Hot Guys of Vegas: Men of ‘The Garden’


Superlative new nightspot/restaurant has a painfully attractive cast of hunks….and one particularly hot lady…

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It’s tough enough to launch a new business under any circumstances. But what about during the tail end of a quarantine? As Vegas entrepreneur Eduardo Cordova recently learned, if you do so with careful planning and COVID-19 safety protocols, you’ll be off to a great start. The Garden Las Vegas did exactly that, providing the perfect tonic to a fun-starved community while offering a luscious assortment of mouth-watering eye candy.

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The Garden LV has only been open for two months but is already recognized as a runaway success. Located in the heart of downtown’s Arts District, the restaurant/bar has quickly become Sin City’s hip hotspot. The indoor-outdoor venue is located next to ARTIFICE BAR in the trendy Art Square, also home to monthly First Friday festivals.

Cordova had this to say about his latest venture: “The Garden is a fresh, new concept. It is an intimate and chic LGBTQ lounge bar (that) dives into an untapped market in the Las Vegas community, championing craft cocktails, light bites, and an indulgent ambiance.

While others have written about The Garden‘s lush decor, delicious food, stunning cocktails, and superlative entertainment, this column is called “Hot Guys of Vegas” for a reason. So let’s get straight to the beef and take a close inspection of a few of the hunks that make The Garden Las Vegas such a sumptuous experience.

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Shyllon Melatti I first introduced you to Shyllon Melatti when the model and budding actor had taken over the role of “Stefan” in SEX TIPS at Paris Hotel. Since then, the handsome Vegas native was offered a hosting gig at Chippendales…just as the pandemic shutdown went into effect.

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Undeterred, Melatti joined the cast by way of Chippendales@Home, a virtual service in which the legendary entertainers present you and your friends with a private party. Shyllon’s been bumping and grinding along just nicely ever since. He also hosted a series of live fitness sessions and was featured in a guest spot for Las Vegas Magazine:

When The Garden had their initial casting call, Shyllon naturally stood out. Now he’s a favorite of guests both new and returning, skilled at presenting signature cocktails with a wholesome smile that his face mask does little to hide. Ask him nicely, and the charming cat-dad might flash his abs for you.

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            Shyllon Mellati serves up smiles for celebrity medium Thomas John (right)…

Alejandro Chirino – Every cast has that one member who’s mysterious and shares very little about themself. Alejando Chirino is apparently that kind of guy. Strong and silent, the native of Matanzas, Cuba is able to say a lot by speaking next to nothing. The muscular hunk moves quietly through the lounge area of The Garden, instantly commanding attention by not trying to.

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Clearly an enthusiast of fitness, the model-server has been devoted lately to the Black Lives Matter movement, calling for justice in a time when our culture is in chaos. Alejadro’s also a supporter of LGBTQ causes, dedicating his birthday towards the plight of gay and transgender people, especially in the Las Vegas community.

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Ger Haro –  The fabulous Ger Haro is another returning favorite to the “Hot Guys of Vegas” column. The model and master mixologist is famed throughout the city for his rocking body, stunning tattoos, ever-dazzling hairstyles, outgoing persona and a shockingly-deep voice.

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Known as “Gerry” to his friends, Mr. Haro is a favorite subject of photographer Noel Dahl. The two collaborated on a 2020 fundraising calendar to benefit Amor Peludo, a Spanish-language non-profit that assists pet care and housing in the Las Vegas Latino community.

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This month, Gerry stepped out from behind the bar to try his hand at hosting The Garden‘s Thursday Bingo Night. But don’t be concerned…you’ll still be able to indulge in the handsome stud’s hand-crafted cocktails every Thursday through Sunday. And wait until you see what he can do with a cucumber.

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Brandon Grimm – There’s a silent one in every group, and there’s also the guy or gal who sparkles. And “Sparkles” just happens to be the nickname of Brandon Grimm. If you’ve ever hung out in West Hollywood, you might have encountered the bedazzled boy at world-famous The Abbey Food & Bar, where Brandon was once a dancer and manager. He’s also performed alongside Willie Gomez as a backup dancer for Britney Spears.

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Back in Las Vegas, the fair-skinned musclehunk has become airborn in Atomic Saloon Show, alternating center stage with fellow performer Davide Zongoli (another “Hot Guys of Vegas” alumnus). A skilled aerialist and pole artist, Brandon entertains audiences with his light-hearted wit and physical prowess. Both of those qualities come in handy when taking care of the loyal patrons that now return to The Garden every weekend.

