Random Image Dump #8: Showgirls-Era Elizabeth Berkley Edition

We’re big fans of Nomi Malone here at the Starfire Lounge. Sure, she tore through the place like a demonic hurricane from hell when she stripped, er, danced here, but that display of raw power only made us fall a little more in love with her. Nomi is a Starfire Lounge Hall of Famer, for sure.

Actress Elizabeth Berkley deserves much of the credit for making Nomi so memorable. In Paul Verhoeven’s cult classic Showgirls (1995), Berkley is a force of nature, delivering one of the most committed performances ever captured onscreen. From licking stripper poles to devouring cheeseburgers to vigorously f*cking in a pool—make no mistake, Nomi doesn’t have sex; she F*CKS—Berkley lays bare Nomi’s voracious appetite. That hunger drives her to succeed in Vegas at any cost.

Berkley’s performance was universally panned in 1995, even though she did exactly what Verhoeven wanted. Nomi is all id, utterly lacking in impulse control. She’s maniacally driven by a bloodlust for career success, and Berkley plays this obsession to wildly over-the-top perfection. Over time, a growing subset of fans and critics have championed both the film and Berkley’s singular performance.

In 1995 though, her career was basically destroyed by the harsh reviews. Reading profiles and interviews from that year, it’s hard to miss the misogyny and sneering contempt for Berkley in these pieces, many of which feature photo sets of the actress looking absolutely stunning. Looking at the images alone, outside the context of the articles themselves, it seems impossible to believe this woman didn’t become a major star. Eventually though, she did become something even better than that: the beloved star of one of the most adored cult movies of all time.

Here’s a selection of Elizabeth Berkley’s magazine and publicity shots from right around the time of Showgirls’ release, in the fall of 1995. Warning: contents of these pictures may be flammable.

Towering over the competition at 5’10” tall didn’t stop Berkley from adding inches by wearing sky-high heels.
Half-dressed and falling down: an appropriate metaphor for Berkley’s career at the time of Showgirls.
Take a young, up-and-coming actress who happens to have the body of a fashion model, combine that with publicity for a movie where she’s naked much of the time, and photo shoots like this are the result.
Hair befitting a Goddess.
Audiences and critics might’ve disliked Berkley in 1995, but photographers’ cameras sure did love her.
Striking awkwardly suggestive poses was the call of the day for Berkley when it came to promoting Showgirls.
After Showgirls, the phone stopped ringing for Berkley, whose agent dropped her like a hot potato when the movie bombed at the box office.
Nobody puts Nomi in a corner.
Body-painted and ready to ride: Berkley as Varga Girl.
Sultry publicity shots with Showgirls costar Gina Gershon (another Lounge favorite).
Gershon and Berkley generated real heat together.
What was that I was saying about awkwardly suggestive photos?
Capturing the media’s attention at the Cannes Film Festival, 1995.
Promoting Showgirls at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival.
Updating the classic sweater girl style for the ‘90s meant adding abundant cleavage and a micro-miniskirt that covers nothing.
Career suicide never looked so good.

3 thoughts on “Random Image Dump #8: Showgirls-Era Elizabeth Berkley Edition

  1. Ah Showgirls, the film that immortalized but at the same time ruined Elizabeth Berkley. VH1 showed this a lot back when I was a kid in the 90’s, early 2000’s, which surprised me cause of all the censoring and bleeping they had to do. Personally I liked Berkley in the role, and you can’t blame her for wanting to break away from her Saved by the Bell character Jessie, which she ironically returned to in the Peacock sequel series. It’s a bizarre as hell film, but there is something enjoyable about seeing the seedy behind the scenes aspects of the Las Vegas Showgirl acts.

    Liked by 1 person

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