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January 18, 2018

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Casting challenge is born for ‘Peepshow,’ post-Holly Madison; Liberace theater set is tearfully moving


Darrin Bush/Las Vegas News Bureau

Holly Madison at a press conference at the Las Vegas Convention Center with the original Miss Atomic Bomb photograph, left, and her re-creation.

Holly Madison's Swimwear Portraits

Holly Madison at Bacchus pool in Caesars Palace on Tuesday, June 5, 2012.

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Holly Madison attends the Earl of Sandwich grand opening at the Palms on Monday, July 2, 2012.

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Holly Madison arrives at the Earl of Sandwich grand opening at the Palms on Monday, July 2, 2012.

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Electric Daisy Carnival founder Pasquale Rotella and reality TV and "Peepshow" star Holly Madison make their way through the crowd during the first night of the Electric Daisy Carnival early Saturday, June 9, 2012, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Ever since touching down in the city nearly four years ago, Holly Madison has worked tirelessly to be known as Miss Las Vegas. Whenever city officials needed a celebrity to pose at the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign or portray a new-generation Miss Atomic Bomb, Madison was the first call out.

Now Madison is becoming Mommy Vegas, as she is entering her second trimester of carrying her first child. My colleague, the Ubiquitous Robin Leach reported this officially Tuesday morning and also had written of Madison’s maternal plans in July. She has been dating Electric Daisy Carnival founder Pasquale Rotella since the spring.

Thus, the fact that Madison followed through on her stated plans to start a family was far less surprising than the “when” of it all. It is pretty obvious BASE Entertainment officials were not aware Madison was pregnant until she made the announcement to them (and to the public) this week. In the context of performing in “Peepshow,” Madison’s objectives were to be onstage until Dec. 30, and producers have been planning for that reality, not for Madison to be leaving any time before then.

Now, the best guess is she will be departing the cast by Halloween, if not sooner.

Madison has held the production’s lead role since June 2009 and remains in the show for the time being, working with producers to finalize a suitable schedule for her final appearances. What will not happen is a return to Angel Porrino to the show as Bo Peep. Porrino has on occasion subbed for Madison while Madison has been on vacation, but there is no plan to return the bubble-inhabiting “Absinthe” performer to the stage at Planet Hollywood.

Amid the announcement that Madison would be leaving the show (and the subsequent news that she is pregnant), such stars as Carmen Electra and Jenny McCarthy have surfaced as candidates to fill the central role of Bo Peep. Electra is far more likely to be brought into the cast (she has previously guest-starred in “Crazy Horse Paris” at MGM Grand), and the idea of rotating the lead role in 90-day stints is again being discussed. That’s the model “Peepshow” used with its original stars, Mel B and Kelly Monaco, when it opened in Spring 2009.

In an extraordinary exercise in secret keeping, Madison fulfilled her duties onstage through the first trimester of her pregnancy without disclosing her condition to those who put on “Peepshow.” Aside from opting out of the opening segment where she slides upside down on a long white silk, there was nothing in Madison’s stage performance that indicated she might be expecting a child (she cited unspecified medical reasons for not performing the risky silk act).

There has been some published dot connecting that BASE producers were aware Madison was pregnant long before she made the formal announcement. That’s difficult to fathom, considering the mad scramble by show officials to announce Madison’s status in the production and the absence of a specific plan to replace her once the news became public.

Also, and probably more revealing, Madison did take part in an extensive promotional video shoot about four weeks ago (the editing of that footage continued through last week). If producers had an inkling that their featured performer would be leaving the stage several weeks earlier than originally planned, it is all but certain they wouldn’t have featured her in a video clip promoting her as the star of the show.

Fortunately, for the future of “Peepshow,” co-stars Josh Strickland and Cheaza are still in the production for the foreseeable future. The former lead in “Tarzan” on Broadway, the powerfully voiced Strickland still gives “Peepshow” some serious artistic credibility. And Cheaza is terrific as Peep Diva, having grown into the type of commanding personality necessary to hold the audience’s attention between all those sexy numbers.

For Madison, it is the latest evolution in a life and career that seems to have been launched ages ago in Las Vegas, but she’s been a famous figure here for just four years. She says she plans to keep active in Vegas, talking of a TV project that -- now, it seems -- might well center on her role as a celebrity mom. Or maybe she’ll just be that mom, and be great as that. But it is clear that filling her role -- and in a hurry -- as the star of a Vegas production is going to be a challenging assignment.

Liberace Cars

An HBO crew secures cars, once owned by Liberace, onto a car carrier at the Liberace Museum parking lot, Wednesday July 11, 2012. The cars, a 1972 custom Bradley GT and a 1957 London taxi, are on loan to HBO for a project called Launch slideshow »

• Producers of “Behind the Candelabra,” the HBO biopic about the relationship between Liberace and Scott Thorson (starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon) is finished with all of the vehicles, costumes, paintings and other personal effects used during filming in Las Vegas. The process of returning those artifacts began Friday morning as the cast wraps filming on location at LVH.

The two principal locations for shooting were the LVH Sky Villas and the LVH Theater. That famous showroom, the original home of Elvis dating to his 1969 debut in Vegas when the hotel was known as the International (and later Las Vegas Hilton), was Liberace’s main stage in the 1970s. Liberace Foundation Board of Directors Chairman Brian “Paco” Alvarez, who has spent his adult life preserving Vegas’ cultural heritage, said he walked into the theater this week and was awestruck.

“I took a look at the set and was literally brought to tears,” he said in a moving text message Friday. “It is amazing how they transformed the theater.”

Also being planned is a fundraiser for the Liberace Foundation, to be held at a date to be announced in October at the former Michael Jackson estate (the one he rented while staying in Vegas from 2006-2008) on 2710 Palomino Lane. It is the first formal fundraiser for the Foundation since the Liberace Museum closed in October 2010.

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