Drag and Drop the Mic for ‘FAAABULOUS! The Show’


New production dares to break the cardinal rule of the genre….

There are those who say that Britney Spears’ residency at Planet Hollywood was essentially a large-scale drag show. Outrageous costumes. Sexy back-up dancers. A heavily made-up performer who mimed her way through songs while sashaying around the stage, lip-syncing to the lyrics. Check-check-check.

20190514_201404

Being a naysayer of Spears and her own wooden, detached performances, I’ve found it more entertaining to enjoy the talents of Britney impersonators. Becoming someone other than yourself….now that’s real talent. Vegas favorites like Derrick Barry (America’s Got Talent, DIVAS) and Katie Murdock (Blond Invasion, Legends In Concert) take that artistry even higher by physically embodying the star while having angelic singing voices of their own.

59760266_2242604342500211_8686458703462793216_n.jpg

The art of drag is at an all-time high in our culture, especially here in Sin City. Senor Frog’s Drag Brunch at Treasure Island continues to pack in the crowd. Stars-N-Stilettos has arrived to take them on and Hamburger Mary’s has shifted its focus from beef to duct tape. Ester Goldberg gave it a go at SLS and Frank Marino’s DIVAS has been circling from above, rumored for a comeback at Hooters Casino (oh, the jokes we could make with that one).

The one common element for all of these productions is that drag artists rarely do any actual singing. Lip-syncing is the norm for this type of entertainment, hence the references to Britney. But that’s about to change with the debut of FAAABULOUS! The Show. This limited-run production will be the only singing/dancing/comedy drag show in Las Vegas…and they hope it finds a permanent home.

15192625_10154587991196224_907266471306655159_n

FAAABULOUS! The Show is a labor of love. It’s created by two heavy-hitters with lengthy show-biz pedigrees. Christopher Kenney is best known to audiences as “Edie“, hostess of ZUMANITY by Cirque du Soleil. Writer/performer Jamie Morris is currently starring in the eye-opening Puppetry of the Penis at Erotic Heritage Museum and created new material for ZUMANITY’s 2015 refresh.

15181171_10154587991206224_2838198549463705363_n

Together, this partnership of boundless talent has captured the essence of drag and infused it with the vocal and comedic skills of five artists, each possessing their own impressive accomplishments:

FAAABulousCast.jpg

              Bella T. Ross, Dusty Muffin, Junebug, San San and Vita Summers…

BELLA T. ROSS is the creation of Josh Ross, a Los Angeles native and a Debbie Allen Dance Academy graduate who has been performing professionally for 15 years. Some of his credits include The Disney Channel’s “Suite Life of Zack&Cody,” Donn Arden’s “Jubilee!,” Tokyo Disney’s “Mystic Rhythms,” “Chicago The Musical” aboard The Allure of the Sea, “Cats The Musical” at Tuacahn Center for the Arts, “The Grinch Live!” at Universal Studios Hollywood, and “A Las Vegas Christmas” at The Linq Las Vegas.
DUSTY MUFFIN is the creation of C. Lash who is music supervisor/director and arranger for FAAABULOUS. He also created arrangements and direction for BAZ – Star Crossed Love (Palazzo), Scorsese: An American Crime Requiem (The Wallis), Tarantino (The Wallis) and Love Actually: Live (The Wallis). He was also the resident musical director and guest faculty member for UNLV’s Theatre Department.
JUNEBUG is the creation of Brooks Braselman, a Leo who enjoys thunder storms and keeping secrets. After majoring in musical theater at Boston’s Emerson College Brooks moved back to his home town of New Orleans. It was here he first squeezed his enormous head under a wig as Chicklet in “Psycho Beach Party” (Big Easy Award nomination). Since then Brooks has played a gaggle of lovely “ladies” including Christina Crawford in “Mommie Queerest (LA Weekly Award nomination), Natalie Green in “The Facts of Life: The Lost Episode,” Clarice startling in “The Silence Of The Clams,” Agnes Gooch in “Auntie Mame”, Velma Cruther in “Shut Up Sweet Charlotte!” He can currently be seen as Brock Hutchinson, along side John Malkovich, in the film “Supercon”, currently streaming on Amazon Prime!
SANDRA SANTIGOLD (“San San”) is the creation of Justin Rodriguez, a native of Queens, N.Y. who has called Las Vegas home for over 25 years. Credits include the National Tour of “RENT” (Angel), emcee/host of “Island Heat” at the Treasure Island Resort and Casino, multiple roles in “Tony ‘n Tina’s Wedding” at Bally’s Las Vegas; and even survived the short lived “Spoofical: The Musical” at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino. He is currently the front man for  “Extreme Live”, a brand new immersive music experience at the Linq Las Vegas.
VITA SUMMERS is the creation of Ashton Shawver who played the role of Suzanne Sugarbaker in “Re-Designing Women” in Dallas (world premier), San Diego, Ft. Lauderdale and off-Broadway in New York. As Vita, Ashton has won several titles in the drag world including Texas All-American Goddess at Large and Miss Fire Island her first summer performing at the popular LGBTQ enclave. Vita also performed alongside Katy Perry on Saturday Night Live. A native of Texas who now lives and works in Ft Lauderdale, Vita is excited to be making her Las Vegas stage debut!
“No lip-synching. No impersonations. The cast of “Faaabulous! The Show” – Vita Summers, Bella Ross, Sandra Santigold, Dusty Muffin and JuneBug – are true triple threats. They sing, they dance, and they are damn funny! Kenney and Morris want to take drag to the next level and they believe this is the show that Las Vegas needs right now”.
faaabulous-the-show-rotator.jpg
FAABULOUS! The Show will make its debut at Ron Decar Events Center (1201 South Las Vegas Boulevard near The STRAT). Performance dates are June 26th, 28th and 29th at 7pm  with a matinee performance on June 30th at 5pm. Doors open 90 minutes prior to showtime for optional dinner.
Tickets are $29 (including taxes/fees) and can be ordered by clicking this link.

