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PEOPLE STORY

Show manager, Bally’s

This month Paul Sculpher meets a Las Vegas tour de force in wonderfully named Las Vegas show manager Fluff Le Coque

Ffolliott ‘Fluff’ Le Coque is company manager for the spectacular Jubilee show at Bally’s casino in Las Vegas. She’s been involved in show business for many decades, and with this show in particular since it began, 29 years ago. Gambling sat down with Fluff to talk showbusiness.

Gambling: Hi Fluff, how did you get into dancing and showbusiness?

Fluff: Well, I have been dancing since I was three. My first chance to step into the limelight was dancing during the seventh-inning stretch at a local ball game, and ever since then I’ve loved to dance. I attended the School of Drama at University of Washington, Seattle, and worked all over the world.

So who are your favourite people you’ve worked with over the years?

Maurice Chevalier was a sweetheart, and I also spent time with Danny Kaye at the old Desert Inn.

And what’s the story with Jubilee?

This show started 29 years ago, and I was lucky enough to be asked to take over as company manager. It’s pretty much the last genuine showgirl show left in Las Vegas. There was a time when every casino in town had a major production number with all the things you expect from major show – headdresses, chorus lines, the works. These days as the bigger corporations have tended to take over Las Vegas, they tend to go for the big ‘brand’ shows like Cirque Du Soleil. We’re proud to have lasted as long as we have and we’re still going strong.

And is it easy to get staff for what is now a pretty unique show?

We have very strict standards, but the basics are just training in ballet and jazz. The nature of our show here means we need very tall girls – 5 feet 8 plus – and we only take the best. We have a team of around 55 girls and 30 guys on six-month contracts, and lose maybe 15-20 per contract cycle, so my assistant, Diane, spends a lot of her time travelling around New York and Chicago recruiting new blood. They have to be very fit, too, although running up around 2,000 stairs per day within the show, and 12 shows per week, will help with that.

It must be quite a job, keeping 85 or more performers happy all the time.

They’re not too bad. There is a core of experienced dancers here, and in an industry where most jobs are pretty insecure, the senior staff here have very good packages with health benefits and so on. There are a number of levels within the cast, and it can take a long time to progress from the bottom rung on the ladder – three to seven years – so we need dedicated team members.

During research for this interview I noticed that you were in the smash-hit movie Casino. How was that?

It was an experience! We were shooting for three days – I played the character Joe Pesci shoots – and although the process was quite boring, it was a hoot overall. Everyone was so short, though.

Really?

Well, we’re used to working with tall people all the time, and Martin Scorsese was just tiny! [At this point, Fluff’s assistant Diane chips in]: “I had a part in the movie too,” says Diane. “To keep things looking right in a scene when he was standing next to me, Robert DeNiro had to stand on a box.”

The best actor of his generation standing on a box – wow. Jubilee is a huge production and the most striking thing is the costumes; those headdresses are enormous.

Well, the publicity poster says: “The headdresses weigh 35 pounds, but the rest of the costume could fit into a teacup”, and that’s about right.

They say “the show must go on”. Have you had many disasters during the 29 years?

Oh yes, they happen all the time. The show is a huge production, and there are always potential technical hitches. We even have version A, B and C of the grand finale, to account for: everything going smoothly (A), the central staircase not emerging from under the stage properly (B) and the staircase misbehaving at the last minute (C). We’ve had dancers fall down the stairs, off the scenery, and Diane used to be a specialist at falling up the stairs.

The show is partly topless, and we have one show per week that is not topless, to cater for an audience that might not be comfortable during other shows – for this one we only request that audience members be over 13 rather than over 18. Not so long ago we had a covered show when, due to a schedule change, the girls had forgotten that they had to cover up. We had a very last-minute costume panic. A lot of teenage boys in the audience didn’t know how close they came to a night to remember!

As I thanked the ladies and left, I was taken through the backstage area to the exit. By now the show was in full swing, and the sight of multiple dancers bolting topless through the place, up hidden stairs and working changes into some of the most amazing costumes you’ve ever seen was pretty spectacular, along with seeing the crew shift some major scenery. Vegas has a lot of attractions vying for your time, but next time you’re headed out there, why not get yourself a slice of old Vegas, and take a look and Fluff and Diane’s pride and joy, Donn Arden’s Jubilee at Bally’s.

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