COVID-19 Aftermath – Shows Most Likely (and Least Likely) To Return


Taking a hard and painful look at the Vegas entertainment landscape as Sin City’s quarantine drags on…

As a devoted enthusiast of Sin City entertainment, it pains me to think of the hundreds of gifted performers currently out of work during the pandemic shutdown. Devoted to a volatile industry in which success is never guaranteed, many artists work multiple jobs and/or share living expenses just to get by. Combine this with a lack of adequate health care and spotty unemployment compensation, and it wouldn’t be surprising if many struggling entertainers decide to leave the city…or the industry altogether.

Sadly, there’s a likelihood that numerous residencies and production shows will decide to fold (or have their lifeline unceremoniously yanked) once the ramp-up begins. How this plays out is anyone’s guess, but I’ve been doing my own pondering on what changes lie ahead. Keep in mind that my conclusions aren’t in any way a reflection of quality…or lack thereof. Instead, I’ve considered factors such as pre-virus buzz, operation overhead (costs), post-virus marketability, name recognition, longevity, and brand loyalty.

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I might be completely wrong on these predictions or right on the money. Your guess is as good as mine. We won’t know until it actually happens, but here’s my list of shows that might weather the storm. And those that I believe will most certainly blow away.

Very Likely To Return –

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David Saxe Productions – the long and colorful list produced by David Saxe amounts to a well-oiled machine. His self-named theater inside Planet Hollywood’s Miracle Mile Shops and nearby V Theater churn out hits like Vegas! The Show, Zombie Burlesque, V – The Ultimate Variety Show and many more. Saxe is a master of efficiency and knows how to run and market his business. His children will survive just fine.

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ABSINTHESpiegelworld‘s naughty alternative to Cirque du Soleil is an instant hit that would have celebrated its ninth anniversary on April 1st. The bawdy burlesque ABSINTHE has spun off two successful companion productions and shows no sign of slowing down. Relatively low overhead (an outdoor tent, pre-recorded music, and simple props) should help it to last through a sluggish restart (if that’s how things play out, that is).

Other Spiegelworld titles OPIUM and ATOMIC SALOON SHOW might not have it so easy. Their out-of-the-way locations inside expensive Cosmopolitan and Venetian/Palazzo might prove to be a bigger challenge in the long run. Cosmo‘s costly parking fees make OPIUM an easy pass for locals, too. (Update 5/19/20 – Cosmopolitan has announced its intentions to discontinue parking fees)

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“O” at Bellagio – Despite a mountain of debt that Cirque du Soleil is carrying, it’s unlikely that they’ll allow their highest-profile Vegas production to fold. Since “O” is synonymous with the Bellagio image (just like its outdoor fountains and seasonal conservatory displays) it’s easy to envision the resort taking ownership of the show if it came down to that (Steve Wynn did that with Le Reve). “O” is still a very popular draw despite two decades and thousands of performances. Not my cup of tea, but for many tourists, it’s a must-see.

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CELESTIA – my insiders at CELESTIA assure me that the fledgling big-top production is on solid ground. STRAT Hotel Casino has a strong financial stake. which seems to be a common thread in the current make-or-break environment. Four-wallers (independent contractors) will suffer while casino-owned shows are likely to last. It all comes down to money.

Sex Tips For Straight Women from a Gay Man – This is an easy one to envision continuing. An extremely Vegas-y premise, an attractive local cast and very low overhead within an intimate theater setting. What’s not to love?

Solo and Lounge Acts – Our deeply-fractured economy is going to have a ripple effect on both consumers and the products they offer. Returning guests with limited discretionary income will most likely avoid the high-ticket attractions. That’s where one-man/woman shows come to the rescue.

With low overhead and a simple format, solo acts can offer solid entertainment and a retro vibe while passing the savings onto their audiences. Look for returning favorites like Mike Hammer, Murray Sawchuck, Carrot Top, Xavier Mortimer, Jen Kramer and maybe even the once-popular Gordie Brown to shine brighter in the spotlight. I anticipate that bloated, self-serving star vehicles like Criss Angel – Mindfreak Live and Mariah Carey‘s endless residencies will go down in flames, though. Darn.

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Expensive mega-residencies could also feel the same heat. Last year people were forking over a grand or more to StubHub for Lady Gaga tickets. Who has that kind of money now? Even though Paula Abdul‘s lip-syncing stomp-fest at the Flamingo couldn’t warrant a $49 price tag last fall, her short-lived residency now seems like a million years ago. Look for a glut of similar shows (like Derek Hough: No Limit), along with the resurgence of intimate lounge acts, to tide us over until the economy…and Vegas…rebounds.

Say Farewell –

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Blue Man Group (Update 6/30/20 The cast of Blue Man Group has been laid off by parent company Cirque du Soleil)

They’re old, tired, and as cliched as the fanny pack strapped around your cargo shorts. The trio of silent weirdos known as Blue Man Group is as annoying as those outdoor escalators that are constantly “under service”. Luxor‘s long-running production returned to the pyramid a few years ago, after more than a decade at Venetian and Monte Carlo. Now they’re in a much smaller venue and it’s easy to forget that they’re still around. Maybe COVID-19 will be the nudge that gets them to squeeze their final Twinkie.

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Human Nature (Update – permanent closure announced 6/10/20) –

It really upsets me to have this one on the list, but the Aussie quartet known as Human Nature appears to have been struggling for a while. I’ve been to the show a number of times in the past twelve months, and attendance has been anemic during each and every visit. Their live band has been downsized as a cost-cutting measure and the dancers were given a pink slip before that. They’ve also jettisoned the “Jukebox” format and returned to the Motown sound that put them in the U.S. limelight.

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Magic Mike Live (Update – Sahara opening postponed until 2021) –

                               We can wait even longer for this execrable slop to return….

The movie-inspired male revue received a scathing write-up from me upon its debut (deservedly so). Yet, the man-bashing mess, hosted by a shrill, leather-clad harpy who never shuts her f*cking mouth, somehow managed to become a hit. Still, the closure of Hard Rock Hotel sent the strippers dancers off into the sunset last year.

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Audiences were promised a spring relaunch at the newly-rebranded Sahara Hotel, yet an official debut date was never set and tickets have yet to go on sale. The 360-degree format requires a custom-built arena that Sahara didn’t have, so costly construction was required. Alas, an insider told me that the venue’s build-out was halted many weeks before the shutdown, suggesting that the bump-and-grind may actually be over. Today’s visit to the official website reveals that the word “spring” was removed, most likely due to the shutdown. Or are revised negotiations holding things back?

During the interim, MML has gone global with residencies in London, Berlin, Sydney, and Melbourne, so a pricey Vegas space is no longer a top priority for the franchise. Sahara Hotel has yet to prove itself as a hip destination, as demonstrated by the premature shuttering of similar-themed Blanc de Blanc. Combine that with the perpetual postponements of nearby Fontainebleau/The Drew and Resorts World, and things are looking pretty dead for Magic Mike Live.

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Cirque du Soleil 

Update 6/30/20 – Cirque du Soleil announced today that they have filed for bankruptcy protection and have eliminated 3,500 jobs…

I know what you’re thinking – “But you just said that “O” was safe?!?!?!?!”. True enough. But in our new reality, Vegas cannot sustain six (already down from eight) of what is basically the same show…especially at $150 and up for decent seats.

According to FinancialPost.com, Cirque owes more that $1.25 billion to creditors. MGM Resorts operates five of their six Vegas shows and is known to brutally slice away expenses wherever and whenever possible. So who gets their trapezes pulled? I’m looking at KA, The Beatles LOVE, and maybe Michael Jackson ONE.

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Hanging In The Balance/Probably Safe –

MYSTERE – the longest-running Vegas Cirque show follows its own set of rules since Treasure Island operates separately from MGM Resorts. MYSTERE is smaller in scale and has the lowest ticket prices. The others have massive sets, live musicians, huge casts and expensive automation that requires an entire team of technicians to operate and maintain. SO…..overhead…

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ZUMANITY – never a critical darling or fan favorite, but this one might not be in real jeopardy. It has many of the advantages that MYSTERE enjoys (smaller cast, intimate venue, lower ticket prices), and has already trimmed back its musicians and singers. But despite the adult-skewing format, ZUMANITY now pales in comparison to raunchy offerings from Spiegelworld. So once again, your guess is as good as mine.

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Le ReveWynn‘s signature production was never an out-and-out hit (some still believe it’s part of Cirque du Soleil fifteen years in), but it’s a critical darling and those who know it, love it. Le Reve is also owned by Wynn/Encore, which has deep pockets and an image to protect. When Steve Wynn’s own SHOWSTOPPERS was shuttered, massive shockwaves rippled through the entertainment community. That’s unlikely to happen again.

