NORBERT ALEMAN - LONG LIVE THE KING

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After Thirty-Three Years in Vegas, Many Imitators’ Shows Come and Now Gone, Norbert Aleman’s Entertainment Empire is Still Vibrant, Innovative, Robust and Still Here.

The famous NO “IFs”, “ANDs” OR... ad, showing the famous butts of seven Crazy Girls, has been seen around the world for years on television, taxicabs, billboards, advertisements and the Internet.  The ad, created by Norbert Aleman, created uproar and brought protests for being too risqué and sexually appealing.  The famous derrières appeared on their first billboard in 1987, located near the “Spaghetti Bowl” (the cross-section of freeways 15 and 95) in Las Vegas, and on 250 taxicabs in the city.  City officials literally went Crazy, and threatened lawsuits if Aleman and the Riviera didn’t replace the ads with something more wholesome.  The city wanted the butts covered and argued that the billboards and such were causing accidents and distractions to the drivers in Las Vegas.  Aleman proceeded to cover the butts on the billboard at the Spaghetti Bowl with skirts, but any breeze lifted the skirts.  This caused even more hysteria, protests, and demands to take the ads down.  Aleman refused on grounds that it would infringe on the Girls’ First Amendment rights.  The butts stayed uncovered and the protests only propelled the show’s appeal, now selling out every night and gaining millions of fans over the controversy.  From its inception, the girls of Crazy Girls shocked Las Vegas by performing topless, with microscopic g-strings and without tights, in a cabaret setting.  The show was much different than the big production shows;  it was intimate, with in-your-face sexuality.  The girls were beautiful and athletic, with incredible dance skills.  The show became an overnight sensation, a must-see on the Las Vegas Strip.  The who’s who of entertainment were in the crowd every night and wanted to be seen with the sexy dancers.  It was new, it was unique, and there hadn’t been anything like it in Las Vegas.  The shows were packed, the girls performing three shows nightly.  The Crazy Girls were on fire and the craziness was only getting started.

Aleman, born in French Morocco, moved to France and became a European Full Contact Karate Champion in 1959, joined the French Foreign Legion as a mercenary, became a bodyguard, then manager and producer of several French singing sensations.  One of them was Johnny Hallyday, (billed as “the French Elvis” in the early ‘60s).  Aleman was an actor (25 films in Europe), a stuntman, a record producer, and a producer and promoter of concerts.  This huge success came at a young age for Aleman, making millions upon millions of dollars.  Then in the early ‘70s, for political reasons, Aleman’s assets were frozen.  He left France and arrived in Los Angeles with $5,000 in his pocket and unable to speak English.  From millionaire to pauper overnight, he pulled himself up from his bootstraps and started again in a new country, with no money, with a new language, in a new business.  Aleman would go on to produce ten major shows in Atlantic City, and at one time, having four shows running simultaneously.  He also opened An Evening at La Cage, a Parisian-style revue with female impersonators at Bally’s Park Place, where the show ran for 12 years.  In 1985, Aleman moved to Las Vegas and opened An Evening at La Cage at the Riviera, and followed in 1987 with his creation of Crazy Girls that has performed in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Australia, Monte Carlo, and France.

I love beautiful women.  I love statues of beautiful women, art of beautiful women.  It is not sexual – it is just love of beautiful women.

In a conversation with the incredible entrepreneur and charismatic Norbert Aleman, we learn a lot about his unbelievable life and the reasons for the longevity of The Crazy Girls Show, now celebrating its 30th year of performance.

 

VS:  How long did it take you to come up with that butt shot of NO “IFs”, “ANDs” OR...”?

