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The Exotic World of the Sissy Butch Brothers

By Kay Daly

Intro | Fading Divas | Memories | Gurlesque | The Boa

You fly into Las Vegas and embark on a 3-hour drive into the Mojave Desert. It’s 112 degrees outside. The air-conditioning in your car strains to keep pace with the blistering heat. You get lost, turn back, and get lost again.

Finally, it looms before you, a sort of wind-swept, sun-bleached version of Shangri-La. The iron gates are emblazoned with the words “Exotic World Museum.” Beyond the gates, you see a ramshackle garden, decorated with plaster statues and a swimming pool.

Another sign says, “Honk three times for the tour.” You enter and find a world of riches in decay. With former burlesque queen Dixie Evans as your guide, you’re escorted through the treasures of an almost-forgotten era. Fading posters and publicity stills line the walls; a sequined gown that once draped the shapely figure of a burlesque diva twinkles on a dressmaker’s form. It’s a world of glitz that’s losing its sparkle under the hot desert sun.

Historian Red Tremmel and filmmaker Gwen Lis want to preserve this fading world. The duo, also known as The Sissy Butch Brothers, are fighting to document the rich heritage of American burlesque before it slips away. And in doing so, they’ve beckoned a new generation of performers onto the stage.

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