Burlesque Hall of Fame
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The Burlesque Hall of Fame is the name of the burlesque museum located on Fremont Street in Downtown Las Vegas. Formerly known as Exotic World, the museum historically was located on the site of an abandoned goat farm in Helendale, California. The museum documents the history of American burlesque from its 19th-century origins through its golden age in the mid-20th century, and displays artifacts commemorating historic burlesque performers.
Exotic World originated as the private collection of retired exotic dancer Jennie Lee. It had been curated by retired burlesque performer Dixie Evans, who had often personally leads tours through the exhibits prior to an illness which began in the Summer of 2013. Ms. Evans died on August 3, 2013.
Retired dancer Jennie Lee started collecting burlesque memorabilia when she owned the Sassy Lassy nightclub in San Pedro, California. After Lee was diagnosed with breast cancer, she and her husband moved to an abandoned goat farm in Helendale, California, located in the Mojave Desert about one third of the way between Los Angeles, California and Las Vegas, Nevada.
Lee intended to create a burlesque museum, found a burlesque school and run a bed and breakfast, and the goat farm site had enough room to contain her growing collection. Only the museum got started within her lifetime.
After Lee died in 1990, Dixie Evans took over the farm and turned it into The Exotic World Burlesque Museum, aided by Lee's widower, Charlie Arroyo. Lee's memorabilia formed the core of the collection, but people from around the world soon started to donate items to Exotic World. The collection grew large enough to fill the entire farm.
In late 2005, the museum was temporarily closed for inventory and renovations in the wake of Arroyo's unexpected death and significant weather damage to the museum facilities. Although the museum was not open at the time of the annual Miss Exotic World Pageant in 2006, the pageant was nevertheless held at an alternate venue, the Celebrity Theater in Las Vegas. In 2006, the Burlesque Hall of Fame relocated from Helendale to Las Vegas, NV.
The Exotic World museum collection includes posters, photographs, publicity stills, newspaper clippings, and playbills related to famous burlesque performers including Blaze Starr, Lili St. Cyr, Chesty Morgan, Candy Barr and Tempest Storm.
The museum includes costume elements and props such as feather boas, fans, gloves, garter belts, gowns, shoes, pasties, g-strings, and jewelry. Many of these items are specially made for use in striptease routines.
Unique individual items include ivory fans used by Sally Rand, gloves and a black velvet shoulder cape worn by Gypsy Rose Lee, a heart-shaped couch owned by Jayne Mansfield and the cremation ashes of Miss Sheri Champagne.
Miss Exotic World Pageant
Exotic World hosts the annual Miss Exotic World pageant on the first Saturday of every June. Each year a Neo-burlesque performer is crowned Miss Exotic World in a contest often referred to as the Miss America of burlesque. Winners receive both the title and a trophy.
Dixie Evans initiated the Miss Exotic World pageant in 1990 as a way to draw people to the museum. She garnered attention by sending out a press release claiming that "Lili St. Cyr, Tempest Storm, Blaze Starr and 30 other alumni of burlesque will all be invited to attend this reunion." While technically true, none of those invitees attended that year. However, the release garnered press attention for the pageant, which was successful enough to become an annual event.
Each contest features burlesque performances by both stars from burlesque's golden age and younger women involved in the New Burlesque scene.
The organization initiated a Hall of Fame whose inductees include:
The history of the Burlesque Hall of Fame is the featured subject of the 2010 documentary Exotic World & the Burlesque Revival. Dixie Evans appears in Leslie Zemeckis' documentary Behind the Burly Q.