T his is the year that bisexual burlesque tease Honey Moonpie hopes to pop a pastie in Paris.
But first, the world of timeless titillation will be on display in Houston this month during the fifth annual Bayou City Burlesque & Circus Arts Festival at Warehouse Live on January 19.
“It’s a damned entertaining show,” says Moonpie, a bump-and-grinder who also serves as the stage manager and education liaison for the extravaganza. Moonpie lives in Richmond, enjoying an 11-year polyamorous relationship with a married husband and wife.
Festival producer KiKi Maroon promises a sexhibition of more than 40 stellar acts, including contortionists from California, acrobats from New York, and showgirls from Las Vegas. “You don’t have to be a jet-setter with an unlimited budget to catch them all in one night; you just have to be in Houston this month,” says Maroon. “The festival has given this city a reputation for curating the finest shows, featuring the most eclectic performers.”
Maroon didn’t have to look any farther than the stage door of a local bar to find Moonpie. The wide-eyed but inexperienced Moonpie showed up one night at Maroon’s “varie-tease” show like an eager Eve Harrington, hungry to learn the ins and outs of burlesque.
“I had a thousand questions,” says Moonpie. “I had seen it on TV—Las Vegas, Moulin Rouge, and the MTV Awards—and I loved the glamour and showiness of it. My biggest influence, to this day, is the movie Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Burlesque isn’t drag, but it also brings sensuality to the stage and you personally own it. You own yourself and your sexuality.”
Growing up by the railroad tracks in Rosenberg, 30 miles southwest of Houston, Moonpie was so shy as a youngster that she agonized over changing clothes in the school locker room. “I did a little bit of dance and got close to doing theater, but then I chickened out.”
Burlesque became her last temptation.
“I saw someone do a handstand straight into a flip, and I decided that I needed to figure out how to get into this,” Moonpie recalls. “I found basically any reason to be backstage. I got my girlfriend to draw a picture of KiKi so I could give it to her and meet her. I kind of pushed my way in, talking to performers, asking about this and that. I took classes in bump and grind, how to pose, how to strut, understanding what musicality is. I went full out.”
“Burlesque isn’t drag, but it also brings sensuality to the stage and you personally own it. You own yourself and your sexuality.”
After several years of training, she chose her stage name—“Something sweet, alluring, and sort of a cheap thrill. Honey Moonpie just kind of hit all the marks.” She debuted in 2013 at a benefit show to raise money for a museum of burlesque collectibles that former exotic dancer Dixie Evans ran in Las Vegas. Anyone could perform. “It was a bar show in the year that Dixie Evans passed away, so it was meaningful to me. I had a table of friends there, and a friend and I created an old-school vaudeville act [with my friend playing] my manager who would tell me how bad a stripper I was, so just get out there and do it. I was not mentally ready. I had on these little cupcake pasties, and I took my gloves off; I stripped, but not everything.”
Fast-forward three years to the Texas Queerlesque Festival in Dallas, where Moonpie performed her Madeline Kahn tribute number as Lili Von Shtupp from the 1974 Mel Brooks movie Blazing Saddles. “It’s a burlesque festival entirely produced, staffed, and cast by members of the LGBTQ community. It’s the only one of its kind in Texas.”
In 2017, Moonpie returned to Texas Queerlesque with a tribute to the musical Little Shop of Horrors that has become a signature number for her.
Meanwhile, she says, “Every month, I am the stage manager and co-host of ‘Burly Q Live’ at Warehouse Live, so I have to up my game. I do silly, one-off things like putting these two giant eyes on my butt and twerking. They’re like six inches in diameter, and I can isolate their movements. I have been saying for a while that I want to perform in Paris, so I guess it’s going to be with eyeballs on my bottom. I want this to be a year of travel for me.”
Moonpie is most proud of her association with the Bayou City Burlesque & Circus Arts Festival because it includes workshops by world-renowned burlesque artists, whose acts range from Vegas-style cabaret to bizarre sideshow stunts and death-defying feats.
“Setting up the classes is a big passion project for me,” says Moonpie. “This year’s classes will include a man who sits on a chair 10 feet in the air, and can-can girls from cruise ships who will teach us little cowgirls how to kick our heels up.”
Maoon says the festival has sold out four years in a row.
“Growing up doesn’t mean you stop wanting to run away with the circus,” Maroon says. “It just means that the circus now includes a woman bathing in a six-foot-tall martini glass. Who doesn’t want to run away with that?”
What: Bayou City Burlesque & Circus Arts Festival
When: 7 to 11 p.m., January 19
Where: Warehouse Live, 813 Saint Emanuel
Tickets and info: bcbcfestival.com
This article appears in the January 2019 edition of OutSmart magazine.