Sin City Dancing Returns in an exciting All-American way…
Yes, it’s true that Las Vegas is back. And if the packed airline flights that I’ve recently taken are any indication, that’s the way it’s going to stay. Restaurants, pools, and shows have opened up to increased capacity, and more fun and freedom are on the horizon. But what about dancing???
Photos from mid-April 2021
The pathway to reopening nightclubs in our new era is going to be tricky. Too bad there aren’t any outdoor dancing venues around town to speak of. But award-winning line dancer George Blick has a plan to make COVID-safe line dancing the latest Sin City trend.
Gallery by Vinnie Cassidy…
“Line Dancing improves stamina, muscle tone and coordination, is a great stress buster and energy booster. Dancing is a unique form of exercise because it provides the heart-healthy benefits of an aerobic exercise while allowing you to engage in a social activity. It’s a community, and it’s all about having fun” says George.
If you are in the camp that doesn’t find this activity to be appealing or hip, you might be in for a big surprise. Despite being a skeptic myself, I joined George and his crew, pre-pandemic, for an evening of fun at Stoney’s Rocking Country at Town Square. The youthful crowd was extremely high-energy and raucous, and all eyes turned towards George when he entered the dance floor. It’s quite a sight.
Blick Linedance began a YouTube Channel in October 2019, long before COVID-19 changed our way of life. An accompanying Facebook Page and official website keep fans up-to-date on the latest classes and events. George’s tutorials blend socializing, physical fitness and a love for good ole country music into a rip-roaring great time. Fortunately, the need for distancing of participants is built right into the checkerboard format. So…win-win!
“The only way to keep the fire going is to outrun the wind.” – George Blick
Dancing has always been George’s passion. The Laine Theater Arts graduate holds six consecutive World Championship titles, has performed for the Queen, entertained aboard cruise ships, and shared his talents in over fifty countries.
On May 1st, George will be heading to California Ranch Company in Temecula for an outdoor festival. The EDGE DANCE EVENT invites guests to grab their camping gear, hook up their RV’s and prepare for a boot-scooting good time. Tickets and registration are available here.
Closer to home, Blick Line Dance holds beginner and intermediate classes in Las Vegas for those yearning to get out and enjoy themselves in a safer setting. Sessions take place Mondays (beginner) and Wednesdays (intermediate) at 9am inside Seniors Helping Seniors. Their center is located at 451 E. Bonanza Road. Classes last one hour and are quite a bargain at only five dollars each. Click here for more details.
Going forward, George would like to take advantage of warmer weather to bring line dancing “out to the streets”. He’s actively seeking venues with large spaces, paved surfaces and courtyards to launch concepts like “Linedance Brunch”, early-evening nightclub socials and the like. Perhaps it’s time to bring flash mobs back to the Fremont Street Experience?
Vegas is back on its feet, and it’s time to bring a little “country” to Sin City. If you have a performance venue, group, club, or special event that could use an infusion of fun, contact George Blick to see what he can bring to the floor. You can reach him right here.
…or “What happens when two Las Vegas heroes launch a business during a pandemic”…
Once again, the challenges of 2020 have resulted in new, innovative and positive changes for our community. From daring music performances to the resurrection of old-school supper clubs and modern upgrades to the hospitality industry, Las Vegas has hit the “reset” button and is experiencing a fast-paced rebirth.
While some changes happened overnight, a pair of hometown heroes has been carefully curating a new approach to food trucks, those roadside food emporiums that soared in popularity during the “NO INDOOR DINING ALLOWED” madness of last year. But instead of the usual taco platters and BBQ’d ribs, this mobile kitchen promises an American-fusion menu with healthy flair.
UNICUS MANUFACTUS aka U.M Trailer Bistro, is a curious name for an enterprise by first responders Daniel Sauls and Gunnar Walcavich. These two heroic friends protect the city’s citizens when the sun goes down and the bad guys come out. In the light of day, they’re whipping up creative new dishes to tickle the taste buds and build healthier bodies. That’s when they’re not hitting the gym to keep their own physiques in superhero condition.
