2017 In Review Part 4 – Performances and Shows, Highs and Lows


Best Overall Show – BAZ: A Musical Mash-up

All of the dozens of shows around the Valley tend to fall into just a few categories. Then there’s BAZ: A Musical Mash-up. A song-and-dance unlike anything Vegas has ever seen, it’s hard to describe…and an experience you will never forget.

That’s why, after two consecutive years as “Best New Show” (new name, location and cast allowed it to qualify twice), BAZ: A Musical Mash-up gets my award for “Best Overall Show”.

Best Worst Vegas 2017

With three universally-renowned tragic love stories interwoven through a tapestry of contemporary hits, BAZ will have you dancing, crying, laughing and singing…all while rediscovering your love for musical theater.

Best Worst Vegas 2017

With the most talented cast in the city, BAZ: A Musical Mash-up is one show that demands to be experienced and shared. Kudos to Palazzo for their continued support of this amazing achievement.

Worst Overall Show – Black Magic Live aka Vivica’s Black Magic

This one started out with an ugly anti-gay controversy and ended up as a sloppy assault on the senses. An unbearable amateurish concoction with no rhyme or reason, an indifferent cast and an emcee (D-list movie director Jean-Claude LaMarre) who argues with and badgers an audience he’s ill-equipped to handle, Black Magic Live is one reality-show baby that was delivered stillborn.

Best Worst Vegas 2017

Audience abuse works fine if it’s meant to be comically shocking a la Absinthe. But at Black Magic Live, the insults are hurled without a single bit of tongue-in-cheek. “Don’t be touching my jacket with your greasy hands, lady. I don’t know you!”. Or how about “Sit down and shut the Hell up or you’re out of here!”.

Best Worst Vegas 2017

After 60 minutes of this nonsense and at least four instances of audience members rushing the stage and stopping the show, I was out of there, too. Save your money and time. Turn your back on Black Magic Live.

Best Performance – Ruby Lewis (BAZ – A Musical Mash-up)

It’s almost unfair to select one individual from the best line-up on a Vegas stage. Alas, choosing a “Best Performance” winner must be done, if for nothing else than to provide counterpoint to the absolute worst.

Best Worst Vegas 2017

Of all the amazing and gifted individuals who make BAZ the best show on the Strip, Ruby Lewis gets my choice for best performance. After a landmark performance on Broadway in PARAMOUR, Lewis returned to the For The Record Live family…and the Palazzo Theater…this summer.

Ruby’s jaw-dropping and emotional finale (Over The Love from The Great Gatsby) will have you gasping, wiping away tears and rising to your feet in applause. It’s the must-see moment on the Strip.

Worst Performance – Sammasseur  (BAZ – A Musical Mash-up)

“Wooden”. “Uninspired”. “As nervous as a long-tailed cat in a rocking chair factory”. Those are some of the reviews that would have been deservedly slung at this writer had I been an actual cast member of BAZ – A Musical Mash-up. Fortunately, my participation was limited to an exciting and brilliantly-conceived “boot camp” experience for members of the media (you can read all about it here).

Best Worst Vegas 2017

As an invited guest, I was privileged to go through the paces of a performer from choreography to costuming and make-up. Then an actual number in front of a selected (and very kind) audience of Venetian/Palazzo team members. I’m proud to say that nobody was hit when my shoe went sailing through the air during a kick….and I’ll leave it at that.

Best Worst Vegas 2017

    Myself with Ruby Lewis, Savannah Cross, Anne Martinez and Ron Remke…

Photos and Video: Sammasseur with additional courtesy of Palazzo Resort

 

2017 In Review Part 1 – Best and Worst New Shows


The inaugual “Vegas Unfiltered Wrap-up” is upon us. Brace yourselves…

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Within the laughter, tears and tragedy were moments of amazement and joy. Whatever you sought, there was something for you to relish and moments to make you cringe. Nothing will let you forget 2017 – the Year in Las Vegas.

