‘The Vegas Room’ Supper Club inspires an ambitious spinoff… (excerpt from CHIC Compass magazine)
Last year, a small but dedicated group of entrepreneurs and artists came together to create The Vegas Room Supper Club. Their goal was to give back to the city they love. As fate would have it, launching their retro-cool “listening room” happened to coincide with a worldwide pandemic, yet they pressed on. It’s fair to say that business endeavors don’t get more daring than that.
“Don’t you mean ‘crazy’?” laughs Thomas Michel, the establishment’s de facto spokesman. Whether you credit madness or inspiration, the timing was right for a much-needed retreat from COVID-19 isolation. Bolstered by its intimate setting and extensive protective measures, The Vegas Room was an instant success. It also became a beacon for entertainers eager to step back into the spotlight.
Inspired by the supper club’s loyal following, General Manager Sean Stephenson and the rest of The Vegas Room team are preparing to deliver two dazzling spin-offs under one roof.
Click HERE to continue reading via CHIC Compass magazine.
Intimate Venues are the Hottest Ticket to Sin City’s Rebirth…
The times, they are a changing’. Gone for now are the concert tours, superstar residencies and spectacular mega-productions. As Sin City eases into a new comfort zone, the smart money is on smaller spaces, where performers and audiences can connect on an intimate level. In other words, a pure entertainment experience.
Lounge acts and supper clubs harken a return to the days that put Las Vegas on the map…a time when true talent was the star. Their resurgence is evidence that tourists and locals alike are yearning for live music, despite concerns of gathering in public spaces. Perhaps that’s why The Vegas Room, less than a year old, is already prepping a more elaborate sister club just down the block. Look for The Nevada Room to debut in April.
NOTORIETY Live on Fremont Street is another small performance space experiencing a wave of popularity. Located in a former movie theater at Fremont Street’s NEONOPOLIS complex, NOTORIETY has attracted a number of notable names from a wide variety of Strip productions.
“Tenors of Rock” performed a special July 4th show at NOTORIETY
Spearheaded by Ken Henderson of Best Agency, the colorful NOTORIETY nightspot has been safely hosting magic shows, burlesque revues from Lucie May, rock concerts and comedy acts for months while others have remained shuttered. With its full bar service and available dining options, the 21-and-over clientele have been returning week after week for top-notch excitement (there’s a big-name residency slated to begin there soon, but I’m sworn to secrecy for now).
While contracted productions are on hiatus, individual performers have been able to create scaled-down solo shows. Bucky Heard of The Righteous Brothers (see my Las Vegas Magazine article here) is launching “The Heart of Rock & Roll”, a concert series. Bucky tells me that it’s an intimate duo presentation with accomplished guitarist John Wedemeyer, who’s worked with legendary acts such as Donny and Marie, Bonnie Raitt, Wayne Newton and Clint Holmes.
Bucky and John’s “The Heart of Rock and Roll” premieres February 17th at Italian American Club on East Sahara Avenue. An amazing dinner is included, which starts at 6:30pm. Showtime is 8pm sharp. Tickets are available by clicking here.
If you’ve never visited Italian American Club, you owe it to yourself to discover it. Thanks to a dear friend, I’ve experienced the joys of this old-school gem and their rotating roster of talent, both established and rising. Stunning hunks like Jonathan Karrant and Chadwick Johnson performed incredible pre-Christmas shows, and they’ll be back on the IAC stage very soon. Other favorites include Craig Canter, Chase Brown, and Frankie Scinta.
Travis Cloer, best known for his l0ng-running role in the Jersey Boys musical, has been super-busy during the pandemic. He’s had gigs at The Vegas Room and Italian American Club, among others. This weekend he’s at Chianti Restaurant with Christopher Lash for a special Valentine-themed performance. Showtime is 6 pm on February 13th, and tickets can be purchased here.
Crooners, Inc. at THE MINT Lounge…
Also this weekend is the debut of Crooners, Inc. at The Mint Lounge on East Sahara Avenue. Described as “an hour and a half of pure, classic Vegas entertainment on Valentine’s Day with music, mayhem and memories”, the production features a full band and a cast that includes Miss Mala, Tony Felicetta, Jonny Bird, JC Lopez and Dean Perry. Showtimes are 7pm and 9pm, with tickets available here.
Tuscany Resort on East Flamingo Avenue has been another go-to for superb lounge acts. Kenny Davidsen’s Bowtie Cabaret is a weekly Friday event with rotating hosts and guests. Stars like Ruby Lewis, Ian Ward, Anne Martinez, Kelly Vohnn, and Cassie Stone have recently joined Davidsen on stage. Performers Rita Lim, Ashley Fuller and Michael Grimm all have ongoing residencies there as well.
Harrah’s outdoor lounge Carnival Court has been playing host to a number of familiar faces, albeit under aliases. The father/son duo of Vinny Adinolfi and son Vin A. (The Bronx Wanderers) hit the C.C. stage on the weekends, operating as…well, it seems to depend on the week. Let’s stick with “VINdemic” for now. The guys also hit Italian American Club with the full band in January, and will be back there on February 18th.
NOTORIETY Live hit the ground running in November with Vin and Jimmy’s DOWNTOWN HOOTENANY. An irreverent collection of music, comedy, and hysterical video segments, the show featured Jimmy Denning of TENORS OF ROCK, Vin A. (him again), Tim Sorbs on drums, and guest stars Bucky Heard and Colin Cahill (do you see a trend here?). Expect another edition of DOWNTOWN HOOTENANY in the coming months.
