights brought Sweets into focus on the second Absinthe tent stage. With a vintage feel in its melody, Sweets sang "Gold Digga" replete with layers of gold and sparkling gold wings, her coal mining assistants began to remove one item at a time while she sang. It was utter magnificence to the eyes. The costume and Sweet's body were ravenous.

Next the house lights came on as one hapless gentlemen was recruited from the crowd to learn how to tassel on stage. The Gazillionaire came forth as his altar ego looking like a gold-diapered Maharishi with a huge shiny gold turban, and dipped (previously worn by the star) Melody Sweets' pasties in spirit gum and attached them to his bare chest. Acting as host Pibbets told the gent "You can take these pasties home and do whatever you want with them" Pibbets informed him. As she attached pasties to the outside bosom of her big blue puffy sleeved dress, she demonstrated that jumping would spin the tassels. He did it and garnered all the audience applause possible.

In an elegant black and white high cut gown, Melody Sweets took the back stage and sang the song "Slice of Heaven" which she opens the Absinthe show with ten times a week. A catchy ditty that requires the audience snap along with her, all complied. "I've got what you're cravin' for your - misbehavin'" sang the audience with Sweets. We all clearly had seen the show. Sweets stayed in gown and in concluding the song introduced Kalani Kokonuts "Miss Exotic World" and a Vegas local. 

Kokonuts worked a gorgeous plumed hat and seductive velour jacket and treated the chair in the middle of the round stage like her subservient. Glorious poses accented her amazing tiny waste and buxom bosom, and netted little bottom. Vegas is fortunate to have both these magnanimous performers, as were we in seeing them both in one night.

Sweets resumed with a chat to the audience about how long the album has taken to come to fruition and how excited she is that it's finally here. "Absinthe is the craziest show I've ever been in, and I hope it goes on forever" she stated as the audience applauded. Now very special guests the Candy Shop Boys (who were imported from New York to perform for this song) began providing the electric piano, stand-up bass and violin backing for "Fly Away" which is not on the album. "I hope I don't cry for this one" Sweets said and got through the beautiful melodic lament without doing so. "I didn't know when you said hello it meant goodbye" were lyrics proving Sweets can explore any human emotion and is unafraid to do so.

She spoke about the cast-mates of Absinthe and the show's success and that lead right into "As Good As It Gets" for the finale number. Moving through the audience in the tent with grace is what she's become famous for here in Vegas. As she wound her way to the round center stage, she began to be joined by all of her cast mates. "Seize the moment and have no regrets.... this could be as good as it gets" found every cast member sitting on the stage surrounding her as they held champagne glasses and cheered. As Sweets sang this one, the sincerity of the words she has written came through. First, she loves her job. Second, she is executing her career with artistic autonomy, a dream come true for any creative. Third, she is the first ever Burlesque artist to write her original music and debut it in album or show form. There was a lot of history being made right then and there.

As the show ended the mingle fest began. Fans and VIP took photos with the star, congratulated her, and got their albums autographed. The show started at midnight and it was almost 1:45 am by the time we really left the tent. Deven May of the Jersey Boys smash hit Show at Paris was on hand, as well as Dustin Wax and Laura Herbert of the Burlesque Hall of Fame, and trumpeter Chandler Judkins from Frankie Moreno's Show at the Stratosphere. All proceeds from the door fee went to support the Burlesque Hall of Fame. 

The success of Sweets is not only in her clever originality but her absolute classic sexiness and torch stylings. The album is a beautiful mix of electronic music and throwback 30's and 40's Jazz stylings that would make Billy Holiday want to join in the chorus. Congratulations on this career triumph, and may Absinthe never end its run in Vegas. I know the audience present shared in a very personal moment of accomplishment with the singer and performer that we'll not soon forget.

Buy "Burlesque in the Black" now via
See Absinthe the Vegas Show

Tidbits and Teasers: Hard Rock's AVN Wrap, Sweets' Love Bite, Frankie Moreno Press Tour, Best of Vol.2

Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest 
at Body English Nightclub Afterhours Hard Rock Hotel
Photo by Erik Kabik

The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hosted the AVN Awards Show
Jesse Jane, Kayden Kross, Riley Steele, Stoya, Selena Rose, Brett Rossi, Emily Addison and Taylor Vixen were some of those on hand. The AVN Awards Show celebrated its 30th Anniversary. Asa Akiraand and Jesse Jane hosted the night and gave out awards including “Best Amateur Release,” “Best Art Direction,” “Best Makeup”. Following the awards, stars flooded Hard Rock Hotel & Casino’s nightclubs where they drank and danced the night away. All the clubs were hoppin' and a special appearance by Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest was only one of the highlights of the festivities.

Melody Sweets Releases Music Video Premier via Vegas Seven
Absinthe star and singer Melody Sweets just through her album release party and local rag Vegas Seven has launched her world premier music video "Love Bite" online. Not only did she produce it, but she used Skin City Body Painting, and the male cast members of Absinthe to round it out. Check it out here, and tune into this site for more coverage on the release party. Watch Video on Vegas Seven. 18+.

