The Mothers Who Marched | Vegas Seven Magazine | March 3-9 2016

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J A M E S P. R E Z A

Kim Sisters trio played the Stardust lounge for 15 years—a photo of them in bouffants and sequins evokes the Ronettes with guitars. Shots of the Flamingo and Tropicana lounges capture changes not just in the acts but in their stages. We’ve lost not only the “band behind the bar” layout, but the tiki barstools and spangled ceilings as well. The exhibit could use a little more multimedia— there’s a single chorus girl harem costume in a glass case and one small screen showing tantalizing, albeit muted, clips such as Judy Garland mugging with Jerry Lewis. But when one considers the hundreds of illustrious entertainers who played Las Vegas during this time, even 10 times as much wouldn’t be enough. –Lissa Townsend Rodgers



➜ What happens when you take a legendary TV producer,

gifted character actress and a bunch of beautiful babes, then put them in Vegas and spin them off of a hit sitcom into a place that’s part Melrose Place, part Showgirls? Well, if it’s Blansky’s Beauties, you get … a resounding flop. ¶ The creator of Blansky, Garry Marshall, was about to jump the shark on his hit Happy Days and figured another successful spinoff in the vein of Laverne & Shirley was in order. Thus, he created a show about a half-dozen showgirls and their den mother, played by old TV hand Nancy Walker, familiar to viewers from the Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda and a slew of Palmolive commercials. She’s a sort of hybrid of Mr. Roper and Fluff LeCoque, both landlady and boss. The showgirls are your standard stereotypes—the hayseed, the harlot, the bimbo, the brat—along with a mook-ish maître d’ and a horny pre-teen, the latter played by none other than Scott Baio. ¶ Of course, Happy Days was set in the ’50s, so spinning characters off into the ’80s milieu of Blansky’s Beauties got a little complicated. A guest shot by Penny Marshall, a.k.a. Laverne, was presented as a flashback, but Pat Morita as Arnold the Cook moved from the Eisenhower era to the Carter administration without aging a week. Still, it was the flat punch lines more than the vague plotlines that did in Blansky’s Beauties after 13 episodes. Sometimes even showgirls aren’t enough. –Lissa Townsend Rodgers


➜ EARTHA KITT SHIMMERS in slinky lamé, arms raised triumphantly and a wide smile on her face. Jimmy Durante fips the tail of his loud sport coat and prepares to exit stage left. Marlene Dietrich peers over Louis Armstrong’s shoulder, him laughing, her coy. A stoic Keely Smith crosses her arms and gives the side-eye to a kinetic, blurred Louis Prima. All are images of Las Vegas’ golden age that can be seen in the new exhibit, The Midcentury Las Vegas Stage: Acts That Built the Entertainment Capital of the World, on display at the Las Vegas City Hall Chamber Gallery through April 21. It’s a joint effort between the Nevada State History Museum and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. It’s not just a celebration of headliners. The

March 3–9, 2016

Revisiting the Midcentury Las Vegas Stage

As someone who has already annoyed the legions of Elvis Presley fans currently swiveling their hips with joy, I understand the wrath I invite by saying that I find the decision to erase Riviera Boulevard from the map to be confusing and unnecessary. Before you sprain your thumbs phonetyping your hater mail, read on. There is no doubt that modern Las Vegas (and the Strip ... which we all know is not in Las Vegas) is built on decades of relentless reinvention. Most of that has been fueled by private interests remaking private property. (See ya, Sands; Hello, Venetian! Sayonara, Stardust; Hello, Giant Swath of Dirt!) The fact that many miss the imploded icons of 20th-century Vegas (myself included) simply isn’t enough to keep them from being remade into something that can attract tourists in the 21st century. Nor should it be. That just isn’t the Vegas way. But when government entities get involved, the game changes. It’s one thing to take a practical name like Industrial Road and rename stretches of it for Rat Pack celebrities Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. It’s another to disappear one Vegas institution (the Riviera) in exchange for another (Elvis). Yes, Las Vegas operates on a value system mostly unhindered by the past, but in this case, the Clark County Commission has juggled the relative civic value of remembering one important Las Vegas historical figure over another, deeming Elvis the winner. (See Seven’s “Who Was the Better Vegas Ambassador: Elvis or Frank?,” July 9, 2015.) Perhaps the darkened hulk of the Riviera (awaiting LVCVA redevelopment) is seen as a “blight” by some, while the negative associations of Elvis (and there are a few) are lost to time. Whatever the reason, it isn’t appropriate, especially given the seemingly interminable list of out-of-place street names plaguing Las Vegas (Creek River Drive? Soaring Gulls Drive?) that could be renamed something more local-appropriate. Las Vegas is a city always thinking about tomorrow, and that philosophy is what has kept those who pay our bills flocking to the desert for more than 100 years. But those who live here still need a sense of place. It would be a shame (not to mention exhausting) to find ourselves living in a city where every thoughtprovoking morsel of our past has been erased and all we have left is the Next Big Thing. Honor Elvis? Of course. But not at the expense of our collective memory of the Riviera. What’s next, SLS Avenue?

What do you think about renaming Riviera Boulevard to Elvis Presley Way?


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