Best New Major Show – David Goldrake IMAGINARIUM

Small-scale magic shows come and go all the time, yet the corner of Tropicana and Las Vegas Boulevard has been home to two large-scale headliners (David Copperfield and Criss Angel) for several years. Jan Rouven was doing pretty well as the third member of their triad until a nasty scandal sent him behind bars.

David Goldrake IMAGINARIUM

Enter David Goldrake, the mysterious muscleman from Luxembourg as heir apparent to Rouven’s crown. His IMAGINARIUM is epic, poetic, classical magic with high-tech dazzle and a solid multi-talented cast (read my full review here).

Let’s hope Goldrake’s mastery can overcome the curse that is Tropicana‘s long-troubled showroom. Skip the mediocre Mindfreak Live at Luxor (in its merciful final year) and give this one your entertainment dollars.

Honorable MentionMiss Behave Gameshow at Bally’s

Miss Behave Gameshow

Worst New Major Show – Magic Mike Live

What do you get when you build a show around a male stripper movie, then throw out the movie and keep the dancers in their clothes? That’s the cash-grab fiasco now playing at Hard Rock Hotel. I’ve nothing positive to say about Magic Mike Live…but if you’re still curious, you can read my detailed review here. Or you can save yourself some time and just check out this pic below.

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Movie superstar Channing Tatum hung his name on this bait-and-switch mess but you won’t see him anywhere in it. Not even in the posters. The world’s first male revue that mocks male revues (and men in general) with utter contempt, Magic Mike Live is a big fat turkey that deserves to have its head chopped off.

Dishonorable Mention – Black Magic Live at Embassy Night Club

Male revues gay

You’ll want to look away from the disastrous Black Magic Live… 

Photos: Sammasseur, David Goldrake IMAGINARIUM

Male Revues from a Gay P.O.V. – Part 2


More info on where to go and what to expect from a gay guy’s perspective…

A few weeks back I explored the various resident male revues, ranking them in terms of their inclusion of audience members who are guys. It was, I think, a pretty thorough guidebook, but not entirely complete. At the end, I promised to contact two long-running stripper clubs that included male revues in their entertainment roster.

Male revues gay

Since publishing that original piece, I have reached out several times to the powers that be at Kings of Hustler and Men of Sapphire. Both expressed interest in participating in this article, yet neither provided responses to a series of questions I sent their way. Numerous follow-up attempts yielded nada, so I’m just going to let that go.

Male revues gay

I can say, however, that both locations permit attendance by men. Your level of interactivity will vary depending on the individual performers…and perhaps the degree of business they have that night (everyone has bills to pay and lap dances aren’t free). Also, since I was a guest at both places, I’m unable to provide admission prices.

Male revues gay

Another unresolved matter was my review of the upstart Black Magic Live. Unseen by me when Part 1 of this series was published, I wish that had remained the case. Black Magic Live is an absolute mess and I cannot recommend it at all. While not a mega-flop on the level of Magic Mike Live, it is indeed a cheap, chaotic disaster unworthy of your time and money.

Male revues gay

Because nothing says “Sexy Night in Vegas” like a wedding hall…                

Black Magic Live began its run at the Tommy Wind Theater, otherwise known as the place where shows go to die. It quickly moved to Ron Decar Events Center, a banquet hall belonging to Viva Las Vegas wedding chapel.

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Male revues gay

You may find yourself wanting to look away, too…                             

BML is now on its third venue for calendar year 2017. As of this month, the show is performing inside the little known Embassy Night Club in a skeevy industrial area past the west side of the Strip. The Latino spot was in the news this past April when three patrons were stabbed in the parking lot. Stay away!

I’ve also revisited both Chippendales and Aussie Heat at V Theater since the last article. The boys at Chipps continue to be the glossiest cast in town, but not much has changed aside from the completion of Tyson Beckford‘s hosting stint (…or is he back? The website still lists him). That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as Chippendales set the bar for all male revues.

Male revues gay

Aussie Heat, on the other hand, seems to have ramped up their willingness to entertain guests of both (all?) genders. Along with an infectious silliness and sense of fun, the lesser-known troupe from Oz (not to be confused with the always-coasting Thunder From Down Under) continues to bend over backward for each and every audience member.

