Las Vegas Backstage Talk

April Las Vegas Backstage Talk column by Michele LaFong

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

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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

 

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Bill Cosby, Graham Russell, Michael Shane-LV Backstage Talk w/Comedian Michele LaFong

May 24, 2012  6pm-7pm PST 1230AM in LV & The Web

The Legendary Bill Cosby guests on Las Vegas Backstage Talk radio show with Comedian Michele LaFong.

Over the past century, few entertainers have achieved the legendary status of William H. Cosby Jr. His successes span five decades and virtually all media, remarkable accomplishments for a kid who emerged from humble beginnings in a Philly project.

In the 1960s, his stand-up act was a coast-to-coast sensation, spawning a string of hilarious, best-selling comedy albums, which went on to win eight Gold Records, five Platinum records and five Grammy Awards. His role on TV’s I Spy made him the first African-American to co-star in a dramatic series, breaking television’s racial barrier and winning three Emmy Awards. In the 1980s, he again rocked the television world with the The Cosby Show, a gentle, whimsical and hugely successful series that single-handedly revived the family sitcom (and rescued NBC).

Bill Cosby will be Michele LaFong’s Cover/Feature Interview in “Getting Personal with the Stars” June 2013 issue of Casino Player Magazine.  He is also in LaFong’s “Las Vegas Backstage Talk” Syndicated Column in Casino Player Magazine 2013.

For more about Bill Cosby, click HERE.

You can catch Bill Cosby at Treasure Island, The TI

Treasure Island Theatre, Friday May 25th 8:00pm

For reservations

Musician / Song-Writer – Graham Russell of “Air Supply”

Australian soft-rock group Air Supply quickly became a staple of early ‘80s radio after their first smash hit, “Lost in Love.” Performing together for more than 30 years, Air Supply returns to The Orleans Showroom for three shows Memorial Day weekend.

Producing 30 albums and more than 15 hit singles, Air Supply is renowned around the world, touring in Australia, Asia, India, the United States and the Caribbean. In 2008, Air Supply was named No. 83 on Billboard’s top 100 musical acts of all time – the only Australian band on the list.

For more about “Air Supply”, click HERE.

You can catch “Air Supply” at The Orleans

Orleans Showroom, Fri-Sun May 25th – 27th 8:00pm

For reservations

Musician / Entertainer – Michael Shane

Performing professionally since the age of 11, Michael, most recently, was hand-picked by Steve Wynn to entertain his guests at the Las Vegas mega resort Wynn, as in-house entertainer. In his 30 year career, he has performed in thousands of shows with dozens of stars including Wayne Newton, Gallagher, Debbie Gibson, Brooke Shields, Clint Holmes, Kool and the Gang, the Righteous Brothers and countless others.

For more about Michael Shane, click HERE.

You can listen to a recording of our show below!

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Nov. 20, 2010: Update On G2E (Global Gaming Expo) At The LV Convention Center

Finally, I’m winding down from showcasing and emceeing, on the main stage, for G2E’s Annual Headline Showcase at The Las Vegas Convention Center, from Nov.16-Nov. 18. Tuesday Nov.16, was a long, but very rewarding, day for me. I was emceeing the show from 12-4pm, and had two separate 15-minute showcase spots.

On the first spot, I performed two segments from my new show “Senor Wences Returns” Starring Michele LaFong Comedy, Cast & Crew (complete with video footage.) I opened the show with The Original “Johnny”, the lipstick handpuppet, that Senor Wences became most famous for. Paco, my hot latino “stud-puppet,” also made an appearance.

On the second spot, I performed on the stage with my “brilliant” music director, Michael Shane, where I concentrated on stand-up comedy and impressions with some quick, funny interaction between Michael and myself, throughout the show.

Also performing on the showcase that day were The ZOOperstars! (Comedic, musical Variety Act), Justin Flom (Comedian/magician), Craig Moritz Country Band, Patrick Murray & Matilda (Comedian/ventriloquist), The Thomas Nicholas Band (Rock), and Country Superstars Tribute. All the showcased acts were truly excellent.

At 5PM, Clinton Billups Jr.,The Arena Manager of G2E, brought the industry networking party across the street to The Clarion Hotel.

Michael Shane started the show warm-up, and entertained the crowd by singing some up-beat tunes, with his “Joe Cocker like” voice, while playing the keyboards, and then, I emceed “The Comedy Jam Show.”

First up, I put on one of my favorites, Tanya Lee. She “kicked major comedy butt” She totally destroyed! That “set the tone” for a very successful show. “She is one funny midget!” Mark my words, it’s only a matter of time before Tanya Lee becomes a household name.

Everyone who followed her on the show did very well too. Some of the acts included Larry G. Jones, “Red Skeleton,” and “comedy heavyweight,” singing impressionist, Scott Record, who was the emcee, and was performing a 15- minute spot at G2E the next day on Wed. Nov.17. He did an incredible job. He actually had buyers booking dates just from watching, and hearing his sound check!

All the acts on the show with Scott Record were terrific too. The line-up went as follows: Under A Blood Red Sky (Tribute), Paul Myerhaug (comedian), Miles Mosley (Jazz/Funk; Pop Rock), Kat Simmons,(Comedian), The Partland Brothers, (Adult Contemporary), John DiResta (comedian) The ROCKSHOW JOURNEY (Tribute).

Thursday, Jan.18, The showcase continued with The Pow Wow Comedy Jam, taking the first spot, and emceeing, Michael Sarvar/country, and Blaze Of Glory (Tribute act). As usual Bob Cummings from Bob Cumming’s TV did an awesome job videotaping the entire event.

I have lots of new footage from this event that I will soon be posting.

Stay tuned.

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