As a child growing up, Claire Sinclair would stare at the photos of pin up models hanging on the walls of her childhood home and fantasize about being them. The binder she carried with her in high school was decorated with photos of vintage pin up girls and Dita Von Teese, a modern-day burlesque dancer Claire describes as her role model.
Born Clairissa Riccio, she was a teenager with high hopes of a modeling career, but knew she didn’t have the body type to be a runway or high fashion model. She had curves. So she dyed her hair jet black and started booking vintage-inspired gigs.
“I knew that was my niche,” Claire said while sitting in her dressing room before a performance of Pin Up, which she headlines at the Stratosphere on the north end of the Las Vegas Strip. “Only way I would have any sort of success was if I can make it happen by being a curvy pin up model. And that’s what ended up happening.”
Pin Up gives Claire the chance to live out her dream night after night, posing as the lead pin up model while the show’s singer and dancers guide the audience through a calendar year.
Claire, who is the first to say she is neither a singer nor a dancer, doesn’t appear in every number. Instead, she is featured in some choice months, such as October. Dressed as a witch standing at a caldron, Claire does a striptease, briefly revealing her breasts accented by brilliant Swarovski crystal spider pasties.
“(Striptease artist) Tempest Storm wasn’t a dancer at all, either,” Claire said. “She was just fun to look at. She had these obnoxiously huge, beautiful boobs, and she was just cool to stare at. Same thing with a lot of the vintage burlesque dancers: They were just cute and good at moving around and they had interesting costumes and it was a spectacle to look at. I think, if anything, we accomplish that.”
The show hasn’t always been so revealing. When it first opened in February 2013, Claire would strip down to a bra, and that was it, disappointing many an audience member.
“The show was extremely modest, which was a homage to vintage shows,” she said. “They were never extremely revealing. It was very classy and tastefully done.
“Initially they wanted to make it a true vintage experience and not make it topless. But the fact of the matter is, it’s a 10:30 p.m. show, and it’s Vegas, and people wanted to see more skin. So, it was a unanimous decision throughout the Stratosphere that we should definitely incorporate more skin into the show, and pasties were the result.”
Despite being Playboy’s 2011 Playmate of the Year, Claire said she is happy with leaving a little to the imagination. The show isn’t just for men; the show also features a male dancer who is often shirtless.
“You don’t get to sit there and look at boobs the whole time,” Claire said. “That’s not how our show is done. I think that’s what makes it so different than all the other (adult) shows on the Strip.”
Claire described her show as “vintage with a modern twist,” but ideally, the show would completely step away from the modern age.
“For me, I don’t want it to be with a modern twist,” she said. “I want it to be vintage. I want people to walk in and experience what it would have been like to go and see a burlesque show in 1950 and not have any hint of the modern. You walk back in time.”
Claire said she would love to see more vintage burlesque acts as part of the show, replacing the numbers set to modern pop artists, such as Katy Perry.
“That’s the direction the show needs to go in – to get more true to the times,” she said. “Then it would be a masterpiece, because there would be absolutely nothing like it.”
Since Pin Up opened, it has seen some improvements, aside from becoming more revealing. Kinks are being worked out and new singers and dancers have joined the show. She recalls a wardrobe malfunction when, on her first night wearing pasties, one fell off when she made her final bow.
“I put my hand up to do a bow and *bloop!* one pasty pops off,” Claire said. “Everyone thought it was going to be a nipple slip, but it was that (pointing to the skin colored pasties on her wall that go under the designer ones).
“It looked really weird. You know (rocker) Marilyn Manson’s album cover where he’s a mannequin? It looked like that from afar, because there was no nipple there, just looked like a mannequin boob.”
On a personal note, Claire said she is looking forward to perhaps one day returning to reality TV, writing a book and endorsing products.
“I don’t know where the hell I’m going to be in five years, but I’m excited about it. I know it’s going to be very crazy and interesting,” she said. “When someone thinks of something and they know that’s what can make them successful, they just keep it with them, it happens. … I think if you’re obsessive about something, you’re obsessive and you make it happen.”