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.

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Wynn’s LE REVE Makes New Waves With Major Revision


Detailing major updates to Wynn’s long-running signature production…

NOTE: This article previously appeared on another site in February 2017. There have been additional revisions to the show since then. I will be revisiting Le Reve very soon and will share those updates with you at a later time.

The aquatic show Le Reve – A Small Collection of Imperfect Dreams opened at Wynn Resort in May of 2005. It was an eerie tale told through acrobatics and a blend of water and aerial ballet. Sets were adorned with skulls and skeletons, while the ceiling was layered with actual casts of human bodies. The dream of an “everyman” protagonist caught both audiences and critics off-guard. It was surprisingly dark for a night out in Vegas and became a bit of a PR nightmare for the newly-opened resort.

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Despite the fact that this writer was blown away (I saw it on my first Vegas trip), the production was quickly retooled. A lengthy process of reinvention took place over the next several years, much in keeping with the “fluid” nature of its setting. Le Reve was lightened and brightened, transformed from a sinister nightmare into a sweeping adventure filled with romance, dance….and lots of flowers.

The reinvention worked. Le Reve – The Dream (its second official name) became a must-see…and winner of Best Production Show for six consecutive years (Southern Nevada Hotel Concierge Association). Throughout its run, additional artistic and technological elements have been added to keep audiences returning. My personal tally is twenty-seven as of this writing (you can read all about my previous experiences by visiting an archived VegasChatter article here).

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Perhaps it was a reflection of the times that a happy version of Le Reve soared while the economy was tanking. Failed projects continue to surround the Wynn/Encore property, reminders of a time when the future of Las Vegas growth suddenly seemed bleak. But for fans of Le Reve, all was sunny and bright.

Now that tourists are pouring back into Vegas in record numbers and money is flowing once more, the folks at Wynn Entertainment have once again retooled their namesake show (Wynn resort was originally to be called “Le Reve”). And surprise…the production has gone back to the beginning and restored a bit of the darkness.

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Why would an established show embrace an approach that didn’t work so well the first time around? Perhaps we can credit this to the current crop of Vegas enthusiasts. Younger crowds that make Sin City their go-to destination these days don’t generally attend this type of production. But they do indulge in imagination-based entertainment like gaming, martial artistry, sci-fi, and superheroes.

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Le Reve version 2017 has tapped into the burgeoning fantasy culture and brought heroes and villains to the center of Le Reve’s aqua-stage. A romantic triangle that forms the core of its storyline has been amped up, with characters and costumes having a new sense of familiarity to genre fans. Elements of AVATAR and Ridley Scott’s LEGEND, sword/sorcery visuals and graphic novel sensibilities have been woven into the plotline, along with a dashing prince-like hero (in a billowy romance-cover shirt) and a bald, muscular challenger in black leather pants.

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As you might expect, Le Reve is much less of a musical now. The live singing doesn’t kick in until the second third of the show. Most of the ballroom dancing has been jettisoned, along with three angels who served as comic relief. In their place are two impish sidekicks who serve a staff-wielding Dream Master. That ominous character sends the dreamer into her adventure and leads her from one experience to the next before returning her to our world.

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Certain acts remain relatively unchanged, like a wild sequence with giant fishing nets and another with three female acrobats inside of a sphere. Natural elements like rain, snow, and fire have been amped up. A new effect features globes made entirely of water that descend from an enormous domed ceiling….while flames swirl around inside of them. It’s hard to describe, but absolutely breathtaking.

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As you might expect, not all is perfect in the new Le Reve. The happy-ending finale is set to a horribly cheesy song that would be more at home in Disney’s Parade of Lights. The Piece Montee set, a multi-tiered fountain from which high-divers leap and spin, is now adorned with Day-Glo accents that resemble a child’s aquarium. In fact, the entire sequence feels like a deleted scene from The Little Mermaid or Finding Nemo.

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A source connected with the show told me (on condition of anonymity) that the current finale is a remnant from a different failed revision that Steve Wynn halted (Wynn has had a hands-on role since purchasing the rights from creator Franco Dragone in 2006 and provides a voice-over in the latest rollout).

Apparently, this jettisoned re-imagining was only performed twice for audiences before being packed up and tossed into the dead pool. For whatever reason, the “get-happy” conclusion from the discarded reworking remains. It could easily be excised until another one is created and the show would still feel complete.

The source went on to say that original composer Benoit Jutras has been working on a new score to balance the overall tone and that a lyricist will be adding songs back into the production soon. So Le Reve will continue to be fluid, at least in the weeks and months ahead.

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As I stated in my review of the Beatles LOVE update, retooling a successful show can be a risky proposition. But like the artists of Cirque du Soleil, Wynn’s entertainment group has stayed true to the source material while making it feel brand new.

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Comparisons to Cirque du Soleil will most likely follow The Dream throughout its run, which in unfortunate. Le Reve – The Dream sets itself apart in ways too numerous to mention. Unlike Bellagio’s O, the show at Wynn manages to be both intimate and epic. It’s my personal favorite in the city.

Le Reve – The Dream is a spectacle on a massive scale. It’s incredible entertainment…and one hundred percent pure “Las Vegas.”