 

 

Advertisements

Being Gay at a 2019 Male Revue


Guest author Ryan Topping gives us another perspective on a topical subject…

I’ve had a couple of guest authors since the beginning of this site, but this is the first time that someone has written a companion piece to one of my originals. It’s important to note that Mr. Topping is a few generations removed from my own. He’s become an adult in a world where marriage equality and LGBTQ rights are mostly established (despite the current political regime’s attempt to undo them). Growing up in a more progressive culture undoubtedly impacts your point of view. But that doesn’t mean you’re oblivious to what’s come before…and what challenges still remain.

41067519_10217284027558418_4366732183721738240_n

You may recall that a little over a year ago, Sam published this article in which he ranked Vegas male revues from a gay p.o.v. I discovered that article while doing research for my 21st birthday, trying to determine if there were any shows in which I could expect to receive attention. Reading his article was the beginning of a series of events that lead to us actually meeting in person.

Sam’s article was fantastic (and in my opinion will always be his most useful), but I wanted to write one that dealt with the subject matter from a slightly different angle. I’m talking about the personal realities of attending as gay man. Unlike Sam’s article, I’m not intent on discussing each show individually, but instead certain things that apply to all. These matters can be viewed as positive, negative, or somewhere in between depending on the person and situation. So here they are, in no particular order:

You Will Always Be In the Minority

It’s a well-understood fact that gay people are a minority in the world. In daily life this difference isn’t always felt, but that all changes when we go to a male revue. You’ll instantly feel like a minority. I believe that in almost every one I’ve been to, I’ve been able to count the number of gentlemen on one hand.

I’d like to make a comparison for perspective. I’m currently attending nursing school, and out of my class’s forty-six students, I’m one of only seven guys. Even in this female-dominated field, that’s still a higher ratio than at a male revue. The first few times I viewed this a major negative. Despite being a confident gay man, this made me feel less so. Luckily after a few visits, it became a positive and was perceived as something that made me stand out.

You’ll Have a Your Own Private Bathroom

This is an example for a specific show, but I love it so much I had to include it. Both before and after Chippendales you can spend time in the adjacent Flirt Lounge. Only ticket holders can access this lounge so there are at most a few males there. While there are girls constantly coming in and out of the ladies’ room, you’ll have your own private restroom. That makes it a great place to fix your hair, check your teeth and be sure your outfit is just right before meeting the performers.

You’ll Never Be the Primary Focus. It Will Always Be “Ladies Night”

4119

No matter how progressive male revues have become, their focus will always be on the primary clientele…women. It’s impossible not to read or hear the words “Ladies Night Out”, “Girls Night Out”, “Bachelorette Party” or “Bride To Be”. I’ve never seen guys being addressed in either advertising or merchandising.  The host will almost always refer to the audience as “ladies” instead of “ladies and gentlemen” or something gender-neutral.

Handshakes, High-Fives and Hugs: The Dreaded Three

At many shows you can expect to receive handshakes, high fives and maybe a few hugs…but not much else. At Thunder From Down Under that’s all you can expect. While attending Chippendales I’ve had a few experiences that extend beyond this, but the one notable exception is Aussie Heat. Their show was specifically created with inclusive treatment in mind. For guys, this is the one show at which you expect to receive some serious, meaningful attention.

41413789_1112061555637277_6166193274517192704_n

You’ll Feel Grateful To Get What Women Routinely Receive

When women go to a male revue they are able to touch, grab and squeeze whatever they want on a dancer. For men, this is definitely not the case. Every little bit of attention you receive from a measly handshake to a high-five will feel like a privilege you had to earn…not something you have a right to expect. Yet the more often I go, the less it seems obligatory to be grateful for these things. Maybe that’s why I go so often? (ha ha)

You’ll Be Scared to Push the Boundaries

No matter where I am, I’m always concerned about not pushing boundaries. Women don’t have to be conscious of this at all. Most times I let the dancer guide where my hands go. I’m more independent and free at Aussie Heat, but even there I find myself being aware of it.

You Can Almost Forget About Going On Stage

When you’re a guy at Thunder From Down Under, you can forget about an onstage number. With Chippendales the best you can hope for is being roped up by the guys for their cowboy number…and that only lasts about a minute. For Aussie Heat the most I’ve seen is one guy onstage during a performance. The general point here is that you’ll be competing with every other man for that single opportunity, so your chances of participating are consistently very slim.

26168886_928611843982250_5662969901630217817_n

You’ll Get a Special Shout-out

This is another show-specific example but it’s one that means a lot to me so I’m including it. Chippendales recently added a special shout-out at the end for the men in attendance “because it’s all love”. When you have a whole room full of people clapping just because you’re present, that’s empowering.