Broadway stage and screen star Ruby Lewis, a recurring guest at The Vegas Room, will have her own showcase at NOTORIETY on February 25th. The one-night performance will celebrate both her birthday and the release of her first original song “Shock Value“. Tickets are $40 and can be reserved here.
For the past two years, I’ve had the opportunity to write for a couple of different publications. One is an online ticketing site that publishes show articles and helpful visitor information (currently it’s in limbo). The other is a well-regarded print magazine found in the majority of Las Vegas hotel rooms, pre-COVID. It’s only available online for now.
When the pandemic upheaval is over and tourists return en masse (with luck), I hope to regain those freelance positions. They gave me the opportunity to learn, reach larger audiences, research unfamiliar artists and discover subjects that might otherwise have dodged my radar. They were also gainful employment, since this blog is a passion project, not a revenue generator.
Please read all precautions before proceeding…
Before accepting those jobs, I made it clear that I would continue maintaining Vegas Unfiltered Blog, which doesn’t always present things through rose-colored glasses. It felt necessary to make one thing clear: as a hired writer, I’d be wearing a different hat for them, separate from my personal site. When I’m paid to write for you, I work for you.
Seems simple, doesn’t it? Well, not so fast. The arrangement was working well for all involved (at least to my knowledge) until Cirque du Soleil decided to follow Criss Angel – Mindfreak Live with an even worse abomination called R.U.N. It premiered in Luxor‘s showroom in the fall of 2019 to horrendous reviews from critics and audiences alike.
As the fates would have it, I was assigned articles on R.U.N. for each of my paid gigs. Having seen this travesty, I decided to delay my own review until the others were submitted. The paid pieces didn’t require my opinion…just descriptions, what the production involved, types of acts, specifics on the plot, where it was located, etc.
The funny thing about this is the subsequent negative feedback I received. For instance, some dim bulb going by the name of @butterpunker tweeted “I’ll be honest. After reading the online reviews and then reading your review, I’m less inclined to trust anything you write about shows anymore.”
Guess what, genius…they weren’t reviews!
Then I published an actual opinion piece, which you can see here. And yes, it was so scathing that I called R.U.N. “an epic disaster. An ugly, inconsistent, poorly-planned and sloppily-executed mess that lies there like a dead body in a ditch.”
So, my question to you is this…are people so stupid that they can’t tell the difference between a review and a so-called “puff piece”? A tourism magazine/website is there to present you with vacation options, then YOU decide what to spend your money on. A blog is a whole different ball of wax. But in this day of internet courage, emboldened armchair critics can hop onto Yelp and eviscerate a business from the safety of their laptop. Or call a critic out for doing the very thing he/she is meant to do.
After that stupid scene went down, a marvelous and professional editor at one of the freelance outlets expressed concern. He/she asked a few sensible questions and we discussed shows/celebrities/subjects to avoid in order to prevent future backlash. Very considerate and supportive, they were. And it felt wonderful.
There have been many times when I’ve been confronted, either online or in person, after publishing an unflattering review. I’ve been accused of causing harm to livelihoods, putting people out of work, and threatening the security of entire productions. Somehow the blame for a bad show often gets put on little old me.
Show business is one of high risk. The chances of being a part of something successful are very slim. For every thirty or so television programs that debut each fall, only a handful get a second season. Movie studios can spend upwards of $300 million on a film that ends up playing to empty theater auditoriums. Nothing is a guaranteed hit. That’s just the way show business works.
In Las Vegas, it’s not unusual for twenty or more shows to give their final bows in any given year (2020 was a bloodbath, but that was different). When a production shuts down, it’s not the fault of the actors, set designers, lighting technicians or costumers. But small-scale blogger Sam Novak often gets the blame.
Yesterday, a colleague in the entertainment industry attacked me for my opinions on the terrible Star Trek: Discovery television series. He accused me of causing harm to the industry, the actors, the directors and the entire CBS All-Access platform. Wow, who knew I was this powerful? Yeah, right…
His next words were what got to me the most: “You better hope that you don’t rely on Paramount, Warner Bros, or CBS for anything, because they won’t like what you wrote”. To which I responded “Don’t put out shit, and you won’t get shit from me. Especially on a fledgling, failing pay site that’s already in its death throes and about to be re-branded.”
Apparently, I upset the cast and crew of Star Trek: Discovery…
I won’t compromise my integrity to please people in the entertainment industry. There are plenty of critics in Las Vegas who already do that. Most of them are high-profile names that attend nearly every function, often get onto the microphone themselves, and walk the line between journalist and celebrity. And they RARELY give an unflattering review.
I personally don’t care if people like my published critiques. They’re honest and brutal, whether favorable or not. I like what I like, hate things that suck to me, and I speak out to praise or warn. It’s my responsibility as an entertainment writer to share the emotions, reactions, and thought processes experienced from a meal/hotel stay/performer/activity.
In 2017, I was offered a position at an established tourism site. I accepted on the condition of full autonomy, so that I could be truthful about subjects that personally mattered and would hopefully have value to my readers. The webmaster agreed to that condition, yet of my first three articles, two were considered “too controversial” and she refused to publish them.
