The Burlesque Hall of Fame. Miss Exotic World. These titles invoke a sense of grandeur and opulence, and rightly so. With its roots on a farm in Helendale, California, the Exotic World Museum (now known as Burlesque Hall of Fame) has become the most highly-renowned burlesque organisation in the world. Founded in 1990, the BHoF is run by a dedicated team and supported by performers and fans worldwide. They work tirelessly to preserve the historical legacy of burlesque for future generations, whilst nurturing contemporary performers to ensure the continued survival of the burlesque art form in the 21st century.
Every year in June, burlesquers worldwide flock to Las Vegas, the home of the BHoF for a weekend celebration of all things burly-q, including workshops, seminars, talks, shows and the pièce de résistance, the competition, at which the Reigning Queen of Burlesque is crowned each year.
The 2014 BHoF weekend took place a few weeks ago, with Denver- based Midnite Martini taking on the title and crown. Once dominated by stateside performers, the BHoF weekend now brings together performers from around the world; British performer Aurora Galore scooped the prize for ‘Most Innovative Act at this year’s competition.
A Little Bit of History
Miss Exotic World, as it was originally known, was founded in 1990 by Dixie Evans, following the death of her friend Jennie Lee. The museum was originally Lee’s dream but she passed away before it could become a reality. The collection originally comprised Lee’s own costumes, as well as pieces she had collected over the years but has since grown into a sizeable collection of several thousand pieces, donated by performers worldwide. Originally housed in a ranch in the Nevada Desert, the collection has grown and in 2010 the museum moved to it’s current home on Fremont Street in Las Vegas. The museum houses many pieces of burlesque history, including costumes, posters and souvenirs from burlesque back in it’s heyday. As a fringe art form, burlesque has always resided just outside of the traditionally respected theatrical and dance arts, and because of this, the work of the BHoF has been invaluable in preserving a history that might otherwise have been lost.
The BHoF Weekend
The annual competition and weekend of shows is the single biggest source of revenue for the museum as well as an essential date in the burlesque calendar. I was lucky enough to attend in 2010 and the sense of community spirit and a shared passion was unmistakable and an experience unlike any other. I also saw the most number of boobs I’ve ever seen in a single weekend; over 100 pairs in 4 days, so I consider that in itself an achievement! The weekend is divided into a number of shows over several nights, including the main competition on the Saturday night, as well as the Titans of Tease, which invites classic performers from the yesteryear of burlesque to perform.
In the daytime, you can visit the fair to buy burlesque paraphernalia from today’s stars, as well as treasured souvenirs from the classic queens of burlesque. There are also seminars and workshops to attend, there’s so much to learn and take in, it’s difficult to cram it all into 4 days.
Sadly that’s BhoF 2014 has now been and gone, but that gives us just under a year to start saving for the next one… best get started! Whether you fancy a crack at the competition or you simply love burlesque and would love to see the shows, BHoF should definitely have a place on your bucket list.
For more information on the BHoF, visit their official website:
Burlesque Hall of Fame