On August 3rd, the burlesque world lost the woman who is probably most responsible for the burlesque revival and the preservation of its history. A legendary performer in her own right and an inspiration for multiple generations of burlesque performers, the “Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque,” Miss Dixie Evans.
Born as Mary Lee Evans in Long Beach, California on August 28, 1926, Dixie started her career in the 40s as a model and chorus girl, eventually becoming a star dancer. She was a headlining burlesque performer by the early 50s, performing up and down the West Coast as part of Harold Minsky’s “burlesque wheel” touring circuit. Minsky encouraged her to adapt her stage persona to that of Marilyn Monroe, given her strong resemblance to the, then rising, film star. While resistant at first, she eventually adopted the Monroe persona and it was that act that would define her career as a burlesque dancer.
Evans developed a well-received tribute show to Monroe following her death in 1962 but eventually dropped the act after being mistaken for the dead film star. This was deeply disturbing to Evans and so she eventually adapted her stage show into a parody of Irma La Douce, Shirley MacLaine’s character in the 1963 romantic comedy of the same name.
By the mid-60s, the classic burlesque era was drawing to a close. Evans, now in her late 30s retired from performing and eventually got a job helping to run the entertainment at a resort facility in the Bahamas.
In the early 90s, Evans opened the Exotic World museum in the desert town of Helendale, California on the legendary Route 66. Visitors would honk three times at the gate, and Evans would come out herself to greet visitors and to lead them on a tour through her vast collection of burlesque memorabilia. Eventually, the museum was renamed the Burlesque Hall of Fame and was moved to Las Vegas, where it resides to this day. She also established the Miss Exotic World pageant in 1991, which we all know is the world’s premier contest for burlesque performers.
Dixie’s influence on modern burlesque cannot be understated. She is, without a doubt, one of the main reasons burlesque as an art form is around today. She’s been called the godmother of burlesque and her death has been felt deeply in the burlesque community.
Before I learned of Dixie’s death, I was already planning on writing this post about all the upcoming events we have celebrating Dixie Evans Week. This celebration of Dixie and her contribution to the modern burlesque movement is an annual event that takes place during Evans’ birth week, next week. Performers and instructors all over the world host events, shows and classes to celebrate Dixie’s life and influence. This year, all funds raised during Dixie Evans Week will go to cover her outstanding medical bills and preparations for a proposed memorial in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery, final resting place to many stars including Evans’ idol, Marilyn Monroe.
Please visit the Dixie Evans Week website to see the financial breakdown of Dixie’s final expenses and donate generously. Or, better yet, attend one of the amazing burlesque events listed below and contribute that way. There’s also a full list of all the events happening world wide on the site. I’m sure that’s the way Dixie would want you to contribute, by keeping the art form that she loved so dearly alive and thriving.
Rest In Peace sweet Dixie. You’ll be missed dearly.
Here she is in the original Exotic World museum telling the story of the very first striptease:
Here’s the list of Dixie Evans Week events ticketed by Brown Paper Tickets:
Tuesday, August 27
Dixie Evans Burlesque Week at The Shelter – Atlanta, Georgia Syrens of the South is please to team up with the Dixie Evans Burlesque week to hold a fundraiser to benefit burlesque legend Dixie Evans! Dixie Evans, The Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque was the beloved Godmother of the new burlesque movement and during her birth week, performers and burlesque instructors from all over the world will host events, shows and classes to raise money for the burlesque legend and founder of The Miss Exotic World Pageant. With shows and classes already confirmed in NYC, LA, Dallas, Toronto, Australia and more, this is going to be a bawdy burlesque-packed week in honor of Dixie Evans. Help us honor the woman who kept burlesque alive and helped make the resurgence the wild success that it is! Spice up your Tuesday nights with 10 amazing acts for only $10! See some of the best performers in Atlanta and some amazing new up and coming acts as well! Burlesque, singers, acrobats, jugglers, aerialists…you never know what’s gonna pop up in these Tuesday night shows! And don’t worry, they’ll be done before midnight since it’s a school night!
Peeler Pajamarama! – Kansas City, Missouri Kansas City Burlesque Symposium presents Peeler Pajamarama! A pajama party to benefit Burlesque Hall of Fame legend Dixie Evans. BRING CASH – PLAY GAMES – WIN PRIZES! Wear your PJs (keep it legal, please) and bring your pillows! (Ther’ll be chairs, but who sits in chairs at a pajama party?). Featuring pajama party games including Best PJ Contest, Peeler Pillow Fights and Balloon Pop Truth or Dare! Hosted by the Bearded Gamer Himself, Chris Arnone with appearances by: Annie Cherry, Damian Blake, Violet Vendetta, Goldie Goldstein, Annie Thrax, Ivanna Rockafella, Yvette D. Sin, Kitty Von Minx, Shirley Ja Jest, Ruby Foxx, Diamond Dan, K.P. O’Malley, Sara D’Joue, Romany Jewel, Redd Skyy, Lola van Horn, Dolly De Maul, Kiki Severe, and Eartha Delights!
Saturday, August 31
Blonde Bombshell: A Benefit Workshop – Allston, Massachusetts As part of Dixie Evans Week, B.A.B.E. is proud to present a benefit workshop in honor of Dixie Evans, The Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque. Sadly, Dixie died on August 3rd, before she could see this amazing outpouring of love from members of the burlesque community from all over the world come to fruition. B.A.B.E. is continuing to produce the fundraising shows and classes to pay for her outstanding medical bills and final arrangements. Bring out the Bombshell in you! Join the award-winning Boston Babydolls for a 3-hour workshop that will teach you to get your sexy on (and your clothes off!) to the Marilyn Monroe classic, “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend.” No previous experience is necessary! Students should bring heels they can dance in, a boa, long gloves, a gown or dress with a back zipper, a back-closing bra, and pasties. Some gloves, boas, and pasties will be available for sale. Students are invited to perform at the benefit party that evening.
Boston Loves Dixie! – Somerville, Massachusetts Dixie Evans, the “Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque”, was the beloved Godmother of the new burlesque movement. During her birth week (August 26th through September 1st), performers and burlesque instructors from all over the world are hosting events, shows and classes to raise money to pay for her outstanding medical bills and final arrangements. There are shows and classes from Australia to Alaska — and The Boston Babydolls are honored to be the curators of the Boston benefit, a bawdy burlesque-packed evening in honor of Dixie Evans. Help us honor the woman who kept burlesque alive and helped make the resurgence the wild success that it is! The goal throughout this week of celebration is a tangible appreciation of all the hard work she put into not only preserving the history of burlesque, but fanning the flames of the new burlesque.
VivaVoom Brr-lesque Presents: Pin-Ups for Dixie!! – Anchorage, Alaska It’s Dixie Evans Week! It’s gonna be HOT in Alaska when this pin-up party happens! Get your beautiful pin-up picture made with PantyRob, sip bubbly and help raise money for Dixie’s outstanding medical bills and final arrangements. VivaVoom Brr-Lesque will provide: the venue (Open Space), makeup, hairstyle, bubbly, ace photographer PantyRob, art direction and ego-boosting and a link to a video about how to prep your hair for the stylist. You will provide: your beautiful self in pin-curls (see video) and a basic face (foundation, concealer, primer, powder), a REALLY great pin-up ensemble in which you’d like to be photographed (Don’t forget jewelry and hair flare!), a robe to put on while you get beautified and your favorite red lipstick (Don’t have one? Heavens, no! Start looking NOW!).