“We supposed to be encouraging people to come here and spend money” this Pollyana told me. My response was something along the lines of “You also have a responsibility to paint an authentic picture…and to honor your arrangement with your writers.” She scoffed, I walked, and within two hours, VegasUnfilteredBlog was born.
When I relocated from Oregon to Las Vegas, I promised to continue this column from the perspective of a visitor. Your discretionary income is too hard to come by, and you deserve to spend it wisely. I have no problem saying that The Vegas Room is an awesome supper club, The Garage is the best value for your cocktail budget, and Magic Mike Live is the worst pile of feces since….R.U.N.
“Hey, over here! We’re the worst show on the Strip” – MAGIC MIKE LIVE
The late media personality Robin Leach was guilty of publishing lots of flattery and fluff in his final years. Public relations firms knew to give Robin an “exclusive” when they needed a boost for their client. I’m not Robin, although I certainly appreciated his flair when it came to arm candy. The guy never went anywhere without a babe on each arm. A cool and iconic man, but not an objective critic. May he rest in peace.
Robin referred to me as “The gay guy from Oregon”. Funny man…
No amount of money is going to make me switch to autopilot. If you want your reviews and opinions to be thoroughly researched, deeply detailed and backed up by facts, Vegas Unfiltered Blog is the place to be. Thanks for being a loyal reader. Best wishes in 2021.
Vegas raises a Farewell Toast to Radio’s King of mayhem and music…
2/2/21 – It’s with a heavy heart that I share the news that our friend Jay Bird passed away yesterday. While the cause of his death is unknown to me at this point, that’s not really important. What matters is that this city, the entertainment community, and many individuals lost a friend this week.
Jay was his own kind of man…funny, sarcastic, generous, and educated. He loved horror films, giving his time to charitable events, and presenting opportunities for performers both established and fledgling. I had the honor of cutting my teeth in radio broadcasting when Jay invited me to be his guest…and later to co-host Rocking Comedy Show a few times.
Image courtesy of Aaron Elekes
In an alternate reality, I’d be prepping right now to head over to the Radio Vegas Rocks studio, as I was slated to join Jay this evening for his latest broadcast. Sadly, that will never happen. Instead, I’ll be joining his colleagues and friends for a memorial in the days or weeks ahead. Here is an official statement from Radio Vegas Rocks social media:
With a heavy heart I reluctantly confirm that Jay has passed. There will be multiple events in his honor because there are multiple scenes and communities that he supported, plus the unfortunate restrictions on gathering and people quarantining. RVR will continue to be a thing, the team will update you here.
In the past year and a half, even during COVID-19, Jay was working hard to hold things together. Not just for himself and the station, but for performers who had new material to share or just wanting to provide listeners with a laugh. Entertainers as varied as burlesque performer Lucie May, actress Cheryl Prater, singers Brett Pruneau and Andrew Diessner, Bronx Wanderers front man Vin A., Sex Tips star Louis D’Aprile, Atomic Saloon Show‘s Colin Cahill, and many more joined Jay from his home broadcasting studio.
If you’d like to contribute to burial and final expenses, a GoFundMe account has been set up here.
The following is an article that I published this past summer. I think Jay enjoyed reading it. I know that he’d appreciate the outpouring of love, loss, sadness and memories we’ll share over this unique man.
Video didn’t kill the radio stars, no matter what you’ve heard. They just evolved, changed the rules and came at you from a different direction. Unencumbered by those pesky FCC regulations, internet broadcasting has freed deejays and programmers to do things the way they’ve always wanted to. That’s why everyone loves RadioVegas.rocks and its featured program The Rocking Comedy Show.
Taking over the world one laugh at at time, The Rocking Comedy Show is three hours of nonstop “cray cray”, if you can still use that expression without sounding lame. Just how nutty do things get? Imagine yours truly is co-hosting an episode where an indie musician (Scott Willians) and a healthcare worker are barfing up their contributions to the “Death Nuts Challenge” right outside the studio door.
It may sound like madness, but it’s just another day at the office for Jason Bird, aka “Crazy Jay”. The dedicated host and creator of The Rocking Comedy Show seemingly lives and breathes the party-hearty chatfest, which has deposited more than 1,100 episodes into the vault. That’s no small feat for a show that’s been running in one form or another since 2000…which is like a century in “radio years”.
Jay began broadcasting RadioVegas.rocks from a brand-new custom-built Kicker Studio earlier this year. He shares the space with two pups, a big desert tortoise and an ancient cat named “Hank Williams”. His dad is usually on hand to great visitors and keep Jay on his toes.
Since arriving in Las Vegas twenty years ago, Jay has had plenty of up-and-coming talent behind the microphone, and an impressive list of household names, too. He’s worked with Tommy Chong, Bill Cosby, Sinbad, Lily Tomlin, Weird Al Yankovic, and Bill Engval, among others. And there was that time when iconic actor Wesley Eure kicked off an appearance at The Golden Tiki for a Land of the Lost reunion.
Jay has demonstrated his love for the city with charitable events and epic halloween parties, where he gets to show off his passion for horror films. Then there was that time in 2014 when he broke a world record for the longest marathon broadcast (80 hours and one minute).
Lots of creative people have helped to evolve the show through the years. Some have gone on to create their own programs, and Jay’s invited newbies like myself to pop their broadcast cherries and share happenings, views…and maybe a sip of Tito’s.
