Fred Bear and Bearlesque

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If you go down to the woods tonight... Bearlesque's Fred Bear tells Time Out about judging boy burlesque tournaments and his plans to overhaul ITV's Saturday night output

  • Fred Bear and Bearlesque

    Bearlesque's Fred Bear suspends disbelief

  • Who are the three bears?

    ‘Actually, there are five bears in Bearlesque: Fred Bear – founder of the gang and Liza Minelli in his own fantasy world. Luke Bear – suave and sophisticated winner of the Bistrotheque Bear Beauty Competition this year. Simon Bear – fan of carnivals and classical burlesque, wants to run away to the circus! Justin Bear – all tattoos, teeth and personality. And our baby-cub, Dan Bear – the heart-breaking, blonde bombshell.’

    What’s the difference between girl burlesque and boy burlesque?

    ‘Not a lot, as far as we’re concerned. More body hair, perhaps?’


    Is boylesque the last great taboo?

    ‘If you mean “boy” burlesque then no, not really. I feel that burlesque has no particular boundaries, we believe that if you love the way you look – no matter what size or shape – others will want you. There are mature and disabled performers hopefully coming to a cabaret stage near you soon. In Bearlesque we don’t recognise taboos, just challenges.’

    Do you think that straight guys have a problem combining slapstick with raunchy sexiness?

    ‘I think the current genre needs more of everything. Amazingly, the burlesque scene seems totally accepting of everybody and celebrates all sexuality. I think I have yet to meet any “straight” performers, most seem to swing anyway. The scene seems very appreciative of humour as well as sexiness; audiences appear to love bears, which is a thrill for us. I suspect, though, that a hardcore pole-dancer might find it hard to generate laughs.’

    You judged some of the recent tournaments – describe some of the male burlesque routines you saw and liked.

    ‘There was the lovely Carrington, a Charlie Chaplin strip-act with bum-tassles and Nathan Evans with his “emotional striptease” – he showed us some interesting ideas about what to do with cock piercings!’

    What’s the future for Bearlesque?

    'Our own Saturday night variety show on ITV, live from the Palladium. Along the same lines as the Black and White Minstrel Show, but with bear and buxom girl burlesque performers. Well, we can all dream!’Bearlesque perform every Thursday at VauxhallVille Cabaret at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. Julie Cook’s Burlesque Boyz photographic exhibition runs Nov 1-Dec 15 at the Four Corners Gallery

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