For the fourth year in a row, a couple hundred artsy strippers and their fans will convene at Ruba Club on Saturday night to give each other awards for taking off their clothes.
Yes, it’s time again for the annual Golden Tassel Jawns.
Founded initially as a small fundraiser burlesque show [full disclosure: this author is one of the co-founders and remains a committee member], the Golden Tassel Jawns has grown to a significant annual event in the Philly cabaret arts scene. It’s a poignant one as well, considering 100 percent of all proceeds raised gets donated.
This year, the recipient is the American Civil Liberties Union.
“It’s a huge honor and it’s fun to be recognized by your community, but ultimately it’s all about raising money for a great cause,” said Miso Honey, a burlesque performer nominated for three awards this year, including Best Debutt (for new performers), Squad Goals (for duets and group acts) and Sploosh of the Year, arguably the most prestigious category of all and one that is voted on live at the show.
“It’s nerve-wracking to be performing in front of all of my peers. I want to do well and make the people proud who have helped me get here,” Honey said. “Last year, I was working the door and I only knew a handful of people.”
The nomination is a testament not only to Miso Honey’s talent but also to the permeable nature of the burlesque scene that someone new to the art form can be up for the top award in the event.
The Philly-based performer entered the scene about a year ago and is a graduate of the Philadelphia Burlesque Academy’s act development course. Yes, Philadelphia has a school for burlesque; in fact, it has enough burlesque education centers that there’s an entire category this year at the Golden Tassel Jawns for burlesque education.
Naturally, the award is called School of THOT.
“My first Golden Tassel Jawns was the first year I was in burlesque,” said Veronica Vicious, a local performer and producer who is now one of the co-producers of the event. That first year, she won for Meow-Best Kitten in recognition of her skills as a burlesque stage manager. “I was super honored to be nominated. It was so amazing to feel seen, even though I was so new. I look forward to it every year,” she said.
In the last few years, burlesque has exploded across cities in America but especially in Philadelphia. The mixture of subversive art, sexiness and comedy is a good fit for this gritty town. A decade ago, the Philadelphia area had only a handful of troupes and only a few dozen performers. Shows were often held on a quarterly basis. At most, they were once a month.
In 2019, however, there is a show every night of the week and an online forum for local performers boasts over 650 members.
As of four years ago, the scene had grown large enough that it was actually possible for performers to not know about each other. Thus, the Golden Tassel Jawns was born as a way to get a disparate group of misfits together in one space.
“It was a really crazy time. I think people might have been fucking in the hallway,” said local performer and producer Fleur de Soleil of the first year of the awards in 2016. “It changed my life.”
During the inaugural year, Soleil was a bartender at Victoria Freehouse, the home of the city’s weekly burlesque show, Full Front Street. She fell in love with the art form after watching it every Monday night for months. Inspired, she decided to get into performance herself and entered Philadelphia Burlesque Battle Royale, an eight-week burlesque boot camp.
Now a noted performer and producer herself, Soleil is up for two awards this year, including True Gritty, the award for the “most Philly” act, for her homage to the Mummers. She says when she saw the nominations, she cried. Regardless of the outcome on Saturday, she’s planning to have a great time. “I think people lose focus that it’s a fundraiser, not just awards,” she said.
“It [does] bring out the best and worst in people,” Veronica Vicious acknowledged when asked about the competition aspect. “It’s easy to forget that it’s a charity event, which is the main thing. It’s amazing that we raise so much money each year [but] it’s [also] a great bonding moment for all the different corners of the burlesque scene. We can be together for one night.”
Golden Tassel Jawns | June 29, 9pm (doors open at 8pm). $15. Ruba Club, 414 Green St. eventbrite.com/e/golden-tassel-jawns-tickets-62863415167