Then of course there’s the music, like classic hits, underground finds and new songs….like the debut of Know Where (To Begin), the lastest from Bronx Wanderers bad boy Vin A:
This week I asked Jay to step onto the other side of the spotlight for a change…and answer a few questions. Here’s what he had to say:
What sets The Rocking Comedy Show apart from similar programs?
The content nowadays everyone has an online radio show or a podcast, but its the content that has to grab you and keep bringing you back. We are currently at 1,121 episodes and you don’t get there by doing the same stuff over and over. You have to be dedicated to do it, and that’s not just the show. It’s the prep, the social media, the website updates and more. If you don’t have the time to tell anyone about it or how to find it, why are you doing it?
Is anything ever too outrageous?
Yes, we have hit that a few times. At first it may be funny, but you listen back, or listeners hit you up. I don’t regret any show I have done, and I don’t apologize for a bad one, I just move on and don’t discuss it.
Tell me about a guest stint that derailed, and one that you wished didn’t have to end.
Over 1k shows and I don’t think any of our stints have derailed. Most of the guests who come on are aware of the show and what it’s all about. We have done some killer interviews that maybe started slow, or off to a weird start, but then it took off. Sometimes it’s the guest, or their PR person telling us what we can’t ask them.
This happened with Vince Neil and also Lita Ford but then they brought up what we were told not to, and boom! magic. Also had comedian Sinbad on the show…he was scheduled for 30 we had him for over 2 hours and we never stopped laughing.
Your favorite part of being a host?
Some would say the control. To me it’s the uncertainty of what can happen. If you’re on your toes and have a good ear, you can grab a sound effect or a song that goes with what your talking about, driving the train keeping it rolling, and keeping the timing of the show perfect. I don’t like to stay on one topic for too long. Get a big laugh, move on, don’t beat that joke to death, maybe revisit it later if you can.
What’s more fun…..discovering fresh talent or slamming tired celebs?
I love finding new talent and maybe pair them up with someone who does the show a lot and get them to do a song. Vegas has so much un-noticed local talent it’s amazing what I have found.
Mariah, Britney and Criss Angel are sinking in quicksand and you only have one lifeline. What’s your move?
I am assuming if I see them sinking I have also put myself in jeopardy with this quicksand. So, I would use the lifeline on myself because I have more shows to do.
RadioVegas.Rocks is the home station for The Rocking Comedy Show. It airs Monday Nights 6:00pm -9:00pm, Tuesdays 3:00pm -6:00pm. To learn more or contact the station for advertising rates or guest opportunities, see the information below and tell Jay that Sam from VegasUnfilteredBlog sent you.
Prolific Performer Is Back On the ‘JUBILEE’ Stage For Sin City’s Newest Spectacular…
There’s a familiar saying that you “can’t go home again”, a perspective that never made much sense to this writer. So many things in our culture revolve around homecomings: family and class reunions, “home for the holidays”, the tale of the “prodigal son”. It’s only through revisiting our beginnings that we gauge how far we’ve come in life.
Entertainer Adam Barabáš has had many homes throughout the years. He grew up in Dubnica nad Váhom, Slovakia, and spent several years on tours across the world. He even had an extended stay in Japan that would make for an interesting movie (you’d have to ask him about that yourself). But through all those adventures, Adam still finds his way back to Sin City time and again.
I graduated from ballet at the Conservatory of Dance and Arts in Slovakia. After that I won ‘Mr. Slovakia’, and I decided to try my chances in the U.S. So, I packed up and moved to Los Angeles and continued taking classes five times a week. Getting an agent was how I found my way to Vegas.
I first became aware of Adam at a performance of JUBILEE. Sailing across the stage in a classic top hat and tails, the handsome blonde captured my attention with his stunning grace and magnetic smile. Waltzing through the infamous “TITANIC” sequence, Barabáš exited, then reappeared in the next set….a recreation of the ocean liner’s engine room.
Now a sweaty laborer, Adam was soaking wet, stripped to the waist, and covered in grease and grit, fighting for his life in the fiery boiler room of the ill-fated ship. It was all very over-the-top, just as the famed showgirl spectacular was meant to be. And it showcased the visual and physical attributes of this athletic heartthrob in the best possible way (I’m not drooling…you are).
Over at The Linq Hotel Casino, you might have caught Adam serving as arm candy to Frank Marino‘s DIVAS LAS VEGAS. Powered by a selection of top hits, DIVAS was great fun for the audience, but not necessarily the best showcase for serious dancers. Still, Adam enjoyed his time there. Asked if the DIVAS dancers got the attention they deserved, he had this to say:
Yes, we actually did get respect from the audience by the end of the show. We were basically in every number, working our butts (and our shirts) off, so the audience was able to fall in love with us and pick out their favorite dancer!
After Jubilee, the energetic actor/model/gymnast/dancer headed overseas for a musical production of The Bodyguard. Then it was off to Japan for iMen Tokyo, a male revue that allowed him to strip and grind. After spending time in Slovakia with the family, it was back to the States to join WOW, the water-themed musical spectacular at Rio Las Vegas.
I used to perform at DIVAS at The Linq in the afternoon, then I’d run to the Rio to do two shows at WOW. Once you’re passionate about anything, it comes easy. I love singing. I used to sing folk music back at home, which I miss very much. I play piano. And I’m good in math.
