Hot Guys of Vegas: Tough Men and Bad Boys


The latest in my series on Sin City hunks visits the men who make looking naughty so damned nice…

Boys will be boys, bad boy, bad boy
Always gettin’ so restless, nothin’ but trouble
Boys will be boys, bad boy, bad boy
Get me feelin’ breathless, nothin’ but trouble

                                                   Gloria Estefan

Long before Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine were singing the praises of bad boys, James Dean and Elvis Presley were making rebels look both hot and cool. Today’s crop of Vegas hunks continues that legacy. Bad-ass, suave and still sophisticated, they know how to turn on the charm while driving your temperatures skyward.

 

Mike Thompson – Professional Bartender/biker dude

 

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                                                       Mike Thompson

Where you’ve seen him – EDGE Steakhouse at Westgate Las Vegas

Mike Thompson is like one of those mysterious characters you see in a spy movie. He’s all sophistication and a master of conversation when suited up for shifts at Edge Steakhouse. A master of social graces, Mike will remember your favorite cocktail and have you forgetting your troubles by the second sip.

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But when the tie comes off, so does the Bond-like persona that Thompson’s patrons know and love. On go the mirrored shades as he slips into his tough-guy gear…and the wild side of Mike is ready to tear down the desert highway on his favorite motorcycle.

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Mike’s background is as mysterious as where he goes when he takes off into the sunset. His personal life is closely guarded….much like that man who goes by the name “Bond. James Bond”. Is Mike a spy? Perhaps a vigilante hero? Nobody knows for sure.

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What I do know is that Mike’s got a globe-hopping past, having worked in New York City, Dubai and London. A little research uncovered the fact that he received top honors in the Sofitel International Bartending Competition in Venice, Italy, too.

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So perhaps this wild-child gentleman really IS some kind of undercover hero. If so, I don’t want to reveal his alter ego. What’s certain is that with several years of bartending experience right here in Las Vegas, Mike Thompson knows how to make one Hell of a cocktail. Visit him at the lounge inside EDGE Steakhouse soon. Tell him that Sam at Vegas Unfiltered sent you. And be sure to bring your friends.

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               Hotshot realtor Jeff Desruissseaux and myself with Mike (center)

Noteworthy traits – suave social skills, sophisticated shock of grey

 

Kris Davis – dancer/entrepreneur/VIP club host

 

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                                                              Kris Davis

Where you’ve seen him – Chippendales, Troy Liquor Bar, Fremont Street

Chances are that when Santa Claus comes across Kris Davis on his annual naughty-or-nice list, he takes a deep breath and reaches for a bottle of bourbon. That’s because Kris is trouble….and he knows it. Yet the former Chippendale dancer is so damned pleasant and lovable that you can’t help liking him. Even if you want to slap his head from time to time.

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Davis is one of those guys who just doesn’t care about conventional behavior. He’s going to do whatever he wants to do…so you’d better get out of the way. But while he’s a man on a mission, he’ll willing to bring you along for the ride. Kris is such a popular social media figure that he had to create a second Facebook page and identity….by reversing his first and last names.

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So what does this guy do in Sin City? Pretty much everything. From repping supplement outlets to dancing in male revues and posing for photos as a sexy fireman, Kris is all around town both day and night. Want to get into awesome clubs like Downtown’s new Troy Liquor Bar? Kris is your man. Looking to liven up a bachelorette party? That’s probably Kris, too.  Whatever enterprise he takes on, you know that Kris will be living the Sin City wild life…and having a great time doing it.

Noteworthy traits – outstanding traps, flair for the outrageous

 

Mikey Perez – dancer/bouncer/fighter/ businessman

 

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                                                                  Mikey Perez

Where you’ve seen him – massive billboards, full-size bus ads, tattoo parlors

Every bad boy has a partner in crime. Mikey Perez has two. Not only does Mikey cause hearts to throb wherever he goes. but this wild-child stud has partnered up with pals Kris Davis (above) and Kevin Cornell Dockter (below) for their new enterprise Men of Chip in Dipp. This irreverently-titled party-hosting service relies on their past stripping/dancing experience to enhance your group’s night on the town.

