Las Vegas Backstage Talk

Aug. Las Vegas Backstage Talk column

by Michele LaFong

August’s Las Vegas Backstage Talk column in Casino Player Magazine and Gaming Today.

ayout 1Aug. CPG.T. 7-29-14

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Click on article to enlarge)

 

 

 
Steve Rossi: May 25, 1932 – June 22, 2014
Show-biz Legend Steve Rossi was a frequent favorite in-studio guest on Las Vegas Backstage Talk radio show. I first met him in ’94 at my variety show “Vegas Live” starring Michele LaFong, at The Debbie Reynolds Hotel and Casino. He was very supportive, and came in frequently to watch the show, hang-out and schmooze…and what a fun schmoozer he was! Even back then he brought the party with him where ever he went. He is greatly missed. On June 26, in Steve’s honor we replayed his very first LVBST interview. It was incredibly colorful and entertaining. He shared his many experiences, lessons and stories in his amazing fifty-five year career in show business which covered everything from what it was like to room with Howard Stern many years ago when he was managing the frequently fired “Shock Jock,” to the real reason he claimed that he and Marty Allen could not get back together… not even for one last TV Anniversary Special that Steve claimed was offered to them last year for over a million dollars. The show is worth listening to and is archived on Lasvegasbackstagetalk.com.
Clint Holmes returned in-studio live on June 19, to update us on the exciting news of his new CD release, and monthly resident performances at The Smith Center on the first weekend of every month.
Mostly known for being the former co-host of ABC’s The View, Joy Behar will return to Vegas to perform a weekend of stand-up on Aug.22 & 23 as part of the new “Lipshtick Series” at The Venetian. She got nabbed-up pretty quickly after her successful engagement at The Orleans this past January. Apparently much of the general public was unaware of what an accomplished Stand-up Comedian Joy was. Back in the 80’s, when I was a touring headline comedian, I had a business called LaFong Productions. Joy was one of my top go to comedians that I booked in my 21 rooms. Come to think of it many of the comedians that I booked have done incredibly well in their careers including Kevin James, and Comedian and YouTube Sensation Vic Dibitetto, who recently got cast by Kevin in Mall Cop 2, teamed-up with Actor Nick Turturro (mostly known for his role in NYPD Blue.) I recently aired the lively interview with the pair on June 12, and it too is archived on our website. An edited video clip of Nick and Vic is posted on casinocenter.com
Comedian Russell Peters, currently a judge on NBC’s Last Comic Standing with Roseanne Barr and Keenon Ivory Wayans, returned on LVBST and will return to the Pearl at The Palms on Aug. 2 exploring new material and crowd work. “Although the taping for Last Comic Standing has concluded, the competition is still playing out every week on television and even the three finalists do not know the outcome! We taped three different endings and they do not know which one will be aired.”
Jay Leno returns to The Mirage on August 11, and Nov. 21 & 22. He puts on a very strong well-paced, fluff-free show that is definitely worth catching. Last month, I aired Part 1 & 2 of a long interview with Jay covering everything from his comedy writing to why he doesn’t have a team of security escorting him around like most other celebrities.
Jay explained the security question with a great story. “Once I was at one of these hotels, and they insisted on sending two security people to walk me to the showroom…so these two huge goons come up with suits on that look like they are made out of sofa material, and we walk into the casino… and as we’re coming through they were actually pushing people…literally shoving old ladies out of the way…and people were like “screw you Leno!” “and I’m like no let me stop and take a picture, sign an autograph…it takes an extra few minutes but everybody’s happy. Having security walk me to a show was so much worse!
Superstar Al Pacino will bring his “Pacino: One Night Only” show to The Mirage Saturday, Aug. 16 at 7:30 p.m. This is an opportunity to step into Pacino’s world as he shares his passion for acting and directing in an up-close-and-personal setting in the Terry Fator Theatre. The evening will explore his life beginning in the 1960s when he performed Off-Broadway and will follow his career to present day. The show will include previously untold stories, never-before-seen clips, and a question and answer session. Pacino is one of the rare winners of the acting Triple Crown: the Oscar, Tony and Emmy Award.
Other Picks: Buckcherry, Otherwise, Hard Rock, Aug. 1, Caroline Rhea, Wendy Liebman, The Venetian, Aug 1 & 2, The Goo Goo Dolls, Daughtry, Plain White T’s, Red Rock Resort, Aug. 1, Herman’s Hermits with Peter Noone, South Point, Aug. 1-3, Journey, Steve Miller Band, Mandalay Bay, Aug 1, Kenny Wayne Shepard, Los Lonely Boys, The Palms, Aug. 1, Lady Gaga, MGM Grand, Weezer, Cosmopolitan, Aug. 1, Aerosmith Slash, MGM Grand, Aug. 2, Jonny Lang, Boulder Station, Aug. 2, Blues Traveler, Sugar Ray, Smash Mouth, Uncle Cracker, Golden Nugget, Aug. 8, Dirty Heads, Pepper, Aug. 8, Lisa Lampanelli, The Venetian, Aug. 8 & 9, Rob Schneider, South Point, Aug. 8-10, Aaron Neville & Dr. John, The Cannery, Aug. 9, Aries Spears, Mandalay Bay, Aug. 9, Kathy Griffin, The Mirage, Aug. 9, Lynard Skynyrd, Golden Nugget, Aug. 9, Counting Crows, Mandalay Bay, Aug. 10, 38 Special, Eastside Cannery, Aug. 10, Cesar Millan, “Leader of the Pack” Palms, Aug. 15, Whitney Cummings, The Venetian, Aug. 15 & 16, Yes, Hard Rock, Aug. 15, The Guess Who, Eastside Cannery, Aug. 16, ZZ Top, Jeff Beck, Hard Rock, Aug. 16, Daniel Tosh, The Mirage, Aug. 22 & 23, Dave Collier, South Point, Aug. 22-24, Rock N Blues Fest with Johnny Winter Band, Edgar Winter Band, Cannery, Aug. 23, John Legend, The Cosmopolitan, Aug. 24, The Summer Nationals Tour, featuring The Offspring, with Special Guests, Bad Religion, Pennywise, Stiff Little Fingers, Hard Rock, Aug. 27, The Adam Carolla Show, Treasure Island, Aug. 29, Bill Medley with McKenna Medley, South Point, Aug. 29-31, Joe Rogan, The Mirage, Aug. 29, Bachman & Turner, Cannery, Aug. 30, Keith Urban, The Cosmopolitan, Aug. 31.

