Stars of the AVT #30: Miss Astrid VonVoomer (Kate Valentine)
This post is one of a series profiling the hundreds of performers I’ve presented through my American Vaudeville Theatre in celebration of its 15th anniversary. Don’t miss the American Vaudeville Theatre’s 15th Anniversary ExTRAVaganza in the New York International Fringe Festival this August!
Miss Astrid is one of the true pioneers of New Burlesque and, as the picture above demonstrates, one of its giants. In her bio she calls herself “Arguably the best emcee in the U.S.” and you know what? I’m not gonna argue. Not just because she’ll step on my head with jackboots, but because she may be right. Burlesque is not only about sex, it’s about humor – it’s right there in the name, see? And in Astrid, the timeless, archetypical decadent, jaded Weimar chanteuse, Kate Valentine has one of the most fully developed, larger than life and hilarious characters on the burlesque scene.
She got her start on the west coast, in L.A.’s seminal and influential Velvet Hammer Burlesque in 1996. In 1997 she came to New York and started the Va Va Voom Room. I first caught it very early on at Triad, and wrote about it someplace – maybe Backstage? Maybe Citysearch or Theatremania? Within a few months she had moved up to a weekly show at the much larger venue Fez Under Time, where I saw her pack ‘em in, night after night after night, largely helped by press in NPR, BBC, Time magazine, and the New York Times. At a certain point I got up the nerve to perform there – it was one of my worst performances ever, and that’s really saying something! Eventually, the Va Va Voom Room grew to be bi-coastal, performing simultaneously in New York and San Francisco (and has also been presented at Miss Exotic World Pageant in Las Vegas.)
In 2002 I was lucky to have her as one of the dancers in my show Sea of Love, choreographed by Julie Atlas Muz, though in this she was Kate and not Astrid. In 2009, I finally got Astrid herself, when she was gracious enough to perform in my play Kitsch at Theater for the New City. For me, it was a thrill and an honor to have her there, and one of the best things about the experience. She’s one of the greats.
To learn more about vaudeville past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.