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Vegas Showgirls Shaking Feathers Mimic Male Birds: Lewis Lapham

The cover jacket of "Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle" by Thor Hanson. Source: Basic Books via Bloomberg

June 25 (Bloomberg) -- One of the longest-running Las Vegas revues features topless women dancing around in the plumage of wild birds. One headdress can contain more than 2,000 feathers, with additional plumes in backpack and “butt piece.”

(To listen to the podcast, click here.)

Many of the 1,000 handmade costumes used in “Jubilee!” date from the show’s premiere in 1981, carefully repaired as necessary with ostrich, rhea, pheasant, wild turkey, chicken and goose feathers.

It’s tough to wear the showgirl gear. “Not enough swish, and no one looks at you,” explained one dancer. “Too much swish, and your costume falls off.”

The elaborate revue closely resembles the mating rituals of male birds, as they strut their stuff to outdo competitors and attract fertile females.

I spoke with Thor Hanson, author of “Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle,” on the following topics:

1. Dinosaur Evolution

2. Diversity of Form & Function

3. Religious Icons

4. Fashion Trade

5. Sexual Allure of Plumage

To buy this book in North America, click here.

(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)

To contact the writer on the story: Lewis Lapham in New York at lhl@laphamsquarterly.org.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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