Home Lucky Odds MY NIGHT AS A TROPICANA SHOWBOY: Vegas Reporter’s Distinctive Remembrance

MY NIGHT AS A TROPICANA SHOWBOY: Vegas Reporter’s Distinctive Remembrance

MY NIGHT AS A TROPICANA SHOWBOY: Vegas Reporter’s Distinctive Remembrance


Posted on: April 1, 2024, 05:00h. 

Final up to date on: April 1, 2024, 04:59h.

At 2 a.m. Tuesday morning, the Tropicana in Las Vegas will shut for the final time after nearly 67 years, supposedly to make means for a brand new baseball stadium. To honor her legacy, I’d prefer to share a enjoyable reminiscence from the Tiffany of the Strip possessed by no different reporter on earth. And, for that matter, no different man.

This reporter, left, as if you actually wanted that clue, was the primary (and final) male showgirl to seem on stage in “Folies Bergère” within the 50-year historical past of the Tropicana’s present. (Picture: Jason Bean/Las Vegas Overview-Journal)

“Stand in place and clap seven occasions!” Janu Tornell jogged my memory of the routine she helped me rehearse all week.

It was September 2008, and I used to be two years right into a six-year stint because the humor columnist for the Las Vegas Overview-Journal. For my weekly “Concern and Loafing” collection, I sampled varied only-in-Vegas jobs across the Strip, spending per week or so coaching with, and interviewing, somebody who did the job for actual.

I allowed the column to position me in all method of awkward conditions within the hope of excellent copy and good classes about the actual individuals who preserve Vegas buzzing behind the scenes. Among the many 176 actual jobs I attempted out had been washing the home windows on the prime of the Stratosphere, making an attempt to face completely nonetheless as a Venetian statue, and dancing in a dwell efficiency of “Folies Bergère” on the Trop.


One of many questions I all the time acquired requested after one in every of my columns ran was: “They actually allow you to do that?”

“Folies Bergère,” a staple topless showgirl present on the Strip since 1959, was on its final lengthy legs when this reporter joined the solid for an evening. (Picture: New York Occasions)

Reality be informed, the producers of “Folies Bergère” initially turned me down. I had pitched them what a pure subsequent step this could be after “Chippendales: The Present” had simply allowed me to make use of its stage on the Rio to impersonate a person.

In the future, they modified their minds. Not coincidentally, it was the day after it was introduced, sadly, that the present would shut inside a 12 months. With competitors from 5 totally different Cirque du Soleil reveals and celebrity residencies from Celine Dion and Cher, “Folies Bergère” and the Strip’s solely different showgirl present nonetheless kicking, “Jubilee!” at Bally’s (now Horseshoe), simply weren’t drawing the crowds they as soon as did.

With out a lot time left, “Folies Bergère” clearly didn’t care about something anymore.

Nonetheless, the showgirls themselves cared. Tornell was fearful that I’d journey or in any other case misstep and destroy the present for its 500 or so viewers members. So she took a number of hours of unpaid private time to coach me for my eight minutes within the present’s massive manufacturing quantity, “The Can-Can.”

Throughout one in every of our one-on-one periods on the empty Tiffany Theatre stage one afternoon, Tornell, finest recognized on the time for having starred within the “Survivor: Palau” actuality collection in 2005, informed me she was raised in Las Vegas by a former Cuban showgirl, however by no means supposed to comply with in her two-steps.

“My mother danced in Havana proper earlier than Castro got here in,” she stated. “That’s how she acquired to the States. But it surely’s not one thing I ever aspired to be.”

That was till six years later, when a pal of hers acquired her an audition.

It was a fluke,” stated Tornell, who was runway modeling in LA on the time. “However I really like performing within the present. I get to do a glamorous job with stunning costumes, and I solely work 4 hours an evening.”

“Folies Bergère” acquired its title from Paris’ first music corridor, which opened in 1869 with dance reveals that includes elaborate feminine costumes that, ultimately, turned much less elaborate within the prime area.

The Tropicana spinoff launched in 1959 and closed 50 years later, making it the longest-running Vegas manufacturing ever. Tornell danced in it throughout its last 14 years.

One Evening in Paris

“Now stroll to the desk,” Tornell directed me throughout our last gown rehearsal.

Strolling anyplace is just not straightforward whereas sporting living-room drapes, 5-inch heels, and a 3-pound headdress that retains threatening to fly off and take your showgirl present a further form of topless.

Janu Tornell (within the mirror) does her finest to verify this imposter a minimum of seems the half. (Picture: Jason Bean/Las Vegas Overview-Journal)

“Do you actually suppose women stroll like that?” Elaine Celario, the Tropicana’s leisure director, chimed in.

It was now solely hours earlier than my dwell debut, and the complete solid had assembled for my profit — and their leisure. By the best way, this was not the primary time stunning females have encircled me, pointing and laughing. I used to be reminded of that fifth-grade afternoon when Debbie Lee beat the recent lunch out of me on the playground.

For the file, Ms. Lee had a 5-inch benefit over me. Coincidentally, that’s the identical benefit my fellow showgirls loved. The minimal peak requirement to star in “Folies Bergère” was 5-foot-10.

“You’ll be standing on one of many staircases quite a bit,” Celario defined.

Extinct Species

Faker showgirls than even this reporter pose with a vacationer on the Las Vegas Strip. (Picture: wandering-through-time-and-place.com)

Beginning with the Copa Women, who opened on the Las Vegas Sands in 1952, showgirls performed a serious position in Las Vegas leisure  They usually stay the town’s official icon. Two 50-foot neon variations even greet motorists at Las Vegas Boulevard and Primary Avenue downtown.

But, after Bally’s shuttered “Jubilee!” in 2016, actual showgirls went extinct in Las Vegas and by no means returned.

You understand those you see on Strip sidewalks providing selfies after which haranguing you for a $50 tip afterward?

I’m extra of an actual showgirl than they’re, and that’s as a result of none of them can declare to have ever danced in an precise showgirl manufacturing on the Las Vegas Strip.

“Abdomen in!” Tornell whisper-yelled. “Now wave!”

Present Time

We had been within the dwell efficiency now, tracing out a large semi-circle with our excessive heels in the course of the stage.

Fortuitously, the viewers couldn’t hear Tornell’s stage instructions over the blaring strains of Jacques Offenbach’s “Orpheus within the Underworld” (which I needed to search for as a result of I knew “The Theme From ShopRite’s Can-Can Bash” in all probability wasn’t correct).

Dancer Aaron Shanley guides this reporter throughout the lip of the Tiffany Theatre stage. (Picture: Jason Bean/Las Vegas Overview-Journal)

Although my actions had been extremely choreographed, they had been much less a collection of dance steps than a vigilant avoidance of the strains of high-kicking dancers, unicycle pedallers, and somersaulting acrobats crossing in entrance of and behind me.

I used to be one in every of almost 50 folks crowding the stage at one level, and Tornell and her instructions had been, fortunately, by no means greater than 15 toes away.

Dancer Aaron Shanley guided me throughout the lip of the stage, by my crimson-gloved proper hand, and deposited me at my last mark: the third step on the middle staircase.

Aside from a slight wobble in my stroll, my massive second went off hitch-less. Properly, two older ladies within the entrance row pointed at me, one with a distinctly “o” form to her mouth. However largely, it appeared, nobody within the viewers seen something notably askew.

The almost certainly motive occurred to Tornell as we celebrated backstage after the present.

“You had been good,” she stated, “and hey, it’s Vegas!”