The boys came up with the UNICUS MANUFACTUS moniker to acknowledge their mission statement, one that promises healthy, delicious dishes at the lowest possible price…all while never compromising quality. The Latin word Unicus means sole/unique/uncommon:
We didn’t pick the name “Unicus” because it sounded good. We picked it because Unicus is what we are. Our trailer looks different. Our food tastes different. Even our prices are different. We can guarantee there is nobody like us in the industry, that’s simply because we try harder.
You can tell that our nature is humanitarian, from the attention we give each customer to the prices across our menu. We ran through finance scenarios over and over to find the lowest numbers we could use on our menu BEFORE the pandemic. We want it to be apparent that we care.
We are constantly thinking of ways, current and future, that we might be able to better Vegas with our existence. Our entire menu consists of items at $5 or less. We are (to my knowledge) the first mobile food business that provides not only caloric dietary information but MACROS as well!
We want to make ourselves available to those that need us most, as our mission is first and foremost to serve. We will diligently search for areas that service medical workers, first responders, and essential personnel during these trying times, in hopes to bring the most delicious food with a price that makes the most sense.
The truth of that was most apparent recently when kitchen wizard Daniel had to undergo emergency surgery to save his life. Mere days later, he and Gunnar were back at that same hospital with UM Trailer Bistro to thank the hospital workers with their creations. They comped meals for anyone who wore scrubs:
We held a surprise service for the hospital that saved my life a little over a week ago. We always have so many hurdles to jump to try and accomplish things because of how new and small we are. We are a couple of persistent guys though, and yesterday was proof NOTHING CAN STOP US.
Persistence is a quality that Gunnar Walcavich exemplifies in spades. Vegas Unfiltered Blog readers first met this towering Russian boxer in my piece on ‘Quarantine Fitness‘, where I described his achievements and skills at getting people motivated.
The formerly-overweight (and always-mugging) Gunnar recently earned a certification in Food Handling/Safety to accompany his personal training and nutritionist certifications. And his jacked physique makes the perfect canvas for Unicus Fitness Apparel that’s now available in the “Merch Market” section of their website.
The menu at UM Trailer Bistro is a taste-tempting collection of recipes that Daniel has gathered from family members in Hawaii, along with others that he’s perfected through multiple trials. Pan-Asian influences are reflected in dishes like Agedashi Tofu, Ramen, Udon and Chashu bowl, and a Hawaiian Toast Breakfast plate.
Daniel is especially proud of his freshly-made Shrimp and Grits and Fresh Pour-over Hot Chicory, a nutty, cajun-influenced alternative to traditional coffee beverages. And every item is served with style and a smile, accompanied by fun music from their vintage-style Victrola sound system.
We care about your enjoyment down to each bite and sip, and you can taste it every time. When you pay, you want to know that you got real ingredients, made WHEN you asked not before, and made with the care that we all desire our own food and drink to be handled with; and that’s our guarantee.
We promise that EVERY time you come by you will receive our best attempt at perfect service. Your food hits your hand hot, and your drink is either perfectly cold or has steam coming from it. You see us make each part of your drink, and even shake/stir it to make sure even your first sip is perfectly mixed and chilled. We actually care, and we care THAT much; and if you don’t believe us, come call our delicious bluff.
Along with the regular (and growing) menu, there is always a featured daily special to tempt you away from established favorites. And Unicus Manufactus has launched a 3-level loyalty program that can reward you with discounts and giveaways, one free item per month, up to a free item with every visit (purchase required).
The boys just announced a partnership with Tempo Ultra Lounge at 1000 East Sahara Avenue, where they’ll be every Friday and Saturday night beginning April 2nd. To learn where else to visit the UM Bistro Trailer, follow them on Facebook, check out the YouTube Channel, or subscribe at the official website.
“Unique Handmade Culinary Creations & Libations for just $5. Need I say more???” – Unicus Manufactus
Long-running male revue takes early lead as most-improved production of 2021…
Regular readers of Vegas Unfiltered Blog have probably figured out by now that this writer is an out-and-proud gay man. If you haven’t, my long-running “Hot Guys of Vegas” series should have tipped you off. Nevertheless, this column has never been focused on that aspect of my personal life. I just mention it now to give some insight on my perspective of male revues.
