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.