VIDEO VAULT: Classic Las Vegas commercial showcased big change in Strip entertainment
LAS VEGAS (KSNV) —
Many television commercials appear for a short time and are soon forgotten. But everyone is familiar with a few ad campaigns on the other side of the spectrum, which can still be recited by memory decades after they last appeared on the airwaves.
One such commercial played on Las Vegas TV stations in the late 1970s into the early 1980s, and it will ring a bell with anyone who was here at the time. It marked a real change in entertainment for the Strip.
"Two minutes to showtime," announced what appeared to be a stage manager after knocking on a dressing room door.
"Boy, what a way to make a living," began a man dressed in women's clothing, donning a wig.
"Don't feel bad," responded the female impersonator next to him. "My mother thinks I'm a cop in LA."
That line was voiced by Kenny Kerr, who had invented the show "Boy-Lesque" as a drag parody of traditional burlesque shows. He convinced management at the Silver Slipper Casino to give it a two-week trial run, which ended up playing at the property for more than a decade.
Kerr was the star, but the show also had other female impersonators, as the commercial made clear.
"Kenny, can I put my Marylin Monroe in the show?" inquired an impersonator in a brunette wig.
"Cool it, baby," responded Kerr. "Just stick to your bumps and grinds."
A New Jersey transplant, Kerr arrived here at 24 in 1977 and embraced Las Vegas as it embraced him. He became a longtime resident and raised his adopted son here. He later performed in other showrooms on the strip, and in 1993 began including a routine which was directly critical of the Clinton Administration's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy.
"It really has little things in the song, within the lyrics, that expresses my opinions on gays in the military," said Kerr in a backstage interview. "How everyone has the right to stand up and fight for what they believe in. And it shows people that their ability to fight for their country has nothing to do with their ability, what they do behind closed bedroom doors. I mean you don't have to sleep with a woman to fight like a man."
For longtime locals, however, Kerr will always be associated with the one TV commercial that played over and over again.
"Let's go kids -- it's showtime," the manager announced to the three performers in the dressing room.
"Okay, keep your pants on," they answered in exasperation.
"All right," he responded. "But Sinatra's in the audience."
The trio then rushed excitedly past the manager, while the voiceover concluded with, "Just $4 and 95 cents and you don't have to buy a drink unless you want one. You can see Boylesque 78 at the Silver Slipper!"
As a side note, one of the producers of the original spot tells News 3 that Frank Sinatra's lawyer objected to his client's name being used. Later versions of the same commercial had Sinatra's name bleeped.
The Silver Slipper closed in 1988 and today is a vacant lot on the Strip across from the Encore Hotel.
Kerr spent his last few years split between homes in Palms Springs and Las Vegas. He passed away in 2013 at age 60.