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Havana's famed Tropicana nightclub turns 70 this week, its glamour days as an international celebrity still attracts tourists worldwide.

Female dancers wear their costumes with feathers and sequined thongs, walk through its outdoor stage as they have for decades in a show that began on Monday night and ended Tuesday morning, marking the club's opening on December 30, 1939.

The show included a homage to stars like Carmen Miranda and Nat King Cole who performed amid Tropicana's lush gardens and towering trees.

Tropicana began as a casino and nightclub that, especially in the decade before Cuba's 1959 revolution, attracted a steady stream of celebrities ranging from Marlon Brando to Maurice Chevalier.

Some performed there and others simply mingled with the elegantly dressed clientele.

Their presence and the accompanying publicity made Tropicana one of the world's best known nightspots.

At the time, Cuba, just 90 miles from Florida, was a popular tourist destination for Americans, who have generally been banned from travelling there under a U.S. trade embargo in place since 1962.

Cuban gambler Martin Fox owned the club from 1950 on, but its casino, like many others in Havana at the time, was run by an associate of Santo Trafficante, a Florida mobster who had extensive holdings in Cuba.

After Fidel Castro and his bearded rebels toppled Dictator Fulgencio Batista and took power on January 1, 1959, they closed the island's casinos.

The nightclub, like almost everything in communist-led Cuba, became government property.

"This is an emblematic place for Cuba. It is one of Cuba's most important tourist products," Tourism Vice Minister Maria Elena Lopez said as she waited for the show to start.

The club's tradition of flashy shows has continued, but club director David Varela said the goal now is to showcase Cuba, not just entertain.

The price of admission is equal to about $65, which is more than three times the average Cuban's monthly salary, so most of the Tropicana's customers are foreign tourists.

"Tropicana intertwines tourism with the national culture, and that is really what we export to the world - our national culture without any type of vice," he told reporters.

The Tropicana spectaculars spotlight Cuban music and dance, putting on display "all the sensuality the Cuban has," Varela said.

Varela said 250,000 people have gone to the club this year, which would equal just over 10 percent of the 2.42 million tourists the government recently said would visit the island in 2009.


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