Meant To Be: Tito Bonito
“MEANT TO BE”
My Journey to BHOF (Part 4)
written by Tito Bonito
Now that the excitement of this year’s Burlesque Hall of Fame has softened a bit, what better time than now to reflect? In 2014, I worked with living legends Kitten ‘n Lou on a gig with Key West Burlesque. Humbly, I asked for their advice on how to cultivate my “Cuba Libre” act as I wanted to submit it to BHoF in the hopes of winning “Most Comedic.” Little did I know that three years later, not only would I be honored enough to grace The Orleans stage but that I would win that title! It was more than I could have imagined to be recognized by the largest burlesque organization in the world and the best of the best. On top of all of that, my mother flew out from Florida to support me, and that was the best part. To be honest, I feel like a different person. This is my story.
Thursday afternoon, I drove into Vegas from LA with friends Miss May, Priest, and Bettie Bombshell. Immediately upon arriving, I joined Foxy Tann and the Wham Bam Nation to rehearse for Sunday night’s finale. Even though I was sick, I was completely on board. Why would I turn down the opportunity to perform twice in one weekend? I just needed to make sure that I took care of myself. Afterwards, it was time to get ready with my roommates RedBone and Musette (the Mistress of Mischief) to cheer on our other roommate, and my best friend, Jeez Loueez, as she co-hosted the Movers, Shakers, and Innovators Showcase. As an emcee, I am always inspired by great hosts and Jeez is remarkable. She is so engaging, warm, gorgeous, and smart. Swoon! Other highlights I would love to mention include Paris Original (how can I be a ghost-member of Mod Carousel?), Bella Sin, Nasty Canasta, and the Vertical Side Show. Luckily, I had so many extra Scout patches (sponsored by Elektra Cute) that I gave them out to the people who have helped me, in one way or another, as well as to the legends.
Friday, I woke up still feeling ill and decided to hit the dreaded “self-care while traveling” button since this was an emergency. Let’s face it, it’s very hard not to indulge and party on these rare occasions. We’re building memories at these events and I didn’t want to miss out on anything. My immune system needed to be stronger and with all due respect to my cigarette-smoking friends but indoors that stuff is intense. I spent the majority of the day with my mom reconnecting after not seeing her since last Christmas. We put the finishing touches on my costume and she made me the best sash I have ever worn. Every year, I watch videos from the Weekend and it’s never the same as being there. Even though I attended last year’s festival, I wasn’t able to see all the shows as I was able to do this year. So this year was more than extra special. I am always incredibly grateful for all of the talent and inspiration I find at the Burlesque Hall of Fame. There is nothing in the world like it! Plus the greatest treasure of the weekend was introducing my mother to so many of my peers, especially legends such as Tiffany Carter, Marinka, Gabriella Maze, and Gina Bon Bon.
Saturday was the big day! I don’t know what I was more excited about, my new costume or that the day had finally arrived. Tech rehearsal was at 11:30am, so the full day was spent worrying about my performance. Worrying in a positive and productive way; preparing. Performing “Scout’s Honor” would be different this time because I was completely confident. The act always plays well, in a small or large venue. The costume was the biggest obstacle and the final product was exactly what I wanted. It had the most amount of rhinestones I have ever had on my body and the best reveals. I would like to thank the women who helped make those happen: Varla VaVoom for the phenomenal shorts and pasties and Nikita Bitch Project for the help with my shirt. Also, I’d like to acknowledge the fact that Vintage Iguana Clothing in Hollywood, California supplied 90% of the costume. All I had to do was give it my all.
Backstage the energy was electric. The air was filled with nerves and excitement. I watched the first half of the show from the audience, next to one of my first inspirations, Bazuka Joe. I turned to him at one point and reminded him of that. His Speed Racer routine helped me realize comedy was powerful. Maybe even more so than sex and with practice, I could become a strong enough performer.
I was the first act following intermission and the opener for the “Best Boylesque” category. Just before I went on, I let out a mutually anxious yelp with my LA bestie, Jessabelle Thunder. We were both under the same amount of pressure. All that I can remember thinking was that I wanted to utilize the stage and live in the moment. The rest was a blast! The second the act was over and the lights went black, I saw the audience rise up for a standing ovation. Oddly, I had a feeling that I didn’t win. I wasn’t sad though because for the first time in my life, I can honestly say that I was proud of what I did, in that moment. Even though the rest of the competition was fierce, I knew that my performance was going to help my career, award or no award.
It took, what felt, forever to get to curtain call. The superlatives were mentioned first and all I could think of was all my friends who I wanted to win. As Johnny Porkpie and Blanche DeBris announced each winner, I got more and more in my feelings. They got to “Most Comedic” and I don’t think I took one breath the entire time. I didn’t want to want it so bad but I did. I have never worked so hard at something I cared so much about and I wanted it. I hear “Tito Bo…” and it felt like someone pushed my chest. I tried not to cry because I wanted to be aware and present. It wasn’t all about me. I wanted to allow myself to be proud. I raised that trophy in triumph and to experience all of that with my mother was extremely significant. It is the proudest moment of my life.
I spent the whole Saturday night celebrating, so going to bed at 7am would only allow me to wake up around 2pm. Sunday was another big day. First thing I did was take a lap around the pool for 20 minutes and I was already late for rehearsal. Foxy Tann and the Wham Bam Thank You Ma’ams have continuously expanded their “Proud Mary” act and tonight they were going to include the largest number of dancers there has been; the Wham Bam Nation. Tech ran smoothly which is a blessing but we were definitely cutting it close. That’s why we need more genuine reality series documen
In the end, it isn’t always necessarily me
Stay tuned to my official website TitoBonito.com and my social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube) for a lot more!