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


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

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

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

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

Very Likely To Return –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Say Farewell –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cirque du Soleil 

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

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

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

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Hanging In The Balance/Probably Safe –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                Wowing the judges in Spain’s Got Talent 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                  Underwear: Modus Vivendi Photographer: Joan Crisol @joancrisolphoto

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

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

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

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

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

Photos provided by Davide Zongoli

 

HOT GUYS OF VEGAS: New Boys In Town


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

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

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

THE MEN OF SAHARA’S ‘BLANC DE BLANC’

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Gregory Romeo aka “Monsieur Romeo” – model/performer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Noteworthy traits – velvety voice, muscles of granite

 

Hampus Jansson –  circus performer/model

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Noteworthy traits – youthful personality, manly physique

Danik Abishev – handstand athlete/acrobat/dancer

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

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

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

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

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

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Noteworthy traits – short in stature, long on sex appeal

 

THE MEN OF Spiegelworld’s ‘ATOMIC SALOON SHOW’

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

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

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

“The Mayor” (Pavel Stankevych) – handstand athlete

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

“Blue Jackson the Singing Cowboy” – identity uncertain

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click HERE to continue reading…

Photos: Sam Novak, Atomic Saloon Show

 

Hot Guys of Vegas: Mathieu Bolillo


France’s man of mystery lets his body do the talking…

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There are performers and celebrities who could chat all day about themselves. Without them, we wouldn’t have gossip websites, grocery store tabloids and gab sessions with Ellen Degeneres. Mathieu Bolillo is different. Taking the lead from Olivia Newton-John, he prefers to just get physical.

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My first encounter with Mathieu was this past February on my birthday. It happened to coincide with his debut performance in a new brunch show. It’s hard to focus on your eggs when this fireplug of muscle walks onto the stage, strips off his shirt and commences with a dazzling routine that would have you swearing off croissants for the rest of your life.

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I had to do some digging to learn more about this rippling hunk of inspiration. There are precious few personal details about the athletic Frenchman on his website…but plenty of eye candy and physical feats to wow and impress. So I reached out to Mathieu directly and asked him to tell me more about himself.

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Naturally, the strong-and-silent hunk admitted that he preferred to keep his private life close to his bare chest….er, “vest”.

I have one sister and we were born in Bordeaux, France. I’m raised in France with Spanish, Arabic and international influences due to the origins of my parents and to my high level gymnastic background.

As an international artist, Mathieu has performed in his home country, Germany, Spain, throughout Asia on board the Golden Princess cruise ship….and of course, in Las Vegas. 

Bolillo spent six years with the cast of Cirque du Soleil’s KA at MGM Grand, defying gravity nightly in the long-running epic production. Returning to France in 2010, he contracted a very serious case of chicken pox that nearly claimed his life (adult cases are much more severe than the childhood variety). It took a year to recover and get back his strength and physique.

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In order to set himself apart in the competitive world of athletic entertainment, Bolillo created a new apparatus that he calls the Balance Wheel. His innovative design and self-taught act garnered him the 2016 U.S. Aerial Champion Award for “New and Innovative Apparatus”. It also launched the next phase of his career.

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A self-proclaimed “fitness freak”, Mathieu has an intense desire to push his body to the limit. That’s led to impressive stunt work in films. He’s also a go-to for innovative modeling shoots, special events and fitness workshops. Even in his down time, Bolillo can’t seem to rest…he includes soccer, crossfit and basketball as methods of “relaxation”.

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The new production I met Mathieu at sadly didn’t last, but that’s the reality of entertainment in Sin City. Looking ahead, the ambitious 39-year-old is hoping to lend his talents to new innovative productions. He’d also like to work more in front of the cameras. His expressive face, hot body and sultry voice are tailor-made to capture attention.

Just don’t ask him to talk about himself…

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You can follow Mathieu Bolillo by visiting his Instagram page

 

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.

Get Ready For Another Dose of OPIUM


Spiegelworld’s sexy interstellar spaceship comedy gets an upgrade…

Damn, this has been a really tough summer for Vegas entertainers. Shows have been closing left and right, some before they’ve barely gotten out of preview. Sadly, I’ve seen many of my performer friends leaving Sin City for better opportunities in Los Angeles and New York City.