Clowning with the guys of “Aussie Heat”…
That being said, I’ve spent many a night with my friends at Aussie Heat and Chippendales. And I’ve deliberately avoided that misguided mess called Magic Mike Live (one of the worst major productions of any kind). The other that’s been high on my “Do Not Fly” list is Australia’s Thunder From Down Under at Excalibur.
My first visit to “Thunder” was in December 2015…
If you’re curious as to why “Thunder” ranks so low in the hierarchy of Vegas beef-fests, the full review from 2018 is here. But I can give you the Cliff Notes version:
“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.”
Now, I experience no joy in publishing negative reviews, especially when the cast and crew are rarely to blame. “Thunder” being in a temporary venue at the time (their second-floor showroom was undergoing a desperately-needed re-fit) certainly didn’t help. But three years later, I revisited this “Outback throwback” on a whim and found myself having a fantastic evening.
“Thunder” shares a revamped showroom with “Australian Bee Gees”…
Let’s start with the venue itself. The newly-christened THUNDERLAND showroom received a pretty modern retrofit. The odd two-level footprint is sadly unchanged, and the choice of furniture is somewhat curious (psuedo-IKEA, much like Mat Franco’s space at The Linq). But the current positioning of seats and tables has improved the sight lines. Moving video walls double as a stage curtain, bar service has received an overhaul (with optional online ordering), and the lighting/sound system booms like a beating chest.
Speaking of chests, the cast of Thunder is one pec-tastic bunch. Each is chiseled, handsome, and much better at dancing than the last go-round. And this is where I noticed the first major improvement…individual performers are given a chance to shine. Each guy is introduced after their respective showcase moment, removes their mask, offers a few words to the audience…and one even sings the rafters loose.
As for the ensemble numbers….my biggest gripe was the lazy choreography and cliched acts. Mercifully, “George of the Jungle” seems to have crashed into his final tree, and the vampires have retreated to their coffins. Replacing them are an uncomfortable SWAT team sequence in riot gear (too soon, guys) and a take on the 300 Spartans (meh). The rest is a top-shelf combination of musical hits, contemporary moves, and extreme athleticism that brings horney guests to their feet.
It’s worth noting that the element of male audience inclusion remains unchanged since my last review:
“Don’t expect to get more than a fist-bump from the dancers as they work their way through the audience. The rough-and-tumble men of the Outback are dripping with testosterone, but only seem interested in sharing it with the ladies.”
The show is specifically geared towards women, and the few guys in attendance are presumed to be supportive straight men (not tonight, fellas!). Hopefully the minds behind Thunder will catch up with the all-are-welcome Aussie Heat and realize that they’re turning away an untapped, lucrative market. Click here and here for more of my analysis on that topical subject.
New host Scott Reading is sass, class…and one sweet surprise…
Now for the best improvement of all….host Scott Reading. This bloke is just about everything you could hope for in a male-revue emcee. He’s sexy, charming, charismatic, funny, engaging, spontaneous, and downright fantastic. In other words, he’s everything that former front-man Marcus Deegan wasn’t:
Abrasive and short-tempered, Deegan seems to take delight in belittling rowdy audience members. 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 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.
Yes, Marcus…that’s the exit door…
Who knows how many ticket-buyers failed to return thanks to Marcus and his abusive antics? But with any luck, he’s gone for good. Let’s hope that Scott Reading is a permanent fixture. He alone is worth the price of admission….and that’s before he unleashes a massive surprise at the finale.
With the recent sale of RIO Hotel Casino to Hyatt, there’s no telling when gold-standard CHIPPENDALES will return to Sin City…if ever. Thank goodness Thunder From Down Under has stepped up to the plate. It’s an early front-runner for “Most Improved Production of 2021”. And once COVID restrictions are finally removed, this generous serving of beef from the Outback will become a veritable buffet.
Australia’s Thunder From Down Under performs Wednesday through Monday at 9pm with additional showtimes on weekends. Click here for full schedule and to order tickets. Prices start at $70.95 (plus taxes/fees).
