Monday, Oct. 27, 2008 | 2 a.m.
IF YOU GO
Who: T. Fox
What: “Passion Patio Nights”
When: 8 p.m. to midnight Thursdays through Saturdays
Where: Trader Vic’s, Planet Hollywood
Five years ago T. Fox was performing in a wide spot in a hallway on the second floor of the Tropicana. The makeshift lounge was at the entry to the Island Buffet.
He shared the spot with a bird act.
The venue was confining, almost claustrophobic for the 100 or so fans who crowded into the close quarters to listen and to watch. But Fox energized the hallway with his nonstop audience interaction, doing impressions and singing covers of songs by the likes of Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Luther Vandross and Sammy Davis Jr. Standards, rock, R&B, jazz. Nothing was outside of Fox’s repertoire.
Today, the walls have come down.
He’s gone from an aisle to a six-lane boulevard — the Strip between Flamingo and Harmon.
His stage now is a patio at Trader Vic’s, where he performs outside Planet Hollywood beneath the stars and the bright lights of Las Vegas. The set that surrounds him is literally worth billions of dollars — a panoramic backdrop that includes the Bellagio and its fountains, the emerging CityCenter and the colorful hot air balloon sign at Paris Las Vegas.
The patio, an extension of the famed restaurant, looms over the Strip, 10 feet above the sidewalk where a steady stream of tourists flow past.
Most seem awed by what they see as they stroll along: massive resorts that dwarf humanity; blazing lights that turn night into day; the sheer numbers of people that surround them.
Many stop to enjoy the free show on the patio above them.
The patio, a bar and dining area, seats about 100. But T. Fox performs nightly to an audience that numbers in the thousands.
It includes more than just motorists and pedestrians; he reaches the world, across the airwaves.
Midway through his frenzied routine Fox encourages fans at the patio tables to use their cell phones to call their family and friends wherever they are. When they connect, he takes the phone and sings long distance, sometimes juggling three or four phones at once.
“That’s right. This is live from Las Vegas,” he beams as he sings to the surprised recipients of the late night phone calls made to Oklahoma City and Toronto and Atlantic City.
Fox, 44, who began playing piano at 4 in his native Detroit, has had a lifelong love of entertaining. He inherited the passion from his mother, Maria Jackson — aka Mamma Fox — who used to sing with such legends as Billy Eckstine and Sarah Vaughan.
Fox majored in business and music at the University of Michigan before pursuing his musical career full-time.
He arrived in Las Vegas in early 1999 anticipating an engagement at the Luxor. When the job fell through he landed at the old Cafe Nicolle for six months and from there was offered the hallway at the Tropicana, where he performed for several years before moving on to other venues.
He may be on a patio now. But if you ask him, he’s really in heaven.