The Circle of Life

By Clarence George on August 17, 2013
The Circle of Life
Olympics...boxing, Olympics...burlesque. It's as interconnected as the circle of life.

Dixie was married to middleweight Harry Braelow (21-6-4, 9 KOs), who fought from 1951 to 1958, returning to the ring for a final bout in 1967…

“I told the judge, ‘Your Honor, this is the same act you saw at the policemen’s show.’”—Dixie Evans

First, the requisite boxing connection. She was married to middleweight Harry Braelow (21-6-4, 9 KOs), who fought from 1951 to 1958, returning to the ring for a final bout in 1967. In addition, she was the director and curator of the Exotic World Burlesque Museum and Striptease Hall of Fame, whose treasures include Sheri Champagne’s cremated remains and a photograph of Lili St. Cyr with Eleanor Roosevelt. Inductees include Ann Corio, Gypsy Rose Lee, Blaze Starr, and toothsome tootsie Candy Barr. The connection between what ultimately became known as the Burlesque Hall of Fame and the International Boxing Hall of Fame is so obvious as not to require elaboration. The acronym for both, for example, is pretty much BHF. She also established the Miss Exotic World pageant, which she referred to as the Olympics of burlesque. Get it? Olympics…boxing, Olympics…burlesque. It’s as interconnected as the circle of life. Or something.

Now that the pugilistic bona fides have been established, to business. I’m talking about Dixie Evans over here—“The Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque,” “The Sensation of the Nation,” “Hotter Than the Hydrogen Bomb”—who passed away in Las Vegas on August 3 at age 86.

Dixie (40-26-34) first appeared in the late 1940s in what glamour-girl expert Steve Sullivan calls “cheesecake reels,” including The Casting Couch and The Hula Dance. It was shortly thereafter that she began work as a stripper in nightclubs, but was offered a job in 1952 at the El Rey in Oakland:

“Boy, was there a difference from the nightclubs. This was big business. The tympani drumrolls, the musicians, the orchestra pit, comics, singers. Suddenly there was no kidding around – I was a headliner. So I acquired a professional attitude. I invested my money in props, costumes, and jewelry. You had to learn quickly. All the girls tried to do something a little unique – you had to have a gimmick or you couldn’t be a headliner.”

It was in that same year that Dixie made history by becoming “the first and only stripper to take it all off at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria,” reports Sullivan. “By the time she removed her gold lamé dress, it was too late for management to do anything.”

It was at Harold Minsky’s Minsky-Adams Theater in Newark, New Jersey, also in 1952, that Dixie was first introduced as “The Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque.” Within months, her weekly pay went from $250 to $400. “It really worked for me,” she said. It certainly did. She developed routines based on Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Bus Stop, and The Prince and the Showgirl. “People paid five dollars a seat to see me, and that was a lot of money,” Dixie said. “I was booked two years in advance.”

Dixie even had a routine based on the Joe DiMaggio-Marilyn Monroe breakup. “Dressed in an abbreviated Yankee uniform and swinging a gold-plated bat, she would wail, ‘Joe, you walked out and left me flat,’ accompanied by a crash of drums and cymbals as she did an exaggerated bump,” says Sullivan. Dixie would then kiss two baseballs before tossing them to the crowd.

At Miami Beach’s Place Pigalle, Dixie learned that DiMaggio was in the audience. Leery of performing the routine, she was reassured when the ballplayer came backstage and told her that “I’ve traveled so many miles just to see it.” He took her out after the show. “I took him home after we’d been out for breakfast, and introduced him to my mother,” said Dixie. “She was thrilled.”

With burlesque on its way out and with the death of Monroe, Dixie’s career came crashing down—“When she died, I died”—albeit briefly resurrected by her loving tribute to Monroe, “A Portrait of Marilyn.” Arthur Miller’s After the Fall “leaves a poor impression of Marilyn Monroe,” wrote Walter Winchell. “For a wonderful, wholesome, lasting impression, though, catch Dixie Evans.”

