What: The Minneapolis Burlesque Festival
When: Thursday and Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Where: The Ritz Theater
345 13th Ave. NE, Minneapolis
When University of Oregon student Judith Stein answered a “help wanted” ad for topless go-go girls, no experience necessary, she began her rollicking, rousing and lucrative career in the world of performance.
“I was quite horrified, but I applied for the job,” said Stein. “As soon as I got on stage and took my top off, I thought, ‘This is fun.’ So I stayed.”
Stein made burlesquing a career for 17 years of her life, stopping at the age of 40 to see what else the world had to offer her. The landscape of the burlesque field began to ascend into naughty promiscuity during the five years before her resignation, becoming too frenetic for her taste.
“It was starting to get quite explicit,” she said. “Hardly any costume, if any at all, and the G-string was off. One girl was shooting ping-pong balls out of her vagina — quite a good act, actually — but it got funky, and I was 40, and I was ready to quit.”
The former burlesque star began a business selling Victorian flannel nightgowns for women, though she put that project on hold to start a job, complete with benefits, caring for the elderly in her native Canada.
Stein’s departure from burlesque and entrance into a 9-to-5 was accepted among her Canadian peers, and whatever flak was received she strongly brushed off.
“When feminists got their knickers in a knot referencing women’s independence and freedom, I was like ‘Wait a minute, I was free, and I was independent when I was dancing,’” she said. “I have no shame.”
After receiving countless inquiries about her past profession, complete with a few patients who recognized her in her old days, Stein began sharing her profession for the art of burlesquing through teaching classes, beginning her revival into the entertainment industry.
Stein was recognized by the Burlesque Hall of Fame and inducted in as Canada’s only Legend of Burlesque.
Shortly after an assumedly stimulating performance in Minneapolis this weekend, Judith Stein will turn 65 with the sharpness of a feline and the spirit of a child — though innocence is in question.
“This revival is just such a hoot because it’s like, oh my god, here I am, 65 years old, taking my clothes off,” she said, “and I’m saying suck your stomach in, and keep your hands above your head so your tits aren’t dead!”
Her resurgence into the burlesque world is met with a warm welcome from the entertainment community, and she feels honored to be performing at the Ritz this weekend. We can expect two different types of performances this festive weekend from the legend herself — one a traditional tease, the other a self-proclaimed comedic routine.
“I never felt like I was particularly sexy on stage, I was more playful,” she said. “I used to say I did comedy; I took my clothes off and people laughed.”
Stein’s humor and talent in the burlesque industry are what make her a legend in the craft. She’s certain to make an impression at the first ever Minneapolis Burlesque Festival this weekend.