Category Archives: Las Vegas Shows

Magician Siegfried Fischbacher of Siegfried & Roy Dies at 81

Legendary Las Vegas magician Siegfried Fischbacher has died at 81 of pancreatic cancer. The iconic performer passed away in his Las Vegas home on Jan. 13, 2021.

His longtime partner, Roy Horn, passed away a few short months ago, on May 20, 2020. Horn was 75.

The passing of Siegfried Fischbacher marks the end of an era.

Siegfried Fischbacher

Siegfried’s middle name was Tyrone. No, really.

At one time, the German-born Siegfried & Roy epitomized Las Vegas entertainment.

The flamboyant pair’s collection of white tigers and other big cats were known around the world and the duo performed before millions of people.

They were also among the highest-paid performers in the history of Las Vegas. Their Mirage contract was reportedly worth $57.5 million-a-year.

The duo began their run at Mirage in 1989.

There’s no dancing around it, in retrospect, much of what Siegfried & Roy did was just plain peculiar.

Siegfried & Roy’s reign as magic royalty came to an end when Roy Horn was attacked during a performance by a white tiger named Montecore on October 3, 2003.

Siegfried & Roy’s version of the attack has been the subject of a good deal of controversy.

As our friend and longtime Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Norm Clarke put it, “It was understood the last thing they wanted to do was demonize their animals since they were seen as members of their family.”

The fact is Siegfried & Roy sort of lived in an alternate universe, and it was an undeniably fascinating one.

While they never officially addressed their personal relationship, the former lovers have always been considered icons of the LGBT community.

Whatever the status of their romantic relationship over the years, Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn were inseparable friends and companions to the end.

The romantic in us believes there simply couldn’t be a Siegfried without a Roy.

Siegfried Roy

Bottoms up for two legendary Las Vegas performers. Siegfried on the left, Roy on the right.

Fischbacher and Horn met on a cruise ship. Fischbacher was performing, Horn was a steward. Roy Horn was just 17 at the time.

Even after Horn’s slow, partial recovery from the injuries resulting from the tiger attack, Fischbacher and Horn made public appearances and were spotted around town in Las Vegas.

We trust their namesake attraction, Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at Mirage, is likely to be a place fans go to pay their respects following the passing of Siegfried Fischbacher.

There’s simply never been another Siegfried & Roy, nor do we suspect there ever will be.

Update (1/15/21): On Jan. 15, 2021, Fremont Street Experience showed a tribute to Siegfried Fischbacher on its Viva Vision screen.

Siegfried tribute

A larger-than-life tribute befitting a larger-than-life Vegas icon, Siegfried.

Las Vegas Urban Myth: “Crazy Girls” Statue Includes a Dude

Maybe you’ve heard it: The iconic “Crazy Girls” statue, with a row of showgirls showing off their moneymakers, includes a man.

Even if you haven’t heard it, trust us, this urban myth has been floating around Las Vegas for years.

And it’s hooey.

Crazy Girls statue

The “Crazy Girls” statue once sat at the front entrance of the Riviera. That’s because the back door wouldn’t have provided enough exposure.

“Crazy Girls” confirmed the famous bronze statue, rubbed so often for good luck the dancers’ bottoms are buffed to a high sheen, is populated entirely by women born biologically female.

Here are the names of the dancers in the bronze “Crazy Girls” statue (left to right): Karen Raider, Debra Sill, Pat Lumpkin, Kim Baranco, Angela Sampras-Stabile, Michelle Sandoval and Chris Zytko.

So, that’s settled.

There is, however, a twist.

This urban myth may be the result of a rather shameful chapter in Las Vegas history.

See, there was a transgender entertainer in the “Crazy Girls” cast back in the day.

The performer’s name was Jahna Steele, and she had sexual reassignment surgery in her hometown of San Antonio, Texas prior to moving to Las Vegas and joining the cast of “Crazy Girls.”

Crazy Girls

“Crazy Girls” closed at Riviera on May 1, 2015. Due to its weight, saving the statue wasn’t a slam donk.

Steele wasn’t just any performer, she was named “Sexiest Showgirl on The Strip” in 1991 and “Most Beautiful Showgirl” in 1993, among other accolades.

Then, things took a turn for the WTF.

While many were aware Steele was transgender, a tabloid TV show, “A Current Affair,” outed her in 1992.

As a result, she was fired from “Crazy Girls.”

Jahna Steele’s story has a tragic ending, as she died of a drug overdose in 2008.