And like the stripper clubs, they offer a free party bus to get you there and some of the lowest ticket prices in town. Groupon is currently offering $49 general admission seats for Aussie Heat with no additional fees. Compare that to Magic Mike Live, where the farthest seats of the upper balcony will still run you over $120.00.

Male revues gay

You may remember that I chose Aussie Heat as my #1 male revue for inclusion of all audience members. As you can see, the response is overwhelmingly positive:

Male revues gay

Male revues gay

Check out this clip below for a taste of Aussie Heat, recorded Saturday 10/28/17. Be aware that it is probably NSFW.

So there you have it, my most complete guide to male revue residencies for guys. Whichever one you choose, be sure to cut loose and have some fun.

After all, Sin City can’t do any sinning without you.

Photos: Sammasseur, Black Magic Live, Aussie Heat, Men of Sapphire, Kings of Hustler

Ranking Male Revues from a Gay P.O.V.


In this era of inclusion, how welcome are men at various male stripper shows?

Back in 1985, John Travolta played a Rolling Stone reporter in the semi-fictional drama Perfect. Assigned to cover the singles scene in Los Angeles, Travolta finds himself attending a male revue (save the jokes for later). Interestingly, he is forced to watch the proceedings from behind a screen. According to Laraine Newman’s character, men are forbidden from attending the show (a thinly-disguised Chippendales).

Male revues

Male revues

That was 35 years ago. These days, you’re as likely to see men in the audience as on the stage. I can say that from experience, as these shows are one of my favorite things to do when in Sin City. And they’re an absolute balls-to-the-wall blast!

While I attend as an openly gay man, not every guy in the audience is homosexual. It’s worth pointing out that women of all persuasions have been attending topless revues for decades, and that has always been acceptable.

As we gravitate towards an era of full inclusion, the lines of sexuality have blurred. But that doesn’t mean that men will get the same level of welcome and interactivity at each and every show. Many readers have asked me to recommend guy-friendly male revues, based on my personal experiences. Please note that this article in no way reflects the sexuality of the performers appearing in their respective shows.

So here they are, rated on a scale of one to five, with five being the highest.

MAGIC MIKE LIVE – 1 out of 5

Male revues

The stand-and-model troupe at Magic Mike Live disappoints on all counts…                

A stillborn offspring of Channing Tatum’s film franchise, Magic Mike Live really isn’t recommended for anyone. It’s a difficult slog to sit through and already my choice for the worst new show of 2017. The guys remain clothed for much of the running time, which is somewhat of a blessing in disguise (see below). Worse yet, a screeching female host makes the production nearly unbearable by squawking post-menopausal life lessons throughout.

Male revues

 It’s a bumpy road to Magic Mike Live. Don’t take it…         

Public relations insiders have told me that the team at Magic Mike Live has shown little interest in marketing to the lucrative gay demographic. There’s very little reason for me to doubt that, especially after on my own experience.

Men hoping to get a lap dance or a round of onstage excitement will leave feeling disappointed…and out of lots of cash. Drinks and tickets are quite expensive. On the upside, cocktail servers are attentive (not to mention especially attractive) and save the evening from being a total loss.

THUNDER FROM DOWN UNDER – 2 out of 5

Male revues

Thunder From Down Under doesn’t rank high on the list for guys…             

The long-running Aussie revue Thunder from Down Under at Excalibur allows men to attend (as do they all), but 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.

Straight men will find the atmosphere completely “non-threatening”. Don’t expect to see guys brought up onstage for any audience participation segments, either. But they CAN purchase a group shot after the show.

Said one former member of the troupe “Guys don’t go to ‘hen shows’ where we come from. We just aren’t used to that.”

Chippendales – 4.5 out of 5

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Chippendales is shy of getting a perfect score, but an absolute favorite…            

The grand master of all male revues, Chippendales still packs them in and keeps up with the times. There is a moderate amount of interactivity with guys during audience numbers and plenty of shout-outs to gay members celebrating birthdays and such. I’ve even seen a guy celebrating his 21st brought onstage for a free calendar.