Photos: Sam Novak, Thunder From Down Under, Scott Reading via Instagram
European-influenced acrobatic production packs a lot of flirtation into a gorgeously lush showroom…
“Love comes from the most unexpected places.” – Barbra Streisand
It was inevitable. With Cirque du Soleil on an ongoing hiatus and both ZUMANITY and Le Reve – The Dream shuttering forever, it was only a matter of time before some of their top-level talent came together to create something new. And as I’ve said many times before, COVID-19 has had an ancillary effect of spurring creativity. Combine those two elements, drop them into a stunning cabaret and you have APÉRO, a delightful new show at Baobab Stage in Town Square.
APÉRO‘s premise is built around aperatif, the oh-so-French tradition of early-evening libations and nibbles (something you’re invited to partake of at Baobab Cafe adjacent to the showroom). An ultra-hot cast of three men and three women meet, greet, flirt, switch around…and try to impress each other with feats of grace and strength. A threadbare concept to be sure, but who cares when the antics are this sexy?
APÉRO is geared towards adults, but there’s no nudity (the guys do get shirtless, thank goodness) or anything overtly sexual. Just a bunch of charming young people strutting their impressive bodies skills and having a great time.
The sensual atmosphere and strikingly-appointed Baobab Stage create a total escape from reality. You’ll believe that you’re in a vintage European cabaret. I was hard-pressed to look away from the stunning wall coverings, overstuffed love seats, ornate light fixtures and artwork. A 20-minute intermission allows you to drink in the settings and indulge in another aperatif or share a bottle of wine with your companion. But….back to the show.
The cast of APÉRO is a veritable who’s who of the athletic arts. Towering Damir Mouzdybaev is 6 feet, 3 inches of chiseled muscle who opens the production. Lithe, God-like, and sensual, he guides the cast through their various interactions…and has his own adventures along the way. Damir was most recently in Le Reve – The Dream, and has performed in Ringling Brothers and “Marvel Universe Live”.
Damir Mouzdybaev (with Angelique Janowski), photography by @benjaminhphoto
Aerial hoop artist/dancer/choreographer Angelique Janowski spent several years at ZUMANITY until the pandemic clipped the show’s wings. Undeterred, she and a few colleagues formed Visionary Pack Collective, which produces APÉRO. A graduate of two art schools in France,. Ms. Janowski performed hundred of hours for audiences in Paris before coming to Las Vegas.
Dazzling Natsumi Miyazaki performed in Le Reve alongside Damir Mouzdybaev, where the two of them soared through the air and danced on water. APÉRO finds the award-winning synchronized swimmer airborne once more, this time via an amusing pole sequence. Her charming character is a little sassy, a little sweet, and a whole lotta “wow”.
Natsumi Miyazaki, photo by Charles Lohman
Beefy, brooding Roman Tomanov is the “bad boy” of the cast. Decked out in a leather jacket and ribbed tank shirt, he performs gymnastic feats, then takes flight for the aerial straps. Roman has been in the casts of ABSINTHE and Kà (by Cirque du Soleil), along with Cirque’s KURIOS and LE NOIR in Tokyo.
Roman Tomanov strikes a pose in APÉRO
Mongolian contortionist Tsatsral Erdenebileg will have you gasping with her stunning flexibility. That’s certainly what occurred when the audience I was a part of saw her abilities. You’ll be awed, amazed, and perhaps even cringing when you witness what this Guinness World recordholder can achieve. Tsatsral also comes to APÉRO by way of ZUMANITY.
Tsatsral Erdenebileg is APÉRO’s stunning contortionist…
Is it possible for juggling to be sexy? If the performer is Vladislav Miagkostoupov, then the answer is a resounding “Yes”! Part clown, part underdog, and the “nice boy” of the troupe, Vladislav combines dancing and juggling into a hysterical mixture which defines his signature style. The European acrobat entertained Vegas audiences in ZOMBIE BURLESQUE and V: The Ultimate Variety Show before landing on his feet at Baobab Stage.
Vladik Miagkostoupov will juggle his way to your funnybone…
There is plenty of DNA from ZUMANITY behind the scenes of APÉRO, too. Niccole Dunn, co-founder of Visionary Pack Collective, spent seventeen years at Cirque‘s first adults-only show. Skilled at backstage duties and wardrobe design, Niccole created the costumes for APÉRO and is entrenched in making the public aware of their new production.
