Messenger - Vol. 1, No. 2, Page 17
Winter 1992
Alumni Profile; Glamorous 'pack horse' of Las Vegas stage
     Glitz, glamour and travels in the fast lane are what many
consider facts of life for Las Vegas showgirl Diane Lynch Blackford,
Delaware '83.
     Actually, the fascinating career of this theatre/ journalism
major is built on hard work, drive, enthusiasm and a dash of good
     How she arrived in the country's desert entertainment capital and
ended up in a show business career has as much to do with with the
roll of the dice as it did with talent.
     Blackford was forced into show business after spending "nine
prison-like months" working in a bank credit department. Trained as a
dancer since the age of 6, she decided to do what she always
wanted-become a professional entertainer.
     "I went to New York with my suitcase and slept on my best
friend's couch," she recalls.
     After several cattle-call auditions, she landed a dancing role
and, within weeks, was on her way to perform for six months in Aruba.
That was followed by two years as an ice dancer in the Atlantic City
production of City Lights at Trump Castle.
     The life of a Las Vegas showgirl is definitely not always
glamorous, says Blackford. The working hours are not those of
traditional nine-to-fivers.
     You're up at 11 a.m, she says, then attend two hours of dance
class in the afternoon, go home for dinner, arrive at the theatre by 7
p.m. for an 8 o'clock performance, then sometimes perform another show
at 10 or 11 p.m., finish by 1 a.m., and arrive home in the wee small
hours of the morning.
     "'What do you do all day?' I hate that question!" Blackford says,
explaining that she has to do errands and cleaning just like everyone
     Showgirls follow a regimented schedule, a special diet and must
stay out of the sun as much as possible, says Blackford, because the
showgirl herself is considered a piece of art or a human sculpture
designed to adorn the stage with beautiful, large costumes.
     Blackford's costumes can weigh as much as 50 pounds and are not
made for dancers who perform quick movements. Showgirls are usually
taller and heavier. "The pack horse of the stage," explains Blackford.
     In one show, she says, she wore a 25-pound, 5-foot headdress
(which is equivalent to balancing two bowling balls on the top of
one's head) and walked down a four-story staircase of about 100 steps,
wearing 3-inch-high heels.
     "As a beginner, it was sheer terror, especially when you realize
there's nothing to catch you. You also are overwhelmed by the size of
the entire production. Just to get from one side of the stage to the
other can take five minutes. And backstage movement is as
well-choreographed as what the audience sees. Costuming is so heavy
that it's lowered from rafters. You get to the point where you can put
on your makeup and dress without mirrors.
     "To producers in Vegas, showgirls are mannequins," says
Blackford. "Some people outside the city think we're part of the sex
industry. We are the farthest thing from that. We are presented as a
piece of artwork. Showgirls are married, they're mothers and some are
in school. They are some of the hardest workers I've ever met."
     Blackford has performed in shows with Jim Nabors, Phyllis Diller,
Jack Jones, Vickie Carr and Rip Taylor. She also has appeared in four
movies which were shot in Las Vegas, Harley Davidson and the  Man,
with Don Johnson; Cool World, with Kim Basinger; Jack of Hearts, with
Donna McKechnie and Walt Disney Studio's Honey, I Blew Up the Baby.
     Recently, she signed up for two shows at Harrah's in Reno that
will run through June 9. "The early show is a Broadway type called
'Stage Struck,' " Blackford says. "Then I'll appear later in a Las
Vegas-type production called 'High Voltage.'"
     Because of her unusual hours, Blackford says it's difficult to
have much of a social life or to meet people who aren't in the
business. However, on a blind date, she met her husband, Jim, a
     She takes immense pride in having worked as a Bluebell Dancer for
producer Don Anderson, who is considered the Cecil B. DeMille of Las
Vegas stage show productions. Being a Bluebell dancer, Blackford says,
is equivalent to being a Ziegfield girl in the past.
     Realizing that a showgirl's career is over by the age of 40,
Blackford has been preparing for a new career through her acting and
public relations contacts. Using the journalism skills she learned in
Newark a decade ago, she writes a column, called "Center Stage," in
Dirt Alert, a biweekly industry trade newspaper published in Las
     Ask the former Harrington Theatre Arts Company dancer and
choreographer for advice regarding show business and she responds
without hesitation. "If it's what you want, go for it! Keep your wits
and don't be pushed into something you don't want to do. There are
enough good people and enough work if you look for it. It's there. You
just have to go get it. The self-motivated person will make it."
     -Ed Okonowicz, Delaware '69, '84M