Friday, Aug. 2, 2002 | 8:40 a.m.
Jerry Fink's lounge column appears on Fridays. Reach him at [email protected] at (702) 259-4058.
Shaun Tracy, owner of the Piazza Lounge and Palazzo Ristorante at the Tuscany hotel, has always been a tireless worker. But when he went to work at Piero's at the age of 15, the pace was almost too much even for him.
"I started out as a part-time busboy when Piero's was on Karen Avenue," the 34-year-old Tracy said. "It was a very stressful place. I must have quit 20 times during the first three weeks. I once worked 130 days straight with no days off -- I was there until midnight, and plus I had to go to school."
Tracy worked his way up from busboy to waiter to manager of one of the most prestigious restaurants in Las Vegas by age 22, a position he held for more than 10 years.
"It was a great learning experience at a great restaurant, that had great food and a nice setting with an old Las Vegas feel," Tracy said. He was siting in the comfort of his own lounge -- an unusual sight, because the restauranteur rarely sits; he is in constant motion as he pays attention to every detail of his businesses and anticipates the needs of his customers.
Tracy credits Freddie Glusman, owner of Piero's, for shaping his career.
"Freddie was a great teacher," he said.
Today, the former busboy speaks enthusiastically about the future of his own lounge and restaurant that occupy prominent locations inside the elegant Tuscany, which opened in December on East Flamingo Road near Paradise Road.
The lounge is as graceful as the hotel that surrounds it, spacious with a Santa Barbara feel. There's a piano bar and a dance floor.
"I wanted a warm, comfortable feeling in the lounge, not night-clubby," Tracy said. "I want a more mature crowd, not one really jumping with 20-year-olds and all the problems that come with that kind of crowd. This is more of the middle-aged group."
Tracy's entertainment from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays is Loni Andal, a blues singer.
Singer/pianist Howie Gold, a veteran of the Las Vegas lounge scene, performs Thursday and Friday evenings. Thursdays are jam and open-mike nights. Friday's are for dancing and socializing until about midnight, and then there is an after-hours music scene.
Eventually, there will be entertainment five nights a week, Tracy said.
"I'm really looking to make this a locals' scene because that's where I'm from," he said.
A casino is scheduled to open at the Tuscany in November. It won't have a showroom, but it will have a piano bar and a lounge area with a stage where bands may perform.
As Tracy spoke, he noticed that customers at his bar seemed to be looking for the bartender, who had left his station for a moment. Without hesitation, he hurried behind the counter and mixed drinks until the bartender returned.
When Tracy returned to his seat, he talked about his nonstop pace: catering conventions, running the lounge and the restaurant, consulting on the new casino, which will have several dining areas that he may be responsible for.
His days are a whirlwind of activity, usually beginning early in the morning and ending late at night.
"It's like, I go home and my kids say, 'Who are you?' " Tracy said.
When he takes his wife out to dinner, it's likely to be at the Palazzo Ristorante -- where the speciality is dishes from northern Italy.
Tracy reflected on his career path.
Born in Philadelphia, he was raised in Florida. His father was an aircraft engineer who brought the family to Las Vegas in 1968 when Tracy was a junior in high school (he attended Chaparral).
He got a job as a host at a Marie Callender's restaurant, but after about a week a friend who worked at Piero's called and asked him to fill in as a busboy.
Piero's was a gathering place for movers and shakers, for politicians and businessmen, for the rich and the famous, for sports figures and mobsters.
"I went down and bused one night and said that was going to be the only time," Tracy said. "It was really hard work. I was the only busboy for three sections. They served 120 dinners, with me as the only busboy."
The restaurant called him the next night and asked him to come back. He did, and quit again at the end of his shift, a process he repeated several times until he eventually became a permanent member of the staff.
After two years he became a waiter, bringing home an average of $150 a night in tips.
"I was the most self-supporting kid in high school," Tracy said. "High school became secondary. I made good grades, but I was wrapped up in the restaurant scene."
Tracy's partner in his lounge and restaurant is Charles Heers, who owns the hotel and whose family started the defunct Vacation Village.
"I have known the Heerses for years," he said. "I first met them when I was a busboy."
Next week Charo will tape a series of segments to air on the Jerry Lewis MDA telethon Sept.1-2 on CBS. A limited number of free tickets are available for the 4 p.m. taping on Aug. 8. Tickets may be picked up 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on the day of the show at Sahara's front desk. Charo will host scenes featuring performances by Tim Conway and Harvey Korman, singer Clint Holmes and ventriloquist Ronn Lucas.
Jazz vocalist Laurence T. Inkatha (founder of The Inkatha Youth Foundation for the Arts) will perform 9-11 p.m. Tuesday at The Orleans' Brendan's Irish Pub.
The annual "Great Pretenders" showcase, presented by Joe Behar's Community Drama Workshop, will be presented at 2 p.m. Aug. 10 at the Gold Coast Showroom. There is no admission fee. The showcase is performed by students of the workshop.
If you like a funky scene, check out the Iowa Cafe, 300 E. Charleston Blvd. It looks like a small, Main Street Cafe in ... well Iowa, but from 5-8 p.m. Fridays it shakes off the dust and becomes a musical venue for jazz.
Wednesdays are Monster Blues Jam nights at the Junkyard Live, 2337 S. Eastern Ave., hosted by Scott Rhiner and The Moanin' Black Snakes.
Lonesome Larry & the Scooters perform Saturdays at Michael's Pub, 4012 S. Rainbow Blvd.