Step inside the dressing room and we’ll tell you a tale...
Thursday, February 11 7:00am By Lissa Townsend Rodgers 

Grant Philipo

                                    Grant Philipo

                                    Dunes (1980s)

I had auditioned for Donn Arden three times. … I was singing in the Cub Lounge at the MGM Grand with Renee Lee—they used to have a lounge directly across the Ziegfeld Room. I got involved in designing costumes and a little while later, I was working at a clothing store called the Hotel for Haberdashery. I was doing the window displays and somebody knocked on the window and it was Fluff LeCoque, waving for me to come out and talk to her. She said, “We’re having the auditions for Jubilee!.… This is going to be a great show. We want it to be the biggest and best show ever. Please come to the auditions.” I went to the auditions, and I’m looking at these guys with my head stretched up toward the sky because they were so friggin’ tall. I didn’t get hired because, at 6 feet 2, I was the shortest guy.

Without the showboys, you couldn’t have those great numbers dancing with the women, doing the lifts and all of that kind of stuff. Showboys didn’t get all of the accolades that the women did because nine times out of 10, they weren’t used in the advertising like the women were. They used the people in their shows to basically entice people to their properties. People automatically start thinking prostitution, and it never was: It didn’t mean that you had to go to bed with them; it meant that they had someone gorgeous on their arm.

I ended up producing my own show at the Dunes in 1992, which was dedicated to Donn Arden and Frederic Apcar. Donn actually sat in the audience and cried and I was like, “Oh, my God, what’s wrong?” And he said, “Nothing. It makes me so proud to see one of my babies do something that I would have done.”

Most production numbers have five to six sections per number, and that’s something that I learned from Donn. There’s sort of a mathematical way to structure shows so that everything keeps building until you get to the end of that vignette and that’s got to be the most spectacular thing. They always used specialty acts to [allow] time to change the sets and the costumes. In my show, we were trying to show people what the shows were like during the ’60s and ’70s in Vegas, when the showboys and showgirls both were practically naked but dripping in thousands of dollars’ worth of jewels and feathers. They were a mix of eroticism with such elegance that it was really important for people to see that this was what Vegas was all about.

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