Road to the Hall of Fame: By Tito Bonito
Road to the Hall of Fame – Tito Bonito, The Cuban Missile Crisis of Burlesque
The Burlesque Hall of Fame is upon us and it is less than a month away! I am beyond thrilled to be participating once again in the Saturday night competition. However, this year I am performing in TWO categories; “Best Small Group” (alongside Japan’s greatest export, Nikita Bitch Project) and “Best Boylesque.” The pressure is on to deliver and I am so thankfully for the opportunity. The routines that have been selected both hold very special places in my heart. They are wondrous representations of who I am as an artist. I have accomplished so much since I first started in burlesque, especially in the past year. While both of these acts previously won awards at the Hollywood Burlesque Festival and Burlypicks, what excites me most is the fact that I am able to showcase my growth.
For “Best Small Group”, Nikita Bitch Project and I developed our duet in early 2015 for a Nintendo-themed parody show in Los Angeles. Usually, we are solo artists but when Nikita suggested to me a crazy, epic, ‘90s-inspired tribute to Mario and Luigi for the show, I was pumped. She originally suggested that we perform to a hip hop girl group (like Salt ’N’ Pepa or TLC). TLC have been an enormous influence in my life through their music and personalities, especially in my adolescence. So, I jumped at the chance to produce something special to my favorite band since I was a kid (4th grade/1993). It felt so easy to collaborate with Nikita and create a story that we would both enjoy telling. We have a fantastic sense of humor and our theatrical striptease is extremely high energy. You will never look at the Super Mario Bros the same way again. Our creative use of comedy and props helps make our act smart and unique. You will never know what’s coming next. The music is a mix I made featuring TLC’s “What About Your Friends” (including a dance break with The Sugar Hill Gang, Digital Underground, and Vanilla Ice) and MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This”. Two months after its debut, I was blessed by the universe to make a trip to San Diego to attend my first TLC concert ever. It was all very last minute as I was on tour at the time and hadn’t purchased a ticket until the night before. Long story short, I was gifted the chance of a lifetime. I snagged a Meet & Greet ticket from someone who’s friend didn’t show up (Shoutout to) 30 minutes before it happened. Not only did I get to meet T-Boz and Chilli but they also brought me on stage during “Red Light Special”, in front of 10,000+ people, for a lap dance. That is the CRAZIEST sentence I have ever written! The greatest part is you can watch it all go down on my webshow Cuban Missile Series Season 2 Episode 9, as well as the construction of the “Mario and Luigi” duet in Season 2 Episode 6.
On top of all of that, I am also competing in the “Best Boylesque” category. What an honor to share the stage with some of the best in the business for the second time in a row. Last year, I won “Most Comedic” at the Hall of Fame, which was everything that I could have wanted and more. My first love is comedy and to be recognized is beyond an honor. I have been performing this act since December of 2010, and it makes me proud to look back and see its evolution. This is one of my most requested routines and arguably the most ridiculous. The 4-minute story pays homage to my Cuban heritage. “Cuba Libre (a.k.a. La Mentirita)” tells the struggle of immigration into America, from the 1960s and on, to escape Fidel Castro’s dangerous regime. It is also a commentary on the importance of diversity in this country and the freedom of the American dream. Through it, I am able to execute a political and comedic number, which is hard to do. I usually add “La Mentirita” (a lie) to the title because in Cuban-American culture, the phrase “Cuba Libre” (Free Cuba) is looked at as a lie since the country runs under communism. Imagine if we were to live in a world where we could all laugh and have a good ole naked time, free of judgment. I just want to entertain and get paid enough to live a life. I am beginning to construct that life and I am eternally grateful.
This year, I look at the competition the same way I did in the past. I just want to represent myself and do the best job possible. These showcases allow us to compete with ourselves. It gives us the chance to produce our best work and step up our game. My belief is that no one performs any art form better than anyone else. It is all a matter of opinion. The most important thing is to bring your absolute best to the stage. The real winners are the people who take advantage of this precious opportunity we have once a year to come together, network, and be inspired at the largest burlesque event in the world; THE MOTHERFUCKING HALL OF FAME. On that note, if we are taking all of it that serious anyway, we should be able to invest our lives into it. Hopefully, we can take this time to consider our contributions to the overall community and its future.
I grew up in Miami, Florida, as a weird but charming kid with an awful temper. How much fun does that sound? I used to hide a lot of who I was and my passions out of fear. That upset me and affected me deeply. Little did I know that little by little I would overcome my pain and find acceptance through entertainment. Burlesque has gifted me the chance to create the art that was perfect for me. At the end of 2017, I joined the cast of a new Cuban cabaret and nightclub in Miami called El Tucan. The venue is a dream come true. Two cabaret shows paired with delicious food in the heart of Brickell. I had my eyes on this venue for a while and I am so grateful that they have treated me so well since day one. In the past four months, I have spent five weekends working with them. It changed my life watching all of my family truly understand how universal burlesque is and I am forever indebted to it for bringing us together. It has allowed me to discover and live my most authentic life.
I have accomplished so many of my goals because of my involvement with burlesque. I don’t always know what I am doing but I am always willing to learn and check myself. This competition is going to be fun because it’s a reunion with my vaudeville family. I get to work with some of the fiercest talent and I am allowed to showcase so much of myself with mine. I get to perform to my favorite song of all time, as my favorite video game characters, and I get to pay tribute to my roots. In front of the world. What more could I honestly ask for? As for the future, I am looking forward to many projects being released before the festival. Just this week, on Thursday, May 3, I am releasing the first episode of Cuban Missile Series Season 3 (featuring Tease If You Please). Saturday, May 5, I will be featured on NBC’s show “First Look” (after SNL) giving MTV star Johnny Bananas a boylesque superstar makeover. Later this month, you can catch me in the Big Dipper’s new music video. There are loads of live shows all over LA with a special trip to Albuquerque the last weekend of May. Plus, I teach personalized private lessons as well as my regular courses on Hosting 101, Vogue 101, and Assels 101 online. In November, I will be a featured presenter at BurlyCon in Seattle. For now, you can unlock exclusive content and help support me and my webseries thru Patreon: http://www.patreon.com/titobonito
check out the Shimmy Shake button for the bespoke cocktail made in my honor
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