The vices of a bygone era are making way for the vices of a new era in Las Vegas, as the city’s last remaining “peep show” will soon be demolished—to make way for a legal, recreational marijuana dispensary. Showgirls Video, an adult bookstore that also featured booths where dropping a dollar into a slot bought a few minutes to watch a live nude dancer perform behind a window, closed its doors on August 22, and now waits to be torn down, according to an Associated Press report.
Opened in 1983 by Raymond Pistol and his partner, peep show dancer Treasure Brown, the establishment had longe been a relic of an earlier Las Vegas. As the so-called “Sin City” city aimed for a broader, more mainstream appeal, it passed an ordinance banning sexually oriented businesses along its famous “strip.” That was back in 1992. But Showgirls Video survived thanks to a grandfather clause in the law that allowed it to continue operating. And for many years it was the site of industry veteran Bill Margold’s annual Legends of Erotica induction ceremony, held during the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo until Margold passed away in 2017.
But by 2019, according to a retrospective by The Las Vegas Sun newspaper, changing times finally caught up to the peep show, which changed ownership three years ago.
“Sexually oriented businesses have been supplanted by the internet,” said original owner Pistol. “You can get anything you want at any time. It’s a 24/7 smorgasbord from all around the world.”
As for Brown, who performed both in the peep show booths and at strip clubs using the pseudonym Quinn Quills, dancing behind the window of a peep show booth provided an added measure of security.
“At peep shows, I could use my youthful good looks, be in a safe place and not feel tricked by anyone,” she told The Sun. “I could leave feeling like it was a job well done.”
Victoria Hartmann, now the director of the Vegas Erotic Heritage Museum, felt the same way. Before becoming a sex museum curator, Hartmann danced behind the Showgirl Video windows.
“I wanted to dance exotically and that seemed like it was safe for me to do,” Hartmann told the Sun. “The regular clubs didn’t feel very safe for me because I didn’t want that personal interaction.”
Hartmann also believes that the same qualities that made peep shows attractive for dancers, also led to their demise. While she agreed that the internet played a role in the demise of peep shows, she believes that changes in strip clubs to make them more customer friendly are ultimately what led to the end of the peep show.
“In the peep show, the interaction isn’t as intimate, it’s also not creating as much of an experience,” Hartmann said. “With someone you’re watching through a window, they’re kind of doing their own thing, there’s minimal interaction. Whereas with gentlemen’s clubs, especially with the clubs that have existed within the last 10 or 20 years, their whole mantra is creating an emotional experience for their guests.”
Photo By Rich Anderson / Wikimedia Commons