In 2013, Laurie Hagen won the Most Innovative Award at the Las Vegas Hall of Fame andthe London Cabaret Awards Best Burlesque Act for her famed reverse striptease, but,trained in ballet, musical theatre and acting – and being utterly gorgeous – she has somany other talents with which to dazzle us.
The Widows Stanton: We love the little dog in your Skype picture!
Laurie Hagen: Oh my gosh, she’s our child, Sally. She’s something else. Actually, she’smade it into a show already, kind of because the producer had used the picture of me inmy white wig with Sally on the poster for the show. It was for the Norwich & NorfolkFestival and when I arrived they said: “The press can’t wait to see the dog act.” I waslike, ‘Oh my God! I don’t have a dog act’. But because of the poster we had to dosomething with the dog. Luckily I had her with me those two weeks I was performingthere. I mean, she’s a bloody nightmare. She’s not trained at all, you know, she’s a littleshit, so one of the cast members brought her on while I was singing a beautiful Frenchsong to wrap the show up and the whole audience would just go: “OOOOHHH!” [Laughs]
What was the show?
Les Enfants Perdus, which I hosted.
We haven’t really chatted since you went off to Las Vegas. How was it there?
I had the most outrageous time in Las Vegas. I mean, I was very much looking forward tothe work there but I wasn’t quite sure about living there, so for me it was a career choice
and something I couldn’t say no to having realised that I would learn so much… but itwas so much more. It was very, very difficult to leave London to start with but movingthere did open up so many doors and I adored what it had to offer. I adored thecommunity there; the fellow performers from all over the place. It’s just a little hub ofall these crazy people coming to perform and live there and it’s actually a very peacefulplace to live, contrary to what I might have thought before. You go to work and obviously it’s all very hectic and also party, party, which is very funto be a part of because everyone goes to Vegas to party, you know the old idea that yougo there to have fun. You can sense that around you when you go to work and then yougo back home, back to the residential areas and it’s the most chilled-out place to hangout. We were surrounded by elderly neighbours, who were so delightful and had so manystories. It’s a wonderful place to live, and in fact we were gutted to leave; absolutelygutted. We hope to go back and live and work there because we just had the mostphenomenal time out there.
When you say ‘we’…
My boyfriend, Michel Dierickx, and I. We shared a house with Angie Sylvia, who is also aperformer in London. There were three of us, with Sally.
Is Michel a performer?
No, he’s a cinematographer. So he was going back and forth a lot, but he also fell in love with the place. In the future his work will lie in LA mainly, so we thought, ‘Why not aim for Vegas?’.
How long were you there?
It was only about eight months. It felt like so much longer. Sadly our contracts finished prematurely because the casino closed the show prematurely, which was a real shame.We were ready to stay. I mean, bring it on!
‘Las Vegas showgirl’ sounds so glamorous!
It does but to be be honest it’s the hardest I’ve ever worked in my entire life. We had three different shows in one night and were also performing in-between the shows in other tiny little bars and venues. So it was a marathon show. We only had four a week but we needed three days to recover physically and mentally. [Laughs] It was such a longshow and the adrenaline is still there. You think, ‘OK, I kind of have to pace myself because I have such a long way to get through but you can’t. Once you’re out there, you know, it’s just infectious and once you’re onstage you have to give it your all.
So it was completely exhausting but also quite amazing that we managed to do it. And in fact after I’d had my two weeks’ holiday going back into the show was so difficult. The stamina had gone… in two weeks! But what a challenge, you know, and a challenge that was met. There was an incredible cast, about 40 of us, and I think a huge part of the success of show was that we all got on like a house on fire. That’s a tall order and we did have that chemistry. It was the best and the saddest thing. Obviously when it all ended it was heart,breaking to say goodbye to that particular cast of people, but you never know… things might…
You never know! So what happened when you came back?
We went back to Belgium. Just as I was about to board the plane from Vegas, and I put a little message on Facebook saying goodbye to Vegas I got a message from [La Soirée/ClubSwizzle creative producer] Brett Haylock, saying: “Where are you off to? I’d like to talk to you about a new project.” So it was incredibly exciting and by the time I arrived back inBelgium, Brett invited me to go over to Melbourne the next month to do the workshop for Club Swizzle. So it was very, very exciting because obviously there was a huge question mark as to what was next for me, and that was a wonderful thing to come back to. I also did clowning workshops with Spiegelworld before that. I spent two weeks inMelbourne working on the show, doing a few presentations and then came back toBelgium knowing that I was going to go to Sydney Opera House for the first season ofClub Swizzle in the new year…
But I injured myself during the workshop! I didn’t think too much of it because I have weak knees anyway. I’d had surgery on my right knee when I was 20 or so. This was the other one. I kept thinking, ‘I’ll see how it goes’. I had physio, rested, went to see my
doctor, tried to do as much as I could through physio but sadly after a month or six weeks of training I realized it was getting worse and worse. Unfortunately my doctor suggested having cartilage pieces removed, so I had to call Brett. I felt like an eight-year-old. I was trying to stay so professional but I was crying.