You Can Share a Name With the Dancers

Full disclosure: I’m partial to this one because it directly applies to me. There are many gender-neutral names out there but the chances of a female audience member sharing a name with one of the performers is slim. It might not seem important but to me it does make a difference.

48172971_1174508189392613_7044281819012792320_n

                               Chippendales dance captain Ryan Kelsey…

I share my name with two of the Chippendales – Ryan Kelsey and Ryan Worley (read Sam’s profile of Mr. Worley here). One of those two may even have even said that I’m one the Ryans in their life. Who wouldn’t want a Chippendale to say that?

48363422_1176003922576373_8276661077589098496_n.jpg

                                                    With Ryan Worley…

They’ll Talk To You Like You’re “One of the Guys”

When interacting with the performers, you’ll probably be referred to as either “buddy” or the Australian equivalent “mate”. You’re more like your one of the guys than an audience member. This makes the conversation feel personable…as though they’re talking with you as a friend.

The guys also seem to open up more to other men. Recently I was expressing regret to one of performers who’d endured an uncomfortable onstage experience at the hands of a rowdy woman. He confided something equally shocking that he did to “get his revenge”. It’s doubtful he would have confided that to another woman but was willing to open up to “one of the guys”.

49459878_10218256777996571_4168987182129741824_n

You Will be Remembered On Your Next Visit

You can imagine that the performers see hundreds of females each week, but at most a handful of male audience members. In practice this means more than likely you will be remembered. My personal example was with Chippendales, I attended the show in September of this year and returned to three months later.

On the first night I went back a few of the dancers remembered me…one even remembered my name. Since it’s one we share I don’t know how much of a factor that was, but it still made me feel great. I returned a few more times throughout my stay and by the end all them knew who I was. It makes you feel special to be remembered.

4124

The acceptance of homosexuals in society has come a long way over the years. When Sam told me that he first saw Chippendales only four years ago, I was in disbelief. Did he really have to wait that far into his life to let loose and be free?

I’m fortunate enough to have been born into a more progressive time and was only twenty for my first experience of this kind. I was also shocked to learn that Sam would always be seated in the back. That has slowly progressed to its current state where men are often right up there in the front rows. 

41195640_10217284028278436_8870339194141016064_n

There were many gay men and women who laid the way so I could live in a more accepting culture. I hope that the amount of change and progress during Sam’s lifetime will also take place in mine. Fortunately for the challenges we still collectively face, simple pleasures like attending a male revue still outshine them all.

Photos: Ryan Topping

Last-minute Deals and Tips for New Year’s Eve


You still have options galore but don’t wait one minute more…

Very few cities aside from New York can match the outlandish excitement of a New Year’s Eve in Sin City. With all of the dining, entertainment and nightclub options, there is something to appeal to every taste.

Be aware, though, that restaurants fill up quickly and most require reservations. Same goes for hotels, and the closer to the actual date, the more prices will skyrocket. Many resorts prohibit checking in on December 31st and require a minimum two-night stay. So if you haven’t reserved your lodging yet, prepare for quite a bit of sticker shock. Prices will fluctuate frequently, often several times within a single day, so this article is only meant as a guideline. Check prices often and lock them in if something meets your budget.

Screenshot 2018-12-20 at 9.03.35 PM

When it comes to searching for hotel deals, this writer is partial to Kayak.com. Entering dates for a stay from December 30th through January 1st, you’ll see that the best deal out there (at the time this article was written) is at Downtown’s El Cortez. Priced at a non-refundable rate of $126.00 per night (plus taxes and fees) for a double suite, the El Cortez is a great last-minute option. It also puts you within walking distance of the wild street party held under the Fremont Street Experience canopy.

Screenshot 2018-12-20 at 9.19.56 PM

If you’d like to take in the Strip’s beautiful fireworks shows at midnight but want to avoid the insane crowds on Las Vegas Boulevard, consider two nights at Gold Coast Hotel Casino. Situated across from PALMS on Flamingo Road, Gold Coast has an assortment of wonderful restaurants and recently-updated rooms. Parking is free and you can easily walk to a number of nightclubs…even Voodoo Rooftop Nightclub at RIO for an unbeatable view.

Priceline.com is currently listing several room options at Gold Coast from $202 to $212 per night (plus taxes/fees) and free cancellation if you find a better deal elsewhere.

Screenshot 2018-12-20 at 9.22.42 PM

For those who absolutely must stay on the Strip to chime in 2019, the best price going right now is at LUXOR for $207, You’ll notice the inclusion of Westgate Hotel Casino in the photo above. Even though it’s not technically on the Strip, having its own dedicated monorail stop makes Westgate an absurdly convenient option to get around with ease.

Speaking of the Las Vegas Monorail, it’s truly the best way to traverse the city during this holiday. The monorail runs continuously from 7 am on December 31, 2018 through 2 am on January 2, 2019. Single rides are $5 and a 24-hour pass is $13. The track runs from MGM Grand on the south end to SLS Las Vegas on the north. Stations are in the rear of casinos and automated ticketing kiosks accept credit cards, cash and Google Pay. Click here for a guide to monorail resort stops.

Screenshot 2018-12-20 at 9.38.54 PM

Luxury hotels are available at press time and still not priced as outrageously as in previous years. Amoma.com is listing rooms at Wynn Las Vegas starting at $679 per night. With all of the nightclubs at the Wynn/Encore complex, this is certainly one worth considering for a high-end celebration.

