Interview Part 2: Green Tea, Octo Sushi and Chit-Chat with Kitten La Rue of The Atomic Bombshells

Posted on November 11, 2013


Kitten La Rue

Kitten La Rue

Last week, I had the pleasure of sitting down at Octo Sushi with the enchanting Kitten La Rue of The Atomic Bombshells during a break from rehearsing her upcoming show “Lost in Space” which opens this week at the Triple Door (November 13). In Part 1 we discussed Kitten’s initial exposure and interest in burlesque growing up in New Orleans, her college studies and early interest in teaching and we began to touch upon the other influences in her life. In Part 2, we will broaden our discussion to include her recent marriage, relationship with her parents, touring experiences, how she came to call the Emerald City her home and how The Atomic Bombshells came to be.

Amongst the background noise of the restaurant, I took a moment to reflect upon the vibrant and gifted young lady sitting next to me as she took another sip of her warm green tea. Clearly she was bright, engaging and talented. She not only choreographs, scripts, directs and performs in her shows, but manages, produces and books them as well. No stranger to keeping busy, she recently got married, returned from her debut guest performance in an off-Broadway musical at Ars Nova in New York, begun rehearsing for “Lost in Space” and also is preparing for an Australian Tour with The Atomic Bombshells coming in 2014. It was hard to not be impressed by this go-getter, but I found myself intrigued about the experiences in life that helped to shape her into the unique person that she had become. I determined to start with her parents. I inquired how her parents reacted to her decision to pursue burlesque as her chosen vocation.

“That’s an interesting question. My mother and step-father…we have a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy because they are very religious, but my father, who is a musician and artist himself, loves it. He’s come to several of my shows. He’s totally amazed by them and very supportive.”

That surprised me a bit, as in preparing for the interview, I had read that Kitten and her spouse’s parents had both been at the recent wedding. After congratulating Kitten on her marriage to the brilliant and irrepressible, Lou Henry Hoover and asked about how it went with her parents being there.

“My father and my step-mother were at my wedding and Lou’s parents were at the wedding as well. My father walked me down the aisle. It was a magical day.”

She informed me that her mother and step-father were not in attendance at the wedding, which was officiated by the performer Waxie Moon and included a bounce castle for guests. If you are interested in pictures and videos from the event, check out:

Lou and Kitten LaRue on the cover of "The Stranger"

Lou and Kitten La Rue on the cover of “The Stranger”

It is hard for me to understand as un-approving as one’s parents may be about their child’s profession, that after 10 years they would not have made some level of peace with it. As I verbalized this to Kitten La Rue, she nodded affirmatively and added, “You would think. They are impressed that I get to travel the world. We love you, we just don’t love your choice of lifestyle. They are in a small town, in the deep south, it’s a different world for them.”

You had mentioned that your father was a musician. I had read that you were similarly gifted musically and not only played the keyboards, but also performed in a band.

“I did”, she answered excitedly, as her eyes lit up. “I played in a band called The Intelligence, for several years and we toured a lot. For several years I was juggling both which was totally crazy.”

Was there ever a moment, when you thought about choose music over burlesque?

“There definitely was a moment where I started moving a little bit away from burlesque, because the band was getting busier. We were touring a lot more, but I always missed it (burlesque) when I had not done it for a while. There is no other performance opportunity that gives you the same connection with your audience that burlesque does. You are connecting with them and they are responding to you and you get to hear them responding to you in a way that you don’t necessarily get to hear if you are in a regular play or dance piece. You feel their energy. You feel the love.”

So in all of the cities which you have performed in, which audiences were the liveliest?

“You know what’s really funny is that some of our liveliest audiences; our craziest audiences, are in the smallest towns. Like Pullman, Washington. We got hired by Washington State University. They had us perform for their student body and I mean, they just went berserk wild.”

The Intelligence at Sala Rossa Montreal October2009

The Intelligence at Sala Rossa Montreal October2009

There were several things which surprised me upon hearing this. First that a large university would contract with The Atomic Bombshells to do shows for their student body. Second, that of all the exotic locales where they have performed that Pullman, Washington would even come to her mind. Last that the smaller towns would response so well to their act, as my initial impression was that they tend to be a bit more conservative than larger towns.

“We’ve gotten inquiries from a few different colleges, as part of their Arts Program. I gave a little brown bag lecture about burlesque earlier in the day and they tied it in.”

What was cool about hearing this was that Kitten La Rue actually got to exercise one of her initial career options, that as an educator. Even so, I was struggling with accepting her premise that Pullman, Washington was the most engaged crowds to witness The Atomic Bombshells in all of Washington State.

“Pullman, Bainbridge Island, Orcas Island, Lopez Island…the little communities. We get all ages at our shows, so I would say it was pretty comparable to other shows, but when you perform in these places the whole town comes. They all know each other and are so excited and they all get dressed up.”

You have performed around the world, including in China. What was that like?

“Amazing. It was really incredible. The first time we went out there, we were performing at a smaller club called ‘The Glamour Bar’. They had us come out to do a week of shows. Pretty mellow crowds, though they were real excited to have us perform as they had not seen anything like what we were doing. Shanghai is a very western city so there is a mix of locales and expatriates living there.”

What about the flip side of the coin? Have there been places where you have performed where it was pretty awkward?

Kitten LaRue

Kitten La Rue

“You know, one of the funniest experiences performing abroad, we got booked for a tour in Portugal. One of the stops on our tour was a town called Braga. They had this giant, gorgeous baroque opera house in the town. The most beautiful place we have ever played, I think. It’s a very small town and the whole village came to see our show. Olds grandmothers and children…the whole town and they were silent through the whole show. They were deeply Catholic and they politely clapped after the acts. No noises and we were like, oh god, are we scandalizing them? Are they wanting to run out? But we came out after the show and they were standing there waiting to greet us and they all love it…but no one wanted to be the first person to make any noise, as they all knew each other.”

Of all the places you could have chosen to call home after you left New Orleans, why did you choose Washington? That’s about as far away from Louisiana, as you can get in the continental United States and lets not even talk about our wet winters here in the Pacific Northwest.

“The show that I had been in Seattle had just wrapped. I was at a place in my life where I was ready to try something different and I had a friend living here. Honestly, I had no plans of moving to Seattle, I just came here for the summer with a duffle bag and things just took off so quickly with the Bombshells that before I knew it, it had become a fulltime career. I didn’t come here to do anything. My friend and I noticed that there was a void of any regularly occurring classic fully produced burlesque show similar to the ones we had been in in New Orleans. We got wind that Dita (Von Teese) was going to be performing in Seattle and we had worked with her back in New Orleans. We thought, we should try to get something together.”

Now, just to show you how much moxie this lady has, in 2003 she pitched the folks at the Showbox the idea that “The Atomic Bombshells” should be the opening act for Dita Von Teese and they agreed. The only problem was that “The Atomic Bombshells” existed only in Kitten La Rue and her friend’s mind at the time. Once she had secured the gig, the very next day she started auditioning dancers for the team and The Atomic Bombshells were born. Things were now starting to get interesting.

Continues in Interview Part 3: Green Tea, Octo Sushi and Chit-Chat with Kitten La Rue of The Atomic Bombshells.