I would have liked to be in Oscar Goodman’s office when the news of Jubilee’s closing at Bally’s broke. I picture the former mayor wearing pinstripes, sipping a martini instead of a morning coffee and reading that tragic headline in stunned disbelief, a single tear rolling down his ruddy cheek.
If the light in his office was just right, the tear might have sparkled as it slid, shining for just a moment like a rhinestone sewn into the glittering thong of one of the leggy showgirls who graced the Jubilee stage during its 34-year run.
Every time a showgirl hangs up her thong an angel loses its wings.
When the curtain closes on Jubilee for the last time on February 11, the Las Vegas showgirl will go extinct. Sure, there will be women who don the costume, but wearing a leopard-skin coat does not make one a leopard. The showgirl isn’t a mannequin in ostrich feathers; she’s a performer, an ambassador, an archetype, an ideal. She is Las Vegas’ favorite mascot: elegant and alluring, strong and sophisticated.
She struts and spins and kicks and glides. She floats under 30 pounds of crystals. She makes the impossible look easy. Mere mortals would crumble with a bejeweled sculpture affixed to their skulls, sprinting backstage staircases for the seventh costume change of the eighth show of the week. But the showgirl isn’t human. She’s our topless lady of the perpetual smile and natural breasts. Hallowed be thy headdress.
Why do we ignore our icons until they disappear?
Jubilee has struggled. Ensconced in Bally’s, Donn Arden’s spectacular has gotten slightly less so. Like the rest of us, it has aged. It has sought relevance in production updates and new choreography, injections of entertainment Botox that didn’t so much fix a problem as smooth out wrinkles that were part of the show’s enduring charm.
Now, Jubilee’s fate is sealed. Its billboards will come down, its cast and crew will move on, its glorious costumes—Swarovski starbursts, cascading feathers, regal plumage—will go into storage. Caesars Entertainment has hinted at some hypothetical future production, so perhaps the Vegas showgirl will be resurrected, emerging from the grave in high heels and a healthy tan. Posed just so.
But when the tuxedoed showboys and high-kicking showgirls take their final bows, a chapter of Las Vegas history will close with that curtain. The Strip will shine a little less brightly. I just hope Oscar’s tear lands in his martini glass.