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Eduardo Cordova and Chandler Kramer Barbra Steisand once sang a cynical ode to nightlife romance:

Love comes from the most unexpected places
In bars that thrive on loneliness
Where people sell their sorrow for your time

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Fortunately for the adorable duo of Chandler Kramer and Eduardo Cordova, the opposite became true. Working side by side in a new business could easily fray nerves, yet this couple’s relationship has grown stronger. The two took their next step this past Independence Day weekend when Mr. Cordova proposed to Mr Kramer (an ICU Nurse at Summerlin Hospital Medical Center) inside The Garden, to the delight of their patrons…and friends throughout the city.

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Lilian Aguilar – When I first decided to do this article, I approached bartender Lilian Aguilar while she was on duty. My apologetic words were something along the lines of “I’m about to do a feature on The Garden‘s staff. Unfortunately, I can’t include you, as it’s going to be all about the boys”. Miss Aguilar was quite understanding and thanked me anyway.

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Since then, I’ve observed this young lady in action and have realized that Lilian truly deserves her own special mention. After more than three years of Vegas Unfiltered and literally dozens of related articles, Lilian Aguilar is now the First Lady of “Hot Guys of Vegas“. She’s dynamic, glamorous, and a truly integral part of the team.

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Lilian may be “one of the boys”, but she’s all woman…and an ambitious one at that. A longtime vegan, she’s a certified fitness trainer, certified plant-based nutritionist, a title-holder for Mrs. USA Globe, and of course, a model. She, along with The Garden‘s equally dynamic operating partner Edith Castillo (below) bring a powerful female presence to Sin City’s latest success.

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The Garden is located at 1017 S. 1st St – Suite 180, Las Vegas, NV 89101 (702-202-0900)

Hours are Thursday & Sunday 6pm-1am, Friday & Saturday 6pm-2am. Reservations are recommended for dining. Click here for menus, reservations and additional information.

Photos: Higor Almeida Photography, The Garden LV, Brandon Grimm, Lilian Aguilar, Ger Haro, Alejandro Chirino, Eduardo Cordova, Chandler Kramer, Sam Novak

 

 

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.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Talent Uprising: Brad Standley


Vegas guitarist/singer warms up your soul with “Antarctica”…

You may have never heard of Brad Standley…and that’s okay. Until now, this handsome singer-songwriter has maintained a relatively low profile. With one shoe in Las Vegas and another in New York City, Brad somehow manages to hop back and forth between the two cities. But lately he’s been working hard to make a name for himself everywhere. He wants to bring his personal style of music to your ears with the release of the new single “Antarctica”.

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If you were fortunate enough to experience BAZ: A Musical Mash-up at Venetian/Palazzo, you may have already seen and heard Brad on that wonderful stage. He’s also appeared in productions on Broadway (In Transit) and is touring the country with Waitress: The Musical. But no matter what venue he’s performing in or how large the city, this young man from a north California farming community will always have a chunk of small-town Americana in his soul. And that slice of down-home spirit comes through with his music.

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Visiting his YouTube channel, you’ll see that Brad enjoys making music right out there on the streets. I mean, he REALLY enjoys it. Hitting the sidewalks of various locations in a series he calls “Ditty in the City“, Brad and friends take pop music hits and re-imagines them with guitar and strong vocals. Here he joins fellow BAZ alumnus Danny McHugh for a fun acoustic version of Britney’s “Toxic”:

Brad’s current single “Antarctica” is one that’s near and dear to his heart. He originally recorded a performance video of the song more than five years ago. Last week it became a full-on concept video, showcasing Standley’s warm voice with soaring background vocals, stirring strings and sweeping horns. The song has just earned a place in Spotify‘s “Undiscovered & Brilliant” playlist.

Independent artists are the heart and soul of the music industry. For every megawatt star on the Strip and the Great White Way, there are dozens (perhaps hundreds) of struggling performers with equal and greater talent. They’re out there, waiting for you to discover, support and enjoy.

If you’d like to know more about Brad Standley, visit his website by clicking here.

Photos and video courtesy of Brad Standley

Blond Invasion – The Ultimate Pop-Diva Experience


New production gathers pop’s biggest female superstars for the dream concert that never was…

Superstar headliner residencies are the biggest draw on the Strip right now. We’ve got Mariah, Janet, Gwen and more with Christina on the way (Pink and Katy Perry are rumored to be eyeing gigs as well). Can you imagine how awesome it would be if Madonna, Lady Gaga and Britney Spears somehow teamed up for the megawatt show of a lifetime? Now you can stop dreaming, because Blond Invasion is here.

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Blond Invasion is the latest show to open at V Theater inside Planet Hollywood’s Miracle Mile Shops. A stunningly clever yet simple concept, Blond Invasion is a beautifully executed salute to the ladies who keep us dancing. Unlike other tribute shows you may have seen, Blond Invasion doesn’t have lip-syncing or a rotating roster of celebrity acts. It’s a live performance created especially for fans of Madonna/Britney/Gaga by people who adore them.