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Providing a limo and getting your tickets is just part of Mikey’s big package. He and the crew will entertain you on the way, then party with you and your guests well into the night. You will feel safe and secure with Mikey’s strong arms there to protect you, as this macho dude has a background in fighting at TuffNuff championships. Yes, Mikey is known as “Pretty Boy” in his MMA bio.

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Whether you find bulging arms and a canvas of tattoos to be “pretty”, you can’t help falling for Mikey’s amazing white smile and warm glint in his eyes. He might come across as the toughest of the tough, but Mikey’s just as likely to give you a bear hug as to knock you onto the canvas. He’s the kind of friend you want to have.

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Notable traits – electric smile, body of art

 

Kevin Cornell Dockter – bartender/performer/entrepreneur

 

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                                             Kevin Cornell Dockter

Where you’ve seen him – Chippendales, Johnny Fontane’s, Virtual 10’s

Our final wild child for this edition of Hot Guys of Vegas hails from St. Louis, but he’s a Sin City boy at heart. Once known for his Tarzan-like mane of hair, Kevin Cornell amassed a legion of fans around the world for his long-running stint with Chippendales.

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Another motorcycle fan (there’s definitely a pattern here), Kevin has been spending lots of time with buddies Kris and Mike for their new business. These days he’s sheared his locks, but Kevin is just as much a badass as his partners in crime and fun.

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Like Mike Thompson, Kevin keeps his personal life close to his vest. Fortunately that vest is usually hanging open to display a torso that’s years in the making. He may not share his buddy’s affection for tattoos, but Kevin has what it takes to look both tough and tender.

Notable traits – epic man-rack, Samson-like hair

 

 

 

 

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FANTASY Prepares to Celebrate Its 20th Anniversary In Style


The Strip’s biggest tease prepares to enter its third decade…

In most states, the legal age of consent is 18 years old. Using that guideline, FANTASY, the topless revue at Luxor, is barely an adult. Yet in the realm of Vegas production shows, twenty years definitely ranks as “senior status”. With expensive start-up costs and high overhead, new productions that aren’t instant hits often become forgotten in a matter of months. And yet, Fantasy continues to entice men, women and couples seven nights a week.

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Producer/Director/Creator Anita Mann is very proud of the longevity of her show. She proudly shares credit with the many who have contributed to FANTASY from its inception:

I own and produce FANTASY. When I created it the show was originally called  MIDNIGHT FANTASY as it started at midnight. When MGM took over the property we all agreed to drop the “Midnight” since we were no longer a midnight show. Beverly Jeanne has remained executive producer since its inception and Mariah Riviera has now joined the production team as Associate Producer.

We have been blessed to have several different choreographers over years. Tiger Martina was the very first, we have had Cris Judd and most recently Mandy Moore. I have also choreographed throughout the run along with several of our dancers including the most current, Yesi Burgess.

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Naturally the cast is the main reason that guests choose to explore their fantasies at Luxor’s Atrium Theater each evening. An alluring group that runs the gamut from girl-next-door Abby to sultry Mariah, the ladies of FANTASY appeal to just about every taste. Members hail from all over the world, like Geraldine of France, Isabella from South Africa and Alex from England. Of course there are plenty of all-American girls like Alabama’s Jennifer and California-born Soolin.

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California is also where host Lorena Peril hails from. Born in San Francisco, Ms. Peril is an electrifying singer with a solid history of Sin City entertainment. Formerly of Vegas! The Show and Sin City Bad Girls, Lorena stunned audiences at American Superstars with her impersonation of Christina Aguilera. She left FANTASY in 2013 after being cast as “Sandy” in the European tour of Grease. Now she’s back and entrancing audiences with her powerful voice and engaging style.

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FANTASY is much more than a sexy dance spectacular. There is plenty of singing, audience interaction and loads of fun. Comedic impersonator Sean E. Cooper has been with the show for most of its run. As the sole male cast member, Cooper can’t help boasting that he has the best job in the world.

Click HERE to continue reading via BestOfVegas.com. 