‘WOW: The Las Vegas Spectacular’ Celebrates Two Years on the Strip

WOW: The Vegas Spectacular – another budget-friendly production that hung in there despite the competition, WOW could in fact raise its profile and attendance numbers in the months ahead. Room rates at host hotel RIO start at a ridiculously-cheap $10 (plus resort fees/taxes) for the first half of May, so if the city actually opens, expect a pilgrimage to the aging off-Strip resort.

Sister production EXTRAVAGANZA missed its debut date at Bally’s last month and could possibly be in jeopardy. The cast of performers came from Israel and has yet to log a single hour in front of a paying audience. Housing the entire cast during quarantine is no doubt chipping away at the show’s reserves. Whether that could bring WOW down as well involves legalities that aren’t known to me. But from the outside looking in, it’s a pretty grim picture for EXTRAVAGANZA.

What are your thoughts, predictions and opinions? Feel free to add your comments or email me at Sam@VegasUnfiltered.blog.

2019 – The Year in Review: ‘What The CL#@K!? – The Second Half-Dozen


A look back at the second half of a year filled with memorable and some truly bizarre happenings in Sin City…

In the first half of this column, I began the year at a vacant, frozen outdoor carnival and left you hanging with the world’s biggest buttcrack at a stadium that was beginning to resemble a giant toilet bowl. Brace yourself, though…things were just starting to get weird. This is going to be a long one…

When the intense heat of Vegas summers reaches its peak, residents often enjoy their own version of “snowbirding” by heading to milder climates. With this being my first July as a local, I took the cue and headed for a ranch in the mountains of Oregon. The cool, fresh air revived my spirits, but then it was time to return for July 4th festivities back at home.

July –

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July 3rd was when the world moved…literally. While sitting on my couch writing a column for BestOfVegas.com, I felt the house begin to rumble and sway. Wondering if I was having a stroke or seizure, I scanned the internet and read page after page of “Did we just have an earthquake?” postings on Facebook. Although the city was a little “shaken”, the day continued.

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The early part of July 4th came and went with the usual pool parties and firecrackers, then the sh*t really hit the fan. I was at AMC Town Square watching a horror film when the Big One hit. Halfway through the film, the seats started bucking and the rows of chairs were visibly moving. I captured a quick video of the theater evacuation (above) which was picked up by local TV stations, Telemundo and NBC News out of New York City.

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Evacuating the shopping complex in my car, I barely dodged a tree that fell onto the road, then braved the bridge over the interstate to get home. Neighbors were in a panic and my underground irrigation system was ruptured, but other than shaken nerves, there was no real damage. Nevertheless, some of us have been a little on edge ever since.

The LGBTQ community came out to witness the official opening of ICONIC Nightclub. The reborn party spot took over a venue once occupied by SHARE. Despite a strong start and plenty of effort to make it a great alternative to popular PIRANHA, the turnout wasn’t strong enough to cover expenses and ICONIC shuttered in just a few months.

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As a regular patron, I was really disappointed by the lack of support for ICONIC. Owner Adam Simmons went above and beyond to provide outstanding staffing and make everyone feel at home. ICONIC offered great cocktails (my favorite was “Cucumber Fantasy”), wild entertainment and what may be the most attractive crew this city has ever seen, all at very affordable prices. So kudos to Adam and husband Jason for what they brought to the scene.

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My trip to Oregon had caused me to miss the grand opening gala of FLIGHTS Restaurant at Planet Hollywood’s Miracle Mile Shops. Fortunately, owner Alex Hult welcomed me and allowed me to experience the establishment’s fantastic food and beverage options for this review. I’ve been a regular ever since. I’m just glad I wasn’t under that fuselage during the tremor. It must have been impressive to see the safely-secured airplane “taking flight” for a minute or two.

Monsoon season arrived by mid-July but was supposedly weak compared to previous years. It’s not unusual for the Las Vegas Strip to experience significant flooding during summer downpours.

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Remember to NEVER park on the ground level in the Linq/Harrah’s area, as that spot is prone to violently flooding.

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          Scott Roeben (VitalVegas.com) joined the gang on his first visit to Golden Tiki

As neighborhoods around the city cleaned up mud and debris, I took a watery trip of a different kind…down the rapids and over the falls to the Land of the Lost. Actors Wesley Eure (Will) and Kathy Coleman (Hollie) of the classic TV series paid a visit to The Golden Tiki, where the legendary TV siblings were presented with shrunken-head replicas of themselves, courtesy of Branden Powers and his ever-expanding Cabinet of Curiosities.

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On a whim, I invited Kathy and Wesley to join me for another rip-roaring ride…this time to Chippendales. The expressions on the faces of my childhood icons as the men of Chippendales strutted their stuff were priceless! Performer/host Jayson Michael gave the stars a rousing introduction and the crowd loved it. Talk about surreal!

Lest anyone forget, the biggest WTF of the year…and perhaps the decade, remains the Grasshopper Invasion of 2019. The final days of July made worldwide news as Sin City was covered in a blanket of billions of migratory grasshoppers. The swarms were so thick that they showed up on weather radar as thunderstorms. Luxor‘s light beam acted as a beacon, creating a scene straight from the Bible.

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Was Sin City being visited by one of the great plagues? The wrath of God, perhaps? Well, according to the scientists it was just a side effect of the valley’s unusually most spring. Those same experts also predicted that the invasion would last for several weeks, which it didn’t. So I’m sticking with the “Ten Commandments” explanation.

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Allegiant Raiders Stadium was just about to complete its frame-out, casting an impressive shadow along Interstate 15.

August –

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Rio Las Vegas seemed to constantly be in the news. Will it be sold? (It was.) Will it be leveled for a new stadium? (Time will tell). But for fans of all things Star Trek, what mattered was whether the annual Official Star Trek Convention would return for another year (it did).

Once again, thousands of fans from around the world flocked to the off-Strip resort, which was transformed into the USS Enterprise. Just about every square foot of the convention hall was utilized for lectures, interviews, broadcasts, photo ops, virtual reality exhibitions, vendor space and a recreation of Quark’s Bar (formerly located at Las Vegas Hilton).

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That same weekend, the Las Vegas Hilton, now known as Westgate Las Vegas, celebrated 50 years of history and rebirth with a massive gala. I was honored and excited to receive an invitation. The event was held in the Grand Ballroom with live entertainment, a spectacular dinner, and tributes by Mayor Carolyn Goodman and resort owner David Siegel.

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I learned that August is apparently the unofficial month of hangovers, thanks to nonstop parties in Las Vegas. First up was the Annual Black and White Gala, a benefit for AFAN (Aid for AIDS of Nevada). This year’s event returned to Hard Rock Hotel (soon to be Virgin Hotel) after a so-so outing to Mandalay Bay’s Daylight Beach Club in 2018.

The adults-only soiree’s attendees are encouraged to wear black and white (as much or as little as they dare) while enjoying live entertainment and a variety of bites and cocktails provided by sponsors. Attendees including an array of performers like the cast of Sex Tips, members of Tenors of Rock and my main girl Endia Abrante of ShowgirlArrivals.com.

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Much of the decor was provided by Michele Rothstein‘s Balloons With A Twist. Michele recently became engaged to comedian John Di Domenico, best known as the World’s Greatest Donald Trump Impersonator.

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John provided the laughs at last year’s Mondays Dark year-end celebration and had proven to be a perfect foil for Ester Goldberg and Anne Martinez at Totally Outrageous Brunch. Congratulations to one of Sin City’s happiest couples and thanks to Michele for making the colors black and white even more beautiful.

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The next party was a media launch at Sugar Factory’s Chocolate Lounge for burlesque performer/singer Melody Sweets‘ new single “Flavor of the Month“. Guests included Amy Saunders of Miss Behave Game Show, fitness competitor/health coach Mandy White Eskelin and husband Sami Eskelin (Chippendales, sports fitness entrepreneur). My prolific colleague Chris Yandek of CYInterview.com posted this interview with Ms. Sweets soon after.

More festivities followed at Silverton Casino‘s VEIL Pavilion with the CFO of the Year Awards, sponsored by VegasINC and City National Bank. Next up was Havana Nights: Top Men of Success hosted by MyVEGAS Magazine and Blue Martini at Town Square.

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As for the Stadium, it had now come full circle…..er, “oval”.

September –

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Labor Day signals the unofficial end of summer, where the pool lines start to thin out and tourism drops. If all of that August party-going didn’t exhaust you, the final holiday of the summer surely would.

