Pasties at Pampas: Burlesque at Seattle's Poshest Cabaret
The posh Pampas Room—pronounced "pamp-as," not "pompous"—is the lounge adjunct of Belltown steak house El Gaucho. Those entering from Wall Street descend a long, carpeted stairway directly into the lap of luxury, where the bar curves off into infinity in the soothing dim. (The stairs are precipitous, but the distinct impression is that should you fall, you'd be cushioned by big wads of unseen money.) The room itself only nods to art-deco swank, but it feels as rich as the clientele. Jacketed waitstaff glide about anticipating desires, and there's a thrum of anticipation: It's opening night of the Blue Moon Cabaret, bringing burlesque to Pampas Room for the very first time.
How many people here are burlesque virgins? Hostess Miss Indigo Blue wants to know at the start of the show. She calls everyone "darlings," and after a little teasing and coaxing (her specialty), the answer is a surprisingly resounding cheer. Apparently this echelon of Seattle society has been waiting for the likes of El Gaucho to give burlesque its imprimatur; now they are here with bells on to see the Blue Moon Cabaret take it (almost) all off. With the show come various amuse-bouches, beet salad with bleu d'Auvergne, El Gaucho's famed filet (or, if you must, chicken or salmon), and a trio of desserts. For the amusement of mouth, eyes, and ears, the nearly sold-out house has paid $100 to $225 per person (the latter persons getting their posteriors front-row table seating and their interiors Veuve Clicquot).
Is it worth it? If you're asking the question, you're in the wrong place (though the dinner alone may be priced from El Gaucho's menu at approximately $75). The silver-screen-style beauty in the feathered white pillbox hat and her older gentleman friend seem to be enjoying themselves enormously from the get-go, and as the wine and cocktails flow, everybody gets in the mood. Onstage, performers plumb burlesque's classic era, peeling their couture-level costumes (by the likes of It's Mark Mitchell and Danial Hellman) away with all due lack of haste. The smiling Shanghai Pearl explores some old-fashioned "orientalism" with the help of an abacus; dainty Inga Ingenue dances with two pink-feathered fans, a couple handfuls of spangles, and nothing else; Ginger, the toast of Paris (looking suspiciously like local burlesque star the Swedish Housewife), demonstrates the improper way to pour Veuve. But it's the aptly named Alotta Boutté, all the way from San Francisco, who works the room, singing "Ain't Misbehavin'" and stealing the show.
The Blue Moon Cabaret alternates with the Dark Side of the Moon Burlesque most Fridays through December, and future lineups for both shows include male performers. If this is objectification, it'll be going at least two ways, darlings.
Pampas Room, 90 Wall St, 728-1337