Remember that the entire Las Vegas Strip is closed to all vehicles on New Year’s Eve starting at around 4 pm. Traffic is a nightmare and cars, buses and taxis will be squeezing onto the smaller back roads to get around town. So it’s highly advisable that you stay near where you plan to play, get situated early in the evening and have a plan to get around and back. You might also want to carry a fully-charged phone, a back-up battery and choose a meet-up point in case you get separated from your companions or have some kind of emergency.

Even though Vegas is in the desert, this is still winter. Plan on the possibility of cold weather and dress accordingly. You’ll also want to remember that crowded events pose issues of personal security. Keep your valuables as secure as you can, men should keep wallets in their front pockets, don’t accept drinks or food from strangers, etc. A little common sense will go a long way…and be especially careful of letting your guard down once the bubbly starts flowing.

There will be a significant increase in police presence on New Year’s Eve. Strollers, coolers, luggage, over-sized purses and backpacks will be prohibited on the Strip. Downtown’s Fremont Street Party is a ticketed event ($35 until Christmas Day, $45 after) and only those 21 and older are permitted. Click here for tickets to Fremont’s “America’s Party Downtown”.

downtown-couple

Expect security to be aggressive at nightclubs, too…along with hefty cover charges. Voodoo Nightclub at RIO has a $100 admission but includes open bar from 9 pm through 11 pm. Marquee Nightclub‘s admission at Cosmopolitan is $75 for women and $150 for men (say what?). Price includes hors d’oeuvres and open bar starting at 9 pm and a complimentary champagne toast at midnight.

Over at Caesars Palace, overhyped DJ Calvin Harris will be the hot draw for OMNIA Nightclub. Tickets cost $150 for women, $225 for men and include….absolutely nothing. Your dollars will go much farther at Aria‘s JEWEL, where admission is $52/$104 and gets you two hours of open bar and music by Tyga. You can add a four-course dinner at Herringbone for $175 per person, good from 7 pm through 11 pm.

108-Stargaze_hero_image

For the best view in all of Las Vegas, consider the Skyline Spectacular NYE Party at Stratosphere. For $250 per person you get the works:

Party in the Sky for a New Year’s Eve you won’t forget! Enjoy 3-hours of unlimited premium brand open bars, specialty drinks, martini luges and award-winning chef’s specialty food stations from around the world as you celebrate New Year’s Eve 800 feet above Las Vegas Boulevard in our iconic Tower’s indoor Observation Deck. Take in the spectacular Las Vegas New Year’s Eve Firework Show at Midnight with our signature champagne toast. Mingle and dance to live DJs and go-go dancers, and ring in 2019 in style.

Click here for tickets to Stratosphere’s Party in the Sky.

safe_image

Yours truly will be spending his first NYE as a Las Vegas resident in a somewhat conservative style. Just like last year, I’ll be enjoying great food, music and cocktails inside the cavernous ballroom of Westgate Las Vegas. Last year’s SUNDAY NIGHT FEVER costume party was a 70’s theme. This time they’ve jumped a decade ahead:

REVENGE OF THE 80s NYE PARTY: Pop your collar and jam out to music from the Spazmatics, celebrating the decade that gave us puzzle cubes, 8-bit obsessions, synth rock, shoulder pads, and other unforgettable fashions. You’re welcome to wear your sunglasses at night as you moonwalk your way out of 2018! $150 includes 3-course seated dinner and open bar.

The Westgate Revenge of the 80s party begins at 6 pm and is framed around an east-coast time zone ball drop (their home offices are in Florida). So you’ll have the opportunity to ring in 2019 at 9 pm…then do it all over again three hours later. Click here for tickets. Here’s a sample from last year’s entertainment:

There are a number of other inclusive events that’ll give you significant bang for your buck. For instance, Sugar Factory/Chocolate Lounge at Fashion Show Mall has a package deal for $99 via Groupon which in my opinion is the best NYE deal in the city. Here’s what you get:

  • General admission
  • What’s included: guest’s first goblet, free unlimited signature cocktails, unlimited champagne toast, buffet-style dinner, party with a DJ in the Chocolate Lounge, fireworks show at midnight, 20% discount off any retail purchase.
  • Bottomless signature cocktails to choose from: Peace, Love, Harmonie, Grape Crush, Lemon Drop, Watermelon Burst.
  • Buffet style dinner: chicken fingers, mini-burgers, fries, bruschetta, Caesar salad, mixed green salad, scalloped potatoes, green beans, chicken satay, grilled shrimp skewers, rigatoni marinara, meatballs, sandwiches, mini-cheesecake, chocolate cake, red velvet cake, assorted sundaes, brownies, cookies.
  • Time: 10 p.m.

While you won’t get the elevated views that Stratosphere or Voodoo Nightclub offer, it’s still a scenic and pretty sweet venue. The price on one Goblet Signature Cocktail by itself is upwards of $35 on a typical afternoon, so wrap your mind around the savings here.

0816181957_HDR

Neighborhood bars are a great way to drink in the Sin City vibe without feeling like your wallet has been stolen. Personal favorite The Golden Tiki on Spring Mountain Rd. will be featuring YouTube sensation Marc Rebillit with one of his offbeat musical performances. There’s no cover, complimentary hats/noisemakers and a free champagne toast at midnight.

tikibanner

For the LGBTQ crowd, The Garage on E. Flamingo Road makes the perfect locals’ NYE spot for guys who like guys. There’s a masculine auto-service theme, never an admission charge and the cheapest top-shelf drink prices in the city.

