Sunday, Feb. 21, 2010 | 12:29 p.m.
There's something about the opening of an Elvis show in Las Vegas that produces a hiccup in the operation.
On Friday night a fire alarm was tripped in the "Viva Elvis" theater, halting the Cirque show's opening number, "Blue Suede Shoes." There was no smoke or fire apparent in the hotel, but for a few minutes the audience sat confused while full power to the venue was restored.
During the wait, venerable comic Sammy Shore, who opened for Presley from 1969-1972, was reminded of what happened to him at Elvis' opening night at the International on July 31, 1969.
That night, Shore followed the Presley backup group and warm-up act Sweet Inspirations to the stage on the premiere night for Elvis' return to live performances. Presley hadn't performed a ticketed show (aside from charity shows where donations were accepted) in more than a decade, so the International showroom was a veritable pressure cooker for this performance. Shore, at the time a largely unknown comedian, was introduced to the star-laden VIP audience and nervously took the mic.
It was dead. And he nearly died.
"I tapped the microphone with my finger, really hit it, and nothing," Shore recalled today during a phone conversation today about that famous Presley performance. "I thought, 'Noooo!' So I looked up into the balcony and started reciting Shakespeare, just ad-libbing whatever lines I could think of. I was finally given a new mic, and I knew this one worked, but I just kept doing pantomime like it was dead. It worked out, but man, I was nervous, you bet. It was the biggest show ever in Las Vegas."
When the production was halted Friday, those around Shore goaded him into performing some of his stand-up act. He was conveniently dressed for the part, wearing the same beige suit with dark-brown trim he wore during opening night at the International in 1969.
"They were saying, 'Sammy! Get up and do some time! I stood up and started to get into it, and people started laughing," Shore said. "I would have done five minutes if I'd had a live mic. It would have been great."
As it was, a guy positioned a few rows behind Shore stood and started performing card tricks before being asked by theater ushers to sit down. No idea who this person was, but he was no Sammy Shore.
• Shore, who turned 83 on Super Bowl Sunday, is prepping for his new project, Sammy Shore's Barking Mad Comedy Jam at Eastside Cannery. It is to be a regular showcase of young comics, hosted by Shore, in Marilyn's Lounge. Mid-March is the expected debut of the showcase.
• Saturday night, for the first time since leaving the production in November, Stephanie Dianna Sanchez caught a performance of the show in which she starred for nearly a decade, "Fantasy." Based on the volume of her screams for new star Angelica Bridges and her former castmates (especially comic Sean Cooper), Sanchez had a really good time. The show has been revamped with a few new scenes, including a Western-themed segment set to the Big & Rich hit, "Save a Horse, (Ride a Cowboy)" that is terrific, if beautiful women in chaps and cowboy hats are your thing. Producer Anita Mann has been working for months on upgrading the show, and Bridges has settled comfortably into the lead role. Sanchez, meanwhile, has a release party for her new CD, "Small Town," at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Courtyard at House of Blues, and Bridges said after Saturday's show she might well turn up for the party. It might not be pure "Fantasy," but it'll be a good time.
• Remember Clint Holmes' autobiographical play, "Jam?" It has been about four years in the making, and is finally being debuted under the working title "Clint Holmes" at Flat Rock Playhouse, the State Theatre of North Carolina, from March 31 though April 25. Flat Rock is a venue of considerable prestige, with a 2010 season schedule including "Steel Magnolias," "For the Glory - The Civil War Musical," "12 Angry Men" and "The Seduction of Sheila Valentine." Holmes, who seems never to tire of the stage, recently returned from a weeklong performance with the Palm Beach Pops Orchestra in Florida and is back at Suncoast March 13-14. Nice work by my friend, colleague and sometime spiritual adviser Frank Lieberman for noting the latest on Holmes in his column at VegasInsideTips.com. (Incidentally, Lieberman, a friend of Elvis, Priscilla and members of Presley's inner circle, wore his "TCB" necklace that was given to him by Presley to Friday's "Viva Elvis" opening, showing off quite a prestigious accessory.)
• On Saturday night, during his appearance at Playboy Comedy at the Palms Lounge, featured comic Nick Di Paolo's appearance was repeatedly interrupted by an insistent drumbeat from the Palms casino floor. Di Paulo kept asking what was going on, even performing for a few minutes as Hitler in step with the thundering of the drums, before he was finally told the Dragon Dance celebrating Chinese New Year was the reason for the disruption. "Oh, that explains it," Di Paulo said. "For the first 20 minutes of this show, I thought I was being Punk'd!" Playboy Comedy is prominent in the Palms' post-Gossy plans, bringing in a different featured comic each weekend. Paul Hughes and Cort McCown host.
• I've long regretted never being able to say I saw the Killers at Café Espresso Roma or any other small venue during their earliest shows in Las Vegas. Sure, I can say that, and I think others actually have made that claim, but it would not be honest. Never saw pre-fame Killers. But on Thursday night I did see the amazing new local band Imagine Dragons at Hard Rock Café on the Strip, opening for The Presidents of the United States of America. It was a terrific, leave-nothing-on-the-stage performance by an indie-influenced band fueled by a ballooning local following. It seems I've been hearing of this band for about a year, but it was formed just seven months ago. Who knows what will happen with this powerful quintet, but if you want to see what a hungry, talented Las Vegas band looks like, catch them while you can. ID plays next at 8 p.m. Thursday at The Pub at Monte Carlo, free show. The band is holding a logo contest, too, accepting submissions through Wednesday at [email protected]. The winner receives a T-shirt, a signed copy of the band's latest (and first) EP, a spot on the band's Facebook page, and maybe a piece of history.
• As the above note notes, here's how the schedule looked Thursday night and Friday: The Presidents of the United States of America at Hard Rock Café on Thusday, the President of the United States at Aria on Friday, and the King in "Viva Elvis," also at Aria on Friday night. I must be in Las Vegas, yes.
Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats.