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

 


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

20190504_182959

When this writer relocated here from Oregon a short 14 months ago, I knew that it would be a huge lifestyle change. But even for the folks who’ve lived here the vast majority (or all) of their lives, 2019 brought about some seriously weird and wacky shit.

January –

IMAG0139

New Year’s Day started out on a bizarre note with a visit to Rio’s GLOBAL WINTER WONDERLAND. The bitterly cold conditions kept just about everyone away, meaning you could walk through a colorful electric representation of the entire world AND enjoy the amusement park thrill rides of your choice while being nearly alone. As long as you held on tightly to a steaming hot cup of cocoa, it was actually pretty damned fun.

IMAG0180

Employees at the Rio assured me that this attraction would not be returning (and they were correct), as it had caused a major disruption to hotel operations and employee/guest parking. While one of the attraction’s team members swore that at least the Midway part of Global Winter Wonderland would remain through Chinese New Year, the entire area was empty soon after….save for a few sad, abandoned pieces that were left on the side of the lot.

IMAG0141.jpg

IMAG0112

IMAG1171

Screenshot_20190131-095113.png

Historic attraction Bonnie Springs Ranch announced on January 9th that it was being sold and razed for luxury housing. The beloved ranch had been operating in various forms since the 1950s. Locals began flocking to the charming themed attraction for one last visit, many bringing their children to share the same experience they had when growing up.

FB_IMG_1548380599563

The property offered a motel, western town, event barn, horse rides, petting zoo, wax museum, train ride, saloon, restaurant, and a wild west shootout show. Attempts to protect the property by having it declared a historic landmark failed and the ranch closed its barn doors one final time on March 17th.

On a sad personal note, my handsome pal Sunny, who had been undergoing chemotherapy for several months, took a turn for the worse the day before Christmas and passed on January 2nd. It was a rough start to 2019.

February –

IMAG2297.jpg

The shortest month of the year will always be remembered for the snowfall. Not once, but THREE times within the span of two weeks. The first layer hit shortly after Valentine’s Day, and by the final downfall, my home in Mountain’s Edge was under at least four inches.

While that’s nothing in most parts of the country, in southern Nevada it’s life-altering. From my rooftop deck, I could see the entire valley under a beautiful blanket of white. Pilot Jim Gisclair of Serenity Helicopters captured some stunning views while heading out to the Grand Canyon. Schools shuttered, longtime locals went bananas and those who grew up in chilly climates just enjoyed a pleasant few days of relative quiet.

Inside “The NAKED MAGICIANS” at MGM Grand

The Naked Magicians, a pair of Aussie hunks with a penchant for bawdy humor, magic tricks and bare skin launched at Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club. Despite their name, the worldwide sensations found Sin City’s liquor laws to be a bit challenging, as this prevented the boys from going full-frontal (ironic, isn’t it?). Even with a bevy of positive reviews and a legion of fans, ticket sales proved to be a challenge. So the handsome duo put on their pants and headed back to OZ to regroup. Perhaps we’ll see more (or all) of them down the road.

The Sahara Hotel was still operating under the SLS banner in February, but changes were already underway with new owners from Reno. The Sayer’s Club premiered Ester Goldberg’s Totally Outrageous Brunch, a fun mixture of singing, acrobatics, dirty humor, Donald Trump, deviled eggs and a host in drag.

A few months into the run, show creator Michael Airington (Ester Goldberg) was fired by the producers, who promised that the show would go on without him/her (it didn’t). Airington is hoping to regain the Goldberg character and has been very vocal on social media about wanting satisfaction:

“Can’t wait to serve up some Karma Whoop Ass in 2020!!! NEVER EVER count this old Jew broad out! Happy Hanukkah Bitches” – Ester Goldberg

Totally Outrageous Brunch premiered on February 23rd, which happened to be my birthday. After enjoying the show, it was off to The Golden Tiki that evening for a celebration with friends. You can’t find a more enjoyable place to commemorate a special event than this magical spot on Spring Mountain Road.

Head honcho Branden Powers, whom I’ve mentioned numerous times in this column, was kind enough to make a little memorial for Sunny, whose plight he had followed. Thanks to you and your staff for making it a very special night, Branden.

March –

In March, Excalibur Hotel Casino tried to shake up its image a little bit with the opening of Fuerza Bruta, an avante garde international production housed inside a tent along the Strip. A true winner in terms of innovation and the “wow factor”, Fuerza Bruta proved to be a hard sell to Sin City ticket buyers and petered out within 6 weeks.