ALEMAN:  I was trying to look for something different.  We started shooting at ten o’clock in the morning and while shooting and trying different things, it suddenly came to me, like an epiphany, I saw a picture in my mind and I said:  “Let’s try to do this pose with the girls’ butts to the camera with their arms and legs interlocked.”  It took four hours of posing and shooting before we got the one great shot.  We knew then that we were creating something special, something that would stand the test of time!  We put it up on billboards and on the backs of taxicabs.  I put one up right at the Spaghetti Bowl and there were so many accidents with people looking at the butts.  They wanted me to pull it down.  The city council talked to me about taking the butts off the billboards.  I said that I would cover the butts for them, so I put skirts on the girls, but when the wind blew, whoa! (laughter) it was worse.  The skirts would fly up and show the butts!  Then the city council asked me to take the skirts off.  The controversy was far from over though.  My butt shot wasn’t in the clear yet.  There was a national campaign about whether the butt shots should stay or go.  We had around 17 million voters vote, and the vote was overwhelmingly to keep the butts.  We took the poll to city hall to prove our point.  Meanwhile, we were performing three shows a night to sold-out crowds.  Unreal!

VS:  Was it harder or easier back then to find girls to pose and dance so seductively?

ALEMAN:  It’s never easy to find beautiful showgirls:  dancer bodies, 5’7”- 5’9”, who can dance well, wearing a tiny g-string, and look good doing it.  It was easier back then.  There weren’t all the Strip clubs in town at the time, and there wasn’t all the bullshit that there is today.  Today there are many copycat shows that will come and go, because the original is still the best.  Back then I paid them very well for the time.  I paid them well and treated them incredibly good.  That is how I got the sexiest, most talented girls.  The same holds true for today.

VS:  How hands-on were you in choosing the girls?

ALEMAN:  I’ve always been hands-on.  I interview all the girls one by one.  She has to see the show, and be sure she wants to be a Crazy Girl, and be sure that she’s up for all the work and what that entails.  Jennifer, our show manager, goes over the rules and routines.  Usually our girls stay with the show for five to six years.  I’ve had incredible choreographers throughout the years.  I’ve used Victor Upshaw, Jean 

Pierre Reggiori, Charmaine Hunter, and now a great dancer, beautiful and sexy choreographer, my wife Jennifer.  Victor Upshaw choreographed the shows at the Lido de Paris and the Crazy Horse in Paris.  Victor then came to Las Vegas to choreograph the show Crazy Girls and wrote some of the music and helped to design the costumes.  After his death, Jean Pierre Reggiori, another French choreographer, who had choreographed the Rockettes in N.Y.C., as well as some with Fosse on Broadway, took his place, and choreographed my other shows between Atlantic City, Monte Carlo, Miami, Bahamas and Las Vegas.

Jennifer Stowe Aleman began dancing at the age of three and dances ballet, jazz, lyrical and hip-hop.  She is a Crazy Girl and the show’s company manager, plus she holds an Engineering degree and is married to Norbert.

VS:  When you started in Vegas, why did you decide to start small shows instead of a big spectacular?

ALEMAN:  In all the other cities, I had big shows, but I could not compete with the big productions here in Vegas, so I decided to carve out my niche and specialize in smaller cabaret type shows.  Crazy Girls was the first topless revue ever in Las Vegas.  We were doing 3 shows a night, 500 people a show, Saturday through Thursday.  We did incredible promotions with Penthouse and the Penthouse Pets, Jenna Jameson, and 

other feature porn starlets.  We were the first to do this!  I had shows in Hong Kong, Australia, Monte Carlo, Tokyo, Bahamas, Aruba, Madrid and Lisbon.  I had 14 shows from 1990-2009, three of An Evening at La Cage and four Crazy Girls.   

VS:  One of the first shows you produced when you came to America was Can Can, starring Yvonne DeCarlo, in Atlantic City.  I heard she was just crazy about you, but you were married at the time.

ALEMAN:  Oh my, she was chasing me the whole time, and she would say:  “I want you, Frenchman!”  She was quite an animal.  Every night she performed, she would find excuses that no one would pick her up to take her home, so I had to chauffeur her around and such.  It was nine long months.

“Can Can” ran for three years, and was so successful, that Aleman became a much-sought-after producer, creating such shows as “Concert on the Beach,” “Hooked on Classics” and “Big Band”.

