Monday, March 30, 2009


Given the top-heavy, silicone-enhanced charms of your average showgirl, you'd think she'd at least be able to stay afloat. But sadly, no: Les Folies Bergere, a fixture on the Vegas Strip since 1959 and one of only two old-school revues still playing, closed for good yesterday.

Vegas without showgirls? That's like Skiles without Henderson, Allen without Rossi, Siegfried without Roy. No matter what permutations the city was going through, including its stunningly ill-advised attempt in the mid-nineties to be a family-friendly theme park mecca, it was still possible to see the ghosts of the old Las Vegas, to get a whiff of what used to be. Sam Butera and Buddy Hackett could still get gigs, and Tom Jones could still be the hottest ticket in town.

But that's back when room still existed on the Strip for the Stardust and the Sands, some of the earliest hotel/casino combos to have opened in the town, and once the height of tawdry glamour. Mob money built these places, and even in decline, even when they were run by faceless entertainment consortiums, they still had some semblance of personality.

Now Vegas is...well, not respectable, exactly, but it sure isn't what it was. There are ridiculous gimmick hotels like the New York, New York or efficiently snobby places like the Bellagio, and as long as Caesar's Palace still exists, there will remain at least a hint of the tacky spectacle of what was. But with multi-million dollar showrooms filled by the likes of Celine Dion and Elton John, to say nothing of the psuedo-artsy spectacle of whatever the latest Cirque du Soleil snoozefest may be, the era of the city's most defining symbol, the feather-bedecked showgirl, comes slowly to an end.

As it happens, the only showgirl revue still playing in Vegas is Jubilee!, which happens to be the show I dragged my reluctant wife to the day after our wedding. (Yes, I got married in Vegas. In retrospect, that may have been a mistake.) Sometime after the retelling of the Samson and Delilah story, following the dog act and the magician, even after the recreation of the sinking of the Titanic--complete with topless babes tumbling off the deck!--as a parade of showgirls strutted across the stage, dangled from the ceiling, appeared in the aisles, as the very air abounded with pulchritude, I turned to my new bride and exclaimed, "I never want to see a pair of tits again...AND I'M ON MY HONEYMOON!"

Fortunately, I recovered. Las Vegas, apparently, never will.