Thursday, May 1, 2014 | 1:57 p.m.
Voluptuous redheaded burlesque and reality TV queen Holly Madison finally gets to preside over the official red-carpet gala opening of her 1923 Bourbon & Burlesque speakeasy at Mandalay Bay tonight. She’s created and captured the glitz and glamour of the Roaring ’20s with a sensual revue where guests can enjoy premium cigars and custom, barrel-aged whiskey.
Holly, 34, shot to fame on Playboy king Hugh Hefner’s E! Entertainment series “The Girls Next Door” and then moved to Las Vegas from Hollywood for a three-year-plus run in “Peepshow” at Planet Hollywood. While here, she met and married Electric Daisy Carnival founder Pasquale Rotella, and they are the parents of 1-year-old baby daughter Rainbow.
Two weeks ago just hours before a planned official opening, Holly had to postpone the premiere when Fire Department officials insisted that a new water-sprinkler system be installed under and along the dancers’ stage because of its proximity to the main service bar.
Now everything is set for tonight’s gala in the intimate 4,648-square-foot boite that holds 325 partygoers with 15 VIP tables and a 25-seat cigar room. The unexpected delay gave Holly the opportunity for an unexpected, unplanned preview run to polish her show and add more routines. I sat in one night to watch the cabaret, and it’s a knockout of delightful decadence.
First with Holly slithering seductively across a piano for a Peggy Lee song and then with Holly and her gorgeous high-kick singer-dancers dressed in sexy bedroom lingerie as if the pages of a Victoria’s Secret catalog came to life in a synchronized jazz number.
Jazz singer Skye Dee Miles is a wonderful hostess and entertainer at this underground peek into the Prohibition Era of jazz and seductive cabaret fun. It’s a night of song, dance and dynamic striptease vignettes — “classic burlesque,” as Holly calls it. “I’m very excited to be a part of this new project,” she added. “We’re introducing Las Vegas to glamorous burlesque set inside a 1920s speakeasy.”
It’s as if Leonardo DiCaprio has brought “The Great Gatsby” excesses to life. Look for the 1923 vintage automobile in the Mandalay Bay hall between the escalators up to Mandalay Place and celebrity chef Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood.
Make sure you have the night’s password to enter past a lobby bar through a disguised bookshelf wall and into the authentic 1920s decorated club. Remember the slogan “Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.” Everything comes in 23s: 23 custom, barrel-aged whiskeys and 23 custom cigars.
Relax with a hand-rolled stogie from the impressive humidor, settle back with Prohibition-inspired cocktails in banquette seating surrounded by barrels of bourbon lit by elegant dimmed chandeliers, and enjoy the four-piece band that moves around on three stages.
Mandalay Bay President Chuck Bowling commented: “The last year has been a transformative one here with new entertainment, nightlife, daylife, new restaurants and bars. Holly’s 1923 will fill a much-needed niche within our resort as an intimate and engaging destination where guests can enjoy a cocktail, conversation and entertainment all in one spot.”
I chatted at length with Holly about the club, her marriage and daughter Rainbow.
You have to be really excited about this whole concept of going back to 1923 speakeasy days of bourbon and burlesque.
Absolutely! I think it will be a very special venue unlike anything Las Vegas had right now. I think it will be super fun, and I’m looking forward to not only doing the show but also making changes every night. We’re constantly changing it so that every time somebody comes back to Las Vegas, there’s always something new to see. It’s a really fun spot for me.
How do you describe it? Is it a nightclub? Is it a cigar bar? Is it a striptease parlor?
It’s a bar and lounge; we also have a cigar room. When people ask me about the bourbon burlesque performance portion of it, I never describe it as a show because it’s not a typical show where you buy a ticket and sit down for 90 minutes. It’s entertainment throughout the night. It’s definitely more of a nightlife experience.
What is your exact role? You’re the hostess, the managing partner, the entertainer, the MC?
All that and the producer and creator of the show. I perform in it sometimes, but I don’t want people to think I’m performing in it all the time because I’m not. I will be performing this weekend on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and the gorgeous girls are always there.
And when you perform, are you singing or are you shedding a few clothes?
I’m singing, I’m doing burlesque, I’m dancing with some of the other girls, so it’s a little bit of everything. It’s not topless, but there’s striptease involved. It’s very sexy burlesque. It also is quite close up for that extra touch of intimacy. It’s very small, and I think that that will help make it the special place it’s going to be because not only does that blend itself to the speakeasy vibe, but also it’s a really special feeling being there and watching the girls perform so close.
They're behind the bar. They can walk up to you and stand next to you putting the show together. The first time I went in the venue and sat down to look up at the stage, it’s just a really great perspective and special feel. I’m really excited about it.
Is it an updated, old-style burlesque show from the tantalizing days of Bettie Page?
There are definitely some contemporary elements added because I didn’t want to limit my creativity that much or stick to just one era. Most of it is in retro glamour.
How many dancers do you have in the show?
