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Lasting almost 50 years, Les Folies Bergere was the longest running show in Las Vegas history.The Folies Bergere revue was imported directly from Paris including French creative leadership and cast members.The Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas hosted the progeny production by emulating the original Folies Bergere of Paris’ successful formula of featuring topless, statuesque showgirls, chorus line dancers, elaborate stage sets, with interludes of comedy, magic, acrobats, and animal acts. The main components of the show incorporated ornate costumes with immense headpieces adorned with exotic bird feathers and expertly crafted rhinestones, expansive and elaborate scenery, original music performed by live orchestras, and imaginative interpretations of historic periods with the respective dance styles of the era.The spectacular combined the sexy mystique of Paris, the glamor and glitz of Hollywood, and the cosmopolitan sophistication of New York City.The prominence of showgirls established their role as one of the most recognizable icons of Las Vegas. In their best years, showgirls acted as Las Vegas ambassadors appearing at openings, store and event promotions, in printed advertisements, and alongside Mayor Oscar Goodman (and former mob attorney) at public appearances. To this day, showgirls define present-day Las Vegas and their influence can be seen in public artwork, marketing campaigns, and sidewalk impressionists.The Tropicana produced the extravaganza, Folies Bergere, in an age when casinos invested in unprofitable shows to attract tourists and encourage gambling on their gaming floor. Over the years, as corporations took over ownership of casinos and resorts, everything from entertainment, lodging, restaurants, and even parking had become independent cost centers that were expected to be self-funded. The over-the-top, expensive showgirl revues had become a historical phenomena, viewable in museum exhibits, and kept alive in the hearts and memories of longtime Las Vegas visitors. Background The first Folies Bergere of Paris originated in 1869 as a cabaret music hall. The institution is still in business, and remains a strong symbol of French and Parisian life. It is most notably captured in the painting “A Bar at the Folies Bergère” by French Impressionist artist Édouard Manet. The theater changed direction during World War I, when there was a new focus on the (frontal) nude female. Michel Gyarmathy, a pre-war Hungarian refugee, became artistic director of the most celebrated Folies Bergere in Paris. "Monsieur Michel," as he was known to his staff, designed the production, involving dozens of sets and more than 1,000 costumes from Parisian couturiers. Gyarmathy recruited female talent to perform in the company along with the acrobats, magicians, singers, tightrope walkers, circus animals, and other cabaret acts that provided variation to the nude main attraction. Gyarmathy was personally involved in replicating the show for the Tropicana in Las Vegas. Although the show was portrayed as “Direct from Paris,” half of the showgirls were American due to union agreements.Ordinarily, a show business career does not offer consistent employment. However, Folies Bergere's longevity offered some stability for cast and staff. Notwithstanding, the cast was subject to regular auditions twice annually, so their positions were not guaranteed. Also, showgirl employment covenants stipulated that they maintain their hiring body weight, have no tan lines and no tattoos. Violations to the excess poundage clause were subject to written warnings in the form of a “Personal Appearance Notice.”Mary Leo, showgirl and line captain for Folies Bergere, shared her experiences during an oral history interview for the University of Nevada Las Vegas, Special Collections. She described how showgirl lifestyles consistently fell into three categories. The first group consisted of married women with a family. For them, being a showgirl was simply a job. They would go home between twice daily performances to tend to their children and were available for the morning routine of getting the kids ready for school. The second group Leo referred to as “Professional Gypsies.” These women loved show business, traveling and entertaining. The final group Leo described as the “Come and Go” set. They tended to be more transient and were attracted to the glamor of Las Vegas, wanted to encounter movie stars, and desired to betroth a wealthy man.Showgirls had a reputation for lacking intelligence, acting immorally, and not being interested in the more traditional long term goals of more stable careers and/or marriage. However, this perception may not have always been true, and in fact this persona was likely perpetuated by the show management's request that showgirls “mix” or mingle with guests after the performance. In fact, former showgirls were generally young when they started performing, and following their Folies Bergere tenure, many pursued university education, obtained professional employment in various fields, and engaged in long-term relationships. Showgirls were typically 5’10"-6’2”(178-188 cm) tall, donned 2-4 inch (5-10 cm)high heeled shoes, headdresses nearing 4 feet (120 cm) tall, and backpacks that supported the tropical plumage display up to a 10-foot (3 m) wingspan weighing upwards of 65 pounds (30 kilo). Showgirls needed to have both a dancer's gracefulness and athlete's strength as they showcased their poise by descending the grand staircases and circumnavigating the stage effortlessly with an alluring smile.Many of the productions and individual scenes had themes based on historical periods. The costumes, sets, and dance styles were researched using museum exhibits along with consultations with experts in garment design and construction techniques. The period apparel was then interpreted and modified to allow for dance movements.Jerry Jackson, Folies Bergere director, donated costume sketches, original music compositions, newspaper clippings, photographs and other memorabilia to the UNLV Special Collections that are cited in this article and are available for public viewing on request. Jackson also contributed several costumes to the Nevada State Museum. Museum exhibitions have offered a peek behind the velvet curtain presenting costumes, archival photographs, and design renderings.As a side note, there was a world-wide rhinestone shortage that was supposedly precipitated by the 1981 Jubilee! showgirl revue's expansive costume application of the cut glass. The show had ordered all the available rhinestones produced by Swarovski for their outfits and sets. History The Paris Connection J. Kell Housells gained a majority share in the Tropicana in 1959. As owner, one of his first key initiatives was to was bring the Folies Bergere to the Tropicana.The Folies Bergere spectacular was a cause célèbre depicting frontal nudity and provocative dance moves. It is claimed to have had an annual attendance of ove.... Discover the Albie Berk popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Albie Berk books.

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