Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014 | 9 p.m.
Robin Leach has finished his annual summer vacation under the Tuscan sun in Italy, and many of our Strip personalities again stepped forward in his absence to pen their own words of wisdom. As Robin enjoys the remainder of his working vacation with his family, we continue today with our popular guest columns. Here is Las Vegas entertainment manager and producer Seth Yudof.
I don’t want to be one of those people who always talks about the “good old days” of Las Vegas (when I wasn’t even alive), but we desperately need the powers-that-be in today’s Las Vegas to hop into Bill and Ted’s time machine and learn what our mobster forefathers intended.
In the first time machine stop, they’d discover that the shows of Old Vegas actually featured current stars and current music. I’ve written before about how, in 1959, your free entertainment in the lounge was an entertainer like Louis Prima, who won a Grammy that same year. While Frank Sinatra headlined the Sands, he simultaneously won Oscars, had top-grossing movies and made No. 1 albums.
When “Danke Schoen” topped the charts, Wayne Newton appeared six times per night for free on the revolving stage of the Fremont Hotel’s lounge. When Elvis Presley was at the peak of his career, you could rarely see him in concert anywhere else but Las Vegas!
If today’s shows featured current entertainers and modern music, then they might not be losing out to nightclubs in their battle for a young audience. They might even be able to sell tickets at full price rather than having to hock tickets through discount outlets.
What current Las Vegas show has chart-topping entertainment? What A-list celebrities can only be seen onstage in Las Vegas? I’ll give you a hint: The answer is homonymous with “nun.”
But that audience is drawn to go where they can hear that genre of current electronic dance music: nightclubs. And show producers and hotels are to blame for making their own monster.
The only Las Vegas shows that seem to be genuinely forward thinking are by Cirque du Soleil, mostly because of their deep pockets and the creative freedom that comes with that. With all due respect to Cirque, this is the result of the casinos having divested themselves of the responsibility of providing entertainment. When it became more important to find shows with good funding rather than good content, Las Vegas entertainment suffered.
Maybe that’s where our uncreative producers should make their second time machine stop, to witness when the world stopped taking Las Vegas seriously as an entertainment trendsetter. When the top stars in the world were basing their careers in Las Vegas, you could create stardom here.
It seems that the end of that era was marked by Siegfried & Roy, Lance Burton, Danny Gans, Clint Holmes and The Scintas — with respectively declining levels of international recognition from their Las Vegas residencies as you go down the list.
This financially driven and creatively devoid approach toward Las Vegas entertainment has truly backfired now. The appearances that celebrities make in other cities for fun are only made in Las Vegas for money.
I would love for Las Vegas to get back to where it was. It would likely take a complete paradigm shift by casinos so that they stop relying on third-party producers to fund their shows. Imagine how much would be spent at the gaming tables if Bruno Mars was playing for free in the lounge while Justin Timberlake headlined the showroom and Calvin Harris was the DJ in the lobby bar overlooking the casino floor.
I truly hope it happens one day, and I believe that casinos would ultimately benefit financially from that change. Until that time, with few exceptions, Las Vegas can proudly say that it has the most financially sensible entertainment available.
Be sure to check out our other guest columnist today, Melissa Arias, executive director of the Epicurean Charitable Foundation. On Wednesday, it’s speed on two wheels from Gene Woods and Brook Watts. On Thursday, it’s all about the new SLS Las Vegas opening this weekend with guest chef and nightlife columns.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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