Adam’s best pal is his golden retriever “Chip”…
Right upstairs from WOW, crowds packed in nightly to see Chippendales male revue. Eventually, Adam auditioned for the touring version, and was once again back on the road. Wildly popular, he made the 2021 all-star edition of their world-famous calendar as “Mr. March”. Somewhere in between, the busy hunk managed to model, do corporate gigs, and spend time with his golden retriever “Chip”. He might have visited the gym on occasion, too.
Just as Adam was riding a new high, civilization came to a crashing halt, and Chippendales was put on hiatus. When Las Vegas shows started to return, the first new production out of the gate was Bally’sEXTRAVAGANZA. And Adam Barabáš found himself back on the stage that gave him his first Las Vegas break.
My roommate (dancer Derrick Boyce of DONNIE AND MARIE/JUBILEE/THE PROM on Netflix) told me about EXTRAVAGANZA. When I looked into it, I discovered that it was the same production company I worked for in WOW.
I knew EXTRAVAGANZA was looking for dancers but I didn’t know if I was ready to leave Chippendales. It was the first show I was not a backup dancer in, but the star. Yet not knowing when they would be back on the road – I missed dancing so much!
Adam, roommate (and fellow JUBILEE alumnus) Derrick Boyce, along with friend and entertainer Alexi Irvine (center), celebrated the holidays in style…
I reached out to the EXTRAVAGANZA dance captain and she sent my stuff to the director, who already knew me…and he called me right away. After hearing his vision for the show and how amazing it would be to be a part of this, I cut my time short in Texas, flew back to get my COVID test and started rehearsals right away.
Coming to the JUBILEE Theater and seeing most of the props backstage made my heart jump. Very bittersweet feeling. Also I worked with Silvia Silvia and her husband before, which made it even more exciting! I hope the fact that EXTRAVAGANZA is open will bring lots of hope for all the performers and shows.
Bringing up the pandemic was a perfect opportunity to explore how the 30-year-old entertainer had spent all those months away from the stage. And I hit him with a few off-the-wall questions…just for the Hell of it.
How did you keep busy during the Vegas show shutdown?
I spent most of the time in Texas, where I went right after rest of my tour got canceled. At first I thought “TikTok will keep me busy”, but it was actually being on the phone with unemployment every day! It took me 19 weeks to get paid. Also I spent a lot of time outdoors on my bicycle, swimming at the lake and at night, I usually cooked with lots of wine. I had a great time. I’m very lucky.
Do you still work out at a gym or have you adopted a home fitness plan?
My gym where I live has two floors, but now that it’s closed, I downloaded some fitness apps that work for me. Usually I work out 4-6 times a week.
It seems that no matter what role you play, Adam Barabáš always ends up shirtless. Is this a coincidence or do you deliberately seek roles that allow you to showcase your perfect body?
Hahahahaha….thank you. I don’t necessarily seek it but anytime there is an opportunity to show what I’ve been working on so hard, I’m in! I am a technically trained dancer, so I definitely appreciate technique in a choreography. I’ve always loved hip hop music video-style dancing.
Is there a particular celebrity you’d like to work with someday?
Lady Gaga. Beyonce. Madonna. Missy Elliott. Meryl Streep. Brad Pitt. So many. It’s always been a dream of mine to tour with people like Madonna and other pop stars. So whatever style they do is the style I love! Also, performing solo is easier to do because I can just make it my own.
Kelly Clarkson, Shania Twain and Lady Gaga all want you to work in their show. Who do you pick? LADY GAGA!
Pick one: Tuxedo, Jeans, or Swim Trunks? And where will you be going in that outfit?
Swim Trunks. To Whole Foods. It happened.
You have eight hours to do whatever you want in Las Vegas, no matter how much it costs. What will you do?
First I would go have a dinner at NOBU, then I would rent a penthouse at the Palms, hire Diplo, and would invite all of my friends and strippers. Wait…all my friends ARE strippers!
What has been your happiest moment in show business?
Whenever my family comes see me perform. Actually, last year in Vienna I had more than 30 people from home in the audience. To have them buy my calendars, posters and even t-shirts, was a dream come true. I am very close to my only sister Simona, who lives in Slovakia. She’s awesome. 🙂
Is there one show you’re most proud to have been in?
My journey in Vegas started as a showboy in legendary JUBILEE. Six years later I’m back, opening EXTRAVAGANZA during a pandemic. JUBILEE will always have a special place in my heart. I am proud of every show I’ve done. I’m grateful on so many levels. #FullCircle
EXTRAVAGANZA performs at Bally’s Las Vegas at 6:30pm and 9:30pm with 4pm matinees on select dates. Click here for full schedule and to order tickets.
innovative Dance Troupe Re-imagines The Holiday Classic for a New Generation
This year has been unquestionably devastating to live entertainment. Sadly, things just took another grim turn. Nevada’s Governor Sisolak has announced an extension of the state’s three week “pause” into mid-January of next year. Say farewell to another round of shows, jobs, businesses and more.
As we continue to adjust, some entertainers have turned to virtual performances to keep their craft alive. Ballet hasn’t necessarily been one of the fortunate genres. In the midst of worldwide chaos, this style of dance has been all but forgotten by some. But a troupe of talented, young performers who call themselves BALLET 120 isn’t about to let their beloved dance form fade away.
Vegas entertainers across the city have described to me how the pandemic has motivated them to become more innovative, prolific artists. BALLET 120 was formed three years ago, long before COVID-19 impacted our daily lives. Yet their group seems to have been affected by the same phenomenon.