577582_430112573688656_1161086071_n

Across the street and down one block from The Garage, Hamburger Mary’s is offering $50 open bar from 9 pm-midnight (well&draft), Champagne Bottles $25, Skyy $75 and Absolut for $100. Entertainment from7 pm-Midnight and a countdown with entertainer Kenneth Blake. Complimentary champagne toast while watching the fireworks on their Strip-view patio.

maryheader1

The most unusual NYE party for this season has gotta be the one at Spiegelworld’s hit show at ABSINTHE at Caesars Palace:

For an all-inclusive celebration, The Gazillionaire has a huge package for you. Arrive from 8.30pm for a complimentary glass of champagne in the Absinthe forecourt. Then enjoy a performance of ABSINTHE from 9.30pm to 11.00pm. After the show, you will have exclusive access to a private outdoor party in the Absinthe forecourt, on Stripside at Caesars Palace, which includes an open bar, light hors d’oeuvres, DJ and one of the best views of the fireworks. The party will conclude at 1am.

31960347_1725780637487091_5445741935434137600_n

The all-inclusive Show & Party ticket prices are $599 for VIP seating, $499 for Category A seats and $299 for Category B seating, which is one hell of a deal for a Sin City party and show. Click here to reserve your tickets and party admission.

Be sure to stay safe this holiday and don’t drive while impaired. LYFT rideshare service is offering a NYE discount to get you there and back. “Whether you are celebrating on the Strip, bar hopping, or partying at a friends house, we want everyone to get home safe on New Year’s Eve and other holidays throughout the year”, says Yacob Girma, Lyft Nevada’s general manager.

The Las Vegas Coalition for Zero Fatalities has donated $200,000 in ride credits to LYFT. Access your discount by using code “LASNYE10”. Have a wonderful time and a spectacular 2019.

20171231_210336 (1)

Photos: Sam Novak, Stratosphere, Fremont Street Experience, ABSINTHE, Westgate Hotel Casino, The Golden Tiki, The Garage LV

Thunder From Down Under: Time To Toss Out This Outback Throwback


Long-running male revue needs to desperately up its game plan…

Maybe it’s just an off-season phenomenon. Perhaps it’s the temporary venue being utilized during their theater renovation. But more likely, being covered in dust has more to do with neglect than construction debris.

IMAG0031.jpg

Whatever the reason, Excalibur’s THUNDER FROM DOWN UNDER is a relic in need of a serious upgrade. Out of touch with the times and suffering from a complete lack of production values, this by-the-numbers slog is about as erotic as a post-Halloween jack-o-lantern that’s left sitting on the porch to rot.

Much of the blame rests squarely on the muscular shoulders of Marcus Deegan, the host of this sad little time capsule. Abrasive and short-tempered, Deegan seems to take delight in belittling rowdy audience members. That’s totally unacceptable, especially in the type of show where getting wild is typically not only welcomed but encouraged.

37609814_10216288340022024_3706099585769275392_n

           Host Marcus Deegan will put you in your place. No fun allowed…

The past two times that I’ve seen THUNDER, Deegan’s stopped the show dead in its tracks to berate rowdy women. He’s gone so far as to blatantly tell them to “Shut the f*ck up”. On one occasion, he even came out during final bows to flip his middle finger at an audience member while mouthing “F*ck you!”…and it wasn’t done with a wink.

Such obnoxious treatment of guests might be tolerable if the show itself was a must-see. Unfortunately, this isn’t 1974 and Excalibur isn’t in remote Tonopah Nevada. Contemporary visitors to Sin City have every reason to expect flashy high-tech glitz but that just ain’t happening inside this sad little showroom at The Castle.

IMAG0033

Despite being currently housed in an abandoned casino-side location once home to the bankrupt Lynyrd Skynryd BBQ (which itself has been collecting cobwebs behind a wall for six years) the show is virtually unchanged from its usual upstairs location. With a plain black-canvas backdrop, awkward tables that resemble balance beams and rows of uncomfortable bar stools, it’s clear that no expense has been…er, spent to elevate your experience.

As for the show itself, it’s everything that the equally awful Magic Mike Live ridicules male revues for being. Packed with rote production numbers, Thunder will have you mentally scratching off each item from the list of cliches as it plays out on a cheap plywood stage. Erotic vampires? Yep. Law enforcement and military officers? Of course. George of the Jungle and a gorilla? Unfortunately, that’s here too.

Then there is the requisite songbook that every male revue includes: “Uptown Funk”, “Save A Horse – Ride A Cowboy” and a Michael Jackson number all get spun by the DJ, along with that brain-piercing Beyonce earworm “Run The World – Girls”.  The costumes are cheap, there are no sets to speak of and props are at a bare minimum. Choreography is decent but certainly not innovative.

43597873_10156822773886473_5046811581841670144_n

As for the performers, they’re an unremarkable lot that actually seem quite bored. Going through very basic movements with a minimum of energy or attention to synchronization, the cast projects a complete absence of sincerity…and a clear lack of engagement. These guys seem more interested in their gym memberships than creating a memorable experience for the audience.