Best of Frankie Tease Magazine Vol. 2
The second volume in the our new eBook series is shaping up amazingly. Due to a few additions of high level star interviews to be included in the book, the release date is pushed to mid February. It will be $3.99 and include interviews  with Reverend Horton Heat, Frankie Moreno, Murray Sawchuck, Penny Pibbets, Amy C. Hanley, Tonya Kay, Perle Noire, Eric Sandoval, Jo Weldon, Brandon "Gooch" Hahn and more. There will be a total of approximately 28 stories from the Vegas region still focusing on burlesque, comedy, culture, and music. The Vol. 2 eBook intends to outshine the first edition times 100. Stay tuned for "The Best of Frankie Tease Magazine Vol.2". We promise you'll not be disappointed.

Frankie Moreno Tours Talk Shows
Playboy Radio, Hallmark Home and Family, Tom Green Live, are a few stops on Moreno's Press whirlwind tour this week. A source at the Stratosphere told me the showroom and Moreno's live show are closed this week only during additional light installations for the upcoming late night show "Pin Up" starring the acclaimed Playboy Playmate of 2011 Clair Sinclair. Moreno's live music with sexy pin ups, additional singers and dancers? I don't know about you but Feb. 25 (the show's debut night) can't come soon enough.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Singer Mark Giovi Takes Vegas By Storm Almost Nightly

I encountered Mark Giovo while on assignment photographing Ann Marie's 90th birthday party at the world famous old style Vegas Italian restaurant "Casa Di Amore". The unassuming restaurant is hidden way off-strip on East Tropicana. The 150 or so capacity dinner house has a small stage and sound system as well as more seating at the bar, where you can also take in dinner. This particular night was full of about 100 guests for the birthday party, and there was also a just-married couple who chose to spend their night at Casa Di Amore.
I was so busy with the party photography that only part of me was focused on the singer on stage backed by the house drummer Clyde Dual and keyboardist Ronnie Payne. The singer in question? Mark Giovi. Mark is disabled, (his left arm is shorter than his right) but you only notice it for about the first 15 seconds of seeing him. After that, all you'll ever notice is his boyish good looks (at age 44) and that voice. Possessing the power of a rock singer, and the finesse of an opera singer, he received a full standing ovation that night for his rendition of "Music of the Night" from Phantom of the Opera. I bet he gets that a lot. I couldn't personally believe my ears. It was epic. That's when I decided this singer was much much more than he appeared. I arranged the interview, and here is what he had to say.

FT: Hi Mark it's a pleasure to speak with you. My first question is an obvious one. When did you start singing?
MG: I started singing when I was about seven years old. My grandparents had a restaurant in New Jersey. My father's band used to play Thursday, Friday, Saturdays. I would go into the restaurant and start singing with his band around age seven or eight. The first song I ever sung in public was "You Light Up My Life" (Joe Brooks). 

FT: Was this an Italian restaurant?
MG: Yes.

FT: Would you consider yourself a traditional Italian singer?
MG:  I wouldn't say that because I do sing songs in Italian, arias and things like that, but I don't speak Italian. 

FT: When did you migrate to Vegas?
MG: It'll be nine years in March that my wife and I decided to move from New Jersey. I had lived in Los Angeles prior to that for about ten years. I traveled the world as a back-up singer and tour manager for major recording artist Aaron Carter (brother of Back Street Boy's Nick Carter). Aaron was a teen age pop star who sold over ten million records. I was his road manager. I met my wife back home in New Jersey and I moved back there to be with her and we got married. I couldn't take the winters any more, because I was used to living in California. I didn't want to deal with the snow and cold weather. So we moved out here about nine years ago.

FT: Did Vegas call your name because of all the stage opportunities? 
MG: Yeah, I wanted to get out of the tour managing and get back into the singing. I said "Let's try Las Vegas". We came out here, and we're doing okay. I came out here we had no place to live really, because we were just going to stay with a buddy until we got our feet wet. I had no place to live, we had no jobs and she was pregnant. 

FT: Now that's love. She followed you.
MG: She did yeah.

FT: Where did you get your start on the Vegas stages?
MG: The first few months that I was here, I couldn't get a job doing anything, not anything. Not just singing alone, not anything. A friend of mine who I met who was in the entertainment business out here had a production company and he also owned a concrete company. He gave me a job with his concrete company. I started working doing that and then little by little I got more and more gigs singing and I was able to stop doing that. Then, I was asked to be at the show which was at the Stratosphere called "Bite", and I was there for six years. (The topless show has since changed formats and moved from the Stratosphere to the Plaza downtown). 

FT: I never got to see that show. What kind of music did you sing in it? 
MG: That was all classic rock music. We did a version of "Come Sail Away". I did rock version of "Moondance". And then a medley of the Opera Nessun Dorma and into "Stairway to Heaven". 