VS:  What was Atlantic City like back then?

ALEMAN:  It was a new Las Vegas.

VS:  Had you produced An Evening at La Cage before you left France?

ALEMAN:  I had done the same thing in Paris at a club I had.  It was a Cabaret, so it was nothing new.  It did fantastic in Paris, so I took La Cage to Atlantic City, but nobody wanted it.  They said:  “It’s just a bunch of fags and they’ll never work 

here.”  The attorney for Bally’s at that time told me the show was disgusting, but the President and his wife loved me.  I had met the wife in L.A., and she liked my accent and charm, so she was the one who talked him into giving it a chance.  There were three shows and they put it on at 11:30 at night.  They really wanted me to fail.  At the end of the first three weeks, we became number two, and shortly after, number one.  The other two shows failed and we started doing all three shows a night in a period of two months.  When it came time to sign the contract to renew the show, they said it would no longer be four-wall but two-wall, which meant they wanted to share the profits.  Now, they gave me no choice, but I stayed twelve years there.  I started more shows there.  There were 7 casinos and I had four shows.

VS:  How did La Cage end up in Las Vegas?

ALEMAN:  I’m in Atlantic City and I meet Meshulam Riklis, an Israeli businessman who was married to Pia Zadora.  It was Pia’s birthday, and Riklis wanted me to have one of the guys from La Cage impersonate Pia for her birthday at the Sands Hotel.  I said:  “No problem.”  When Pia was singing that night during her show, the La Cage impersonator came up on stage dressed like Pia.  Riklis was so pleased that he talked to me about doing the show An Evening at La Cage in Vegas.  At that time there was no showroom at the Riviera.  They built it just for me, and La Cage opened.  Then Riklis said:  “We need to do something with some tits and ass.”  I said we could do something sexy like the Crazy Horse in Paris.  I said I would talk to the owner of the Crazy Horse, and I also knew that Johnny Hallyday was dating one of the dancers there.  The owners at Crazy Horse said it was okay to do the show here in Vegas.  We opened the Crazy Girls, and then there was a lot of controversy.  The butts didn’t exist yet;  there were just topless girls.  Vegas had Folies Bergère, Moulin Rouge, and Jubilee!, but they were just topless and nothing sexual.  Those shows were big shows with feathers and all, but nothing really intimate and personal.

VS:  You mentioned Johnny Hallyday.  He was considered to be France’s Elvis Presley.  He had 18 platinum albums, and sold over 110 million records.  How did you two meet?

ALEMAN:  I had a bar in St Tropez.  One night I closed the bar at 5:00 in the morning and was walking out to the parking lot and I hear this screaming and saw a number of 

guys beating the shit out of this one guy …  I didn’t like the odds, so I jumped in the middle to help the guy out.  I was fast and strong, so it evened things up.  At the time I didn’t know who it was, but it turned out to be French singing sensation, Johnny Hallyday.  He thanked me and we became friends.  He was on tour, but one day he came back to see me and said, “I could use a guy like you to keep me out of trouble,” and would I go on tour with him.  He said he could pay me, so I became his bodyguard and eventually his producer and manager.  The biggest show in the history of French show biz was when Hallyday came and performed in Vegas at the Aladdin.  I brought in 72 planes with 10,000 people from France.  Each plane was the name of a song of Johnny’s.  He was like a god in France.  It was the biggest deal of my life.  I’ve had a good life.         

VS:  Have you been to Macau?

ALEMAN:  Yes.  They make in one quarter through gaming what they make in one year here in Vegas.  Thank you to the talent of Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson.  It is totally different than Vegas in Macau.  They don’t care about shows.  The Asian people drink a lot and smoke a lot, and they gamble a lot.  They were under control of the Communists for so long.  I was in Macau, Hong Kong and Tokyo in 1990 with the Crazy Girls and La Cage, both shows.  When I signed the contract for the Crazy Girls, they asked me to have all blonds.  They didn’t want brunettes.  When they came to rehearsal, the girls didn’t have their wigs on and they said:  “Oh no… all blonds.”  But then, when the people come to the show, they sleep.  They drink whiskey and they sleep.  All the dark-skinned people in Europe, the Italians, Spanish, French, they all like blonds.

