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Audio recording clip of interview with Mary Louise Williams by Claytee D. White, June 19, 1998

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Part of an interview with Mary Louise Williams conducted by Claytee D. White on June 19, 1998. Williams recalls working as a showgirl at the Moulin Rouge and traces her subsequent careers as a social worker and school teacher.

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Mary Louise Williams oral history interview, 1998 June 19. OH-01991. [Audio recording] Oral History Research Center, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas,


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The other day when you did your presentation, Carrie read part of your contract. In that contract there was something about the girls not being allowed to go into the hotel area. That's right. And there were other restrictions on the girls. Tell me about that and if that was ever a problem, how that worked out? It was never a problem because most of the girls weren't interested. They felt that if you entered the hotel area it might imply that you were doing more than you should be doing. So to keep you from—I mean you couldn't go into a hotel room; you could definitely go into the hotel area because that's where the restaurants were and things like that. But they didn't want that; they didn't want anything—I think they didn't want it because—I don't know. Well, Clarence was the type of person who wanted his dancers to be considered ladies. But I think in the back of their minds they didn't want anything to go against the club. Because you know that prostitution was legal, so it wasn't that. Of course, things that are legal for whites are not legal for blacks, which is another thing. Tell me about the dressing room area. Was it a nice, luxurious area? It was nice. It was okay. It was a regular dressing room. We all had our spot. There were two dressing rooms for the chorus girls and we all had our spots. That's all; it was okay. It was nice to us because it was better than most that we would have and just as good as those on the Strip. Okay, good. I thought. What else about the Moulin Rouge impressed you compared to places that you had been before, places in New York, places in Europe? I thought that it was rated right up there with any club in the world at the time. There were some more fabulous. But it was just well structured. It was just beautiful. It was positively beautiful. Now when you go into a hotel/casino here, people are in shorts. I hate it. Tell me what the crowd looked like at the Moulin Rouge in '55. They were dressed, dressed to the nine as we would say. They were dressed. No one came in there—unless it was during the day. No one came to a show not dressed. But they didn't go anywhere hardly in Las Vegas not dressed. I mean in the big hotels—the Riviera, the Dunes and the Sands. The other night I got the impression that a lot of people went to the Moulin Rouge for the entertainment and the food more than for the gambling. I was the one that brought that up, yes. Explain that to me. They had limit on the amount of money you could gamble. They had a top. I don't know whether you call it; top, whatever. And so therefore, the big gamblers did not want to be where they were strapped into only being able to win so much with the same effort. And that limit was a lot less— Yes. —than the limit on the Strip? That's right. Okay. Did you see a lot of African Americans gambling? Yes, of course, because they came from all over. They came from all the big cities and they were all people that had money. Yes, they'd gamble, yes. I appreciate this so much. Did you end your dancing career at that point or did you continue to dance after the Moulin Rouge? I think the Moulin Rouge was the last. Why did you decide to stop? Oh, I never was going to make a career out of it. It was not my idea of a career because, as I said in the beginning of the interview, I did not consider myself a top dancer and I certainly didn't want to go one day and find out someone had said to me, don't you think you're a little too old for this job? So that's why I prepared myself. When I left Las Vegas, I went back to the telephone company. And then I left there after I had done my residency and took the exam for social worker. But when that job came through, another job came through before that as an attendance teacher and I went from that to teaching school.