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Desert Companion

Branching out

Copa Girls

In this 1954 promotional photo shot at the Sands, we see the gorgeous Copa Girls marking the holidays by stacking themselves in the shape of a Christmas tree. (It helps if you hold the page back a bit from your face and squint a little — there! Starting to look a little like Christmas, right?). Now, if you notice a sort of rigid formality to the tableau, a certain je ne sais stiffness, it’s not accidental. That the famous Copa Girls are here posing themselves — and proposing themselves — as a simulacra of a Christmas tree perhaps subtly reflects the aesthetic philosophy of their boss, Jack Entratter. The nightclub impresario is perhaps best known for successfully importing to Las Vegas the Copa Room, a Sin City variation on the successful Copacabana Club in Manhattan. But he also brought with him a decidedly settled idea on how showgirls should look, act and be. By Entratter’s standards, they should be 5’4”, weigh 116 pounds, and sport ideal proportions of 34-24-34. If that sounds mechanical, consider also that Entratter didn’t require his Copa Girls — whom he screened and vetted with the fussy eye of an assembly-line inspector — to have much dancing ability. He’d leave the thrashing showgirls to his rival down the street, Donn Arden. Entratter’s legacy would be the showgirl as model to be gazed upon like sculpture. Or trees.

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