One notable exception is Chad Homan, formerly of the far superior Aussie Heat at Planet Hollywood. The youngest member of Thunder, Chad’s also the best dancer by far. Smiling from ear to ear, he spins and sails through the air in ways the other guys could only hope to pull off. He also brings inclusive energy and audience interaction from his previous gig, even hugging male audience members (apparently a no-no here).

Speaking of that matter, THUNDER flounders next-to-last on my published ranking of male revues for their treatment of men. Guys are barely acknowledged here and host Deegan even says something to the effect of “This night is for ladies only…you won’t see your guys here”. Take away from that what you will. But in this era of inclusion, saying “Ladies ladies ladies” is another example of just how dated the Outback boys really are.

IMAG0034

                    Free tickets abound yet the showroom is nearly empty…

Perhaps it’s rather telling that, despite the proliferation of free tickets on MyVegas (the online game that awards real prizes) and various fill-a-seat services, Thunder From Down Under was roughly 75 percent empty last night. You’d think that with the current tidal wave of cowgirls here for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the venue would have been overflowing. Instead, it resembled a dried-up lake during a severe Aussie drought.

Let’s hope that when a newly-renovated theater debuts at Excalibur, the shopworn Thunder From Down Under also unleashes a fresh new version. Until then, it’ll continue to be a great big middle finger to the audience. So save your discretionary income for genuine grade-A beef like the Chippendales. Or maybe just a bargain cut of steak at your local Outback restaurant.

If you’re going: Thunder From Down Under performs nightly at 9 pm with an additional 11 pm show on Fridays and Saturdays. Tickets start at $50.95 (plus taxes/fees) and can be purchased here

Photos/video: Sam Novak, Marcus Deegan/Thunder From Down Under via Facebook 

 

Lost Vegas – When Your Favorites Are Gone Forever


The decision-makers of Vegas may want you to forget all about what “used to be”, but not me…

Everyone knows about the ever-changing face of Vegas. While the publicity machine churns out NEW! BETTER! BEST! in the hopes of grabbing your attention (and getting a fair share of your travel stash), they fail to mention that, in the process, you might be losing your favorite Vegas “whatevers”. Most times they’ll disappear, with no hope of returning and never to be mentioned again. In today’s round of “Lost Vegas”, I’ll share some of my own fond memories…and perhaps a couple of tears.

Chef Kerry Simon passed away in 2015 after battling MSA disease, a form of Parkinson’s. His death was preceded by the closing of two Vegas restaurants, Simon’s at Palms Place and KGB Burger Bar inside Harrah’s. While I was fond of Simon’s for its location and ambiance, it was the food at KGB that drew me back many times.

10435906_10152183301721964_8262929611110970047_n (1)

My favorite item there was the Thanksgiving Turkey Burger, a one-of-a-kind holiday celebration on a bun: big juicy turkey patty, stuffing, cranberry relish and sprouts topped off with a layer of turkey gravy. That belt-buster was even better when washed down with a Captain Crunch milkshake.

My favorite KGB server, Chris, used to offer his own variation of the Crunch shake, topping it with strawberry syrup. All the better to evoke memories of morning cartoons with a bowl of Crunch Berries, the best variety of Captain Crunch.

Kerry’s legacy will live on at Carson Kitchen, his final culinary offering to Sin City. We’ll miss you, Mr. Simon…and those fond recollections of Thanksgiving and Saturday mornings in front of the TV.

From there we move to Neonopolis, the troubled downtown shopping/entertainment complex which has been mired by a history of failures. The biggest one-two punch came with the simultaneous closings of Krave Massive and Drink and Drag.

Both businesses catered primarily to the LGBTQ crowd, but Drink and Drag was much more of a progressive mix of gay and straight. This nightclub/bowling alley was the epitome of Vegas oddities, mixing lip-syncing drag queens, pool tables, tasty food and muscular shirtless bartenders into one wild ride.

WP_20130907_048

Always a blast, especially for those with an open mind, Drink and Drag quickly became a hit. The former Jillian’s location offered big entertainment–and a very unusual evening on the town…for chump change. Unfortunately, there was more behind-the-scenes drama than a truckload of divas sharing a dressing room. Management and liquor-license issues ultimately closed the doors, taking sister club Krave Massive (one level up) with it.

The final incarnation of Strip mainstay Krave never really took hold downtown, despite a temporary life at Rio, which kept the brand in circulation during the construction phase. Promising to one day become the biggest gay venue in the world (complete with a rooftop pool) Krave Massive was more like Krave Minor…it lasted only four months. Most sections of the club were never completed, and those that were accessible lacked…a lot.

The former occupant of that third-floor space didn’t fare much better. Galaxy Theaters at Neonopolis once offered mainstream movies to downtown visitors and residents. What started off as a 14-screen multiplex was later downsized to 11. The theater complex was poorly maintained and drew a frequently rough customer demographic. It even operated without air conditioning (unthinkable in the desert heat) for the last several months of its existence.

547129_367534593319209_1091919068_n

The theater was closed abruptly on the eve of the new Star Trek reboot on May 7th, 2009. Neonopolis frontman Rohit Joshi explained that without digital projection upgrades, Galaxy Theaters would need to “maintain its competitive edge” by shutting down. With logic like that, it’s no wonder that Neonopolis continues to sit mostly empty.

Speaking of Star Trek, the former Star Trek Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton continues to garner mentions at the annual Trek convention at Rio. Offering rides, character experiences, weddings, dining, a mock-up of “Quark’s Bar”, gift shops and a museum, Star Trek Experience drew visitors from all over the world. For many, it was the only reason to visit the otherwise-floundering Hilton (now a more successful Westgate Hotel Casino).