Being Gay at a 2019 Male Revue


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

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

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

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

You Will Always Be In the Minority

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

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

You’ll Have a Your Own Private Bathroom

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

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

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

Handshakes, High-Fives and Hugs: The Dreaded Three

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

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You’ll Feel Grateful To Get What Women Routinely Receive

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

You’ll Be Scared to Push the Boundaries

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

You Can Almost Forget About Going On Stage

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

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You’ll Get a Special Shout-out

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

You Can Share a Name With the Dancers

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

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                               Chippendales dance captain Ryan Kelsey…

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

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                                                    With Ryan Worley…

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

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

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

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You Will be Remembered On Your Next Visit

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

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

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

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

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

Photos: Ryan Topping

Vegas 2018 – Best of the Best, Worst of the Worst in Smaller Shows


Which one ones to rush to…and a few to steer clear of…

Earlier this week I put the spotlight on a few of the more spectacular resident productions on the Strip (read here). But for every grand-scale shows there are a dozen or more economical choices vying for your entertainment dollar. These little guys must survive without massive advertising budgets or big-name stars. The casts have to work that much harder to please their audience, often making for a surprisingly enjoyable experience.

Let’s take a look at a few of these lesser-known and more intimate shows…and sort out the gems from the lumps of coal.

MOST OUTRAGEOUS – Miss Behave Gameshow

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Sometimes you just need to do something a little crazy. And that madness is even more intoxicating when there are dozens of like-minded guys and girls taking the same trip down the rabbit hole with you.

Miss Behave Gameshow is offbeat, raunchy, free-wheeling fun from creator Amy Saunders. Accompanied by a curious fellow named Tiffany, Saunders (as Miss Behave) guides you through a game whose primary rule is “There Are No Rules”. It’s part improv, part avante-garde performance and a heaping helping of audience participation.

Miss Behave Gameshow earns every laugh in the best way possible…by being genuinely entertaining. And there’s a heartwarming philosophy at its core that will send you out into the casino with a smile on your face. For something you can’t do at home, put this one on your next Vegas “must-list”. Full review here.

Runner Up – Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man

MOST IN NEED OF A FACELIFT – Carrot Top at Luxor

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Let’s be clear right away…I’m referring to Carrot Top’s act, not his actual face. And while I adore the orange-haired comic both personally and professionally, his act has become quite stale. It’s still hysterical for those who haven’t seen it in the past, but he’s been performing the exact same jokes and gags for over a decade now.

When I first started visiting Vegas in 2006, Carrot Top at Luxor‘s Atrium Theater was a must. As the years wore on, so did the jokes. Even his props look old and dirty now. The Hooters application. Rosie O’Donnell’s buffet tray. A-Rod’s steroid-filled bat…all past their prime. We love ya dude, but give us something new. And once again, I’m not talking about your face.

BEST DOWNTOWN SHOW – Mike Hammer Comedy Magic

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Mike Hammer shares his name with a fictional detective character, but you don’t need to be a sleuth to figure out why he’s such a success. The Chicago-born multi-hyphenate is good-looking, suave, a little bit raunchy and a whole lotta funny.

You might be thinking “Great, another cheesy magic act” but Mike Hammer Comedy Magic is a lot more Don Rickles than David Copperfield. Sure, his illusions are sharp and frequently earn gasps from the audience, but it’s his jokes that you’ll remember long after you leave.

There’s a lot going on when you watch Mike Hammer. The guy is clearly at the top of his game, mixing topicality with wit, sarcasm, unforgettable facial expressions and wonderful sleight of hand. It doesn’t hurt that he’s ridiculously handsome, stylish and more fit than guys half his age, too.

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                                            Little guy. Big entertainment…

Dollar for dollar, you won’t find a better entertainment value Downtown…or anywhere else in Las Vegas. If you’re heading down to Fremont Street, be sure to start your adventure at the showroom of Four Queens. And be sure to stick around after the performance to chat (or flex) with Mike. Sometimes that’s the best part of the night.

Honorable mention – Spirit of the King (also at Four Queens)

BEST VINTAGE VEGAS VIBE – Cocktail Cabaret at Caesars Palace

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For awhile it seemed like this little treasure was gone for good, then it returned a few months ago to Cleopatra’s Barge at Caesars. Nobody seems to know exactly how or why, but what matters is that Cocktail Cabaret is back.

The concept here is simple…a traditional early-evening lounge act overflowing with superb local celebs doing their finest standards and witty repartee. Backed by the wonderful Philip Fortenberry band, this foursome strolls throughout the audience, encouraging you to imbibe as they dance, sing and tell jokes.

