An intro to burlesque and unwelcome attention from a pie-eating contest winner

Prior to attending “Stars and Strips!” at the Shrunken Head on a recent Saturday, my only exposure to burlesque arrived via that Christina Aguilera and Cher movie — which is faulty information, according to some critics.

A quick Wikipedia search before the event revealed that there have been at least three iterations of the art form: Victorian burlesque, American burlesque, which evolved to include striptease, and Neo-Burlesque. I'm not exactly sure how to classify the Shrunken Head event, but I can say it showcased a ton of talent and highlighted a niche community in the city.

Joel Savage, wearing a captain hat and Hawaiian shirt, did a decent job of hosting considering it was his first time. The performers' outfits included everything from an elaborate Statue of Liberty costume that converted into a slinky dress to a Wonder Woman getup. There was smoke, a prop military plane and eclectic music that ranged from Bootsy Collins' “I'd Rather Be With You” to the popular standard “Dream a Little Dream of Me.”

There were a few standouts, like Cherie Blondell — billed as "The Best Chest in the Midwest” — who incorporated an antique wash tub into her number, and Devon Ayers, who was recently crowned Mr. Ohio Gay Pride King. Ayers, who specializes in “draglesque” (a combination of drag and burlesque), delighted the audience with a performance of “You Wanna Be Americano” and a duet with Pandora Foxx, a well-known personality in the burlesque scene.

Everyone's favorite was likely drag king Jamz Dean, who sang Rodney Carrington's “Show Them to Me” and completed so many costume changes during a rock version of “I Believe I Can Fly” that I lost count.

Unfortunately, the drama spilled off the stage and to the bar, where I sat the entire night, drinking Rhinegeist Cougar Blonde Ale and watching “Titanic” on the TV between sets. An inebriated woman ate food off my plate, tried to turn my phone off and nearly kissed my cheek. Luckily, she left my side to participate in a mini pie-eating contest toward the end of the night. It was a close race, but she won with a final slurp of her whip cream, which had fallen off the pie and onto the table at the start of the competition. I clapped for her and made my escape before she could return to the bar to celebrate.

This article has been updated to correct the title of the event.