By Dave Barton
By LP Hastings
By Sarah Bennett
By LP Hastings
By Jena Ardell
By Steve Lowery
By R. Scott Moxley
By Joel Beers
Tits and asses are exposed early and often in the latest HBO America Undercover report, Showgirls: Glitz & Angst, but be warned. Just when you think you're settling into some pleasing stimulation, you begin caring more about the people than the real and unreal parts protruding from them.
Who the hell wants that?
Fans of compelling television, that's who!
If you've got a thing for jiggling exotic dancers, you're better off tuning into the E! channel's Vegas Showgirls: Nearly Famous, which, like Showgirls: Glitz & Angst, gives viewers a backstage pass into the lives of exotic dancers. But the mostly frivolous E! series has about as much emotional depth as, well, anything on the E! channel.
Unlike Vegas Showgirls, director Kirby Dick's HBO documentary gives an unscrambled look at the girls' dirty bits. But his film is such a truly riveting exploration of a truly unglamorous profession that you can't even enjoy seeing these lovelies in four-inch heels, 20-pound headdresses, glittering costumes, tits in the air like they just don't care . . .
Damn you, Kirby Dick!
He opens with producer Greg Thompson, whose 90-minute Showgirls runs six days a week at the Rio, declaring, "It's not a sex show. It's a Las Vegas show for everyone." He's still smarting from that black hole known as 1992 to 1998—the years Vegas marketed itself as a "family" destination. "People would say, 'Get out of here with your smutty show,'" says Thompson, who claims to have dumped a quarter of a million into his new topless revue.
During auditions for 12 girls who'll have to learn 15 dance numbers in 25 days, Thompson tells applicants that his show will pay tribute to Vegas exotic dancers past and present. We then see him looking over a stack of photos, deciding which dancers are too fat.
Each girl featured in the film has a story that's more compelling than her hot exterior. There's Melania, whose dad was a Vegas performer and whose mother was a showgirl who was told not to marry him. She did, and regretted it. Well, like mother, like daughter: Melania is in a relationship with a Vegas performer who seems to care more for their dogs than for her.
Syn Syn is an African American who knows as she walks into auditions where one or two black girls have already been cast that she probably won't get the job. She dates only white men and later reveals her hatred for her own black skin.
Kat is a single mom in her late 30s. "I'm not 20 anymore," she says. "My boobs aren't natural anymore. My kids took care of that." She spends much of the film blaming her kids for her lot in life.
Stephanie is an all-American blonde who acts way too young—and is way too beautiful—to be a showgirl. She should be a model, an actress or at the very least married to a wealthy OC Republican. Despite her perfect appearance, she admits that being in Vegas has, for the first time in her life, made her consider getting a boob job.
But the most fascinating story-within-a-story is the love triangle between Thompson, his statuesque wife Sunny and the six-foot, platinum blond, single-named choreographer and costume designer Mistinguett. Thompson and Mistinguett have done 500 shows together over the past 20 years, during which time they became lovers. Two years ago, Thompson married Sunny, who is now the onstage host of Showgirls. He's the same age as her father. Mistinguett, who designed Sunny's wedding dress, still refers to Thompson as her soulmate and says that all she ever wanted was his happiness. Cue the tears. And cue the music.
Showgirls: Glitz & Angst. HBO. Sat., 9:45 p.m.