Best Historical Photo You’ve Never Seen
July 28th, 2011
If you’ve lived here for more than 45 minutes, odds are you’ve seen one of the most iconic images ever captured in this dusty desert outpost: that of Lee A. Merlin, then a showgirl at the Sands’ Copa Room, posing for the camera, her left leg slightly bent in front of the right, arms raised to the sky, a mushroom cloud of cotton covering her bikini. She was the last—and clearly the most famous—Miss Atomic Bomb. But here’s what you haven’t seen: Mr. Atomic Bomb. On May 24, 1957—the same day Las Vegas News Bureau photographer Don English choreographed and snapped the classic shot of Merlin—Jack Pepper, then the News Bureau chief—stripped down to his skivvies, concealed his essential parts with the same cotton mushroom cloud that covered Merlin, and struck this zany pose for English. Needless to say, Pepper made a wise decision in choosing to circulate Merlin’s photo and bury his deep in the archives. Until now.