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Tera Patrick Appears at Vegas Folies Bergere Finale

[]- Over the weekend, after almost 50 years, the old-school topless show “Les Folies Bergere” offered a final performance at the Tropicana.

It is hard to imagine what it must have been like when Folies was new to Vegas. And fortunately I don’t have to do so. The Sun reprinted its 1959 review of the original show opening. (The producer mentioned in the review, Lou Walters, now is perhaps best know for his daughter Barbara.) By the time I got to see Folies around 2000, it was already a vintage show that, along with Bally’s “Jubilee!,” was keeping the traditional Vegas showgirl alive. Now only “Jubilee!” will offer the sort of show that has those moments when gaudily costumed yet topless women with big smiles stand pointlessly on long staircases.

Of course, there are still plenty of topless shows on the Strip to see and more on the way. But they have smaller casts, more contemporary choreography and, in general, are a lot more explicit. Next month, Peepshow at Planet Hollywood will be the latest addition to the Strip’s offering of topless shows. But the traditional Vegas production show built around old-school showgirls is now down to just “Jubilee!” I did not have a preference between “Folies” and “Jubilee!” So, while tourists who want to see that golden era Vegas now only have “Jubilee!,” they can still get that experience.

But while “Folies” was grabbing headlines, Las Vegas Weekly (where I am on staff) broke the story of the closing, after four years, of the burlesque revival nightclub Ivan Kane’s Forty Deuce at Mandalay Bay. I am still trying to independently confirm the closure, but it seems to have happened last night.

The demise of Vegas’ Forty Deuce could be a harbinger for the nightclub industry here. Over the last few years, casino nightclubs have become a crucial component of the Vegas entertainment scene. And, like the resorts that house them (the nightclubs mostly are not resort owned but tenants), have grown increasingly elaborate and expensive to build and therefore very dependent on high-end customers who can afford bottle service. In fact, nightclubs are one of the reasons shows like “Folies” started to lose customers even before the recession hit. A Vegas vacation went from being dinner and a show to dinner and a nightclub for a younger generation.

Forty Deuce cleverly worked both crowds by using teasing burlesque dancers (including over the years guest dancers like adult star Tera Patrick) with a live jazz band for the striptease shows (no nudity). But overwhelmingly, for most of the night, DJs offered hard-core clubbing.

I have heard rumors about the financial health or potential sale of a few nightclubs in Vegas. But I have nothing confirmed enough to put out names yet. But the reality right now is that a night of clubbing has become vastly more expensive than even the priciest show tickets in Vegas, and should the nightclub industry falter at all, I will be interested to see if production shows are able to take advantage of the opportunity to ignite an appeal again among younger tourists.

But, for now, with the closing of Folies and Forty Deuce, one things is clear, Vegas is going to be just a little less sexy than it was a week ago.


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