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Happy New Year!

Image courtesy of Sean Rogers1 via Flickr.

As the curtain rises on the new year, we want to wish everyone out there a happy, healthy 2012! The start of the new year is a time for reflection and anticipation, looking back at the past year and forward to the ones yet to come. Here at the Burlesque Hall of Fame, we do so with relish — after all, 2011 was a banner year for the BHoF, and 2012 is shaping up to be even better!

A year ago today, we were planning our first-ever 100% locally-cast fundraiser, Varietease, produced with Cha Cha Velour and held in the Fiesta Room at the historic El Cortez Hotel & Casino. Research was underway for our first permanent exhibition, “Spectacular, Erotic, and Slightly Shocking: A Timeline of American Burlesque,” chronicling the story of burlesque in America from Lydia Thompson’s arrival in 1868 through the birth of neo-burlesque in the 1990s; and of course, the amazing team of volunteers who make BHOF Weekend happen year after year was already hard at work, planning the 2011 shows.

By all accounts, all three were smashing successes. In fact, from the comments and emails we’ve received, conversations we’ve had, and Facebook/Twitter posts we’ve seen, the 2011 Reunion was one of the best organized, most fun gatherings in the event’s 50+ year history.

For those who missed it, when the last bedazzled brassiere was adroitly cast off, Miss Indigo Blue emerged as 2011’s Reigning Queen of Burlesque — crowning a career of artistry, excellence, and whole-hearted devotion to the burlesque community, as Headmistress of Seattle’s Academy of Burlesque, a leading organizer of the educational and professional development conference, BurlyCon, and a tireless advocate for the Burlesque Hall of Fame. Needless to say, her Royal Blueness took to the role with relish, promptly issuing a string of Royal Edicts to her spangled subjects. (Speaking of which, I hope everyone is wearing their pasties at a jaunty angle now; it’s not just good sense, it’s The Law.)

2011 was also a banner year for the boys, with a record number of awards going to performers of the male persuasion, including The Stage Door Johnnies (Best Group), Captain Kidd (Best Boyleque and Most Dazzling), and Jett Adore, who took home the Most Innovative title. They joined Lou Lou D’Vil (Best Debut) and the Dolls of Doom (Most Comical) as Indigo’s Royal Court, supported by an international, multi-generational cast of hundreds, each of whom contributed something special to the four-day burlesque lovefest.

While the measure of any show’s success lies somewhere between the excellence being presented on stage and the volume of sheer joy generated by the audience, it’s worth noting that 2011 was also the BHoF’s most financially successful Weekender to date. An epic show is a thing of beauty in its own right, but BHoF Weekend is, first and foremost, a fundraiser for our true mission: the preservation and celebration of burlesque and its legacy. The overwhelming success of the 2011 event means the museum will continue to grow–which is great news, because we have BIG PLANS, for the coming year and beyond.

Of course, big plans often necessitate big changes, and one of the biggest changes in the past year was my appointment as Interim Executive Director, replacing Laura Herbert, who took on the role shortly after helping relocate the museum from Helendale, CA to Las Vegas, following the death of Jennie Lee’s widower, Charlie. When the roof started caving in (literally) over the collection and the museum was threatened with closure by San Bernardino County, Laura was a driving force in safeguarding the artifacts and finding a new home for both the museum and the Weekender. In the five years since, she has worked tirelessly — unsalaried — to promote not only the BHoF but the art of burlesque as a whole; presiding over the protection and expansion of our core collection; making BHoF artifacts and archives available to researchers; and enlisting dozens of superstars around the country to help perpetuate the work started by Jennie Lee so many years ago.

Moving forward, we have a lot to live up to — and even more to do. The next steps might not be easy (or quick), but they’re no less essential to maintain the museum’s legacy for generations yet to come: building up and further cataloguing the collection; establishing an operating budget (or better, an endowment) that isn’t wholly dependent on income generated by the Weekender, creating new scholarship and traveling exhibitions, encouraging new research, coordinating volunteers. This is the work I’ve committed to accomplishing, with lots (and lots!) of help from people all around the country and across the globe.

So keep your eyes peeled in the coming weeks and months for news of exciting new acquisitions, new exhibitions, and new approaches to fundraising. And hopefully, you’ll be able to see some of it even if you can’t make it to Vegas, as we are working to place small exhibitions at burlesque events nation-wide and beyond.

But remember: we can’t do it without you. If you’re a performer, producer or promoter, please consider donating your flyers, postcards, and posters to our new Flyer Archive. If you believe in what we’re aiming to accomplish, please consider supporting the Burlesque Hall of Fame as a member — and if you’re already a member, please consider lending your skills and talents as a volunteer. Whoever you are, if you’ve got suggestions for how we can do something better (or requests for something you’d like to see from us in years to come), please drop us a line and let us know.

Here we are, then: 2012! Best wishes to all for a stellar new year, filled with all the thrilling opportunities a new beginning brings.

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