The Las Vegas Showgirl, and the shows which exemplified them, have a history all their own. From the distinct theatrical traditions of burlesque, vaudeville, dance and music halls, the French cancan, comic opera and operetta, Broadway, speakeasies and nightclubs, and movies, came a cosmopolitan adult entertainment popular in New York, Hollywood, Paris, Miami Beach, Rio, and ultimately Las Vegas, where it seemed to become a permanent fixture of this town’s almost timeless firmament of entertainment. The Showgirl and The Las Vegas Show survive only in Las Vegas, that time-warp museum of popular culture.
No other icon epitomizes Las Vegas like the showgirl. While Las Vegas has become known primarily as a gambling resort, in fact its entertainment is as important to its tourist industry as gambling. Las Vegas has, in a sense, lived up to its self-promotion as the Entertainment Capital of the World. From a venue for New York nightclub shows in the first Strip hotels — in which the entertainment director took precedence over the casino boss — Las Vegas has developed a unique and distinctive genre of adult entertainment perhaps most associated with the “Frenchified” showgirl of the Las Vegas shows Lido de Paris and Folies-Bergère, and their spin-offs of headliners, standup comics, and magicians.
An exhibit of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, Las Vegas News Bureau
Text by Peter Michel, UNLV Libraries Special Collections