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April 18, 2014

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Joe Downtown: Parade of characters in Las Vegas has new venue – East Fremont Street

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Joe Schoenmann

“Fremont Street is on the rise, baby!” said Cassandra Rachal, dressed in a showgirl outfit and hoping to pose for photos with tourists for tip money in the Fremont East Arts District.

One more sign that the Fremont East Entertainment District is starting to come of age: Those superhero and other characters that populate the Fremont Street Experience were seen last weekend near Fremont and Sixth streets.

One of them is “showgirl” Cassandra Rachal, who poses for pictures with tourists. She says she is one about 200 of the characters who moved from their traditional space in front of the former Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood to Las Vegas after L.A. police started arresting and ticketing them for panhandling and improper licensing in 2010.

Characters in costume also were lumped together with other issues that Clark County commissioners and police said were contributing to crowding and dangerous situations on the Las Vegas Strip two years ago. Not much has been said about them since, however, as police and the county have turned their focus to pedestrian choke points and the people handing out adult-oriented cards to tourists.

The characters go with the flow of people and the money. So they’ve been popping up downtown, too. But last weekend was the first time, Rachal said, that she had posed for photos east of the Fremont Street Experience.

“Fremont Street is on the rise, baby!” said Rachal, spotted waiting for a walk signal Monday morning at Las Vegas Boulevard and Ogden Avenue. “It’s back to the sparkle and hope of old Vegas.”

Rachal has been dressing up in character for about five years, moving to Las Vegas about two years ago.

“A lot of us would be homeless without this,” she said, adding the most she has ever made in a day was $500 in tips.

Rachal was a hair stylist and actress who, in 1981, wrote "The Braider's Bible Vol. I: How To Braid Hair." She started her Vegas stint as Cleopatra, then Cat Woman and now is a showgirl.

The key to the business?

“Personality is everything,” Rachal said. “You can pay $2,000 for a costume, too, but if it’s not clean and fresh, it won’t work as well.”

Rachal is playing downtown daily.

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