I was feeling down, but I’m pulling myself out of it. I need to have more faith that things will work out for the best, for one thing, and for another, holy cannoli, is it ever a gorgeous day out there! I’ve been sitting on some of these shots for just about forever. I love this shoot. Lots of red clothes, cute hats, and opera-style makeup? Yes, please — I am a big These Pictures Guy from Way Back! Miss April 1958 is the lovely and talented Felicia Atkins.
An awesome vintage brunette wonder from Down Under, Ms. Atkins still holds the record today for being the longest consecutively-employed showgirl in the history of the storied Folies-Bergère Revue at the Las Vegas Tropicana. Get it, girl!
I find the history of Old School Las Vegas really interesting (mainly a result of the intersection between my undying love of The Godfather movies and the fact that I’m perpetually interested in the persistent concept of the fast-and-loose, fancy-free frontier “west” in the American mind especially as it played out in increasingly swift travel methods available to the middle class seeking recreation in the twentieth century — first, trains to national parks, then big steely cars on the new highways roaring along state routes dotted with crummy roadside teepees and Bob’s Big Boys by the mid-century; that interests the shit out of me, seriously), so I’m going to reproduce Ms. Atkins’ original write-up in its entirety and then go in to some historical Las Vegas points of emotional interest as far as the Folies-Bergère goes (went).
Gone are the drear, dread days beyond recall when we were led to believe that showgirls had a pretty bad time of it in the sunshine-and-health department — late hours, smoke-filled rooms, nightclub pallor, and other offenses to God and man. Today, tongue-clucking do-gooders would find it a tough task convincing us that the life of a showgirl (in Las Vegas, anyway) is anything but Reilly. Look at Felicia Atkins, if you haven’t already.
(“Showgirl in the Sun: A Vegas Venus Mixes Vitamins with Va-a-voom.” Playboy, April 1958.)
By day, she sleeps late in a swank suite of the same hostelry, eats a mountainous breakfast, then squeezes into a bikini and slips out to soak up a skinful of Vitamin C and splash about in a cool pool until it’s time to dry off the corpore sano andfoi get ready for the evening’s extravaganza. For this, mind you, she gets paid. Another nice thing that’s happened to felicitous Felicia is her appearance as our Playmate for the month of April. It’s nice for us, too. (Ibid.)
/End drivel. Phew! Before I go in to more about the show for which she famously worked, a few notes on Ms. Atkins — from what I can gather, after leaving the Folies, she went to work for the MGM Grand, which buffs know was bought by Bally’s. Sometime between the Bally’s acquisition, some bartending gigs at what is now the Crazy Horse, and the revamping of Vegas in to a family destination in the 1990′s (darkly pleased to see it returning to its roots after that failed experiment — boo to themed roller coasters, yay to sequined pasties), Ms. Atkins retired back to her native Australia.
The “Folies-Bergère” opened at the Tropicana Hotel in 1959. Famous for its Cancan girls and statuesque showgirls the “Folies-Bergère” has outlived many hotels as well as shows. The longest continuous running production show in Las Vegas has been updated many times over the years to keep its status as a sophisticated Parisian spectacular.
(“Folies-Bergère: We Can-Can,” Hooper, R. Scott. vegasretro.com.)
When you hear “showgirl,” and automatically picture a leggy glamazon in ostrich-tail and resplendently over-the-top headdress, you are picturing a girl from the Folies-Bergère, the hip grandma of all Vegas revues. As VegasRetro reported, it was the longest-running show in the history of the City, and Ms. Atkins, here, was its longest-running performer. That is really something!
Folies-Bergère, known the world over for gorgeous dancers is not just a show … it’s a legend. The theme of “women through time” beginning in the 1800′s to present day has gone unchanged, but the new interpretations enhance the Folies-Bergère experience.
(“Les Folies-Bergère.” PCAP, Las Vegas Lesiure Guide, 2003.)
The Dressing Room number gives the audience a behind-the-scenes feel of how the gorgeous showgirls prepare for their nightly appearance on stage. Each scenario flows seamlessly into the next such as in La Vedette where male dancers present a stunning showgirl who materializes through smoke with giant butterfly wings on her back.
Another popular scene is fashioned in the 1920′s where “women of darkness” were known as vamps. A private boudoir moment, black silk and velvet dressing gowns accompanied by tassels used as erotic props emphasize the sexual natures of these women.
The Las Vegas Folies-Bergère, which opened in 1959, closed at the end of March 2009, after nearly 50 years in operation.
The Folies-Bergère showgirls have been entertaining audiences at the Tropicana Resort and Casino in Las Vegas for 49 years. In the show’s heyday in Vegas, “The Trop,” where they performed, was considered the “Tiffany of the Strip,” attracting stars like Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Patrons came to rub elbows with stars and with the Folies’ showgirls, who would “dress up” the hotel bar after performances.
But times are tight in Las Vegas, and the Tropicana can’t afford to produce the Folies-Bergère anymore. The showgirls’ last performance will be March 28, 2009 — just a few months shy of the show’s 50th anniversary.
(“Folies-Bergère to close in Las Vegas.” Meraji, Shereen. 23 February 2009. NPR.)
These days, Felicia is, like I said, back in Oz. She now lives in a senior care facility where you can write to her at 4 Muller St., Salamander Bay, New South Wales, 4317. Be respectfully advised she has recently started being treated for advancing dementia and may not now recognize photos and autograph requests.
Speaking of these kinds of subjects, I need to go because I am being summoned to have a conversation with my grandmother, who is hot to tell me for probably the sixth time today about how her brother Alvin got the first Model T in Priest River when she was a kid with graduation money from their grandmother and he took all the kids in town for rides in it, and they were speeding and hit a bump and he had to jerk her back down on to his lap at one point because she flew up in the air and almost out the window of the car. She loves that story. He was her favorite brother. I don’t mind when she gets stuck in a groove for a day on the really sweet and good memories. It’s a wonderful break from the Bad Days, plus the repetition ensures that now I will hold on to the memory for awhile. And that’s what we’ve all got ears and got voice boxes for, most likely. Right? It happens. Catch you later!