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August 29, 2015

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Crowd cheers as Lucky Lady Lucy burns for First Friday

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Leila Navidi

Fire dancers perform leading to the burn of Lucky Lady Lucy, a 20-foot tall wooden showgirl sculpture, in downtown Las Vegas on Friday, March 2, 2012.

First Friday Burn

A dancer performs in Launch slideshow »

Well, they burned her. They removed Lucky Lady Lucy's lighted boa and skimpy sparkly clothing as the crowds chanted, "Burn it! Burn it! Burn it!" Friday night during a lengthy ceremonial process that culminated when Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, surprising everyone, emerged from the side of the gravel lot and used a torch to light the fuse that would snake across the ground and ignite the "Flames of Change."

Downtown Las Vegas' first official burn, a collaboration between First Friday organizers and the denizens and organizers of Burning Man, had been a success. The corner of Third Street and Colorado Avenue, set off from the thousands roaming among the galleries, artist tents and vendors of First Friday, was the home of a dreadlocked, techno urban bacchanalia.

The wooden Lucky Lady Lucy—who'd been built in pieces in backyards across the valley for several months—wasn't the only star of the evening, though that's what everyone came for. As with the Burning Man festival, the effigy was the centerpiece of a celebration of "radical self-expression," but was preceded by a celebration of fire spinners, costumes and tribal imagery.

It's likely that most everyone walked away from the "Flames of Change,” wanting to see more of the crew from "The Burning Opera: How to Survive the Apocalypse". The company of musicians, singers, dancers and dreadlocked gypsy punks, mixed with Las Vegas showgirls, performed three 15-minute reviews of the full opera that was conceived in Black Rock City and premiered in 2009 at Stage Werx in San Francisco.

Whether you’re a fan of Burning Man and/or Broadway, it's hard to dispute the talented performers, well-organized canivalesque choreography and ingenious music of the production that hearkens "Hair," "Jesus Christ Superstar" and the bohemians in the 1987 movie, "Sammy and Rosie Get Laid." Add to that a guy in a fuzzy animal costume and rabbit ears, perched on a ladder with a megaphone, mocking the "tribe of freaks" and their tales of the transmutation zone in a Nevada city built in the "middle of nowhere."

In addition to "Party's Over" and other Burning Opera songs, they carried the audience into the burn, performing "Strange Weather" and instrumental numbers that ushered in a line of 20 drummers, a cast of fire spinners and desert hippies in rags who performed while performance props from the burn site were removed.

When Lucky Lady Lucy finally began to burn, everyone was quiet as the 20-foot effigy slowly caught fire, showering the audience with sparks. They cheered as she gradually lost wooden body parts and eventually collapsed into a pile of flaming bones.

But that wasn't the end. From behind the crowd and atop a 100,000-watt sound system on Third Street (and attached to a lit spaceship raised above) came three words: "DJ Philthy Phil." From there the Dancetronauts took over, shooting flames from the top of their sound system as electronic music rumbled through the crowd.

Costumed Dancetrohotties performed amid a smoke-ring shooter, stage lights and a party that would move to the Plaza hotel on Fremont Street and continue well into the morning.

Near the burn site where cast members and firemen shoveled gravel onto what was left of Luck Lady Lucy, Joey Vanas, managing partner of First Friday LLC and organizer of "Flames of Change," watched the Dancetronauts spectacle.

"Awesome!" he proclaimed. "Everybody really came together and did exactly what they were supposed to do. Total cooperation. And that's what it's all about—working together."

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