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The Exotic World of the Sissy Butch Brothers

By Kay Daly

Intro | Fading Divas | Memories | Gurlesque | The Boa

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 beautiful.”

A simple, one-time shoot would not be enough. They would have to return.

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