I came across this gaming guide from a relative’s 1954 visit to Vegas. It had everything one would expect of a Saharan theme. Arab sheikh? Check. Sand and camels? Check. Hedy Lamarr in transparent veils? Check. But then it gets weird. Topless men and women carrying dice, cards, and roulette wheels? Is that what people in the Sahara desert look like?
Nope. The Tuareg are the principal inhabitants of the Saharan interior of North Africa, a nomadic, pastoral, Muslim people. They don’t look like that rendering at all. Their hair is much more fantastic.
Now are there women in Africa who go topless? Absolutely. Do they carry things on their heads? Sure. Do they have naked babies, carrying spears? Doubtful. I was reminded of the Louis CK SNL episode, wherein he discusses mild racism in his opening monologue. NBC has already shown it twice this year, which makes sense, as SNL evidently does five new shows per season and then shows reruns.
This Sahara ad, though, is more than mild. And redunkulous. I mean, how long can a woman hold a clock like that without her arms hurting? And that necklace would chafe.
And what about these fellows below, holding spears and shields? I just don’t see what this has to do with the Sahara. Veils I get. This I don’t. I imagine it’s offensive to many. But it also just looks odd.
Who knows? Maybe people of the Sahara would find our dancing girls’ outfits absurd. These gals were part of the “nocturnal diversion.”
That very Congo Room hosted entertainers for 59 years, until the Sahara closed in 2011. Big names like Mae West and Ray Bolger.
And if you were lucky enough to be in Vegas back in the day, you might have even caught a glimpse of this guy out front.