Hot Guys of Vegas: Studs of Song


Harvesting a Crop of New Music from The Sexiest Men of the Season…

Earlier this year, I interviewed a number of artists regarding the pandemic shutdown…and how it affected their creativity. 98 Degrees hunk Jeff Timmons found comfort in technological advances which allowed him to write, record, and network from the safety of home. Of course, he also doubled down on workouts to relieve stress and keep those famous muscles ready for the return of live shows.

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Ever-smiling Vin A. transformed into a Tasmanian devil of activity during the shutdown. Simultaneously recording at least two albums, the musical director and breakout star of The Bronx Wanderers teamed up with father Vinny Adinolfi to form VINdemic, a father-son musical duo. And he may have shot a few music videos and done a whole lotta other stuff, too (I’ve lost track).

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This month, Vin and close pal Jimmy Denning (Tenors of Rock) launched Vin & Jimmy’s DOWNTOWN HOOTENANNY, a monthly showcase at NOTORIETY. The sold-out crowd was physically spaced, and safety protocols were carefully observed.

Uproarious, irreverent and full of guest stars, HOOTENANY was a welcome return to the fun times we desperately need.  You’ll want to reserve your tickets as soon as December’s date is announced. Click here to be notified of upcoming events at NOTORIETY.

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Many local celebrities lent their talents to Downtown HOOTENANNY, but among them, only Colin Cahill has graced the virtual pages of HOT GUYS OF VEGAS at least twice. The ATOMIC SALOON SHOW star is best known for performing shirtless wherever he goes. Once the pandemic hit, he stopped revealing that fabulous body due to what he and wife Makenzie Fly call “The Quarantine Fifteen”.

After eight long months of hiding, Cahill finally caved to requests and undid some shirt buttons for “Under Pressure” with Jimmy Denning. Three nights later, the hunk was back in the spotlight for the debut of ORIGINAL CHAOS.

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The band, consisting of Cahill, drummer Tim Sorbs, vocalist Dai Richards and guitarist Chris Cicchino (both from Tenors of Rock) took over Harrah’s Carnival Court for a fabulous first night of their weekly Saturday residency. Fans, friends, and celebs turned out to support the boys. As fate would have it, they were preceded that evening by a lengthy set from the tireless VINDemic. Click here to follow ORIGINAL CHAOS on Instagram.

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Several years ago on New Year’s Eve, I met the cast of a new Planet Hollywood show called PIANO MAN (not to be confused with the one currently playing at MOSAIC Theater). Singer Brett Pruneau had come to Las Vegas just to join the cast. As luck would have it, he and I attended the same New Year’s Eve party that evening…and we’ve kept in touch ever since.

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Brett Pruneau

Brett remained in Sin City after PIANO MAN folded, joined the cast of world-famous JUBILEE, and made a name for himself in this crazy city. Sadly, a stress-related condition traumatized the singer’s vocal chords and threatened to end his career. Lots of therapy later, the former New Yorker is back, better than ever, and just released a stirring collection entitled “The Real Thing”.

Like many artists, Brett used the pandemic situation as an opportunity to create, grow, and share his emotions. That’s what “The Real Thing” is about. As he recently told The Hollywood Digest, “I choose to interpret music that fulfills me and enriches my soul. This particular project was born out of pure necessity, to be honest. Given the current climate of the world during the COVID-19 crisis, I couldn’t bare the thought of not having a creative outlet for this indefinite season we are in.”

In addition to getting his vocal chords back into shape, Brett began a fitness routine that he’s proudly showing off on social media. If that angelic face wasn’t enough for him to make HOT GUYS OF VEGAS (it is), Brett’s newly-chiseled physique would guarantee him a spot. Expect more great things from Brett Pruneau in the future. You can purchase “The Real Thing” collection here or listen to it via Spotify here.

Travis Cloer

If all the world is a stage, then super-talented Travis Cloer is its Emperor. There’s nothing that the super-popular actor/singer can’t do. Scheduled to return to The Vegas Room this weekend after a wildly-successful showcase in July, the supper club’s press release sums up Cloer this way:

From classic to jazz, musical theatre to rock-n-roll, and everything in between, there isn’t a genre of music that can escape Travis Cloer’s masterful ability to grab a song and make it his very own.