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I spent the evening enjoying the sounds (and sights) of DJ Nick Ayler, whom you may remember from this profile piece. Nick and I had a great time chatting (and downing tequila) between his sets at AVANT Lounge inside Iconic Nightclub. The crowd was a bit thin but the fun was certainly memorable.

Over at OYO (the former Hooters Hotel Casino), master mixologist Eddie Perales was keeping things smoking with his longtime partner and fellow cocktail craftsman Bobby G. You may remember Eddie from his many contributions to the Rio, Paris, and Westgate hotels, among others. He is also a world record holder in cocktail creation and a longtime Sin City resident.

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The newly-rebranded Sahara Hotel held a bubbly premiere for their champagne-themed adult variety show Blanc de Blanc. The men of Aussie Heat joined celebrities like SEXXY‘s Jennifer Romas, magician David Goldrake (who’s been teasing a Vegas comeback), BMX pro Ricardo Laguna, mentalist Marc Savard and musician Vin A. from The Bronx Wanderers.

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A pre-show gathering was held at the brand-new CASBAR LOUNGE before moving to the main event. Cast members from Thunder From Down Under and FANTASY enjoyed the performance from their VIP Premium-seating hot tubs. Yes, you read that correctly. Hot-tub seating for a Vegas show….why not?

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Just like the Star Trek Convention, this year’s Olympia Fitness Expo and Competition lured in thousands of devotees. Celebrities like Mark Wahlberg enjoyed top billing while Tropicana‘s own Chef Robert Irvine peddled his products and posed for pics.

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No matter where you looked, hot bodies and healthy lifestyles were on display. Vegas nightclub favorite and romance-novel coverboy Nick Bennett was busting his sleeves while promoting CELSIUS fitness and energy drinks, taking over for rapper Flo Rida from the previous year. I was unsuccessful in getting his shirt off for a pose, but there’s always Olympia Expo 2020

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Community-driven venue The Space was host to special fundraising event The Power of Pink and Purple to benefit the American Cancer Society. Organized by the big-hearted Logan Seven, the evening gathered those same tireless performers from Aussie Heat, SEXXY and David Goldrake along with Swing It Girls and “Pink” illusionist Kenneth Rex.

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Even though Monsoon Season 2019 was about to officially come to a close, the skies above Vegas offered one final reminder to never become complacent.

October –

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The tenth month of the year began on a solemn note, as it will continue to do so for decades to come. October 1st marked the second anniversary of the mass shooting across from Mandalay Bay. I happened to capture the above photo from the hotel’s rooftop Foundation Room.  You can spot the location across Las Vegas Boulevard as a darkened area that was once home to Route 91 Harvest Music Festival.

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No city does Halloween the way that Las Vegas does. Things get an early kick-off here, too. October 2nd saw the debut of SCARE at Town Square, an immersive and expansive experience to be shared by young and old. And best of all, there was an adults-only nightclub area, too.

The charity-driven UNDEAD MAZE rose once again, this year at Tivoli Village in the northwest section of the city. A passion project by tireless entertainer Shaun Friedrichs with ample assist from big-hearted Heidi Elkhill, it’s rated as one of the top haunts in the city.

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Hofbrauhaus on Paradise Road continued their annual tradition of Oktoberfest celebrity keg-tappings. The line-up this year included Zowie Bowie‘s Chris Phillips, Chippendales, Australian Bee Gees and Ricardo Laguna. If you’ve never experienced an evening at Hofbrauhaus, you owe it to yourself to visit. BTW, the talk is true….the staff paddles patrons on their birthday.

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Historic Mansion 54 in the Arts District kicked off costume parties with The Shade Tree‘s 30th Anniversary Mask Off Gala. The Shade Tree is an organization that provides sanctuary and support to women in jeopardy along with their children and pets.

Entertainment during the fundraiser was provided by the cast of Le Reve. PHo headliner Christina Aguilera made a brief appearance to accept an award. Amazingly, I missed seeing the superstar, as it was blink-and-you’ll-miss-it brief. Thank goodness the food by sponsors like Evel Pie, VegeNation, PublicUS and Le Thai was so memorable.

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Campy horror-comedy EVIL DEAD: The Musical made a “splashy” return to Las Vegas, this time with a significant upgrade. The onetime hit at V Theater had a two-week run as The Evil Dead HD Tour at The Space.

The community-driven venue was draped in plastic and outfitted with immersive high-resolution video “sets” that were used to brilliant effect. Rabid fans of the “Deadites” clamored for the front sections, where they’d be soaked in a spray of gore. How often do you see audience members exiting the theater while wringing blood from their hair and clothing?

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             This fellow was so soaked in fake blood that he threw his shirt in the trash…

November –

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The penultimate month of the year was a mellow one by any standards. No swarms of insects, not a single earth-shaking event…just a few new openings, a haloed moon and the return of one very bright star.

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Once again, The Space was THE place to be for noteworthy activities. While the best little theater in the city had been serving up gore and body parts just a few weeks earlier, now it was dishing out good old southern cooking and a night of unforgettable vocals.

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Demonstrating a level of class and warmth rarely seen these days, songstress Ruby Lewis made a triumphant return to the Vegas stage. The star of BAZ and Marilyn: The New Musical brought her one-woman show for a single-night event that was treasured by fans. Offering a clever mixture of prose, memories, laughter and towering vocals, Ms. Lewis and her band reminded everyone that the best performers are never too great to lose their sincerity.

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Ruby greeted guests with a crock of her own black-eyed peas, turkey, and cornbread, then joined them after the show for pictures and hugs. Self-proclaimed “divas” like Mariah and Madonna could learn a vital lesson from this classy young woman – R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

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ARIA opened KALOLOGIE, the very first and only medspa located on the Strip. Housed within the hotel’s expansive spa, KALOLOGIE offers treatments like body contouring, laser skin treatments, injectables and get this…..IV hydration therapy.

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So if the effects of Vegas partying take their toll on your face and body, you can still return looking better than when you left home. We in the media were treated to a flashy shindig with free B12 shots and a bag of goodies to take home. I’m addicted to my FOREO sonic skin cleansing device.

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ARIA was also one of the first hotels to officially kick off the holiday season. Their culinary artists from Aria Patisserie created a life-size gingerbread house in the main lobby, along with a counter to purchase hot beverages and sweets. I happened to be there when the pastry chefs were gathering for official photos, and they seemed deservedly proud of their work.

Beloved charitable photographer Noel Dahl presented yet another beautiful fundraising calendar, this time to benefit Amor Peludo Animal Rescue. Featuring adorable kittens, pups and hot male celebs like Ryan Worley, Adam Barr, and Gerry Haro, the event took place at Lazy Dog Restaurant in Town Square.

Alas, Mr. Dahl was once again the victim of higher-than-thou patrons who found his artistry to be offensive. A few faint-hearted Sin City parents complained to management that photos of shirtless men were in view and demanded that the fundraising display be removed.

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You may recall this article that I penned detailing Noel’s work being dragged through the mud by parents on local television. These are the same hypocrites who choose to raise their children in a city where prostitution billboards roll down the streets. To them, I say “Go f*ck yourselves”.

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Speaking of billboards, this riotous monument to failure was spotted along I-15 and the Desert Inn overpass at the tail end of November. Apparently, the abrupt closing of KAOS right after Halloween left no contingency funds for pulling down the advertisements. That meant we had to continue looking at the smelly remnants (aka “Cardi B”). Don’t let her roofie and rob you, guys.

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The always colorful Golden Tiki brought the month to a memorable close with their annual Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Traditional Peanuts favorites like jelly beans, pretzels, toast, and popcorn were served on a pingpong table while a pair of naughty parrots sang dirty limericks and farted overhead. Only in Vegas, friends….

December –

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The month of December was bitterly cold by Vegas standards. Just like in February, the snows arrived on a recurring basis. Roads to Mt. Charleston, the Red Rock scenic driveway and interstate to Los Angeles were closed to traffic, leaving thousands of motorists unable to reach their destination during the height of holiday travel. Luckily, the city has thousands upon thousands of extra hotel rooms in what is always the slowest tourist season of the year.

The days leading up to Christmas turn Sin City into a bit of a ghost town. The only real activity comes from the residents, who go about their business as usual. Shows and restaurants go on hiatus, casino workers use their vacation time and hotels drop their rates to the lowest of the year. For those looking for a quiet, affordable getaway, mid-December in Las Vegas is bliss.