Share on Facebook

July Las Vegas Backstage Talk Column

July  2014- Casino Player Magazine, Gaming Today

by Michele LaFong

Layout 1ayout 1G.T. 7-1-14

 

 

 

 

(Click on article to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After three years of trying, I finally scored an interview with Jay Leno. Although I had watched Jay countless times over the years on the Tonight Show, I never actually saw him perform his stand-up show live for a full 90 minutes till last month when I checked out his show at the Mirage, and I must say his set was even more impressive than I expected it to be. From the moment Jay hit the stage it was a laugh-a-thon. He opened with strong topical set-up/punchline type jokes that he would typically do in his opening monologue on television. He was like a joke machine for the entire first half of the show. I didn’t notice any notes on stage, nor did I see him using any cue cards, and it made me wonder how he can remember every joke and segue so effortlessly. He never stumbled or once had a “senior moment!” As much as I enjoyed the first half of the show, I loved the second half even more. Jay delved into the audience some, working the sold-out crowd masterfully. My favorite part of Leno’s show was when he told stories about his background, family, personal experiences with meeting celebrities for the first time, and referencing things and guests from events that happened on the Tonight Show. It was all meat and potatoes, without filler for the entire 90 minute performance. There aren’t too many comedians that can sustain that rhythm and flow of laughs so consistently with clean, smart thought provoking comedy…especially for an hour and a half. Jay returns to the Mirage on July 11 & August 8, and November 1, 21, 22. Our interview will air on Las Vegas Backstage Talk on July 3 & 5.
Wilson Phillips returned to the Eastside Cannery on June 7, and surprisingly put on a very different but equally entertaining show than when I saw back in October. Mixing in some of their famous parents’ hits from the Mamas and Papas and the Beach Boys from an album that they finally recorded at the request of their fans, I especially loved that part of the show and the stories they told of how those hits were born and came about. As usual, the show had lots of personality, and spontaneity.
Both Ventriloquist Willie Tyler & Lester recently guested on LVBST live in-studio. Willie Tyler is an icon in show business getting his first big break on Rowen & Martin Laugh-in. He also was then featured on The Jefferson’s, and many other TV shows as well as being the first ventriloquist to be booked on Late Night with David Letterman. It was a trip having a ventriloquist with his comedy partner in-studio live on radio! It was a throwback to the Edgar Bergan days. I hadn’t seen Willie in many years, not since we were booked together on a national TV commercial for Mercedes Benz. Willie hasn’t aged a bit…and neither did Lester! We used to share the same manager, Marty Fischer who also handled Senor Wences. An edited portion of Willie & Lester on LVBST can be seen on casinocenter.com
For the very first time and for one night only Talk Show Host Wendy Williams will be performing her comedic one-woman show which will debut at The Venetian. Last month, Williams revealed to her guest Comedian Joy Behar on her popular television talk show that she’s always wanted to be a stand-up comic and will finally take her shot at it on Saturday, July 11 at 10pm. That night will also mark the launch of the Venetian’s new Lipshtick Comedy series, which will feature an impressive weekend line-up of female comedy talent including Heather McDonald & Iliza Shlesinger, Rita Rudner, Caroline Rhea & Wendy Liebman, Lisa Lampanelli, Whitney Cummings, Joy Behar, Susie Essman, Jen Kirkman & Natasha Leggero, Jennifer Coolidge, and Loni Love. I’m sure this new venue will do well. There has always been a market for strong female comedians even back in 1998 which is why I produced and starred in “Funniest Females” back in the Comedy Theatre upstairs at O’Sheas, and currently co-star and co-produce Leading Ladies of Comedy with Judy Tenuta, and singing impressionist Bethany Owen in the Indian Casino market.
On June 7, 2014 Comic/Magician the Amazing Johnathan and fiancée Anastasia Synn tied the knot in one of the most off the wall weddings Vegas has ever hosted. Longtime friend and entertainer Gallagher became an ordained minister specifically to marry the couple for the star-studded event. The ceremony took place at “A Special Memory Chapel,” and had a circus atmosphere. David Copperfield, Carrot Top, Louie Anderson, and many other performers attended. Comedian Gallagher is developing a reality show where he marries couples by day and turns the chapel into a comedy club at night. “I have many clubs around the country that would like me to bring this reality show to their venue for an episode.” Gallagher said. On July 12, Gallagher starts a two-week run at the Golden Nugget in the main theater. He has proven from his last successful run in Las Vegas at the Laugh Factory at the Tropicana that he is a very funny and relevant comic and a consistent entertainer. Due to health issues, June 30th – July 1st, the Amazing Johnathan will give his final performances at the Magic Castle in Los Angeles, CA. After 35 years of bringing his unique style of comedy and magic to the world, the Amazing Johnathan is retiring from performing and these final four shows will be video tapped for a future documentary.
My Picks for July: Carlos Mencia, TI July 4, Bob Weir & Ratdog, Palms, July 5, Queen & Adam Lambert, Hard Rock, July 5 & 6, America, Cannery, July 6, Gallagher, Golden Nugget, July 10-19, New Kids on the Block, Planet Hollywood Resort, July 10-13, Wendy Williams, Venetian, July 11, Jay Leno, Mirage, July 11, The Bangles, Eastside Cannery, July 12, Bill Cosby, TI, July 18, Heather McDonald and Iliza Schelesinger, Venetian, July 18 & 19, Lady Gaga MGM Grand, July 19, Nine Inch Nails, Soundgarden, Planet Hollywood, July 19, Paul Revere & the Raiders, the Cowsills, Eastside Cannery, July 19, Nick Swardson, Mirage, July 25 & 26, Rita Rudner, Venetian, July 25 & 26, The Voice Tour, Hard Rock, July 25, Boston, Cheap Trick, Hard Rock, July 26, Spinners, Cannery, July 26, Olivia Newton-John, Flamingo July 29- Aug. 30.

Share on Facebook

April Las Vegas Backstage Talk column by Michele LaFong

April Las Vegas Backstage Talk column in Casino Player Magazine, and Gaming Today.

Gaming T1ayout 1

Layout 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

(click on article to read)

 

Remembering David Brenner

It doesn’t get much than better listening to show-biz stories from David Brenner and Shecky Green in a Las Vegas coffee shop.  It wasn’t that long ago I was doing just that.  I was shocked when I heard that David Brenner lost his battle with cancer at age 78. II was fortunate enough to have interviewed him when he was promoting his last engagement at The Suncoast Showroom.  In that interview Brenner talked about how his father taught him to always leave the audience laughing.  And he did…even till the very end.  I reran that interview on March 20, in David’s memory.  The audio is archived on lasvegasbackstagetalk.com.

