Tuesday, Dec. 30, 1997 | 10:51 a.m.
When the curtain fell on the long-running production of "City Lites" at the Flamingo Hilton for the last time three years ago today, George Arnold told co-producer Bill Moore that shows like theirs would return to Las Vegas one day.
"It will all come around again -- it's just a matter of time," said Arnold, who remained in top physical condition even though his years as a professional cabaret ice skater were well behind him. "Maybe we'll have another Las Vegas show some day."
George Arnold, who in four decades as a Las Vegas producer put on such hit shows as "Nudes on Ice" at the Aladdin and Union Plaza hotel-casinos and "Razzle Dazzle" at the Flamingo, died Christmas Day in Mexico City. He was 76.
Arnold, who had no history of heart problems, died of a heart attack, said Moore, Arnold's business partner of 35 years. Arnold, who recently completed building a 10,000-square-foot, tri-level villa in Puerto Vallarta, was visiting a friend when he died last Thursday.
No local services are planned for the Las Vegas resident of 35 years. Interment will be in the family mausoleum crypt at Woodlawn Cemetery in Glendale, Calif., near the bodies of his father, Frank Arnold, and brother, Frank Arnold Jr., who were longtime dentists at MGM Studios in Hollywood.
"George was a champion as a performer on ice and a creative producer," said longtime SUN entertainment columnist Joe Delaney. "Together with Bill Moore, they staged some very successful shows in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and elsewhere."
In his skating days, Arnold often was called "Fred Astaire on Ice," because he performed in top hat and tails, and his trademark was a tap dance skating number.
"George was always grateful to the people of Las Vegas who supported our shows, and always felt he had more to offer them," Moore said. "We never had outrageous budgets, but our shows always looked like they cost a lot to produce."
In the 1980s, City Lites had a budget of about $1 million. It would cost $5 million or more to produce the show in Las Vegas today, Moore said.
Arnold and Moore, who closed their most recent show "Las Vegas on Ice" seven months ago in Acapulco after a two-year run in Mexico, had talked in recent months about producing yet another show.
But, they the did not believe Las Vegas could be the location, given that so many Strip productions today feature booming special effects and thundering music.
"Our shows were more of the lavish productions of the past integrated with some modern themes like country-western music," Moore said.
The first of the Arnold-Moore Las Vegas productions was "Ecstasy on Ice" at the old Thunderbird hotel-casino in 1962. Four years later, the duo opened Caesars Palace with "Rome Swings" starring Andy Williams. Later, they produced the "Follies on Ice" theatre lounge show at Caesars.
In the early 1970s, the duo opened "Nudes on Ice" at the Aladdin, reprising it in the 1980s at the Union Plaza.
"Both times we were concerned about the name of the show, and both times it caused quite a stir," Moore said of the production that was reviewed as tasteful because, despite its provocative title, it had just two scenes featuring topless skaters.
In the 1970s, Arnold and Moore had two shows going at the same time -- "Spice on Ice" at the old Hacienda, which ran for more than four years, and "Playgirls on Ice," at the Flamingo Hilton, which kicked off a 21-year association with Hilton resorts. They also produced shows in Europe during that time.
In the late 1970s and early '80s, "Razzle Dazzle" ran at the Flamingo for 3 1/2 years, before moving to the Reno Hilton for another 3 1/2-year run.
In 1980, "City Lites" began its 14-year engagement at the Flamingo.
"The show was a success for so long because we were always updating it -- changing the acts to keep it fresh," Moore said. "We personally flew to places like England and France to check out the acts before we bought them for our show."
At that time, Arnold and Moore were at the top of their game, producing five shows simultaneously from coast-to-coast.
In addition to "City Lites," "Nudes on Ice" was running at the Plaza,"Razzle Dazzle" was in Reno, the second company of "City Lites" was in Atlantic City and "Viva La Scandal" was in Puerto Rico.
Because "City Lites" sold out regularly in Las Vegas, there was no need to bring in top-name stars to headline it. The same, however, was not true at Trump's Castle in Atlantic City, where the show was headlined by such skating greats as Olympic gold medalist Peggy Fleming and the team of Tai Babalonia and Randy Gardner.
But, Arnold-Moore did bring big stars to Las Vegas, especially with the 1980s' production of "Moulin Rouge" at the Hilton. The show featured such lead performers as Suzanne Somers, Charo and Juliet Prowse.
Born Jan. 18, 1921, in Glendale, Arnold became interested in show business at an early age, and pursued it with the blessing of his family.
Early on, he performed as a skater in the Ice Capades, but soon left to produce his own revues and appear in motion pictures.
Under contract to Warner Bros. Studios, Arnold played himself in the short subject films "Rhythm on Ice" and "Ecstasy on Ice."
A friend of Olympic gold medalist and film star Sonja Henie, Arnold assisted in some of her productions. He also performed as a skating extra in a number of films.
Prior to coming to Las Vegas for the first time in 1952, Arnold produced and performed in his revue at the St. Regis Hotel in New York.
In the early 1950s, Arnold performed in the old showroom at the El Cortez hotel-casino downtown. In the early 1960s, he teamed with ex-dancer Moore to form what eventually became George Arnold/Bill Moore Productions Inc.
Earlier this year, the company became a division of On Stage Productions, a firm owned by Jon Stewart, longtime producer of Legends in Concert at the Imperial Palace.
Arnold retired from professional skating in 1978.
In more recent years, Arnold spent a great deal of time donating to organizations like Catholic Charities and the American Cancer Society and designing and building his Mexican villa that features a swimming pool with a deck overlooking the crystal blue Pacific Ocean.
The house was completed only recently. A production crew had contracted to use it over the Christmas holiday, prompting Arnold to go inland to Mexico City and stay for a while with friends.
Efforts are underway to return his body to the United States.
Arnold, who never married, is survived by a sister, Nancy Arnold-Jones of Post, Texas; a sister-in-law Geneveen Arnold of Camario, Calif., a nephew, Robert Arnold of California; a niece, Arlene Arnold-Brownsen of California; friends and associates David Herman of Las Vegas and Julia Minor-Baumer of Florida; and several great nieces.
Arnold was preceded in death by his brother Frank and two other brothers, Norman and Richard Arnold.