FT: How has life after "Bite" been?
MG: Life after Bite has been really good. I also was one of the Las Vegas Tenors. We started the group the Las Vegas Tenors. We sang opera at the Hilton and Suncoast for a bit. I haven't been doing that for a while now. But everything has been really fantastic. I'm working four nights a week at Casa Di Amore, and I also do an open jam night thing at the Tap House which is on Charleston just east of Jones, every Monday Night. That's been a success, I've been going for about a year and a half.

FT: I imagine you get a lot of VIP's coming to your shows.
MG: Some, yeah. Well I've had people from the rock world. Paul Shortino (Rough Cut, Quiet Riot) has been in. I've had Rich Little who's come through. Steve Rossi, they come in. Next weekend coming up I'm going to be opening up for Brad Garrett at his MGM comedy club. I'm opening up for him Friday Saturday and Sunday of next week. '

FT: What will you sing?
MG: Mostly blues. I'll do two or three songs, and then the comedians come out. Brad heard me sing at an event and then asked me to come down and open up for him when he's in town. 

FT: You get your gigs after they hear you sing then?
MG: Yea a lot of times they hear me and ask if I can do a date somewhere else.

FT: Your range is shocking.
MG: I've been a heavy metal singer, I've been in the Las Vegas Tenors doing opera, and I also do R&B and blues, a little bit of everything. 

FT: Is Casa Di Amore part of underground Vegas?
MG: To be honest with you it's definitely a well known local place, but it also is.. last night we had a party of 36 from Washington state. We get a lot of tourists, and a lot of people from the strip. They want to come to the "old time Vegas".

FT: The Tap House is an event you host right?
MG: Yeah I usually get about 20 different singers, five to ten different musicians come in. I have a full band I work with there but we get anywhere from five to ten different musicians coming in. Sometimes we end up with a whole horn section. It's a lot of fun.

FT: Well it's great to talk to a working artist. Congratulations, and stay busy.
MG: It's great to be a working artist. Thank You.

See Mark Giovi at Casa Di Amore  Wed-Sat. 6:30-10:30pm, 2850 East Tropicana Ave., (reservations recommended) (702) 433-4967.

Catch the Open-Mic where other professionals jam with Mark Giovi as host at the Tap House, Mon. 7:30-11:30, 5589 W. Charleston Blvd. (reservations recommended) 702 870-2111.

Mark Giovi opens for Brad Garrett Jan. 25, 26 27 at Garrett's Comedy Club at MGM Resort, and other dates. Tickets 866-740-7711.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Photo Focus : Reverend Horton Heat at Hard Rock Vinyl

We're hard at work editing and finalizing the amazing 25 or so articles and interviews for the Best of Frankie Tease Magazine Vol. 2. Do us one favor and tell all your friends about the candid and spectacular interviews with today's stage stars who've come through Vegas during July - Dec. of 2012, which will be in the book. What a half year it's been!

Here is a couple teaser photos from the multi-part Reverend Horton Heat interview and show review, which will be featured in the new eBook "Best of Frankie Tease Magazine Vol.2". Enjoy, and thanks for your understanding as we scurry to deadline.

Rev in blue c u

trio action foto focus

The Reverend Horton Heat is a trio out of Dallas, Texas, that tours through the U.S. constantly. They play all types of music, but mainly Rockabilly. Photo by Frankie Tease. Pictured: L- Jim Heath (aka Reverend Horton Heat), C- Scott Churilla, R- Jimbo Wallace.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Burlesque Star and Singer Melody Sweets Album Release Party January at Ceaser's Palace

Melody Sweets has had music featured on MTV, VH1, A&E and National Geographic on hit shows such as Celebrity Fit Club and PUNK’D. She is also the first performer in the history of burlesque to have produced, written and starred in her own music video for “Slice of Heaven.” A lover of the arts, Melody Sweets has had the privilege of performing for and collaborating with such acclaimed artists including STING, Bj√∂rk, Moby, Alice Cooper, The Bravery, Marc Jacobs, Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas, Adriana Lima and Harvey Keitel."

Since 2011 fans and tourists in Vegas have enjoyed the starring role Melody Sweets plays in the top-notch production Absinthe. As promised during my 2012 interview with her (in Best of Frankie Tease Magazine Vol.1 eBook) the star has brought an entire album of her original brand of music to us entitled "Burlesque in the Black". Enchanted by her voice and style, many fanatic fans have been waiting more than a year as the artist worked to finalize her album between ten shows a week at the Ceasars Palace tent. 

This Jan. 19, 2013 is Miss Sweet's night as she takes time to perform live and present songs off her brand new album. Come one come all, and enjoy Sweet's seductive melodies while contributing to the Burlesque Hall of Fame Museum (all event proceeds go to BHOF). Penthouse Forum said “’Tease Queen’ Melody Sweets is a dynamite little package ready to explode in a big way!” I don't know what that means, but I know I want to be there when it happens. We'll be on hand to cover the story, so see you there.

Saturday Jan. 19, 2013 at the Absinthe tent at Ceasars Palace, Las Vegas. Doors: 11:30pm, Show: Midnight. Cost: $12 advance, or $20 at door. Original music by Melody Sweets.  For album purchase and tickets see

View the debut album event review on 1/19/13 here