If there’s an upside to Steele’s story, it’s that she’s now viewed as a pioneer in the transsexual community.

We’d love to think the world is a more enlightened place now than it was 1992, but we’re curious how a transgender person would be received by adult revue audiences today.

We say strip and let strip!

Crazy Girls statue

Now that you know the background of the “Crazy Girls” statue, consider yourself a Las Vegas history buff.

It’s worth noting there was a famous billboard and poster for “Crazy Girls,” too. The line-up for the billboard and poster, for posterity (again, left to right): Karen Raider, Debra Sill, Pam Noble, Stacey Pettarutti, Shellee Rene, Angela Sampras-Stabile and LeAnne Wagstaff.

The “Crazy Girls” statue, located on the casino floor at Planet Hollywood, remains a must-stroke Las Vegas photo op.

Now you know the story behind it!¬†Emphasis on “behind.”

You didn’t think we’d wrap up a story about brass butts without making a final crack, did you?

Donny Osmond Returns to The Strip With Solo Show at Harrah’s Las Vegas

The better half of the former Donny & Marie show is returning to the Las Vegas Strip.

Donny Osmond will do a solo, presumably “multi-year,” residency at Harrah’s Las Vegas starting Aug. 31, 2021.

Donny Osmond

He’s awesome. He’s back. And he’s not drinking coffee or tea.

The Donny & Marie show ran at Flamingo for 11 years, closing on Nov. 16, 2019.

Their show was remarkable for a number of reasons, including the fact the sibling’s original contract was for just six weeks.

Their well-reviewed Flamingo residency was very lucrative. The Osmonds reportedly each earned $1.6 million a year base salary, plus 40% of the box office gross.

While Donny and Marie Osmond made bank during their Flamingo residency, there were ongoing rumors of friction between them. Donny should totally name his next album “Rumors of Friction.”

Donny Las Vegas

Even at Flamingo, the writing was on the wall.

The pair barely performed together onstage, and rarely spoke offstage. Guests who paid for meet-and-greet photos got either Donny or Marie, not both.

As tensions grew, it was clear the duo wanted out, but the money was just too good to bail.

However, all awkward things must come to and end.

Apparently, Harrah’s (owned by Caesars Entertainment) and Donny Osmond are confident there’s still high demand for his talents as a solo artist, and we agree.

Donny Osmond Harrah's

Donny Osmond is one of the few performers who looks better before they’re Photoshopped.

While the banter between Donny and Marie Osmond was a highlight of their show, we’re pretty sure Donny can hold his own and his fans are both legion and extraordinarily passionate.

Osmond has lived an extraordinary life, with 33 gold records to his name. He’s currently working on his 63rd album.

The only lowlights we can see of Donny’s life are: 1) He had to do a residency with Marie, and 2) He and his wife have never had oral sex. (At least that’s what he told Howard Stern.)

Even if Donny Osmond had done nothing else in his professional career, he did this.

The outtakes are even better. Behold the moment when Donny Osmond went from American cultural icon to whatever is even better than being an American cultural icon.

This is just one of the reasons Donny needed to go out on his own in Las Vegas.

He’s genuine and likable and talented and hilarious.

Plus, he won season nine of “Dancing With the Stars.”

Donny Osmond

However cool you think Donny Osmond might be in person, he’s cooler than that.

Tickets for Donny’s show at Harrah’s start at $65, with a bump for VIP meet-and-greet packages. Finally, a meet-and-greet that’s worth the price.

Big props to Donny for his divorce from Marie, and we can’t wait to see what Donny’s got up the sleeve of his technicolor dreamcoat!

Terry Fator Returns to The Strip for Limited Run at New York-New York

The theater’s not even cold from the announcement “Zumanity” won’t be back, and ventriloquist Terry Fator already has plans to move in.

Fator will bring his new show, “Who’s the Dummy Now?,” to New York-New York for a limited engagement starting Nov. 26, 2020. The show is slated to run through Dec. 31, 2020.

It’s an odd twist Terry Fator would return to a casino owned by MGM Resorts, as he was unceremoniously given the boot by Mirage for lagging ticket sales.

He started at Mirage in March 2009. Prior to that, he did a one-year stint at the Hilton.

Terry Fator

Early ventriloquism was used to manifest spirits. Now, it’s mostly used to remind us there are still people who seem to find ventriloquism entertaining.

We got ahold of an internal communication saying Mirage was exercising its right to end the show because the average occupancy of the show was less than 75 percent of the seating capacity for a consecutive 12-month period.