While the resorts took advantage of the downtime to dive into construction projects and improvements, the tireless members of The Bronx Wanderers were adding more shows to the schedule. In addition to special Christmas performances of their residency at The Linq (moving soon to Harrah’s showroom), breakout star Vin A. was spearheading a collection of three holiday spectaculars around the valley.

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I was fortunate enough to attend A Very Swingin’ Christmas at M Resort on December 21st, where Vin was joined by studly guitarist David Braun and patriarch Vinny Adinolfi. A crackerjack band, members of the Beach Boys and other talented musicians made for an unforgettable night that I hope will return next year.

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One entertainer who won’t be back is funnyman Jeff Civillico. After a decade of shows on the Strip, Jeff has decided to step off his unicycle, put down the juggling balls and focus on other ventures. The handsome comedian has been outspoken with his frustration at casino management over lack of support for entertainers. So he’s decided to step away from the Vegas stage. We’ll miss him.

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Russ White of QLife Media and The Charity Gurus was able to provide me with one final photo of Allegiant Raiders Stadium construction for the year. He took it from his condo in Veer Tower, part of CityCenter complex on the Strip.

Over at Rio, WOW – The Las Vegas Spectacular celebrated two years and 1,000 performances. A post-show party at CHAYO was attended by cast, crew, publicist Michael Caprio and the creator Hanoch Rosènn, who flew in from Israel to attend. Mr. Rosènn was incredibly kind and complimentary regarding the article I’d published on the show a few weeks earlier. During the tumultuous times for live entertainment productions, it’s wonderful to see WOW‘s success.

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Venetian/Palazzo is gearing up for another success of their own. Continuing their tradition of opening new restaurants at the close of the year (Matteo’s, Mott 32), my favorite luxury resort gave a sneak peek at Majordomo Meat and Fish. The latest offering from Chef David Chang is a massive undertaking located on Palazzo casino’s northwest side.

The invitation-only gala was attended by my wonderful colleague Allison Duck, hunky FREEZONE bartender Ric James Naughton and KTNV personalities JJ Snyder, Jason Dinant and Micah Manalo along with talented singer Brandon Nix (Magic Mike Live, Rock of Ages, Velvet Elvis). Majordomo Meat and Fish is open daily from 5:30opm to 10:30pm.

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At last, New Year’s Eve was upon us, so it was back to Westgate Las Vegas for their annual gala. This year’s attendees included FOX5 Emmy-winning anchor Jason Feinberg, the cast of Soul of Motown and prolific go-to photographer Ira Kuzma accompanied by his lovely wife Marie.

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After an incredible dinner, dancing, east-coast ball drop and entertainment throughout the resort by classy crooner Mark O’Toole and David Perrico’s Pop Strings Orchestra, the party moved upstairs via private elevator to Westgate’s famous Versailles Sky Villa. The rooftop mansion’s outdoor deck provided the perfect location for fireworks viewing of both the Strip and nearby STRAT Skypod.

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From there it was off to Charlie’s, a country-western bar near Orleans Casino that has somehow become a destination for local drag queens. They hosted a costume contest into the wee hours that was as funny as it was outlandish. And that’s how 2019 came to a close…as oddly as it began. Because nothing says “New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas” like cross-dressers and barechested muscle boys. Happy 2020, everyone!

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This year-end wrap-up is dedicated to the memory of my little lady Daphne, who passed away on Christmas Day.

 

 

 

2019 – The Year in Review: Entertainment Highs and Lows


Taking a look back at the best, worst and notable in production shows of 2019….

As in recent years, the Las Vegas entertainment arena of 2019 was volatile, to say the least. Some headliners soared while others became a blip. Expensive new productions were met with skepticism or downright disdain. And still, those rotten brown logs known as Terry Fator, Mariah Carey, and Criss Angel continued to float in toilets of their own making.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the more notable examples of Sin City’s troubling trends in 2019 – The Year in Review: Entertainment Highs and Lows.

BEST NEW SHOW – Atomic Saloon Show at Venetian/Palazzo

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Spiegelworld hits and scores once more with Atomic Saloon Show. A bawdy in-your-face Wild West romp with hookers, cowboys, a horny minister, and his pair of twisted nuns, Atomic Saloon Show tosses the high points of Absinthe and Opium into a blender and pours out a perfect cocktail. Cast members Colin Cahill and Davide Zongoli receive bonus points for pushing the “hotness scale” to ten but the entire cast is uniformly excellent.

Runners Up: Blanc de Blanc, Blond Invasion, Fuerza Bruta, Hans Klok 

WORST NEW SHOW – R.U.N at Luxor

R.U.N For The Exit – Cirque du Soleil’s Latest is an EPIC DISASTER

Cirque du Soleil has definitely had their heyday on the Strip but they’ve swiftly fallen down the scale in terms of must-do entertainment. The famed acrobatic troupe somehow survived a nauseating ten years of BeLIEve/Mindfreak Live, Criss Angel’s abominable slop fest at Luxor. Then they replaced it with something far worse (how that’s even possible is a question for the ages).

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Nothing can prepare you for the awfulness of R.U.N (read my full review here). No matter how much you may be warned in advance, you’ll still leave feeling nauseated, perplexed, violated, repulsed and suffering from a throbbing headache.

When the company behind such beloved productions as Mystere and The Beatles LOVE pukes out a furball of this magnitude, there really is no way to recover. R.U.N will go down in the history books as one of the worst shows that Las Vegas has ever seen. And this is the city where Nudes On Ice was born.

Runner Up – Criss Angel Mindfreak Live at Planet Hollywood Same shit, same arrogant asshole, different theater. Enough said.

BIGGEST SURPRISE – Blond Invasion at V Theater

In a city filled with tribute shows, Blond Invasion (here’s my review) had no right to be this much fun. Spot-on impersonations of Britney Spears, Madonna, and Lady Gaga would already be entertaining, but mix in a quartet of hot male dancers, terrific choreography, spectacular costumes and live singing and you’ve got a perfect night out.  Things got even better when the trio came together for a once-in-a-lifetime medley that will sadly never happen in real life.

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             Swoon-worthy Adam D. Tucker as Tim McGraw in Vegas Gone Country

Unfortunately, Blond Invasion was one of two gems at V Theater that was never discovered by the audiences they deserved. Companion show Vegas Gone Country followed a similar formula and also suffered from anemic ticket sales. When the stars themselves have regular gigs a few blocks away, it seems that folks would rather pay more for the genuine article, no matter how lazy or rude they’ve become (I’m talking to you, Madonna). Which leads us to…

MAJOR HEADLINERS THAT SNORED AND SOARED – 

2019 was the year that fans went gaga over Lady Gaga. With two simultaneous productions playing at Park MGM Theater, the Star Is Born actress wowed sold-out audiences with classy Piano Jazz on some nights and Enigma‘s full-scale psychedelic pop on others.

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Britney Spears imploded on a personal level…yet again…and her February residency at Park MGM was quickly canceled and forgotten. The official explanation was a concern for her father’s health, then later the pop tart claimed that daddy dearest had forced her into rehab. Whatever they claim, poor ticket sales were being reported right up to the cancellation. You can only move your lips and flap your arms so many times before audiences cry out “Enough already!”.

Janet Jackson quickly moved into the Brit-bot’s vacated slot but barely managed to make a squeak. It seems like most of her fans remained behind the velvet rope, waiting for something better. Maybe it was her silence regarding LEAVING NEVERLAND, the HBO documentary detailing brother Michael’s fascination with little boys, that kept them away.

Perhaps it was the tabloid-worthy marriage/pregnancy/birth/divorce to a Qatari billionaire. Or her conversion to the Islam faith accompanied by uncomfortable photos in traditional Muslim garb…or the fact that the weight-troubled former hitmaker had canceled a 2016 tour then kept the money from advance ticket sales (fans sued and won) that pushed them over the edge. Whatever the reason, don’t expect a return from the money-grubbing Rhythm Nation songstress anytime soon. Sorry, Miss Jackson, but you’re nasty.

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Madonna turned out to be no lady for a trio of shows at Caesars Palace last month. Originally scheduled for 8;30 pm, the self-proclaimed diva pushed the start time to 10:30 pm after tickets were already sold, then had the nerve to show up three hours beyond THAT, going on stage way after midnight. Fans rebelled, hundreds of refunds were issued and of course, a lawsuit was filed by ticket buyers.

Arriving to a chorus of boos, Madonna remained unapologetic, saying “”There’s something that you all need to understand, and that is that a queen is never late.” Well, let’s hope this queen bitch tumbles from her throne and lands on her face. Maybe then she’ll finally get those teeth fixed and put that absurd eye patch to good use.

