I often hear that some famous personality married a Vegas showgirl, only to later divorce and get a big settlement payoff. Such was the showgirl, Jean Maree Harbour-Hardy, who married famous financier, Kirk Kerkorian from Fresno. But I am sure he is not the only one to have fallen for a beautiful Vegas showgirl. So my question is, what is a Vegas showgirl?
A definition found in many quarters, describes a showgirl thusly: height, long legs, beauty, dance technique, costumes, elegance, grace, unattainability, and topless. The minimum height is 5 feet 8 inches. Showgirls are not burlesque dancers. In fact, there is a walking technique called “tipping” where the topless dancer walks on stage without allowing the exposed breast to bounce or jiggle. And most importantly, a showgirl is NOT a stripper.
Basically, a showgirl is a performer or dancer (sometimes they even sing) in a stage entertainment show. She may be clothed, topless or even nude, so I am told. The only show I can recall seeing, many, many years ago was the old Folies Bergere at the old Tropicana Hotel. I was on a business trip and was forced at gunpoint to go to the show with my business associates.
Showgirls date back to the 1800s, though I would imagine the concept has been around since time began. We have the French to thank for coming up with the idea, with great performances at places like the Moulin Rouge, the Lido, and the original Folies Bergere.
The Vegas version began in 1952, as either the opening or closing act for the big name headliners. They could often be found dancing around or with the headliner. They first appeared on stage at the Sands for a Danny Thomas concert. I could see that this schtick would work better with a more contemporary comedian like Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, or Jimmy Fallon. An entire five years would pass before the first topless show in Vegas, Minsky’s Folies at the Desert Inn. The Stardust hosted the longest running topless Vegas show, the Lido de Paris, for 31 long years.
You may be asking if I ever met a Vegas showgirl. My answer is not yet, and probably not likely. Who are some famous ladies who got started in Vegas you might ask? Here are a few: Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Beyoncé, Vanessa Williams, Barbara Marx (married Sinatra), and Pamela Anderson.
That is probably more than you ever wanted or needed to know about this subject. I know there are some of you out there who have attended many of these shows. There is a business called “Real Vegas Showgirls” that rents out showgirls for business functions and parties.