Anything you can do, Margo Young can do — in heels and with a 75-pound headdress nestled atop her tall and statuesque body.
At age 4, the England-bred dancer found her passion-turned-career and made the stage her home away from home. Her main cabaret was as a Las Vegas showgirl during the revue style’s advent.
The 67-year-old mastered elaborate production numbers in shows such as "Les Folies Bergere" and the Stardust’s "Lido de Paris" from 1966 to 1981.
Young competed in and won the 1971 Ms. Showgirl International pageant. She opened the School for Showgirls where she trained etiquette and technique such as how to "fall on your face with grace," she said. Howard Hughes hand-selected her to be in an advertisement for his airline alongside Sammy Davis Jr. , Paul Anka and Jimmy Durante . She kicked high and kept her knowledge of mobster dealings on the down low.
She helped define the term "showgirl."
"When you say ‘showgirl,’ everyone thinks your (bared) your breasts," Young said. " … You were just a girl, and you were in the show."
Young dubbed the time "an interesting era" but says her heyday is still upon her.
Despite health setbacks, Young continues to dance, lately with fellow Sun City Aliante senior women, the Aliante Steppers.
"I’m able to reach people my age and tell them, ‘Your life isn’t over,’ " she said.
Young formed the group in 2005 on the heels of a bout with colon cancer. She gathered a dance group of 22 performers of all levels and backgrounds. The ensemble performs at variety shows and charitable functions.
"They have so much heart," she said. "I’ve learned you can never judge a book by its cover. You can grow into an age of elegance."
"I’m Margo’s biggest fan," said fellow Aliante Steppers dancer and friend Theresa Richman .
As Richman got to know Young, she was compelled by her story.
"I said, ‘Oh, my God, Margo, this is a story that must be told,’ " she said.
Young arrived in Las Vegas in 1966 with a prestigious dance background. She was born in Liverpool, England — home of The Beatles, she’s quick to remind — but was raised in a small country town. She had aspirations to sing, act and dance, but Young’s parents told her to pick one. Dance it was.
At age 15, she was a professional dancer in England, and a year later, she auditioned for a coveted spot in the Charley Ballet Casino de Paris .
She performed with the troupe before moving to New York City as a young wife and mother.
"I wanted to be on Broadway, but I was too tall," she said. "They were looking for shorter girls."
Unhappy, Young and her family moved to Puerto Rico, where she was a featured dancer in a Latin revue. Connections made during the stint led her to Las Vegas.
She dabbled in modeling and acting in Los Angeles, coming close to a speaking role in "The Sting," she said. She couldn’t shake her British accent in time for the shoot.
Young and her family returned to Las Vegas, and she became lead dancer for "Les Folies Bergere." She hung up and set aside her heavy costumes and towering heels in 1981.
Young settled into a quiet life with her second husband, Jack, who worked behind the scenes for many Las Vegas shows. In 2009, Young competed in and won the title of Ms. Senior Nevada, a fitting bookend to her pageant win as a showgirl, she said.
Her Ms. Senior Nevada talent was dance.
Twice in the past decade, Young was faced with health challenges that could have halted her dancing career. She’s a survivor of stage IV colon cancer diagnosed in 2002 and a spine fracture from a fall down some stairs in 2010.
Returning to the dance floor was good therapy, she said.
"I can’t kick as high as I used to, but I’m dancing," Young said.
Dancing is Young’s main hobby, aside from doting on her grandchildren and great-grandchild, whom she reminds has a grandma "still strutting her stuff."
"The good lord will take me when he’s good and ready," Young said.
Richman made a prediction for that day.
"She’ll be in a uniform with tap shoes and a sequin hat," she said.
For more about the Aliante Steppers , call 281-8219 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Centennial and North Las Vegas View reporter Maggie Lillis at email@example.com or 477-3839.