Las Vegas Backstage Talk

Jan. LV Backstage Talk column

By Michele LaFong

G.T. 12-30-14Layout 1

(click on article to enlarge)

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

Last month, after interviewing Charlie Daniels, best known for his No. 1 country hit “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” and hearing several songs from his new Off the Grid CD – Doin’ It Dylan, a tribute piece in which the Charlie Daniels Band puts a southern twist on a collection of Bob Dylan’s most classic songs, I felt compelled to check out his show at The Orleans theatre to witness for myself how this country and southern rock legend skilled on guitar, fiddle, and mandolin, manages to stay so relevant at 78 years of age. It was closing night of National Finals Rodeo week. Backstage prior to the show we were chatting it up and I noticed that even his deep speaking voice was resonating with every word. He came across all American as apple pie, and was quite humble and personable both on and off stage. I had no idea what to expect from Charlie’s show but I knew after 50 plus years of creating his own new definitions of music which scored hits on rock, country, pop and Christian charts alike, and winning almost every music award along the way that I would be in for a real treat… and I was!
From the moment Daniels hit the stage, he displayed personality using some theatrics in some jovial interaction with his fellow band members. He really played to his audience when he sang a song about rednecks that clearly won the room over early on. Every type of music was covered from classic Christmas songs to blues and everything in between with Charlie’s signature southern sound and spin in the music’s interpretation. He even played a Johnny Cash tune to play tribute to the star that was so kind to him in Nashville when he was trying to break into the very competitive music business.

Charlie also showed much appreciation of his fellow band members throughout the show and during the introduction of an instrumental entitled Black Ice, an intricate, jamming concert-piece which was designed to showcase the skills of his musicians with solos from each band member which included an 8 minute solo from drummer, Pat McDonald which received a standing ovation in the middle of the show.

I found it interesting that the two Dylan songs that Charlie chose to play were coincidently the same two that I picked to showcase samples of during my interview with him which aired on LVBST. Tangled Up In Blue, and Gotta Serve Somebody, which I absolutely loved! (I noticed when I interviewed Daniels that we had the exact same taste in artists from Gregg Allman to B.B King, when he confessed, “I would love to have the opportunity to record with B.B.) Bob Dylan was the original before the Beatles, and before everyone else.” Charlie declared on stage. He told the story of how he was called to record with Dylan as a one-time fill in because the guitarist that was hired for the series of recording sessions could not make the very first one however after the session was over, Bob insisted that Daniels stay on and finish the project with him because he was the perfect person for the job.
Of course the show closed with the much awaited Devil Down in Georgia, which had the audience on its feet.
What a perfect way to end National Finals Rodeo week! Charlie will be touring the country starting in January, and has several dates in casinos nationally. I highly recommend his show.

The other artist featured on Las Vegas Backstage Talk with Daniels was Ventriloquist Jay Johnson, who is mostly remembered for his role as the schizophrenic ventriloquist “Chuck and Bob” on the classic ABC television comedy “Soap”. Jay was on my radio show promoting the new DVD release of his Tony Award-winning Broadway show The Two and Only,” a show which he wrote and performed. Jay Johnson made his Broadway debut at the Helen Hayes Theatre. Four months before the Broadway opening “Jay Johnson: The Two and Only” played the Colony Theatre where it won the Los Angeles Ovation award for Best Solo Show. The show was originally produced Off-Broadway the previous season at Atlantic Theatre company where it earned rave reviews and a Lucille Lortel Award nomimation. He has written and performed in television specials for NBC, CBS, HBO and made hundreds of appearances on variety specials and talk shows like “The Tonight Show” (with Jay Leno and Johnny Carson) and “The David Letterman Show”. He has been featured in more than 30 national commercials. His acting credits include appearances on “CSI”, “That 70’s Show”, “Dave’s World”, “Night Court”, “Broken Badges” and many other shows that have come and gone.
I had the pleasure of working with Jay years ago when we were performing on Senor Wences’ 100th Birthday Tour at The Improv in LA with Paul Winchell, Milton Berle, John Byner, Charles Fleisher, and many more. I hadn’t had the opportunity to speak with Jay since that night’s performance and it was gratifying to hear that his rendition of that very special evening’s dinner with those two ventriloquist legends had matched my exact recollection of events. The full interviews of Charlie Daniels and Ventriloquist Jay Johnson are archived on Lasvegasbackstagetalk.com, as with all our other shows. Please Like us on facebook to be eligible for future show tickets and other offerings. With rodeo week, Christmas, and New Years’ behind us the schedule for headline entertainment in Las Vegas for 2015 is slowly being put together and released.

My Picks: Joe Rogan, the Mirage, January 1-2, January 30- 31, Elton John, Caesar’s Palace, January 16–24, Rob Schneider, South Point, January 16– 17, Styx, Palms, January 18, Santana, Mandalay Bay, January 21-31, Daniel Tosh, Mirage, January 23–24, Tommy Roe, South Point, January 23-25, Rod Stewart, Caesar’s Palace, January 27 – February 15, Bobby Slayton and Kevin Pollock, South Point, January 29-31, Burt Bacharach, Smith Center, Jan. 30, Jackie Evancho, Smith Center, Jan. 31, Pitbull, Enrique Iglesias, Mandalay Bay, Jan. 31, Tim Allen, Mirage, Jan. 31

 

Share on Facebook

Oct. LV Backstage Talk Column

by Michele LaFong

ayout 1Layout 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Click on articles to enlarge)

G.T. 9-30-14

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Las Vegas Backstage Talk’s syndicated monthly column in Casino Player Magazine, and Gaming Today-Oct.

