Desert Companion

Spring flung

Spring Flung

The Las Vegas News Bureau and local publicists celebrated Easter with this March 31, 1958 photo, using the Barry Ashton Dancers to remind potential tourists that Las Vegas had — imagine this — beautiful women to see.

Donn Arden was and remains the gold standard for the production show, with feather-clad showgirls from the “Lido de Paris” at the Stardust to today’s “Jubilee!” at Bally’s, but others like Frederic Apcar (“Casino de Paris” at the Dunes), Matt Gregory and Ashton, to name a few, contributed to that image of the classic Las Vegas production show.

English by birth and raised in his native land’s music halls (like some more famous Englishmen, Charles Chaplin and Stan Laurel), Ashton became a dancer at the El Rancho Vegas. Reportedly, owner Beldon Katleman gave Ashton the chance to produce shows, and his career took off from there. He went on to produce more than 100 shows and revues across the United States and around the world, emphasizing burlesque and feminine pulchritude. He produced “Vive Paris Vive” at the Aladdin (since imploded, rebuilt, and then reconstituted as Planet Hollywood), “Verve — It Started with Eve” at the Union Plaza, and “The Wonderful World of Burlesque” at the Silver Slipper (demolished in 1988 to provide more parking at the Frontier Hotel).

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At the El Rancho Vegas, the Barry Ashton Dancers opened for such legendary acts as Sophie Tucker, but not for much longer after this photo was taken. The first hotel on the Strip, at the southwest corner of Sahara and Las Vegas Boulevard South, it burned in a spectacular fire on June 17, 1960.

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