GRANT PHILIPO’S LAS VEGAS SHOWGIRL MUSEUM. In the world of entertainment there are a handful of truly creative people who naturally ooze talent and passion. They are few and far between; each generation is sprinkled with just a few of these exceptional, gifted people. One such person is my good friend Grant Philipo. Grant is an immaculately dressed gentleman, brimming with a deep knowledge of the history of burlesque, Las Vegas showgirls, and the spectacular stage productions that lavished generous helpings of glitz and glamour upon appreciative audiences for many decades.
Grant’s personality is hypnotic; in his soft-spoken bubbly manner he gushes stories from his personal experiences with legends, stars, star-makers and star-breakers. It seems his life has always been interwoven with all of the greats, and he has built close friendships with many of them. Stories of historic diva rivalries and other juicy tales flow from an amused man recounting his life among the legends. Other fascinating insights emerge that illustrate Grant’s kind spirit and hint at the support and encouragement he has given to stars needing an emotional boost at low times in their lives.
“One thing you need to understand” Grant confides as he leans forward, “is that if something happened 50 years ago that was an issue between two of these legends, it is still a serious issue for them today”. The rivalry and competitiveness does not diminish over time. Even at advanced ages these ladies are still defending their places in the pecking order – Glamourous and proud forever!
Grant is a wise man. He knows the personalities well – both true and false. He is also a very loyal man who is protective of those deserving of his friendship, and who does all that he can to help them when in need. Grant has swum with the big fish, including stars such as April March, Liz Renay and a myriad of others from the entertainment industry, for which he continues to have immense passion and enthusiasm.
While visiting Grant at his lavish Las Vegas mansion recently it was fascinating to talk to him about his own life experiences, his interactions with dozens of famous people, and to explore the vast collection of showgirl costumes and memorabilia he has amassed – not to mention being surprised by the occasional sequined and rhinestone encrusted giant codpieces cheekily produced by Grant for shock value.
Upon entering Grant’s huge home, it is immediately clear that you have entered a spectacular and magical world; Giant elaborate displays are everywhere (along with enormous bowls of candies). Every wall of every room is lined with life-sized mannequins – hundreds of them. Each one clothed in stunning larger than life genuine showgirl costumes from the top stage productions of yesteryear. This is like no place on Earth – it is akin to walking into Tutankhamen’s undisturbed pyramid, bedecked with all of its dazzling unique treasure.
The items on display at Grant’s home are not reproductions – these are the actual spectacular garments that once graced the top stages beneath dazzling lights. The costumes are works of art and works of technology. They are always elaborate, and often huge; necessitating special features to enable them to be worn on stage with the wearer looking gracious and moving unburdened by their vastness. The wearers employed special techniques to enable them to elegantly perform on stage in these colossal creations with the audience oblivious to the tricks of the trade needed to facilitate the spectacle. Some items included in the collection are costumes worn by Raquel Welch, Omar Sharif, Dionne Warwick, showgirls spectaculars such as the Jubilee, Lido, Folies Bergère, movies such as the Matrix, the list is endless.
Some of the costumes have significant age and at the time of acquiring required various amounts of repair or restoration. There are few people in the entire world capable of tackling this task with sufficient skill. This is where Grant’s artistic genius comes into its own (he is an award-winning artist) and his creative skill sets come into full effect. Grant’s artistic talents, his costume making wizardry (he is a world class costume designer and maker), his knowledge of stage productions (he has personally produced many top shows), his mastery of performing (he has had a long career as a performer, and classes this as his most important contribution to the world of entertainment) and his deep passion for preserving the history of showgirls, make Grant superbly and extraordinarily qualified and capable of bringing these important historic costumes back to pristine condition, and preserving them as world class specimens for posterity – And all of the items in Grant’s collection are truly world class.
Grant’s home is devoted to the spectacular display of these costumes – and more. The décor of Elvis and Priscilla Presley’s hotel honeymoon suite has been transplanted into Grant’s dining room: Priceless!
The collection is awe inspiring; both in extravagance and in vastness. There are hundreds of costumes on display in Grant’s vast mansion – and there are hundreds (probably thousands) more costumes stored in several warehouses. Costumes include designers such as Bob Mackie, Hedi Jo Star, and many others including Grant’s Numerous designs.
Grant uses the warehouses to keep the full collection safely secured until an opportunity is available to display the entire collection in all of its grandeur. Grant is in discussions with the authorities trying to establish a permanent public display location for the collection. This is important; this collection is an irreplaceable slice of cultural history. These are the authentic garments, worn by the actual stage performers, and they capture the essence of extravagant large scale historic productions. The collection is beyond a national treasure; it is world heritage level and must be preserved and made available for all to see in a worthy public setting. Thanks to the enormous talents and passion of this great man this unique showgirl collection has been amassed and will hopefully soon become a top Las Vegas tourist attraction, along with the likes of the sin city specific Neon Museum and Mob Museum.
Grant has shared many of his wonderful memories with me. In the future, with his permission, I would love to share some of these with the readers of BurlesqueBaby Magazine, but for now please enjoy the following photographs of Grant’s fabulous collection displayed in his magnificent Las Vegas mansion.
In closing, from one performer to another, many thanks Grant for your friendship and for your personal expense and effort in gathering and preserving this enormously important and impressive collection – You are a superstar xx