Star Trek entrance

WP_20150221_074

At one point, Rohit Joshi (him again) promised to reopen Star Trek Experience at Neonopolis, in conjunction with a new Star Trek film on May 8, 2009. Obviously that didn’t work out so well. These days, the casino portion of the Star Trek space is being used by Westgate timeshare sales people as a presentation room. A curious end to an otherwise-legendary exhibit.

IMG_1363

In the 1990’s, it seemed like every casino wanted to have thrill rides – IMAX simulators, roller coasters, sometimes even an entire amusement park. A few remain, but two of my favorites are long gone. The first I experienced, on my inaugural trip to Vegas, was the High Roller. No, not the observation wheel at the Linq, but a roller coaster that once wound around the top of the Stratosphere. That slow-moving train was more about the height than the dips, but I’ll never forget stepping into the car, looking over the edge and saying “I must be insane to do this”. High Roller was closed and dismantled in December of 2005.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sahara Hotel was home to Speed: The Ride, a fast-moving coaster that shot riders from inside the building onto the Strip. It turned them upside down, then sped up even faster for a jaw-dropping vertical climb. Once the train came to a stop, it ran backwards and returned to the station through a cool misty fog, all in a very rapid 45 seconds.

Speed was dismantled with the closure of Sahara and was slated to be rebuilt near Mandalay Bay under the shadow of a second planned giant observation wheel called SkyVue. Years later, the pylons for that stalled project remained unfinished and the property has a “For Sale” sign on the corner of the lot. Was Rohit Joshi involved in this venture? We can’t help wondering…

IMG_1290

Free attractions were once a popular way to lure people into the casinos…and hopefully to keep them there. Now that gambling is no longer the hot ticket, every available space seems to be destined for retailing. Hence, the removal of the white tiger pool at Mirage for a burger joint, the lions at MGM Grand for a sports pub, the Sirens and Pirates at Treasure Island for a CVS Drugstore, and on and on.

IMG_1426

Many others are removed due to costly maintenance and staffing expenses, like Rio‘s Show In The Sky, the Gods of the Festival Fountain (moving statues) at Caesars Palace Forum Shops, the lobby aquarium at Mandalay Bay and the Roman centurions that once strolled through Caesars Palace. Some attractions just yield to the times, like Merlin’s Dragon Battle at Excalibur…and the Sphinx water/laser show and Nile River Ride, both at Luxor.

What favorite attractions, features or offerings do you miss in today’s Vegas? Feel free to share in the comments below.

Photos: Sammasseur, Greg C., Banner photo via Cuningham Group Architecture

Escape to Paradise at the Year’s Biggest Party


AFAN’s annual Black and White Ball fundraiser transforms into an 80’s-style pool party for 2018…

Earlier this year I told you about AFAN‘s 28th annual AIDS Walk for Life, which was a massive success. As Nevada’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to HIV/AIDS, AFAN provides supportive services to more than 1,200 clients. This includes free HIV testing, prevention education, client transportation to healthcare providers, rent and utility assistance, nutritional counseling, food vouchers, mental health therapy and kids’ programs.

AIDS Walk for Life is one of two major events that AFAN organizes…and the other hits Las Vegas this coming weekend. Saturday September 8th, Daylight Beach Club at Mandalay Bay will be host to Escape To Paradise: Black and White Party 2018. Start time is 8:30 pm, with VIP admissions getting a one-hour jump on the fun.

Image may contain: 2 people, shoes

          Jennifer Romas and Antonio E. Granda Manzano (photo by Noel Dahl)

AFAN’s marketing director Andrew Ryan, best known to audiences as a featured member of DIVAS LAS VEGAS, has been tirelessly promoting Black and White Party in recent weeks. From numerous Facebook posts to nonstop television appearances, the gold-hearted entertainer has been doing a fantastic job to raise awareness for the event…and the AFAN charity as a whole.

AFAN1

This week, Andrew got to appear…and get comfortable on the couch…with my favorite Chippendale Ryan Worley. The men were on the KTNV’s Morning Blend show to promote B & W with host Jennifer Jean Snyder. You may remember Jennifer as one of my dance partners at last summer’s BAZ Boot Camp.

AFAN1

                 Andrew Ryan and Ryan Worley on The Morning Blend…

“It’s over the top. It’s glamorous. And it’s one of the most anticipated parties of the year” said co-host Shawn Tempesta. And he couldn’t be more correct, as this year, Black and White Party is going aquatic.

Guests are invited to swim, dance, eat, drink and dress as daring as you care to. Dress code is black and white attire with an 80’s theme encouraged. The party is not family-friendly, as there will be skimpy costumes and adult entertainment galore.

Image may contain: 7 people, including Ben Forbes, Lenard Trae, Simon Farrow and George Blick, people smiling, people standing

         Jennifer Romas, Fabian Batey (far right) and the cast of Aussie Heat…

Along with the Chippendales being “ambassadors” of a sort, the gentlemen from Aussie Heat will be stirring up guests’ libidos. So will Jennifer Romas and the ladies of Westgate‘s SEXXY – The Show. Hunky David Goldrake of Tropicana‘s IMAGINARIUM will mystify and astound…along with raising a few pulses.