It was such, such a dream for me to work with that company. When I first saw those shows it was like, ‘If I could ever be a part of that show that would be just the best thin gever, so to have to then call and say, ‘I can’t do your new show at Sydney Opera House’,was completely devastating and also, you know, I thought perhaps my window of opportunity with the company had closed. So it was tough, really, really tough. But the first show this year of Adelaide Club Swizzle is on 29 December and that’s the date a year ago I had my operation.
Are Club Swizzle and La Soirée similar?
I would say it’s similar in energy, in pacing but to me it feels more intimate. It’s a bar;it’s Murray Hill’s bar, his club. You come in, you have a drink at the bar, you get served by the Swizzle Boys and they become the stars of the show. As you come into the venue,the Spiegeltent or theatre, you are in Murray Hill’s club.
Is Murray a real person or a character?
I’d say he’s the person and the character. He’s from Brooklyn. He’s a phenomenal host.
What will you be doing? Your reverse strip?
Yes, I’ll be doing that, absolutely, and I also created an extra clowning burlesque act for the show specifically and also, excitingly Brett has decided to give us the chance to expand on what we already have, so I will be singing with the band as well. I’m super excited about it. Mikey and the Nightcaps are absolutely phenomenal. There are only four of them and it sounds like there’s 20 because they play all the instruments ever. It’s incredible.
Have you been in the show before?
It was my first job back after my injury; the whole of September this year at the BrisbaneFestival. It couldn’t have been a more exciting project to get back onstage, doing my thing, with a company I’ve always wanted to work with, you know, with wonderful people.
Who else is in the line-up?
The Swizzle Boys – the bartenders – are phenomenal acrobats: Tom Flanagan, Joren Dawson, Benjamin Lewis and DJ Garner. One of the reasons I love the show so much is that it gives a platform for acrobats to be the stars of the show, which I think is so wonderful. These boys are so versatile and do so many incredible things but they’re all individual characters, they’re all funny, they’re very charming so it’s just such a beautiful showcase for them.
Then, of course, there are phenomenal guest performers, so Ali McGregor will be our diva singer, we have Dandy Wellington. He’s from Harlem. He’s a tap dancer and singer…an ultimate gentleman.The wonderful Valerie Murzak. She’s based in London and is a fantastic aerialist and contortionist. She’s been part of Club Swizzle since the beginning.And there’s also the band, who are also very much stars of the show. They’re incredible and they play throughout the whole show. That’s a big difference between Club Swizzle
and La Soirée, the live band! It’s such a huge difference! It’s so exciting to be working for them. It’s different every night because of all the tricks and how people react and they are really on top of things. They’re wonderful.
It’s lovely that you’re so enthusiastic. Have you had a career highlight so far or is this it?
Well, this is definitely a career highlight for me but I hope it continues and I get to do it for as long as I can. I feel like I’ve found a place. I don’t feel like I have a specific talent. I sometimes find that difficult, you know, I really admire people who excel at one thing and I often wish that I was one of them. I’m good at lots of different things and I like dabbling in lots of different things and to have a place in such an incredible show whereI get to do all my, you know, weird things, it’s wonderful. There is a place for a Belgian…clown. [Laughs]
Will Club Swizzle come to the UK?
I bloody well hope so!
That would be amazing! What are your other hopes or plans for the future?
I’m inspired to finally start on my one-woman show. It has been on the cards for a long time and I’m determined to get it written and performed.
Ooh, get on with it. You’re so charismatic and vivacious. Get on with it and be a sensation!
I do kick myself because I have had a lot of time off because of my injury and I told myself, ‘This is the perfect time to start writing things and I just found it so difficult,maybe because I was feeling so down about everything. So now I’m absolutely determined to get things rolling. Having taken a break from performing makes you so much hungrier to go back on that stage, and also being surrounded by people who do their own thing, do their own shows, I’m like, ‘Come on, Hagen, sort yourself out!’.
Everyone loves you. I always have the impression that you’re one of the mostpopular burlesquers on the London scene.
That’s incredibly lovely. I feel that the burlesque scene and certainly the cabaret scene,too, is a very supportive one. So it’s a mutual love and respect.
I think a solo show, Miss Laurie Hagen, yes! We’ll all be there.
It’s interesting for people to know how certain things might not pan out the way you think they will. That’s showbusiness, too, right? It’s not all glitz and glamour. You get shows that close, you get injuries and other doors get opened.
Well, we’re all thrilled to have you back.
Thank you! I’m thrilled to be back.
– THE WIDOW STANTON –