Cheetahs. Photo by Cierra Pedro.

Ghosts of Strip Clubs Past

I’m sure there was a live-music venue where the Spearmint Rhino strip club is now. A little help?

Despite all those late nights and loud music, you are correct! Before Spearmint Rhino shimmied into the industrial center west of the Strip, it was home to a long row of auto repair garages, parts shops and supply stores, as well as the divey Hob Nob Lounge. According to stories and event listings printed in Scope magazine and UNLV’s Rebel Yell, the Nob was a joint where jazz, rock and alternative bands could “really crank it up” due to its “out-of-the-way” location.

But by mid-1994, live music at the location was apparently over and the listings dried up. My memory suggests that around that time, a tiny, all-nude strip club opened next door to the Hob Nob, the kind of single-stage spot where dancers had to play their own songs on the jukebox. If my memory continues to serve me well, soon after, the Hob Nob erected a glass partition between itself and the strip club in what I assume was a genius effort to skirt the rules prohibiting alcohol in all nude clubs (except the grandfathered Palomino).

Speaking of strip clubs and what they used to be…

It has been said that Sapphire is so huge that it feels like a gymnasium, and for good reason. Before the strip club was opened by OG’s Pete Eliades in 2002, the building was home to the Las Vegas Sporting House, the city’s premier health club. Featuring racquetball and basketball courts, hot and cold pools, a gym and a health food diner, the Sporting House was where Las Vegas society went to stay fit and close big deals.

Want more? Not too far away from the Rhino and Sapphire lies Cheetahs. Before it was made famous by Paul Verhoeven’s 1995 film Showgirls (and infamous by the Operation G-String political corruption investigation), Cheetahs was a longtime live rock and jazz nightclub called the Troubadour, booked by veteran Vegas promoter Michael Schivo. It even enjoyed a brief 1980s stint as an all-ages alternative music club under the same name before eventually going topless. Even the venerable Tommy Rocker’s, open since 1989, briefly flirted with temptation as a topless bar in 2007. Rocker was inspired by a similar transition playing out at Play It Again Sam’s, a piano bar that went topless in what is now Chinatown. But by 2009, Tommy Rocker’s was back to its standard party rock and video poker vibe, proving that even in Las Vegas, skin doesn’t always sell.

Have a question or comment about Las Vegas past, present or future? Send them to