Fabled ‘Vintage Vegas’ Has Humanitarian at the Helm (reprint)

In Christine on The Scene by Christine McKellar

Publisher’s Note: We’ll be talking a walk down memory lane and republishing some of our favorite pieces this month at VOE. The following is a reprint of an original feature story from May of 2014. Dates, times, prices, and locations are no longer valid.


Cindy Doumani To Preside at Upcoming ‘Vintage Vegas’ Gala

The fabled Las Vegas, Nevada, of yesteryear was a small desert town big on entertainment and embracing of community. A place where one could don blue jeans and spend an unencumbered day on horseback exploring the valley from one end to the other: then go home, shower and “put on the Ritz” with diamond rings, baubles and sequins to spend an evening dining, dancing and being entertained by Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Elvis, and some of the most beautiful and talented showgirls in the world.

woman speaking at podiumSuch was the everyday life of one of Vegas’ most loved and respected leading ladies: former Thunderbird Hotel showgirl Cindy Doumani. Slim, elegant and soft-spoken, Doumani is no longer riding her horses on the range, nor has she danced on stage since her marriage to former Tropicana hotel owner, Fred Doumani, Jr., in 1960.

The honored humanitarian and animal rights advocate devotes a good portion of her spare time and energy to promote and maintain the Las Vegas legacy of music and entertainment. In keeping with her ongoing commitment to the arts, Doumani will be presiding as the Honorary Chair at the upcoming *Nevada Opera Theater Association (NOTA) “Vintage Vegas” afternoon buffet and show at the Italian American Club, Sunday, May 18, 2014.

“Nevada Opera Theater has done such wonderful things. The ‘Vintage Vegas’ gala is going to be phenomenal,” stated Doumani in a recent interview. Among the scheduled guests are impressionist Rich Little, comedians Pete Barbutti and Steve Rossi, singer Don Cherry of “Band of Gold” fame, pianist Magnificent Mafalda, songstress Pia Zadora,  dancer Tempest Storm, Joe LaVigna (the Singing Chef), and Copa girl, Ruth Gillis.

Doumani is no stranger to stardom. She grew up on a ranch in Southern California and spent her days either at dance class, on horseback, or on the tennis court. “When I was four I said I was going to be dancer. At fourteen I said, ‘I will be a secretary in the day to please my father, but at night I’m going to dance in a club.’ One night I saw a show at the Thunderbird Hotel in Vegas. Right then and there I knew that was what I wanted to do. I was sixteen.”

Doumani’s passion for dance led her to leave USC after two years to become part of Gypsy Rose Lee’s show at the Moulin Rouge nightclub on Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles.  “Gypsy was really a fabulous woman,” recalled Doumani. “She was very literate. She was so much fun I would have paid her to work with her.”

After touring the West with Rose Lee, the 24-year old dancer followed her heart (and a flame) to Hawaii where she met 22-year-old Elvis Presley prior to his enlistment in the Army. “He was more handsome than you can image. He was one of the sweetest men. And what a gentleman he was!” While in the Islands, Doumani met Adam West, known to many as Batman, who will be a special guest at the “Vintage Vegas” event on May 18. Doumani also met Frank Sinatra while she was touring Japan in one of Tom Ball’s Las Vegas productions. She later broke her 18-month contract with Ball to return to Vegas and marry Fred Doumani.

“After two years of marriage, I had my first child and became a real homemaker. I learned how to cook and sew,” said Doumani.  All was not drudgery for the young wife and mother. Her husband had already built the former historic La Concha and El Morocco motels and casinos. The couple raised their two children at the Desert Inn Country Club Estates where their neighbors included Kirk Kerkorian, Engelbert Humperdinck, and Keely Smith.

Cindy Doumani is the only showgirl to date to have a star on the Las Vegas Walk of Stars in front of the MGM Grand Hotel. She attributes the honor to her many years of benefiting charities. “I support anything that will help abused and battered children and anything for animals. I’m a member of PETA, SPCA, Best Friends and twenty-two horse and wildlife organizations across the country. These animals desperately need our help.”

Doumani has been a vegetarian for thirty four years. “How could I eat a chickenblonde woman or cow or pig? Pigs are one of the most intelligent animals on the planet!”

While she never envisioned the Las Vegas of her youth-the Vegas of glitz, glamor and fabulous dinner shows-morphing into the cosmopolitan entertainment capital of the world that it is today, Doumani still finds the valley a wonderful place to live. “We’re like a ringside seat. You can drive to L.A.  or catch a plane anywhere. You can go out to lounges and shows every night. There is wonderful music at The Smith Center. I try to see everything.”

And that is not surprising. After all, who would know better than this former showgirl and dedicated children and animal advocate that “the show must go on?” – Christine McKellar


X*Ticket prices for “Vintage Vegas” are $110 per person and can be reserved by calling 702.762.4110702.762.4110 or by email at: nevadaoperadiva@aol.com. Members of the Italian American Club can purchase tickets for $100 per person or $1,000 for a table of 10 by ordering online at: http://www.iacvegas.com/

EDITOR’S NOTE: During our phone interview on Tuesday, Ms. Doumani received the news that scheduled speaker for the “Vintage Vegas” event, Burton Cohen, had passed on earlier in the day. Despite her shock and dismay at the sudden loss of one of Vegas’ most liked and respected movers-and-shakers, Ms. Doumani finished the interview with grace and composure.

VOE extends sincere condolences to the family and friends of a true Las Vegas icon who was loved and respected as much for his contributions to this great city as for his wit and sense of humor. May you rest in peace, Mr. Cohen.