Capturing the memories
Red was haunted
by her visit to Dixie’s world, but a plan to
preserve the history of burlesque didn’t materialize until one
fateful night in Chicago.
While out on the town, Red was introduced to an old college buddy of
her girlfriend. The friend, filmmaker Gwen Lis, was fresh to the city
and eager for a new project.
As they talked over drinks, Red described her trip to the Mojave Desert.
Gwen immediately connected with the story and became excited about creating
a documentary to preserve this heritage.
“I’ve gone through knowing people and had them die before
I could tell their stories or get enough of them on film,” Gwen
says. “That was part of my urgency with it. There’s a rich
history there, so once [ Dixie and her friends] were gone, those stories
would be gone.”
With no funding for a documentary shoot, they borrowed film equipment
and scraped together enough money to make the trek. They assumed a few
days of interviews would provide the footage they needed.
But as luck would have it, their trip coincided with the Miss Exotic
World Contest, an annual competition hosted by Dixie. The plan changed.
“All of a sudden, the place was flooded with older burlesque
stars and younger people who are part of the revival of burlesque,” Gwen
recalls. “You’d have this 18-year-old full of tattoos get
up on stage, and next to her there’d be an 80-year-old woman in
a boa hooked up to an oxygen tank. It was so visually rich and strangely
A simple, one-time shoot would not be enough. They would have to return.