Pavel Gurov serves as Artistic Director/Acrobatic Advisor, and Jorge Salomone (Niccole Dunn’s husband) is Technical Director. Salmone was involved in the video elements of ZUMANITY, and Gurov is a performing artist himself.
The Baobab Cafe, Boutique and Showroom are all operated by Wassa Coulibaly, who spent several years as a dancer at New York NY‘s resident Cirque show. In some ways, she seems to have become the de facto “mom” of this ambitious endeavor, and shares the Collective’s enthusiasm.
The fact that APÉRO was born from the shockwaves of an international pandemic isn’t forgotten by the cast and creative team. All performers wear masks during the show, the audience is capped out within legal limits, and there’s even a COVID-19 protocols/procedures page on the show’s official website.
Final bows after a recent performance…
With live entertainment just now ramping up after almost a year of darkened stages, the producers knew they had to work long-term sustainability into their model:
Visionary Pack Collective was born of a small group of artists and industry professionals eager to create something sustainable and beautiful in this unprecedented time. The Baobab Stage is a cool small theatre and we wanted to make a show that would feel huge in this space, and give the audience the feeling of seeing something truly extraordinary in a way they could not have in the past. The show combines extraordinary talent and all the trappings of a production usually seen on grand stages and in arenas playing to thousands.
So when you’re ready to rediscover the magic of sensual circus artistry, head to Town Square on South Las Vegas Boulevard and immerse yourself in an evening with APÉRO.
APÉRO performs Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 7pm. The show runs approximately 90 minutes with intermission. Tickets are $50.00 (plus tax/fees) and can be ordered here.
Photos: Sam Novak, APÉRO, cast members via Facebook
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.
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.
Harvesting a Crop of New Music from The Sexiest Men of the Season…
Earlier this year, I interviewed a number of artists regarding the pandemic shutdown…and how it affected their creativity. 98 Degrees hunk Jeff Timmons found comfort in technological advances which allowed him to write, record, and network from the safety of home. Of course, he also doubled down on workouts to relieve stress and keep those famous muscles ready for the return of live shows.
Ever-smiling Vin A. transformed into a Tasmanian devil of activity during the shutdown. Simultaneously recording at least two albums, the musical director and breakout star of The Bronx Wanderers teamed up with father Vinny Adinolfi to form VINdemic, a father-son musical duo. And he may have shot a few music videos and done a whole lotta other stuff, too (I’ve lost track).
Uproarious, irreverent and full of guest stars, HOOTENANY was a welcome return to the fun times we desperately need. You’ll want to reserve your tickets as soon as December’s date is announced. Click here to be notified of upcoming events at NOTORIETY.
Many local celebrities lent their talents to DowntownHOOTENANNY, but among them, only Colin Cahill has graced the virtual pages of HOT GUYS OF VEGAS at least twice. The ATOMIC SALOON SHOW star is best known for performing shirtless wherever he goes. Once the pandemic hit, he stopped revealing that fabulous body due to what he and wife Makenzie Fly call “The Quarantine Fifteen”.
After eight long months of hiding, Cahill finally caved to requests and undid some shirt buttons for “Under Pressure” with Jimmy Denning. Three nights later, the hunk was back in the spotlight for the debut of ORIGINAL CHAOS.
The band, consisting of Cahill, drummer Tim Sorbs, vocalist Dai Richards and guitarist Chris Cicchino (both from Tenors of Rock) took over Harrah’sCarnival Court for a fabulous first night of their weekly Saturday residency. Fans, friends, and celebs turned out to support the boys. As fate would have it, they were preceded that evening by a lengthy set from the tireless VINDemic. Click here to follow ORIGINAL CHAOS on Instagram.
Several years ago on New Year’s Eve, I met the cast of a new Planet Hollywood show called PIANO MAN (not to be confused with the one currently playing at MOSAIC Theater). Singer Brett Pruneau had come to Las Vegas just to join the cast. As luck would have it, he and I attended the same New Year’s Eve party that evening…and we’ve kept in touch ever since.
Brett remained in Sin City after PIANO MAN folded, joined the cast of world-famous JUBILEE, and made a name for himself in this crazy city. Sadly, a stress-related condition traumatized the singer’s vocal chords and threatened to end his career. Lots of therapy later, the former New Yorker is back, better than ever, and just released a stirring collection entitled “The Real Thing”.
