Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013 | 2 a.m.
The cast of “Peepshow” was still breathing hard from its final-final number late Sunday night when Nick Kenkel took the mic to say a last farewell.
The man who helped direct the performers in “Peepshow” talked of the spirit and ambition of the show inspired by New York theatricality but built for Vegas.
“We sought out, many years ago, to create a really sexy, contemporary show with contemporary movement and contemporary song,” said Kenkel, “but yet, bringing in the magic of burlesque, intermixed with everything.”
Earlier that day, the magic of burlesque was celebrated with a different sort of passing, the memorial tribute to the great Dixie Evans. A few dozen friends and members of Evans’ family — her actual family and her vast burlesque family — gathered at Palm Mortuary on North Main Street to spin tales about the woman dubbed the “Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque.”
“Dixie and I shared many stories, and I don’t know whose were worse — hers or mine,” Tempest Storm said in eulogizing her friend for decades and fellow godmother of burlesque.
"I think of all the stories we shared. We shared a story about Walter Cronkite. I said, ‘Were you first, or was I second?’ I think we liked the same kind of men.”
The crowd laughed, and Storm talked of Evans’ inspiration and verve for life. “She never gave up,” Storm said. “That’s why she lived as long as she did.”
Evans was less than a month from her 87th birthday when she died Aug. 3 in a Las Vegas assisted-living facility. She had suffered a stroke in January. On Saturday night, those in that extended, tight-knit burlesque family filed into the Plaza Showroom for a tribute to Evans.
The emcee was the esteemed Kitten on the Keys, the terrific cabaret performer from San Francisco who is quick-witted and accomplished on the piano. Kitten is famous for her theme song, “Salty Meat Girl,” in which she sings in her lilting voice, “I’ve slammed 50 cans of ham; that salty meat’s gone right to my can.”
The burlesque culture is at once sexy and funny. That’s true of those practicing the art in Las Vegas and around the world. This family knows how to kick it up (Kitten lifted her otherwise sullen black dress Sunday to reveal black-cat leggings).
The show on Saturday was filled with humor and lovingly conceived dance segments, all assembled swiftly but not hastily after Evans’ death. That event, and other performances that were part of “Dixie Evans Week” at Yost Theater in Santa Ana, Calif., near Evans’ hometown of Long Beach, were held to honor Evans and also to help offset some of her lingering medical bills. Money also was raised to pay for her internment at Westwood Memorial Park, also the final resting place of Monroe.
Evans lived in Las Vegas, moving to the city in 2006 hoping to find a permanent home for the Exotic World Burlesque & Striptease Hall of Fame. Storm helped persuade Evans to move to the city for its history of adult-friendly entertainment and topless productions.
Many of the top performers of past and present turned out in tribute, including Miss Exotic World 2008 Angie Pontani, Miss Exotic World 2009 and featured performer at Sapphire Comedy Hour Kalani Kokonuts and the first Miss Exotic World in 1991, Toni Alessandrini (who won the title at age 41).
Many of those artists turned out for Evans’ memorial service. So did one of the stars of modern burlesque, Melody Sweets, the Green Fairy in “Absinthe,” who has recorded a CD titled “Burlesque in Black,” which is a stylish and smartly performed ode to the art form.
Without Evans, and such contemporaries as Storm and Blaze Starr, the art of topless dance might look a lot different today. There are a few traditionalists around. Sweets is one.
So is Dita Von Teese, the oft-returning guest star in “Crazy Horse Paris” before that show closed at MGM Grand. Claire Sinclair’s move to pasties in “Pin Up” at the Stratosphere was to evoke a more burlesque-ian feel to that late-night production.
The “New Burlesque” performers are carrying the tradition put in place by the original stars, who have always focused on the “tease” rather than the “strip.”
Kenkel, who is “Peepshow’s” original Big Bad Wolf and the man who trained Holly Madison in her stepwork before her arrival in the show in June 2009, reminded of that oft-forgotten quality during his show-closing remarks at “Peepshow.”
“We wanted to focus on the art of the striptease, which doesn’t always exist,” he said. “Anybody can come out and take their clothes off. It’s how you take your clothes off, and why — that is the art.”
Somewhere, the woman who inspired generations of sex kittens was smiling — and maybe tugging at a string in her corset.
The Plaza, renovated in 2011, has a lobby that features marble and inlaid mosaic tiles, chandeliers and a plush front desk that matches the classic Las Vegas feel with a contemporary look.
The hotel has 1,003 rooms and suites that showcase views of the Las Vegas Strip and downtown Las Vegas. Amenities include world-class entertainment, a casino floor that offers an array of classic gaming choice, which include 600 slot machines, a 400-seat bingo room, 18 table games and 57,120 square feet of casino space.
Among the dining options is Oscar's Beef * Booze * Broads, a steakhouse opened by former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar B. Goodman, which is located in the glittery dome enclosure above the hotel's main entrance.
The Plaza sits at the west end of the Fremont Street Experience on the site of the first train depot and auction site in Las Vegas, dating back to the San Pedro-Los Angeles-Salt Lake Railroad in 1905. The railroad was sold to Union Pacific in 1921 and the depot was demolished in 1970 to make way for the Union Plaza Hotel, built in 1971.
The hotel has been featured or is visible in several movies, including the 1971 James Bond film, "Diamonds are Forever;" the 1989 film "Back to the Future Part II;" the 1995 move "Casino," and the 2000 movie "Pay it Forward."
Catering to the young and modern crowd, Planet Hollywood is a one-stop shop for entertainment with its massive shopping mall, slew of restaurants, spacious casino and clubs.
The ambiance of the casino is retro-chic meets high-tech with black granite floors throughout and colorful LED lights throughout the space. The theme carries into the 100,000 square-foot casino with 250 flat screens topping off slot machines. The casino is also home to 87 tables, a sports book and a poker room.
There's also the Miracle Mile Shops, one Vegas' largest malls, with 140 stores including BCBG Max Azaria, bebe, Urban Outfitters and The Discovery Channel Store.
Following an afternoon of shopping, guests can satisfy their appetites at one of the gourmet restaurants in Planet Hollywood, like the non-traditional approach to steakhouses at Strip House or check out the exotic Far East motif at KOI restaurant and lounge. And if guests are still looking for more, they can spend the after hours at Privé, Triq or Krave nightclubs.
Perhaps one of the resorts biggest attractions came in March with the addition of "Peepshow." The naughty twist on the story of Little Bo Peep is modern-day spin on the run-of-the-mill Vegas topless review. The "Peepshow" stage has seen visiting celebs like Scary Spice Mel B, "Dancing with the Stars" Kelly Monaco and Playboy's Holly Madison.