My Gay Toronto - 416 Scene

The 10th Annual Great Canadian
Girlesque Expo 2015
has more than just Girls, Girls, Girls

"The audience feels beautiful living through the performers," says Mysterion, the producer and frequently also host, of the 10th Annual Great Canadian Girlesque Expo. "It shows it's not a cookie cutter world. Everyone is a sexual being. Even if you're a prude, you're still sexual. Burlesque allows you to accept that. It's very inviting and attainable. The audience feels that anyone can fulfill that fantasy of stripping in public."

And Mysterion has put his money where his - er - "mouth" is. "I just did my boylesque debut. It was so cheesecake but so empowering. It's not like when El Toro does it, I like beer, I'm a little pudgy and covered with tattoos, but if you're funny and sexy . . . If I looked like a bodybuilder it wouldn't work. It's realism. It's attainable. It's a microcosm of the world we want to live in. This isn't the Miss America pageant."

The uber-sexy El Toro will be part of the Girlesque Expo along with everyone's man-crush James and the Giant Pasty, Tarantino, Bruce Wang and The Mansfield Brothers. "Boylesque is on fire right now," says Mysterion. "Originally we just had female performers but I also produce wrestling shows - almost naked men dancing around the ring telling a story - burlesque is just a little less rude and crass. Wrestling is the last vaudeville other than burlesque."

Many burlesque shows are hosted by drag queens. "They're boisterous, loud and can be crass if it's a Judy Virago or Daytona Bitch. The glamour of drag fits perfectly with the flow of a burlesque show. Keith Cole has been hosting from the very beginning. They break down the stereotypes of gender. The wrestler Gorgeous George was the most stunning individual on TV in the '50s. He'd come on in a chiffon robe and spray the ring with a perfume bottle. He was the highest paid athlete of his time, the most recognized person next to the president. Gorgeous George and Tempest Storm dominated popular culture."

Mysterion has a soft spot for burlesque superstar Tempest Storm. "She's in her mid-80s and she told me, 'I feel more beautiful than when I was in my 20s." When she appeared at a former Girlesque Expo, Mysterion was backstage. "The power of that woman. She can't stand up without a walker. I had to hold her and lift her up to get her on stage so she could pull out her boobs. Everyone has something to offer."

The line-up for the 10th Annual Great Canadian Girlesque Expo is varied and lengthy. "The first year was one night at the Gladstone. Then it became two night, three nights. We have so many performers but they've all been picked for a reason, they're inspiring. Friday is more rock n' roll, Saturday is more circusy and you get to see the queen. The headliner Midnite Martini is the number one performer in the world, the reigning Queen of Burlesque 2014. You can't get any better than that. Sunday is more of a mixed bag with a lot of rawness with a special performance by Angie Pontani who is the leader of the New York scene and who has never been here."

Mysterion barely pauses for a breath, "When I got into this 10 years ago, it had a really straight mentality now everyone is part of it. It took alternative-minded people to make it popular. Everything eventually goes mainstream. After 10 years it's a real vindication. We're still underground and we haven't got as far as we need to but if I can give these artists the chance to feel liberated then . . . It changed my life, what a positive fun journey."

The 10th Annual Great Canadian Girlesque Expo runs Fri, Jan 23 to Sun, Jan 25 at multiple venues and times. Full event listings at