The guiding force behind BALLET 120 is Benjamin Tucker. You might remember Tucker from this cast announcement of A VEGAS ROOM CHRISTMAS. He and fiance Emma McGirr, both from Nevada Ballet Theater, have been delighting guests all through December as they spin, dip and sail throughout the intimate dinner theater.
“We have shorter attention spans these days” says Tucker. “And people tend to think of ballet as being ‘stuffy’. They have images in their mind of tutus and pointe shoes. There’s often an emotional detachment between the performers and the audience, so ballet has had a hard time remaining relevant in the 21st century. BALLET 120 hopes to change all of that.”
Short self-made dance videos became a rage during the pandemic. But while COVID-weary people were creating “TikTok” clips and “Instagram Reels” to lift their spirits, BALLET 120 had already adopted these platforms as a legitimate extension of their art.
A delicate caress. Meaningful gazes. Sweeping camera movements that capture every subtlety. Glorious outdoor settings and contemporary clothing. These are some of the relatable elements that BALLET 120 uses to draw their audience into the world of ballet. And it appears to be working fabulously. BALLET 120 continues to grow, explore new avenues and inject familiar properties with a dazzling dose of immediacy.
During any “normal” Christmas season, Tucker and McGirr would be filling concert halls with fans eager to see their annual The Nutcracker Suite performance. But this year’s holiday season plays by a different set of rules. So BALLET 120 has given the classic a contemporary twist.
Even if COVID-19 hadn’t canceled holiday performances from coast to coast, chances are that BALLET 120 would have eventually sprinkled their fairy dust on The Nutcracker Suite. But fans of the troupe won’t have to wait, as three new installments of the cleverly-named BALLET12020 Nutcracker have already hit the internet.
The first, entitled “How the Grinch Stole Nutcracker”, is awash in color and beauty. Click this link to view it in its entirety. It’s followed by “Have You Heard The Tea?” and “Dancing In The Coffee Grounds”.
The final entry “Put A Little Peppermint in Your Step” was released on December 22nd.
“2020 has been weird. So we will be bringing you “Ballet12020 Nutcracker” videos that are a little different than you might be expecting.” – BALLET 120
Saying that the past several months have been “weird” might be putting things mildly. The events of 2020 will undoubtedly echo through our lives for years to come. And BALLET 120 will continue to be a powerful force, inspiring change and forever influencing our view of the arts.
To learn about BALLET 120 and view their creations, head to the BALLET 120 website, visit them via Instagram, or “like” them on Facebook.
Some of you might be familiar with GLITTERING LIGHTS, the annual attraction at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Now in its 20th year, the massive drive-through celebration is the largest of its kind in the Valley. It’s also about as far from the Strip as you can get while still being in Las Vegas.
JOURNEY TO THE NORTH POLE is conveniently located at 2330 Industrial Road, just a snowball’s throw from Wynn/Encore under the watchful gaze of the StratosphereThe STRAT tower. During the rest of the year, the venue is known as The Industrial Event Space, an indoor-outdoor venue for special functions.
While it may lack the scope of its older brother, JOURNEY TO THE NORTH POLE makes up for it for with plenty of charm and good cheer. You’ll know right away when you’re greeted at the gate by one of Santa’s friendly helpers. The happy elf will safely scan your pre-purchased admission code and guide you through the procedures while all of your party remain inside.
A mask is required if/when you interact with any of the cast members, and your windows should remain up when possible. You’ll be given a radio station to tune to, which syncs seasonal classics with the lights of the attraction. Once inside, you’ll have the opportunity to purchase hot cocoa and snacks (very reasonably priced, by the way) before proceeding.
The journey begins with a super-cool recreation of the Northern Lights. Once you pass through the garland entrance, you’ll enter the “Path Of Lights”, festooned with glittering orbs, twinkling tunnels and a flurry of “snow”.
Along the way you’ll encounter live dancing elves, whimsical projections, over 100,000 lights, more than 380 strands and over 100 holiday fixtures. Everything has been designed and handmade by more than 30 local creative professionals who’ve been impacted by the events of this year.
The centerpiece of JOURNEY is a computer-programmed “mega tree” which “dances” and blinks to holiday tunes. But of course everything leads to Santa’s Workshop, where you can visit with the big guy himself. Since the original Mr. Christmas is required to maintain distance this year, there won’t be any visits to his lap. But he’ll definitely chat it up and take notes for his gift-giving list.
“Journey to the NorthPole” can be experienced nightly from 5 to 10pm at the INDUSTRIAL event space, located at 2330 South Industrial Road, through Sunday, Jan. 3. Advance tickets are required and start at $20. Purchase at northpolelv.com/tickets. “Journey to the NorthPole” is a co-production of Josh Abelson (the INDUSTRIAL event space), Emo Palumbo (Tag Team Productions) and Brian Rogerson (Sin City Scenic).
From Hard-bodied Scholar To beefcake Bartender, a Las Vegas Resident Learns To Roll With The Punches…
Even if you’ve never seen the 1983 film FLASHDANCE, you certainly know the premise: “Welder by day, exotic dancer by night”. It seems as though there are plenty of scenarios like that in Las Vegas. This year, COVID-19’s destructive path has shifted career goals, altered destinies, and destroyed lifelong dreams. But it has also allowed resourceful people to excel at things they’d never considered before.
