After 23-year career, singer/dancer says farewell to the Strip
Wed, Oct 7, 2009 (1:20 p.m.)
Stephanie Dianna Sanchez, the former Stephanie Jordan, is best known locally for her eight-year stint as the clothed powerhouse singer in the otherwise topless revue Fantasy at Luxor. Last month, she was quietly replaced after having trained her replacement. She says she has no hard feelings. That’s show business in Vegas, and the local native has been around it her entire life.
From a dancer she became a singer, and she estimates she appeared in 20 different Vegas shows—while raising two children, one with autism—over a career that spanned more than two decades. “I think Las Vegas has proven a great place to be a parent and to be a kid,” she says over lunch.
Sanchez’s most vivid childhood memories are not of the Strip, but of baseball, dance classes and singing in church. “My parents kept me grounded, and I did the same for my children,” she says. And while to many, becoming a Vegas showgirl would be a career pinnacle, to Sanchez it was easy work for a teen to land in ’80s Vegas. “Back then, to be a dancer you had to be 5-8. Back then, your body and what you were shaped like mattered so much more than your skill as a dancer,” she says. “Most of what you had to do was walking and not dancing: parading and being able to carry yourself in the heavy costumes. And so as soon as you hit 5-8, you knew you could be a dancer in Vegas.”
But as MTV and hip-hop dancing took Vegas over in the ’90s, shorter showgirls became the rage. “I started out a little bit shorter than most of the dancers, and then found I was getting taller than all of them,” she remembers. There was also the age thing: “Dancing really hurts sometime when you hit your mid-30s.” And the dancing changed: “It became dirtier, and I always kept my top on.”
- From the Archive
- A change at Luxor’s Fantasy is quiet, but won’t go unnoticed (09/3009)
- Leaving ‘Fantasy,’ Stephanie Dianna turns to new CD (09/21/09)
So Sanchez decided to focus on her voice. To hear Sanchez tell the story, getting into singing on the Strip was only slightly more challenging than dancing: It simply required cosmetic surgery. “Back then, to be a lead singer all you had to do was buy tits.” Of course, times have changed, and now, she concedes, the competition is tougher and the cosmetic surgery more common. “These days everyone here is only 80 percent real.”
But Sanchez was actually a good dancer and a great singer, and so the work kept coming for 23 years. Some of her shows are long forgotten; others still exist: Hallelujah Las Vegas, Luck Is a Lady, Enter the Night, Abracadabra, Legends in Concert. She also worked in lounges and at the theme park at the MGM. In short, she paid every sort of dues imaginable in Vegas entertainment. “You learn quickly that people are not there to see you,” she says. “The waiter’s job is to feed the guests, and your job is to entertain them. You are no different than the waiter. The guests want tits, neon, sequins and Elvis, and you better give it to them. If they applaud, it is a good night.”
Sanchez watched as the entertainment scene in Vegas changed again, in a different way, as shows moved from loss-leaders to those required to sell tickets and turn a profit. She was no longer like the waiter. “My job used to be so secure, because it did not matter what schlock you put out there. Just like the food, it was a loss-leader. Now, a show has to make money. Cirque started that—that put the mood out there, and it eventually trickled everywhere. I first noticed the major change with At the Copa [at the Rio] with David Cassidy. I was Sheena Easton’s understudy, though she never liked me. It was an 18-piece band, and it was amazing, and everything was live. But there was suddenly a lot of pressure to make this much money to make the paychecks, and I thought, ‘Wait, we are in Vegas. Shows don’t have to make money.’ But you are never going to be able to have a Cirque show be a loss-leader, and everyone followed that.”
Sanchez never thought Cirque’s $100 ticket price would work in Vegas. She was wrong. “Even Fantasy, a little topless show, now has, like, a $60 ticket. And people pay it.”
Vegas’ newest show trend: stacking B-list celebrities in topless shows. And so, Sanchez was not surprised that her Fantasy replacement is former Baywatch cast member and Playboy model Angelica Bridges of pop group Strawberry Blonde.
As for Sanchez’s future, she says she’s finally done with a lifetime of Vegas shows and auditions. With her children almost grown, she is ready to leave what she sees as the protective bubble of Las Vegas entertainment, and is working on her first album. “I am going to be a rock star,” she says. “I am told you can’t be a rock star at 41, but I don’t see why the hell you can’t. I am ready to give it a go.”