When the Velvet Cabaret burlesque show comes to Tito’s International Mallorca Club on Thursday 11 April, much-needed glamour will finally return to El Terreno.
The Velvet Cabaret night at Tito’s is part of a larger festival called Wild Weekend, organised by Babz ‘Blaze’ Collins and Jumpin’ Josh and happening at the Hotel Rosa Del Mar, Palmanova between 11 and 14 April.
‘We’re music and arts promoters and entertainers who take our love of mid-century music and style all around the world: the UK, Las, Vegas, Australia, Spain and now Mallorca,’ Babz told me. ‘We specialise in rock & roll, swing, soul and beat music from the 1950s to the 60s, the golden era of music, with a pinch of earlier jazz thrown in. Our events are a visual feast with amazing decorations and costumes to go with the wonderful live and DJ music.’
Why Palma, I wondered? ‘Mallorca became a jet setting holiday destination during what we worship as the golden age of entertainment and glamour, so it was an easy choice. It’s such a beautiful island and Palma’s a vivid, happening city.’
With the best will in the world, El Terreno, the barrio in which Tito’s sits, couldn’t be described as ‘vivid’ or ‘happening’. So, it’s great that the Velvet Cabaret is coming to the club.
There was a time when the area of El Terreno, centred on Plaza Gomila, was Palma’s Times Square, its equivalent of London’s West End. Before this, the area had been the first port of call for many bohemians who washed up on the island, several of whom ended up in Deia, including Robert Graves and Laura Riding. It’s why there’s a Carrer de Robert Graves in El Terreno.
In the 1950s and 60s, when night clubs were the last word in glitzy, slightly risqué entertainment, Tito’s, which first flung open its doors in 1923, was the jewel in the crown of Mallorca’s nite life. The list of stars who performed there, often under the stars on the club’s rooftop, includes the great Ray Charles, Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey along with legendary artistes like the tap-dancing Clark Brothers.
It’s hard to believe now, when El Terreno is a ghost town most of the time, but crowds would line the red carpet to watch the stars sashay into Tito’s. And it wasn’t just Tito’s. The area around Plaza Gomila was packed with clubs, including Sergeant Pepper’s where Hendrix played.
For those of us who know the history of El Terreno, wandering through the barrio is a somewhat sad experience. Outposts of bohemia do still exist. I’m thinking of Pousada Bellver, tucked away on a side street up near Bellver Castle and seriously funky La Sifoneria on the main drag. But glamorous they ain’t.
Which is why we welcome the impending arrival of the Velvet Cabaret.
Velvet Cabaret head honcho, Italian Allessandro Casella is a long-time aficionado of old school glamour. ‘I’m an art director, producer, DJ and lover of all things vintage,’ he told me. ‘I started as a publisher of a vintage lifestyle magazine called Il Giaguaro in 1999. In 2006, I turned the idea of the magazine into a night club with live music. In 2009, I put on the first ever burlesque show in Italy. The club closed in 2013 and I began to produce shows at Rome’s Salone Margherita, one of the classiest theatre clubs in Italy. We present our show there every Saturday night.’
Why is the Velvet Cabaret’s burlesque show so special? ‘We have a live band so, apart from the wonderful dancers, Velvet Cabaret is a great way to enjoy swing jazz from the 1940s and 50s. The band has been playing for over 10 years now so the sound they make is really groovy. When you have the best Italian burlesque performers taking off their costumes to those incredible driving sounds it’s very exciting. Good shows are what make burlesque more and more popular.’
If, right now, you’re wondering what burlesque is exactly, the key thing to remember is that it’s not just stripping.
Today, modern burlesque honours the stylish, erotic legacy of original burlesque. And it’s not just for men. Performers like Dita von Teese perform to express themselves as much as anything else and to challenge social taboos.
As Babz puts it. ‘Burlesque is a wonderfully expressive form of entertainment that’s incredibly empowering for women. It’s very inclusive and appeals to an open-minded audience.’
If you’d like to be part of that open-minded audience, and I’m sure you would, here’s your chance.
Babz and Jumpin’ Josh have kindly slipped us four pairs of tickets to give the first of you to answer these questions:
Send your answers to us at firstname.lastname@example.org before 10 April and we’ll get your tickets to you.
A few years ago, I had the honour and privilege to help legendary club owner and Mallorca ace face Louie The Lip write the story of his astonishing life on the island, Hasta La Flip-Flops!
As part of the background research for Louie’s amazing story, I delved deeply into the history of Tito’s and El Terreno. This gave me a love for the place I’ve never lost.
If you want to understand how important Tito’s and El Terreno were to la vida loca in Palma and Mallorca back in the wild and wonderful 1960s and 70s, pick up a copy of Hasta La Flip-Flops! It remains the only real history of those times in English. And it’s very, very funny.