The Burlesque Hall of Fame has acquired more than 150 rare burlesque films and shorts, most created between 1946-1958, from the collection of the famous (and infamous) exploitation film distributor Something Weird. The acquisition of the complete Something Weird/Sonney Amusement Enterprises/Broadway Roadshow Productions Burlesque Film Collection represents a milestone in the museum’s ongoing mission to preserve and share the history of burlesque.
“Something Weird has long been recognized by B-movie film aficionados for its collection and distribution of rarely seen and even more rarely preserved cinema,” said BHoF Executive Director Dustin Wax. “We’re honored that the company’s owner, Lisa Petrucci, has entrusted us with this enormous assortment of unique films, and are grateful for her generosity and foresight in making sure these films are preserved.”
Of the 30-plus feature-length films and 120-plus shorts, many have never been transferred and released to the public, and none has been digitized at today’s high definition standard. Accordingly, the digitization of the complete collection will become an ongoing project for BHoF.
“I am beyond thrilled that the BHoF has taken on the stewardship of the burlesque and striptease films from the Something Weird Video archive. It is the largest and most comprehensive collection of original 16mm and 35mm feature films, shorts and loops celebrating Burlesque history on celluloid. These historical artifacts deserved preservation and a loving home. And now I know they will be honored and appreciated for decades to come,” says donor Lisa Petrucci, owner of Something Weird and widow of Mike Vraney, who started this collection decades ago.
To give a sense of the collection’s scale:
- There is an estimated 97,000 ft of 36mm film and 15,000 ft of 16mm film, which is just over 21 miles.
- That’s enough films to stretch from one end of the Las Vegas Strip to the other and back five times.
- If stood on its end, it would be 100 times taller than Las Vegas’ landmark “Stratosphere.”
Countless performers from the Golden Era of burlesque are featured, including:
- Tempest Storm (Las Vegas resident and “The Tempest in a D-Cup”)
- Bettie Page
- Val de Val (“The H-Bomb of Burlesque”)
- “Pigmeat” Markham (African-American comedian, popular on the burlesque circuit)
- Jennie Lee (founder of The Burlesque Hall of Fame)
- Sunny Knight (“The Golden Girl of the Golden West”)
- Taffy O’Neill (“The Original Garter Girl”)
- A series of outtakes from rare sessions by pin-up photographer and model Bunny Yeager
This collection opens up a world of possibilities for us. Over the next several years, we will be digitizing it and working to make it available to researchers. In addition, we are looking at mounting a burlesque film festival in the near future, where we can showcase work from our collection as well as the ever-increasing number of burlesque-related documentaries and fictional movies. And we hope to be able to re-issue some of these films in the new ultra-high definition formats that become available over the next decade.
We are beyond honored to be entrusted with the task of preserving this crucial snapshot of burlesque’s past. Our deepest gratitude to Lisa Petrucci and everyone involved at Something Weird for assembling, protecting, and passing on this celluloid legacy.