Before there was East Fourth Street, downtown revelers flocked to Short Vincent for a good time. Lawyers, sports stars and mobsters alike were drawn in for a titillating show at the Roxy Theater, the biggest burlesque house in the Midwest from 1931-1955.
"[Roxy performers] would tell me the place would be so packed you couldn't move," says Bella Sin, a local burlesque performer.
Although the space where the Roxy once thrived on East Ninth Street and Euclid Avenue is now occupied by PNC Bank, the city's burlesque scene is once again burgeoning.
Under Sin's direction, the third annual International Ohio Burlesque Festival returns to the Beachland Ballroom and Tavern Aug. 2 and 3. Its two shows will feature 55 global performers, including Sin, classes from the Buckeye Burlesque Academy and an exhibit at Space: Rock gallery, showcasing both modern and vintage photos of the bawdy performance art in its golden age as well as a documentary about the Roxy and Cleveland's history of burlesque.
The onstage performances will also include burlesque varieties from male burlesque (known as boylesque) to vaudeville to drag. "[It's] Vegas-style entertainment just in Cleveland," says Sin.
In the coming months, Clevelanders will see a double-sided, bedazzled Ohio Historical Marker honoring the history of Short Vincent and the Roxy on the theater's original site. Until then, the festival will honor Cleveland's rich burlesque past.
"I try to give you the Roxy feel," Sin says "Because every show I do is paying tribute to somebody that's not exactly there, but is there in spirit."