weather icon Mostly Cloudy

Anna Bailey reflects on the Moulin Rouge, integration in Las Vegas

Pearl Bailey, Count Basie, Sammy Davis Jr. — Anna Bailey knew them all. Bailey, now 93, was born in Savannah, Georgia, and moved with her parents to Brooklyn, New York, when she was 6 months old. She started her dancing career in Brooklyn and later danced with Clarence Robinson, who choreographed the legendary film “Stormy Weather.”

And it was dance that brought Bailey to Southern Nevada. She and her husband, William H. “Bob” Bailey, were hired in 1955 for the Moulin Rouge on Bonanza Road, the short-lived hotel-casino that at the time was the only integrated one in Las Vegas. Bob Bailey, who died in 2014, would go on to become the first African American television personality in Las Vegas and a leader in the local equal-rights movement, while Anna Bailey ran the family businesses.

Review-Journal: How did you get started in dancing?

Anna Bailey: I went to the Mary Bruce dance school in Brooklyn when I was 10. (When she was 16 or 17) the dancers at the Apollo in Harlem went on strike. We went in to replace them. That was my first taste of the stage. I knew then that I wanted to be in show business.

What kind of dancing was it?

Tap, swing, a little ballet. We danced on boxes, with ropes, with fans. We did it all, because they expected girls of color to dance really fast and swing.

How did you meet your husband?

I was dancing at the Zanzibar, at 49th and Broadway. He was on Broadway with Count Basie at the Aquarium. He was a vocalist. I saw him at the Roxy Theatre on Broadway. I said, “That’s a good-looking man.” He was 6-foot-1. (Our dance company) went to Cincinnati, and the band came into the hotel there. He got my telephone number there. When he came back to New York, that’s when he called me. He had just graduated from college, so he spoke so well. We got married in New York, at St. Peter Claver Catholic Church in Brooklyn.

When and why did you come to Las Vegas?

In 1955. Pearl Bailey said that was the way to go. Bob knew her from New York. They weren’t related, but they called each other “cuz.” We were so aware of Vegas. We were so excited to get here. (But) we thought (the Moulin Rouge) was on the Strip. We were in the car and we kept riding and riding. It got darker and darker, and then we went under the overpass, and I thought, “What?” But as soon as we pulled up, it was so beautiful.

What was it like working there?

We did three shows a night, at 8, 12 (midnight) and 2:30. The 2:30 show, that was when they emptied out the Strip; everybody came to our show. It was seven nights a week; we got one day off. It was a hard gig. There were 27 girls; I was the only one who was married. We lived in a house behind the Moulin Rouge. Bob was the production singer in the show. His favorite song was “Danny Boy;” he would always end the show with that. It brought the house down. (The audience) was very integrated — every show. It was standing room just every single night. That’s why I don’t understand how it could close in just six months. (There was no warning); we walked up and there was a padlock on the door. I always felt the Strip had something to do with it, because we emptied out the Strip.

How was life here for African Americans at that time?

It was a culture shock, coming from such a diverse place as New York. There were some Fremont Street clothing stores we couldn’t go into. We couldn’t sit at the counter at the Five and 10. We could only sit on the left side of the El Portal theater. (Before the closing) Tallulah Bankhead invited us to her show. The boss called the Rouge and told them to tell us not to come back. We knew Sammy Davis Jr. from New York; he had to stay on the west side of town (when he performed on the Strip). They could be making $20,000 a week and have to go through the kitchen.

When the show closed, we were the only people who stayed. Bob saw the potential here; he saw the opportunities. I didn’t. I wanted to go back to New York. Bob said we were going to stay.

What happened then?

(She continued dancing into her early 40s, at times with Pearl Bailey’s show at the Flamingo and out on tour. Bob also performed with Pearl Bailey.) Blacks and whites sponsored him to go on TV. He was on for 12 years, from the ’60s to the ’70s, on channels 8 and 13. (They had two children, Kimberly Bailey-Tureaud, a local businesswoman, and John, a local attorney, with friends helping with child care.) We worked it out. Being segregated, we were a close community.

Then you went into business?

We opened Sugar Hill, a package store and lounge on the West Side (named for a historic district in Harlem.) Then Bob opened the Golden West Shopping Center at Owens and H Street. Then the Baby Grand package store and lounge, at Sahara and Paradise. We had managers, but I did the books; sometimes I’d have to open up and lock up. We worked real good together. He just starts the businesses and then he’s gone. I ran the businesses.

Where was he?

He was appointed by (then-Gov.) Grant Sawyer to the Equal Rights Commission (serving as chairman; his work is credited with leading to the Nevada Civil Rights Act of 1965). He also went to Culinary (Union), trying to get more African Americans work. He could talk to winos and he could talk to professional people. They named a middle school after him. I try to keep his legacy going. The last thing he said was, “Don’t let them forget me.” I just thought he was perfect, and I really miss him.

Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Boarded-up businesses in the Arts District add some color - VIDEO
Businesses in the Arts District have commissioned local artists to paint murals on the boards covering their doors and windows. When the boards are removed, they will be auctioned off to raise money for those affected by the coronavirus shutdowns. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Sold-out Electric Daisy Carnival still scheduled for May - VIDEO
In a post on his social media platforms, festival founder Pasquale Rotella confirmed that EDC remains scheduled for May 15-17 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway despite coronavirus concerns that have sideline scads of other live music events. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
City of Las Vegas responds to calls to allow restaurants offering curbside pickup
Alcohol is now allowed in curbside meal pickups in Las Vegas. The city of Las Vegas has responded to calls to allow restaurants offering curbside pickup service to include alcohol in those meals. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Lady Gaga delays new album release - VIDEO
The pop star was planning to drop her sixth LP, "Chromatica," on April 10, but she's made the "tough decision" to push back the launch following the coronavirus outbreak. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ways to keep yourself from going crazy at home during coronavirus - VIDEO
Take art classes with your kids. Install a bidet. Practice yoga. Buy houseplants. Catch up your streaming queue. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas nightclub giant Hakkasan Group lays off 1,600 - VIDEO
The Las Vegas Strip’s leading nightlife company has let go of nearly its entire workforce, leaving about 1,600 staffers suddenly unemployed, due to the shutdowns during the coronavirus crisis. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Disneyland closes in response to coronavirus - VIDEO
Walt Disney Company announced the closure of its Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, on Thursday afternoon. Known as the "happiest place on earth," Disneyland has closed its doors only three other times in 65 years. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts to temporarily close buffets amid coronavirus fears - VIDEO
MGM Resorts International will temporarily close its Las Vegas buffets, effective Sunday amid growing coronavirus fears. (Al Mancini and James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Morimoto tackles Italian cooking at Eataly Las Vegas
Masaharu Morimoto showed off his skills in a slightly different context Thursday night, when he dropped by Manzo in Eataly to launch the Italian restaurant’s new Guest Chef series. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Terry Fator leaving Mirage on Las Vegas Strip - VIDEO
The 11-year Las Vegas Strip headliner is on a venue hunt, confirming Wednesday he is leaving his eponymous theater at The Mirage this summer for parts uncharted. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Garth Brooks to play first concert at Allegiant Stadium - VIDEO
Country megastar Garth Brooks is the first non-football event announced for the $2 billion, 65,000-seat Allegiant Stadium. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Post Malone reveals his face tattoos are due to being 'ugly' - VIDEO
In a new interview with 'GQ,' the 24-year-old admitted his body art is linked to insecurity issues. [The face tattoos do] maybe come from a place of insecurity, to where I don’t like how I look .., Post Malone, via 'GQ'. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
5 Las Vegas chefs to watch - VIDEO
If you want to know what’s next for dining in Las Vegas, we suggest paying close attention to these five accomplished chefs. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Slanted Door in The Forum Shops at Caesars - VIDEO
The Slanted Door, Charles Phan's James Beard Award-winning modern Vietnamese restaurant, will open a Las Vegas location on March 2. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas REview-Journal)
Buddy V opens PizzaCake at Harrah’s - VIDEO
Buddy Valastro, aka Cake Boss Buddy V, is in town this week overseeing the soft opening of his new restaurant, PizzaCake, in Harrah’s Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making mist-shrouded tuna poke at Marssa at the Westin Lake Las Vegas - VIDEO
E.J. Estrella, banquet chef at Marssa at the Westin Lake Las Vegas, makes tuna poke by mixing chunks of bigeye tuna with sliced green onions, julienned white onions and house-made poke sauce and serving it on a bed of seaweed salad garnished with lotus chips and suspended over melon-scented mist. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making baked goat cheese at Ri Ra in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Shea Wafford, sous chef and pastry chef at Ri Ra at The Shoppes at Mandalay Place in Las Vegas, makes baked goat cheese served with honey-nut pesto, pickled red onions, peppadew relish and sourdough baguette. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bruce Kalman cooking at Ada’s - VIDEO
Celebrity chef Bruce Kalman will be cooking at Ada's in Tivoli Village in Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making banana cream pie at Cut in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Nicole Earl, pastry chef at Cut at the Palazzo in Las Vegas, makes an updated banana cream pie by layering banana ice cream, custard and compote with house-made Cool Whip, vanilla wafers and 24-karat gold leaf in a milk chocolate sphere and drizzling it with warm banana-caramel sauce so it devolves into petals. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making Chile Colorado at Kitchen Table and Kitchen Table Squared in Las Vegas
Javier Chavez, chef/owner of Kitchen Table and Kitchen Table Squared in Las Vegas, makes Chile Colorado by braising pork belly with three kinds of peppers and serving it atop stewed black beans with crema and pickled jalapeño, carrots and onions, with flour tortillas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Black Tap introduces its vegan CrazyShake - VIDEO
Black Tap at The Venetian on the Las Vegas Strip has a new CrazyShake that's vegan -- The Black ’N White CakeShake. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Guy Fieri reflects on the Las Vegas dining scene
Celebrity chef Guy Fieri talks about the Las Vegas food scene while in town celebrating his 52nd birthday. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Familiar faces among Circa culinary lineup
Derek Stevens and chefs Barry Dakake and Dan Coughlin talk about some of the new restaurants for Stevens' Circa resort project. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making the Ausser Rand und Band (Over the Top) bloody mary at the Hofbrauhaus Las Vegas
The Hofbrauhaus Las Vegas serves the Ausser Rand und Band bloody mary with Hofbrau Dunkel, vodka, bloody mary mix, a Tajin rim and a soft pretzel, slider, bacon, sausage and more. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Custom Pizza Truck is a 'kitchen on wheels' - VIDEO
Custom Pizza Truck serves pizzas in a one of a kind food truck that traveled to Poland and back. (Elizabeth Page Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @elipagephoto
Squidhat Records comes to an end - VIDEO
Founder Allan Carter explains decision to shutter the Las Vegas label. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kaiseki Yuzu relocates to Chinatown - VIDEO
Kaiseki Yuzu restaurant celebrated its move from Henderson to Chinatown at 3900 Spring Mountain Road on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Panic! at the Disco frontman opens studio for kids - VIDEO
Panic! at the Disco frontman Brendon Urie launches Notes for Notes at a Henderson Boys & Girls Club. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A sneak peek at the new Mas Por Favor in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Mas Por Favor in Las Vegas’ Chinatown is an Instagram dream come true with original art, an arch of skulls and one of roses. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegan menu unveiled on Las Vegas Strip - VIDEO
Truth & Tonic, one of the two dining spots within The Venetian’s Canyon Ranch Spa + Fitness, rolled out its new plant-based menu on Friday. Executive chef Pete Ghione talks about the menu. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cirque du Soleil takes its acts to the web

Cirque du Soleil has culled existing footage for fans to access from home, including an hourlong special from “O” at Bellagio, and the international shows “Kurios” and “Luzia.”

Las Vegas singer takes time to loaf around

Naomi Mauro says of herself and husband, Gio,“We can make bread, a lot of bread,” Mauro said in a phone chat this week. “At first it was therapeutic, but so far it’s been something people are enjoying, so that’s good.”