Whether she’s donning rhinestone lingerie and feathered dusters on stage, or simple pencil skirts paired with fabulous heels off-stage, burlesque performer Kitty Crimson throws fashion trends out like a satin glove teasingly removed in favor of simplistic, classic, feminine lines and timeless pieces.
Kitty Crimson, aka Heather Bruck, is one of the founders of Ooh La La Presents, a burlesque troupe that has been going strong for 16 years in Denver. The troupe formed in 2000 after Kitty and co-founder Michelle Scheffer attended the first ever Tease-O-Rama in New Orleans. Coming from a strict background of performing pre-sixties inspired burlesque acts with Vivienne VaVoom’s Burlesque As It was, Kitty was inspired by the creative movement of neo-burlesque from solo acts coming from New York to Seattle’s troupe Gun Street Girls. Ooh La La’s first performance was on the stage that once belonged to a lesbian bar called The Zoo and now belongs to the 10-year-old 3 Kings Tavern, which is located on South Broadway in Denver. Kitty moved to Denver from Southern California 20 years ago and has performed on that same stage through all of its various proprietors. 3 Kings Tavern is host to Ooh La La’s Panties at the Bar every Monday night where Kitty Crimson puts on a burlesque show with a new theme each week.
Onstage and off-stage, Kitty’s fashion sense is both timeless and innovative.
303: Do you make all of your own costumes?
KC: Typically, I will buy my lingerie and then I will customize it in some way. I may buy a bra and take off the straps and replace it with ribbon and dye it with fabric dye so that it’s a custom color. I’ll always customize each piece. 90 percent of the time I make all of my own outer costumes. I did recently purchase one and I totally feel like a cheater, but I just had to do it. I got one of the Catherine D’lish dusters from Boudoir By D’lish. I’ve made them in the past, but mine are just so simple, so this year I treated myself. I feel like a princess when I wear that.
303: What three costume pieces are your favorites?
KC: I have specific lingerie that I love because I like the way it fits me. I have this marabou feather stole that I made years ago, that’s hot pink, and it’s always one of my favorite things to wear just because it’s such a statement piece. I always love long robes and long dusters. It’s just a really fun piece to play with. I feel like I can do a four-minute long song with just a duster and lingerie and not at any point fumble for what to do. So that’s always fun to work with.
303: How do you choose your ensemble for daily wear?
Kitty Crimson: I have never considered myself very fashion forward because I don’t follow trends. I very much am a believer in classic, simple pieces. Some of my favorite pieces are from Old Navy or something like that. Where, it’s a pencil skirt that I purchased at Old Navy with a tube top, but if I pair it with a nice sweater and some heels, all of the sudden it feels very vintage. I believe in super simple and classic pieces. I’m not very extravagant in my everyday wear. Although, I wear heels every day and false eyelashes every day, and all of that, I don’t necessarily wear loud statement pieces.
303: You perform regularly at 3 Kings Tavern, Lannies’ Clocktower Cabaret and have performed at DaDa Art Bar as well. Are there any other venues that you favor in Denver?
KC: I have had the pleasure, recently, of performing again with Vivienne VaVoom, and she does a show at Ophelia’s, which is such a cool venue. It has that vintage vibe. I feel like burlesque at a place that used to be a brothel is so meant to be. I also love going down to Colorado Springs and guest performing with Peaks and Pasties. Sometimes, I’ll go up to Fort Collins and guest perform with other troupes. I look forward to every show.
You can see Kitty Crimson in person at 3 Kings Tavern every Monday night for Panties at the Bar and find and like her troupe, Ooh La La Presents, on Facebook for more shows and dates.
All photography by Candace Peterson.