Las Vegas Sun

May 24, 2019

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Robbie Howard the latest Vegas entertainer seeking a home

With casinos and hotels opening and closing at a rapid clip these days, entertainers must feel as if they are in a game of musical chairs when it comes to finding a showroom.

The Westward Ho is scheduled to close Nov. 17 to make room for condos, forcing Las Vegas veteran Robbie Howard to find a new venue for his afternoon show.

Lady Luck is closing its showroom Sunday night, sending John Stuart's revue "Ovation" looking for another location -- possibly the Plaza.

Also, Lady Luck's resident hypnotist Justin Tranz (who has performed in three venues this past year) is looking for another room -- also possibly the Plaza.

Bourbon Street (bought by Harrah's) closed a couple of weeks ago. Entertainer/producer Will Roya, who leased Bourbon Street's 100-seat showroom for a couple of years, has found an even smaller room in which to perform -- his garage.

"It's a big, two-car garage in Spring Valley," said Roya, a magician and juggler.

But he's only using the garage once, to perform a spooky magic show for kids in the neighborhood at 7 p.m. Halloween night.

"I have all this equipment from Bourbon Street, so I can put on a first-class show," Roya said.

These days, Roya usually can be found performing on cruise ships and at private parties. He says he is booked into 2007.

"There's good money on the cruise lines," he said.

Tranz, who has been in Las Vegas for seven years -- five at O'Sheas -- is looking for a room, not a garage.

"I'm not quite sure where I'm going," Tranz said. "I'm looking at three different properties."

He's philosophical about the merry-go-round atmosphere.

"I look at it like -- corporations make decisions, and it depends on who is in power what decisions they make," Tranz said. "They make choices that often may be based on a whim.

"There's a certain amount of politics involved -- you have to know somebody, and I don't know anybody. I base it all on my talent, and my talent has kept me here for seven years."

Tranz has his own TV show "Extreme Truth" on the Playboy Channel, and says he has two more pilots that look promising, but he isn't giving up on finding a permanent home in Las Vegas.

"I'm not worried about filling up a showroom, I've already done that," he said. "I'm looking for that one home, that one place where someone is going to embrace me -- the way the Mirage embraced Danny Gans and the Monte Carlo embraced Lance Burton.

"I should have a deal like that, and I believe one day I will have a deal like that in a major casino."

Howard would like a major casino deal himself, but it isn't necessary. A small one would do -- one that allows him to perform an afternoon show and continue to pursue the most lucrative part of his career: corporate gigs, which often are at night.

During his almost 15 years in Las Vegas, the vocalist/impressionist probably has had more experience with being left without a showroom than anyone.

When he arrived in 1991 with Mickey Finn, they were in the showroom at Main Street Station in downtown Las Vegas. Within a year the casino closed (only to reopen years later).

Howard then created the revue "Hurray America," which was at the Westward Ho from 1993 to 1999.

In 1999 Howard renamed his show "Stars of the Strip" and moved it to Lady Luck, where it enjoyed some degree of success until the venue was sold to a time-share company a couple of years ago.

And so he moved his show to the Plaza until it was bought by Barrick Gaming. In January, Howard returned to the Westward Ho, which was bought by Centex Destination Properties last summer.

"When the Plaza was turned over to Barrick, it took a turn for the worse for everybody," Howard said. "They were having us perform in a small room upstairs -- it just didn't have the same feel."

And so he moved back to his roots at the Westward Ho.

"They have always welcomed us back with open arms," Howard said.

His fast-paced, hourlong shows are at 2 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Howard's backup band includes some of the top musicians in Las Vegas: saxophonist David Poe, drummer Jimmy Racey and keyboardist Pat Marlin.

"We put on a great show, but it's tough to find a venue for afternoons," he said.

He says he might be able to find a room for a night show, "but then, I'm killing myself for corporate -- and I do a lot of corporate (shows)."

"And we play high-roller parties -- they lose $20,000 and they get cheese and us."

Since learning that the Westward Ho is closing, Howard hasn't been looking too hard for another venue. The reason, he said, was because he had been talking to the Stardust and it looked promising.

But now, he's not so sure.

"Nothing is definite yet, one way or the other," Howard said. "The worst case scenario is that I just do corporates."

Or a garage.

Jerry Fink can be reached at 259-4058 or [email protected]