Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013 | 6 p.m.
It’s a night on the town in VegasVille with Tempest Storm, and we are driving to see Claire Sinclair in “Pin Up.” This is Saturday, the night of Sinclair’s big unveiling at Stratosphere.
Storm is one of the great costume shedders of all time, and the raven redhead wants to be in the audience to see what all the fuss is about.
She asks, “So, this is the first night Claire’s going topless?”
“Well, she’s not totally topless,” I say. “She is wearing pasties.”
“Oh? What was she in when I saw her before?” she asks.
“Something more than pasties,” I say. “A bustier, a nightie, a witch’s costume that looked like lingerie. Stuff like that.”
“With all the nudity in Las Vegas, I’d think they’d want her topless,” she says.
“It took six months for her to get to this point,” I say. “I think we’re going to have to be happy with the pasties.”
One of the legends of “The Burly Q,” as burlesque is sometimes termed, Tempest is allowed her opinion of adult entertainment. She started her career in 1952, when she took the name “Tempest Storm.” Four years later, she was billed as “The Tempest in a D-Cup” and had signed a contract worth $100,000 a year for 10 years with the Bryan-Engels burlesque chain.
By the time Storm was 22, the age Sinclair is today, she was the highest-paid and most famous topless dancer in the world. Recognizing the luminary in the crowd, Sinclair introduces Storm from the stage, starting with, “Where’s Tempest?” By the end of that intro, Storm is standing and waving to the audience, leaning slightly on a chair, as her left hip is still a little unstable from a tumble she took onstage at the Plaza during the Burlesque Hall of Fame’s 20th anniversary show three years ago. She was just 83 at the time.
Storm grins as Sinclair performs the new, increasingly risqué scenes. She laughs during the act where Sinclair toys with a puppet pillow and says of the October segment where Sinclair wears her stylish witch’s costume, “That’s really beautiful.” Storm loves the music, repeatedly praising the Pin Up Players, and recalls the time she toured with The James Gang for six weeks 40 years ago, a series of shows topped with an appearance at Carnegie Hall. “They wanted me to join them after and smoke pot and drink, but I never did any of that,” she says. “I was as pure as driven snow.”
Sinclair is carried out for the show-closing number, in which she wears a stars-and-stripes costume, and the last of her “big reveals.” It seems this performance has been just about flawless, but as Sinclair reaches the front of the stage, one of the Swarovski crystal-designed pasties falls to the stage (the one on her right, our left). Oops. But the adhesive backing remains in place, so Sinclair looks a little like a Barbie doll while the show’s singer, Anne Martinez, plucks the fallen piece from the stage.
“We got us a wardrobe malfunction,” I say to Storm.
“Not all the way,” Storm responds. “She’s still covered up.” Call it a “partial” malfunction.
After the show, she says of Sinclair, “She’s very cute. Very pixie. Very adorable.” Of the dancers: “They sure work their buns off.”
Sinclair says she felt as if she was performing the show for the first time and refers to the dropped pasty as “a Janet Jackson-Super Bowl scenario.” “I’m sure Tempest was out there thinking, ‘It happens to the best of us.’ ”
But Sinclair played it off expertly, not even glancing down to see what was missing, and the one leading the applause was one of the true greats. Storm wants to go back to “Pin Up” and check on Sinclair and the show’s progress. I’m sure that can be arranged.
It is virtually impossible to be anywhere in Las Vegas and miss the Stratosphere. It towers 1,149 feet above Las Vegas and is the tallest observation tower in the United States. The casino itself is 55,784 square feet and contains 950 slot machines, 120 game tables and 2,427 hotel rooms.
Of the hotel's 2,427 rooms, 909 were recently remodeled into Stratosphere Select rooms.
The Stratosphere is mostly known for its rides at the top of the tower. The Big Shot, located at the 113th floor, torpedoes riders up 160 feet using compressed air. X-Scream is a teeter-totter perched at the top of the observation deck — if that wasn't scary enough, the coaster arm flings the riders out 27 feet over the edge of the tower. Guests looking for something more sedate can just hang around the 107th floor and simply look at the scenery.