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Meet Bryce Bordello — and the Fine Art of Boylesque 

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click to enlarge Undergoing transformation prior to a performance. - STEVE TRUESDELL
  • Steve Truesdell
  • Undergoing transformation prior to a performance.

Jones celebrated his thirtieth birthday at Just John Nightclub: "St. Louis' Premier Gay and Lesbian Bar located in the heart of The Grove." Jones is not gay. However, he credits St. Louis' LGBT community for welcoming him and making him feel at home.

"I hooked up with an old friend of mine who took me to a bar called Attitudes for the first time," Jones says. "I started meeting people and making new friends. This whole world had been right there the entire time, and I didn't know of it."

Although rainbow flags and gay-friendly clubs are fixtures in the Grove, the mile-wide stretch of Manchester Road between Kingshighway and Vandeventer is home to an even broader eclectic community. On any given weekend night, blacks, Hispanics, whites, hipsters, cyclists, punks, burlesque performers, hippies, gays, straights, drag kings and queens, and any other number of others can be found walking (and stumbling) from club to club.

The people he met — at Attitudes, and then at other bars in the neighborhood — expanded Jones' universe. He made new friends. He even had a girlfriend, an old friend he reconnected with.

She wanted to try burlesque.

Jones paid for her classes. He loved seeing her perform.

"She was so confident and happy," Jones says.

click to enlarge Jace Jones as Bryce Bordello. - STEVE TRUESDELL
  • Steve Truesdell
  • Jace Jones as Bryce Bordello.

The relationship only lasted about a year, but Jones remained friends with her and several burlesque performers. He offered to help backstage, but never thought to get involved as a performer himself.

"I never wanted to be looked on like that. I was still coming to terms with who I was, and the confidence wasn't really there yet."

At one of those shows, Jones met Bam Bam Bambi, a doe-eyed performer who enchanted him with her self-assurance.

"Her personality was everything I wanted to be," Jones recalls. "She was confident yet sweet in the way she interacted with people."

Both his ex and Bambi encouraged Jones to get onstage. At first, it was only for a play; Jones' ex connected him with his first show, an adaptation of Natural Born Killers, three years ago. It was Bambi who hooked him up for his second performance — a burlesque adaptation of the musical Chicago.

"My ex unlocked the doors of burlesque for me," Jones says. "Bambi kept them open."

In Natural Born Killers, Jones played Mickey Knox, a psychopathic killer who, along with his wife Mallory, goes on a murdering spree. During one of the scenes, the killer couple has wild sex after murdering someone — and that meant Jones was "90 percent naked," he says.

The play's adaptation, produced by Teya King, relied more on comedy than its big-screen counterpart.

"Still, it wasn't for the faint of heart," Jones says. "It was outside the box — more risqué, more vulgar, and at times, more awkward. I never thought I would do something like that."

About a month after Natural Born Killers, Bambi invited Jones to perform in Chicago.

"It was a burlesque show, but I actually did not have to take off my clothes," Jones recalls. "I had to dance while other performers undressed me during the 'Cell Block Tango' scene."

A career of getting naked onstage was born.

"Apparently I did it well enough that other people wanted me to do it."

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