Dixie retired as a performer in 1967, but became once again involved in the world of burlesque when she took over “The Bazoom Girl” Jennie Lee’s Exotic World: The Strippers’ Hall of Fame and Museum in 1990. Originally located on the site of an abandoned goat ranch in Hallendale, California, the BHF is now in Las Vegas. That’s right, Sin City, where boxing matches take place, such as the one upcoming on September 14 between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Saul Alvarez.

Boxing, burlesque…the circle of life.

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Dixie Evans

Dixie Evans' Exotic World pt 1 Oct 29 1998

Dixie Evans' Exotic World pt 2 Oct 29 1998

Dixie Evans' Exotic World pt 3 Oct 29 1998

Dixie Evans' Exotic World pt 4 Oct 29 1998

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  1. Clarence George 01:53pm, 08/18/2013

    Which reminds me, Irish, that “Saratoga” was Jean Harlow’s last picture.  She collapsed in Clark Gable’s arms and never returned to the set.  You’ll note several scenes in which she’s filmed from behind, with a large hat, or with binoculars up to her eyes…that ain’t Harlow.

    My favorite Harlow story:  Upon meeting the rather acidic socialite, Margot Asquith, Jean insisted on calling her by her first name, which she pronounced “Margott.”  Responded the Countess of Oxford and Asquith:  “No, Jean.  The ‘t’ is silent…as in ‘Harlow.’”

  2. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 11:45am, 08/18/2013

    Clarence George-Bashart just won at Saratoga…. the Yiddish translation for Bashart is “Meant to be” would have been nice to know that before they went off because I’m taking your advice to always play your hunches.

  3. Clarence George 09:51am, 08/18/2013

    Thank you, Irish.  And I know what you mean:  Where all the men at?  As for your theory why men fight…it has much to recommend it. 

    Are those “draws,” Frank, or “drawers”?

  4. FrankinDallas 08:14am, 08/18/2013

    W40-L26-D34….wow; that’s a lot of draws on her record.

  5. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 08:02am, 08/18/2013

    Clarence George-Why do these guys fight….fame…..fortune…. a million other reasons that spring from the human psyche. Bottom line….they fight for pussy….that’s right, with a few notable exceptions….they fight to get better pussy and more of it!

  6. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 07:01am, 08/18/2013

    Clarence George-Uh Oh! Fabulous article and simply smashing photo above and very little participation from an almost exclusively male audience. Why are the hairs standing up on the back of my neck?

  7. Clarence George 11:05am, 08/17/2013

    I knew I could count on your approbation, Irish.

    If you like chorizo, you’ll love Hungarian garlic sausage.  You may be right about Dixie’s measurements, but I went with the research rather than with my gut.  Never cared for hose myself; bare-legged and high-heeled, that’s my motto.  Comparatively demure, yes; classier, definitely.  Always play your hunches, me auld warrior.

  8. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 10:34am, 08/17/2013

    Clarence George-Waited on this morning at the Post Office by a clerk named Diogenes…..forgot to ask him if he found that honest man yet. Still…I took it as an omen that good things are coming my way. Think I’ll start playing my hunches…which reminds me….years ago I was in line behind Willie Shoemaker at the airport for a flight from SoCal to Atlanta….he was headed back east to ride Ferdinand in the Derby. All week I kept telling myself I’ve got to load up big on the Shoe…of course I didn’t….and the rest as they say is history.

  9. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 10:10am, 08/17/2013

    Clarence George-I’m thinking Dixie was more like 34-26-40….which is fine with me. I’ve been a lifelong fan of black garter belts and dark hose….not so sure pantyhose was a step in the right direction. Let’s face it….those strippers of the golden age of burlesque were positively demure compared to what goes on today.

  10. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 09:51am, 08/17/2013

    Clarence George-Thanks…this article set my heart aflutter as I washed down my chorizo and scrambled eggs with two cans of frosty, ice cold Pabst Blue Ribbon. Chico Vejar took Braelow’s measure and so did Dixie…which reminds me…Dixie on the casting couch is enough to make an old geezer tent his nightshirt!

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