David Goldrake IMAGINARIUM

      Magician David Goldrake will be getting wet at Daylight Beach Club…

Additional entertainment in the line-up comes courtesy of Jacinthe Morearty (pole-dance artist from 53X), Adore Delano, magician Murray SawChuck, Miss Behave, Norma Llyaman, the cast of VEGAS! The Show, Tenors of Rock, American Idol‘s Kyle Khou, Penn & Teller and East Side Riot. Johnny Randall aka DJ AXIS will be luring you to the dance floor throughout the evening.

Image may contain: Jacinthe Morearty, closeup

                                                      Jacinthe Morearty…

A veritable mountain of sponsors is providing spirits and nibbles to enjoy at Black and White. Brio Tuscan Grille, Hamburger Mary’s, Four Seasons Hotel, Libertine Social, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Hussong’s Mexican Cantina, House of Blues and Slice of Vegas Pizza Kitchen will keep you going from the first bite to the last sip.

If you’re not ready to hang up your sexy costume when the party winds down at 11:30 pm, head over to nearby Piranha Nightclub for the official after-party. There will be a free shuttle to transport guests to Piranha from the Black and White event, starting at 11:30 pm.

Image may contain: text

100% of the proceeds stay in Nevada to support AFAN’s client services. Aid for AIDS of Nevada provides support and advocacy for adults and children living with and affected by HIV/AIDS in southern Nevada. AFAN works to reduce HIV infection through prevention education to eliminate fear, prejudice and the stigma associated with the disease.

No automatic alt text available.

General admission, Vip tickets, tables and cabana packages are on sale now at www.afanlv.org.

Photos: Black and White Party, Noel Dahl, Andrew Ryan, David Goldrake, Tommy Mac, Sammasseur 

Hamburger Mary’s FINALLY Unleashes The Beef


Unique food and entertainment destination’s long-delayed debut is here…

It’s been more than a year since Hamburger Mary’s Las Vegas missed its projected opening date. There have actually been more delays and postponements than a Mariah Carey or Madonna concert. Some social-media skeptics have questioned whether the fun, quirky venue will EVER actually open.

But I’ve just returned from the official first hour of business and can say without a doubt: Hamburger Mary’s is going to be fabulous!

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

                       My original announcement as it appeared last summer…

No doubt you’ve seen my original piece that announced Mary’s return to the scene. It’s been one of my most heavily-read, suggesting that the Vegas community is really behind the venture.

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

So despite the low-key and quiet opening today (to allow for server training and fine-tuning operations), eager diners were lined up well before the doors unlocked. They were braving the heat for a first taste of Mary’s meat.

0815181239

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

Amid opening jitters and lots of excitement, partners Luigi Placencia and James Healey and General Manager Eleneki “Ernie” Yuen welcomed their first guests to the bright and campy restaurant and cabaret.

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

With everything that I saw today, Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas should be a big hit with the local community. It remains to be seen if the lucrative tourist trade can be made aware of its existence, but plans are in the works to draw fun-seekers from the Strip as well.

The large space at 1700 E. Flamingo Road is a true gem with ample free parking. Two dining rooms, two bars and two stages will allow for multi-purpose entertainment. An outdoor patio will be completed soon, adding to the mix.

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

Club Mary’s will take over one section of the venue on weekend nights beginning at 11pm. Food service is available from opening til 11pm on weekdays and until 4am for those party nights of Friday and Saturday.

 

A limited menu is in effect for the soft opening, which should run until the first week of September. Then comes the Grand Opening gala with everything Hamburger Mary’s is known for. Prepare yourself for outrageous drag shows, sexy male dancers…and perhaps a certain gathering of hunks that I’ve been working on for awhile.

39245691_10103837533608913_3078105483681202176_n

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

                Yes, your bill will come to you in a high heel shoe…

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

         Gender-neutral restrooms – Mary’s progressive all-welcome philosophy…

As Ernie Yuen posted on Facebook today, the challenges to plan out Mary’s return to the city will be worth it in the long run:

It’s been 17 months since Luigi Placencia and I met. I was doing a in-house call for our Las Vegas PRIDE Magazine. Lou wanted to be an advertising partner with Las Vegas PRIDE to promote his nightclub (FLAIR). We were sitting in this empty space, a very large room with 3 walls and a bar connected to a room that looked like a kitchen.

Luigi Placencia and I clicked, both of us with potty mouths and crazy personalities. We instantly became friends. This all started with one question an honest answer and a promise.

The Question- What are you going to do with this amazing space?

The Answer- I wanted to build a home for our Las Vegas LGBT Community

The Promise- If you build a Hamburger Mary’s I promise to come and work for you and be your GM.

Today- excited, happy, nervous- we open our doors at 11:00am- It’s finally here. Let the fun begin!

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

             Myself with partners James Healey (left) and Luigi Placencia…

Hamburger Mary's Las Vegas

   With FLO Advertising’s Mike Foland aka “Money Mike” of Men of the Strip…

Based on what I saw today, Hamburger Mary’s Las Vegas should be a big hit with the local community. It remains to be seen if the lucrative tourist trade can be made aware of its existence. No doubt plans are in the works to draw fun-seekers from the Strip as well.

Good luck to everyone and I’ll be seeing you. A lot.

Hamburger Mary’s is located at 1700 East Flamingo Road. Hours are from 11am to 11pm weekdays, Friday and Saturday until 4am.

Photos: Sammasseur, David Vincent via Facebook