Among his credits are West Side Story, Damn Yankees, Starlight Express, and – most notably – his record-setting performance as Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys – with over 2,200 appearances around the world to his credit. This portrayal earned him several Best Actor nominations from BroadwayWorld.com and much acclaim and respect in Las Vegas and on Broadway. 

In addition to his artistic talents, the great-looking Cloer has an infectious energy that makes every song a party. His latest recording is “Holiday With Me”, a doo-wop ditty that you can’t get enough of. The song was written by Cloer and produced by Vegas headliner Frankie Moreno. After only one week in release, the song is rising up the charts and is sure to be a perennial favorite.

Photo by Sparky Lisa

You can order “Holiday With Me” by following this link. Then make your reservations to see Travis Cloer on November 27th and 28th at The Vegas Room by clicking here.

‘A VEGAS ROOM CHRISTMAS’ – An Updated Forecast


lastest news on the season’s cheeriest holiday dinner and show…

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It’s often said that in Las Vegas, the only constant is “change”. From entertainment offerings to the temperatures, you never know what to expect from week to week. And so it seems that the winds of change have shuffled the playbook at The Vegas Room. I’ve got the latest updates for fans and newbies alike.

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If you’re just tuning in, you can catch up with A VEGAS ROOM CHRISTMAS show announcement here, then cast bios here and here. As is the norm in the entertainment world, things tend to evolve during creative processes. And so it is that Eric Jordan Young, Brent Barrett, Bernie Blanks and Lisa Marie will no longer be appearing in A VEGAS ROOM CHRISTMAS.

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The announced cast of 20 performers has been revised with additional Las Vegas favorites. Each is a respected entertainer with their own legacy and fan base. Let’s take a look at the gentlemen who will now don stocking caps and mittens to celebrate Irving Berlin‘s WHITE CHRISTMAS:

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CARNELL JOHNSON – Familiar to thousands of Golden Knights fans…and people around the world…as “Mr. Golden Pipes”, Carnell Johnson unifies the nation regularly with his stirring rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner”. Born in Las Vegas, the gentle giant is known for entertaining enormous crowds at T-Mobile Arena and enhancing intimate moments as a singing gondolier at Venetian‘s GRAND CANAL.

A compassionate individual, Mr. Johnson regularly lends his time and talent to Ronald McDonald House and social equality movements.  He also participated in the MaskUpForNevada (#MaskUp4NV) campaign at the Welcome to Las Vegas sign that I covered in June. Carnell spent much of this summer doing small outdoor gigs, and is a professional actor and voice-over artist.

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Robert Hyatt

ROBERT HYATT – Who could ever guess that the gondolas floating on Venetian‘s canals could deliver so much talent. Such is the case with Oregonian Robert Hyatt. Like castmate Carnell Johnson, Hyatt also spent time on the fabled waters, serenading the city’s visitors in his own unique style.

Rob is just as skilled at music arranging as he is on the microphone. The husband and father is founder of the amazing Fifth Avenue jazz quartet, a managing member of E3 Digital Entertainment and was musical director/pianist for Riviera Hotel‘s long-running Barbra and Frank: The Concert That Never Was.

Ian Ward

IAN WARD – Regular readers of Vegas Unfiltered Blog know my admiration for California boy Ian Ward. Check out this profile piece to see what I mean. It’s rare to find such explosive talent in someone so young. Poised to detonate the national scene any day now, Ian had a featured showcase at The Vegas Room in August. Naturally, I attended every evening.

For the past three weeks, he and partner Ruby Lewis (who also appears in A VEGAS ROOM CHRISTMAS) presented a musical journey highlighting their ability to blend, harmonize and compliment one another. Here’s just one of the unforgettable moments:

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Ben Tucker

In addition to casting changes, dancer/choreographer Benjamin Tucker has taken on the role of Stage Director. Ben told me that he plans an immersive experience that will evoke the warmth of a holiday ski lodge. Guests will briefly leave Las Vegas behind and enter the world of White Christmas. Once you’ve enjoyed a bountiful Christmas-style dinner, The Vegas Room cast will commemorate the perennial movie classic via song and dance.

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Throughout December, guests of The Vegas Room will experience the fragrances and tastes of the season, too. Chef David James Robinson has crafted a glorious holiday menu to compliment and accompany the onstage presentation:

Savory Gingerbread with Vanilla Butter

Mini Lobster Quiche

Borscht with Sour Cream

Holiday Salad with Homemade Ranch Dressing

Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding or 

Turkey and Sage Dressing with Green Beans & Pomegranate or 

Roasted Acorn Squash with Sage Dressing and Sweet Potato Puree (vegan)

Egg Nog and Peppermint Shortbread Cookies

The Vegas Room Dessert That Snows!