One such survivor is Las Vegas resident Danny Wilkinson. This resilient 31-year-old learned the hard way that personal growth is no longer an option but a necessity. That’s how the Mesa, AZ native found himself as a staffer at The Garden, Las Vegas Art District‘s newest sensation.
It’s unlikely that Danny ever expected that his career path would lead him behind the bar of an LGBTQ hotspot. With an MBA from Western Governors University and a BS in kinesiology, he had worked his way through the ranks of Amazon.com‘s local distribution center to become a mid-level manager.
Alas, cost-cutting at the wildly-successful online retailer led to some pre-COVID layoffs (ironic now in hindsight). Sadly, Wilkinson was part of a group that got their pink slips. So what’s a straight, educated hunk to do for employment during a pandemic? Well, you take the advice of friends who suggest marketing your impressive physique to the local gay bars.
When nightlife wizard Eduardo Cordova announced a casting call for “model servers” and “model bartenders”, Danny showed up to The Garden with a winning smile and gym credentials in hand (or under his shirt, in this case). Asked why he wanted to work at The Garden, Wilkinson candidly answered “My gay friends think I’m cute!”.
If you remember my article on “Men of the Garden“, you’ll notice that Danny wasn’t included. He’s not quite as “showy” as some of the other boys. He’s more likely to kindle a slow burn…one that gets hotter upon return visits. Clever, observant, and genuine, he leaves a lasting impression with casual conversation and a laser-sharp gaze. Mandatory facial coverings can’t conceal that radiant smile, either.
It took a long time for this article to come to fruition. Several months into the idea, Danny and I finally sat down for drinks and to talk about it. What I learned was that to survive in “new Las Vegas”, Danny rolled with the punches, was receptive to daring ideas, and still manages to have fun in a demanding new position.
Your social media pictures depict a guy with a wacky sense of humor, yet you come across as really conservative when at work. Who’s the real Danny Wilkinson?Hhhmmm…. I’m definitely a fun loving guy that always wants to make people laugh and ensure that they’re having a good time, as well as have a good time myself.
What came first…the big muscles or Amazon.com?Hahaha! The muscles did! As the second youngest of seven kids, I was always trying to compete with my siblings. Naturally I wanted to be better at something than they were, which proved to be extremely difficult because they’re all very talented.
When did you start cross-fit training, and how does it fit into your daily routine? Man… I started doing cross-fit seven years ago, if I remember correctly. Exercise/working out has done a lot for me mentally, as well as physically, so I try to make sure I get in the gym or work out at least once a day. Or at least do something active every day of the week!
Where did you go, pre-pandemic, for fun in Las Vegas?I really enjoy drinking coffee and trying new breweries in town. So definitely going to coffee shops and checking out new ones in town and all the local breweries. Oh, and definitely checking out new restaurants…I’m a self proclaimed foodie that loves sweets.
Are you more of a night owl or a day-dreamer?I’m honestly like a reversible shirt… definitely adaptable to every situation. But I’d say that I do enjoy the day and being in the sun. I’m a child of the sun!
This is my boy Gabe. He is a lethal white Australian Shepard. He is 4.5 and I got him from A Home 4 Spot, a rescue here in Vegas. Gabe is literally my best bud!
You just lost a bet and you have to do something embarrassing in front of a crowd. Will you do a sexy dance or sing a romantic song? Oh wow… well I’m absolutely terrible at both, but I’m going to say that my voice is way worse than my dance moves. So a sexy dance it is!
You just won a vacation and your choice is Alaska, Hawaii, or Miami? Which one…and what would be the first thing you do when you got there? Oh man! I’m going to Hawaii! First thing I’m doing is looking at booking a sky diving jump and a swim with the whale sharks! That’s on my bucket list to do both of those in the same day!!
Do you have a favorite charity or social cause?I’d say anything that can benefit kids and can offer them more resources, or ability to participate in sports.
People would be surprised to know that you __ are a huge nerd. I really enjoy reading, subject matter is usually self-development, and I geek out on computer stuff. I don’t play many, or any video games, but building computers and seeing how people push the performance limits of them is pretty cool!
You’re going to be locked in a room for three days and can only eat one type of food. What are you taking in with you?Oh this is too easy! I’m bringing all the fixings for a peanut butter and jelly hahaha! Yes, I do eat them quite regularly!
Hollywood is about to make a movie on your life. You get to choose the actor playing Danny Wilkinson.The actor is definitely going to be whoever the sexiest leading male actor is at the time! Hahaha, I’m kidding… or am I?! The real actor would be… seriously though, I think Jensen Ackles (SUPERNATURAL) would be a good fit!
Favorite big-screen movie – Ooohhhh, that’s a tough one, too!!! I really enjoy going to the movies! It’s a bit nostalgic for me as I frequently went to the movies with my father growing up… but I’d say… THE CONJURING 2.
Is this the first time you’ve worked at a gay bar? How do you deal with flirting? The Garden is the first time I’ve worked at a gay bar. And usually I’ll laugh it off awkwardly, strictly because I’m a bit awkward. But most recently, I just flirt right back, haha.
The Garden launches a sexy new themed night and bartenders are required to work shirtless. Your response is A) Do I really have to? B) Hell, yeah, I can finally show what I’m made of, or C) Whatever…I’m easygoing –I would say that I’m a mix of B and C. You know, we gotta be comfortable showing the guests what they want to see!
