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Vegas Show Closes After 32 Years

March 1, 1991

LAS VEGAS (AP) _ Showgirls and showgoers wept and cheered as the final curtain closed on a 32-year fixture on the Las Vegas Strip, with 400 former dancers sharing in a poignant farewell for the Lido de Paris.

The variety show, imported from Paris in 1958, was performed 22,000 times for an audience totaling 19 million people. A duel over its artistic content, alongside high production and licensing costs, prompted the Stardust Hotel to opt for a new musical production that opens in July.

As the Lido took its final bow Thursday night and a band played ″Thanks for the Memories,″ showgirls wiped away tears, blew kisses and flashed thumbs-up signs to the audience, some of whom first saw or acted in the show a generation ago.

″I suppose change is good, but I love this show and I’m really going to miss it,″ said showgirl Michelle Lensky. ″It’s really sad.″

Former showgirls applauded and cheered various dance segments that have been a part of the show since it opened on July 2, 1958. Among the opening- night crowd were Bob Hope, Harold Lloyd and the McGuire Sisters.

The show was an offshoot of the original Paris production, which opened in 1928. The first cast was flown directly from Paris and consisted entirely of foreign performers. Over the years, Americans have taken over the roles.

Its closing left 61 showgirls, dancers and other performers out of jobs. Most hoped to get work with other shows here. Bobby Berosini and his orangutans will headline the new show at the Stardust, said hotel spokesman Jim Seagrave.

″It’s sad, but that’s part of life,″ Berosini, a headliner at the Lido in recent years, said at a party for old and new cast members. ″These things come and go, and something better comes along to take their place.″

The party served as a reunion for the showgirls, and locating them wasn’t that difficult, Seagrave said. ″Once the word got out that we were having this, the phones rang off the hook,″ he said. Most of the women live in Las Vegas.

The Paris-based production refused to surrender artistic control of the Las Vegas show, said Burton Brown, a liaison between Las Vegas and Lido headquarters. ″The Stardust wants more direct artistic control over the show, so if the market changes, they could alter the show at their whim,″ he said.

The Stardust dropped the show because the hotel is being expanded and remodeled and is heading ″in a new marketing direction,″ said spokeswoman Kathy Espin.

The current production cost $8 million and the hotel was spending ″an awful lot of money for a name that wasn’t doing them any good anymore,″ said entertainment attorney Mark Tratos.

The Lido was the first Las Vegas production to feature showgirls and, in keeping with the French version, the first here to feature topless dancers.

Nine Las Vegas hotels now feature production shows and showgirls, and the exclusivity of the Lido has long since vanished.

The Lido’s departure leaves the Folies Bergere show, which opened in 1959, the city’s longest-running production show, at the Tropicana Hotel. Unlike the Lido, it simply uses the name of the Paris production but has total production control.