In the crazy world of entertainment, you never know if or when you’ll ever get the chance (or finances) to see your favorite headliner. Britney lovers were blind-sided last November when her upcoming Park MGM residency was abruptly cancelled. Things turned even more dire just this month when the troubled pop tart’s manager stated that she may never perform again.

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Britney’s devoted fan base will be thrilled when performer Katie Murdock blasts through the Planet Hollywood ceiling with uncanny live vocals and spot-on Britney moves. Flanked by an explosive male dance troupe, Katie opens with the fabulous “Circus”, followed by sensational interpretations of “Toxic”, “Womanizer” and of course, “Work B*tch”.

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At the grand opening celebration, guests literally gasped when Ms. Murdock strolled into the party…the likeness was absolutely breathtaking. I later learned that Katie has already wowed thousands through her portrayal of Spears in the record-setting Legends In Concert. With fourteen years of Britney experience and a lifetime of singing and performing, Murdock’s act alone is worth the price of admission. But she’s just one of three powerhouse performances that make Blond Invasion such a treat.

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The 90-minute production opens with Coty Alexander striking a pose to Madonna’s “Vogue”, followed by “Into The Groove”, “Papa Don’t Preach”, “Human Nature” and more. A multi-faceted artist who’s also a Legends in Concert alumnus, Alexander has thrilled with her interpretations of Gwen Stefani and Lady Gaga, too.

Speaking of Gaga, prepare to be floored when Philadelphia native Christina Shaw and the boys let loose with “Bad Romance”. Clad in a blue wig and glittery spandex, Christina shows off her own real keyboard skills at a lush red piano for a ballad-style rendition of “Poker Face”.  She and the boys celebrate diversity with “Born This Way”, bring the party directly to your seat for “Just Dance” and wrap up with a fabulous round of “Applause”.

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                Christina Shaw’s Lady Gaga raises the roof with “Applause”…

Along with their individual sets, Blond Invasion‘s three stars come together for something you’ll never see anywhere else…Madonna, Britney and Lady Gaga on one stage. Together they unleash a career-spanning medley that’s a concert event like no other.

 

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2018 Events, Trends & Moments…Cosmic and Controversial


A lot has happened in the past 12 months. Today I look back on large-scale events…

GREATEST SIGHT IN THE SKY – Angels of the 2017 Massacre

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                      I witnessed it on Sahara Avenue near Palace Station…

This one is emotional and unforgettable. If you were there to witness it, you couldn’t have helped being shaken to the core. As friends and loved ones gathered to commemorate the victims of 2017’s mass shooting one year later, the sunset brought a phenomenon that was seen throughout the entire valley.

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                       Courtesy of Michal Furmanczyk, Absinthe acrobat…

While some were quick to explain it scientifically, many of us felt it was a sign from a greater power…or perhaps a message from another plane of existence. Whatever your take on the matter, there’s no denying that the sunset on 10/1/18 was one we’ll never forget.

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                                  Courtesy of performer Kim Lange…

ROLLING BACK THE PARKING FEES

So many people want to sling buckets of rotting fruit at the money-grubbers of MGM Resorts for instituting parking fees on the Strip. As usual, copycat CAESARS Entertainment followed, the same way they did with resort fees. But unlike those dreaded mandatory surcharges, many of their competitors have held off…or even rolled back…charging their guests to park.

To my recollection, Wynn/Encore was the first to rethink this strategy by offering validation to shoppers, show attendees and hotel guests. Cosmopolitan began including parking as part of their mandatory daily fees just this month. Of course, they had to spoil a bit of the satisfaction by RAISING the resort fee another four dollars per day.

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       Caesars couldn’t resist sticking it to their guests one final time in 2018…

Tropicana, Treasure Island, SLS, Stratosphere, Venetian, Palazzo and a few others still offer parking to everyone without cost. Then there’s the Caesars properties, who dropped a stinkbomb during New Year’s Eve weekend by introducing a flat-rate “surge price” of $20 per day. Keep on gouging, guys. You’ve learned nothing.

LADY GAGA IS THE NEW QUEEN OF THE STRIP

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It seemed really odd when MGM Resorts decided to spend $170 million to rip out their new-ish and gorgeous Aria Theater in favor of “more lucrative” convention space…and then spend millions more to expand/rebrand the adjacent Monte Carlo theater for…get this…more live entertainment. Mmmm kay….

The gamble seems to have paid off, though, as Park Theater just celebrated two years of hosting such high-profile acts as Cher, Ricky Martin, Queen/Adam Lambert and Stevie Wonder. Reports have surfaced that the unwelcome return of faux entertainer Britney Spears has suffered underwhelming ticket sales. But Lady Gaga’s ENIGMA residency came to the rescue by swooping in during the last few days of the year.