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So where does that leave a spaceship full of cosmic settlers trying to make a name for themselves on the Strip? Well, if you’re the passengers and crew of the OPM 73 Starship, you’re bound and determined to make your new production OPIUM a hit. After all, a return trip to Uranus would be the ultimate walk of shame.

That’s why the Spiegelworld team, creators of ABSINTHE, have streamlined and upgraded their glitzy homage to wacky 70’s variety shows with new songs, a faster storyline and plenty of humorous new acts. If you grew up on Saturday morning Sid and Marty Krofft programs like LAND OF THE LOST, DR. SHRINKER, FAR OUT SPACE NUTS and THE LOST SAUCER, then OPIUM is for you!

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You may have seen my previous review of OPIUM that I published in April. Well, blast that one into space via the airlock on Deck C. OPIUM 2.0 deserves its own write-up. It’s funnier, more shocking and a lot more polished. Look for things to get even flashier with the possible addition of BAZ’s prolific costume designer Olwen Zarlengo.

BTW, it’s still as naughty as ever, so leave your sticky little rugrats at home!

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The basic premise is the same – crewmates of the OPM 73 perform variety acts for the passengers when not engaging in sexual encounters with each other. We’re introduced to new trainee “Chip”, a virginal geek unsuccessfully looking for his first physical encounter. Despite all the randy opportunities aboard, Chip is holding out for love.

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Chip’s mechanical pal Rob the Robot doesn’t understand the concept of emotions, so Chip installs an upgrade into Rob’s software that puts him on his own path of sexual exploration. Can robots do the deed with horny humans while on a lengthy trek through the stars? You betcha….just wait until you see the newest crew member at the finale.

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The revised plot has jettisoned a riff on 1979’s Ridley Scott film ALIEN. Gone is the oversized Muppet running amok in the bowels of the ship. Captain Kunton is now in charge, replacing Ann Tennille (whose character has apparently disappeared into a black hole). The new captain has an affection for playing with his diablos (those Asian yo-yo’s), as well as certain members of the audience.

Luckily, the best variety acts have remained on board for all to enjoy. Portly maintenance man Scotty still dazzles with his flamboyant hula-hoop routine. Mateo – Queen of the Galaxy, aka the “Latino Freddie Mercury”, vies for your attention with a pair of banana-shooting WTF’s. And crowd favorites Yuri and Cosmo continue to dazzle with their shirtless-muscleboy-and-his puppy showstopper.

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        Flashy but maudlin “Dusty Moonboots” belts out another heartbreaking hit…

Also returning are drag-tastic crooner “Dusty Moonboots” and sword-swallowing Rear Admiral Todd Vader, whose role has been wisely amped up to include a subplot involving engine-room sabotage…using an enormous dildo. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

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Among the new acts is a whip-cracking Puerto Rican security officer Judita with an overactive libido. He has a mid-scene costume change that will have you gasping for days. Don’t let ANYONE spoil the surprise….and don’t reveal the twist once you’ve seen it.

As with most variety-dependent shows, expect OPIUM to continually evolve. You can be sure that each visit will be unique and memorable…just like every trip to Las Vegas.

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           Social media celebrity Perez Hilton and I take in a performance of OPIUM…

And with the volatile nature of today’s entertainment market, it would be wise for you to see OPIUM right now. You never know what threat lies around the corner…or in the furthest reaches of outer space. So grab a “Spocktail” and enjoy the show.

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OPIUM Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

OPIUM performs at the OPIUM THEATER next to Rose.Rabbit.Lie on the second level of Cosmopolitan Las Vegas. Showtimes are Wednesday through Monday at 8pm with additional 10pm shows Thursday through Sunday. Tickets start at $79 (plus taxes/fees) and can be purchased via this link

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VegasFool.com is currently running a special for $38 that you can take advantage of by clicking here.

Photos: Sammasseur

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spiegelworld’s OPIUM is a Space Voyage from Uranus (sorry) to your Heart


Absinthe’s new cousin is the schlocky 70’s sci-fi variety show that never was….

Imagine that you’re scanning the channels and come across TV Land, the cable network specializing in beloved 60’s and 70’s programs. They’re airing a weird science-fiction variety show that you don’t remember at all…and you can’t look away.

