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They Are, Hands Down, The Best Butts in Las Vegas

They Are, Hands Down, The Best Butts in Las Vegas: Shellee Renee poses with the Bronze Butts at the Riviera in Las Vegas

Shellee Renee poses with the Bronze Butts at the Riviera in Las Vegas

Angela Stabile estimates that more than 10 million people have petted, fondled and grabbed her ass over the last 20 years.

Not her real ass, of course, but a bronze version of it, at the Riviera Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip.

Stabile’s likeness is one of seven hot bodies in a statue that celebrates “Crazy Girls,” a semi-nude burlesque show that has run at the Riviera since 1987. The local convention and visitors authority boasts that the lineup — colloquially known as the Bronze Butts statue — is the most photographed piece of art in Las Vegas. The Riviera closed for good this week, which means the statue is about to graduate from icon to legend.

To laypeople, the statue has been a curiosity — a must-see on the seemingly inexorable walk from the South Strip to Downtown. Many people stop to pose with the bronze bods in front of a camera, acting silly or suggestive (or both). Superstitious visitors rub the butts for good luck, polishing the bronze.

To the dancers, as well as show creator and producer Norbert Aleman, the statue is a point of pride.

“My butt is the shiniest,” Stabile joked with me this past weekend. “I like to think that says something about what people think of it.”

SHAPING GREATNESS
The statue wasn’t planned so much as it happened. Back in the early 1990s producer Aleman was fiddling with different combinations of topless girls for images and other collateral to market the show. He tried dancers from the front. He tried them from the side. Finally, one day, he had Stabile and her best friend Shellee Renee (pictured up top) pose in nothing but g-strings while facing a wall, arms interlocked, hands on each other’s bottoms.

The tight, almost-naked bottoms were enticing. Aleman wanted more.

He arranged for a metallurgist to come in from Santa Fe, and he trucked seven of the dancers out to a warehouse near the airport for a day of modeling. As Stabile remembers it, this happened in July, the warehouse had no air conditioning and was “unbearably hot.” She said one of the dancers passed out.

Eventually they lined up in the famous pose — seven across, butts in a row. They were covered with baby oil up to their necks. Then they were covered with cotton. The metallurgist poured Plaster of Paris. When the mold dried, the artist’s team removed the plaster in sections and took it back with them to New Mexico. Heads and hair, done from an artist’s rendering, were added later.

alt seven-butts

Photo courtesy of Shellee Renee

“The whole thing took about five hours,” Stabile said. “We were used to posing like that, but the conditions that day were a bit extreme.”

The hardship was worthwhile. About a month later, in early 1995, the sculpture arrived at the resort. Aleman and hotel owner Meshulam “Rik” Riklis unveiled it to the dancers first. The group was thrilled. A few days later the hotel held a party for the Crazy Girls burlesque show and had a public unveiling out on the Las Vegas Strip. The event made international headlines. An iconic piece of Las Vegas was born.

SHOWGIRL REALITY
Life as a showgirl those days was hard work. Just days before the Riviera’s closure, Renee recounted the rigors, remembering that at one point in the early 1990s the dancers were performing seven nights a week, three shows a night, in addition to daytime publicity appearances at conventions and around town. Most of them were so exhausted after the last curtain that they’d take a secret elevator from the dressing room straight down to valet.

While there was no official requirement for dancers to get implants, many did. Once one got a breast enlargement, others felt they had to follow suit. The unspoken goal: Large Cs or small Ds. Some girls had three or four surgeries; Renee had one.

Dancers in the show were expected to maintain a consistent weight. No matter how tall the women were, nobody could exceed 130 pounds.

Aleman staged weigh-ins every Wednesday night, and Renee (who averaged around 117) remembered how all of the dancers would starve themselves for days beforehand and then celebrate with extravagant lunches in a fancy restaurant at Caesars Palace the following day.

“This was one of the only shows on The Strip at the time with girls who were completely topless. We didn’t have costumes or nude fishnets,” she said. “It was so much more than just the statue; our bodies and rear ends were on billboards, posters, mousepads, coffee mugs and taxicab ads all over town. Looking hot was just part of the job.”

WHAT’S NEXT
Stabile and Renee are in their 50s now, and both still turned heads last week when they attended the final performance of Crazy Girls at the Riv. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors’ Authority, which purchased the hotel earlier this year, plans to convert it into convention space.

The show is slated for relocation to Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino at some point over the next few months, and the statue is expected to follow.

The iconic art piece was removed early Monday morning. After the biggest fight night in recent memory, a small crowd was on hand to watch. Passersby lined up for one last feel.

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