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Janet Boyd Showgirl Review - the Iconic Showgirl was Las Vegas Royalty

By Greg Autry

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JANET BOYD ~  LAS VEGAS SHOWGIRL

 

      

 

            My previous article about Julian Ritter, leads me now to another of my passions, Las Vegas Showgirls. `The Showgirl' has long been the iconic image of Las Vegas.  Emblematic of the unattainable, the fantasy, and the dreams of both men and women worldwide.  They were swathed in Ermine, Mink, and Sable. They dripped Gold Lame', Diamonds, and Crystals, in barely there couture costumes  that no mortal woman could dream of wearing.  Their allure bespoke a secret known by only a few. They were pampered and toasted, desired and protected. They were the royalty of Las Vegas and all who came to Vegas knew that `The Showgirl' was the one common thread that kept all the dreams and fantasies alive. 

 

Unveiling Janet's portrait by Julian Ritter, onstage at the Silver Slipper Casino

  

 

Flyer for Wonderful World of Burlesque

 

            Janette (Janet) Boyd was a Las Vegas Showgirl and lead performer for Twenty-Nine years. She was also a model for the world renowned artist, Julian RitterI met Janet, through Julian Ritter, when I commissioned Julian to paint what would become his last big Las Vegas Showgirl painting, 'The Las Vegas Fantasy.' Julian had garnered worldwide attention for the Silver Slipper Collection of paintings which hung at the old Silver Slipper Casino,   owned by Howard Hughes.

 

Las Vegas Fantasy by Julian Ritter

  

 

Howard Hughes

 

 

Julian Ritter

  

 

            I had breakfast with Janet, and her husband Larry Williams. at Cafe Bellagio, in the Bellagio Hotel, Las VegasJanet explained to me that the Cafe is located on the grounds of the old Dunes Hotel, almost right where the stage had been.  The very stage where she performed in `Casino de Paris.'  It was, Janet remarked, "Sacred Ground. "  I enjoyed breakfast, as Janet recounted some of her storied career.

 

Flyer for Minsky's Follies at the Dunes Hotel and Casino

   

 

            Behind the scenes it was very hard work creating all that allure and fantasy.  The average career of a Showgirl was about seven years. Ten years tops.  The pay was actually mediocre, about $150.00 a week, plus endless hours of dance classes, rehearsals, and promotions. Those extra hours were unpaid, and part of the job.  

 

LV Review Journal with Janet Boyd backstage at Moulin Rouge

   

 

            Janet Boyd remains the `Iconic Nude Showgirl.' She stood six foot two on point, tall and straight, with a perfect torso that some said resembled the Venus de Milo. When she walked through a room heads turned, and a hush would fill the room. Her alabaster skin was perfection rivaled only by the marble used by Michelangelo.  Her face a most beautiful combination of high cheek bones, big doe eyes set wide apart, straight nose, pouty pink lips, all framed in long lustrous flowing red hair.  Julian Ritter pronounced her derrière as the most perfect he'd ever seen. Her legs were insured for over a million-dollars and said by the Lord himself, to go "all the way to Heaven."  [I got that as a direct quote ].

 

Julian Ritter painting Janet Boyd in Summerland CA

   

 

            Janet danced in Las Vegas for twenty-nine years.  In a classic tale of starting in the chorus line and working herself to the top.  She was trained in dance from a very young age. Janet credits her Mom, Helen Purdy, for all the years of ballet training and dance classes as the single most important factor in her success and for being able to dance so long.

 

Janet (middle) onstage at Dunes

 

            Born and raised in Everett, Washington.  By her own words, she lived an idyllic life in a small town.  She developed a love of  horses early on, and attended an all girls private Catholic school, ' Holy Names Academy.'  She was a happy, beautiful teen-age tomboy. She moved to Southern California at fourteen years old when her mom came to take care of family friends after they were in a terrible car accident. She was not happy about the move to California yet adapted well and made new friends quickly with her outgoing personality and wit.

 

 

 

            She learned to Belly Dance and at fifteen, was off to Chicago, to perform as `Zubeda' at the Six East Club. Later that year performing in `Harem Holiday,' in Riverside, California.   At sixteen, and lying about her age, she auditioned for Frederick Apcar's, `Vive Le Girls,' and got her first job dancing topless at the Melodyland Theatre, in Anaheim, California.  The shows choreographer would be the legendary Ron Lewis

 

  

 

Janet Boyd and daughter Bianca by Rollie Hendrickson

  

 

 

            Janet Boyd danced in all of the iconic venues in Las Vegas and in some of the biggest shows. Frederic Apcar took her to Paris  to train and dance in the original `Casino de Paris,' and to dance in the show when it opened, for the first time ever outside of Paris, at the Dunes Hotel in Las Vegas.  

