Nobody did more in the modern era to keep the memory of classic
burlesque alive than Dixie Evans. As conservator of Exotic
World (a position she held since 1989), Evans watched
over a remarkable collection of g-strings, pasties, fans, and photographs
from the golden age of the bump-and-grind.
What makes her involvement more incredible
is that Evans had a personal connection to 1950's strippers--she
was one herself. Back in the era where most strippers had a gimmick, Evans
was handed hers on a silver screen platter. During those years,
Monroe fever was running rampant due in no small part to the
star's admission that she was indeed the nude model featured in the first
issue of Playboy. Evans had been dancing on the circuit since
the early 50's, but it wasn't until she decided to become burlesque's answer
to Monroe that her career really took off.
Evans and Monroe
had the same general body type: 40-26-34 for Evans and 37-24-35
for Monroe. And in some publicity photos the resemblance
is uncanny. With her transformation,
Evans had hit blonde
bombshell gold. The real Marilyn Monroe was too inaccessible to your average
joe, but Evans (in her
Monroe guise) could
let these men's imagination run wild. If you couldn't have
you could have the next best thing. With Monroe's death in
the early 60's, Evans gimmick was pulled out from under her.
It wasn't until Evans decided to renew the act as a tribute
that she got her career rolling again.
As classic burlesque died away,
went into retirement. It was only after the death of fellow stripper (and
founder of Exotic World) Jennie Lee,
that Evans took up the mantel as keeper of the burlesque
flame. Under her watchful eye, Exotic World became a burlesque mecca out
in the middle of the Mojave Desert. In the mid-2000's, the museum was packed
up and moved to a much more visible location--Las Vegas, where is resides
today. It was then rechristened The Burlesque Hall of Fame.
Even as her health faded, Evans
kept a watchful eye on the current generation of burlesque performers giving
them a connection to the past and inspiration for the future. She passed
away in August of 2013 at age 86.