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Singer Michelle Rohl flashing back to the ’80s

Dust off the 25-year-old puns: Michelle Rohl will rock again tonight.

If you know her, you were probably here in the early ’80s, when the valley had about a third of its current population and the Review-Journal’s showguide had two dozen listings.

That made even the little shows proportionately bigger. And when little ones sported names like “Burlesque-A-Poppin’,” only one of them rocked: “Playboy’s Girls of Rock ‘n’ Roll.”

Rohl sang for the show’s five-year run at the Maxim starting in 1985 and organized a cast reunion today at the Bootlegger Bistro. About 55 performers signed up for the private party (later to spill over to the public side of the eatery). They plan to restage numbers from the show for spouses and guests.

“We were like a family. There was a lot of partying. It was the ’80s,” Rohl says with a laugh.

Indeed, the show’s most famous alumnus, George Lopez, once said the Playboy show nearly stalled his career. “We were out all night and slept all day. I had no responsibilities,” Lopez noted. “You know why I left? One weekend I went shopping for a pinkie ring.”

“Girls” also was a resume credit for impressionist Louise DuArt, talk show host Jenny Jones and Valentino, later known as “The Masked Magician” on TV specials revealing magic secrets.

“They let us be ourselves. We had lots of freedom,” Rohl says. “They kind of trusted us to just do what we do.”

Rohl will sing the Eurythmics’ “Would I Lie to You?” today, just as she did when both the show and the song were new. That seemed more remarkable back when Dean Martin and Bobby Vinton still headlined.

It’s also hard to imagine now, if you’ve been to the Playboy Club at the Palms, that Hugh Hefner was indifferent to this early experiment in branding. Rohl says it was producer Dennis Levinson who convinced the company to license a live version of a rock video that featured Rohl and co-star Debra Rae.

For Rohl, the video and live show were highlights of an almost-famous career. “We all made great money,” she says of the step up from playing the Moby Grape or the Troubador with the local rock band Sailon.

She was in a Bonnie Tyler video, had a boyfriend who played bass for Quiet Riot — he wasn’t the original, but still — and was treated like a star on the Strip. “We were spoiled,” she says of that less-cluttered landscape.

Rohl went on to impersonate Bonnie Raitt in “Legends”-type shows and now works as an executive assistant for MGM Resorts. “I always joke that I sing once a quarter (lately at the Bootlegger Bistro). I have a 9-year-old now, and I don’t really like being out every night.”

But tonight, the little show lives again, as big as an ’80s hairdo.

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

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