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The wacky neon-and-spandex-clad passengers and crew of the starship OPIUM are headed towards Earth. For some reason they perform musical and acrobatic acts when not doing naughty things on and with each other. No, it’s not an episode of The Twilight Zone or the super-bizarre Brady Bunch Variety Hour (yes, that was really a thing!). It’s Spiegelworld’s OPIUM…and the ship of fools has landed at Cosmopolitan.

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OPIUM takes over the space once occupied by Vegas Nocturne, another Spiegelworld creation. That lamented masterpiece of hysteria now lives on through OPIUM, which infuses the spirit of Vegas Nocturne with a psychedelic vibe all its own.

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An ethereal mood is instantly established when you enter through Rose.Rabbit.Lie‘s ring of mysterious doors and head for the bar. The lounge is bathed in pink and purple neon tubes and 70’s kitsch like lava lamps and portable televisions (who didn’t have one of those?) line the walls. There, under a shower of electronic bleeps and Moog synthesizer music, you can peruse a 3D menu of specialty cocktails via an authentic View-Master reel.

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Comparisons to Absinthe will be unavoidable, but as my guest at a recent performance noted, OPIUM is the exact opposite of the nearby production. While that long-running hit at Caesars is back-to-back acts of world-class quality, OPIUM deliberately revels in its own awfulness. It’s pure camp and overacting on an epic scale.

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It would be unfair to give away the plot or tell you too much about the characters. They’re pure delight and half the joy is in discovering them. Instead I’ll focus on some of the variety segments, which don’t all achieve the stellar heights of Absinthe but soar on their own plane of existence.

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“Dusty Moonboots” is the songbird of Starship Opium’s crew. She (or he…I can’t be totally certain) belts out ballads and pop numbers with aplomb, sporting an outlandish series of costumes that seem re-purposed from a roadshow version of Priscilla – Queen of the Desert.

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Vegas Nocturne returning performer Brett Loudermilk is unrecognizable as the ship’s resident sword swallower. His risque oral act is exactly what you might be thinking. Armed with a suitcase full of swords of varying shapes and sizes (along with a rather large “personal item”), Brett’s stunts will shock, nauseate and have you holding your aching sides from the laughter.

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The ship’s all-purpose handyman “Scottie” seems determined to fly his inner rainbow flag through the solar system. Armed with dozens of bright pink hula hoops and streamers trailing behind his go-go shorts, the chubby crew member amazes with his balance, flexibility and grace.

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By far my favorite sequence involved America’s Got Talent duo Christian Stoinev and Scooby. The hunky shirtless young strongman and his faithful chihuahua are so entertaining that they alone are worth the ticket price. This video clip from the performance I attended is a real treat:

Despite the seeming randomness of OPIUM’s concept, it really is cohesive…and surprisingly touching. There’s a story arc, character development, audience interaction and some pretty kick-ass music from a live band. If you’re a Freddy Mercury fan, you’ll love the Queen sing-alongs that form a framework of universal love and acceptance.

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OPIUM’s goal is to amuse, titillate, revolt, befuddle and entertain. Most of all, it’s about delivering the unexpected. On that OPIUM succeeds beyond your imagination. It might not reach the heights of either of its Spiegelworld relatives, but OPIUM is one schlocky sci-fi tale that deserves to run for at least a five-year mission. William Shatner would be proud.

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OPIUM performs nightly (except Tuesdays) at Cosmopolitan Las Vegas. Ticket are available online or at the OPIUM box office on the second level. Click here for show schedule and times. Discounts of 25% on select seats are available courtesy of our friend at VegasFool by clicking here

 

Cosmopolitan Gets High on “OPIUM”


Absinthe-style production brings Spiegelworld madness back to Rose.Rabbit.Lie…

“Slip through the crack in the space/time continuum for a close encounter with a spaceship of fools”.

The politics of show business are not unlike those of the world’s governments. Coalitions are forged, battle lines get drawn and sometimes old enemies become allies. That’s what happened when the 2014 spectacular Vegas Nocturne abruptly closed at the Cosmopolitan‘s Rose.Rabbit.Lie Social Club a mere seven months into its run.

It’s a genuine shame if you missed out on Vegas Nocturne. That genre-spanning production delivered an entire evening of thrills and laughter, spread out over three full-length interconnected shows.

