Las Vegas Backstage Talk

July Las Vegas Backstage Talk Column

July  2014- Casino Player Magazine, Gaming Today

by Michele LaFong

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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.

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June-Las Vegas Backstage Talk syndicated column

by Michele LaFong

June-Las Vegas Backstage Talk syndicated column in Casino Player Magazine and Gaming Today.

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June 2014 marks Las Vegas Backstage Talk’s one year anniversary in Casino Player Magazine.  Along with the debut of my column, I was also asked to write the Cover/feature for that issue.  Because I remembered how excited I was to have Bill Cosby guest on my radio show, I really wanted to use his interview for my first Cover/feature for June 2013 edition… And it’s a good thing I did because now he’s really hard to catch up with!  Last November Cosby performed his first TV concert special in 30 years, appropriately titled Far From Finished, which debuted on Comedy Central and is now sold on DVD.  He continues to make regular appearances on the Late Night Talk Show circuit, and his touring schedule is quite hectic. Bill Cosby will return to the TI on July 18.

Many of our past guests are also experiencing an exciting year since they were last on LVBST.

Jon Taffer, the guru, who helps revive bars that are on the verge of bankruptcy, has been a favorite recurring guest on my radio show since his very first season on reality TV.  Not only has “Bar Rescue” been renewed for its fourth season, which will begin airing in the fall but in addition, Jon landed another reality series on Spike TV produced by “Bar Rescue” producers Eyeworks USA called Hungry Investors, featuring celebrity chef John Besh and “Top Chef All-Star” vet Tiffany Derry.The trio seek out and help ‘diamond in the rough’ failing restaurants meet their potential.  Each week, the ‘Hungry Investors’ team puts two struggling restaurants to the test to prove they deserve a second chance at success. The enterprise that shows the most promise of turning things around earns significant cash investment. Both establishments seek to prove to the expert team that the only thing keeping them from financial fortune and success is finding an investor who believes in them.

In my last interview with Comedian Adam Carolla, Adam casually mentioned that he had a new reality series debuting on Spike TV called To Catch a Contractor. Prior to Adam’s success in comedy, he earned his living as a master carpenter. “I take it personally when contractors pass off their subpar work on average citizens and leave homeowners holding the bag.”

Each episode follows Carolla, along with no-nonsense contractor Skip Bedell and his wife, investigator Allison Bedell, as they seek retribution for wronged homeowners, whose construction nightmares range from the laughably incompetent to frighteningly hazardous homes that have been left completely torn apart. Carolla and the Bedells hunt down and confront unscrupulous builders, drag them back to their construction disasters, and make them finish the job right. Carolla and his expert team share their knowledge and ingenuity with the builders – not only in an effort to deliver homeowners the job they paid for, but also to give these suspect contractors the opportunity to redeem themselves.  Personally, I find this new series to be as entertaining as “Catch a Predator” on Dateline.  The only thing missing from it is the under-aged girl or guy using the old but reliable iced tea lure to get the unsuspecting predator comfortably seated in the house prior to the big confrontation!  Obviously, this series is catching on quick because Catch a Contractor has already been renewed for a second season. Adam Carolla will be returning to The TI August 29 to tape another podcast.

Comedians Wanda Sykes and Russell Peters also have a new reality series since last guesting on LVBST.  Wanda is one of the executive producers of NBC’s new Last Comic Standing, and Russell Peters is a judge alongside with comedy icons Roseanne Barr, and Keenen Ivory Wayans.

HBO recently renewed Real Time with Bill Maher for a 13th season since his last appearance on LVBST and continues his residency at The Palms H & C. I could not be happier for him!

I too have recently been cast on a new docu-series pilot that is being produced by NBC’s Univision. Hopefully, this new off-beat reality series will make air! I will keep you posted…

“Plastic Surgeon to the Stars,” Dr. Julio Garcia, recently returned on LVBST to update us on the latest treatments to shave off years of aging.  Usually when I ask him “what new cutting-edge treatments are available that you would recommend?” he replies “not much.” However, on this visit, his answer was quite different.  “I now offer a new, exciting, FDA Approved skin tightening procedure called ThermiTight which reduces wrinkles and tightens loose skin in the lower face and neck.  It’s also is good for double chins.  The results are natural looking, and continue to improve over time. It also has been proven to work on frown lines and reduce cellulite.