Le Reve – The Dream performs Friday through Tuesday at 7 pm and 9:30 pm. Tickets start at $115.00 plus taxes/fees and are available by clicking here. Our friend at VegasFool.com is running a special with Grandview seating for $99 plus taxes/fees (regular $145) by following this link.

Photos: Sam Novak

 

 

After The Fall – “Le Reve” Acrobat Ryan Lyons

Chronicling the pain, suffering and risks that Vegas acrobats endure to entertain you.


Last weekend, former Le Reve performer Yann Arnaud suffered a fatal fall while performing in Cirque du Soleil’s VOLTA in Tampa. Fellow Le Reve acrobat Ryan Lyons suffered a shockingly similar accident during a live performance at Wynn Las Vegas several years ago.

Since this article was published on another site in August of 2015, Lyons has gotten married and relocated to Australia. He now works, among other things, as an aerial choreographer for singer Pink. What follows is a reprint of how the article originally appeared.

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Ryan Lyons is a “generalist” in Le Reve – The Dream.  Five nights a week he flips, flies, dances and dives for thousands of people. He has done so ever since the show opened more than ten years ago. While he considers his experience at Wynn Las Vegas to be a dream come true, for a short while it became something much darker.

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One evening during the finale, Lyons suffered a traumatic injury that echoes the one that occurred at MGM Grand/Cirque du Soleil’s KA. Performer Sarah Guyard-Guillot, who also fell during the final sequence, died as a result of her injuries.  That production was shut down for nearly weeks as safety protocols were re-examined. It reopened with a greatly altered finale (which has since been restored).

Ryan Lyons was much luckier than Guyard-Guillot.  After a hospital stay and physical rehabilitation, he returned to Le Reve for another five years.  Complications, pain, and the occasional surgery became a way of life, and he still deals with the physical and psychological aftermath of that accident.

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Now in his eleventh year with Le Reve, Lyons has reached the “What next?” phase of his career.  It’s a question that all performers must face when their bodies are maxed out but the soul still yearns to perform. As he ponders his options, Lyons has begun sharing his journey in a personal blog, which he calls “The Anchors Project”.  In it, he hopes to motivate, inspire creativity and ultimately help others to find what their personal anchors are.

Here are a few excerpts from “The Anchors Project”:

“The finale act comes around, and I jump onto my porters to set up my second trick of (the) act.  As they are launching me into the air, my left foot slips and everything just crumbles from there.  In mid-air, I only hope to have enough rotation that I don’t land head first upside down.  I end up landing back on the dry stage, taking all the force to my face and chest…and slide unconscious into the water.   

I wake up on a spinal board with several athletic trainers and rescue personnel around me.  I learn that I have shattered my nose, fractured some ribs and have multiple contusions to my lungs.”

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You might think the life of a Vegas performer is all glitz and glam.  It’s not bad by any means. We get paid to do what we love, and it often doesn’t feel like a job.  What people don’t realize is how short-lived our career is (I certainly didn’t). They don’t see the ugly side of the job, fighting for contracts, pushing through each show with an ache here and an ache there.  

The “show must go on” mentality of the corporate setting, or the fear of losing your next contract.  We dance and flip around on stage, but we often struggle to “play the game” as we try to find a balance that will keep our passion alive. It is often truly the passion to perform that keeps us going.

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Plagued by injuries, overuse of our bodies and sometimes not feeling valued for the risk we take with each performance, you are challenged to make decisions on what is important to you.

What is important to me now, as I reflect on this journey, is my health and well being. I often joke to my friends and say “I want to be able to walk when I’m 40!”. 

I’ve learned that even despite many setbacks, I was still able to live my dream.  That my strength and courage helped me move past my injuries and the obstacles that were placed in front of me.  That my tenacity to keep going, always gets me to where I want to go. I now find myself motivating others to share their passion and to reach beyond their wildest dreams.

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You can read more about Ryan Lyons by visiting his website The Anchors Project.

Photos: Ryan Lyons, Sammasseur

Hot Guys of Vegas: Dads and Sons


Get acquainted with the men who make their children, pets and parents proud…

With spring…and Father’s Day…just around the corner, it’s time to salute the young men of Vegas who inspire their families with talent, good deeds…and fantastic physiques and looks.

 

Alberto del Campo – athlete/performer/pole instructor

 

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                                                         Alberto del Campo

Where you’ve seen him – Le Reve, KA, Las Vegas Pole Expo, The Beatles LOVE

Alberto del Campo (banner photo above) is one of those guys who seems to be unaffected by gravity.  With athletic grace, he soars through the air and water, climbs tall objects with ease and is completely comfortable hanging upside down.

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This handsome Spiderman/Aquaman hybrid from Barcelona is a real-life superhero to sons Alex (10) and Zack (8). Together the play, train, and have lots of fun outdoors. But when the sun goes down, Alberto joins his boys onstage at Mirage for The Beatles LOVE.

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Father and sons, along with beautiful wife Genevieve Garneau, love being a seriously-fit circus family. Genevieve, a native of Quebec, is currently a performer in Le Reve and has previously been an artist for Cirque.

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Alex is skilled at joining dad on the pole and young Zack is currently mastering aerial work on the straps. Both boys will no doubt continue to follow in their parents’ footsteps and be stars in their own right.