Some of Nocturne‘s best acts, like David O’Mer‘s bathtub seduction and Sean and John‘s tap-dancing routine were integrated into Absinthe. Other breakout performers like Piff the Magic Dragon and beatbox singer Butterscotch moved onto their own fame as well.

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       Vegas Nocturne’s “Bathtub Boy” now shares his excitement at Caesars…

Vegas Nocturne‘s sudden closure led to legal battles that continued for years. Things got more complicated when it was announced that Caesars‘ hit show Absinthe would be moving into the performance space once occupied by Nocturne. Again, the big guns came out…and after a few volleys and threats, Absinthe stayed put (leaving the Rose.Rabbit.Lie theater empty for yet another year).

This month, all those differences have been put aside. A brand new variety show is about to launch in that sadly-neglected space. It’s called OPIUM…and it promises to be as crazy and off-the-wall as those other two naughty spawn of their Spiegelworld parents.

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Last week, Spiegelworld held a cast reveal and teaser performance under the Cosmo’s Chandelier Bar. Emceed by “Harry M. Howie”,  the supposed creator of OPIUM (and a fictitious character a la Absinthe’s “The Gazillionaire”), the official Arrival Ceremony was comically timed to overshadow the opening ceremonies of the 2018 Winter Olympics.

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Howie, looking nervous and disheveled in a tacky suit, spoke from a cheap portable PA system in front of a folding table adorned with lunchbox packs of Jell-o and a gallon jar of Costco Cheez Balls. He was eager to unveil the final artwork for his long-dreamed-of Sin City project.

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“You make a poster and everything else pretty much falls into place” Harry stated with the arrogance of a seasoned Vegas producer. One might say that his confidence fluctuated as wildly as the authenticity of his Australian accent. With one quick tug, the veil was lifted on the official poster…and the drums started to play.

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As various characters entered the Cosmo casino from all directions, the crowd began to thicken. A sax player belted out notes on the descending escalator. Towering interstellar God (and costume designer) Machine Dazzle made a grand entrance by way of the Chandelier Bar‘s glass elevator. They all came together to give the curious spectators a peek at OPIUM, which opens next month.

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What happened next was hard to explain. The cast performed a rhythmic number backed by bongos and carrying pyramid-shaped props from which they extracted a change of costumes. Utilizing folding lawn chairs, suitcases, confetti and LOTS of aluminum foil, the OPIUM performers shared their home galaxy’s avant garde brand of music and dance:

It’s clear from the video clip above that OPIUM will be anything but ordinary. One can only hope that the new show will bring the same level of enchantment that Vegas Nocturne did when it first graced the Rose.Rabbit.Lie stage.

Although shrouded in mystery, OPIUM is already more forthcoming than Nocturne ever was. That ill-fated production asked members of the media not to reveal very much in hopes that guests would discover it on their own. Even my VegasChatter review, which spared held back most of the details, was heavily edited to blot out additional specifics. That over-reliance on secrecy, IMO, is what led to consumer confusion…and ultimately the untimely closure.

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In addition to the teaser performance last week, the folks at Spiegelworld have offered this formal synopisis of OPIUM:

Journey on a trip to a new dimension of entertainment with OPIUM, the new show at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas from the creators of ABSINTHE. What is OPIUM? It’s fast, funny and funky. Completely off the planet. Remember the good old days when you sauntered into a Las Vegas showroom, martini in hand, while a pack of comedians and crooners bantered in front of the house band? Even if you do, one thing’s for certain: it didn’t look like this. Slip through the crack in the space/time continuum for a close encounter with a spaceship of fools.

They’ve also uploaded this peculiar featurette onto YouTube. I recommend jumping to the actual promo video which begins at the 2:18 mark:

So if your senses…and your curiosity…are prepared to be heightened, take a hit of OPIUM. I’ll be checking it out myself soon and will report back with a detailed review.

Preview performances for Spiegelworld’s OPIUM begin March 13, 2018 at Cosmopolitan’s Rose.Rabbit.Lie. Tickets are on sale now at Spiegelworld.com or by calling 1-866-973-9611. Use code VEGAS at checkout to receive the amazing price of $30 (plus taxes/fees) while offer lasts.

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Photos: Kirvin Doak, Erik Kabik, Spiegelworld