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Initial reviews have been stellar. Entertainment Weekly wrote “Enigma the show is a damn good time, and it’s admirable in its attempts to elevate a greatest-hits gathering into something striving for more, something that perhaps even galvanized an artist in the peak of her career to take a Vegas residency in the first place.”

A local media publisher, who shall remain unnamed, confided a different take with me: “Gaga was great. Everything else about the show was a disaster.”

There’s no question that Lady Gaga’s profile has risen substantially since she signed her Park Theater contract. She’s sure to get an Oscar nomination for A Star Is Born…and might actually win. Her credibility as a performer, humanitarian and cultural icon are unquestioned. So having her as a fixture on the Strip (for a planned two years) is a major coup for Park MGM. Britney who?

UPDATE: Mere minutes after I published this piece, it was announced that Britney had cancelled her Las Vegas residency, citing “family health concerns”. That’s PR-speak for “My sales suck and they want me out”. What a wonderful bit of news for lovers of genuine talent. Buh-bye, Brit Brit. Don’t let the door hit-hit.

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TOUGH YEAR FOR VEGAS RESORT EXECS

The past twelve months have seen a surprising upheaval in upper management at major hotel casinos. It all started with an ominous event as embattled former Caesars Entertanment CEO Gary Loveman was shown the door in January…from his replacement job with Aetna. Loveman had never previously worked for healthcare companies.

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His successor Mark Frissora, who assumed the position from Loveman in summer 2015, will be departing his role in the next month or so. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Frissora was accused in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing by his former company, Hertz Global Holdings, of “inappropriate accounting decisions and the failure to disclose information to an effective review” three weeks after he took over at Caesars. Ouch!

Gary Loveman wasn’t the only former resort exec to have a bad year. Longtime MGM Resorts‘ Felix Rappaport was found dead in his home this summer. Current MGM CEO Jim Murren issued the following statement: “We are saddened by the news of the passing of our former colleague and friend, Felix Rappaport. Felix was a member of the MGM Resorts family for more than two decades and is remembered fondly by many. Our condolences and prayers go out to his family at this difficult time.”

Also at MGM, it was announced in October that Bobby Baldwin, Chief Customer Development Officer of their resorts and President/CEO of CityCenter on the Strip, will depart both positions soon…without explanation. The press announcement was extremely brief and offered no details, which stirred up plenty of rumors. Hmmm…

During that same month, they welcomed George Kliavkoff as the new President of Entertainment and Sports. He took over for legendary bushy-maned Richard Sturm who had held that position since 1993. Sturm shocked many when he announced his departure from MGM five weeks earlier. He was leaving to form his own entertainment consulting firm that would work exclusively with…MGM Resorts (insert facepalm here).

VitalVegas.com reported on a number of departures and managerial changes this summer at Westgate Hotel Casino. The most noteworthy that I personally can report on was the promotion of Cami Christensen into the position of President and General Manager. I happened to be there on the evening of the announcement and was honored to offer congratulations.

Christensen has been with the property for over seventeen years and assumed the responsibilities of former GM Geno Iafrate, who reportedly departed to help launch a new franchising concept for Westgate’s Superbook. Oddly, Iafrate’s LinkedIn account currently shows him as having left the property and looking for work.

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             Gordon Prouty and Cami Christensen raise the bar at Westgate…

I was also excited to meet Gordon Prouty while covering the annual Mr. Olympia Weekend this summer. Gordon had just accepted a position as Westgate’s Director of Public and Community Relations. This dapper gentleman has an extensive background in media and community relations throughout the country.

Here in Vegas, Gordon’s been involved in several organizations and Greenspun Media Group. And as the best-dressed man in all of Las Vegas, he served as inspiration for my article on STITCHED Men’s Haberdashery. Only good things can happen at Westgate with Gordon Prouty behind the PR wheel.

There’s nothing like a sex scandal to ruin a man’s legacy. Just ask Kevin Spacey….or in this case, Steve Wynn. The super-successful businessman, whom many credit with the mega-resorts of today, had one really tough year. Allegations of sexual misconduct forced the magnate to sell off his shares in Wynn Resorts this past March. Just before that he’d stepped down as CEO of his own company while denying the claims being made against him: “The idea that I ever assaulted any woman is preposterous.”

The founder of one of Las Vegas’ most luxurious resorts was also forced to depart the on-property villa he called home, as well as to forfeit his healthcare and severance pay. To add insult to injury, Wynn’s final pet project, the Paradise Park Lagoon, was scuttled. It would appear that Wynn West, an expansion on the opposite side of Las Vegas Boulevard, has also been put on ice.

