Denise Truscello / DeniseTruscello.net
Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016 | 6 p.m.
Matt Goss in Jubilee
Tonight the nearly 35-year history of “Jubilee” at Bally’s comes to an end as the curtain rises for the last time at 9:30. An amazing feat: It will mark 18,720 shows for more than 18 million guests. Incredible! There will be tears among the dancers for sure. There will be reunions among several of the more than 1,000 dancers — wearing the trademark bright red lipstick and fishnets — over the years who will attend the final show.
Caesars Entertainment execs had hoped to make a new announcement about what’s next for the showroom, but plans have not been fully locked up. One of the entertainment team members told me: “We’re not ready to go there yet. We’ve been looking at shows to bring in, but no new announcement yet. We’re still hoping in some way to integrate some of the past of ‘Jubilee’ into the future. We just don’t have anything concrete or solid for tonight.
“We recognize that this will be bittersweet, but we hope that guests will make it a celebration of an extraordinary show that had one of the longest runs in Las Vegas entertainment history. ‘Jubilee’ has been a remarkable achievement. “
I’ve learned from insiders that execs hope to announce something definite in the next 30 days and that it could be a new-look burlesque show that still captures the spirit and tradition of Jubilee, “but sexier, more modern and very, very glamorous,” I was told.
“We’d love to see the old costumes see the light of day again. They’ll be refreshed and revamped. They are too gorgeous to be put into a glass case. People should see them onstage. We hope that some of the ‘Jubilee’ dancers will get an opportunity of being considered for the new show, which has to be smaller and far more intimate.
“Whether it will be a four-wall deal or a Caesars Entertainment show is part of the discussion. Both options are on the table right now. Also under consideration is a show for the early evening and a late-night production. We’d like to announce both at the same time because they would be related.
“We don’t want the theater to be dark for too long. But we can’t put Band-Aids on stuff anymore. Whoever comes in doesn’t want broken things. Stuff has to be replaced. We don’t want the space to turn into something that’s condemned. We have all this great stuff, and it’s just all falling apart if it isn’t used.”
“Jubilee’s” stage is half the size of a football field — 190 feet long, 73 feet deep and 15 stories — and able to host scenes and sequences that couldn’t be re-created on many other stages in the world.
At the time, it cost an unheard-of $10 million to stage and was always the celebrated staple of Las Vegas entertainment since its opening in 1981. The incredible costumes, costing $7,000 each back then, designed by Bob Mackie and Pete Menefee dazzled audiences.
Legendary producer Donn Arden, who created the ultimate topless spectacular, passed away in November 1994. The lights on the Strip were dimmed in his honor. His longtime company manager, Ffolliott “Fluff” LeCoque, passed away at age 92 on Dec 10. Cast and crew were told two days later that the long-running production had to close because of huge costs to fix broken stage equipment and elevators.
Frank Gatson Jr. at Jubilee
Out of sight from the audience are three main double-decker elevators each with 100,000-pound lift capacity, six smaller elevators and two revolving elevators that help move dancers and sets. In recent weeks, two of those elevators moved out of alignment and stopped working.
The basement dressing rooms two flights below the stage meant dancers raced up and down more than 1,700 stairs a night. It was one of the most expensive budgets in town with nearly 70 dancers, singers and specialty acts, 70 stagehands and 26 people in wardrobe.
I broke the closing story Dec. 12 and reported that Fluff was unaware of the pending shutdown. The timing was purely coincidence. Please read the excellent interview posted Wednesday by my Las Vegas Sun colleague John Katsilometes with company manager Diane Palm, who has been with “Jubilee” since Day 1. My Q+A with “Jubilee’s” creative director and Caesars Entertainment Director of Entertainment Gene Lubas was posted Nov. 18.
Former “Jubilee” dancer, “Pin Up” at the Stratosphere star and “Best Ink” judge Sabina Kelley will join me tonight with “Sexxy” at Westgate Las Vegas star and choreographer Jennifer Romas to provide their perspective for our report Monday.
Audiences have packed the show in its last 60 days, along with visitors to the behind-the-scenes tour of its secrets. Planet Hollywood headliner magician Murray Sawchuck and Emmy Award-winning set designer Andy Walmsley took the backstage tour this week one last time before the show closes. Both are big Vintage Vegas fans, Murray from Canada and Andy from Britain.
Both grew up in their home countries as kids dreaming of being successful in Las Vegas. Since moving here to find fame and fortune, they have gone to hotel auctions and purchased priceless memorabilia. Murray owns the former Frank Sinatra suite chandelier from the now-shuttered Riviera.
Murray told me: “Las Vegas was iconic for many original things you couldn’t see anywhere else in the world, and ‘Jubilee’ was definitely one of them.”
Fluff in 2014 said: “I don’t think you’ll ever see a show that uses showgirls the way ‘Jubilee’ does ever again. My sense is they will never produce another show like it. There’ll never be a same show as we had with dozens and dozens of showgirls.”
I asked Gene about the cast’s spirit going into the final night. He told me: “I think they’re more positive than the alumni. The alumni, that’s what we’re calling the people who have been in the show 35 years, they’re more going to be sobbing and tearful.
“The irony is that they’ve all moved on with different lives, but it’s the current cast that most of them don’t have anything, and they’re the ones with the positive attitudes. I say, ‘Don’t sob that it’s closing. Relive the glory days, be happy that you were a part of it.’ We want to celebrate the success of the show. It should have a very positive spin on it.”
It’s still sad, but as with all things in Las Vegas, a phoenix will arise from the ashes. We’ll bid a fond farewell to “Jubilee.” The show will be missed, but I hope the wonderful 34 years of memories won’t be forgotten.
Robin Leach of “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous” fame has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past 15 years giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
Follow Las Vegas Sun Entertainment + Luxury Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.