After interviewing countless comedians and singers on LVBST for almost three years and following up to watch their shows, I started to realize that artists and audiences often have very different agendas. Audiences always want to be entertained and look forward to hearing their favorite bits or hits of the artist that they pay to go see…and artists want to entertain but also want to grow and continue to evolve, develop and explore.  With the double-edged sword of name recognition and fame come expectations from fans of what that artist often perceives as keeping them stuck in the past, and pigeon-holed.  Finding that perfect balance of “old” and “new” is the answer to satisfying both the audience and artist whether a comedian, or singer.  Tom Jones is a perfect example of someone who has mastered not only combining old with new, but also in re-inventing his band and updating his bluesy arrangements, keeping his material fresh yet in-step with his brand which also keeps him relevant.  A crowd-pleaser like Tony Orlando, who is known for opening his show with his biggest hits right off the bat then following up with everything from Led Zeppelin, to The Beatles, always delivers a feel-good contemporary show, is always “on,” and has that special connection with his loyal audience which explains his lasting popularity and sell-out performances. Bill Maher, and Jerry Seinfeld are examples of comedians that are committed to keeping their material updated, presentation smooth, and take pride in the quality of their shows without sacrificing laughs.  Paula Poundstone, Chuck Negron, Mickey Gilley, Marty Allen, Rich Little, Gallagher, Gary Puckett, Carlos Mencia, and Judy Tenuta are all examples of artists that not only embrace their audience but also include a Meet & Greet following every show.  Another performer that is very pro-audience and eager to please was Burton Cummings, former lead singer for The Guess Who.  Cummings sang hit after hit when headlining at The Orleans in January, and received several standing ovations throughout.  He even allowed flash photography during his performance and went as far as inviting fans to videotape the show!  However not all artists are even close to being as giving and grateful on and off stage, committed to taking the audience up as high as they can.  70’s Pop Star Helen Reddy had a packed house.  Before the show began at The Orleans Theatre, I over-heard audience members anticipating which hit Reddy might open with.  But no one called it right!  She didn’t sing any hits until forty minutes into the show.  Although her voice sounded as good ever, the fans that came out expecting to hear her many, many hits were clearly out of luck, as I counted three hits in total including the iconic and mandatory “I am Woman.” Oh…And of course, no pictures, nor autographs for anyone with no exceptions, and certainly no backstage passes!  I can’t say I was that surprised because when I interviewed Reddy a couple of weeks prior to the show, and asked her why she had quit the business and stopped singing for over ten years, her reply was “I was bored.  I was tired of singing the same songs over and over again.”  I asked why she decided to return, her reply was “I was at my older sister’s 80th birthday party, and she asked me to do her a favor and sing a duet with her …and you don’t turn down your big sister…so I sang… got a huge standing ovation, and I heard my voice coming out of the monitor and thought “gee, that’s not so bad…maybe I should go out and do that again…and here I am.”  Before my interview, I asked her if she will be gambling while in Vegas?  Her reply? “I don’t gamble, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, and I’m a celibate!” (Not exactly what I was expecting!) I immediately recalled a videotaped interview I did with Comedian Sal Richards in which I asked if there was a celebrity he worked with that wasn’t what he expected them to be.  His immediate reply was “yes Helen Reddy!” And the story he told about her was pretty outrageous and shocking!  It really shows what can go on behind the scenes in Show Business.  It is posted on casinocenter.com and promises not to disappoint!

Singing funnyman Michael Shane was such a hit at Bootlegger Bistro on Thursday nights that he is “back by popular demand” on every Friday & Saturday in April from 6:30PM on.  He will be taking your requests and is very difficult to stump!  The food is great, especially the pizza, and you’ll be thoroughly entertained.

My picks for April are Ray Romano/Kevin James, April 4 & 6, Mirage, Brian McKnight, April 5, Eastside Cannery, Rob Thomas, April 4, Palms, DL Hughley, Orleans, April 4 & 5, Palms,  Gary Lewis & The Playboys, April 4 & 5, Suncoast, Jeff Ross, April 5, Mirage, Olivia Newton-John, April 8- 12, Flamingo, Jason Alexander, April 11-May 4, Harrah’s, Wayne Brady, April 11, Mirage, Bryan Ferry, April 12, Palms, Jay Leno, April 12, Mirage, Foghat, April 12, Cannery, Las Vegas Soul Festival, April 12, UNLV, Megadeth and Motorhead, April 17, Palms, The Bronx Wanderers, April 18-20, South Point, Gabriel Iglesias, Mirage, April 18 & 19, Jim Belushi & Chicago Board of Comedy, April 18 & 19, Venetian, Robert Cray, April 18, Cannery, Restless Heart/Sawyer Brown, April 19, Eastside Cannery, Jeff Tracta, April 24, LVH, Tony Orlando, April 25-27, South Point, Bobby Rydell, April 25-27, Suncoast, Tracy Morgan, April 25, TI, Little River Band, April 26, Cannery, Temptations, April 26 & 27, Orleans, Rod Stewart, April 30-May 17, Caesars Palace

 

Share on Facebook