Of the three times I’ve attended Cocktail Cabaret, lovelies Maren Wade (The Morning Blend), Niki Scalera and Eric Jordan Young (Vegas! The Show) have been constants. Guest performers include Ron Remke (BAZ), Travis Cloer (Jersey Boys), Daniel Emmet (America’s Got Talent), Shai Yammanee (Jubilee) and James D. Gish.

Whatever the line-up, the talent will be top notch and you’re certain to be entertained. Cocktail Cabaret is the type of show that put Las Vegas entertainment on the map. It’s vintage Vegas at its finest. Don’t miss it.

BIGGEST SNOOZE – Mat Franco: Magic Reinvented Nightly

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Vegas has become a bit of a sanctuary for America’s Got Talent contestants. Some hit it big (Terry Fator), others fade away quickly (Paul Zerdin). In the case of Mat Franco, there was a lot at stake.

If the gossip is to be believed, NBC put a chunk of their own bucks into renovating the Linq Hotel showroom for their latest AGT winner. The desire to solidify their brand in Vegas caused a riff between the hotel and Frank Marino’s DIVAS, which was being pushed to the side in favor of Franco. Few know it, but the long-running DIVAS was already in the crosshairs before a financial scandal slammed the door on the drag queen’s closet.

As for Magic Reinvented Nightly, nothing could be further from the truth. Good luck trying to spot something that you haven’t seen before. The production relies heavily on the star’s charisma to make it exciting. Sadly, Mat Franco is about as dull as a dead rabbit. His boyish grin is the only thing the magician has to offer, so you’re left with…..well, not much else.

Tickets to Magic Reinvented Nightly should come with a complimentary dose of No Doz.

FAVORITE TOPLESS REVUE – Chippendales/SEXXY (tie)

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In this era of equality, why should beefcake and T&A be separated into their own categories? Not at Vegas Unfiltered, where I’ll crow about the assets of Rio’s Chippendales and Westgate’s SEXXY in equal measure. Both are held in small-ish cabaret venues, feature a nice blend of traditional and cutting-edge sequences…and have a broad range of ages and ethnicities. In other words, there’s something here to curl everyone’s toes.

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Despite their naughty nature, Chippendales and SEXXY casts are quite akin to angels. Tirelessly working to raise funds and awareness for charitable causes, the topless performers of Chipps and SEXXY are as admirable as they are breathtaking. Read about Chippendales’ charity work by clicking here.

Runner Up – Zombie Burlesque

MOST PROMISING NEWCOMER – Opium at Cosmopolitan

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I hesitated to include OPIUM in the small-production category, as it really could go either way. It may have the backing of Spiegelword entertainment group….and a huge financial push courtesy of a big marketing campaign. But at its heart, OPIUM is very much a quirky little independent production.

Using a re-purposed showroom and sets from their previous flop Vegas Nocturne, the folks at Spiegelworld have fashioned a balls-to-the-wall variety show that wears its cheapness on its sleeves. Not to say that the costumes themselves aren’t fantastic, but any production whose central prop is an old Mattel Simon game…well, I’m sure you catch my drift.

Drenched in the type of naughty nastiness that you might expect to find at an underground avante garde show, Opium will do anything to make you gasp and bellow with laughter. A live band and vocalists, up-close acrobatics, a horny android and the cutest dog act you’ll ever see make Opium a great addition to the Strip. Read my full review here.

SADDEST CAREER PATH – Gordie Brown (Hooters)

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Pity poor Gordie Brown, a textbook example of a career in free-fall. The one-time Venetian headliner has been on a downward slide for over a decade. After leaving the Strip, this singer/impersonator settled in nicely at his own Golden Nugget showroom. As tickets sales continued to dwindle, Brown was shown the door. That led to a series of continually-smaller showrooms at Planet Hollywood and now the little-known Night Owl Showroom at Hooters.

It doesn’t help that Gordie’s material is as weathered and shop-worn as his voice. He tries his best, working up a messy sweat while attempting to get the most out of tired George Burns, Nicholson and DeNiro bits…all between gasps of air. You know you’ve hit rock bottom when you have to identify the characters to your audience….but since they all sound the same, does it even matter?