Shania Twain arrived late in the game for a series of shows at Zappos Theater, Planet Hollywood. Fans and non-fans alike gave the new production an enthusiastic thumbs-up with special mention to the energetic performance of its star…and some seriously steamy back-up dancers. Christina Aguilera and Gwen Stefani’s residencies in the same venue garnered a similar response.

Paula Abdul signed on for Flamingo‘s Donnie and Marie Theater and reviews have been decidedly mixed, leaning towards the negative. While I’ve yet to see the show (I was never a fan in the slightest, so she isn’t high on my list), those who have gone to it report that she lip-syncs the entire performance while being tossed around like a sack of potatoes.

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Since the one-time American Idol judge (oh, the irony of that) was always a horrible singer, perhaps her onstage fakery is a blessing in disguise. But who thought that Abdul was worthy of a residency, especially since her 2018 comeback tour crashed and burned? Apparently the thrifty folks at TravelZoo, where you can snag discounted tickets for as low as $49. Forever your girl, indeed.

Next year will see a residency by Kelly Clarkson that already promises to be a big hit. The initial response has been through the roof. If this seems like something you’d be interested in, snatch up your tix asap, or else you may be seeing Gaga-level resale prices very soon.

GONE AND FORGOTTEN – Gordie Brown

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Last year Gordie Brown was the unfortunate recipient of my “Saddest Career Path” award. Well, the new owners of Hooters Hotel Casino rebranded the place as OYO and quickly showed Mr. Brown the door. It certainly didn’t help that the one-time Venetian headliner slandered and criticized his own showroom and host hotel during performances, promising the audience that he’d rise again in a better place. Good luck with that, Gordie.

“THEY’RE STILL AROUND?” AWARD – Mariah Carey, Criss Angel, and Terry Fator

The unsinkable triad of Mariah Carey, Criss Angel, and Terry Fator is a log jam that just won’t flush. Maybe it’s just time to grab a plunger and force them down the drain. You already know my contempt for arrogant mouthpiece Mariah and douchebag Criss from last year’s summary. Those who’ve aligned themselves professionally with the faux-goth farce, in particular, have learned the hard way that they’ll eventually get stabbed in the back…and become a laughingstock in the eyes of colleagues. So the less said about them this time around, the better. Please, just go away.

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Terry Fator is new to the list but deserves a placing nonetheless. His stale attempts at comedy were tired ten years ago but have grown exponentially stale, with the offensiveness amped up to levels that have garnered reactions from both audience members and host hotel Mirage.

While Fator presented himself on America’s Got Talent as an awe-shucks kind of guy, those in the know are aware of the real details of his scheming, shocking personal life. Fator has been accused of scandalous treatment and abandonment of first wife Melinda, a skeevy relationship with half-his-age employee/wife #2 Taylor Makakoa (he proposed to wife #3 right in front of #2 during a performance…while still married), lawsuits with former managers and a very bizarre background (including being raised in a cult). Then there’s that mysterious death of his estranged sister in his home and the lawsuit that his mother brought against him, fearing for her personal safety. You can’t make this shit up.

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         Nothing says “Christmas” like your fist shoved deep inside a sexual predator doll…

The Mirage recently asked Fator to get rid of his controversial Donald Trump puppet “to avoid escalating the political divide in an already polarized country” as reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Then Gary Costa, Executive Director of LGBTQ/AIDS charity Golden Rainbow sent a complaint letter to protest the show’s slandering of minorities and gays. Here is Mr. Costa’s public post via Facebook:

A few months ago I attended this offensive show at The Mirage Hotel and Casino and was horrified at the blatant racist, transphobic and homophobic content of the Terry Fator show. I contacted the management of The MGM including their diversity manager to formally lodge a complaint. While removing the offensive Trump puppet is a start it isn’t enough.

Blatant discrimination and public ridicule of Latinos and trans and LGBTQ individuals has no place on the Las Vegas strip disguised as “entertainment”. As long as the MGM corporation continues to allow this man to spew his hate under the guise of “family comedy” I will continue to boycott their company and keep pressuring their management to remove this outdated performer from their property permanently. There are literally a dozen or so ventriloquist acts in Las Vegas that are funny, entertaining, talented and enjoyable to watch. Terry Fator unfortunately is NOT one of them

My husband and I had a similar reaction when attending Fator’s sorry excuse for a show. We actually left the performance early and went to Le Reve instead. The fact that Fator is regularly listed on Groupon for $45 may be a sign that the wild, freaky ride is finally coming to a close. Then again, this is the same hotel that shuttered the Terry Fator Store in favor of Kardashian Khaos Boutique, so who can say? In any case, I urge you to boycott this hateful and revolting man, along with his nasty excuse for “entertainment”.

 

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT – The Fate of FUERZA BRUTA 

The long-running international hit Fuerza Bruta had a chilly reception from Sin City patrons and was closed mere weeks into a proposed six-month run. A daring, innovative show, it should have been a slam-dunk on the Strip (see my review here). But Vegas audiences won’t buy tickets to something that isn’t a known quantity, much like at movie theaters, where sequels and reboots shove new ideas to the bottom of the box office tallies.

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Fuerza Bruta‘s quick shuttering inspired me to write what would turn out to be my most-read article of the year. If you haven’t taken the time to look at it, now would be a great opportunity. The in-depth piece analyzes the troubling future of the City of Entertainment and explains why so many shows have closed…and why others are on the chopping block.

International Hit ‘Blanc de Blanc’ Pops a Cork at Sahara

 

RUNNER-UP: Blanc de Blanc’s abrupt closure at Sahara

 

BITTERSWEET FAREWELL – Jeff Civillico Closes After A Decade

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It’s a well-known secret within the industry that Vegas performers often head to other cities on their days off (or take a Vegas hiatus) to supplement high overhead (and dwindling sales) on the Strip. Entertainers like Jason Tenner (PURPLE REIGN), The Bronx Wanderers, Criss Angel, and even Terry Fator hop onto planes (or busses) to fill much larger venues with significantly lower overhead.

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Jeff Civillico has been extremely candid with me through the years regarding his difficulties with the “Four Wall” method of running shows. It’s a business model that puts the responsibility and cost of performing on the entertainers instead of the old way when casinos supported their productions. And it seems like Jeff has had enough of the current system.

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Last Wednesday was Civillico’s final Vegas performance after a decade that saw him in places ranging from guest gigs with magician Nathan Burton to his first stint at Planet Hollywood (the restaurant, not the hotel) to residencies at Imperial Palace/The Quad/Linq Hotel, Flamingo and the Anthony Cools Showroom at Paris.

Jeff will continue to perform at corporate gigs around the country while focusing more time at Win-Win Entertainment, which matches performers with not-for-profit organizations. As a fan and personal friend who has followed Jeff’s journey from very humble beginnings to his current achievements, I will miss this handsome hunk of joy.

RUNNER UP – The Naked Magicians

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The cuddly, talented and adorable duo of Mike Tyler and Christopher Wayne enjoyed the prestige and opportunity (along with enthusiastic reviews like mine) to have their own Strip residency. Alas, the Naked Magicians experienced the same difficult reality that persuaded Jeff Civillico to say “I’m leaving Las Vegas”. Why fight an uphill battle when you can do financially better just about anywhere else in the world?

Stick with Vegas Unfiltered for more of 2019 – Year in Review in the days ahead.

Look! Up In the Air! It’s Davide Zongoli aka ‘AcroDave’!

 


Sin City’s high-flying aerialist won’t be satisfied until you know his name…

“People think they know who I am…they don’t. ‘AcroDave’ is a character. ‘The Outlaw’ is a character. My name is Davide Zongoli.” So begins my conversation with Sin City’s newest aerialist/acrobat. And it’s one discussion that I won’t soon forget.

Davide may or may not be the “The Abdominal Outlaw”, the flamboyant flying cowboy who sails over the audience in a state of near-total nudity at Venetian’s Atomic Saloon Show. If that statement confuses you, click here to bring yourself up to speed.

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As we settled in for drinks at a coffee shop on the city’s west side, I couldn’t help noticing the stares when Davide (pronounced DAH-vee-dah) unzipped his jacket and released his tight, beefy frame from captivity. A barely-there tank top did nothing to hide the Italian hunk’s extraordinary physique.

But even when fully clad, Mr. Zongoli strikes an imposing figure. With his thick flowing hair, carefully-manicured scruff and chiseled cheekbones, he’d turn heads in any environment…even in Las Vegas, where pretty people are “a dime a dozen”.

So what makes Davide Zongoli worthy of a profile article and heaps of praise from his 329,000 followers? Well, that’s an answer many years in the making, built on a foundation of adversity and determination. And everyone loves a success story achieved through hard work.

