Considered against the bawdy tradition it celebrates, the Burlesque Hall of Fame has always operated modestly. Back when it was called Exotic World—the dream of two burlesque legends, Jennie Lee and Dixie Evans—this collection of burlesque treasures occupied rooms in a Helendale, California, ranch house. Later, it moved to a two-room space adjacent to Fremont East’s now-defunct Beat Coffeehouse, then to an even smaller temporary space inside Downtown’s Art Square complex.
This month, however, the BHoF goes big. The museum is moving into a 3,000-square-foot space at 1027 S. Main St., inside one of three new Arts District buildings recently built by Arts Factory/Art Square owners Jonathan and Eshagh Kermani. And BHoF president Dustin Wax promises to fill it.
“We’ll have 850 to 1,000 square feet of storage, which will give us plenty of space for working with our collection,” Wax says. That’s a huge deal, he adds: Before now, much of the BHoF’s collection has been inaccessible. “I haven’t seen 60, 70 percent of our collection, because we haven’t had the room to unpack and look at it.”
The other 2,000-plus-square feet will be divided into a multipurpose room, a gift shop and lots of exhibition space, which BHoF intends to “load up” with photos, costumes and large pieces, like a heart-shaped couch that belonged to Jayne Mansfield.
A small, temporary BHoF exhibit will open in the front of the new space soon, to tide us over while build-out of the full museum continues through the summer. By October, Downtown Vegas should have its burlesque museum—the fulfillment of a dream born in Helendale.
“The most important thing for us is being able to reach a new audience—to be a destination for people who just happen to be walking by,” Wax says.