It’s worth noting that Mr. Brown is quite a beloved member of the local community. He’s a fixture at just about every fundraiser you can mention. He’s well-respected by his colleagues and fellow performers.

But as for his career, the once-promising star on the rise is now just bargain-basement filler. Even at $24.99 via Groupon, you’ll still feel cheated. Give Gordie Brown a hard pass.

BEST LOCALS SHOW – Mondays Dark at The Space

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Mondays Dark gets its name from the fact that most ongoing shows are “dark” on Monday, the slowest day of the week in Sin City. That frees up performers to do their own thing…and many of them still long to be onstage.

With that in mind, creator Mark Shunock (Rock of Ages and the miserable Magic Mike Live) gathers his show-biz friends a couple of times a month to “put on a show”. Then they donate all the proceeds to charity. Each event is absolutely unique from the others…and so are the casts. Each December, stars and the year’s charity reps gather at The Joint inside Hard Rock Hotel to celebrate their success and announce the next year’s charities.

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A humble concept has grown into one of the biggest little secrets in Las Vegas. I’ll be publishing a full article on Mondays Dark in an upcoming piece for BestOfVegas.com. But if you’re interested in learning more right now, follow this link.

Stay tuned for my next entry in 2018’s “Best of/Worst of”. Thanks for being a reader in 2018 and I hope to see you around town.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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                    Free tickets abound yet the showroom is nearly empty…

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

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

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

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

 

Las Vegas and the Australia Connection


There’s a unique bond between Sin City and the Land Down Under…

Thanks to casino developer Sam Boyd and his trio of downtown properties, the people of Hawaii have forged a strong relationship with Las Vegas. The FremontMain Street and most especially California hotels are dependent on regular tourism from the Island State, and they cater to the culture in a variety of ways.

Restaurants serve Hawaiian favorites, staff wear island-style shirts, and Hawaiian retailers like ABC Stores and Lappert’s Ice Cream have locations Downtown. Signs throughout Boyd casinos even proclaim “Aloha Is Spoken Here”.

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        Olivia Newton-John at the opening party for her residency at the Flamingo…

On the other side of the equator, the continent of Australia has also formed a bond with Sin City. While not nearly as defined, there’s an undeniable connection between the folks from Down Under and the City of Entertainment. Let’s take a look at a few examples, and perhaps uncover why such distant locations are joined by an invisible highway of travelers…and why so many people relocate from one place to the other.

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   Perth’s Andrew Gill welcomes guests to the Mike Hammer Comedy Show at 4 Queens…

For Andrew Gill, it was the lure of magic that drew him to Vegas. Then 19 years old, this native of Perth flew across the Pacific to attend the World Magic Teen Mentoring Seminar by legendary Lance Burton. Things turned out so well that Gill remained and worked his way up to becoming production manager for Mike Hammer Comedy Magic.

Andrew stayed with Hammer’s team a few years until his work visa expired. Before returning, the ambitious young Aussie had developed relationships with fellow magicians Murray SawchuckDavid Copperfield and of course, Burton. Now a successful realtor (with his own magic act to keep things fun), Andrew returns annually for the MAGIC Live Convention at Orleans Hotel.

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     Human Nature gives Mike Tyson some love at the opening night of JUKEBOX…

Since this city thrives on sex appeal, it’s only natural that the legendary handsome men of Australia would come here to seek fame, fortune…and steaming hot billboards. Outback rancher Aaron Michael Lucey relocated here to become a successful choreographer and performer.

In addition to various other musical productions, Aaron was dance captain for Thunder From Down Under, the long-running Aussie-themed male revue at Excalibur. That was followed by Chippendales spin-off 53X and more recently Masters of Illusion.

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         Aaron Micheal Lucey traded a saddle for the excitement of the Strip…

Three years ago, the upstart Aussie Heat opened downtown, quickly expanding both the show and their audience in the larger V Theater at Planet HollywoodAussie Heat achieved the number one spot for Vegas productions on Yelp. Ninety-three percent of audience ratings are at five stars, so the risky plan for bringing a brand-new, er…brand to Las Vegas seems to have paid off.

Moving to Vegas Reality vs. Expectations                                       Tommy (far left) with the cast of Aussie Heat…

You may remember the guest article penned by former Aussie Heat dancer Tommy Harvey aka “Tommy Gun” (pictured above, first row far right). Tommy detailed what it was like to move here from Australia. Despite undergoing a bit of culture shock, it wasn’t long before the striptease artist/athlete was feeling right at home.

Former Aussie Heat CEO Jono Weinstock explained the appeal of Vegas stages to Australian entertainers:

“As a performer, this is the pinnacle of achievement…being able to perform so many nights and shows a week. Back home, maybe once a week if lucky. It’s the pinnacle of entertainment, too — a big bold fun adult playground. Parties, gaming, pools, DJ’s, shows…”.

Weinstock was also quick to point out a few of the many positives that Sin City offers for Australian tourism:

“It’s a 15 hour flight from L.A., so we only get big-name performers once every 20 years in their careers! (There’s) cheap shopping also. We pay three times as much for everything down there. The outlets are a winner..and the Aussie dollar at times has been very favourable…now not so much, but shopping is of huge value.”.

Chippendales joined the Aussie-hunk popularity wave by recruiting dancer Ryan Stuart, who was widely promoted as their first member from Down Under. Stuart’s looks, talent, and super-sexy accent aided in him becoming a regular host for the show. After an onstage injury, Stuart returned to Australia but takes back with him a lifetime of experiences.

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              Hit-maker Kylie Minogue cuddles with fellow Aussie Ryan Stuart…

Ironically, Ryan’s fellow Chippendale host Russel Francis chose the opposite path, leaving the stages of Vegas for those of Australia. The handsome singer/dancer from Jacksonville Florida, who had starred in Planet Hollywood‘s PIANO MAN and VEGAS! THE SHOW was riding a career high when he decided to make a big change.

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Former Vegas performers Russel Francis (center) and Ali Francis (far right) bring a little taste of Vegas to the Australian Olympic team in Queensland…

Francis won the affection of a Vegas! The Show audience…and his co-star/future bride Ali…when he proposed to her onstage at the end of a performance. After the honeymoon and lots of traveling, Russel decided to head to Australia for a chance to audition for Ricky Martin on their version of The Voice. A year after going through the audition process, he made it to the finals and worked with legendary singer Seal.

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                       Russel and myself after one of his Vegas performances

Russel sees a definite connection between Las Vegas and Australia:

“I’ve traveled for about five years straight, been to six continents and hundreds of countries. Australia is by far the closest country to the U.S. They actually call Brisbane ‘Bris-Vegas’.

I asked Russel if Australia’s similarity to the United States eased his transition…and if he was welcomed by native residents:

“They have welcomed me with open arms. Everyone has been so friendly and helpful. I’ve been booked on all kind of gigs because everyone loves that I’m here. If I get on the show (X Factor) and do well then we might be here for awhile”.

The people of Las Vegas clearly have open arms for Aussies as well. Take note when you attend a show here and the performers ask audience members “Where are you from?”. Chances are, there will be a large and rowdy group of Aussies, all having a great time together.

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              The Australian Bee Gees celebrate all things disco at Excalibur…

And why not? It’s great to feel welcome when you’re so far away from home. And Aussie visitors are bombarded by advertising for Australian Bee GeesHuman Nature, and previously for Olivia Newton-John. But if they ever feel lonely, there’s a community group dedicated to Australians who have relocated here.

Currently, no casino has followed the California‘s lead and dedicated their marketing directly to Australians (Excalibur comes close with the Thunder/Australian Bee Gees line-up). And this writer has yet to find a restaurant that specializes in lamington and pavlova.

But as the bond between these two cultures continues to grow and strengthen, don’t be surprised if someday the MGM Grand restores their Oz theme with a new twist….and the Rainforest Cafe re-opens as the “Koala Diner”.

Photos: Sammasseur, Russel Francis/Ryan Stuart/Tommy Harvey/Aaron Michael Lucey via Facebook, LIGHT Nightclub/Australian Bee Gees via Facebook

Escape to Paradise at the Year’s Biggest Party


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

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

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

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

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

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

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                 Andrew Ryan and Ryan Worley on The Morning Blend…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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                                                      Jacinthe Morearty…

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

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

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

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

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