Behind the Burly Q,
which is a documentary about the real story of
burlesque told by the performers themselves, will be
available on DVD April 12. The film is written, directed
and produced by Leslie Zemeckis, Academy Award
Winner Bob Zemeckis’s (Back to the Future, Forrest
During the Great Depression, for a dime a man
could fall into a gaudy burlesque show and forget his
troubles. From theatres to nightclubs, burlesque was a
raucous sexy show filled with gorgeous women, strippers,
comedians, acrobats and singers. Though tame by today's
standards, the shows were considered risqué, and most
performers were looked down on as second rate. Because
of the sexual innuendo and the barely-there costumes it
has largely been left out of the history books.
Behind the Burly Q goes behind the scenes, and
for the first time it will tell the real story of
burlesque, with actual footage and interviews from the
dancers and performers.
Leslie caught up with
Mark's List to discuss her new documentary and the
process of uncovering the real story of burlesque in
(Photo: Director Leslie
did you feel the desire to tell this story?
Because no one had. I
interviewed dozens of former performers that had never
told their story, because no one had asked and no one
understood what burlesque was. Today there is still the
stigma, people think it was merely strippers and is
somehow connected to prostitution and pornography. I
think Abbott and Costello, who got their starts in
burlesque, would disagree.
What are you hoping audiences learn or take away
from watching the documentary?
What exactly a burlesque show
is. That there would be no Carol Burnett show without
it. There would be no Saturday Night Live without it.
Our comedic history comes directly from burlesque. There
were hundreds of comedians that got their start in
burlesque. They worked on their craft. They were
artists, as were the women. They tried to make it
beautiful, and it might be naughty, but it wasn't nasty.
It was an important part of our entertainment history.
It entertained thousands and thousands of people during
the depression when they could not afford a Broadway
show. It was a fun, gaudy show. I think the viewer will
find humanity in these performers and discover who they
were. Not second class citizens.
While directing the film, what did you learn
about burlesque that was surprising or inspiring?
How rich the history was and
how much work in burlesque there was. These performers
could work nearly year round for 20 years. They were a
close knit group. They had a real love for what they had
done and they missed it, and they mourned the fact no
one today knows what it is.
How did you pick the dancers that you wanted to
use for the documentary?
|(Photo: Dixie Evans
interviewed EVERYONE I could find that was still alive.
I spent two years traveling across this country at a
moments notice to interview people quite literally on
their death bed. I did not want their stories lost. In
many cases they picked me. Once I was known in the
community - which is small, and getting smaller every
day - people contacted me and wanted me to tell their
story. It was a privilege and they have since become my
Did you get any advice or assistance from your
husband while working on the documentary?
Just to go do it, and don't
listen to any negativity. He sat in on the final edit
sessions, as he's brilliant at story telling. And to
come home soon, as we have three little babies he was
taking care of while I was gone.
sensationalizes many stories. Do you think there is a
need for more documentaries telling the REAL story? On
that note, what are some of the stories that you feel
need to have the real story presented to the public?
Absolutely. I love
documentaries, and usually they are stranger than
fiction. And I am currently developing two that NEED to
be told. More on that later.