Gone are the days when French-style production shows, such as the Lido de Paris, Casino de Paris, and Folies Bergere, were the star attractions at hotels up and down the Strip. The legacy of these shows and the significant mark they made upon Las Vegas entertainment history, however, remains in numerous collections of historical papers held in UNLV Special Collections & Archives.
From costume sketches and photographs to production notes and sheet music — these historical collections tell the story of this unique entertainment form, and the men and women who brought it magically to life on the stages of Las Vegas showrooms in the Stardust, Tropicana, Flamingo, Dunes, and many other hotels.
Here are some of the most notable collections showcasing the UNLV Libraries' role as the premiere repository for Las Vegas entertainment history. Much of these collections are accessible through UNLV Libraries Digital Collections.
Donn Arden Papers
Donn Arden was the man behind the magic of Jubilee!, Lido de Paris, Hallelujah Hollywood, and many other large-scale production shows in Las Vegas, Paris, and Reno. His eye for placing beautifully costumed showgirls and dancers on fantastical sets and designing snappy production numbers around historical events made him one of the masters of this genre. Together with his collaborator Miss Bluebell (Margaret Kelly), Arden was responsible for creating magical Las Vegas memories for the thousands, if not millions of tourists, who saw his shows at the Stardust, MGM, and Desert Inn. Costume designs, set designs, posters, programs, production notes, sheet music, correspondence, newspaper clippings and many other documents illustrate his storied career.
Jerry Jackson Papers
Jerry Jackson produced the Folies Bergere at the Tropicana from 1975 until it closed in 2009. As a choreographer, costume designer, lyricist, and composer, the multi-talented Jackson was a rarity in the entertainment business. His papers accordingly reflect the diverse nature of his talents, and include photographs, costume and set designs, lyrics, music manuscripts, choreography and production notes, and much more. His illustrious career designing shows spanned the world -- Las Vegas, Paris, Australia, and Puerto Rico, among other locales.
Bill Moore Papers
Las Vegas ice shows such as Playgirls on Ice, Spice on Ice, and City Lites were the specialty of Bill Moore and his partner George Arnold. His papers contain programs, photographs, sheet music, production notes, and much more from these unique production shows at hotels such as the Union Plaza, Hacienda, and Flamingo. The collection also contains dazzling costume and set designs by Hollywood designer Lloyd Lambert, who was a frequent collaborator with Moore.
Matt Gregory Papers
While Matt Gregory started as a manager/agent for Las Vegas performers, he eventually became known for his work in developing the Las Vegas style mini-revue at hotels such as the Flamingo and the Silverbird Casino. His shows included Fancy That, The Feminine Touch, Mad Mod World, La Nouvelle Eve, and Kanpai. His collection includes contracts, costume sketches, press releases, videos, and publicity materials. The costume sketches by designer Josephine Spinedi are among the most colorful and unique items in the collection
Sands Hotel Collection
Although the Sands Hotel did not produce the lavish production shows that would later characterize the showrooms of the Stardust, Dunes, and Tropicana, it made its own form of entertainment history by hosting a galaxy of performers in its famous Copa Room. From the Rat Pack to Johnny Mathis and Lena Horne to Judy Garland, its stage featured the most famous singers of the day, all backed by chorus lines of the beautiful Copa Girls. The Sands Hotel Collection features hundreds of photos of these stars and the glamorous Copa Girls, along with correspondence and press releases that document the work of the hotel's publicity department in promoting their entertainment offerings.
About Special Collections
These are just a small fraction of the entertainment history materials Special Collections holds. From the papers and oral histories of individual Strip entertainers to costume design collections to the records of entertainment departments of the long-gone Frontier, Dunes, Thunderbird, and Stardust hotels, UNLV Special Collections has made documenting the entertainment history of Las Vegas one of its primary collecting missions.
These collections have been digitized by UNLV Libraries Digital Collections and can be found online in digital exhibits such as Showgirls and Dean Martin at the Sands.