Like many artists, Brett used the pandemic situation as an opportunity to create, grow, and share his emotions. That’s what “The Real Thing” is about. As he recently told The Hollywood Digest, “I choose to interpret music that fulfills me and enriches my soul. This particular project was born out of pure necessity, to be honest. Given the current climate of the world during the COVID-19 crisis, I couldn’t bare the thought of not having a creative outlet for this indefinite season we are in.”
In addition to getting his vocal chords back into shape, Brett began a fitness routine that he’s proudly showing off on social media. If that angelic face wasn’t enough for him to make HOT GUYS OF VEGAS (it is), Brett’s newly-chiseled physique would guarantee him a spot. Expect more great things from Brett Pruneau in the future. You can purchase “The Real Thing” collection here or listen to it via Spotify here.
If all the world is a stage, then super-talented Travis Cloer is its Emperor. There’s nothing that the super-popular actor/singer can’t do. Scheduled to return to The Vegas Room this weekend after a wildly-successful showcase in July, the supper club’s press release sums up Cloer this way:
From classic to jazz, musical theatre to rock-n-roll, and everything in between, there isn’t a genre of music that can escape Travis Cloer’s masterful ability to grab a song and make it his very own.
Among his credits are West Side Story, Damn Yankees, Starlight Express, and – most notably – his record-setting performance as Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys – with over 2,200 appearances around the world to his credit. This portrayal earned him several Best Actor nominations from BroadwayWorld.com and much acclaim and respect in Las Vegas and on Broadway.
In addition to his artistic talents, the great-looking Cloer has an infectious energy that makes every song a party. His latest recording is “Holiday With Me”, a doo-wop ditty that you can’t get enough of. The song was written by Cloer and produced by Vegas headliner Frankie Moreno. After only one week in release, the song is rising up the charts and is sure to be a perennial favorite.
Photo by Sparky Lisa
You can order “Holiday With Me” by following this link. Then make your reservations to see Travis Cloer on November 27th and 28th at The Vegas Room by clicking here.
Long-delayed variety production finally debuts at fabled JUBILEE showroom November 23rd…
The famed Bally’s Showroom on the Strip is often referred to as the birthplace of the iconic Las Vegas showgirl. Whether that’s true or not can be debated, but the classic Donn Arden production JUBILEE! performed there for an incredible 35 years. Now, the spirit of that famed revue and the showgirls themselves are set to return in a new variety show called EXTRAVAGANZA – The Vegas Spectacular.
Set to premiere on November 23rd after one preview performance in March (thanks for nothing COVID-19), EXTRAVAGANZA – The Vegas Spectacular will feature an international cast of more than 30 artists and performers. It’s directed by Hanoch Rosènn, the creative force behind WOW – The Vegas Spectacular at Rio Hotel Casino. And while the two share similar DNA, EXTRAVAGANZA will lean a little less towards “family-friendly” and a bit more towards the sensual and passionate.
Advance buzz on EXTRAVAGANZA has centered around an extremely sexy cast of athletic and graceful performers. Guests can expect to be mesmerized by thrill-inducing acts that feature aerialists, acrobats, comedians, ventriloquists, and dancers. Some of the most astonishing feats of Sin City’s entertainment heyday will return, too, including the infamous “Globe of Death”.
Fans of Downtown’s Fremont Street Experience will surely remember the terrifying “Globe of Death”, a gasp-worthy stunt in which several high-speed motorcyclists roar around at top speeds while inside a spherical cage. The “Globe of Death” ranks with CELESTIA‘s “Wheel of Death” as one of the most popular and frightening daredevil acts ever to be performed in the city on a regular basis.
EXTRAVAGANZA will also include a salute to Vegas icons like Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra, this time via state-of-the-art hologram technology. LED video screen backdrops, elaborate costumes, and large-scale sets will transport guests through several decades of songs, dances, and variety acts that laid the foundation for contemporary epic productions like Le Reve – The Dream and Michael Jackson ONE.
