VEGAS MYTHS BUSTED: The Strip’s Naked City Was Named for Sunbathing Showgirls

Posted on: January 15, 2024, 08:12h. 

Last updated on: January 14, 2024, 09:47h.

In the 1960s, back when Las Vegas’ Meadows Addition neighborhood was nice, showgirls lived there. They liked to sunbathe au naturel at their apartment pools because they didn’t like tan lines.

Minsky's, Las Vegas, Naked City
This is not a photo of showgirls sunbathing at a pool in the Las Vegas community nicknamed Naked City. It was snapped across town, in August 1958, at the private residence of Harold Minsky, producer of Minsky’s Burlesque at the Dunes. (Image: via Life Magazine)

That’s the commonly told story of how the Naked City, a community of low-rent apartment buildings and houses in the shadow of the Stratosphere just north of the Las Vegas Strip, got its nickname. And it’s hooey.

Not a single newspaper reference to Naked City appears in a Las Vegas newspaper before a June 20, 1982 Las Vegas Review-Journal  cover story headlined: “’Naked City’ a Las Vegas Battleground.”

In that story, Lt. John Conner reported investigating 10 killings in the neighborhood in 16 months. “Most of them appear to be drug-related,” the homicide chief said.

Myth Understanding

The Meadows Addition — “Las Vegas” is Spanish for “the meadows” — was created in the late 1940s as a grid of 16 streets named after other cities, including New York, Chicago, Cleveland, St. Louis, and Philadelphia. Before the Sahara opened in 1952, Sahara Avenue was wholly contained in this community, where it was known as San Francisco Street.

When its first apartment buildings opened in 1953, the Meadows Addition became a popular home for Strip employees, including showgirls, who found the low rents and short commutes ideal. But the expansion of Las Vegas beyond the Strip eventually gave its hospitality workers and performers their pick of nearby accommodations, including beautiful new houses that were also reasonably priced and more suited to raising families.

By the late 1970s, the Meadows Addition had become forgotten by almost everyone except drug dealers, gangs, and illegal sex workers. Locals and cops nicknamed it after The Naked City, a 1948 film noir about the New York City police hunt for a murderer that later inspired a gritty, 1958-1964 TV series of the same name.

In fact, that 1982 R-J story stated that the neighborhood is “called ‘Naked City’ by Metro police officers.”

The way the phrase explodes onto the local paper, complete with context that the phrase was used by Metro, and the way it was used incessantly is all hard to ignore,” said Jeffrey Carlson, who publishes the Vintage Las Vegas history website, which features a post on Naked City.

Over the decades, Carlson said, he spoke to dozens of residents of the area in the ’60s and ’70s who “never heard the name.”

A one-bedroom apartment in this Meadows Addition apartment rents for $950 per month (Image:

The Naked Truth

The name didn’t sit well with Naked City’s property owners. They included Bob Stupak, who, in 1979, opened the Vegas World casino resort on land he owned in the neighborhood.

In 1996, Stupak replaced it with the Stratosphere whose 1,149-foot observation tower remains the largest structure west of the Mississippi, remodeling Vegas World’s towers for the new purpose.

Stupak’s friends in city government agreed to rebrand the neighborhood as Meadows Village in the late ’80s. They also told and retold the cover story of the sunbathing showgirls, insisting that the Naked City nickname had nothing to do with crime.

Several local businesses signed on to celebrate the rewritten history, including Naked City Pizza, Naked City Audio, and Naked City Sweets.

“The subject is interesting to me because it’s not a tourism story like so many other Vegas myths, and because the gap between the sunny, titillating legend and the grim reality of the counter-story are so distant from one another,” Carlson said. “To put it in personal terms, I want to believe the sun-tanning showgirl story, because the alternative is depressing.”

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