Burlesque takes over Hell's Kitchen on Friday to benefit an injured friend

AJ Peterson, left, and girlfriend Elly Curtis Lachman were injured in mid-August when their car hit a deer.
AJ Peterson, left, and girlfriend Elly Curtis Lachman were injured in mid-August when their car hit a deer.
courtesy Elly Curtis Lachman

On Friday night, nearly 30 burlesque performers will be coming to Hell's Kitchen for a multiple-hour, three-act cabaret bash. But the event isn't Best of the Midwest Burlesk Festival here early -- it's a benefit.

Back on August 19, AJ Peterson, aka DJ AJent Orange, was riding shotgun in his girlfriend Elly Curtis Lachman's car on the return leg of a trip to New Orleans. Just south of St. Louis, the couple hit a deer and flipped off the road at, Lachman says, about 75 miles per hour. The car rolled twice and landed passenger-side down.

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Curtis Lachman made it out with some whiplash and belt burn, but Peterson had to be lifted from the wreck through the windshield. After stopping at a local trauma center, he was transferred to a larger St. Louis hospital. There, over the next 10 days, he learned that on top of thorough bruising, his lung had collapsed, broken ribs had punctured his spleen, and, most critically, his shoulder had shattered.

Three days after the accident, Peterson went into his first shoulder surgery. Last week, he had a second operation. He has no health insurance.

"Without having any traumatic hospital experience, I had no idea what the bills were going to be like," Curtis Lachman says. "It was probably when AJ was in the first surgery and I got on the phone with my car insurance that I started realizing." According to Curtis Lachman, medical expenses are already in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

This is where Friday's benefit comes in. Peterson has been part of the local burlesque community for years. In 2004, he joined Lili's Burlesque Revue as a DJ, stageboy, and stage manager. On August's New Orleans trip, he and Lachman were with other burlesque performers and artists, including Chicago star (and Miss Exotic World 2005) Michelle L'Amour. So after friends heard about the crash, a cabaret fundraiser was a natural event to start planning.

The event poster, featuring Peterson, touts the full line-up.
The event poster, featuring Peterson, touts the full line-up.
courtesy Black Hearts Burlesque

courtesy Black Hearts Burlesque
The event poster, featuring Peterson, touts the full line-up.

"We started thinking about it right after the accident," says Elektra Cute of Black Hearts Burlesque, who is organizing the night along with Switch the Boi Wonder. "By September 1, we set a date with Hell's Kitchen and were getting it going."

Cute says that they started by "reaching out to everyone we knew," and that right away, "people said, 'I'll be there.'"

Contributions for a silent auction began to roll in, including Guthrie and Brave New Workshop tickets, two passes to a boa class taught by Frenchie Kiss, "sexy surprises" via Smitten Kitten, and a $60 Sea World Tattoo gift card.

While some donated the goods, others signed on to donate performances. Friday night's line-up is nearly 30 performers long, and includes local teasers like Queenie von Curves and Ophelia Flame. Midwest stars Frenchie Kiss, Lola Martinet, Tila von Twirl, and Lily Bloom will be making the trip up from Chicago, as will Michelle L'Amour, who hasn't performed in the Twin Cities for a few years.

"There will be performers you don't usually get to see," says Cute. "If you're considering coming to any cabaret event, it should be this one. It's going to be completely nuts."

Tickets are $10 at the door, and all that money, plus performer tips, PBR sales, coat check, and the silent auction proceeds will go to Peterson. Cute is hoping for a packed, 200-300 person audience.

Curtis Lachman and Peterson will be making an appearance on Friday too, though Peterson's not sure if he'll be strong enough to stay for all three sets. "Recovery is a bit of a roller coaster," Curtis Lachman says. "Right now, AJ's in kind of rough shape because he just had another surgery, but he's better than he was six weeks ago. And he won the bonus round."

More related coverage:
- Best of the Midwest Burlesk Festival Opening Gala
- Event: The Bodyguard: A Burlesque Benefit

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