Director Rosènn was inspired by the success of WOW – The Vegas Spectacular (two years, over 1,000 performances and counting) to create EXTRAVAGANZA as a tribute to Las Vegas and its legacy of entertainment. “The show is my homage to this amazing city – bringing not only tremendous and unique performers from all over the world – but, also, some of the most iconic and thrilling acts, as well as, the return of the classic showgirls, who made the Jubilee Theatre home for so many decades.”
“EXTRAVAGANZA – The Vegas Spectacular,” resumes performances on the iconic stage at the Jubilee Theater inside Bally’s Las Vegas on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. The show will perform to a socially-distanced audience capped at 250 guests.
In addition, for a limited time, the production will feature special guest stars and America’s Got Talent finalist and crossbow superstar Silvia Silvia and husband Victor Ponce, two of the stars from Extravaganza’s sister show, WOW – The Vegas Spectacularat Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.
“We are excited to reopen ‘EXTRAVAGANZA’ in Las Vegas” says creator and director, Hanoch Rosènn. “We are also thrilled to have two of our WOW stars, Silvia Silvia and Victor Ponce, join our cast until we are able to reopen WOW at the Rio.”
“EXTRAVAGANZA – The Vegas Spectacular” Performance Schedule: “EXTRAVAGANZA – The Vegas Spectacular” will perform nightly at the Jubilee Theatre inside Bally’s Las Vegas at 6:30 pm and 9:30 pm (dark Wednesdays except for Nov. 25, Dec. 23, 30, 2020 and Jan. 6, 2021).
Tickets are on sale now and prices range from $49.99 to $109.99 + taxes and fees and can be purchased at Extravaganza-Vegas.com, the Bally’s Las Vegas Box Office, Ticketmaster, BalllysLasVegas.com or by calling 702-777-7776.
Photos: Caprio Media Design for EXTRAVAGANZA – The Las Vegas Spectacular
Laugh-a-minute show reopens this weekend at The STRAT…
You may have attended your share of stand-up comedy and magic acts. But raise your hand if you’ve seen a tattooed bad boy bodybuilder comedian who performs illusions while stripping off his shirt and donning a tutu. That’s exactly the kind of antics you can expect at James Michael’sRedneck Comedy Magic.
“Sin City is about to get a whole lot trashier”. That’s what Mississippi native James Michael shouted before grabbing his cowboy hat, slipping on his boots and heading to The STRAT Hotel Casino for his Las Vegas residency. Now performing six nights a week at L.A. Comedy Club, the Redneck Magician will entertain you with sleight of hand, card tricks, and some risque rope maneuvers. He might even steal your beer if you happen to look away.
With so many magic acts in town, it’s tough to stand out from the crowd. Perhaps that’s why the blending of comedy and magic is proving to be so successful. As the long-running Mac King (at Harrah’s) and Mike Hammer (Fremont Street’s 4 Queens Casino) have demonstrated, there’s a hungry audience for illusions mixed with laughter. Redneck Comedy Magic ups the ante by stirring in plenty of randy humor from the kind of guy you’d want to have as your drinking buddy.
James Michael may be relatively new to Sin City audiences, but he’s been spreading his brand of madcap madness around the world for quite some time. A fitness model and part-time tattoo artist, Michael has performed on cruise ships, corporate functions, television shows….and supposedly “UFO’s, prisons, strip clubs and a Chuck E. Cheese” if his bio is to be believed.
You might expect such a big bruiser to be an intimidating presence while onstage, but Michael is quite the gentle pussycat. In fact, he’s been known to bust through the doors of his local fitness facility while proudly wearing a “Hello Kitty” backpack. And much like last year’s The Naked Magicians, this wild buckaroo seems to strip off a piece of clothing after every trick or two. All the better to solidify his plans for world domination via an “AARP Chippendales”-style production. “Is it getting hot in here, y’all?”
Redneck Comedy Magic is one of this writer’s favorite adults-only comedy shows. Tickets start at only $39.95 for general admission. And with the money you’ll save, you might want to share a round of drinks with the star. He loves to hang around for conversation and pictures after the show. Just pretend that you don’t notice the tutu…
Redneck comedy magic performs nightly at the L.A. Comedy club at The Strat hotel casino. Showtime is at 6pm. Click here for full schedule and details.