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                                                     Photo via KSNV-TV

This is the third project to fall apart on the former New Frontier Hotel space. Perhaps it’s just as well. Somebody is apparently building Wynn West just a little farther down the street anyway. Unfortunately they’ve named it Resorts World, which doesn’t quite have the same ring. But it certainly looks familiar…

Tomorrow I’ll conclude my year-end wrap-up with the things that made Las Vegas 2018 a deeply personal affair.

Banner photo by Jim Gisclair of Serenity Helicopters

 

Vegas 2018 – Best of the Best, Worst of the Worst in Large-scale Production Shows

 


Wrapping up another event-filled year with fond memories and a little sass…

Can it really be that Santa is returning to his home base to put the elves back to work? Perhaps, but that Christmas hangover still lingers, ensuring that you didn’t dream your way through another holiday season in Vegas.

As you bring out the noisemakers and put champagne on ice for New Year’s Eve (check out my piece for tips on last-minute NYE planning), let’s look back at some of the noteworthy…and notorious…moments and madness from Las Vegas 2018. First up: the shows…

BEST NEW SHOW – Manilow: The Hits Come Home

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I’ll admit to being a bit worried when 75-year-old Barry Manilow missed his own big night at Westgate Las Vegas. The legendary singer was hospitalized on the morning of his kick-off weekend, which scuttled a massive media party and prompted singers Clint Holmes and Earl Turner to entertain the sold-out auditorium with their SOUNDTRACK show in his absence.

It turns out that my fears were unnecessary, as Manilow snapped back quickly, proving that he truly is the World’s Greatest Showman. Brimming with energy and love for his audience, Barry is everything you want in a Las Vegas event production. Check out my full review here and be sure to see Manilow: The Hits Come Home through June of 2019.

Runner-up: Soundtrack with Clint Holmes and Earl Turner, also at Westgate (now closed), OPIUM at Cosmopolitan (tie)

WORST NEW SHOW – Inferno: The Fire Spectacular 

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                                        “We need more GAS-O-LEEN!!!!!” 

There are certain entertainment venues in Sin City that seem to have a hex on them. Bad things happen, shows close way faster than they should and nothing seems to go right. Tropicana Showroom, Encore Theater at Wynn and Palazzo Theater have all gone through this period at one time or another (in Tropicana’s case, it’s as bad as ever). Now the curse seems to have landed at Paris Hotel Casino.

This was a bad year for Paris. Its troubled (and aging) Paris Theater chewed up and spit out Circus 1903 and Marilyn: The New Musical in just the first half of this year. Next came the cringe-worthy Inferno: The Fire Spectacular. Built around the supposed talents of peculiar and obscure magician Joe Labero, this upstart element-based production squandered every bit of potential in its premise and left you laughing for all the wrong reasons (“We need more gasoline. Lots and lots of GAS-O-LEEN!”). Read my full review here.

While Inferno could have been salvaged by jettisoning its star and focusing on the fire aspect (and The Fuel Girls), the show was abruptly yanked from the Paris schedule just six months in. Its cast was rudely told to hit the road during a break without the benefit of a farewell performance. Show business can be cruel.

It’s interesting to note that I Love The 90’s, the next production to enter this venue, went on an abrupt hiatus for most of December, just two months into its residency. UD Factory‘s CEO Seth Yudof assures me that there is no reason to be concerned. He swears that I Love The 90’s will return stronger than ever in January. Let’s hope his production is the one to break the Paris showroom curse. Entertainers in Sin City already have it tough enough.

Look for my review of I Love The 90’s when it returns in 2019.

MOST UNWELCOME RETURN – Mariah Carey/Britney Spears/Criss Angel (tie)

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                   A stripper, a robot and a douche bag walk into a bar…

The worst thing about Christmas is taking down the tree, packing up the lights and tossing away all that torn wrapping paper. I get that same sinking feeling every time I spot a billboard hyping the residencies of these three clowns.

Like a dried-up fruit cake that won’t go down the garbage disposer, the miserable triad of Carey, Spears and Angel continue to regurgitate up our collective pipes and spread noxious odors throughout the Vegas valley.

There’s an amazing amount of common ground among the self-proclaimed diva, robotic lip-syncer and goth faux-magician. Arrogance, fakery and distraction are the hallmarks of their supposed talents. Onstage gaffes, cancellations, accidents and savage reviews have plagued each of their productions. Yet minimally-talented blowhards continues to sell tickets and broker new residencies shortly after the last ones have been kicked into the desert.

The PR teams for each were touting their “returns” before the stench had even cleared from their previous rounds. Mariah’s somehow on her second stint at Caesars…three if you count last year’s Christmas gig. MGM Resorts wooed Britney from Planet Hollywood over to Park MGM Theater starting in February (why, exactly?). They’re probably regretting it now that advance ticket sales have been lukewarm at best.

