Advocates of burlesque have long touted the importance of the art form in American history.
The recently released documentary, Behind the Burly Q might help bump forward its significance. Written, produced and directed by actress Leslie Zemeckis, the 98-minute film features stories of the stage and road by the women who lived them — Dixie Evans, Tempest Storm, Blaze Starr, Kitty West and more.
Through striptease, they parodied American culture and titillated audiences, while being scorned by society. They traveled across the country, performed in big city clubs and, in the 1920s and '30s, provided affordable entertainment for the Depression-era working class. Driven by financial needs, abused childhoods, small town struggles or a desire to perform, they headed for the lights and marquees, only to go into hiding their stripped down past when their reign was over. This is the first time some of them come out of the closet to talk about their lives onstage.
Now looking like anybody's mother or grandmother, they talk very personally about taking it off and how they did or didn't adapt. They talk about faux pas and antics — on and off stage — bickering, community, act stealing, how they dealt with audience and hecklers. Photos portray them when they were young, bare and bejeweled.