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September 19, 2014

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Melody Sweets: ‘Who doesn’t need a little sparkle in their lives?’

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Sam Morris

Melody Sweets performs during the Wednesday, March 28, 2012, performance of “Absinthe” at Caesars Palace.

Burlesque Hall of Fame: Tournament of Tease

Elektra Cute performs during the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend's Tournament of Tease Saturday, June 1, 2013 at the Orleans. Launch slideshow »

While Robin Leach heads to the East Coast and London before his traditional summer vacation under the Tuscan sun in Italy — plus, the Amalfi Coast this year — many of our Strip personalities have stepped forward in his absence to pen their own words of wisdom. We continue today with the stars of “Absinthe” at Caesars Palace: The Gazillionaire, his assistant Penny Pibbets and singer Melody Sweets.

By Melody Sweets

Here I am having lunch at one of my favorite Downtown Las Vegas restaurants, Eat (yes, that’s the name of the restaurant), sitting in good company with Dustin Wax, the executive director of The Burlesque Hall of Fame Museum. As we chat, I can’t help but wonder why he’s thanking me for all that I’ve done for the museum when, really, I feel as if I should be thanking him.

I am thankful for individuals like Dustin who have helped to keep the history of burlesque alive and for spreading the gospel of glitter, glamour and grit from Las Vegas to the individuals reading this column. If it weren’t for burlesque, I wouldn’t be starring in Las Vegas’ hit show “Absinthe,” and I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to thank Mr. Robin Leach for having me as a guest writer on VegasDeLuxe.com.

The history of burlesque is best told with a visit to The Burlesque Hall of Fame Museum located on Fremont Street in Downtown Las Vegas. The museum is an institution dedicated to honoring performers such as Sally Rand, Gypsy Rose Lee and Tempest Storm and present purrrformers including Dita Von Teese, Dirty Martini and myself.

The Burlesque Hall of Fame Museum originated as the private collection of an exotic dancer named Jennie Lee at an abandoned goat farm in Helendale, Calif. When Lee died in 1990, Dixie Evans, a now-retired burlesque performer, took over the farm and led tours through the exhibits. Since then, the collection has grown and now includes items such as gowns, shoes, pasties, G-strings, jewelry, posters, photographs and playbills related to famous burlesque performers from around the world.

I’ve always admired women who have gone against the grain, challenging society’s stereotypes on how women should look, act and feel; women who forego the path less traveled. The Burlesque Hall of Fame has give me the opportunity to meet many of these women, including the beautiful Evans and Storm, living legends who continue to inspire and empower women all around the globe.

Recently, Wax contacted me and asked if I would like to take part in a documentary on Storm, the American stripper, burlesque star and motion picture actress. I, of course, jumped at the chance!

Storm is the sweetest little thing with incredible talents and was made famous for her physical measurements: 44DD-25-35. At the accomplished age of 85, her energy and aura are still intoxicating. I can only hope that as I grow older, I am as active, energized and unapologetic as she is.

'Absinthe': March 28, 2012

Melody Sweets performs during the Wednesday, March 28, 2012, performance of Launch slideshow »

I once asked her how it was to be a striptease artist in the 1950s, when seeing naked flesh of a woman onstage was considered a downright sin, all the while being married to a black man, which also was considered taboo. Her husband, Herb Jeffries, is best remembered for being the first black signing cowboy and also for his collaborations with jazz legend Duke Ellington.

She gracefully responded that she didn’t recall any problems in her past, and that no one ever heckled or attacked her for who she was. Although I’m not quite sure she was remembering everything correctly, it made me happy to hear that was what she chose to remember.

Her upcoming documentary was filmed in part in the “Absinthe” venue at Caesars Palace here in Las Vegas. “Absinthe,” if you don’t know already, is the best show on the Las Vegas Strip, and I am honored to be the sole singer of it! The show features circus and burlesque acts, good music and cabaret-style singing, unbelievable feats of strength, balance and showmanship, all performed beneath a Belgian-style Spiegeltent.

In “Absinthe,” I play the role of “The Green Fairy,” a folkloric character who is said to magically appear after one has drunk absinthe. I open the show by “magically” appearing from the sky, flying down while singing “Slice of Heaven,” a song off my recently debuted album, “Burlesque in the Black.”

This year, I had the honor of purrrforming “Up All Night,” also off my album, while headlining the Saturday night event of the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend. The Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend is the world’s largest, longest-running and most prestigious burlesque event, taking place for more than 20 years. With four days and nights of live entertainment, vendors, classes and activities, the weekend is a sexy, fun and exciting fundraiser for the Burlesque Hall of Fame Museum. The event brings out the “best of the best” in burlesque from around the globe, with attendees competing for Miss Exotic World.

Burlesque is here to stay, and I think we’re all the better for it. People need to escape, laugh and connect with others, and burlesque offers all of that. Burlesque can be comedic, political and sexy, all the while telling a story; it also could just be a sparkly good time. Who doesn’t need a little sparkle in their lives?

Robin, thank you again for having me as your guest columnist while you’re away in Italy sipping the finest wines in the most beautiful country in the world. If you visit Calabria, try the Pizza Stefania, and please tell my family I said “Buon Giorno!”

Check out our other guest columns today from the two other “Absinthe” stars, and on Wednesday look for guest columns from Scott Willis and Wade McCollum, two of the lead actors from “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” at The Venetian, and guest host Ian Ziering of Chippendales at The Rio.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow VDLX Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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