Criss Angel’s partnership with Cirque du Soleil is finally over (they’re probably breathing a collective sigh of relief for surviving ten tumultuous and embarrassing years). He’s left Luxor biggest theater for a mezzanine-level auditorium at PHo, the same troubled theater that swallowed Frankie Moreno and Paul Zerdin just last year. Let’s hope it manages to choke down Mindfreak Live…and digest it once and for all.

Santa didn’t hand out coal this year…he gave away tickets to Mariah, Britney and Criss.

SADDEST CLOSURE – BAZ/David Goldrake’s IMAGINARIUM (tie)

It’s frustrating to see unique and talent-packed shows being overlooked for the likes of the notorious three mentioned above. And while they’re vastly different, both BAZ and IMAGINARIUM suffered similar fates.

Palazzo Hotel Casino deserves a lot of credit for backing BAZ, the daring musical mash-up built around a trio of familiar and tragic love stories. Defying simple descriptions and difficult to promote in any form of media, BAZ relied on word of mouth to put butts in seats. Those who saw it praised the innovative production and its amazing cast. In other words, it was doomed from day one.

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David Goldrake IMAGINARIUM had the unfortunate challenges of 1) coming in behind notorious child-porn illusionist Jan Rouven in the cursed Tropicana Showroom 2) sharing the same corner with high-profile magicians Criss Angel and David Copperfield, and 3) being better than Vegas audiences wanted…or deserved. The hard-working Goldrake made IMAGINARIUM far superior to anything either of his competitors currently offer. And he did it with sincerity, dignity, humility and a great deal of sexiness.

Runner-up: Soundtrack at Westgate Hotel Casino

BEST OVERALL PRODUCTION – Le Reve The Dream

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It’s nice to have my all-time show back on this list. Le Reve – The Dream had to take a backseat to BAZ for a few years. But now that the musical has closed down, nothing shines more brightly than Wynn’s signature spectacular.

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Not only is Le Reve back to the top of my list, but it’s fresher than ever. New costumes and make-up design, a fabulous re-imagined score and songs by original composer Benoit Jutras…and a revised story line all come together for an unforgettable experience. When it comes to sheer spectacle, nothing on the Strip beats Le Reve – The Dream. Read my full review here.

Be sure to check back for my next entry in 2018’s wrap-up. And best wishes for the New Year.

PEREZ HILTON -Breaking The Rules (and making some new ones) at Chippendales


The nation’s foremost social media “influencer” manages to make the outlandish seem easy in his guest-hosting stint…

I was one of many who were shocked when Chippendales announced notoriously-outspoken Perez Hilton as their next celebrity host. After all, the self-proclaimed “Queen Of All Media” was hardly forged from the same slabs of beef as previous guests like Tyson Beckford and Antonio Sabator Jr. So what gives?

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The answer is that the forces behind Chippendales version 2018 are ready to shake things up. With the absurdly awful Magic Mike Live biting into their sales and cutting-edge newcomers like Aussie Heat offering alternative takes on the male revue concept, it isn’t enough to just be the gold standard any more.

As I previously reported, Chippendales is one of several erotic male productions that have evolved in order to tap into the DINK demographic. What’s that, you ask? It’s the “Dual Income, No Kids” members of our society, which these days are widely represented by the gay community.

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With the passage of marriage equality, the need for gay-only entertainment options has largely melted away. LGBTQ tourists are now welcomed along with everyone else, so it’s common to see gay couples and groups attending male revues along with the ladies.

That’s why Perez Hilton fits so nicely into this hosting gig. Never one to shy away from controversy, the flamboyant Hilton is this generation’s Paul Lynde, Liberace or Siegfried & Roy. He’s way out there, yet approachable. Daring, yet somehow safe. A perfect mash-up of comedy, shock value and tongue-in-cheek humor to make your night on the town an only-in-Vegas experience.

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I sat down with Perez before the official opening of his debut last Friday. Decked out as a carnival barker in a spectacular Jeffrey DeBarathy-designed costume reminiscent of Britney Spears’ ensemble for The Circus tour, Hilton was surprisingly eloquent and soft-spoken.

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         The two of us at a performance of Spiegelworld’s OPIUM at Cosmopolitan…

When asked if he felt like a pioneer by being the first openly-gay host of a show that once prohibited men from attending, Perez seemed surprised:

Wait a minute….I’m gay? Who told you that? (laughter). Wow, I did not know that! So men weren’t allowed in the audience before…that’s interesting. But no, I can’t say that I feel anything like a pioneer. This is something that I’ve wanted to do for awhile and I’m glad we were able to make it happen!

“Now that you’ve been in rehearsals, gotten to meet all the guys and seen their inner workings (more laughter), were there any pre-conceived notions about Chippendales that were either confirmed or shattered?”

