Podcast: The last Nevada showgirl revue came to a close this year

Preserving showgirl culture, amidst lasting discomfort around the tradition.

 

Karen Burns, featured in this episode of Range, the podcast.
Julia Ritchey
In February, the last of the big showgirl revues — Jubilee — came to a close, taking with it a bit of Nevada history. The shows were initially meant to bring Old Hollywood glam to the casinos of the West and help lure visitors who would (hopefully) stick around to gamble, eat, and drink. Back in the glory days of the showgirl, costumes were bedazzled in real Swarovski crystals and bling, weighing the dancers down with on average 100 pounds of finery.
Julia Ritchey

Today, the largest collection of those costumes is warehoused in the garage of a former showgirl in Reno. Karen Burns, who has taken exceedingly good care of more than 1,300 vintage MGM Grand costumes over the past several years, has tried to get museums interested in exhibits on this slice of American culture and design but has met surprising resistance. Even amid the reality shows and sex tapes of today, some curators still find the showgirl and her rhinestones crass. In this episode of Range, Burns describes how the revues made their way West, what they meant to the culture, and why it's worth preserving their costumes and props. 

Range podcast produces stories of the New American West and is co-hosted by reporters Amy Westervelt and Julia Ritchey.