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In preparation for upcoming festivities and to allow patrons to remain safely at home during increased COVID-19 concerns, The Vegas Room will be dark through November 26th (Thanksgiving). Shows will return on November 27th and 28th with dinner performances by Travis Cloer (Jersey Boys).

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Sunday brunch returns on Sunday, November 29th with international dazzler Nieve Malandra. Chef Robinson has prepared a multi-course brunch to accompany Nieve’s songs from Japan, Spain, Italy, France, and Portugal.

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A VEGAS ROOM CHRISTMAS launches its first of 20 performances on December 2nd. Join them for what is sure to become an annual holiday tradition. Click here for reservations to any performance at The Vegas Room.

The Vegas Room is located at 953 East Sahara Avenue E-18. Phone (725) 206-7059 for more information.

THE VEGAS ROOM – Sin City’s Best Kept Secret Is A Secret No Longer


Intimate supper club is a meticulously crafted experience from arrival through the final applause…

“I miss the days of old Vegas.” How often do you hear those words? Colored by a fondness for “when the Mob was in charge”, people lament about the golden era of Sin City. It was a time when you were escorted to your “usual table”, the bartender had that favorite cocktail waiting, and an evening out was a splendidly curated event.

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If you’re among those who yearn for the return of vintage-Vegas glamour, your prayers have been answered. Step through the red doors of The Vegas Room and enter a world where dinner and music are served on a plate of elegance. Here you’ll enjoy the most gifted entertainers of Sin City, showcasing their talents in an intimate presentation that you won’t see anywhere else.

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The Vegas Room is a passion project of sorts…a crowning achievement representing the careers of three gifted gentlemen. President Thomas Richard Michel orchestrates the business side, pulling from years in the entertainment and marketing industries. It falls upon him to ensure that every visit is uniquely memorable:

“There are so many talented performers in Las Vegas who don’t always have a place to share their talents. And, even if they do under normal circumstances, they often aren’t able to perform the type of material that they might really want to showcase. This was a key reason that The Vegas Room came to be.”

“Our mission is to envelop our guests in an environment that doesn’t really exist in Las Vegas anymore. It is a place where people can experience incredible local talent coupled with delicious handcrafted food, all in a warm and intimate setting.”

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“The entertainment we showcase changes each and every weekend, and the handcrafted menu – whether for our five-course dinner, our light bites “Sampler” package, or our Sunday Jazz brunch – changes every two weeks” Michel explained. “For this reason, many local people are already returning frequently, as they appreciate our reasonable prices and the fact that there’s always something new and wonderful to experience.”

“Tourists also tell us that they’ll make The Vegas Room a definite “must-do” on their calendars when they’re back in Las Vegas. Whether locals or tourists, there’s no doubt that that type of reaction is extremely gratifying for everyone involved in The Vegas Room, whether a performer or staff member.”

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Although the tourism industry is currently in flux thanks to the pandemic, The Vegas Room‘s location gives it the ability to prosper, even in these uncertain times. Tucked away inside a rather humble and aging East Sahara shopping center, the small venue provides an immediate feeling of welcome familiarity. That’s especially important to locals, whose repeat business makes up the majority of their clientele.

The supper club experience might be new to contemporary generations, but it’s made a remarkable return, thanks in part to high-profile spaces like Rose.Rabbit.Lie (Cosmopolitan) and Bellagio‘s new Mayfair Supper Club. True fans of the supper-club concept know that a skilled chef is as much an integral component as the entertainers who command the microphone and keyboards.

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Executive Chef David James Robinson is the owner of The Vegas Room. He’s known to thousands of fans and followers thanks to television shows, a strong online presence, and his 10-part cooking tutorial “Learn How To Cook (and eat your mistakes)”. It’s clear when he’s visiting tables that Chef David is having as much fun as his guests:

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“We care enormously about the food and service we provide. Our guests at The Vegas Room will see that for themselves when they experience the reality – both in look and taste – that everything we make is handcrafted and made from scratch” (click here to view the latest brunch and dinner menus).

