Onstage oddities, and how the MGM fire led to a worldwide crystal shortage, from ‘Jubilee!’

Singer Matt Goss performs during the 30th anniversary celebration of Jubilee! at Bally’s Las Vegas on July 30, 2011.
Photo: David Becker/WireImage


Don Arden's Jubilee!
  • Jubilee! Theater, 3645 Las Vegas Blvd South, Las Vegas
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Jubilee, David Saxe and Tiger Martina

'Jubilee!' celebrates 30th Anniversary

Jubilee! 2011

‘Jubilee!’ Through the Years

The night began with something that hardly ever happens: Teller speaking from the stage.

It ended with something that happens regularly: Matt Goss singing from the stage.

Teller did speak from the stage to kick off the 30th anniversary performance of “Jubilee!” at Bally’s, reading a prepared statement in support of the show on behalf of himself and performing partner Penn Jillette.

Teller related that his speaking role was akin to a chair actually speaking, and thus when it happens, “You give it a lot more credit than it deserves.”

Goss appeared a bit more at home in his performance. The Caesars Palace headliner sang his original ode to the city, “Lovely Las Vegas,” while stepping down the show’s staircase and flanked by dozens of sequined-and-feather-draped showgirls.

He looked at home up there out of the intimate confines of the Gossy Room at Cleopatra’s Barge and performing with traditional Vegas showgirls rather than his own wildly effective Dirty Virgins. It was a different sort of stage for Goss but still kept true to his vision of promoting Vegas-styled showmanship.

My favorite tale from the aftermath of the show’s anniversary performance centered on the MGM Grand fire and how it pushed the production’s opening back several months.

“Jubilee!” was in final run-throughs at the hotel when the tragic fire hit on Nov. 21, 1980, two weeks from the show's debut. The showroom, then called the Ziegfeld Theater, was one of the few areas of the hotel equipped with overhead sprinklers, which were activated in the event of a fire.

The 30-foot pit that serves as the basement of the theater was drenched, and left standing was a 3-foot pool of water. The show’s new costumes were stored in that area, and the feathered, Swarovski-crystal-designed pieces were soaked and black with water and soot for three days until officials could enter and assess the damage.

Fluff LeCoque, the legendary company manager, entered the space while outfitted in waders to help workers stuff the cast’s personal items in garbage bags. Current company assistant manager Diane Palm, then a cast member, remembers identifying her own belongings only by the turquoise “Jubilee!” robe she’d been issued.

As a result, all of the “Jubilee!” costumes, about 1,000, were replaced. When you hear of the worldwide shortage of Swarovski crystals in 1981, it is because all of those costumes were duplicated.

LeCoque herself was unable to attend the landmark show, as she had planned, having fallen ill with a respiratory infection and ordered to stay home by doctors. Palm visited her Sunday and said the 88-year-old LeCoque should be back at Bally’s this week.

LeCoque has witnessed, reviewed and enjoyed more than 9,000 performances of “Jubilee!” There are more to come, certainly, for a show that delves deep into Vegas history, yet somehow seems as fresh as it did 30 years ago.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow "Kats With the Dish" at twitter.com/KatsWithTheDish.

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