Las Vegan hopes to make showgirl museum hidden in home public — VIDEO

A lot of people are waiting for the showgirl to make a comeback. But Grant Philipo is less patient than most.

His house is a museum, as they sang on “The Addams Family.” It takes a long time to even get to the prop sarcophagus used on that TV show when you’re roaming the costumed mannequins and memorabilia on display in Philipo’s crowded but meticulously arranged home.

“I’ve always had mannequins on display, even in my little apartments,” he says of the collection that grew from his career as a costume designer, performer and show producer.

But now it’s time for more people to see these relics of Las Vegas’ (and Hollywood’s) spangled past. Philipo is hoping the old Reed Whipple Cultural Center on Las Vegas Boulevard can be the new home for Grant Philipo’s Las Vegas Showgirl Museum.

There the showgirl would live again. Both as realistic mannequins in revolving display cases and, eventually, in a stage show that would put the costumes back on real humans in a replica of the bygone Stardust showroom.

But that new dream of old Vegas hinges on the showgirl collection winning out over three rival proposals submitted to the city for the boarded-up community center, which Philipo envisions as the perfect combo-ticket neighbor for the nearby Neon Museum.

It took only days to get close to 6,000 signatures on a Care2 petition. Philipo is hoping the city will decide this month, because it’s a chicken-and-egg situation with the financial backers who have pledged support for his nonprofit Society for the Preservation of Entertainment History.

Former casino executive Fred Doumani is ready to lead a fundraising campaign. But without a signed lease, Philipo says, “we can’t do anything.” Formal proposals were due last November, but the city staff has no fixed timetable on deciding when, or even if, one of the proposals will move forward to full council consideration.

For now, Philipo’s home near Eastern Avenue and Desert Inn Road is trapped between the city and county. For six years, he says, he was allowed to give low-profile tours by donation and by appointment (no outdoor signage or consistent hours).

“We wanted the people to realize how vitally important this was to Las Vegas. And that this art form is dying and needs to be revitalized,” he says. The house was perfect, because it’s a former residence of the late drag comedian Kenny Kerr and already adorned with plush pink carpet.

But someone complained, and the county cracked down.

“We never had any problem (with neighbors),” Philipo says. “Had the collection not gotten so big we would have fought it.” But as brim-full as the two-story, 7,000-square-foot house may be, the really big stuff — like scenic pieces from “Jubilee” — is spread among four warehouses.

Lifelong obsession

“I guess I was always fascinated by costumes,” the 58-year-old Philipo says. When he was a boy in Iowa, his great-grandmother gave him a swimsuit from 1915 that was “considered scandalous. That’s sort of the seed that started this.”

He also won an art scholarship in the sixth grade and, during a Las Vegas vacation at age 16, became fascinated by showgirl spectaculars overseen by the late impresario Donn Arden. “I fell in love with Vegas,” Philipo says. “It was the closest thing to a Busby Berkeley film.”

He moved to Las Vegas in 1980 and was set to go to work for Arden when the MGM Grand fire of 1981 rerouted him to Los Angeles. He found work at a costume house, where his art skills became an asset.

“I accidentally started designing costumes,” he recalls. “I could draw anything, but I had no clue how to sew.”

He has since picked up costumes from all the significant Las Vegas shows, from the “Lido de Paris” in 1958 through “Enter the Night,” the 1990s attempt to modernize the showgirl revue.

When the Smithsonian quickly raised more than $200,000 to repair Dorothy’s ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz,” the goal was not to refurbish them but to “stabilize” them and prevent further decay.

Philipo is no such purist. He rebuilds his costumes with new materials, arguing the wear and tear is “not the fault of the designer. And all of them have been so supportive of the fact that I will spend the money and the time to restore them.”

He envisions the surviving designers someday giving talks at the new museum. And former showgirls slipping back under the feathered headdresses they once wore.

“I’m sure there will be a lot of tears shed, but for a good reason.”

