A woman who sings or dances in a musical show.
-Merriam Webster Dictionary
I beg to differ with the dictionary on this one, because a showgirl is so much more than that. She’s living proof that hard work and dedication pay off. She’s the smile that lights up everyone around her. She’s the inspiration that anything is possible.
No show has done a better job of making an icon of the Las Vegas showgirl than the spectacular Jubilee. With 34 years of branding showgirls, that show has made it hard to think of her as anything but a stunning, long-legged bombshell, filling the stage with grace and beauty (and let’s not forget my favorite part, feathers and Swarovski crystals). But I believe the defining feature of the showgirl is her ability to bring that grace and beauty to the stage, no matter what’s happening around her. I always say, “A showgirl’s gotta roll with whatever is thrown at her or whatever she’s thrown into.”
With the closing of Jubilee, there’s been talk of the extinction of the showgirl, but I disagree. She is not a dinosaur! I mean, she might use that word once in a while to insult another showgirl … but she never really means it. At least, I hope she didn’t mean it. I’m still trying to get over it. Sorry, where was I? Oh, I remember.
The downside to being a showgirl (other than being called a dinosaur) is that she is all too familiar with shows closing. It comes with the territory. No matter how many shows a showgirl has been in, it’s still devastating every time she gets the news that her show is done. But more often than not, she gets another role in a different show, another cast that becomes her family and another day-to-day life. There is no doubt that the showgirls of Jubilee are an essential part of Vegas entertainment history. They are royalty that will be sorely missed. But I believe the showgirl is still very much alive and well in this town.
As we enter a new year, as well as a new year in Vegas entertainment, I’m nostalgic about my very first column in Las Vegas Weekly: “Perhaps in the past, the term “showgirl” was reserved for long-legged, 5-foot-8 beauties in feathered headdresses and sparkling thongs, but the modern-day showgirl comes in many forms, shapes and sizes. Showgirls not only sing and dance, they also get sawed in half by magicians, have sharp instruments hurled at them by knife-throwers and swing from trapezes. In Vegas, they don’t even have to be women.”
Okay, I have a confession to make. They probably have to be women … or at least embody the spirit of a woman … or at least be Frank Marino. But I digress.
My point is: the key to survival is evolution. Planets evolve, animals evolve, technology evolves and … so does the showgirl. In fact, I would venture to say she's the top of the food chain! Lucky for everyone else, she doesn’t eat that much. But don’t let that fool you. She can hold out as long as necessary while doing kicks and turns and smiling the entire time!
A friend of mine once told me that someone said, “The only thing that is constant is change.” Vegas is an ever-changing town, and so is the effervescent showgirl.
The closing of Jubilee is the end of an era but it’s not the end of the showgirl.
Take a closer look, because the modern-day showgirl is all around you. She may not have those long legs or a feathered headdress. Or she might, and the rest of us who don’t are looking at her with sheer envy. But long legs or not, the showgirl is still here in all her glory, doing what she does best: entertaining audiences across Las Vegas and even around the world. I’m excited to see what the future holds for the ever-evolving and ever-inspiring showgirl.
Follow Maren Wade on Twitter @marenwade