Normally, Dr. Garcia does not offer free consultations however, if you mention Casino Player Magazine when making an appointment, not only will he give a free evaluation but will also apply a 10% discount towards the treatment needed.

Thursday, June 5, is the Scleroderma Research Foundation’s flagship fundraiser at the Las Vegas House of Blues inside Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino. Bob Saget hosts an evening of delicious food, wine and comedy with Jay Leno and special musical guest Ben Folds. This is the SRF’s inaugural Las Vegas event.

It’s a night of gourmet food featuring the “hot cuisine” of Top Chef Masters Susan Feniger, Mary Sue Milliken and Rick Moonen.

The evening includes a small number of exclusive live auction packages. Attendees include stars from the worlds of television, film, music and business—and many others who have been directly or indirectly affected by scleroderma.

Call 800-441-2873. A limited number of reserved tables and General Admission seats are available. This event typically sells out in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco.

Wilson Phillips returns to the Eastside Cannery on June 7, and always delivers a very entertaining, crowd-pleasing show.  If you love Southern White Rock, treat yourself to see Gregg Allman at The Palms H & C on June 21.  Bobby Vinton returns to Eastside Cannery on June 28.   I was his opening act over ten years ago, and remember Bobby stopping at nothing to entertain… that included standing on tables while singing from the audience!

Other Picks for June: Jay Leno, June 6, Mirage, Lionel Richie, June 6, Mandalay Bay, Kid Rock, June 6, Cosmopolitan, Billy Joel, June 7, MGM, Kevin James, June 7, Mirage, Stained, June 7, Palms, James Darren, June 7 & 8, South Point, Steve Winwood, June 13 & 14, The Linq, Kathleen Madigan, June 14, Mirage, Chelsea Handler, June 13 &  14, Cosmopolitan, Junefest with Creedence Clearwater Revisited and Loverboy, June 14, Sunset Station, Rick Springfield, June 14, Primm Valley Resorts,  William Shatner, June 19-21, MGM, Jay Mohr,  June 21& 22, South Point, Jeff Bridges and The Abiders, June 21 & 22, Red Rock Resorts, Tamar Braxton, June 20, Mandalay Bay, Natalie Cole, June 28, Primm Valley Resorts.

 

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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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Michael “Wheels” Parise, Robin Leach, Jack Walker, Jacob Lusk-LVBST w/Comedian Michele LaFong

Feb. 23, 2012  6pm-7pm PST 1230AM in LV & The Web

Michael “Wheels” Parise, Columnist Robin Leach, Singer Jack Walker, Singer Jacob Lusk, all guest on Las Vegas Backstage Talk radio show with Comedian Michele LaFong.

23-year veteran comedian Michael Wheels Parise has been the national touring act for Andrew Dice Clay for over 23 years. Wheels has costarred with movies with Rodney Dangerfield, Keenan Ivory Wayans and Jada Pinckett Smith.
With over 70 TV appearances including Conan O Brien, Letterman as well as co-starring with Dice Clay in the 2008 Reality Show on VH-1 called “Dice Undisputed” Wheels Paris is making King’s Comedy Club his new home. When Wheels is not Headlining Las Vegas you can see him in all the major cities throughout out the country.

Wheels  was featured in LaFong’s Syndicated “Las Vegas Backstage Talk” Column in Gaming Today, and will soon be featured in Michele LaFong’s Syndicated “Las Vegas Backstage Talk” column in Casino Player Magazine, as well as “Getting Personal with the Stars” Syndicated Column in Gaming Today.  He is a popular guest on LVBST.

More on Michael Wheels Parise below:

http://wheelsparise.com
http://facebook.com/wheelslive
http://twitter.com/wheelslive
http://kingsroomlv.com
Wheels and Dice on VH-1 Reality Show called Dice Undisputed
Dear Chef Reality Sizzle.

Wheels Parise will be playing at King’s Comedy Club at the Rio features three of America`s brightest up and coming comedians whose roots span a variety of cultures. This show will create a virtual United Nations of Comedy

You can catch Wheels Parise at The Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino Las Vegas
King’s Room, indefinitly, 8:30pm nightly
For reservations

 

Celebrity – Robin Leach

Robin Leach guests on Las Vegas Backstage Talk with Comedian Michele LaFong on 1230AM in Las Vegas and the web.

Television genius and icon Robin Leach brought the lives of celebrities into our homes with the hit show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, and made a few billion of his own along the way.

Robin will be discussing about the Celebrity Bingo Bow Wow benefit.

