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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Newst Boston Babydoll's career is taking off

Cheri DeVilleDancing to the Blues Brothers’ “Peter Gunn Theme,” Cheri DeVille’s dream of being a burlesque dancer becomes a reality this Saturday night as she and the troupe, the Boston Babydolls, perform in Weymouth.

A 23-year-old waitress by day, Cheri DeVille isn’t her real name, it’s the stage name of her alter ego – a rockabilly race car girl. DeVille, who grew up in Hanson and Randolph, is the newest member of the Babydolls.

In the tradition of burlesque, a mix of vaudeville, satire and striptease, each of the Boston Babydolls will perform a different dance in character Saturday.

Each of the Babydolls has a stage name, like Honey Do or Betty Blaize, and stay in character, even for interviews with newspapers.

Says Mr. Scratch, who manages the troupe: “The characters we present on stage are who our audience is interested in. We’re trying to preserve some mystery and create a fun fantasy.”

Cheri’s is the race car girl act, which she said was inspired by one of her favorite burlesque stars, Dita Von Teese.

“The idea behind it is I’m going to be that girl that starts the race with a flag in the middle and the cars take off and go by next to me. I’ll be in a cutesy, red, pin-up-style strapless, puffs-out dress with red polka dots, cardigan sweater and white gloves. As I’m taking everything off, I’m turning into a bad girl,” Cheri said.

But unlike her idol Von Teese, who is known for her ’40s Betty Grable look and martini glass routine, DeVille’s look will be more ’50s. She’ll take off her red polka dot dress, but the baby doll bangs, colored tattoos, pouty red lips and high heels will stay on.

“I’m just really interested in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s. I’m fascinated with everything about that time,” Cheri said.

Burlesque dancers don’t get fully undressed. Cheri said they wear pasties, garters, thigh-highs and underwear.

Being sexy with old-time glamour is the main attraction of being a Babydoll, Cheri said.

Burlesque troupes like the Boston Babydolls are more common in clubs these days, from San Francisco to Boston, club owners say. And the theater’s resurgence – its heyday in the U.S. was from 1870 to 1930 – has recently caught the eye of celebrities.

Sting and David Bowie are backing a proposed club called Forty Deuces in New York City. Cameron Diaz re-enacted Von Teese’s martini glass routine in the film, “Charlie’s Angels.”

“It’s (burlesque) not stripping. It’s its own kinds of dancing and I love the music. It brings that inner sex kitten out,” Cheri said.

Nick Silvestro, the owner of Weymouth’s Basta Bar, said he jumped at the chance to book the Boston Babydolls a few months ago and again on Saturday.

“They are a little risqué, but professional. There’s no nudity,” Silvestro said.

And since thongs and full nudity aren’t part of the Babydolls burlesque routine, Silvestro said Basta Bar doesn’t need an additional permit from the town.

Silvestro did run into trouble with the town this week, or at least the Weymouth police department. Officers said Silvestro called reporting a fight at the bar, then tried to get eight or 10 patrons to attack them. He was arrested for inciting a riot, appeared in court and a pre-trial conference is set for Sept. 3.

Silvestro said burlesque shows at Basta draw a diverse crowd, from those in their 20s to old-timers who remember Scollay Square and the Howard Theatre in Boston’s entertainment district, which used to have burlesque shows.

“The way they dress is old and that’s the way I like to dress,” Cheri said.

Like burlesque in its heyday, modern burlesque is known for its Marilyn Monroe-style figures – voluptuous.

“The girls are not these skinny, mini, perfect Playboy models. They’re real girls. It’s sexy,” Cheri said.

Cheri may have less experience than some of the other girls – cheerleading, tap and jazz is how she learned to dance – but she said she is eager to do her thing on stage.

“I might be a little camera shy, but you kind of act how the song goes. You want to play that role,” Cheri said.

Abbie Swanson may be reached at

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