Straight guys should find this one well within their comfort zone. It’s kind of like hanging out with the bros…and single straight men should have a good time in the Flirt Lounge before and after the performance, chatting it up with the female attendees.

What keeps Chippendales from achieving a perfect five-star rating is that, after attending dozens of times, I’ve yet to see a man brought onstage for any regular segments. If you’ve witnessed otherwise, be sure to hit me up in the comments.

I’m giving Chipps an extra half star since the production is a huge public supporter of gay fans. They’ve even featured an openly-gay host or two. Gentlemen are welcome to purchase group photos with the cast, and you can chat with the guys one-on-one after the final performance of each evening.

Aussie Heat – 5 out of 5

Male revues

This upstart group takes on the big boys…and wins top honors. Not to be confused with Thunder from Down Under, the Aussie Heat show is a no-holds-barred fest of boy-flesh for men and women equally. Held in the intimate second-level V Theater 2 at Planet Hollywood’s Miracle Mile Shops, Aussie Heat fills the space with abs, biceps, butts and pecs. No audience member is ignored, and that’s the case from beginning to end.

Men are regularly selected for an onstage lap dance contest where three participants are blindfolded. They’re then asked to identify a particular dancer based on other senses…including taste and touch!

The Aussie boys spend plenty of time in the audience, often draping themselves across laps and inviting you to lick, fondle, rub and squeeze. Every dancer is an equal-opportunity flirt, besides being classically-trained performers in their own right. So this one is only recommended for open-minded straight men with a sense of adventure…and fun.

I’ve written two previous articles regarding the willingness of Aussie Heat to entertain male audiences. They’ve even gone so far as to have their nightly after-party once a week in a short-lived gay venue nearby.

Pre-show VIP experiences allow you to meet and photograph the guys in the prep room while they stretch and pump up their muscles. Photos with the cast are available for purchase after the show (proceeds go to Opportunity Village, a local charity), which can be as naughty as you want.

Men Of The Strip – 5 out of 5

Male revues

I debated whether to include Men of the Strip in these rankings, as the production is currently on hiatus. What started as a planned residency ended up as a 6-night stint in Vegas with a possible tour on the way. But since there’s a chance of it returning with a regular schedule, I’m listing MOTS here with the others.

Male revues

And Men of the Strip is certainly worthy of a gay male audience. Emcees address both genders in the audience with equal enthusiasm while lap dances and interaction are guy-friendly (cash tipping is allowed). Straight guys might be squirming in their chairs, but won’t mind hanging out with the worked-up ladies at the bar afterward.

MOTS ranks right up there with Aussie Heat in bringing guys onto the stage and into the action. If you want to see what I mean, check out the clip above from a performance at Hard Rock Cafe. Be aware that it’s not safe for work.

Black Magic Live aka Vivica’s Black Magic – Rating to be determined

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This one is a toughie, compounded by the fact that I haven’t actually seen it…or spoken to anyone who has. This all-black male revue, currently playing at Ron Decar Events Center after a stint at Tommy Wind Theater, gained notoriety when actress Vivica A. Fox angered members of the LGBTQ community in a radio interview suggesting that gays weren’t welcome to attend. She later apologized.

Fox and the show’s executive producer Jean-Claude LaMarre have entered a legal battle over the issue:

“As a result of Fox’s defamatory social media campaign, LaMarre’s customers canceled ‘Black Magic Live’ tickets and demanded refunds at shows” the suit states. VARIETY 6/5/17

It remains unclear at this point whether Fox is still affiliated with the production, as the official website refers to the show with two titles, one conspicuously removing Vivica’s name. A very well-known member of the media, who was previously in a Vegas male revue, wrote to me directly with this information:

The owners are actually very gay friendly. I know some of the cast too. Sweet guys. All very gay friendly as well. I’d hate to see them get shot down before ever given a chance.

If you’ve seen Black Magic, please leave your impressions in the comments or drop me a line directly.

Next up, I’ll visit Kings of Hustler and Men of Sapphire, two male-centric offshoots of popular female stripper clubs. I’ll examine their guy-guest policies and what to expect when attending.

Photos by Sammasseur, VivicasBlackMagic.com