“Big Willie” McNeil is a long-time friend of Fuji Rock, playing just about as along as the Palace of Wonder has existed, also inhabiting new stages like Cafe de Paris. You could say these places were built for him and his love of burlesque, one of the first forms of musical theater. We had the good fortune to catch up with Willie as he was packing up feather boas for the flight over.
1. Tell me the truth Willie, do the burlesque girls look as good in the morning without the makeup?
It’s amazing what make up, push up bra’s, dancers fishnet tights and heels can do. False advertising actually! But they do call it make up… One time I did a big show in Chicago with around 20 dancers and the next morning on the flight home when everyone was in their sweats and tennis shoes, I didn’t even recognize some of the dancers who I didn’t know well!
2. What can we expect from you at Fuji this year?
A special international show! I have two Cuban musicians, an Italian guitarist, my Argentinian dancer Carolina plus for the special ‘G&G Orchestra’ show Elvis and two background singers. We’ll play Cuban and American music.
3. Any acts you looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to ‘Fishbone’. They’re old friends of mine from LA, so looking forward to seeing them. Hopefully we’re not performing at the same time.
4. Are you burlesque 24/7. What clubs you play at in LA?
Yep, I’m the King of Burlesque here in LA. I play every Friday night at a Cuban themed club ‘La Descarga’, it’s my favorite night (8 years). I also music direct another club ‘No Vacancy’ which I perform at on Saturdays when I’m not doing private events (5 years). No Vacancy has two burlesque dancers and a tight rope walker. I also work at a club in downtwon LA called the Edison, now for 10 years! I have two specialty shows I music direct as well. One is called ‘Marijuana Madness’ and is a story about the prohibition of marijuana with burlesque dancers and a host with dialogue. It’s unique because there is a ‘Viper Room’ separate from the bar where you can try vaporizers, dabs, edibles and CDB cocktails. Recreational marijuana is legal in California, so this is a new club concept. Also I do a high end dinner theater show called ‘Nuit Blanche’ which is a 20’s Parisian themed show with 5 male and female dancers, magicians, mimes and a female singer who sings in French with my trio.
5. Any favorite memories from Crystal Palace or is is just a blur?
Almost too many memories from the Crystal Palace! Seeing my good friend Jason Mayall’s band Narisarato Pan Pipers from the Soloman Islands perform was memorable. I just love all the international acts that perform there.
6. Any tips for first timers to the Crystal Palace?
3AM is the best time.
Photos Big Willie