Spend an afternoon with a Las Vegas Showgirl
Jubilee is the only Vegas show that still features nude showgirls. By planning your Vegas visit you can spend an afternoon with one of them – fully clothed, of course!
There are certain things associated with Las Vegas. Gambling, Elvis Presley, weddings, and showgirls. When my friend Richard Grant (no, not Richard E. Grant) told me he’d been to Vegas and spent the afternoon with a Las Vegas Showgirl, I wasn’t sure if I ought to ask him to tell me about it. But I did, and he had some revelations of his own to make. He revealed a little-known Las Vegas tourist attraction: how to spend an afternoon with a Las Vegas Showgirl.
For decades, the statuesque showgirl was an icon of Las Vegas. But times change. Today, Circ Du Soleil and Celine Dion are the norms, and showgirls along Glitter Gulch have been reduced to just one last production.
Ah, but what a production! Jubilee is pure Vegas – an over-the-top spectacle with 100 dancers, wearing 1,000 different costumes, all on a stage that is half the size of a football field. Twice a night, the $50 million production explodes on stage – literally. Each show uses five pounds of explosives and 1,000 pounds of dry ice.
But no special effect can top the showgirls – 85 dancers wearing 10,000 pounds of rhinestones, 8,000 miles of sequins, 4,000 pounds of a feather… and not much else.
One of the great ways to enjoy the show is on a backstage tour. Led by one of the showgirls, the tour takes you into their dressing rooms and behind the curtains.
Our tour guide, Paula, has been with Jubilee for eight years and is now one of the four featured dancers. Paula began dancing in Disney shows and has been dancing all her life. What soon becomes obvious is that while showgirls may look glamorous, there is little glamour in being a showgirl.
The cramped dressing rooms are two stories below the stage. Paula has 11 costume changes, which makes each show as an hour on a Stairmaster. ‘The stairs on stage are 12 inches high, twice normal height,’ she says. ‘Walking down those in high heels, wearing a 20-pound costume, a headdress that sticks out three feet on each side, hitting your mark to avoid bumping into the other 85 dancers…and doing it topless…is quite a challenge.’
‘Was it difficult going topless?’ someone in our group asks.
‘That’s a good question,’ Paula says, pretending she’s never heard it before. She worked in the show four years before going nude, but going topless is the only way to become a featured dancer. ‘Sometimes people in the audience are embarrassed during the first act, which features all 50 nude dancers,‘ Paula says. ‘They are afraid to make eye contact with the dancers and they look all around. But by the second number, they’re used to it and by the end of the show, the nudity is no big deal. It’s just Vegas.‘
The tour visits the sets, props, and backdrops that become everything from the boiler room of the Titanic to Samson’s great temple. Giant elevators can whisk 100,000 pounds of sets up to the stage in seconds.
Some of the headdresses are so huge they have suspended above on ropes and must be lowered onto the dancer’s head. Every type of feather, from peacock to vulture, has been used in the costumes, which were originally designed by Bob Mackie. His sketches are in the costume shop, where all costumes are made and repaired.
Unfortunately, the outfits are so elaborate, they can only be washed once a week. ‘The good news is that everyone has their own personal set of costumes, so you get to wear your own stink,’ Paula says.
She adds, ‘All the dancers are like a big family.’ Some are married, some have children. The oldest dancer retired at 51. They are some of the hardest working and most talented dancers in Las Vegas. And – at least during their moment in the spotlight – some of the most glamorous.
If You Go
Jubilee has been a Las Vegas staple since 1981 and has been seen by more than 9 million people. The one-hour Jubilee! Backstage Walking Tour is offered every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday at 10:50 a.m. and is open to everyone over the age of 13. Tickets are $11. Tickets are available from Ticketmaster.
Jubilee is performed at 7:30 and 10:30 p.m., Sat.-Thurs. with ticket prices running $65-$82.