 

Old Flyer ~ Casino de Paris at the Dunes Hotel

   

 

            Janet had been Julian Ritter's model and muse for many years and for a period was known as the most photographed woman in Las Vegas. Having been photographed numerous times by photographers such as Robert Scott Hooper and Rollie Hendrickson, and for every magazine around from Fabulous Las Vegas to Playboy (four times). Janet was the subject of two Playboy articles by Dan Greenburg, and one of the featured dancers in the 1986 documentary "Stripper," directed by Jerome Gary.  She was featured in many shows and exhibitions, including a retrospective of Hooper's work at the University of Las Vegas.

 

Janet Boyd by Robert Scott Hooper in a promo shot for the movie `Stripper'

  

Janet Boyd by Rollie Hendrickson backstage at Melodyland Theatre

   

 

            She danced for some of the biggest name Producers in Las Vegas, including Harold Minsky and Barry Ashton.    She danced at the Silver Slipper and became a solo star there, as `Astradella.'  She was  the last Nude Showgirl hired by Minsky himself.  In one of the most scandalous shows ever staged in Las Vegas she starred in an erotic dance duo called Double Exposure, with Francine Farrar at the Fremont Hotel.   

 

Janet Boyd as Astradella. Photo attributed to Vegas Visitor.

 

 

Barry Ashton Flyer for the `Wonderful World of Burlesque' at the Silver Slipper Casino, using Julian Ritter's `Las Vegas Follies' painting

 

 

            Janet danced in the Reno production of  Bal Du Moulin Rouge, and then in Las Vegas for another legend, Walter Painter. She was one of only five Reno performers selected to be a part of the Moulin Company when it went to Las Vegas.  The Bal Du Moulin Rouge opened on the biggest stage in Las Vegas, at the Hilton International, on the very stage where Elvis appeared. Over the years, Janet was seen by every big name in the business and called `most' of them by their first names. Sammy Davis Jr., Dino, Elvis, and "Mr. Sinatra".  She even hung out with Baron Hilton, at one of his birthday parties, talking about glider planes. It was at the International Hotel that Julian and I, got to see her perform in the Bal Du Moulin Rouge, in 1984.

 

Frank Sinatra and Janet Boyd

 

 

Juliette Prowse and Janet Boyd with an unnamed male dancer

 

 

Janet Boyd backstage at International Showgirl competetion

 

Poster for Juliet Prowse Staring in Bal Du Moulin Rouge at the Hilton International

 

 

            Most fortuitous for me, Janet became muse and model for Julian Ritter, and circa 1973 posed for Julian, in Summerland, California, for what would become the most iconic showgirl portrait in history, simply known as `The Portrait of Janet.'  The painting stands almost eight feet tall.  Julian introduced me to Janet in 1984 when he and I were in initial discussions about a commission, which when completed would become known as `The Las Vegas Fantasy.'  Again Janet would model for Julian, for and with me.

 

Las Vegas Fantasy by Julian Ritter

   

 

            For all the fame, glamour, and beauty her story is one of struggle, determination, and a will to be the best person she could be.  When I asked her how she handled the adoration and claims to beauty she laughs heartedly and demurs by saying, `I was really a `tomboy.'

 

 

            Today, Janet Boyd lives in Southern California, married to an internationally respected Estate and Tax Attorney, Larry Williams.  She is now Vice President of the Long Beach Shakespeare Company where she continues to promote and fundraise for the Company. She also does speaking engagements at various functions around the country. What one might expect of a  Las Vegas Showgirl, is not what one might get when talking about Janet Boyd. She was, and remains today, an outstanding figure of the glamour and beauty of Old Las Vegas.

 

 

Janet Boyd by Robert Scott Hooper


 

            I am greatly enjoying my stint in Las Vegas, where I'm exploring some of the old, as well as the new. I enjoy your comments and feedback so do not hesitate to contact me via Splash, or on Facebook. 

 

 Photos and art provided by various sources, and used with permission.

Published on Oct 03, 2015

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