Backstage with Lady Alex
“Come on in,” calls Lady Alex, stooping to adjust her suspenders. The VIP bar at London’s Café de Paris is serving as a dressing room and, amid a sea of feathers and glittery scraps of underwear, the Wam Bam Club founder and hostess is preparing for her regular Saturday night show. Even after five years performing the same role she still gets excited about going on stage; but then she isn’t so very different on stage to the way she is off it.
Lady Alex isn’t just a stage name, it’s how she was known even before the character was born, the result of a previous production with three other people called Alex (she was the only female one). And this isn’t the only blurred line between performer and character.
“From the start, I’ve drawn on what I’ve got,” she explains. “I’ve always been into vintage glamour. I’m curvy, I’ve got a deep voice and I enjoy comedy. I just build on that and become a more powerful version of me.
“It’s part of creating a strong stage presence. You can hide behind a character but when you’re hosting you have to believe completely in what you’re doing.”
But, despite total immersion, she does have moments of clarity.
“When I come off stage I often can’t believe what I’ve just done,” she says. “I’m thirty five years old and I’ve just shown my arse and bent over in front of everyone.”
She met her partner outside the cabaret world but he was quickly introduced to her alter ego when he came to see the show. And, naturally, once he’d seen the goods…
Alex laughs. “Yeah, he came down to see what I did and after that how could he say no? I can twirl tassels, who doesn’t want that?”
If Wam Bam Club’s success is anything to go by, it sounds like everybody wants that. Five years ago it was a little-known event one Sunday a month in Battersea. Now it packs out the historic Café de Paris in the heart of Piccadilly every Saturday night. True, it’s sacrificed some of its seedy underground allure but Alex has no regrets.
“It’s definitely a lot more commercial now. But one of the benefits is the high production value. We can really rehearse the big numbers and we can make more interesting choices. And have lots of pyros! I do love my pyros.
“We get a lot of hen nights but they’re usually classy, not out there in ‘L’ plates making a lot of noise. They’re here because they want the glamour and they want the fun.”
They certainly get it. Wam Bam Club aims to provide a taste of the kind of old-school glamour that – in a week that saw the launch of Katie Price’s eponymous magazine – is all too rare.
Despite marketing itself as a ‘supper club’, it is the inclusivity of Wam Bam Club that makes it so enjoyable. Alex selects her guest stars carefully and while she likes to challenge her audience, she also wants them to find the show accessible.
“Tease is fun, powerful, it’s sexy and it’s liberating. And the audience recognise that. And when it comes to naked bodies, there’s something for everyone. I love the variety in burlesque. Not everyone has a dancer’s physique because not everyone’s a dancer. There’s a real range of body shapes in the scene. Big, small, thin, curvy, big breasted, small breasted…
“I always had a strong look but it was getting into burlesque that helped me discover the sexy side. It definitely unleashes that. It gives you confidence. Now I realise this is what I’ve got and gravity’s not kind, but this is me and I’m a part of it.”
In the same way she has drawn on her personal life and experience to build stage persona, the stage has helped her tap into her own sexuality. When I ask whether she cracks out any of her moves in the bedroom she cackles gleefully.
“A lady never tells. But I will say that having that kind of confidence is amazing and I’d recommend it to any woman. Taking your clothes of in front of an audience feels incredible. You never forget the first time you do it, you’re absolutely terrified, but afterwards it’s amazing how it impacts your life.”
Nevertheless, burlesque might be sexy but it’s not about sexual pleasure or instant gratification. She attributes its rise in popularity to a largely female audience; 80 per cent of Wam Bam punters are women and while men are welcome, the rapport is slightly different.
“Tease is about telling a story, it’s about working with the audience. I think women are quite sharp when it comes to that sort of thing. I also do a lot of very direct stuff and comedy. I’ve always found a sense of humour sexy. Women do as a rule and I’m often really surprised it doesn’t work the other way.”
It doesn’t worry her that she had to remove her clothes to be accepted as funny; indeed she embraces it as a bonus. Historically burlesque has been a platform for satire and, with characters like Gary Glitter and Rebecca Brookes on the menu, Alex doesn’t shy away from a controversial subject. She likes to stay current and, though the assassination of Osama bin Laden has forced her to lay her stripping suicide bomber to rest, she is looking forward to the reaction to her latest News of the World-themed skit.
“Whenever someone tells me I shouldn’t do something, that’s the point when I decide to do it. Burlesque has got to engage your brain. “I’m educating people. In the end that’s what makes it different to stripping. It should be challenging, it should be involving, it’s got to make you think. If you’re just expecting feathers and fans for two hours then you’ve come to the wrong place.”
Wam Bam Club. Hosted by Lady Alex. Café de Paris, Piccadilly, London. Saturdays, 20:00-22:00. £35-75. www.wambamclub.com
For more of this interview and to read other articles visit Francesca’s blog
Photos by Justine Trickett, exclusively for Erotic Review