Las Vegas and burlesque are a natural fit: One is a sexy blast of theatrical expression, and the other is burlesque. Downtown Las Vegas is home to the Burlesque Hall of Fame, so we’ve got the past covered. But the future of this tantalizing art form belongs to Cha Cha Velour, who runs Las Vegas Burlesque Classes Studio–the only dance studio in town wholly devoted to striptease–and is working to ensure that burlesque remains part of Vegas for years to come.
HI! MY NAME IS: Cha Cha Velour
WHAT DO YOU DO? I own and operate Las Vegas Burlesque Classes dance studio, located in Commercial Center. It’s the only dance studio in Las Vegas dedicated to the art of vintage striptease. We offer drop-in classes, workshops and burlesque parties. I also volunteer at the Burlesque Hall of Fame in Emergency Arts–it’s the world’s only burlesque museum. And I also have a full-time professional job: I’m a registered nurse with more than 10 years’ experience in critical care and cardiology.
WHAT WOULD YOUR FRIENDS SAY ABOUT WHAT YOU DO? I’ve been called “the mother hen” and “the one-woman burlesque revival of Las Vegas.” I guess it’s because I’ve done a lot to foster and build the growing neo-burlesque community here.
WHY LIVE DOWNTOWN? ISN’T IT AN UNTAMED WASTELAND? I love where I live. Being closer to the center of town has changed my life, and increased my love for Vegas. There is a lot of exciting and positive change happening in Paradise Palms, Commercial Center, Fremont East and the Arts District. I used to live in the tracts in the northwest, and it was horrible. I was so far from everything, and everyone’s house looked the same. It was like living in The Stepford Wives.
WHAT’S THE BEST DAMN THING ABOUT DOWNTOWN? The community that is being built by those who have a vision of this change happening to Vegas. Things like First Friday, the East Fremont expansion, etc.
DOWNTOWN NEEDS _____ MORE THAN ANYTHING: Better public transportation.
FREMONT STREET EXPERIENCE: FRIEND OR FOE? Friend. Fremont was turning to a real shithole before the Jumbotron came. Without it, Fremont would not have been cleaned up, and I don’t think the growth on Fremont East would be happening — though I would like to see Fremont look like it did in the Rat Pack days.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PLACE IN DOWNTOWN VEGAS TO EAT? Casa Don Juan. I really love the food. The chicken tacos are awesome, and they have a drink that comes in an actual pineapple.
TO DRINK? I love tiki culture, and Frankie’s Tiki Room got it right. Plus, it’s the world’s only 24-hour tiki bar. I actually don’t drink alcohol anymore, but I used to. Their original drinks are so good. A lot of my friends go there, so I’m almost guaranteed to see someone I know if I pop in. The jukebox is filled with great music, and they play really fun reels on the TVs. I especially love that they play burlesque on their TV reel. I have seen myself pop up on Frankie’s TVs, and that’s pretty cool.
TO BE ENTERTAINED? I like to go shopping at the growing number of antique and vintage stores on Main.
AND TO SIMPLY RELAX? Relax? I don’t have time for that.
IF YOU WERE ANOINTED SUPREME RULER OF DOWNTOWN FOR ONE DAY, WHAT’S THE ONE THING YOU WOULD CHANGE? Downtown’s restaurants, bars, and shops would be dog-friendly. I want to bring my dogs, Bella and Turkey, with me everywhere.
PHOTO BY ANDREW JAMES