May 07, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT

The new documentary Behind the Burly Q (in theaters now) uncovers a lost art.

Setting the Stage
”People think burlesque is just stripping,” says first-time director Leslie Zemeckis. ”But really it was a big vaudeville-type show. Everything comes from it: Johnny Carson…The Carol Burnett Show, Saturday Night Live.”

Kennedy Connection
It seems that President John F. Kennedy was quite the burlesque fan: Tempest Storm, now 82, claims in the film that she had an affair with him, while another dancer says Kennedy once sent a car to retrieve her after the show — only to send her home when he learned she was only 14.

A Family Affair
The movie’s exec producer is Zemeckis’ husband, director-producer Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump). ”He didn’t know anything about burlesque,” she says.

A Revealing Truth
The film dispels the popular misconception that dancers twirled and tossed their clothes off the stage. In fact, performers — who often paid for their own elaborate costumes — gingerly carried each garment off stage to avoid damaging it.

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