The word “kitschy” is to Vegas as “the Big Apple” is to New York City. The word encompasses the glitzy – at times, outlandish – personality the city developed during the last seven decades. UNLV Libraries’ Special Collections Department recently received a collection that recalls a time when kitschy and classy overlapped and showgirls performed on ice skates.
Before his death in January 2012, Las Vegas show producer Bill Moore was in talks with manuscripts librarian Su Kim Chung to donate his collection of materials to the Libraries. Over the years she was in contact with him, Chung was aware of the vastness of the collection, but its depth is something she is only now beginning to experience as she organizes boxes of correspondence, invoices, costume design sketches, contracts, three-dimensional production story boards, posters, sheet music, newspaper clippings, videos and DVDs. Moore produced shows such as “Spice on Ice,” “Nudes on Ice” and “Playgirls on Ice” at the Hacienda and Union Plaza hotels as well as “City Lites,” which ran for 14 years at the Flamingo Hotel, and “Bal du Moulin Rouge” at the Las Vegas Hilton. All the shows were produced from the 1970s to the 1990s.
Some of the more unique items in the collection are hand-painted, cut dioramas of stage sets to “see what the stage would look like from the back of the house,” Chung said. The three-dimensional pieces glimmer and are dimly lit from within as if the viewer is sitting at the back of the house, watching a live showroom performance. The detail in these shadow box versions of the stage sets is only a glimmer of Moore’s full dedication and a tribute to the production value of Las Vegas shows before Cirque du Soleil.
The collection, known as the Bill Moore Papers, documents a very specific time in the history of the Entertainment Capital of the World and provides insight into a niche in its entertainment industry.
“The reason I went after this collection is he did so many of these Las Vegas ice shows, in particular,” Chung said. “People had wonderful things to say about him because he was a remarkably kind person.”
Apart from being a respected show producer, Moore worked with ice skater George Arnold and costume designer Lloyd Lambert, as a stage manager for Charo and a personal assistant to Judy Bailey at the Hacienda.
Through his attendance at library events, Moore became comfortable with how his collection would be treated and respected by the Special Collections staff, and, over time, he realized the importance of his collection to the Libraries and to Las Vegas history, Chung said.
In the summer of 2011, Moore decided to donate his collection, but before he could get started labeling and organizing it, he fell ill. Chung was certain he knew his items were in good hands.
“If you look at someone’s correspondence you can see if they were organized and professional,” Chung said. “He was very professional.”
When a collection comes to UNLV Libraries unorganized, it can take months to sort and ready for public consumption. It will likely take Chung the better part of this year to completely arrange the collection. Right now, she’s figuring out, based on the items, how to organize it as to best benefit future researchers and interested library patrons.
No matter what she decides, Moore’s collection will be preserved for decades to come.
“They know you’re going to be the caretaker of their legacy,” she said. “In a way, they become your friends. You feel a certain responsibility when you’ve worked with someone for that long.”
Donations of appropriate collections from individuals and organizations help UNLV Libraries’ Special Collections unit document the history, culture and environment of Southern Nevada. We need your donations to continue to preserve a lasting heritage for present and future generations. Please contact Special Collections at (702) 895-2234 if you or a member of your family would like to donate eligible business or personal material related to your life and experiences in our community.