VEGAS MYTHS BUSTED: One of the Crazy Girls in the Statue Was a Crazy Boy

Posted on: May 6, 2024, 08:17h. 

Last updated on: May 7, 2024, 12:15h.

When the Riviera closed nine years ago this past Saturday, its long-running topless revue, “Crazy Girls,” was saved by being relocated to Planet Hollywood. So was its statue, which had greeted guests at the entrance of the casino resort since 1997. And the statue’s salvation was no small deal.

The “Crazy Girls” dancers shown in the statue are (left to right): Karen Raider, Debra Sill, Pat Lumpkin, Kim Baranco, Angela Sampras-Stabile, Michelle Sandoval, and Chris Zytko. (Image:

The “Crazy Girls” statue was the most photographed statue in Las Vegas. It was rubbed for good luck so often, its subjects’ exposed bottoms were buffed to a high sheen.

And, like most icons of Las Vegas, the statue came with its own myth for us to bust.

“The performers for Crazy Girls, including transgender showgirl Jahna Steele, are immortalized with a bronze sculpture,” reads one stock photography website.

Before we continue, a hat tip to Vital Vegas blogger Scott Roeben, who did an excellent job of busting this myth in 2021. Alas, it lives on. As Mark Twain once said, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”

That’s also a myth, by the way. He never said that. And his real name was Samuel Clemens.

Jahna Steele
Jahna Steele. (Image: flickr)

A Crazy Story

“Crazy Girls” opened in 1987 at the Riviera, where it played for 28 years. In the beginning, singer/dancer Steele was its breakout star. In a 1991 newspaper contest, she was voted Las Vegas’ “Sexiest Showgirl on the Strip” by readers who had no idea she was born John Matheny.

In her early 20s, Steele had gender reassignment surgery in her hometown of San Antonio, Texas. In 1992, that was a much bigger deal than it would be today. So, when the tabloid TV show “A Current Affair” discovered Steele’s secret and broadcast it to America, it became a national scandal.

“She was a super nice, sweet person,” her former castmate, Angela Sampras-Stabile, told “Full of life and really talented as well.”

Nevertheless, “Crazy Girls” producer Norbert Aleman caved to the homophobic fallout from fans of what The Advocate labeled at the time the “uber-straight” show.

He fired her.

Butt No, She’s Not in the Statue

The idea for the statue began with a photo shoot for an ad campaign that took place in 1994, two years after Steele got canned.

Crazy Girls
The 1994 photo that inspired the statue. (Image: Vintage Las Vegas/Greg Rider)

During the shoot, with photographer Greg Rider, dancers Sampras-Stabile and Shellee Renee suggested that they turn their backsides to face the camera.

“No Ifs, Ands or …,” read the ad copy written below the photo on billboards and atop taxis.

But couldn’t the statue have been based on an old photo that did include Steele?

Bonus Busting

No, because the statue — completed by New Mexico artist Michael Conine to commemorate the show’s 10th anniversary — wasn’t sculpted using the photo as a reference. In fact, it wasn’t sculpted at all. It was made using body molds.

Crazy Girls statue, Planet Hollywood
The “Crazy Girls,” removed from their backing, leave the Riviera in 2015. (Image: Scott Roeben/Vital Vegas)

“They put baby oil all over us, then cotton, then whatever the mold was made out of,” Sampras-Stabile told us. “We had to stand completely still until it dried. One of the girls actually fainted and broke the mold, and we had to start all over.”

The End

Though Planet Hollywood saved the show, and the statue, from the oblivion awaiting the Riviera, the reprieve was only temporary.

Six years later, the casino resort’s owner decided to shutter the show and place the “Crazy Girls” statue in indefinite storage, where it remains today.

Caesars Entertainment told that it has no current plans to display it again.

By the way, if you don’t know what became of Jahna Steele and you’re not in the mood to be sad, stop reading now.

Stung by her dismissal and lack of subsequent opportunities as a showgirl, Steele returned to school, taking computer classes and getting certified in nonprofit management. She worked for a while for United Blood Services, but missed the allure of show business.

Steele (left), Sampras-Stabile (second from right), and the cast of “Crazy Girls” in 1990. (Image: Vintage Las Vegas)

In 2004, Steele returned to the Riviera to host the World’s Most Beautiful Transsexual Contest, in which 35 contestants competed. That earned her a starring role in a Showtime documentary about the pageant, Trantasia.”

In 2008, Steele began hosting Aleman’s “An Evening at La Cage” drag show at the Riviera, after its former host, Frank Marino, struck out on his own with “Divas Las Vegas” at the Imperial Palace.

That same year, Steele died at age 49. According to the Clark County Coroner’s office, it was an “accidental overdose of drugs, including cocaine and morphine.”

“I don’t think she was done with life,” Marino told The Advocate at the time. “I think she was done with the pain of life.”

We warned you to stop reading.

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