(sly grin) Hmmmm….there weren’t really any backstage shocks that I can think of. I know the show pretty well from coming so many times. And I’ve only been rehearsing since Monday so there hasn’t been a lot of opportunity to think about things like that when you’re focused on the work.

I will say that everyone here has been supportive of me and they’ve made it easy. It’s been so much fun and I’m eager to see how the audiences react. This is uncharted territory for me as much as them.

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With the pre-show party about to begin inside the adjacent Flirt Lounge, time was running short. So I was able to ask one last question – “What advice can you offer a small-time blogger like myself?”.

You need to know your audiences for every individual platform. The readers on Facebook are going to be a different group from those on Instagram. They want to experience different kinds of content, so you need to tailor each social media outlet to their expectations, not yours.

YouTube is the big one right now. You have to use video…and lots of it. People want to see for themselves what you’re up to. I have two YouTube channels and it’s a challenge to keep up with all of it, but you have to stay current and pump out new information all the time.

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                Ever-present mother Teresita enjoying Perez’s debut performance…

After fans (and the curious) had lined up and taken their seats inside Rio‘s custom Chippendales Theater, the countdown to showtime was interrupted by Perez himself. Appearing from behind the audience, the host stopped the show with a bit of impish playfulness before allowing the beefcake to be revealed.

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Throughout the evening, Hilton worked his way into the proceedings with his signature charm, playing emcee for a faux game show, busting in on performer Kyle Efthemes‘ “Purple Rain” shower sequence (yes, really) and holding an open forum for questions from the audience.

What could have been a train-wreck attempt at hipness from lesser media celebs (the flatliner response to Chester Lockhart and Scheana Shay’s short-lived stint at Sex Tips for Straight Women From a Gay Man comes to mind) turns out to be a brilliant move. And one that should bring in hordes of new fans to the long-running show.

Perez Hilton Chippendales

But don’t take my word for it. See the audacious Perez Hilton and his crowd-pleasing antics for yourself. Chippendales performs nightly at 8:30 p.m. with additional shows on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 10:30 p.m.

Perez Hilton’s Chippendales residency runs Thursday/Sunday nights through Sept. 2nd, 2018. Tickets range from $64.95 to $165.09 + tax and fees (18+) and can be purchased by calling (702) 777-7776. VegasFool.com is currently running discount rates as low as $39 for select evenings.

Photos: Sammasseur, Perez Hilton via Facebook, Chippendales

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017 In Review Part 2 – The “Bye, Felicia” Award for Most Interminable Residency


The inaugural “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.

The “Bye, Felicia” Award for Most Interminable Residency – Mariah Carey/Britney Spears (tie)

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Mariah and Britney are a couple of very defiant fish. You throw them into the lake and they stubbornly hop back into your boat. And like a couple of dying carp, they stink up their respective venues with dead eyes and mouths that sporadically gulp for air.

In Carey’s case, she can’t even be bothered to walk or dance. Instead, she gets carried around like a sack of lumpy potatoes. Or perhaps a corpse, as this infamous moment from July suggests:

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Mimi’s outrageous ego must have taken a nasty blow when Caesars failed to extend her 2-year residency. That final evening at the Coliseum was so under-attended (despite deep discounting) that the so-called diva refused to perform “until the place filled up”.

How do I know? Because I was there, talking to staffers who were laughing about it as it happened. Still, she came back for five sappy Christmas shows during the slowest week of the year. Tickets started at only $59.00. Ouch!

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Britney Spears will flap her arms and sleepwalk her way through a final performance of Piece of Me at Planet Hollywood this New Year’s Eve. Thank goodness her hunky and talented singer/dancer Willie Gomez will be onstage to inject a much-needed spark.

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There’s talk that Britney will resurface at another property, much like legionnaire’s disease keeps attacking guests at Rio Las Vegas. Her resilient career is proof that wooden objects really do float.

Dishonorable Mention – Criss Angel’s Mindfreak Live (closing October 2018)

Future Superstars: Singer Willie Gomez Emerges From Britney’s Shadow


Spear’s longtime dancer is a vocalist who’s about to explode…

People flocked to Britney Spear‘s residency ever since it opened at Planet Hollywood in 2013. The large-scale production turned out to be a huge hit with her fans across the world. Britney – Piece Of Me was all about the star’s impressive songbook, spectacle, costumes, and dancing.

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However, there was secretly a powerhouse singer on that stage along with the pop star. His name is Willie Gomez, and he’s working to make sure his voice is also heard around the world.

Gomez, who grew up in Miami, was inspired to take dance lessons after watching Britney Spears videos in his youth. That inner fire served him well, as he’s been featured in three of Britney’s music videos. A few months after appearing in Womanizer with her in 2008, he was cast as a principal in the pop singer’s Circus tour.