Prior to being cast in the ATOMIC SALOON SHOW, the acrobat has been caught performing his jaw-dropping acrobatics in circuses across Europe, as master of the aerial pole, and was a 2018 finalist on Spain’s Got Talent. And as if that wasn’t impressive enough, The Abdominal Outlaw is also a swimwear and underwear model with more than 300,000 Instagram followers. If you follow him, you’ll understand how he got his moniker. – Jena Pugh, BestOfVegas.com

Long before Zongoli was the impressive specimen I saw before me on this sunny afternoon, he was a six-year-old boy suffering from scoliosis. As part of his treatment regime, doctors advised him to swim regularly. Taking an active part in his conditioning and therapy was something Davide became fully immersed in, so much so that he became a competitive swimmer until he was sixteen. This established a lifetime of discipline which segued into professional success in the world of dance.

After signing up for ballet, modern and contemporary classes at the urging of his friend, instructor Antonella Mita, the 17-year-old proved to be a natural. Within a year he had a contract to perform in Ivano Festival della Valle d’Itria and appeared in the televised musical “A Voice In The Sun” with popular Italian singer/actor Al Bano. In 2010 he was asked to participate in Leona Lewis‘s first international tour.

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Despite demonstrating remarkable talent and aptitude, Davide faced resistance from nearly every direction. School instructors, peers, and even his family made it difficult for him to pursue what he loved (“Boys don’t dance!”). Bullied and pressured, he continued to learn the craft with the support of counterparts in the entertainment field. Zongoli’s parents had hoped for him to achieve a degree in law and initially resisted in supporting him, but eventually, they became strong allies too.

Perhaps it was the fact that dancing allowed him to appear on television with celebrities that won them over. Or touring the world in prestigious productions. Most likely it was the fact that their son was fully committed to being the best in his field. Whatever the reason, Zongoli was making his own rules and succeeding quite wonderfully at them. And he was thrilled that his parents were now attending his performances from Venice to Madrid.

As we were about to discuss his transition from dance to acrobatics, Davide’s phone rang. During the next few moments, I got to witness the qualities that made this performer worthy of being lured to Vegas from overseas. Sure, I’d already seen the stunning things he could do on stage and in the air…but what goes on behind the scenes is just as vital when you’ve reached this level.

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It turns out that one of Zongoli’s fellow acrobats had been sidelined from an injury and would be out for a while. Davide was being summoned to the theater to cover that performer’s absence and to rework some transitions. “They want me to come in at three. I told them I’d be there at five. It will only take thirty minutes to fix this and it will be perfect”.

Witnessing his confidence, I fully believed that the evening’s show would be flawless. With all of his experience and previous gigs, situations like this one become routine. Still, I was shocked at his candor with the party on the other end of the line. “That was pretty gutsy” I gushed. Davide just laughed. But what some might view as arrogance is actually earned. “This is why they hire me. I’m good at what I do. I’m a professional and will take care of this. Nobody will realize that someone is missing”.

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I asked Davide what the audition process was like for Atomic Saloon Show and once again he chuckled. “I don’t audition for parts. People can see what I do on the internet. It’s all there. If it’s something that I’m interested in, I send a video.”

For many Vegas performers, the genres of acrobatics, dance and competitive sports frequently intersect. This allows them to become more commercially attractive and useful in the field of entertainment. Davide found himself transitioning from traditional dancing into pole dancing, a talent that drew him national attention on Spain’s Got Talent. It’s also a skill that’s highly featured in Atomic Saloon Show.

                                Wowing the judges in Spain’s Got Talent 2018

As with swimming and dancing, Zongoli quickly took to pole dancing and once again rose to the top. From his bio:

In July 2011, Davide began practicing pole dance with Titty Tamantini (his coach) and within 3 months he had won the Italian National Championship, becoming the country’s first national male Italian pole dance champion. This enabled him to enter other high ranking prestigious competitions where he was a finalist: European Championships, International Pole Championships, World Pole Championships and World Pole Sport Championship.

He again won the Italian Pole Championship in 2012 and in 2013 and on September 29th he won the European Pole Sport Championship 2012 and the Silver Medalist at the 2013 World Pole Sports Championships.

At this point, our conversation bounced around from relationships (he’s single) to recreational activities (all I do is train, eat, work and sometimes go to Piranha), and of course, sexuality. Anyone who follows Zongoli’s Instagram page is aware that he’s a brazen, no-apologies member of the gay community. Then there’s OnlyFans, where he shows just about every asset. His stage character shares that bold sexuality, so I asked Davide if Spiegelworld had any concerns about his personal and social media activities.

“Not at all. They’re supportive of my ideas and they’re great to work with. They allowed me to be myself and even let me add in a kiss with _______ (I won’t spoil the surprise here). It was my idea to bring the nuns into my act, too. People love it and it works great.”

Considering the current, volatile state of live entertainment in Vegas, I wondered if Davide had fears about relocating here for a brand new show. “No. I already spent enough money to stay for a while. I have a car, furniture, an apartment. Five years is the plan. I can always get another job if I needed to, but I love my show and working for Spiegelworld.”

While Davide doesn’t necessarily have intentions of making Las Vegas a permanent home, he’s up for being flexible. “Where I came from, everything is within a few blocks. Your friends are all around you and everything you need is near. Here, you drive drive drive. Everyone knows each other but they’re over here, over there. But, you make plans and life changes them.” So…who knows?

                  Underwear: Modus Vivendi Photographer: Joan Crisol @joancrisolphoto

Planning and self-awareness are traits that have allowed Zongoli to curate a perfectly polished image known as “AcroDave”. That’s the name he goes by on Instagram. Much more than a public display of selfies, the account represents another facet of his business, one that generates brand association and of course, income.

Davide may not have gotten that law degree, but he would have certainly excelled at marketing. As he explained it, every product, location or photographer he collaborates with is expected to have a similar or greater level of public presence. Every choice is one that can offer growth and a heightened degree of exposure. He’s currently a brand ambassador for both JJ Malibu and Andrew Christian undergarments and is about to launch his own line of clothing.

“I’m not a model. I’m not that tall and not that young. But I know how to look good in pictures.” Every photoshoot takes several days of planning. It’s unusual for a fitness/physique model to have body hair, but Davide said that Atomic Saloon Show wants that look for his character. So when a session is coming up, he’ll trim his body hair a few days beforehand, allowing time for any skin irritation to subside. Then he meticulously grooms and shapes it.

Nothing is left to chance when it comes to a photo shoot. Photographers must enter an agreement to immediately download a copy of each raw photo taken before he’ll leave the studio or location. Then Davide will retouch the final shots after they’ve already been edited by the photographer. “Those photos will be around forever. This won’t be” he says, pointing to a blemish on his bicep. “We get pimples. We have scars that will fade. I want everything to be perfect.”

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Perfection is what sets apart the best from the rest. And scars, both emotional and physical, will indeed fade with time. But for performers like Davide Zongoli, who respect their craft and the audience that pays to see them, the impact of their talents will remain long after the final curtain falls.

Photos provided by Davide Zongoli

 

HOT GUYS OF VEGAS: New Boys In Town


Two new adult productions have brought an avalanche of fresh hunks to Sin City…

You may have seen my recent reviews on Spielgelworld’s ATOMIC SALOON SHOW at Venetian and BLANC DE BLANC at Sahara. Both productions are excellent and packed with amazing acrobatics, saucy wit and moments of lunacy. They’re also dripping with stripped-down musclemen who push the edge of titillation with their hot bodies and physical feats.

Let’s get cozy with a few of these boys and find out what they do to make our pulses soar. And we’ll start off with….

THE MEN OF SAHARA’S ‘BLANC DE BLANC’

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Gregory Romeo aka “Monsieur Romeo” – model/performer

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Where you’ve seen him – Host of Blanc de Blanc, Armani ads 

“Debonair” is the perfect word to describe Gregory Romeo. That’s the impression he slathered on me upon meeting at Sahara’s Blanc de Blanc Theater. Dripping with sensuality and purring “hello” in a delicious French greeting, Romeo strolled from table to table to welcome each guest. I barely allowed him to leave.

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Clad in a striking tuxedo and clutching an ever-present flute of champagne, Monsieur Romeo (as he’s known in performance mode) made hearts flutter every moment he was on the stage. Things got even more intense when he stripped off his formal wear and slid into a bubbling jacuzzi for the show’s outrageous finale. Talk about popping your cork!