On May 10th, 1997, to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the show, the Riviera revealed a $300,000 life-size bronze statue of the derrières of the seven original “Crazy Girls”.  Today, one of the biggest attractions in Vegas, the statue is an international symbol of good luck, and thousands of tourists pose with the bronze butts for a photograph, as they give them a rub for good luck.

In 2009, Aleman produced “Crazy Girls Undercover”, a film about his sexy Vegas Crazy Girls who work as undercover agents for a former C.I.A. agent Damon Archer, who is working to stop a terrorist attack.  “Crazy Girls Undercover” was filmed right here in Vegas, with many casinos featured in the film, and of course, it highlights the bronzed butt sculpture at the Riviera.  “La Cage” performers dressed as Cher, Marilyn Monroe and Michael Jackson are featured in the film, as well.  “Crazy Girls Undercover” is currently running on Showtime and HBO.

 

VS:  To become a successful businessman, tell me which of these things you think are the most important:  confidence in yourself, talent, your drive, your finances…?

ALEMAN:  Persistence and confidence in yourself.  Then surround yourself with some good people who are loyal.  Quantity doesn’t mean quality.

VS:  What quality do you look for in your friends?

ALEMAN:  Honesty and loyalty.

VS:  Do you have a lot of friends?

ALEMAN:  No, but few good ones.  I can count them on one hand!

VS:  How many languages do you speak?

ALEMAN:  French, English, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Arabic.  I also speak a little Hebrew and Yiddish after I’m there for a couple of days.  My father was an Italian Jew, and my mother was a Spanish Catholic.

VS:  When you get upset, what’s your favorite curse word?

ALEMAN:  Motherfucker.  I say it in French when women are around.  When I was young, my mother would speak Spanish, and my father would speak Italian.  You never knew what was going on, or what language was going to be spoken next.  New Year’s Eve back then was really funny, because we’d have about 30 people around the table.  All the family was there.  There were police on my father’s side, and every time after the dessert, there was a fight between the brothers and uncles.  Everyone would be going nuts, until finally my mother would say:  “Enough!  Enough!”     

VS:  Speaking of being around the table, what is your favorite food?

ALEMAN:  Moroccan food is my favorite.  French food is great and they’ve got some great dishes, but the problem is all the food is fattening.  I love sushi, I love Italian, I’ll eat almost anything, but I won’t eat junk food or fried food.  I love wine and champagne!  I love French and Italian wines.  I’ll drink good wine when I’m out dining with friends, and I have quite an extensive wine cellar and collection at home that I cherish.

VS:  Tell me about your resort that you’re building in Cabo San Lucas.

ALEMAN:  I own 58 acres in Cabo San Lucas.  We have worked over the years to get the permits.  We will have timeshares, a hotel, villas, a health spa, a regeneration center for both women and men, and we will have a casino.  If we wanted, we could have adult entertainment, too.  It’s the only place in Cabo that has a legal adult license.  The structures have all been started.

VS:  Any other projects?

ALEMAN:  We’re going to do a water park and an Indian Village in Glendale, Nevada, (25 miles north of Vegas).  We will have buffalo and deer, waterslides and a hotel.  There’s nothing from St. George to L.A. for the kids, and I’m still a kid at heart!  I’m seventy years young, and I feel as if I’m still 40.  I love beautiful women.  I love statues of beautiful women, art of beautiful women.  Nothing is more striking than the body of a woman.  It is not always or necessarily a sexual thing, it is just that I have always loved women!

VS:  You must have lived about six different lives with all the things you’ve done!

ALEMAN:  Yes, I’ve had a fun life, and I’m still here.  I did it my way!

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