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Willie remains a member of Britney’s dance crew and  was a part of the Piece of Me residency from the beginning. They embarked on a short-term set of dates across Israel and Asia last summer before returning to Planet Hollywood for a final round of performances that ended on New Year’s Eve 2017.

Even though this writer is not a Britney fan, friends frequently urged me to check out the show. So I did…by way of YouTube. What I discovered was riveting – a small army of very attractive dancers with precision choreography and stage presence. Despite all of them being world class performers, one in particular stood out. His physique, facial gestures and movements were just in another league.

Willie Gomez

Being an admirer of hard-working performers, I had to know more. It took a bit of research to identify Willie’s name. Fortunately, he has an established fan base who mentioned his name in the video comments. They raved about his dancing…and his singing?

Yes, Willie has his own Youtube Channel with a growing collection of music videos. This is his most recent:

You can also check out his cover songs via Soundcloud by clicking here.

As the fates would have it, Willie is friends with a Hollywood chiropractor that I used to work with a dozen years ago in Fort Lauderdale. Dr. Steve Hoorn connected us and Willie agreed to meet for a conversation. A short while later, the two of us were having coffee before one of his performances at Britney: Piece of Me at Planet Hollywood.

Willie Gomez

It’s hard to describe the feeling you get when you encounter a person with that intangible “something.” There’s an energy they give off…an electric feeling you perceive almost subliminally. Willie has that aura. There’s a fire in his eyes and he crackles with energy, magnetism, and lots of warmth.

Willie Gomez

As much as Willie loves to dance, he feels he’s ready to share his passion for singing with the world. The videos that he’s released so far have been covers of songs by other artists. His expressive vocals give those familiar compositions a unique flavor. Now he’s preparing a collection of original recordings.

“I’m very involved in song-writing. I know what kind of songs I want to sing and there are some great writers working with me. They understand what I feel and how I want to bring those emotions across. Together we’ve collaborated on pieces that reflect who I am as an artist”.

Willie’s great looks have placed him on the cover of several magazines. Modeling and acting have brought him plenty of attention, but now he’d like to scale that back a little. When asked how important looks and sexuality are for a successful music career, he had this to say:

“I’ve done plenty of magazine shoots…and I’ve shown a lot of my body. It’s been fun, but they always want you to show more…and more. The past few years I’ve been getting away from that. I want my music to speak for itself, without relying on sex or gimmicks to sell it”.

While that philosophy is great for career longevity, there’s no question that Willie’s video performances have been drenched in fluid sexuality. Much of it undoubtedly came from his collaborations with Britney, which overflow with hot bodies of both genders.

After our conversation, Willie had me as his guest for Piece of Me. It was my first time seeing the show, but I learned during our conversation that I’d unknowingly seen him perform a few years back at the Caesars Palace Coliseum.

Willie was an aerialist in Australian pop star Kylie Minogue‘s incredible Aphrodite tour. That stunning, massive production was once rumored to be eyeing a Vegas residency. “I doubt you would have recognized me back then” he joked. “My head was shaved and I was mostly hanging upside down”.

Along with Minogue, Willie has shared the stage with the likes of Katy PerryChristina AguileraMary J. BligeKesha and many prominent Latino artists. But his loyalty to the pop princess is strong.

“The thing about Britney is that she allows us to be ourselves. Sure, we’re doing the choreo, but she encourages me and the others to make it our own. She’s very supportive, which is why I work with her. Not all artists are like that”.

Eventually, Britney posted a video message on her Instagram page, wishing Gomez luck on his singing career: “Willie is a dancer of mine, and not only is he a great dancer, but he is an amazing singer…and I had no clue. You’re amazing, good luck on your project, and I’m sending all my kisses to you”.

Willie Gomez

With a few years of preparation behind him, the Dominican Republic native made plans to release a four-song EP, tentatively entitled “My Life”. He began the process by enlisting his favorite writers, producers, and directors. Then came an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign to help finance the project.

The hardest thing, though, was just gathering enough courage to take the first steps:

“From the time I was a little boy I had big dreams, with music running through my veins. But, I had fear in my heart.  I was afraid of rejection and sharing who I really was, and what I always wanted to be – a singer”.

Willie did his first concert appearance in LA not long after the original version of this article appeared on another site. He posted some highlights and was thrilled by the response:

It’s only matter of time before Willie Gomez goes from a backup dancer to a full-fledged marquee name. With so many successes already under his belt, I asked the dancer/singer/actor/model how he’d most like to be remembered years from now:

No matter what I do, I give it my all. Right now I’m focused on my passion for singing. But I don’t want to be categorized for just one thing. I’m a performer.

That’s who I am.

Britney Spears has reportedly signed for an upcoming series of shows at PARK MGM Theater beginning in 2019.

.Photos: Willie Gomez via Instagram/Facebook/Youtube, Sammasseur