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Every facet of Monsieur Romeo oozes a delicious mixture of silliness and sensuality. Born in France and raised throughout Europe, this man of the arts finds joy in pushing social and cultural boundaries. An artist with a formal education in graphic design, Romeo mixes architecture, eroticism and fashion into his own signature style.

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We can all learn from Romeo’s freedom of expression. Confident in his sexual appeal minus the ego, he uses his great looks, stunning physique and outrageous sense of humor to capture your attention. And once you take a look, you’re hooked.

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Check out Gregory Romeo’s website to explore his amazing photographic work, both behind of and in front of the cameras. And get your butt to Sahara for Blanc de Blanc. Monsier Romeo is waiting there for you with a glass of bubbly…in a tub full of bubbles.

Noteworthy traits – velvety voice, muscles of granite

 

Hampus Jansson –  circus performer/model

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Where you’ve seen him – Blanc de Blanc, Michael Jackson IMMORTAL TOUR

Stockholm’s loss is Sin City’s gain now that Hampus Jansson has arrived. This boyishly-handsome blonde athlete (full name Ulf Hampus Jannson) and his professional/life partner Milena Straczynski are now setting hearts afire in Las Vegas as the passionate aerialist duo of Blanc de Blanc.

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Hampus has a boyish smile and innocent playfulness that make him wonderfully appealing. His tousled blonde hair and smooth flawless skin form the perfect contrast to a strong, athletic body that was created by endless hours of training and endurance.

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Spinning through the air while holding his lady love, this muscular Adonis looks perfect on a romance-novel cover. He’s just as comfortable in family-friendly productions like Cirque du Soleil’s VEREKIA, DRALION and Michael Jackson: The IMMORTAL World Tour.

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Great genetics are part of what makes Hampus an amazing entertainer. Father Ulf-Håkan Jansson came to fame in Sweden as an actor and puppeteer, imparting a love for theatrics to his children. Hampus originally planned on going into acting until the circus bug bit him. Sister Uuve, an award-winning trapeze artist, made her mark on Los Angeles in the cinema-themed IRIS by Cirque du Soleil.

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Jannson came to the States awhile back and settled in nicely to the tropical feel of Miami Beach. Moving to Las Vegas this summer for Blanc de Blanc has been quite a big change. Nevertheless, the young hunk has been having fun, taking in the sights and learning about our partying ways here on the Strip.

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                      Hampus and Milena pop a cork at premiere of Blanc de Blanc…

With his disciplined lifestyle, a body that ripped and a face so innocent, it’s doubtful that Hampus often indulges in the excesses of Las Vegas. But as official emissaries of the city, it’s our duty to corrupt him. Or at least to try…

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Noteworthy traits – youthful personality, manly physique

Danik Abishev – handstand athlete/acrobat/dancer

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Where you’ve seen him – LIMBO, Dubai’s LA PERLE, Circus Royale of Australia 

Danik Abishev is truly a global performer. Born into a traditional Russian circus family, Danik began performing at the age of four. As part of the Soviet Union state circuses, he toured China and received the title of Honoured Artists of Russia.

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The family relocated to Brisbane in Queensland, Australia and Danik continued his worldwide domination of performance arts. After working with hip-hop group Tom Tom Crew in the Middle East and South America, the muscular athlete charmed the people of Oz in Australia’s Got Talent.

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Then it was off to Dubai’s Al Habtoor City to perform in La Perle, a new show created by Franco Dragone. Vegas audiences know Dragone from the hit shows O and Le Reve, so of course the Sin City bug was eventually bound to bite Abishev in his well-shaped arse, too.

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As part of Blanc de Blanc, Danik struts, strips and wows audiences with an inverted handstand act that has the audience gasping, screaming and standing up to applaud. The finale features the diminutive hunk literally soaring over the audience and plunging down to their tables in a mind-bending sway pole climax. Nice of you to drop in, Danik!

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Noteworthy traits – short in stature, long on sex appeal

 

THE MEN OF Spiegelworld’s ‘ATOMIC SALOON SHOW’

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The boys of Blanc de Blanc are pretty open about their identities and bios. At Spiegelworld, not so much. The upstart (and wildly successful) challenger to Cirque du Soleil‘s throne is quite invested in the reality of their characters. They’d have you believe that “The Gazillionaire” of ABSINTHE and OPIUM‘s cast of inter-planetary travelers are genuine people…and that’s part of their unique charm.

Now that ATOMIC SALOON SHOW has opened at Venetian to awesome reviews, Vegas has another collection of wacky “citizens” to welcome. But a little journalistic know-how has uncovered the identities and backgrounds of a few of Boozy Skunkton’s wild-west friends.

Or have I been hoodwinked with some fake bios put out there to throw me off???? It doesn’t matter….fact or fiction, they’re all hot as Hell! So let’s take a closer look at the hunks who hang out at Boozy’s Saloon, shall we?

“The Mayor” (Pavel Stankevych) – handstand athlete

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Where you’ve seen him – Mayor in ‘Atomic Saloon Show’ at Venetian

Effective leaders throughout history have been the ones who handle themselves with grace and elegance. As the “Mayor” of Atomic Saloon’s dusty town, Pavel Stankevych does so in spades. With his ability to defy gravity and bend backwards to a frightening degree, you may find yourself wondering if this prime specimen is indeed human. But I assure you…Speigelworld’s latest superlative slab of human flesh is the real deal.

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Musclemania.com reported on Instagram nearly four years ago that Pavel was from the Czech Republic. The illusive hunk stepped in to identify his origins as Ukranian, but perhaps they got the rest of the details right. Who knows?

Czech circus performer Pavel Stankevych has a bodybuilder’s physique with extreme calisthenics skills. The 6’2″, 185 lbs., athlete says he’s considering pursuing natural bodybuilding and competing this season.

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Beyond that description, good luck learning more about the ever-shirtless “Mayor”. In a cast stacked to the max with chiseled abs, bulging arms and massive pecs, Pavel still manages to elicit audible gasps from men and women alike.

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When he strips off his formal wear for upside-down feats of balance and strength, even Boozy Skunkton (proprietor of the titular Saloon) can’t help commenting with envy on the size of his bulging chest. No doubt the working girls in Boozy’s upstairs brothel would benefit from His Honor’s amazing flexibility…and the size of his ample bosom as well.

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Noteworthy traits – superhero powers, secret identity, giant pecs…

 

The Abdominal Outlaw (Davide Zongoli) – dancer/aerialist/acrobat

 

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Where you’ve seen him – ‘Atomic Saloon Show’ at Venetian, Norwegian Cruises

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Regular readers of this column know that I also freelance for BestOfVegas.com. Jena Pugh, my colleague from that site, had this to say about our next hottie:

The Abdominal Outlaw is the Italian stallion “infamous around the world for hold-ups, push-ups, sit-ups, and for stealing hearts wherever he goes.” Prior to being cast in the ATOMIC SALOON SHOW, the acrobat has been caught performing his jaw-dropping acrobatics in circuses across Europe, as master of the aerial pole, and was a 2018 finalist on Spain’s Got Talent. And as if that wasn’t impressive enough, The Abdominal Outlaw is also a swimwear and underwear model with more than 300,000 Instagram followers. If you follow him, you’ll understand how he got his moniker.

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You can read Jena’s full article by clicking HERE. But if you’re the type who prefers to just drool over photos, Davide’s Instagram page is indeed an epic collection of erotic moments frozen in time. Playful, titillating and infused with humor, this handsome devil lets his body do the talking. And oh, what a message it is….

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Of course, nothing compares to seeing this sensational athlete performing in all of his stripped-down glory. Featured in two solo numbers as well as several ensemble sequences, the Abdominal Outlaw manages to stand out in a cast of amazing characters.

 

While “The Mayor” is shrouded in secrecy, “Abdominal Outlaw” has been quite forthcoming with the media. In fact, you might find a full-fledged profile of this new Vegas resident in an upcoming column. Stay tuned…

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Noteworthy traits – wild mane of hair, wilder sense of eroticism…

 

“Blue Jackson the Singing Cowboy” – identity uncertain

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There’s a persistent rumor spinning throughout Vegas that “Blue Jackson”, the adorable guitar-toting cowpoke of Atomic Saloon Show, is actually Vegas performer Colin Cahill. The evidence I’ve uncovered seems to suggest otherwise, as Spiegelworld’s social media clearly shows Mr. Jackson at rehearsals for Atomic Saloon Show in Edinburgh, Scotland this past summer.

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Mr. Cahill would certainly have no time for nightly performances at Venetian‘s newest hit anyway. He’s already dazzling audiences on a regular basis at charity-driven Mondays Dark and popular Kenny Davidsen’s Bow Tie Cabaret at Tuscany Resort. Cahill’s also known to pinch-hit for singers in Tenors of Rock and The Bronx Wanderers as well as his stint as “Stefan” in ” Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man“.

