Burly Help Needed

People in the burlesque community have nickamed their kind of theater “burly.” I know a good number of burlesque performers, and they use the term often: burly nights, burly dancers, burly performances. It’s been a while since I’ve used “burly” to mean what it actually means—“strong, robust, heavily built”—but today, Las Vegas’ own Burlesque Hall of Fame needs burly help.

Currently, the majority of the Hall’s matchless collection of burlesque memorabilia—treasures that span decades of the art form—is housed in a storage facility, but it won’t be for long. The widening of Interstate 15—good old Project Neon—has doomed the storage space where the Hall keeps its collection, and everything has to be examined, inventoried, packed, moved, and re-inventoried at the other end.

“I wouldn’t say the situation is dire, though it’s a lot of work to do in a short period of time, and it means putting some other projects on hold in the meantime,” says Hall Director Dustin Wax. “We could do the minimum task of moving the collection, essentially maintaining the status quo … but the status quo isn’t that good.”

Wax says that the current storage space is not easy to get into and out of, and offers virtually no room for cataloging, let along the display-building and restoration work that other museums take for granted.

“They’re literally spaces packed with boxes almost to the front,” he says.

Confronted with the notion of facing down the same problems in a new location, the Burlesque Hall of Fame is attempting to spin their tassels the opposite direction: If they have to move, why can’t they move to a space large enough to store the collection and allow Wax and his associates to work with it? The difficulty in doing that, as you might have expected, is
budgetary—which is where you come in, with burly authority.

From now until Aug. 31, the Burlesque Hall of Fame is attempting to raise $20,000 via Indiegogo. A full description of the fundraiser is here, and the Indiegogo campaign page is here. And if you’re at all interested in the growth of this worthy cultural institution and/or a Raiders of the Lost Ark-styled warehouse of crates filled with pasties and spangled bras, your next action should be pretty obvious.

Wax says your donations will bring change to the Hall’s small museum space at Emergency Arts, as well.

“By upgrading our space and making room to work, we’ll be able to acquire new material which will turn up in exhibits over time — and to make better use of some of the older pieces that need a lot of loving care to be made ready for exhibition,” he says. “And I’d also like to be able to do traveling exhibits in the near future, or to lend pieces to other institutions — again, things that are difficult to do now with the limited accessibility of our current facilities.”

This move could be the big step that leads to a Mob Museum-like presence for the Burlesque Hall of Fame — one of the ultimate goals for the Hall, says Wax.

“The space in Emergency Arts is a tease, a little glimpse at our collection and a taste of what’s to come,” he says. “There are somewhere around 4,000 or so pieces in our collection —photos, documents, costumes, stage props, promotional materials, artworks, and so on—and probably half of 1 percent of it on display.”

Las Vegas boasts some of the most unusual museums in the world. The Neon Museum, the Mob Museum and the Atomic Testing Museum offer educational experiences that can’t be had anywhere else in the world. The Burlesque Hall of Fame belongs in their company, and with their inventive solution to this forced move, they can take a big stride toward moving into that neighborhood. All it takes is a donation of $25 to $1,000, and the faith that this tease will pay off in a few heart-pounding moments.

And even if you don’t want to donate, Wax says, you could help by passing the word on. You never know who’s feeling burly.

“Our mission isn’t just to serve the people who already love burlesque but to educate and inform the population as a whole about this art form,” Wax says. “If someone learns about us because they heard about the fundraiser and that makes them more curious about burlesque, that’s a win.”