Las Vegas Sun

January 19, 2018

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How Andy Walmsley’s ‘Showbiz Roast’ at the Stratosphere was born


Leila Navidi

Production designer Andy Walmsley at the set he designed for Human Nature at the Venetian on Friday, Jan. 18, 2013.

Andy Walmsley's ‘Showbiz Roast’ at Stratosphere

Andy Walmsley's Launch slideshow »
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Producer Andy Walmsley thanks the packed house at "The Showbiz Roast" at the Stratosphere.

Editor’s Note: While Robin Leach enjoys his traditional summer vacation under the Tuscan sun in Italy — plus, the Amalfi Coast this year —Las Vegas players have stepped forward in his absence to pen their own words of wisdom. We continue with Emmy-winning Andy Walmsley, who is a set designer of TV hits including “American Idol,” “America’s Got Talent” and “So You Think You Can Dance” and Las Vegas shows for Terry Fator at the Mirage and Human Nature at the Venetian. Recently, Andy has produced “Showbiz Roast” at the Stratosphere and is putting finishing touches on the second one a week from today that will skewer former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman.

When fellow Brit Robin Leach asked if I would be a guest contributor and write about “Showbiz Roast” that I produce here at the Stratosphere, I was delighted because, from the very start, he has been a big supporter. We began just a few months ago, and here we are about to enjoy the second roast and already planning the third — but let’s go back to the middle of March.

I was watching late-night TV, and I saw an ad for a box set of Dean Martin’s celebrity roasts. The infomercial showed clips of Strip headliners of the 1970s having a ball teasing one another. The atmosphere was more of party than a TV show (they made 54 specials all shot onstage at the MGM, now the Jubilee! Theater at Bally’s). I was jealous; I wanted to be a part of this showbiz gang hanging out in Old Vegas.

Having hailed from the British TV and theater world, which is by nature a very social industry looking for any excuse to get together with endless parties, I was surprised upon moving to Las Vegas, the Entertainment Capital of the World, how rare it is that the showbiz community gets together for fun social events.

I had heard of legendary parties back in the Golden Era of the Rat Pack, Elvis and Liberace, but upon my arrival here 10 years ago, other than the occasional birthday party or showcase, the nights to remember when the entertainment community gathered for a laugh, drink and debauchery were few and far between.

I helped to rectify this a few years ago with friends Marc Savard, Catherine Hickland and Gerry McCambridge when we threw six “Showbiz Party” events ranging from huge get-togethers in nightclubs to pool parties and headliner dinners. The events were fun and well attended, but we needed a special night that could happen several times a year and be talked about long after.

When I was watching that late-night infomercial, the idea came to me in a flash that it’s time to bring back the roast concept to Las Vegas, and “Showbiz Roast” was born. I approached good friend Zowie Bowie (Chris Phillips) to be the first to be roasted, and we were up and running. Just five weeks after I watched that infomercial, we were in the Stratosphere Showroom doing the first “Showbiz Roast.”

The response was incredible: A sold-out crowd of Vegas showbiz community entertainers, producers, agents and casino execs devoured it, and all I heard at the after-party was, “When is the next one?” I had already lined up at least in my mind the next four roastees, and so straight away we approached former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman. He loved the idea. I decided that all future roasts must be for the charity of choice of the roastee, and Oscar didn’t hesitate to request that his roast benefit be the Miracle League of Las Vegas.

I already have the third roastee signed up, but boy did that take a lot of persuading! I won’t reveal who it is yet, but the date for that roast is set for October. I can guarantee that it will be the most outrageous of the roasts so far. But first let’s barbecue our beloved former Mayor Oscar.

The “Showbiz Roast” of Oscar Goodman takes place at the Stratosphere on Tuesday, July 23. Tickets are available at the Stratosphere’s box office.

Check out our other guest columns today from Border Grill owner and co-chef Mary Sue Milliken and Melinda Saxe, “The First Lady of Magic,” and on Wednesday from artist Michael Godard, exhibit mastermind Tom Zaller and cowgirl Trish Lynn.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

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