I have five dancers. They’re all people I knew or knew of before “Peepshow ended.” I’ve always been excited about putting a show together that included some of the dancers I admired most in the city. There are two girls who used to be in “Peepshow.” One is Michelle, who used to do the Mrs. Peephole number. She’s our dance captain. The other from “Peepshow” is Sophia Monica.
Then we have Meeka from “X Burlesque,” a really beautiful, talented, wonderful dancer. Another girl named Emily, who I first saw in “Crazy Horse Paris,” I just fell in love with her. I saw her perform the champagne glass routine, and I thought she did it so well. Our other dancer is Candy, who worked in “Zumanity.”
These girls are really hot, hot striptease stars and solid dancers.
Yeah, they all are; they all have amazing presence. It was really important to me in putting together a show venue that’s this intimate on a stage where there’s really not a lot of frills. It’s a very unique stage, but obviously it’s not a huge production show where you have props and crazy things to work with, so it's very, very important that each dancer be a soloist and each dancer have the beauty and the talent and the presence that can turn everyone’s head in the room.
Especially since this is the type of entertainment that’s going on throughout the night. There will be the normal fun club life going on, then all of a sudden, bam, there’s somebody onstage. So it needs to be somebody who can turn heads in an instant, and these are all those types of girls.
Do you know what you’ll be singing?
Yes, I’m singing “Why Don’t You Do Right” by Peggy Lee. I was inspired by Jessica Rabbit because I just dyed my hair red. I’ll be performing other numbers, but that’s my one singing number. The gloves come off, but I’m actually keeping my stockings on!
You have a good feel about this already? Rehearsals and the unexpected previews went well?
It’s all gone really well now that the last-minute construction delays are over. With the previews, we were able to add more things almost immediately. We have other girls ready to join the cast. We’ll always be changing, we’re always moving and shaking and adding new things, so it will be a very fun ongoing project for me. Our sexy cocktail servers are as hot as our dancers, so the vibe is as fun onstage as off. Everything is in keeping of this kind of sexy style of the ’20s we’re presenting.
Did you ever see the space when Ivan Kane ran Royal Jelly and Forty Deuce there?
No, but I’d been to his Forty Deuce in L.A. years ago. I never went to the one here in Las Vegas because it closed right around the time I moved here. I’ve heard so many wonderful and amazing things about it.
When I tell people that I’m opening up a club in the same space where Forty Deuce was, people get this look in their eye and say, “Oh, I love that spot!” It’s small and intimate and you can get up close and personal with the performers, but yet they are still on this glamorous pedestal. I think it’s going to be a really special spot.
You chose this over a couple of other opportunities after you departed “Peepshow” two years ago?
Yeah, this was ideal for me because I wanted to get behind-the-scenes so I could be involved creatively. I wanted whatever I did next to be something sustainable, something that I could keep working at and keep doing in some capacity, say like next time I’m pregnant or whatever down the road.
Ask any dancer how limiting that can be sometimes. They always have to be healthy, fit, at the top of their game, and that’s hard for humans. It’s nice to have a job where I’m also involved behind-the-scenes and I can stay involved no matter what else is going on in my personal life.
So you’re a producer and a headliner, but you can change the headline portion of that if you become a mommy again.
Yeah, absolutely. I am performing in it every once in a while, but that’s not really even something I emphasize too much. Sure I’ll blast it out on my social media the weekends that I’m performing, but 1923 is more something that I want to be able to stand on its own and not feel like it has to have a known headliner.
So when I thought of the title for it, I was very clear that I wanted it to say by Holly Madison. Not have my name over the title or under the title or starring because that’s not really the case all the time.
How did Pasquale feel about you going back onstage and driving other men crazy?
He’s very supportive of it!
Are you trying to have another baby?
Right now, no. I do want Rainbow to have a sibling, but I’m taking the rest of the year off from that. Having one baby is a lot to get used to. She’s a doll, she’s perfect, she couldn’t be any smarter or better behaved, but any parent will tell you it’s a lot of work. She just turned 1.
I think that I might be starting on baby No. 2 by the time she’s 2. I’m loving marriage. I love being a mommy. It’s all great. I have a wonderful family, and I’m really, really lucky.
Are you going to turn your motherhood and burlesque into a reality TV show?
We shot a pilot. We haven’t had time to personally shop it around yet, but it is always a possibility. We’ve got everything in it — the club, a lot about our family life, it’s a lot of eye candy. The continuation of Holly’s life story.
What else do you have up your lacy black gloves?
I’m just so focused on this club right now to think about anything else, but that will happen when it’s ready. This has been a dream of mine for a while. Ever since I got on the stage, I always wanted to do something behind-the-scenes, something sustainable. Something to be involved with for more than just a couple of years at a time. Hopefully this is the first of many.
Holly’s 1923 Bourbon & Burlesque is open at Mandalay Bay from 4 p.m. to midnight Sundays through Thursdays and 4 p.m. until whatever time the last happy customer exits Fridays and Saturdays.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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