#‘Showgirls’ turns 25 as doc on its cult status becomes free to stream

‘Showgirls’ turns 25 as doc on its cult status becomes free to stream

For these fans, the “Show” must ho on.

A quarter-century after the release of “Showgirls,” the 1995 NC-17 box office flop about Las Vegas strippers is having a second life as a midnight-screening staple with a die-hard fan base.

Initially trashed by critics and audiences alike, the film would go on to win the Razzie Award for worst movie of the decade — and it cratered the nascent career of star Elizabeth Berkley.

But the intervening years have been kinder to the jiggles-and-giggles flick, whose nudity, ridiculous outfits and delightfully cheesy dialogue have earned newfound appreciation in the LGBTQ community — and all fans of camp.

On Tuesday, the new documentary “You Don’t Nomi” hits steaming services, exploring the loyal lovers of director Paul Verhoeven’s sexed-up Sin City story about a drifter named Nomi Malone (Berkley) who climbs her way to the top of the casino-performer hierarchy.

“I didn’t set out to make a documentary — I was mostly curious why this complicated film has endured for so long and why we’re drawn to it,” Jeffrey McHale, director of “You Don’t Nomi,” tells The Post.

McHale first saw the movie in the early 2000s, after a friend found out he’d never watched it and immediately pulled his own copy off a shelf and pressed play. (After making just $8 million in theaters on its opening weekend, the $45 million film became a smash hit on the home-video market, where it earned more than $100 million.) He was immediately hooked.

“Within the first few minutes, your heart starts beating, you don’t want it to end,” says the television editor and first-time documentary director of the rapid progression from title credits to Nomi hitchhiking, then pulling a switchblade on her driver and nearly getting into a car wreck. “The reasons you’re drawn to it are these odd and peculiar moments; the nonstop insanity. It succeeds because of its failures.”

He became obsessed with tracing reactions to the film from the first mean-spirited reviews — “Can’t act. Nice body, though,” a young man comments on TV after seeing it in theaters — to the queer community’s current veneration, which has seen it be performed by drag queens and adapted into an unauthorized musical parody, as well as countless interactive screenings.

“I started to consume everything that had been written about ‘Showgirls,’ and was really fascinated and inspired by the wide range of opinions about it,” McHale says.

SHOWGIRLS, Gina Gershon, 1995. (c) United Artists/ Courtesy Everett Collection.

Gina Gershon in “Showgirls.”

©United Artists/Courtesy Everet

SHOWGIRLS, Gina Gershon, Elizabeth Berkley, 1995. (c) United Artists/ Courtesy Everett Collection.

Gina Gershon and Elizabeth Berkley in “Showgirls.”

©United Artists/Courtesy Everet

SHOWGIRLS, Gina Gershon, Elizabeth Berkley, 1995

Gina Gershon and Elizabeth Berkley in “Showgirls.”

©United Artists/Courtesy Everet

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It was at a 2015 screening in Los Angeles commemorating the 20th anniversary of “Showgirls” and California’s legalization of gay marriage that McHale decided to make a film about the flick. Berkley, who did not return The Post’s request for comment, introduced the movie herself, after years of being haunted by the film’s disastrous debut.

“I just don’t live in my past,” the 47-year-old author and “Saved By the Bell” actress — who will also star in the show’s reboot — tweeted at The Post last year, responding to a story about an NYC gallery show of “Showgirls”-inspired paintings. She expressed the same sentiment at the 2015 screening.

“To be a young girl in the center of that was something that was quite difficult,” she told the audience of “Showgirls’” fans, Entertainment Weekly reported at the time. But I found my own resiliency and my power and my confidence — not only through what I had to find out, but because of you guys.”

Some have found empowerment in Berkley’s role, which has Nomi topless throughout much of the movie.

April Kidwell, who played Nomi in “Showgirls! The Musical!,” found re-enacting the character “the most empowering thing — getting up in peoples’ faces with my boobs,” she says in the doc. “I feel like I’m part of a sisterhood in supporting Elizabeth Berkley’s choices in ‘Showgirls’ the film by getting up and saying, ‘Hey, I’m gonna do it too, what do y’all got to say?’ ”

For “You Don’t Nomi,” McHale says he always aimed to focus on the fans and not the cast. “I didn’t want to make a traditional documentary,” he says. “I wanted to focus on the afterlife and the evolving relationship we have to the film.”

Still, “we’ve reached out to a lot of people involved and haven’t heard back,” he says.

“Showgirls” also remains relevant as a time capsule, with many of its themes on excess and sexual harassment more relevant than ever.

“It shines a light on the America Verhoeven [saw] in the ’90s,” says McHale, noting that, following the #MeToo movement, “we appreciate it for different reasons now than we might’ve 10 or 15 years ago.”

“You Don’t Nomi,” which debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival last year, was supposed to hit theaters on June 5, but due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it will instead go directly to streaming services. Yet McHale feels the timing couldn’t have been better, with “Showgirls” virgins watching the movie for the first time in quarantine and bored celebrities re-enacting scenes, creating a whole new audience for his documentary.

“This is coming at the perfect moment, [as it’s] the type of media people are gravitating to in this crazy climate,” he says. “Right from the first two weeks when the lockdown started, I got so many messages on social, people saying, ‘Release this [doc] now!’ ”


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