Crashing rockabilly’s biggest annual party

Andy Stevenson and Sophia Wolff teach a jive dance class at Viva Las Vegas rockabilly weekend..
Photo: Sam Morris

Her naked thigh is pale and lustrous, a killer canvas for a just-inked Peacemaker with a flag in the barrel that says “pow.” In a jaunty beret over curls the color of sweet wine, long legs draped in leopard silk, she’s pinup perfect. The artist from StedFast Tattoo finishes his business so she can get down to hers with a can of Pabst. This is rockabilly.

It’s the 15th year of Viva Las Vegas, “the biggest rockabilly party in the world,” and the Orleans is the center of the throwback universe. Vixens are everywhere, their pinned hair and powdered faces and body-hugging vintage so flawless that their boyfriends have learned to kiss them gingerly. Most rock thick bangs and shiny red lips, meaning the Bettie Page look-alike contest could get ugly.

In one room, it’s pinup makeovers by Mitzi & Co. Curling irons clack while a girl named Amber gets fake-lashed cat eyes, creamy skin and a cherry pout like the hula girl tattooed on her shoulder. In the hall, couples wander with drink sippers shaped like bowling pins, skulls and cowboy boots. They troll for vintage Ray-Bans at Miss Ruth’s Time Bomb. They score Nu Nile pomade, Sleazy Records vinyl, mint-condition Spank magazines and clothes with both the starch and softness of the past. There’s even a hat with the party—a martini and a long cigarette—literally attached.

Men with hair slicked in the Johnson Boogie and the Boston watch their ladies learn the stroll from Sophia Wolff of Miss Wolff’s Jiving School. It’s like line dancing, only it looks cool. Outside at the pool party, sunbathers play cards under parasols. A lone man in a grass skirt and white athletic socks hugs a ukulele. No doubt he’ll play Johnny Cash.

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Erin Ryan

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