Finalist on Last Comic Standing Lachlan Patterson on Las Vegas Backstage Talk with Comedian Michele LaFong (10 min. edited)

Oct. LVBST column
When Randy Bachman, founding member of The Guess Who, the Canadian band responsible for such hits as “No Time” and “American Woman” left to explore his personal musical horizons, he joined forces with Fred Turner to create Bachman-Turner Overdrive and rock & roll history was made. I, along with millions of other fans worldwide, grew up and sang along to radio hits such as “Taking Care Of Business,” “Let It Ride,” and “Roll On Down The Line.” So when I heard that after 20 years of fan demand these two giants of hard driving tunes were reuniting, touring, and appearing at The Cannery August 30, billed as Bachman & Turner, I knew I had to get an interview, which I finally landed with Fred Turner. You can imagine my shock when backstage, before their concert Fred casually dropped the bombshell scoop to yours truly that this was his very last show with Bachman. “I am retiring and have lots of other unfinished business to take care of…I’m just taking care of unfinished business, you might say…loose ends to tie up. I’ve got a bucket list with lots of things I need to do.” When asked how Randy Bachman took the news, he responded “Randy’s got so many things going on all the time with so many artists, and new projects, he’s just fine! …Maybe I’ll be back in a few years…you never know.” While watching the concert I was kind of sad but felt blessed to be witnessing the last historic show of Bachman & Turner. They never announced the news to the crowd and I haven’t heard a peep about it since.
Another thing that has come to an abrupt end is the celebrity impersonating “dealertainers” that the Imperial Palace, now The Quad soon to be the Linq was so famous for. It seems this was not a popular decision with many of their loyal customers. Also, the Clarion Resort on Convention Center Drive formally Royal Americana, Debbie Reynolds Hotel & Casino, Paddlewheel, and Greek Isles has closed for good. It’s been an interesting quaint little property that opened as the Royal Inn in 1970. Debbie Reynolds gave me my first running show there, “Vegas Live” starring Michele LaFong.
It is with a heavy heart that I am addressing the untimely passing of Comedy Icon Joan Rivers who at age 81 seemed ageless, and invincible. I was asked to join WTTG-TV (FOX 5) Washington via Skype to share some of my personal interactions with Joan when guesting on her afternoon talk show back in the 80’s and speak on the impact that she had on comedy in general. Like so many other stories being shared by industry over the weeks about Joan’s generosity, graciousness, and wonderful sense of humor, I experienced much of the same. Joan’s approach to comedy was fearless and unapologetic- breaking ground and paving the way for other female comics. Ironically she hated being referred to as a pioneer or a trail blazer because her work was not even close to being done. In fact, in a recent interview before her passing she was quoted as saying “I hate when female comics come up to me and say “Oh you broke barriers for women… I’m still breaking barriers….” Sadly her work was unfinished but her legend lives on and she is sorely missed.
Another feminine comedy ground-breaker of sorts is New Jersey native “Queen of Comedy” Sommore, who began her career as the first woman to host BET’s ”Comic View,” and then later hosting Russell Simmons’ “Def Comedy Jam” and “Showtime at the Apollo.” She was the 1995 recipient of the Richard Pryor Award for Comic of the Year, and in 2000 she entered “The Guinness Book of World Records,” performing for an audience of more than 50,000 people in Atlanta as part of the “Queens of Comedy” tour. A recording of the show became the longest-running and highest-rated special in the history of Showtime Networks.
I recently interviewed Sommore, who was promoting her upcoming weekend at Suncoast Hotel & Casino on Labor Day Weekend. With credits which include her status as being among the top-grossing stand-up comediennes in the United States and abroad, as well as Oprah Winfrey proclaiming her “a force to be reckoned with in the new millennium,” it’s of no wonder that Sommore sold out both nights at the 500 seat theatre before the weekend even began with Suncoast having to turn away hundreds of fans. Her show equally as impressive had substance and she drew a drinking, spending well-dressed crowd. I think it was obvious just from her credits that Queen of Comedy Sommore deserved to be performing in a much bigger theatre on The Strip. I’m sure Las Vegas won’t make that mistake again as word gets out fast!
Another impressive comedienne making a difference in comedy is Wanda Sykes. Wanda is Executive Producer of NBC’s Last Comic Standing which got renewed for a second season. I recently interviewed runner-up Lachlan Patterson, and Winner Rod Man who were promoting their upcoming Last Comic Standing Tour with all 5 finalists in the show. The audio of their interviews are archived on our site. I will be doing a backstage videotaped interview with both Lachlan, and Rod Man in between their sold out shows at Aliante Casino. An edited portion will be posted on gamingtoday.com, casinocenter.com.
Bill Maher returns to the Palms on Oct. 10 & 11. He always puts on a solid, funny, relevant show, and is one of my favorite return guests on LVBST. Bill’s interview will air on Oct. 9.
My Picks:
Wanda Sykes, Treasure Island, Oct 3, The Beach Boys, The Cannery, Oct. 4, Lewis Black, The Mirage, Oct. 4, Daniel Tosh, Mirage, Oct. 10 & 11, Legends of Motown: the Four Tops, Temptations, Spinners, Cannery, Oct. 10 & 11, Loni Love, Venetian, Oct. 10 & 11,
The Eagles, MGM Grand, Oct. 11, Queensryche, Eastside Cannery, Oct. 11, Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull, Mandalay Bay, Asia, Red Rock Resort, Oct. 17, John Fogerty, Palms, Oct. 17, Ray Romano and David Spade, Mirage, Oct. 17 & 18, Zac Brown Band, MGM Grand, Oct. 17, Carlos Mencia, Treasure Island, Oct. 17, Smokey Robinson, Eastside Cannery, Oct. 18, Ron White, Mirage, Oct. 24 & 25, Bill Engvall, Treasure Island, Oct. 24, Wendy Williams, Venetian, Oct. 31.

Share on Facebook