Viva Las Vegas 21 was held on April 19 – 22, 2018. This is the world’s largest rockabilly event happening in the heart of Las Vegas. We’re often asked by the dapper and Disneybounding community if Viva is worth checking it. It’s no surprise that pinup style and Disney parks have been going hand in hand in the past few years. This year, I also decided to go for the Miss Viva Las Vegas pinup contest. While I did make it as far as the voting round, I did not make the top 12. It’s all good! I was Viva bound before I event put in my application for the contest! This marks my third year attending; second year as a high roller ticket holder.
Of course, Viva Las Vegas is in Las Vegas. This is held at the Orleans Hotel just right off the strip. It’s about a $14 Lyft ride from the airport. We were lucky to get a room at the Orleans when the cancellation block went on sale. The catch is you had to be ready to pay in full to reserve your room. We checked in early before 1PM. What they don’t tell you is that there is an extra $20 fee for checking in early. Small potatoes, we ended up doing it anyway. While it was nice to be finally be on site for Viva Las Vegas (and have a bathtub…unlike the Palms…), the Orleans is “old” in every sense of the word. While it is an amazing space to hold concerts and the car show, the ventilation of the Orleans nearly killed Viva Las Vegas for me. While I get that people are allowed to smoke in the casino (and having grown up with parents that regularly smoke a pack a day), the scent was getting too much for me. Even as guests with a non-smoking room, smoke was seeping into our room. Most newer hotels will have the casino and main areas regularly ventilated, The Orleans did not.
One of my favorite things about Viva is the shopping. For high roller passes, you can get into the vendors room which is open almost 24 hours. The vendors room had different knick knacks for rockabilly lifestyle enthusiasts, as well as a great selection of vintage and pinup style clothing. For men, there were a ton of vintage and reproduction shirts from all over the world. Jared found a place that was selling custom zoot suits. Steady clothing had a huge selection of bowling shirts where it can almost clothe every attendee at the event.
As far as women’s clothing, you name it, it’s probably there. A few booths carried various reproduction brands such as Unique Vintage, Stop, Staring, Miss Candy Floss, etc. V Male Detroit even had their selection of vintage and reproduction lingerie for all of your pinup photo shoot needs. I was able to find last minute gloves from them!
There were more vendors at the car show. Some of them had booths inside the Orleans. There was a bigger selection of clothes and accessories for pinups. Pinup Girl Clothing had their exclusive Viva Las Vegas dress. They did mention that it will go on the site – there seemed to be a good amount of stock at the time we left the car show. It does get hot at the car show, so bring a parasol.
For pinups, photo shoots are the best place to connect with photographers from all over the world. Some of the best pinup photographers are at Viva Las Vegas. I usually hear about who’s going to Viva Las Vegas through instagram through word of mouth and through the photographers I follow on Instagram. I shot with three photographers at Viva Las Vegas – Vintage Beauty Photography, Feathered Flash, and Al Abbazia. Vintage Beauty and Feathered Flash had their in-house stylist to do hair and make up. I also had no idea that Lauren, my stylist for Vintage Beauty, wrote one of the books I remember perusing when I was getting into pinup life!
Tip: Because Viva attendees are required to have the wristband on and at times, it might be an eternal struggle to get the wristband off, bring an extra pair of gloves to cover the wrist band. Or if you want to do something different, invest in lace wrist cuffs like these from Belladonna.
The car show took place on Saturday. If you were interested in trying out Viva and you don’t have too much money to spend on a ticket, I would recommend checking out the car show. The ticket is about $40. While this is where you can shop and see the pinup contest, you also get to see a ton of classic cars. It does take a whole day to look at all the cars present at the show. For high roller ticket holders, you can check out the cars anytime during the weekend.
What I do like about the car show are the headlining acts. For Viva 21, I can say that I’ve seen two legends perform – Duane Eddy, the king of twang guitar – hearing his “Peter Gunn” live was just amazing. We were very lucky to have Jerry Lee Lewis perform live. He opened with his classic, “Great Balls of Fire.” He still has the energy and swagger of his prime. The final headlining act was the Stray Cats best known for “Rock this Town.” Many people stayed for the Stray Cats. I was just very happy to see and hear Duane Eddy and Jerry Lee Lewis perform live in my lifetime.
The Pinup Pageant
My motivation to attend Viva Las Vegas this year was to meet pinups that I have followed on instagram. I wouldn’t call Viva a “pinup con,” it’s more focused on music, cars, and lifestyle of an era gone bye. Pinups are just icing on the cake. While I did not place in the top 12, I wanted to meet all of the ladies that I made friends with leading up to this event. On Friday, the meet and greet took place. The meet and greet had Rockwell De’vil emcee the entrants for the pinup contest and burlesque contest. Everyone was dressed to the nines for this meet and greet – it was helpful to be a little extra. Everyone was generally friendly as we all got our drinks and finally got to meet each other in person. The meet and greet was relatively short – people left right after the announcements to do their own thing.
The contest was held in the afternoon at the car show. There was a smaller stage next to the main stage that had the pinup contest. There was a confusion of when the contest would start. The app said it would take place at 2:15PM, hence I showed up early. However, the actual start time was 2:45PM. The contest had all 12 contestants enter. First, second, and third place were rewarded as well as additional prizes.
The winners were:
Fran Henricksen, Miss Viva Las Vegas
Wilhelmina Af Fera, First Place Runner Up
Kelly the Flying Pinup, Second Place Runner Up
Rachel Maier, Best Hair
Mademoiselle Gisèlle, Best Dressed
Avrora, Best Make Up
Additionally, there were other contests pinups could partake in throughout the weekend including the swimsuit competition, Bettie Page Look a Like, and Miss Glamour. The title of Miss Glamour went to one of our own who was in the voting round, Millie Rose Mitchell.
Viva 21 went by so fast! I really enjoyed meeting everyone I had met online for the pinup contest. It really helps to know people before you go. My only regret was that this took place during the same time as Dapper Day weekend. I wanted to attempt for both. I really wish we did spend more time together and that I was able to attend the glamour ball. I just felt the meet and greet didn’t last as long as I thought it would. I just felt time was very limiting – doing pinup shoots and also meeting up with people! I hope we can see each other again. Until then, keep in touch!
If you’re a pinup that’s wondering if VLV is worth attending, I do recommend checking it out once as a high roller pass holder to see if this event is for you. Your mileage may vary as this is more focused on rockabilly lifestyle and culture. The audience tends to be older and they like to live it up Vegas style. If you’re going with a group of friends, it could be a fun experience to check out Vegas and all of the classic Vegas spots – there’s even two tiki bars within a Lyft drive from the Orleans. The car show is great for shopping and for pictures with cars. Some of pinup’s best photographers are at this event, but do make sure they will provide the services you’re looking for as some don’t have hair and makeup available.
Until then, keep in touch.
Lots of love and toe beans from A Feline of Spectre.