Image may contain: 5 people, text

534d83c3d1695b6da86bdfc8796acec5_lg.jpg

98 Degrees founder (and world’s hottest man) Jeff Timmons used his considerable clout, industry knowledge and fanbase to launch a new boy band called OVERNIGHT. The fledgling group’s one-night performance at Orleans Casino left this writer underwhelmed (and that’s being kind). The official Twitter page has been dormant ever since, suggesting that OVERNIGHT has already said “good night”.

Screenshot 2019-12-26 at 5.02.09 AM

As for Timmons, he did a spectacular rebound with longtime hit-makers 98 Degrees, with whom he continues to tour. The group is scheduled for Ontario next and is heading to Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines soon after. With luck, we’ll see Jeff on a Vegas stage sometime soon, minus OVERNIGHT and of course, without his shirt.

Construction at both Allegiant (Raiders) Stadium and Resorts World (finally) began to shoot skyward. Although both have announced delays (and escalated final costs), their progress through the year has been rapid and remarkable. Blue monolith monster Fontainebleau/The Drew remains a dormant reminder of overreaching ideas, while the Las Vegas Convention Center has spread its reach onto the Strip, rising on the ruins of historic Riviera Hotel.

April –

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people dancing, people on stage, shoes and night

Venetian welcomed CHICAGO – The Musical to its grandest theater for a short run (April 10th through 14th). The Broadway revival was sold on the star power of supermodel Christie Brinkley, who at 65 years old was way past the point of being believable as femme fatale “Roxie Hart”. While the staging and supporting cast were top-notch, Brinkley’s gravely vocals were a constant reminder that some performers should be seen and not heard. Who thought that this was a good idea?

20190416_191052

Thanks to my friends Allison Duck and cast member Derrick Boyce, I was able to meet the legendary Donny and Marie Osmond after a stellar performance. The duo’s long-running show at Flamingo closed in late November and the months leading up to the final performance were packed to the rafters.

Image may contain: 2 people, including Ryan Worley, people smiling, people standing

Tropicana Hotel hosted the annual NPC Jay Cutler Desert Classic, a bodybuilding competition created by the former Mr. Olympia competitor. Cutler is a beloved resident of Las Vegas, a city filled with athletes, models, acrobats, and dancers.

Chippendales cast member Ryan Worley, whom you may remember from this profile piece, realized a longtime goal by stepping back into the competition ring. Happily, he went home with an impressive medal hanging from his perfectly shaped chest. Yours truly was there to cheer on this big-hearted cat dad.

Warmer temperatures saw the welcome return of many outdoor activities…and a dreadful allergy season. As the snow began to melt from the western mountain ridge, hot air balloons became a regular sight on the morning horizon.

Kaos Nightclub opened at the newly-renovated Palms Casino. Millions were poured into the venue and millions more into paychecks for headliners like barely-human trashbag Cardi B. and celebrity deejays Kaskade and Marshmello, who alone was offered a $60 million contract. A fool’s errand from day one. the disastrous project closed right after Halloween.

                         Progress photos of Raiders stadium taken by me on April 27th…

May –

One month after it opened at Harrah’s, I finally made it over to see Heartbreak Hotel in Concert. This Vegas-style version of the musical play stripped out plotlines and characters in favor of songs and narration by the cast. Despite a talented team, the show was never a big hit and will be closing at the end of this year. I think it’s time for producers to realize that today’s audiences have had their fill of Elvis Presley and his music, nostalgia be damned.

20190512_103657 (1)

Primm Valley Premium Outlets landed in this writer’s crosshairs after an unfortunate encounter with mall security. While strolling through the struggling mall on Mother’s Day, I decided to snap some photos of the numerous closed businesses. Apparently, this was an indication of terrorist activity, as I was accosted and interrogated by an over-zealous rent-a-cop.

I detailed the encounter in a tongue-in-cheek article that sadly spelled out the true cluelessness of business establishments in the region. In 2019 Las Vegas, it doesn’t matter what your intentions are….you’ll be treated suspiciously while simultaneously being gouged for every spare penny in your wallet. I recently heard that the long-suffering space would be remodeled and rebranded, something it desperately needs.

Magician Jen Kramer celebrated her first year at Westgate Las Vegas with a gala celebration. Food was provided by Fresco Italiano and Edge Steakhouse, two of the best restaurants in the city.

And of course, there were more progress shots of stadium construction. As the structure began to take shape, so did the jokes.