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                                Alberto’s final evening with the cast of KA…

As for Alberto, his busy schedule is enhanced by a number of ancillary projects. Along with competing, he holds workshops in pole dancing and pole fitness. He’s also been known to choreograph amazing aerial sequences for Cirque du Soleil’s annual “One Night For One Drop” charity events. And if you’re lucky enough, you’ve caught one of his rare comedy performances in the naughty vaudeville act Golden Shower.

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Del Campo may be a dad, but he doesn’t have the standard “dad bod” by any stretch of the imagination. This handsome father lives, breathes, works and teaches fitness…and it shows.

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If you’d like to learn more about Alberto or attend one of his workshops, contact him through Aerial Athletica at (702) 848-7894.

Noteworthy traits – stunning flexibility, ability to look hot from all angles…

 

Chris Hodgson – dancer/singer/actor/model

 

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                                                         Chris Hodgson

Where you’ve seen him – Jubilee!, Sex Tips For Straight Women, ad campaigns

New daddy Chris Hodgson has been steaming up the stages of Las Vegas ever since he arrived from West Yorkshire. This slim, towering 30-year-old has a voice that can melt ice and cheekbones that could cut diamonds.

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Chris is currently starring as the object of everyone’s desire in Paris Casino‘s Sex Tips For Straight Women from a Gay Man. He plays Stefan, a technician who becomes the unwitting prop in a scheme to loosen one woman’s sexual inhibitions. With a body like that, do you really think he fails?

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Hodgson studied his craft at U.K.’s Performers College of Corringham, Essex. He cut teeth in show business aboard the Holland America cruise line before settling down in the States. Since then he’s been working steadily in Strip productions like Jubilee! and 50 Shades: The Musical Parody, along with special events and fundraisers.

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The performers in Vegas make up a tightly-knit community. They cherish Chris and his willingness to donate his free time for a worthy cause (he’s an ardent supporter of the LGBTQ). He’s frequently out and about with the city’s other artists, sharing jokes, outrageous behavior…and even the occasional spontaneous pole dance.

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Last spring, Hodgson and wife Leah Sykes (herself an artist in Cirque‘s Zumanity) became parents to son Parker. Proud Chris is excited to be a new dad and relishes the time he gets to spend with his quickly-growing boy.

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With such great genetics from both sides of the family, Parker will surely become a hearthrob in no time at all. Until then, big daddy Chris will be the one in charge of accelerating pulses around Sin City.

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Noteworthy traits – gleeming pecs, swoon-worthy British accent

 

Cameron “Boom” Brown – dancer/athlete/mentor

 

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                                                      Cameron Brown

Where you’ve seen him – Chippendales, charity events

Any fan of 80’s movies will remember Flashdance. That pop-culture phenomenon told the unlikely story of a Pittsburgh steel worker who moonlighted as a sexy dancer. With a little bit of tinkering (and a gender reversal). that blockbuster could easily double as a biography for Cameron Brown.

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Cam is a Sharon, Pennsylvania native who put his substantial muscles to work in blue-collar gigs for JMC Steel Group and Wheatland Tube (a steel manufacturer). As a student growing up in Steeler country, the rugged young man was a popular football player and even received an offer to join the Pittsburgh Pirates. In other words, a local hero.

However, Cameron felt that there was something else calling to him “out there”. He wanted to see more of the world and expand his horizons (having grown up in the same area, I can testify that the culture in that region can be more than a little confining). He readied himself by studying marketing at West Virginia’s Marshall University, where the slogan is “Be Proud. Be a son or daughter of Marshall”.

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                 Cameron hopes to continue making his father and mother proud…

After graduating, Cam decided he was ready to market himself. Perhaps he caught a late-night showing of Flashdance…and maybe that’s where he got the inspiration to follow Jennifer Beals’ path to becoming a dancer. Before you could say “What A Feeling“, this small-town boy with big dreams was soon strutting his stuff in the world-famous Chippendales male revue.

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After becoming a hit onstage at Rio Las Vegas, Brown joined Chippendales for their world tour. His list of destinations included Berlin, Zwolle (Netherlands), Bolzano (Italy) and Korea. Seeing the world and being so far away from home added to his appreciation of his beloved family. The 26-year-old has one sister and several half-brothers/sisters. He’s especially close to his mother Deborah.

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Not a day goes by where I don’t think of my Mom. I’m so very thankful to have my Mom in my life. Anybody who knows me knows I’m a huge mama’s boy and I have zero shame in that. She’s my world.

Currently on a break from touring, Cam is back on the Las Vegas stage, performing with his Chippendales brothers in their custom theater. In his free time he coaches children at i9 Sports, a Vegas youth organization. He believes that working with children affords him a peek at what the future has in store.

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                           Cameron and his one of his youth soccer teams…

Working hard to make his friends and family proud will continue to be Cam’s primary goal. One day he sees himself building a strong foundation for a family of his own:

I’m not worried about Jordans, cars, jewelry, none of that. I’m focused on starting a career and building a home…so my future family can lay their heads down without any worries.

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Noteworthy traits – massive shoulders, over-sized heart

 

Tyler Froehlich – dancer/model/physique competitor

 

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                                                     Tyler Froehlich

Where you’ve seen himMen of the Strip, Chippendales, magazine covers

If there was an award for “Happiest Hunk of Sin City”, it would automatically go to Tyler Froehlich. This Cincinnati Ohio native, one of three brothers, moved to Las Vegas last spring and immediately brightened the city with his infectious grin.

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Like Cameron Brown, Tyler Froehlich’s story is straight out of a movie. Having just returned from an Army stint in Iraq, the war vet was living in his parents’ basement and ready for a change…but never expected that his life would take a turn of this magnitude.

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                       Arriving in Las Vegas with MOTS owner Mike Foland…

Tyler was discovered via his Instagram account by Glenn Douglas Packard, the famed choreographer for last summer’s Men of the Strip. It must have been a bit of culture shock for the young man to go from small-town obscurity to a marquee on the famed Las Vegas Strip.

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                                         Photos from Tyler’s army days…

One thing that didn’t surprise Froehlich was the intense, dry climate of Las Vegas. During his four-year army stint, he spent 2011 in Iraq and 2103 in Afghanistan. His role there was as a Forward Observer, a military artillery spotter responsible for directing mortar fire on a target.

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Returning to the States, Froehlich maintained his heroic physique, hoping to develop a career in fitness modeling and physique competition. He competed in three shows and became nationally qualified for the NPC (you can see pics from his competition here). Then the call came to join Men of the Strip…and things haven’t slowed down since.

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Parents Carol and Randy have plenty to be proud of. They raised their son to have an infectious sense of adventure (and gave him a wild sense of humor), which might explain how he went from having no dance experience to sharing a stage with the likes of Jeff Timmons.

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I had the privilege of meeting Tyler’s mom and dad when they came out from Ohio to see his MOTS debut last July. They’re as warm and kind as Tyler, who has a special bond with brothers Bobby and Pete. The tattoo on his chest reads “Famiglia”, which of course means “family”.

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Hot Guys Vegas Dads Sons

With MOTS on hiatus, the hard-bodied athlete began modeling for corporate events, providing entertainment at lavish parties and appearing in magazines. For the cover of QLife magazine‘s 2017 Halloween issue, Tyler’s sculpted physique provided a perfect canvas for artist Robin Slonina‘s exquisite body painting.

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As of this week, the former Army veteran can now be seen creating heat at Chippendales. The latest member of the world’s top male revue can’t be more excited to have a regular gig…and continues to relish the opportunities that Sin City has given him. He approaches each day with excitement, a wacky sense of humor and appreciation for his good fortune.

“Life isn’t about the destination…it’s about how you get there”. Tyler Froehlich

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Noteworthy traits – wild mane of hair, military-grade abs

 

Ron Remke – actor/singer/dancer

Hot Guys Vegas Dads Sons

                                                     Ron Remke

Where you’ve seen him BAZ – A Musical Mash-up, Jubilee!

Our final Hot Guy for this edition is Ron Remke. Ron’s dashing, suave, multi-talented and has a gorgeous soul. He’s also a stellar father in every sense of the word…the only difference is that his children have paws.

Remke was born in Reading, Pennsylvania (yep, another PA native) and studied musical theater at Penn State University (my alma mater). After graduating, he lent his vocal gifts to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and released a glorious collection called Broadway Classics in 2012 (available on iTunes by clicking here).

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As with so many bitten by the showbiz bug, Ron answered the call of Vegas and settled in with wife Alexandra (also a performer), whom he married the day after Christmas in 2014 (awww). The two purchased a house in Henderson the following September and have become the type of romantic couple that songs are written about.

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The handsome couple were fortunate enough to share the same stage together in Bally’s legendary production of Jubilee!. Alexandra was the epitome of a gorgeous showgirl…and Ron was the dapper song-and-dance man. Together they entertained thousands until the show took its final bows.

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When Palazzo announced the return of BAZ two years ago, Ron came aboard as a swing performer. That meant he had to know numerous roles inside and out, stepping into whatever was required. His stage presence and handsome looks make him the perfect Jay Gatsby…but he also gets to show his comedic flair during a vaudeville-style take on “Like A Virgin”.

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                                      All the ladies swoon over Ron…

Ron and Alexandra are active in animal rescue operations and have opened their home to many of the community’s needy pets. After adopting shelter animals Lilly, a 9-year-old poodle, and kitties Oscar and Olly, the Remkes now raise rescued kittens and act as foster parents for the adults.

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Ron tells me that at this point they’ve gotten 19 kittens off to a promising start, bringing them to a healthy weight of two and a half pounds. Then they’re able to be neutered before receiving permanent homes through NSPCA Saturday adoption events.

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It’s no simple feat to be both a heartthrob and a hero at the same time, but Ron Remke makes it look easy. He’s the ultimate ladies’ man, a total man’s man and a hero to the animals of the world. In other words, he’s the perfect guy.

Noteworthy traits – flawless teeth, slick dance moves, silky voice

Photos by Marco Mendez@lightandpole, Corey Fox Photography, QLife magazine, Sammasseur, Facebook

INFERNO’s Magician Goes Up In Flames


Visually-spectacular production is a victim of its own star performer…

A few years back, the handlers for Britney Spears were faced with an unusual dilemma…what to do when the star of your production is a washed-up tabloid punchline with an inexplicably-strong fan base. Their answer was simple yet effective: launch her residency with a circus of hoopla, stick her onstage with all the pyrotechnics and distractions that money could buy and hope for the best.

As fate would have it, Britney: Piece of Me was indeed an unqualified hit. The mentally-troubled pop tart flapped her arms and silently moved her lips while a small army of gorgeous dancers did the heavy lifting, both literally and figuratively. They carried her around like a mannequin accompanied by prerecorded audio tracks and propped her up in whatever area of the stage that the choreography required. Think of it as “Weekend at Bernie’s: The Musical”.

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                         Joe Labero thanks Britney Spears for her #1 idea…

The minds behind INFERNO: The Fire Spectacular (now playing at Paris Hotel Casino) seem to have taken a similar route. Their featured performer is Joe Labero, an obscure illusionist (at least to American audiences) who’s apparently a big name in Europe. He’s also a former recipient of Illusionist of the Decade. Raise your hand if you’ve heard of him.

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Labero’s version of smoke-and-mirrors distractions comes courtesy of a London pyrotechnic troupe known as The Fuel Girls. You may know them from the UK tour of rock group Fall Out Boy….or maybe not. The resultant pairing is the most uncomfortable seen on a Vegas stage since Criss Angel crawled into bed with Cirque du Soleil nearly a decade ago.

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On their own, The Fuel Girls could easily warrant their own show. Stunts, flame throwers, explosions, choreography and visual effects are all top notch. Ramped up and fleshed out, INFERNO could be to fire what Le Reve and WOW – World of Wonder are to water.

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Alas, the show is hostage to Labero and his magic routines. The illusionist does everything he can to remain front and center, despite being the weak link. Like an annoying uncle who laughs at his own jokes then repeats the punchline a second time, Labero attempts to milk every last clap from the audience.

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Walking to the edge of the stage after each bit, Labero stretches out his arms in a “Ta Dah!” pose that he holds far too long…before dashing into the audience to repeat it in the aisles. There were frequent snickers from people seated all around me. Yes, it’s that embarrassing.

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Labero’s stage presence is hampered by a strong Swedish accent that makes it quite difficult to understand what he’s saying much of the time. Also distracting is that the 54-year-old host is frequently out of breath, heaving heavily and sweating…even in the quieter moments of the show.

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As for the illusions themselves, expect the requisite “person sliced into pieces”, sleight of hand, card tricks and people disappearing/reappearing. Two illusions that do have merit are one where Labero seems to walk right through a person stretched between two supports and another where he passes through a mirror.

Aside from that, there isn’t anything truly special about the magic acts in INFERNO: The Fire Spectacular. With the likes of David Copperfield, David Goldrake, Masters of Illusions, Criss Angel, Matt Franco and many more filling the Strip showrooms with this type of entertainment, was there really a need for another? Of course not, especially when one European import in particular is already doing it so much better (David Goldrake’s IMAGINARIUM was my choice for Best New Production of 2017).

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What makes the show worthy of your consideration are all the sequences without Labero. Pyrotechnics are always jaw-dropping in any medium, but feeling the heat, hearing the sizzle and being bombarded with loud blasts are a visceral experience. In this case, the flames are deftly used through aerial stunts, physically-demanding choreography and handling of fiery objects like batons, whips and an umbrella frame.

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Other saving graces are the elaborate production design and costumes. Stylist collaborators Georgia Richardson and Jeffrey DeBarathy (ALICE: A Steampunk Concert Fantasy) bring a distinctive “Mad Max” look to the performers that’s a perfect match for the Fuel Girls’ visuals. The character of “Animal” is clearly inspired by The Road Warrior.

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Unfortunately, Labero’s attempt to associate his magic acts with the far superior fire aspect are truly cringe-inducing. The two just do not overlap well. It’s clear that the magician has taken his existing acts and awkwardly grafted them onto this new production with wildly uneven results.

Joe frequently breaks from what he’s doing to grab a large vase on the side of the stage and dump its contents into a nearby barrel. “We need more gasoline. Lots and LOTS of GAS O LEEEEEEN!” he exclaims time after time before returning to the business at hand.

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Amidst more hushed chuckling from nearby patrons (several of whom had walked out at this point), my companion leaned in and said “Am I missing something here?”. No, my friend…it’s just the sound of another expensive Strip production going up in flames.

INFERNO: The Fire Spectacular performs Wednesday through Sunday inside the Paris Theater. Tickets start at $65.77 (plus taxes/fees) and can be ordered here.

VegasFool.com is offering a $20 discount on INFERNO by following this link. Discounts on additional shows and hotels can be combined/increased by visiting here.

Photos: INFERNO: The Fire Spectacular, Joe Labero

2017 In Review Part 3 – Trends: Hot, Cold, Wet and Sweaty


Vegas Unfiltered’s  2017 In Review continues with “The Year In Trends”…

Most Influential TrendRideshare Services

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Taxis gouge and the lines are super-long. Buses smell…and so do many of the passengers. Rental cars rack up parking fees and run the risk of accidents and DUI’s. Then there’s the monorail line, which services too few hotels and shuts down at 2 am. Thank goodness stalwart party people can choose LYFT and Uber, two modern ways of getting around that have impacted the way that we “Vegas”.

Now completing their second year of servicing McCarran International Airport along with the rest of the city, these two ride-share services will get you where you want to go at any hour. Best of all, they’re cheap!

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There is a downside with rideshares in that both the airport and the resorts seem to have conspired with the local Taxicab Authority to locate designated pick-up spots in remote areas. But expect that to change as the initial shock wears off and rideshare companies evolve from being an upstart service to the transportation method of choice.

On The Rise – Classic Cocktail and Liquor Bars

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Rosina Cocktail Bar Palazzo

You may not have realized it, but bottle service has quickly become very “2014”. These days, the hip, young and young-at-heart are gathering at classic cocktail and liquor bars. Venetian/Palazzo opened up two this year (The Dorsey and Rosina) to enormous success.

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Downtown’s Golden Nugget recently replaced Gold Diggers Nightclub with a Vegas version on NYC’s Troy Liquor Bar, bringing a much-needed element of class to the frequently-skeevy Fremont Street. I’ll be visiting that one soon and will report back.

Element of the Year – Water

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WOW World of Wonder Rio

Water was a major player in Sin City this year. WOW – World of Wonder joined O and Le Reve as the third water-based production (read my review here). More resorts added the option to decline housekeeping and laundry services in return for resort credit, saving money, labor…and lots of water. Chippendales brought in a Prince-ly “Purple Rain” shower sequence that has audiences breaking the sound barrier with screams.

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The level of Lake Mead continued to drop, worrying officials and providing a disturbing sight for those who fly into the Valley from the east. $817 million and six years were invested into drilling a new “intake straw” to ensure that the remaining water could continue to be siphoned in a “last ditch effort to save Las Vegas from drought doom” .

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Despite the water emergency, construction is set to begin on Wynn Paradise Park, a man-made lagoon and theme park that will replace the recently-closed Wynn golf course.

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Sadly (or perhaps fortunately), it also brings a whole new focus on the concerns for water mismanagement. Steve Wynn is probably hoping that the new fire-based INFERNO show at Paris will take some of the heat away from his continued wasting of Sin City’s most precious resource.

Fading Fast – Male revues

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Any regular reader know I love attending this type of show, despite the fact that some of them are sheer crap. While 2017 started with an all-time interest for male revues, the sizzle fizzled out pretty rapidly.

A marketing blitz for Magic Mike Live caused long-time standards Chippendales and Thunder from Down Under some concern. After the initial madness, MML became just another option in a landscape littered with hungry male strippers (what an image!).

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Black Magic Live quickly moved from the Strip’s Tommy Wind Theater to a banquet hall to an off-Strip ghetto nightclub. Aussie Heat has cooled down to two performances a week (with talk of closure in the coming weeks). Men of the Strip‘s dreams of a multi-media nightclub at Tropicana were reduced to a two-week gig at Hard Rock Cafe. Then they left Las Vegas altogether for a tour through North America.

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An insider told me that it’s much too difficult to launch a residency in expensive Vegas venues. He cites the ease of filling up large spaces in other cities where this type of entertainment is rare and there is little to no competition. The profit margin is much greater for tours as well.

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You can be sure that Chipps and Thunder won’t be going anywhere next year. Unfortunately, that’s probably true for the nauseating Magic Mike Live. But in Vegas, where Sin is touted as a lifestyle and wild girls (and gays) come here to get their male-stripper groove on, expect the choices to be more limited in 2018.

Photos: Sammasseur, Wynn Resorts (and other sources, too)

Hot Guys of Vegas: Heartbreakers and Dream Makers


Get a little closer with guys who sweep you off your feet, sometimes literally…

Last time in this series I took you to the world of bodybuilders…those superhuman, rock-hard specimens of manliness that gym-bunnies aspire to emulate. This month it’s time to get comfy with the kind of men who make your dreams and fantasies come true. From Prince Charming types to men behind the desk and behind the scenes, these are the Hot Guys of Vegas: Heartbreakers and Dream Makers.

Alexander Stabler – dancer/aerialist/stylist

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                                                   Alexander Stabler

Where you’ve seen himLe Reve The Dream at Wynn

Alexander Stabler (banner photo above) is one of those guys who looks like they stepped out of the cover of a romance novel. Strapping frame, carefully-mussed hair, billowing open shirt and a stature that says “hero”, Alexander will sweep you off your feet as the hearththrob of Le Reve – The Dream.

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Once part of the troupe of ballroom dancers that glided into and out of the water spectacular, Alexander is now front and center at the core of Wynn‘s signature production. As his role has increased, so has Alexander’s visibility throughout the city. From charity fundraisers to a boat on Lake Mead to hiking the rocky cliffs with his dog Samson, you never know where you’ll find this real-life Prince Charming.

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Not content to just lie in the sun, this Newport Beach native has dabbled in many varied projects throughout the city. His Axle Entertainment provided hot visuals for Liaison Nightclub and his studies through Paul Mitchell make him a well-respected stylist.  Alex was a principal dancer at Luminario Ballet of Los Angeles and is a former cast member of Zumanity by Cirque du Soleil. No wonder he’s a hot commodity on the stage.

Years of living in Macau and Hong Kong gave Alexander a unique humanitarian view that belies his young age. Although this avid traveler has been around the world, Alexander Stabler is now proud to call Las Vegas his home.

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Noteworthy traits – “ballet boo-tay”, heroic man-rack

 

Eric Roy – attorney

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                                                    Attorney Eric Roy       

Where you’ve seen him – billboards, television, community events                                       

Sometimes a guy is so absurdly handsome that he can stop traffic. When you see advertisements featuring Attorney Eric Roy, you’ll know precisely what I mean. If Eric wasn’t such an all-around good guy, I’d be tempted to accuse this personal-injury attorney of deliberately causing traffic accidents. Have you seen his stunning billboards? But personal injuries aren’t the only cases he handles, so I guess the Twin Falls, Idaho native has a solid alibi.

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Some people dislike attorneys in the same way that used-car salesmen get no respect. Eric Roy Esq. has been able to avoid that stigma by becoming a beloved member of the Las Vegas community (not to mention the recipient of numerous awards for achievement in his field). He’s a favorite at speaking engagements and on television segments, offering helpful legal advice to people across the Las Vegas Valley.

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Attorney Roy is tireless in his devotion to charities and advocacy for organizations that promote social positivity. From volunteering for Goodie Two Shoes Foundation, which provides shoes and socks for underprivileged youngsters…to sponsoring a girl’s soccer team…to delivering food for income-strapped locals via Hopelink of Southern Nevada, Eric never passes on an opportunity to help out those in need.

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Of course, all work and no play would make Eric a very dull boy. So in his free time, this white-collar hunk is an avid traveler who likes to ditch the suit and tie for rugged hiking and mountain biking. Doggies Big Boy and Lil Girl and lady-love Elizabeth keep him grounded…as does some obviously well-spent time in the gym.

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Noteworthy traits – matinee-idol looks, action-hero physique

 

Michael Caprio –  publicist/marketing/management/media design

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          Michael Caprio                                

Where you’ve seen him – premieres, fundraisers, celebrity functions

The term “mover and shaker” was probably coined after Michael Caprio. Very little happens in Sin City entertainment without his involvement in one form or another. This master of Public Relations is a favorite of high-profile celebrities across the country.

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Las Vegas has Michael to thank for the triumphant residency of Olivia Newton-John at Flamingo. It was he who brought Richard Marx to the same hotel for a landmark series of performances this summer. And Michael is the Big Daddy behind the world-famous Chippendales. There’s also Leeza Gibbons, Jon SecadaJohn Tesh and Melody Sweets of Absinthe in his portfolio, if you don’t mind a little name-dropping.

Recently, the founder of Caprio Media Design has been traveling across the country for promotional appearances with Aussie group Human Nature (be sure to attend their annual holiday show at Venetian). And he’s also been behind the successful launch of the new WOW – World of Wonder at the Rio (see my review here).

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Fans of the Sharknado movie franchise have benefited from Michael’s expertise. He represents star Ian Ziering and was responsible for the huge premiere party at Stratosphere last summer for entry #4 in the wildly-successful series. No doubt their collaboration on those films yielded two successful guest-hosting stints of Ziering at Chippendales as well.

Each year, Caprio flies to Australia to join Olivia Newton-John for her annual ONJ Wellness Walk and Research Run.  The event is dear to his heart and he crusades to raise funds for the ONJ Cancer Wellness and Research Center. Olivia’s recent second bout with the disease made the trip even more poignant this year.

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Michael is constantly flying from Vegas to Los Angeles to New York City, so it’s rare that he gets to settle down with hubby Randy Slovacek and their adorable dogs for a quiet evening at home. But when they do, Michael’s culinary expertise yields some gloriously beautiful gourmet dishes.

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                                           Michael and hubby Randy

Notable traits – infectious grin, mile-long eye lashes, grace under pressure

 

Adam Barabáš – dancer/acrobat

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                                                      Adam Barabáš

Where you’ve seen him – Divas, Jubilee!, WOW – World of Wonder

The next dancer on our list is Adam Barabáš. If Adam’s profile photo looks a little (actually a lot) like Aquaman, the resemblance has served him well. This native of Slovakia is currently dancing on water in Rio‘s aquatic spectacular WOW – World of Wonder.

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                           Adam takes flight in WOW – World of Wonder…

Despite being only 27 years old, Adam may have already made some Las Vegas history. He’s the only performer to my knowledge to have ever been in two major re-enactments of the sinking of Titanic.

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First he played double-duty in Jubilee!, donning a tuxedo for the ballroom sequence before quick-changing into a shirtless laborer for the engine room scene. Now he gets to do it again, five nights a week, in WOW‘s high-tech variation on the dreaded event. How’s that for a little trivia?

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This graduate of The Private Conservatory of Arts in Nitra, Slovakia also appears regularly in Frank Marino’s DIVAS at Linq Hotel. Part of their sexy troupe of dancer boys, Adam provides back-up for the likenesses of Cher, Pink, Madonna and Celine Dion.

Being a cast member in two major productions doesn’t leave much time for leisure, especially when Barabáš has that chiseled body to maintain. He’ll hit one of the various Las Vegas Athletic Clubs around the valley for his workouts. If time is very tight he’ll even go through his fitness routines at the theaters between shows…or use his own home gym.

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                       Spending the day with Chipp at Red Rock Canyon…

When the great outdoors calls, Adam takes his four-footed pal Chipp for a round of fetch. Sometimes it’s hiking at Red Rock Canyon or Mt. Charleston. Growing up in the small village of Dubnica nad Váhom (population 26,000) gave Adam few opportunities for luxuries. Now that he calls Las Vegas his home, he enjoys the comforts of a great meal…and a day at the spa to soothe those amazing, hard-working muscles.

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Noteworthy traits – abs of steel, European mystique

 

Mike Hammer – magician/comedian/emcee

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Mike Hammer                   

Where you’ve seen him – self-titled comedy/magic show at Four Queens

Somewhere in Chicago, a retired school teacher is wondering “What ever happened to that class clown Michael Hammer?”. Well, I’d bet he or she would be surprised to know that little Mikey grew up…and became the biggest and best entertainer in Downtown Las Vegas.

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                       “A boy’s best friend is his mother” – Norman Bates

Mike Hammer can be seen onstage five nights a week at Mike Hammer Comedy Magic, a fast-paced gas that will have you returning time and again. His hyperkinetic energy, lightning-fast improvisations and dazzling illusions make Mike a standout on the entertainment scene.

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                Offering fashion advice to Robin Leach at a charity event… 

Naturally, this quick-witted guy is known for charitable functions (are we seeing a pattern here?). Hammer has hosted numerous events for other organizations when not preparing for his own. Just a few weeks ago, Mike and his famous friends came together for the 3rd Annual Mike Hammer Celebrity Go Kart Race to benefit Wounded Warrior Project. This year, proceeds were shared with Las Vegas Victims’ Fund.

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             Sharing fitness tips with Chippendales performer Ryan Worley…

The success of Mike’s own show gave him the clout to produce a second one at Four Queens. Spirit of the King, starring Elvis tribute artist Steve Connolly, draws in a line of fans that stretches across the casino floor each evening. Then there are the TV appearances, emceeing MMA matches, corporate events, and his own weekly radio program The Vegas Take with Brian Shapiro.

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Keeping such a busy schedule was starting to wear the Hammer down – he was literally forgetting to eat. After getting way too thin, the over-40 sports enthusiast decided to consult a nutritionist for a personalized program, then combined it with intense late-night workouts. He quickly began to fill out his slender frame. “I don’t actually look different in my suit”, he said “but I have more muscle. Getting there!”.

Notable traits – sarcasm, hair of epic proportions, chiseled cheekbones

 

Steve Kim – entrepreneur/dancer

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                                                              Steve Kim

Where you’ve seen him – Chippendales/American Storm/Mr. Olympia/magazines

Our final Hot Guy of this chapter is Steve Kim. I first met Steve on the opening night of Men of the Strip this summer. Despite the fact that the venue was filled with hundreds of celebs, male strippers and their fans, this hunky former Oregonian managed to stand out in the crowd.

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Naturally I had to find out who this dude was. We struck up a conversation and I learned that his home town is Portland, just north of where I currently live. The more we talked, the more fascinated I became.

Kim owns and operates Wild Entertainment, which provides sexy guys and gals for a wide variety of corporate functions and private parties. You need some hot shirtless bartenders or sexy golf caddies? Steve’s got them. Some voluptuous product reps for a convention? No problem. Discerning ladies of taste can even find a reputable and proper male escort for a safe evening out. And they’re completely LGBTQ-friendly, too.

My company is proud to be #LGBTQ friendly. We don’t discriminate based on age, sex, race, religion, whatever.. as long as you’re a decent human being, you deserve to have as much fun as anyone else in Las Vegas!

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Steve calls his talent agency “experiential”, a cutting-edge form of marketing that invites consumers to participate in a brand evolution. While that concept might go over your head (it did for me, but there was an open bar that evening), it’s clear that he was paying attention when studying marketing at Santa Clara University.

You can be sure that Wild Entertainment guarantees the highest level of professionalism…and discretion. Of course, a product is only as good as the person supplying it, and Steve is hot hot hot. This former Chippendale dancer has graced the cover of fitness magazines, competed in physique contests and even worked as a software developer for Microsoft. Brains plus brawn? A lethal combination to be sure.

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There isn’t a lot of free time in Steve Kim’s life, but he enjoys it to the fullest. Hanging out with friends, de-stressing on a yoga mat or tossing treats to brother-and-sister dogs Hachi and Yumi are the things that make him smile.

Steve has some major plans in the works for Wild Entertainment, and soon we’ll be sitting down to discuss them for a future article. Until that happens, he offers this teaser:

Big things are coming and soon the world will know about my company and my ambitions. We’re taking over exotic entertainment in Vegas. It’s gonna change everything!

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Notable traits – flawless golden skin, electromagnetic aura

Photos: Ashley Kacvinsky, Ashley Kemp, Michael Caprio via Facebook, Eric Roy via Facebook, John Ganun, Patrick Rivera, Luis Raphael, Adam Barabáš via Facebook, Mike Hammer via Facebook, Steve Kim via Facebook. Banner photo courtesy of Armando Farfan Jr.