AUGUST 3, 2013
We are sorry to share the news of Dixie's passing. She left us on August 3, 2013.
With the passing of Dixie Evans on August 3rd, 2013, Dixie Evans Week will now become a week of honoring the memory and celebrating the life of one of our most cherished legends, Dixie Evans. All funds raised during Dixie Evans Week through online funding, live shows and classes will be used to cover the existing costs of outstanding medical bills and preparations for Dixie's final accommodation. Please be patient with us while we re-evaluate our new funding goal; updates will be posted on www.dixieevansweek.com as well as on her You Caring site (https://www.youcaring.com/donate.aspx?frid=69465). We thank you for your continued support, and we know that Dixie will be with us if not in body in spirit as we celebrate her life.
If you have thoughts, suggestions, or questions, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our condolences to Dixie's fans, friends, and family. Dixie changed the lives of everyone in our burlesque community. We will miss her terribly.
Dixie Evans is a bawdy, entrepreneurial, fire-cracker of a blond! She founded the Miss Exotic World Competition in 1991 to bring attention to the Miss Exotic World Museum, a dream her colleague and friend, Jennie Lee, had to create a home for burlesque performers to retire as well to permanently display the wondrous burlesque ephemera she had collected throughout the years. Jennie’s death of cancer in 1990 did not mean an end to her dream. Dixie continued to nurture Jennie’s legacy by building up the museum and its collections, maintaining the day to day operations of the Museum and its staff, as well as leading captivating tours of the collection. A sign at the Exotic World Museum gate informed patrons to honk three times for a tour, and Dixie would answer in full show-girl hair, makeup and costume, frequently breaking into a spot on Marilyn Monroe imitation as she narrated the history of burlesque to fascinated patrons. “This is history,” Dixie often says to the performance art form that she has dedicated her life preserving, “and it deserves to be told.”
Dixie is known as the Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque, first for her uncanny resemblance to the sex symbol and then for her equally topical and original applications of Monroe references and films into her acts.
She first adapted the moniker from Mr. Harold Minsky, who pointed out her resemblance while she performed her famed, Hollywood casting couch act. The next day, she immediately started imitating the star on stage. “I didn’t think you’d do it so fast,” a surprised Mr. Minsky told her backstage. As Dixie explained, "If you don't go over well in burlesque, you don't work. And I had to work. Besides, it was easy for me to fall into that act. I learned to walk and talk just like her. I followed her career move for move. Every time a movie with Marilyn came out, I ran to see it. The next day, I'd start a new act based on what I saw or read about in the papers.”
Raised during the depression, Dixie had to work. She was born Mary Lee Evans in 1926, daughter to Roy Evans and Annie Wrennette Le Grand, a descendent of Robert Morris and other distinguished French and early American prominent families. “I like to joke that though I'm from aristocracy, I ended up a stripper,” Dixie says of her acclaimed lineage. Her father worked in the oil business, and was tragically killed in an accident when she was 7 years old, leaving her mother to raise two children on her own. His death was devastating to the family, especially Dixie. Dixie started working in her teens – at a Catholic Hospital, the celery fields, an Army base -- and at the age of 16, she dropped out of high school.
While working at Minter Field during WWII in Aerial Repair, one of her duties was to paint stars on planes. Not surprisingly, Dixie had set her sights on a different kind of star! She began taking dance lessons in her late teens, to fulfill her Hollywood starlet aspirations. She joined the chorus of The Orchidias de Hollywood, and performed in Mexico, as well as The Moonie Dancers, who toured to Anchorage, Alaska, giving Dixie her first performance experiences, as well as an exotic introduction to being on the road. During her ingénue career, Dixie modeled and took gigs performing with The Clyde Beatty Circus and as a page in San Francisco, which lead to her first gig performing solo at the Spanish Village. Next she got booked at the Follies Theater in Los Angeles, where she met manager Lillian Hunt and costume designer Gussie Gross. Later, Lillian put Dixie’s Hollywood act on celluloid in the burlesque film “Too Hot to Handle" (1950) and Gussie would make wardrobe for Dixie. “I didn’t have money back then to pay for a big, elaborate costume,” Dixie says, “so I paid for that first costume inch by inch!”
Dixie performed in burlesque theaters across the country, including the President Follies (SF), Follies Theater (LA), Rialto Theater (Chicago), Minsky’s (New Jersey), and many more. “When I started getting into burlesque, theaters were past their hey-day,” Dixie explains. “So I started working in clubs more.” For the majority of Dixie’s career, she traveled around the country as the Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque working in burlesque nightclubs, including the Place Pigalle in Miami Beach where she headlined, on and off, for about a decade. She met her husband to be, Harry Braelow, at the Place Pigalle, and they wed in 1963. Marilyn Monroe’s death in 1962 forced Dixie to revamp her act, as imitating the beloved star she so admired felt sacrilegious to her.
Dixie’s career took another turn in the mid 1960's when she moved to Bimini to manage a hotel. When she first told the owners she wanted to put on a show, they were not convinced. "You're going to put a show on the smallest island of the world?" the owner asked, incredulous. "That's the only way I know how to open up a place!" Dixie exclaimed. By creating a venue that she decorated, featuring live music and a wild floor show that she booked, Dixie turned the sleepy island Bimini Hotel into a destination spot for visitors and locals alike.
It is this tenacious spirit of creativity, scrappy entrepreneurialism, and resolute commitment to putting on a good show that have fueled Dixie’s life and her careers. At the Exotic World Museum, she honed her story telling skills as she led patrons through the collection, telling a narrative of burlesque history intertwined with her own experiences. There, she dedicated her life to preserving, displaying, and describing the magical world of burlesque. There, she became a fundamental advocate for sustaining and inspiring both burlesque history and its performers, past, present and future. There, she saw her life’s passions come together as she built a mecca, turning the dusty goat farm into a destination spot for burlesque aficionados. For burlesque fans across the globe, Dixie’s life-long, tireless dedication to keeping burlesque and its history alive have earned her the moniker of the “godmother” of burlesque, and many modern performers look to her for inspiration and guidance. As Dixie says “Burlesque is history. It deserves to be remembered.”
(Bio by Dr. Lucky)