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A seasoned veteran of Sin City entertainment, Cahill has shown off his acting, singing and dancing chops in a variety of productions like Tournament of Kings and the Jeff Timmons-fronted male revue Men of the Strip. So how in the world would this strapping hunk have time to portray a hick with a penchant for naughty lyrics and cornball humor?

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Besides all that, Colin quite simply cannot be “Blue Jackson” because that silly feller wears shirts…and our local boy doesn’t. It’s been told that the good-hearted young man who jokingly calls himself “the hairless Bigfoot” once donated all of his shirts to a charity for needy gentlemen…and hasn’t slipped one on since. All the better to see your stunning abs, my dear. 

 

The next time this writer attends Sex Tips, I may have to ask actress MaKenzie Fly to clear up the “Mystery of Blue Jackson”. After all, she’s married to Colin and the couple doesn’t seem to be the type to hang out at dusty old brothels. Then again, this is Vegas, where anything is possible.

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Noteworthy traits – innocent grin, bedroom eyes, abs for days….

“Jean Louis” (Jérôme Simard) – aerialist/dance trapeze

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Where you’ve seen him – Les Ailes du Desir, École nationale de cirque

Pity poor “Jean-Louis”, the youngest cast member of Atomic Saloon Show. The strapping immigrant came to the wild west with high hopes and big dreams. Alas, he found himself in the thankless position of janitor/handyman/stable boy to “Boozy Skunkton” at her brothel/hotel/saloon.

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Torn between a chaste life and the charms of working girl “Sweet Cheeks”, the handsome lad with curly locks and a French accent gives into his carnal desires and makes plans to run away with his girl. Alas, the only time they can share a moment together is during a romantic aerial straps duo.

 

Uncovering the personal details of performer Jerome Simard is harder that the whiskey bottles that get smashed over heads during the show’s uproarious climax. After a fair amount of digging I can confirm that Jerome has been a guest instructor at Miami’s prestigious Les Ailes du Desir Circus School, where Blanc de Blanc hunk Hampus Jannson (above) once taught.

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Jérôme is also listed as a graduate of Montreal National Circus School and has been affiliated with Zen Arts, a Los Angeles-based talent agency. Although he’s been spotted checking out other Vegas saloons with the Abdominal Outlaw in his free time, Simard’s birthplace and personal life remain a mystery. But his body of work….and shredded physique…may tell you all you need to know about this airborne artist.

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                   Myself with “Abdominal Outlaw” and “Jean Louis” during Halloween…

Noteworthy traits – shy demeanor, luscious locks, gentle voice…

Breaking news: Roman Mokrenko (below) has joined the cast of Atomic Saloon Show, swinging in the role of “Jean Louis” on select nights. Read about the former aerialist of CELESTIA in my profile article HERE.

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Photos: Ian Murphy, Michael Bader, Facebook, Roman Mokrenko

‘Atomic Saloon Show’ Brings the Wild West to the Venetian


Spiegelworld’s latest in adult variety brings the Wild West to Venetian/Palazzo…

The folks at Spiegelworld are on a roll. With the 8th anniversary of ABSINTHE fresh in our minds and OPIUM continuing to draw new fans, it was only a matter of time before the cutting-edge entertainment company would unleash another outlandish concept. Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the Atomic Saloon Show.

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The latest offering from Ross Mollison and his creative team is an all-out effort. Taking over the gorgeous, little-known space once home to controversial ‘The Act’, Atomic Saloon is a fully-realized theatrical concept. The gorgeous multi-level club has been reborn as an immersive old-West saloon/hotel housing multiple bars, intimate private spaces, lush woodwork, period accents…and supposedly a top-floor brothel (more on that in a bit).

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The backstory of ‘Atomic’ is as wacky as it is convoluted. The saloon’s original location in the Nevada desert was lost to nuclear testing decades ago. Proprietor “Boozy Skunkton” (Petra Massey) relocated her bar staff, working girls, entertainers and customers to a new spot inside Venetian’s Grand Canal Shoppes.

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Apparently all of the citizens of Skunton’s former town decided to come along too, including “Reverend Peabody” (Damien Warren-Smith), his nuns, lots of cows and a few tumbleweeds. And it would seem that everyone is caught in some kind of time warp.

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As luck would have it, each of the townsfolk has an amazing and sexually-charged talent…even the Mayor (Pavel Stankevich). His Honor is a wordless heart throb who wanders in and out of the show when not climbing onto a four-post apparatus to display his amazing flexibility and strength. Guitar-strumming “Blue Jackson” (Sex Tips‘ Colin Cahill) has a penchant for breaking into naughty songs between cattle stampedes, showing off a pair of swiveling hips that would make Elvis jealous.

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Good girl “Sweet Cheeks” (Alina Shpynova) longs to be free of Boozy’s gentlemen-callers and run away with the saloon’s French stud “Jean-Louis” (Jérôme Simard). Their amusing attempts to escape Madam Skunton’s brothel form the wraparound plot. In between, guests are entertained by a collection of aerial, acrobatic and dance numbers that are so in-your-face that the front row is cautioned to remain seated.

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Fans of Spiegelworld’s defunct Vegas Nocturne will delight in the return of Peter Harding and Suzanne Cleary, whose unforgettable “Up and Over It” has been transformed into a delightful table-slapping folk dance. Athletic model David Zongoli brings erotic flamboyance to “The Outlaw” in two separate acts, a gravity-defying pole dance and a sensual aerial striptease.

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Efforts by the good Reverend to shut down Boozy’s establishment go predictably awry. So much so that the Sisters fall victim to their urges, unleashing a cavalcade of ping-pong balls into the audience (don’t ask). Rev. Peabody himself weakens under Boozy’s spell, leading to a tawdry dance that had this writer watching from between his fingers.

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No Western tale would be complete without a bar brawl…and ‘Atomic Saloon Show’ unleashes a doozy.

Click HERE to continue reading…

Photos: Sam Novak, Atomic Saloon Show

 

International Hit ‘Blanc de Blanc’ Pops a Cork at Sahara



Sexy new burlesque show forms the cornerstone of re-imagined resort…

UPDATE: Starting October 3rd, all showtimes are moving from 7 pm to 8 pm.

The conversion of legendary Sahara Hotel Casino into SLS Las Vegas wasn’t the success that everyone had hoped for. Nor was it the north-Strip savior that many predicted. But five years of floundering later, Sahara is back with the original name, new owners and lots of improvements. And leading their entertainment line-up is the wonderful Blanc de Blanc.

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Blanc de Blanc is an international hit that evokes the spirit of the finest champagnes. It’s fizzy, titillating, euphoric and oh so sophisticated. Featuring a gorgeous cast of singers, dancers, acrobats and comedians, it’s 75 minutes of fast paced, adults-only fun. The Foundry has been transformed into a lush Parisian cabaret for this production, lending an air of intimacy that few shows of this nature can achieve.

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A two-level main stage is enhanced by three additional platforms, one of which becomes a balloon-filled hot tub as the show progresses. The action is all around you in the multi-level space which offers booths, cocktail tables, bar-side seats and…brace yourself…a Premium Champagne Hot Tub Experience. Yes, you can actually take a dip and sip bubbly with the cast (swimwear is required, so come prepared).

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The show itself is reminiscent of Vegas Nocturne, the fantastic three-chapter Spiegelworld extravaganza that helped launch Cosmopolitan’s Rose.Rabbit.Lie in 2014. Fans of that short-lived production, which was ironically once rumored to resurface here at SLS/Sahara, will recognize cast member Spencer Novich. The rubber-bodied funnyman, who performed a similar role as “Ripley” in Vegas Nocturne, brings his unique onstage talents to Blanc de Blanc and also serves as its comedy director.

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Blanc de Blanc is hosted by elegant, towering and muscular Monsieur Roméo. Clad in a tuxedo, holding his ever-present champagne flute and speaking in velvety French, the former Armani model, photographer and comedian greets guests at their seat before each performance. His sultry charisma sets the perfect tone for an evening of steamy Parisian thrills.

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Monsieur Roméo has worked in the past with entertainers like Lady Gaga, Beyonce and burlesque legend Dita Von Tesse. In a post-show conversation, Roméo told me that he’s been hosting Blanc through multiple tours of Australia, New Zealand and London before bringing it to the lights of Sin City.

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Show director Scott Maidment was also on hand for the evening’s performance. He watched from an upper level booth….

Click HERE to continue reading.

Photos: Sam Novak