“For example, all of our salad dressings, soups, and stocks are uniquely ours and made fresh. Additionally, all breads, muffins, and biscuits were baked fresh that day, and every component of every dish was sourced and prepared with great care…and it always will be.”

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“Our goal when it comes to the food we serve at The Vegas Room – whether for dinner or brunch – is to make it an equally memorable complement to our world-class entertainment, combining the two to make a truly wonderful evening or afternoon out.”

The entertainment community seems to have adopted The Vegas Room as their new combination hangout/haven. Often unable to perform in their usual venues thanks to the pandemic, they come here to share their craft and support one another. During each of my visits, entertainers from large-scale Strip productions were enjoying the food and cheering on their colleagues.

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As you might imagine, management has taken great care to ensure guest safety. Face masks are required until seated, guests have their temperature scanned (a two-second touchless process), and everyone is required to sanitize their hands upon arrival. The serving and bar staff wear protective facial coverings, and implements are santized and sealed. Tables are arranged to meet social-distancing protocols, aptly serviced by the always-wonderful Sandy Love. A full description of The Vegas Room‘s COVID-19 safety plan is available on their website.

                   Vocalist Randal Keith with Philip Fortenberry at the piano…

Onstage, stars like Anne Martinez (FANTASY, BAZ) Randal Keith (Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular, Showstoppers), and Eric Jordan Young (Vegas! The Show, Cocktail Cabaret, Rock Of Ages) present spectacular interpretations of classics old and new. As you might imagine from a line-up of that pedigree, Broadway showtunes frequently fill the air.

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There’s an enormous amount of respect between artists and the venue’s Director of Entertainment Brent Barrett, himself a seasoned performer (The Broadway Tenors, Chicago The Musical):

“From an entertainment perspective, The Vegas Room is meant to be a prestige room. That means that – as the Review-Journal stated recently – you have to be great to play this room. And, speaking of the room itself, instead of being a big theatrical space, it’s a very comfortable jewel box of a setting, currently seating less than 50 guests.”

“With our wonderful sound system and amazing acoustics, you really feel as though you’re listening to great standards, jazz, rhythm and blues, and Broadway showtunes in the comfort of your own living room. It’s THAT intimate. I think that is what has attracted so many of Las Vegas’s best performers to want to play the room.”

                                   Anne Martinez accompanied by pianist Dan Ellis…

“Because of that, we are able to present a robust array of truly incredible singers and musicians to our guests. And, many of the folks who attend The Vegas Room now return week after week to experience artists they know in addition to ones that they don’t…but should,” stated Barrett.

               Patrick Hogan performs at Sunday Jazz Brunch throughout July….

One such artist is Patrick Hogan, who dazzled audiences during July 4th weekend’s Sunday Jazz Brunch. The 24-year-old singer/songwriter is principal pianist at Mayfair Supper Club. Hogan performed two astonishing sets of his own compositions, along with many beloved standards.

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Look for Patrick Hogan and fellow jazz great Amanda King Sundays throughout July. Upcoming evening performances include Travis Cloer (Jersey Boys) with pianist Chris Lash (BAZ), Toscha Comeaux (Cirque du Soleil) and The Vegas Room‘s own Brent Barrett.

The Vegas Room is located at 953 East Sahara Avenue E-18. Sunday Jazz Brunch is held weekly at 1pm. The “Supper Club Experience” takes place every Friday and Saturday beginning at 6:30pm. There’s also a “light bites” sampler option which seats at 7:30pm. Showtime is 8pm.

Click here for full details and to make reservations or phone (725) 206-7059

Photos: Sam Novak, Sparky Lisa, Lisa Marie, The Vegas Room, Brent Barrett, Amanda King, Toscha Comeaux, Travis Cloer, Christopher Lash

Get ‘Portnoyed’ With Sin City’s Philanthropic Artist


Famed caricaturist Neal Portnoy donates talent and funds to furloughed Las Vegas performers…

Update 7/12/20 – In addition to the wonderful effort that Portnoy Gallery has put forth to assist entertainers in the community, this year it will be hosting a benefit for St. Jude Ranch for Children. The announcement from Dorothy Cannata Portnoy is as follows:

We are excited to announce our Annual Christmas in July event and Raffle Fund Raiser. Limited tickets for social distancing during event and unlimited virtual tickets available. The day will be broken down to 4 sessions each having different raffle prizes and one grand prize at last session including all who bought tickets Pick the group you like best or all. The virtual tickets are set up the same way. Click here for full details. Looking forward to a great day of supporting St Jude’s Ranch for Children.

