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October 25, 2014

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Photos: Dita Von Teese surprises at Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender at Orleans

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Christopher DeVargas

Gina Bon Bon performs during the 56th Annual Titans of Tease Reunion Showcase at the Orleans, Friday, May 31, 2013

'Titans of Tease'

Haji performs during the 56th Annual Titans of Tease Reunion Showcase at the Orleans, Friday, May 31, 2013 Launch slideshow »

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 »

“Never leave early,” emcee Kingfish warned the crowd Sunday night at “Icons and All-Stars,” the star-studded closing event for the 2013 Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender.

This was advice well-heeded, as neo-burlesque superstar Dita Von Teese made an unscheduled appearance onstage to present one of the evening’s three “Sassy Lassy” awards to Catherine D’Lish, her best friend and burlesque innovator.

“In 1994, I finally had worked up the courage to compete in Miss Exotic World for the first time,” Von Teese recalled. “But when I found out Catherine D’Lish was competing, I chickened out.”

Von Teese extolled D’Lish as a leader of the neo-burlesque movement of the 1990s who introduced extravagant costumes and props and the use of set pieces that today define the theatrical, over-the-top style of contemporary burlesque performance.

Though Von Teese didn’t perform, she was one of many surprises and spectacles that entertained audiences at the four-day international event at The Orleans devoted to the art of the tease.

Other noted appearances included a performance from D’Lish, bedazzled from head to toe in Swarovski crystals, contemporary icons Dirty Martini and MIchelle L’Amour and 78-year-old “First Lady of Burlesque” April March.

The Weekender’s top talent shined at Saturday night’s Tournament of Tease — now in its 23rd year — a four-hour slate of performances in which performers hailing from as far as Japan and Australia pushed the boundaries of sensuality and athleticism in pursuit of titles including “Best Debut,” “Best Group” and “Miss Exotic World 2013,” the “Miss America” pageant of the burlesque world. Las Vegas’ own Melody Sweets and the cast of “Absinthe” at Caesars Palace also made an appearance.

Past title winners showcased their talents in Sunday's "Icons" showcase, which featured one of the weekend's several tributes to Sparkly Devil, the noted burlesque star and Hall of Fame advisory board member who was killed in an automobile accident over Memorial Day Weekend.

Performer Jo "Boobs" Weldon donned twisted, bedazzled red horns and a flame-hued cape worn by Liz Renay to lead a triumphant, Inferno-themed group number in homage to the late star, which featured men and women as her fiery minion; those who attended will likely never view red be-tassled pasties the same way again.

The Weekender, which also included classes, historical seminars and fashion shows, marked the third successful year for the Hall of Fame’s event, the proceeds of which go to benefit the Las Vegas-based nonprofit Burlesque Hall of Fame museum.

Va-va-voom, indeed.

Follow Andrea Domanick on Twitter at @AndreaDomanick and fan her on Facebook at Facebook.com/AndreaDomanick.

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