Moulin-Rouge-Tropi-Can-Can-631In the January, 2013, edition of the Smithsonian Magazine Kevin Cook shares an article on the first interracial casino in America – in Las Vegas, Nevada.  In this fascinating essay (with pictures) Cook writes of the “singing, dancing, wining, dining, hip-shaking, history-making ghosts” of the 1950s.  Segregation was not just southern.  African Americans could work on the Strip, but only in the background as janitors and cooks – you know the pattern.  Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Nat King Cole could headline at the Flamingo, the Riviera, or the Golden Nugget among others, but they had to leave through back doors and kitchens.  “Lena Horne was the exception who proved the rule.  A favorite of Bugsy Siegel, the gorgeous torch singer was allowed to stay at the Flamingo as long as she steered clear of the casino, restaurants and other public areas.  When she checked out, her bedsheets and towels were burned.”  This article discusses why there was such a casino, it’s impact on the black psyche and what happened to it.  “Moulin Rouge” introduces Frank Sinatra as a hero and includes tidbits on other Rat Pack members, as well as Josephine Baker, who would not play by the established rules.  The article is an entertaining read about entertainment history and the fortunes of black America.  Watch for the documentary The Misunderstanding Legend of the Las Vegas Moulin Rouge: by filmmaker Stan Armstrong.

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