Las Vegas Sun

September 17, 2019

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I spied a rarity: An original stage show

Jason Hanson


Former CIA officer Jason Hanson demonstrates techniques to escape from being bound by duct tape during a stage show June 29 at the Stratosphere. Hanson will bring an extended version of the show back to Las Vegas in October and November.

Remember the old Mad magazine comic-strip series “Spy vs. Spy?” The two espionage agents, one clad in black and one in white, who were constantly warring and trying to kill each other with such booby traps as lifesize mousetraps and cigars made of dynamite?

It might make a good stage show.

I say this because it’s not often I find a show that is genuinely unique in Las Vegas, given the city’s derivative nature for nearly every form of live entertainment. But a couple of weeks ago I caught a show that was, if nothing else, different from any ticketed production I’d seen in our city.

It was hosted by an actual spy. The “Spy Escape & Evasion” show, hosted by former CIA officer Jason Hanson, was staged June 29 at Stratosphere Showroom. The 60-minute showcase was a tease to its return for a 75-minute presentation Oct. 26-29 and Nov. 2-5.

“Spy Escape” mixes the components of a convention seminar — which can be sort of boring — with live re-enactments and demos of famous spy tactics. These include how-to segments on escaping rope, duct tape, zip ties and handcuffs in 30 seconds or less; how to pick locks; how to hotwire a car (yes, that is still a thing in spy culture); and my favorite, “tactical pen techniques.” This is handy whenever an interview subject becomes, shall we say, a little aggressive.

Hanson was a winning contestant on “Shark Tank” and has since appeared on “The Today Show” and “Dateline NBC,” showing off the same sort of espionage skills he brings to the Vegas stage. He lives in Cedar City, Utah, where he owns a 320-acre ranch that serves as his personal and professional headquarters. There, he conducts a two-day safety and survival course, and the most popular techniques are transferred to his production.

While the duct-tape escape and writing-implement defense techniques were fascinating, the most applicable segment of Hanson’s show was his demonstration of how to detect when someone is lying. A snippet: Short pauses before delivering an answer, and overreaction to a simple question. Such as, “Is this your pen?” “My God, no! I have never seen this pen! And I am not planning to attack you with it, either!”

We’re looking forward to learning more from Hanson on his return to Las Vegas — and that’s the truth.

• • •

Remember that point about Las Vegas being derivative? It stretches to our pubs, too, not that this is a negative development.

Recently opened at Tuscany Suites is Pub 365, a tavern just off the casino entrance to the left in the spot of the old Cantina restaurant. Tuscany is a somewhat underrated hotel-casino that has taken off over the past couple of years with the entertainment at Copa Room (“The Rat Pack is Back” and pianist Kenny Davidsen’s “Playlist” showcases) and Piazza Lounge (also featuring Davidsen and, now on Wednesday nights, Kelly Clinton-Holmes).

Pub 365 is the latest upgrade to the hotel, and offers such eats as poutine, mac-and-queso, prosciutto flatbread, Korean short ribs and Baja fish tacos to go with the beer. The 365 references how many are on the menu, offered in rotation over the course of a year. We have seen many such brew-and-food havens crop up along the Strip — including Beerhaus at The Park and Beer Park on the outdoor patio at Paris Las Vegas’ Chateau nightclub.

And by the time these hotspots hit an off-Strip hotel like Tuscany, we can officially say it’s a trend.

• • •

During the reporting of this week’s cover of The Sunday, which focuses on former Strip performers who have moved on to other vocations, former “Million Dollar Quartet” cast member Ben Hale (who played Johnny Cash) says he often tells people in his new home of Nashville that there is nowhere like Vegas.

During one of our phone chats, I mentioned to Hale my all-time favorite quote about the city, from the comedian and author Rita Rudner: “Las Vegas is the opposite of everywhere.” Never heard it put any better than that.

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