Contact Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288. Follow @Mikeweatherford on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Tim Burton's imaginative artwork coming to Las Vegas
Tim Burton's imaginative artwork coming to Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Holiday poultry with Tim and Chemaine Jensen of Village Meat & Wine
Tim and Chemaine Jensen of Village Meat & Wine explain the different types of poultry available for the holidays. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Spring Preserve kicks off its Holiday Express
Springs Preserve hosts its Holiday Express, which includes a train ride, visits with Santa, SNOW, and a village winter wonderland.
Artists from Cirque du Soleil contribute art to Las Vegas art exhibit
Artists from Cirque du Soleil contribute art to Las Vegas gallery exhibit
Red Plate on the Las Vegas Strip serves a cocktail made with blooming jasmine tea
Red Plate on the Las Vegas Strip serves a cocktail made with jasmine tea
Benny the Ice Skating Dog
Benny is a Las Vegas Labrador who was rescued by former pro skater Cheryl Del Sanyo, and trained to ice skate. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Nevada State Museum
The Nevada State Museum of Las Vegas, located at the Springs Preserve, covers all eras of the state, from prehistoric to today.
Throw a better dinner party
Cash appears at Baseball Winter Meetings
Lights FC mascot Cash plays the electronic drums at the EZ Inflatables’ booth on Tuesday at the Baseball Winter Meetings trade show at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
5 albums to soundtrack your holiday gatherings in style
1. Various Artists, “Holidays Rule," with Rufus Wainwright, The Shins, Calexico and more. 2. Various Artists, “We Wish You a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year," with Lemmy Kilmister, Alice Cooper, Chuck Billy and others. 3. Various Artists, “Christmas on Death Row," featuring Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg to name but a few. 4. Bright Eyes, “A Christmas Album.” 5. Various Artists, "The Motown Christmas Album." (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside the kitchen at Springs Preserve
The staff of Divine Events do party preparation in the kitchen at Divine Cafe at Springs Preserve. With nine parties the following day, this is a particularly busy time for the crew. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
WinterFest
WinterFest in Henderson.
Miss Rodeo America Fashion Show
The 28 women contestants of Miss Rodeo America compete in a fashion show at the Tropicana on Dec. 7, 2018.
Tournament Of Kings Holiday Show
Wizards and warriors are ready for the holidays at Excalibur's Tournament of Kings Holiday Dinner Show.
Take a dive with the Silverton mermaids
A visit to the Silverton Casino Hotel is not complete without taking in the popular, and very unique, mermaid show.
Cowboys and western aficionados can buy virtually anything at Cowboy Christmas
Vegas Golden Knights Christmas Display
In the Las Vegas Valley, the chances of getting a white Christmas are slim. But this year, you can have a “Knight” Christmas. A Henderson resident has a Christmas lights display that is synchronized to the entrance music for the Golden Knights. GG Misa’s Knights light show is played every 30 minutes from 5 to 10 nightly. His light show consists of two songs: Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and the entrance music, “Le Castle Vania,” from the movie “John Wick.” The display is located at 730 Bollons Island St. (Richard Brian/Las Vegas Reivew-Journal)
Holiday Hooch At El Cortez is Just in Time For Repeal Day And Christmas
Holiday Hooch At El Cortez Is Just In Time For Repeal Day And Christmas. Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal
TV's LGBT superheroes
Green Valley Ranch's Winter's Village
The Mob Museum
Best Friend Menu Reveal Wednesday
Chef Roy Choi tells us what to expect from Wednesday’s Facebook Live Menu Reveal for his new Park MGM restaurant Best Friend. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Quick Chat With Criss Angel
James D. Gish and Susan Anton rehearse
Susan Anton will be special guest at James D. Gish’s holiday concerts Dec. 7 at Summerlin Library and Dec. 9 at Clark County Library. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio Winter Wonderland
"Majestic Holiday Magic" at the Bellagio Conservatory.
Underwater Santa At The Silverton
Santa takes a dive Sunday, December 2, at the Silverton Casino Hotel. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Cowabunga Bay Christmas Town
Las Vegas Natural History Museum
Las Vegas Natural History Museum, which opened in 1991, has exhibits of mechanical dinosaurs and taxidermied animals, along with live snakes, fish and sharks. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Magical Forest Lights
Cirque Du Soleil Performers Team Up For New Show "Kinekt"
Through dance, acrobatics and aerial arts, “Kinekt” tells a story all too familiar to modern families: how to maintain a human connection in the digital age. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like