'Pin Up' moves closer to feel and spirit of late star's style of burlesque


There was always a torch-passing, circle-of-life aspect to the annual Burlesque Hall of Fame gatherings in Las Vegas. Where else would you see burlesque dancers in their 20s and 80s on the same stage?

Now, perhaps there’s some symmetry in the Stratosphere’s “Pin Up” getting a little more revealing exactly one week after the death of burlesque icon Dixie Evans.

Starting Saturday, “Pin Up” star Claire Sinclair will edge a little closer to her Playboy fame by wearing crystal-adorned custom pasties (Swarovski, thank you, claims the press release). For reasons not fully explained, the hotel remains reticent about going fully topless.

Just as barbecue competitors protect that term from “grillers,” burlesque purists don’t like their b-word casually attached to Las Vegas topless shows. But “Pin Up” comes closest to the retro spirit of striptease, and Evans would relate to Sinclair using the pasties Las Vegas dancers wore until “Minsky’s Follies” went full topless in 1957.

Evans’ passing at age 86 is a reminder that sometimes you do get a third act. It’s doubtful Evans was as loved or celebrated during her dancing days of the 1950s as she was in the 1990s, after she became the keeper of the Exotic World burlesque attraction near Barstow, Calif.

She became the link between the 1950s burlesque that had been all but forgotten, and a new generation determined to preserve it.

When the desert museum (really a dilapidated ranch house) would no longer pass the scrutiny of code enforcers in 2006, young fans Laura Herbert and Luke Littell moved both Evans and her memorabilia to Las Vegas. (The couple later split and promoted separate burlesque gatherings; friction continues over Evans’ name and collection.)

Part of the collection ended up at the Emergency Arts building on Fremont Street, and the annual Burlesque Hall of Fame weekend became a mecca for enthusiasts.

Littell says there is a plan for an Aug. 31 burlesque show at the Plaza to become a celebration of Evans’ life.

I once visited Exotic World to talk to Evans about Las Vegas burlesque after spotting on microfilm that she performed at the Embassy Club the same week in October of 1953 that Frank Sinatra first sang at the Sands.

I loved how she explained the declining burlesque circuit finding new life in the awakening Las Vegas: “It’s only natural that Vegas was scrambling for entertainment, and what are they gonna take? Some long-haired violinists or opera? No, hell no.” ...

“Fantasy,” a more contemporary topless dance show, has recruited Jaime Lynch as its new lead singer. She replaces fireball Lorena Peril, who was cast to play Sandy in an arena tour of “Grease.”

Lynch was a contestant on “The X Factor” and has been in “Peepshow” and “Vegas! The Show.” “Fantasy” is a much more secure job than the bygone “iCandy Burlesque,” where Lynch sang alongside Felice Garcia, who landed in “Million Dollar Quartet.” ...

“America’s Got Talent” always seems to have a hard time deciding just how to make good its promise of a Las Vegas performance for the winner. Last season, a package show of finalists dug into the Palazzo for an underwhelming residency.

That could explain why this year, the pendulum swings back to a single MGM Grand Garden arena date, on Oct. 23 as part of a 30-city arena tour. The chance of it being a backyard date is still possible for Las Vegas acrobats the KriStef Brothers and 10-year-old Henderson singer Anna Christine.

And on the Fox contest “So You Think You Can Dance,” Las Vegans Aaron Turner and Dushaunt “Fik-Shun” Stegall are guaranteed to go on tour, even if the tour is not guaranteed to come to Las Vegas.

On Tuesday, the two Las Vegas dancers made the Top 10 of the TV competition that picks a winner Sept. 3. The 42-city tour that starts Oct. 1 did not roll out with a local booking, but leaves room on the schedule between Reno on Nov. 16 and Phoenix on Nov. 25.

Turner, son of veteran entertainer Earl Turner, is the first tap dancer to make the show’s Top 10. Tuesday’s number was choreographed by Napoleon and Tabitha D’Umo, who taught Aaron at Bunker Dance Center, where he now teaches. ...

Michael Grimm, a previous Las Vegas winner of “America’s Got Talent,” brings “Grimm’s Fairytale Tour” to Sunset Station on Sept. 27. Billed as a “musical journey of his life,” it promises to put his rootsy singing into an autobiographical context.

Must be something in the water — or beer — as Meat Loaf will do much the same thing as the first star of “RockTellz & CockTails” at Planet Hollywood Resort, for 18 shows starting Sept. 26. Garth Brooks and Pat DiNizio really seem to have started something when they adapted the VH1 “Storytellers” format for the Strip.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.