Back in Chicago, the
duo planned a larger project which would require three years of filming.
That time span, they reasoned, would allow them to enter the world of
the burlesque queens and capture their full story.
But they still had no money. That’s when a brainstorm struck.
Calling on her skills as a historian, Red created a presentation about
the history of burlesque. They booked Star Gaze, the lesbian bar in Chicago’s
Andersonville neighborhood where Red had first told Gwen about Dixie,
and made their pitch.
“We were thinking, ‘I hope somebody comes,’” says
Gwen. In fact, they drew a crowd. At the end of the presentation, they
asked if anyone would be willing to perform in an amateur burlesque revue
which would serve as a fundraiser for their documentary. They were swamped
Their first revue, entitled “Gurlesque Burlesque,” premiered
in July of 2002. It was a smash hit. “We were completely sold out,” Red
recalls. “And we were blown away by the creativity of the acts.”
Since then, the Sissy Butch Brothers have produced a total of five
sold-out amateur burlesque shows in bars around Chicago. Each show features
a never-before-seen line-up of acts, created by local amateur performers
from all walks of life, as well as a few headlining acts drawn from the
national burlesque scene.
With the proceeds from each show, Gwen and Red return to Exotic World
to resume their work. And with each revue, the influence of the burlesque
legacy spreads a bit further. “After each show, we always get a
handful of audience members who want to perform in our next production.”