Q: What musical extravaganza owns the record for the longest consecutive stage run in American history?
A: (check one) 1) Show Boat 2) Oklahoma 3) South Pacific 4) A Chorus Line 5) Cats.
Even if you picked all of the above and toted up their Broadway reigns, you’d still be wrong. The correct answer is The Lido de Paris, a sequined slice of Americana that has enjoyed a glittering, overstuffed and underdressed 32-year run at the Stardust Hotel on the Strip in Las Vegas. Since the revue first opened on July 2, 1958 (with Bob Hope and the McGuire Sisters in the audience), Lido girls, wearing little more than chandelier-size feather headdresses, rhinestone-studded G-strings and pearl-drop smiles, have paraded their statuesque stuff through some 22,000 performances before an estimated 19 million enthusiastic patrons.
Sadly, even the most iridescent house must eventually darken. Let history record that on Feb. 28, 1991, the Stardust’s marquee flashed LIDO-DIRECT FROM PARIS for the last time. Along with extensive renovations to the hotel, Stardust management has decided to wrap up the Lido’s singularly naked theme for a new spectacle called Into the Night. On closing night, tears fell and mascara ran in the backstage dressing rooms as more than 300 former Lido dancers showed up to give the current troupe of 40 women a sentimental send-off. Said original cast member Valda Esau, 53, “I went backstage, and there were the same smells, the same conversation. I was reminded that the Lido will always be part of me.”
Derived from the original Paris production of 1928, Lido operated on the eternal principle of showcasing women long of limb, sinuous of step and bountiful of bosom. Often drawn from U.S. and European ballet schools, Lido performers were the quintessential show girls, even if the hours were long (two shows nightly) and the costumes were skimpy. Says longtime director Donn Arden, 75, “We never fornicated onstage or anything like that. If a girl has a beautiful body, why not show it? You go to a museum and see it, right?”
Some dancers, many of whom had been in the show for a dozen years or more, were feeling a keen sense of loss. Said Dolly Ridderplaat, 35, sadly, “The Lido has been a second home to me. I can’t believe that after tonight, it’s going to be nothing but a memory.” Others were more philosophical. Linda Spinks Alverson, 41, elder stateswoman of the Lido dancers, declared herself ready to hang up her G-string for good. “One really can’t do this type of thing forever,” she said. “Besides, I’m pregnant.”