Friday, Feb. 19, 2016 | 4:57 p.m.
Larry Rudolph met Britney Spears when she was a teenager just finishing her stint on “The Mickey Mouse Club.” He helped turn her into an international superstar and one of the most bankable stars on the Strip. He talks of the updates planned for “A Piece of Me,” her upcoming album and why he made Vegas his home
Sometime between three and five years ago, Larry Rudolph was hit with an epiphany in Las Vegas — in the form of a mega-nightclub.
They were blossoming, such places as Tao and XS, later joined by Hakkasan and Omnia, riding a wave of hundreds of millions of dollars a year. The DJs, Tiesto and Calvin Harris and the like, were worldwide superstars, and the demographic visiting Las Vegas began to skew younger.
A good friend of Palms founder George Maloof, Rudolph had been tracking the changes in Las Vegas for more than a decade, and he realized that the clubs were devouring the city’s entertainment scene.
Rudolph had an idea of how to tap into this trend. Her name: Britney Spears.
“All of a sudden, with the EDM crowd and the opening of all these nightclubs, everything changed around, and you had a much younger fan base coming in who weren’t really the gamblers necessarily. They would go to the pool during the day, take a nap and go to the nightclubs at night,” Rudolph said during a recent interview on my KUNV 91.5-FM radio show also titled “The Kats Report.”
“So what I realized was there was this big hole there that was open for sort of a pregame situation that would lead into the club. It required a slight change in behavior, and Britney was the perfect artist to fill that hole because (clubgoers) all love her. She’s the perfect artist for that demographic, and we’ve built the perfect show for her.”
Spears has resumed her “Britney: Piece of Me” run at Axis at Planet Hollywood with a revamped show, which Rudolph says is “maybe 30 to 40 percent” new material. Spears also is about 80 percent finished with a yet-untitled album and under contract at Axis through Dec. 31, 2017.
Rudolph lives in Las Vegas and works out of his headquarters here. He also owns a residence at Lake Tahoe. His management company, Maverick, is a collection of nine major figures in the music-management industry and operates under the Live Nation umbrella. That company books shows at Axis, and Rudolph’s client list also includes Miley Cyrus, Avril Lavigne, Steven Tyler and Fifth Harmony.
Highlights from our chat at KUNV studios at Greenspun Hall on the UNLV campus:
The new show is not a revamp but a “refreshing”:
“Britney felt that we needed to add a few new elements and keep it fresh and interesting for herself and for the audience,” Rudolph said. “We’ve added a good, solid handful of songs that are going to make a big difference. We’ve added ‘I Love Rock ’n’ Roll’ (a cover of the Joan Jett version that hit No. 1 in 1982), ‘If You Seek Amy,’ ‘Breathe on Me,’ ‘Touch of My Hand.’ She’s doing an amazing dance medley to three Missy Elliott songs, and we’ll have a lot of new choreography, staging and props.
And one of those props is …
A guitar that rides like a mechanical bull, for “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll.”
“It’s an interesting prop, which we used a long time ago, and she gets on it, and it jumps up and down,” Rudolph said. “I’m glad we’re able to use it again here. Her director, Baz Halpin, put it all together, and it’s a real team effort.”
Even with new artists coming in to Axis, including Jennifer Lopez, the decision to update Spears’ show was unrelated to bookings in the venue:
“It wasn’t intentional in the sense that, ‘Oh, no, here comes Jennifer’s show, and we need to do a bigger and better show,’” Rudolph said. “Our show is a different show than Jennifer is doing; Jennifer is doing 120 shows over three years, and Britney will end up doing 260 shows over four years. It’s a very different thing, and Jennifer has a big career outside with her TV show on NBC (“Shades of Blue”) and a lot of film work. Britney is primarily a music artist, and 90 to 95 percent of her activities are as a music artist. She just felt, after two years, the show needed a refresh to keep the audience and her engaged and excited, and that was our motivation.”
He has no specific job description as Spears’ manager:
“I do little of absolutely everything,” Rudolph said with a chuckle. “I’ve known her since she was a kid, so there is a mutual respect, and it works so easily. We don’t agree on everything, and agreeing on everything is never the case, but we have great conversations and sometimes debates and creative decisions. After 21 years, she does trust my judgment.”
He stresses he did not “discover” Spears:
“I don’t know if you really ‘discover’ a human being unless you’re talking about being at the hospital when she was born,” Rudolph said with a laugh. “But I have known her since she was 13 years old, and she’d been off ‘The Mickey Mouse Club’ for about a year, which I had not seen. But she brought in a VHS tape and played me some stuff of her, and it was just amazing.”
Yet, it took a while for Spears to find an opening to a national audience:
“This was 1995, and if you look back, the pop charts were all urban music, Puffy and those types of artists. I said to Britney, ‘Go home, go to high school a couple of years, and pop music will go through a cyclical resurgence,’” Rudolph said. “That did happen a couple of years later, with The Spice Girls, Hanson, Backstreet Boys, and there was this massive opening for a female artist. Britney was 15 then, becoming gorgeous and amazingly talented. … She brought me some demos, and we walked around New York to four record companies until we finally got a deal, and the rest is history.”
The upcoming album is a new sound and approach:
“She is thrilled with it. I just spoke to her about it, and she’s saying it’s her favorite album she’s ever done,” Rudolph said. “It’s different. It’s like Britney meets The Weeknd. It’s got an interesting vibe, a lot of just really cool stuff, and she has not sounded better since I don’t know when. I think it’s going to do great, and people will absolutely love it.”
Catering to the young and modern crowd, Planet Hollywood is a one-stop shop for entertainment with its massive shopping mall, slew of restaurants, spacious casino and clubs.
The ambiance of the casino is retro-chic meets high-tech with black granite floors throughout and colorful LED lights throughout the space. The theme carries into the 100,000 square-foot casino with 250 flat screens topping off slot machines. The casino is also home to 87 tables, a sports book and a poker room.
There's also the Miracle Mile Shops, one Vegas' largest malls, with 140 stores including BCBG Max Azaria, bebe, Urban Outfitters and The Discovery Channel Store.
Following an afternoon of shopping, guests can satisfy their appetites at one of the gourmet restaurants in Planet Hollywood, like the non-traditional approach to steakhouses at Strip House or check out the exotic Far East motif at KOI restaurant and lounge. And if guests are still looking for more, they can spend the after hours at Privé, Triq or Krave nightclubs.
Perhaps one of the resorts biggest attractions came in March with the addition of "Peepshow." The naughty twist on the story of Little Bo Peep is modern-day spin on the run-of-the-mill Vegas topless review. The "Peepshow" stage has seen visiting celebs like Scary Spice Mel B, "Dancing with the Stars" Kelly Monaco and Playboy's Holly Madison.
Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats.