Chicago Takes Off at Park West: Live review and photo gallery
Consider the 1987 Pet Shop Boys video for the song What Have I Done to Deserve This? an appropriate highlight reel for this year's Chicago Takes Off, the annual striptease benefit for TPAN that hit Park West on Saturday 5. PSB channelled a Parisian cabaret, complete with fellas in tuxes and women in feather boas and sequins, to convey yuppie angst in their classic video. TPAN's fifth annual gala recalled similar wardrobe choices—although in this case, the tuxedos were breakaway. It makes perfect sense actually. Chicago Takes Off has always had a way with themes. Past outings have included naughty takes on fairy tales and classic TV (think Ginger and Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island pole dancing on a palm tree for the latter). But this time around, high camp was traded for a straight up night of naughtiness that TPAN called "Lido des Boyz." The crowd seemed to love it.
The evening was hosted again by Murray Hill, a New York emcee whose polyester tuxedos and Borscht Belt humor was more apropo this time around and who was introduced as "the man who put the king in fucking funny." Hill traded barbs with the audience before handing over the reigns to the pumped up, buffed out dancers, the real stars of the night. An early number channeled the French Revolution via Abba, "Lady Marmalade" and Pussy Tourette's uproarious "I Think He's Gay." Many of the guys in the audience made a dash for the bar during the second sequence, a lovely solo number featuring a tassle-twirling lady, but all eyes (among other things) were at attention for the third number, which featured the longest, choreographed same-sex liplock I've ever seen (it was pretty fucking hot).
Other show highlights included a number in which a hot, pumped up dancer in a bathtub gyrated to French techno music while a duo of hotties poured champagne up his ass. I mean really, some of these numbers are so erotic that TPAN should be handing out hankies at the beginning of the show (so we can wipe the sweat off our brows, get your head out of the gutter!). Another stellar moment channeled the Louvre in Paris via statuesque dancers powdered in white makeup and wearing nothing but dance belts gyrating around a goth Mona Lisa. The most restrained, yet charming number of the night came from the Midnight Circus, who brought with them an adorable pooch that gave out high fives and jumped through tiny hoops. Chicago's Michelle L'amour was also in terrific form as she performed a solo number on a heart-shaped board.
There were some clunkers as well. A punk rock number paid tribute to girl groups like the Runaways, but was neither campy or sexy enough to sustain interest and a sequence toward the show's end featured a group of hot dancers getting frisky on benchwood chairs, but was unfortunately obscured by the dark lighting (intentional I suspect, but nevertheless frustrating).
All in all, the crowd seemed pleased and Chicago Takes Off may just be the best gay gala in Chicago at this point. While this year's outing lacked the cheekiness of 2010 (can you really top the Facts of Life in drag?) it still vaunted plenty of cheeks and that's why we're spending our money anyway.