The Garden Las Vegas is located at 1017 S. 1st St Suite 180, Las Vegas, NV 89101. It is open Thursday through Sunday from 6pm to 1am. Call 702-202-0900 or visit their website to make reservati0ns.
Salute to Legendary Ladies is the latest triumph for MOSAIC THEATER ON THE STRIP…
In 1984, ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT aired a segment that would become one of the most notorious film reviews in history. Critic Leonard Maltin was scheduled to discuss a remake of the beach comedy “Where The Boys Are“. Instead of a detailed analysis, Maltin stood on a beach, tossed a copy of the film into the waves and walked away, wordlessly.
If I were to follow Maltin’s lead for my write-up of QUEENS OF ROCK, I could simply type “It’s perfect!”, hit the “publish” button and then take an afternoon nap. It really is that good. But star Elyzabeth Diaga and a sizzling live band (Alex Papa, James Oleson, Christian Brady, and Zach Throne) deserve a lot more than a stunt review from a lazy critic.
They also deserve an auditorium filled to (legal) capacity with a cheering, enthusiastic audience. But that is far from the norm these days. Las Vegas live entertainment keeps getting kicked in the shins, with increased restrictions making it harder than ever for shows to stay afloat. So credit the team at MOSAIC THEATER for hanging in there and bringing three great productions (along with PIANO MAN and AUSSIE HEAT) to Las Vegas night after night.
QUEENS OF ROCK is a journey through decades of hits by powerhouse female artists. Elyzabeth Diaga walks a perfect line between tribute artist and featured headliner. The chart-toppers she delivers will be forever associated with their original artists, but Diaga flavors each song with her own fiery zest. You’ll be tempted to sing along and dance at your seat, but you might miss the wonderful nuances of this star-making performance.
Like the recently-reviewed PIANO MAN, QUEENS OF ROCK is an non-stop cavalcade of music you know and love. The star, who hails from Quebec, sails across the stage in a wild collection of leather pants, capes, corsets, and boots. A veritable symphony of lights, effects, and heart-pounding music, QoR is the kind of ambitious production that ably replaces the current absence of headlining acts.
It may be surprising to know that female rockers began as far back as the 1930s. That’s when Sister Rosetta Tharpe defied cultural norms, blending gospel, soul and R & B into what we refer to as “Rock and Roll”. A young black guitarist/vocalist who caused quite a furor in her day, Sister Tharpe nevertheless became known as the “Godmother of Rock and Roll”.
QUEENS OF ROCK pays tribute to Tharpe, then powers through decades of favorites from Heart, The Pretenders, Joan Jett, Pat Benatar, Tina Turner, and Annie Lennox. There are a few unexpected entries like En Vogue, Evanescence,Madonna, and Lady Gaga, that’ll keep you wondering who they’ll conquer next.
Without question, my favorite moment came when Diaga zoomed across the stage on roller skates for a medley of Blondie songs. Check this out:
As Ms. Diaga told me, the Blondie sequence was four decades in the making:
“When I was a little girl, I used to skate in my basement with my disco ball to “Xanadu”, “Master Blaster” and “Kiss On My List “. Then there was BLONDIE! I used to dress up in my purple shiny leggings and my white skates with yellow wheels and skate the streets all day. If you would have told me that 40 years later I would be skating while singing in front of people on a stage and getting praise for it I would have never believed you.”
“When I created the show back in 2012, I did not have skates anymore. It was when I went to Australia to sing in the amazing horse show “Cavalia” that I fell upon a skating store” she continued. “I had not skated for 35 years (at least) but when I put the skates on my feet it was MAGIC!”, a nod to Olivia Newton-John‘s 1980 roller-disco movie XANADU.
“Right there and then I knew there would be skating in my show. A lot of people called me crazy but I had to do it! Just recently I added a disco ball effect because of the amazing setup we have at The Mosaic. So now everybody sees what I see in my head…and it sure is loads of fun!”
Fun is definitely one of the defining elements of Queens of Rock. Everyone involved seems to be having a fantastic time, and you will, too. So when Elyzabeth Diaga takes her throne to close out the show, you’ll agree that Queens of Rock has earned her a place in Las Vegas entertainment royalty.
Just because certain people get paid big bucks to make decisions for the rest of us, that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily any smarter. The proof lies within this list of twenty-one dumb-ass laws, decisions, and situations that really make no sense.
T-Mobile Arena (capacity – 20,000) and Allegiant Stadium (capacity – 65,000) were erected on opposite sides of the intersection at Tropicana Avenue and I-15, a pre-existing clusterfuck that already couldn’t handle current daily traffic.
The super-expensive CIRCA luxury resort just opened on the corner of Fremont Street and Main Street, one of the least-luxurious spots in the entire city (aka “Home of the Homeless”). Basic room prices at CIRCA exceed those of Wynn/Encore.
There are two competing dead human-body exhibits on the Strip
It’s not uncommon for Vegas hotels to advertise $18 room rates then tack on mandatory $38 extortion resort fees (the fees are then taxed an additional 12.5%).
Harrah’s Corporation once had a vendetta against boats. In 1997, the company stripped a riverboat theme from its hotel on the Strip. The following year, Harrah’s purchased Showboat Hotel, sold it two years later but refused to let the new buyers keep the “Showboat” name.