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Donations of household items are also being accepted – you can request a copy of the wish list from Dorothy Cannata Portnoy by clicking here.

UPDATE5/17/20 –  Neal Portnoy messaged me to let me know that my oversized mug had been “Portnoyed”, too. The honor is overwhelming…and I’m thrilled that he made the decision to include me in this illustrious collection. You can obtain yours and help the unemployed entertainers of Las Vegas by clicking here.

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                                                         Hey, my mug is on a mug! 


For many entertainers, the benchmarks of success are seeing their name in lights and perhaps, someday, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But you’ll know that you’ve really made it when your likeness has been “Portnoyed”.

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Neal Portnoy is a successful artist who specializes in caricatures (or “cartoon portraits”) of famous performers and sports figures. His Portnoy Gallery in Las Vegas is a veritable shrine to pop culture and the entertainment world. Its centerpiece is the Wall of Honor, a collection of Portnoy’s most revered work.

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Once a year, the Gallery holds a red carpet induction ceremony that’s attended by public figures, prominent athletes, celebrities and one very special doggie. Neal’s background as a baseball player and sleight-of-hand entertainer gives him a unique insight that few artists possess. His portraits, most often created with felt markers, capture the dedication of his subjects along with their humor, talent, and charisma.

Working with felt markers is a unique and challenging medium. As Neal explains it:

Markers…unlike oils, unlike acrylics, unlike water colors…is a stain. You can change colors in water colors, acrylics and oils, and kind of put what you want down. But with marker, every line you put down, stays down.  If I make a mistake, I make it into something else…’cause every line is an expression.

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When it comes to being charismatic, the Massachusetts native exudes a wonderful degree of warmth and confidence. It’s easy to understand why some of the most powerful names in entertainment have entrusted their images to Neal. From members of the Las Vegas Raiders to Barry Manilow, Freddy Mercury to Aretha Franklin, each work of art is timeless and unforgettable.

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My first opportunity to chat with Neal was earlier this year. It was at the Summerlin birthday party of influential power-player Mark Messina, where I shared a table with the artist and his charming wife, former New Yorker Dorothy Cannata Portnoy. During our conversation, Dorothy told me that she is the gallery’s Director. She also tirelessly assists her husband in his efforts to support the local community.

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The Portnoys invited me to their studio to check out Neal’s collection. Alas, a certain pandemic became headlines soon after, placing my visit on a to-do list for when life returns to normal. In the interim, I’ve researched the gallery via websites and social media. There I learned about a heartwarming effort that the couple and Mark Messina have created to assist out-of-work Vegas entertainers.

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As you may recall from last week’s article on the Mondays Dark Live Stream Telethon, the residents of Sin City are unparalleled when it comes to taking care of their own. That’s why Portnoy Gallery has decided to donate 50 percent of sales from Portnoyed.com:

Las Vegas has been hit particularly hard due to quarantines and venue closures.  Our entertainers have been among the hardest hit.  We would like to give back to the community, by providing our out of work entertainers 50% of proceeds from our current online products.  Please browse our store for your favorite Las Vegas entertainer, and together we can help them get through this period.

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Up for grabs are 76 uniquely-designed coffee mugs, each featuring a beloved Vegas celebrity. Musicians like the Bronx Wanderers, Niki Scalera, David Tatlock, Mark O’Toole, Michael Shapiro, and Zowie Bowie can join your coffee break, along with comedians Carrot Top, Mike Hammer, and John Di Domenico. Even Messina and my colleagues Gabe Ginsberg, Chet Buchanan and Johnny Katsilometes have their mugs committed to a mug.

To obtain one or more of these uniquely Vegas collectibles (while simultaneously fueling the movement to keep Las Vegas entertainment alive) visit this link. Until the gallery reopens, you can browse and purchase prints of Neal’s creations by clicking HERE.

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Portnoy Gallery is located at 1537 W Oakey Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89102. Phone 702.685.2929 for more information.

Photos: Neal Portnoy, Dorothy Cannata Portnoy, David Orlov, Dianne Davis, Jonathan Scott

 

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

Miss Behave Gameshow

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

OPIUM Spiegelworld Cosmopolitan

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.