81192999_163645531661575_8667902211361079296_n.jpg

June –

Screenshot 2019-12-26 at 4.43.37 AM

Summertime in Vegas used to be considered “off-season”. Tourists avoided the city’s scorching heat and hotels commonly closed off entire towers to reduce cooling expenses. Then came the “Day Club” and “Beach Clubs” and all of that changed. Now the mean season brings openings and events galore.

After numerous delays, CELESTIA finally debuted at the newly-rebranded STRAT Hotel Casino. The star-studded media premiere was a splashy event and the casts of many other productions stopped by to lend their support. The show continues to evolve under the guidance of Kim Scott, formerly of Cirque du Soleil.

67916580_1156761114516764_6138681921632206848_n

Ms. Scott just invited me back to experience a new “VIP Star Seating”, in which CELESTIA guests will actually be on stage for the performance. Prior to the show, they’ll be welcomed into the tent through a private entrance and treated to a complimentary cocktail and popcorn. Sounds like a blast!

20190606_185104 (2)

Speaking of blasts, MGM Grand brought The Hunger Games: The Exhibition to Las Vegas in June. An interactive attraction based on the popular movie series, The Hunger Games comes from the same company that designed Marvel Avengers STATION at Treasure Island.

Downtown’s Cockroach Theater Company outdid many Strip productions with SATANGO, featuring Savannah Smith (Vegas! The Show) and Human Nature‘s Toby Allen. A clever musical based around the “dance of temptation”, SATANGO envisions a one-night ballroom gala where the denizens of Heaven and Hell call a truce to lure members to the opposite side. Simply brilliant!

Finally, June marked my first appearance in front of the cameras, via Vin A.‘s hysterical web talk show “WHAT THE CL#@CK?!”Vin A. is best known as the musical director and outrageously-energetic member of The Bronx Wanderers. A brilliantly engaging host with a firm grasp on the balls of current events, the talented singer/songwriter/musician welcomed me along with his pal Michael Shapiro of ReCkLeSs in Vegas.

Our conversation covered everything from strippers and strollers to fiery California and flaming Elton John. You can watch the entire episode right here:

After a rip-roaring good time at the studio, I headed home and nearly crashed into oncoming traffic. Some things are just never meant to be seen with the naked eye, especially at 65 mph. And that’s how June came to a crack close.

Coming up in the second half, Sin City encounters the Wrath of God. Rainstorms and grasshoppers and earthquakes! Oh, my!

20190923_183421.jpg

 

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


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

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

20190514_201404

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

59760266_2242604342500211_8686458703462793216_n.jpg

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

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

15192625_10154587991196224_907266471306655159_n

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

15181171_10154587991206224_2838198549463705363_n

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

FAAABulousCast.jpg

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

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

 

 

‘ESTER GOLDBERG’S TOTALLY OUTRAGEOUS BRUNCH’ COMES TO THE VEGAS STRIP


New York comedienne Ester Goldberg brings the insanity of the Big Apple to the Strip…

52961192_10155840151952260_3717261836404391936_n.jpg

Not so long ago, daylight hours in Las Vegas were just a good time for rest and recovery. Then came the beach clubs, which brought nighttime excitement into the spotlight. These days, brunch shows are the “in” thing…and SLS Las Vegas has launched their own. Called Ester Goldberg’s Totally Outrageous Brunch, this is one new production that absolutely lives up to its name.

IMAG2554

Until recently, Senor Frog’s Drag Brunch was the height of morning-meal madness. Then Ester Goldberg and crew came to push the envelope and reach for the ceiling. Literally. Filled with aerial acts, improv comedy, burlesque, dancers, singers, a live band and the best Donald Trump impersonator on the planet, Totally Outrageous Brunch achieves new levels of lunacy.

If you’ve never heard of Ester Goldberg, don’t feel badly. This self-appointed “International Glamour Puss of All Media” is new to the Vegas scene but proudly boasts that she’s famous everywhere else on the planet. Watching Ester in action, you might be reminded of Britain’s Dame Edna…but Esther’s got a lot more pepper sauce in her Bloody Mary.

IMAG2527

Brunch is presented an hour before each showtime, so be sure to arrive early. A colorful array of fresh fruits, yogurt parfaits and bakery-shop specialties lead into a hearty selection of breakfast sandwiches,  gourmet deviled eggs, chicken and waffles and an incredible smoked pork belly. While dining you’ll be treated to teaser performances from a few of the stars. It’s best not to tell too much, but don’t be surprised if your table suddenly has a bawdy additional guest.

Click HERE to continue reading…