Play bingo with local celebrities and support the Nevada Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals! On Saturday, February 25th, at noon, the Silverton Casino is hosting the Bingo Bow Wow bingo tournament to support the lifesaving, no-kill work of Nevada SPCA. All animal lovers are welcome! Players must be 21 years of age to play bingo though. The event will be held inside the Veil Pavilion, with a celebrity Red Carpet beginning at noon and The Nevada SPCA Celebrity Bow Wow Bingo tournament beginning at 1pm. Win money and prizes! There will be performances by the women of Fantasy and the men of Thunder from Down Under! There will also be guest appearances by Racardo Laguna, “The Old Man” from Pawn Stars, Angel Porrino, Robin Leach, and many more! The first 100 guests to arrive will receive a free gift bag worth over $300! The tournament’s entry fee is $30 which includes one Blue Promo Paper Pack and a free dauber. Come out and have fun while helping the homeless pet population in Southern Nevada!

For more about Celebrity Bingo Bow Wow, click here.

You can catch Robin Leach and many other celebrities at Silverton Casino Hotel
Veil Pavilion
Saturday Feb. 25th at 1.p.m. with a red carpet at noon

 

Vocalist – Jack Walker

Jack Walker has appeared on BBC and Scottish TV and after making his home in Las Vegas He has graced some of Las Vegas’ biggest stages including Mandalay Bay, Venetian, Mystere Theater at T.I, & Mirage.

2012 is looking to be an exciting year for Jack. In partnership with Station Casinos Jack will perform his ‘Jack Walker & Friends’ Show each month at two of Station’s premier properties, Aliante Station Casino & Green Valley Ranch. Jack will perform in his own power packed style and will incorporate two Guest Artists each month to provide 5 star variety entertainment.

For more about Jack Walker, click here.

You can catch Jack Walker at Green Valley Ranch
Ovation Lounge
Sunday, Feb. 19 & Sunday, Mar. 4, 7:00 p.m.
For reservations

 

Singer – Jacob Lusk

Jacob Lusk has found much success after his run on the hit television series NBC’s “American Idol.” He has been working diligently with R. Kelly’s songwriters and is managed by Gladys Knight’s team. With such a talented backing, it is no wonder Lusk has found himself living the dream he set out on even before making his name known to the world on “American Idol.”

Recording artist and “American Idol” Season 10 finalist Jacob Lusk performs as a special guest at the House of Blues Gospel Brunch. Lusk is joining St. Paul’s Concert Choir with David Blakely on the Hammond B3 Organ, 15 vocalists and three musicians.

You can catch Jacob Lusk at The House of Blues Gospel Brunch Sunday,Feb. 26th
Music Hall at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

For information
You can listen to a recording of our show below!

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Nov. 7, 2010: Jeff Dunham & The Business of Ventriloquism

by Michele LaFong

Everyone’s been calling me.  “Did you see Jeff Dunham on the Joy Behar Show on HLN last week?”  The answer is “yes” and I thought he did a good job. I know how difficult it is to perform an interview while creating two personalities. A lot of the regular guests don’t even have one, but that doesn’t stop their lips from moving anyway. A lot of my friends and fans were surprised that Jeff Dunham’s throat was moving so much.  They told me that they never noticed that with me.

Well, that’s the advantage to being a female ventriloquist.  We don’t have an Adam’s apple…well most of us don’t anyway. Ventriloquism is powered by the diaphragm, just like it is for singers. When I’m “throwing my voice” I do whatever I have to do to “pull it off”.  I use my diaphragm, my IUD, my PMS, whatever I can muster at the time. It ain’t easy.  I give him credit.

Meanwhile, I couldn’t believe that Joy Behar had asked Jeff if he thought that the art of ventriloquism was a dying art? This was right after she had announced that Jeff Dunham made over 22 million dollars last year and was the #1 top selling comic. I wonder if Joy Behar is aware of Terry Fator at The Mirage having a hundred million dollar contract after he won a million dollars as a ventriloquist on America’s Got Talent?

Thanks to those who have paved the way, I’m much more in demand lately too.

I have a private party at Pierro’s in LV tomorrow. I’m hosting The Global Gaming Expo Nov.16 at The LV
Convention Center from 12-4pm and several new doors have opened to me including books, radio and televison.

Please don’t forget to catch me Tuesday Nov.9 on KLAV am 1230 at 8pm-8:20 for interview on The Psychic Medium Spasoff Show.

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