While details of his deal with New York-New York haven’t been released, it sounds like this is a a space rental deal, referred to in the business a “four-walling.”

Fator, of course, made his move to Vegas after winning the second season of “America’s Got Talent.”

Terry Fator has lived a fairly colorful life offstage, some of it including controversy related to his romantic life. For example, he proposed to one of his wives, Angie, onstage in front of his then-wife, Taylor.

Fator joins a small group of shows returning to their theaters following the pandemic shutdown. Other shows include “Absinthe,” David Copperfield, Jabbawockeez, Carrot Top, Piff the Magic Dragon, “Fantasy,” The Australian Bee Gees, Tape Face, “X Country” and Thunder from Down Under, among others.

Fator will perform Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays at 7:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 7:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

Tickets start at a pretty reasonable $34.95.

“Zumanity” Closes Permanently as Cirque du Soleil Flounders

A longtime Strip show, “Zumanity,” won’t reopen at New York-New York.

Cirque du Soleil shared a Tweet about the permanent closure of “Zumanity,” saying, “Today we applaud Zumanity as the show has taken its final bow and will not be reopening. Heartfelt thank you to our talented cast, crew and staff and the more than seven million guests for taking part in this sensual journey.”

“Zumanity” wasn’t the strongest Cirque offering on the Las Vegas Strip, but many enjoyed the show featuring a sexier side of Cirque.

Zumanity closed

There’s something for everyone in Las Vegas, but “Zumanity” wasn’t for us.

The show opened in Sep. 2003 and had more than 7,700 performances at New York-New York.

The final performance of “Zumanity” was March 14, 2020, just before Las Vegas shows and hotels were shut down due to the pandemic.

Some shows have reopened since then, but no Cirque shows have returned yet.

Cirque du Soleil’s stuggles were apparent prior to the COVID-19 crisis. We called the company’s impending bankruptcy, and heard from insiders “Zumanity” was on the short list of shows (along with “Love” and “Ka”) that might not return due to a number of factors, mainly financial.

Zumanity 69

They can never take this distinction away from “Zumanity.”

Cirque is trying to get out in front of rumors about the potential of other shows closing permanently.

The company’s news release about “Zumanity” said, “Cirque du Soleil and MGM Resorts International have solidified their commitment to the partnership and the four shows remaining in the Cirque du Soleil portfolio. Contract extensions for ‘O’ at Bellagio, The Beatles ‘Love’ at The Mirage, ‘Ka’ at MGM Grand and ‘Michael Jackson One’ at Mandalay Bay have been signed. Additionally, Treasure Island and Cirque du Soleil have recommitted to ‘Mystere’ with a contract extension.”

That’s great to hear, especially for the performers, crews and venues, but if we’ve learned anything during this crisis, it’s that everything is “fluid.” Also, people are really paranoid about running out of toilet paper.

It’s tough to keep all these Cirque shows straight, so feel free to review our One-Minute Guide to All the Cirque Shows in Las Vegas.

Another Cirque-style show, “Le Reve,” closed permanently at Wynn Las Vegas.

How many brisk kicks to the nads can one town take?

Despite Cirque du Soleil’s calm outward demeanor, the Cirque world is pretty much chaos at the moment.

The company had roughly a billion dollars in debt prior to the pandemic, and the entire operation has been shut down for months.

Zumanity closed

Sometimes, photo captions write themselves.

Cirque du Soleil lost $10 million in 2017, $71 million in 2018 and $80 million in 2019. “R.U.N.” opened at Luxor in 2019 at a cost of about $62 million, the show closed after just five months.

Cirque filed for bankruptcy in June 2020. COVID-19 provided some cover for the company’s rumored mismanagement, but insiders saw the writing on the wall long before the pandemic.

We’ve heard Cirque doesn’t want to reopen its shows while the mask mandate is in place, and there’s no end in sight for those protocols.

The hope is Cirque can come back full force at some point, and performers, many who have bailed on Las Vegas, can be lured back.

The fact is Vegas isn’t really Vegas without Cirque. These iconic shows have become synonymous with Vegas and its claim to the title of “Entertainment Capital of the World.”

Our best goes out to the cast members, crew members and fans of “Zumanity.”

Enough of the circus, we want our Cirque back.

“Absinthe” and “Piff the Magic Dragon” Lead Return of Las Vegas Shows

Two of our favorite Las Vegas shows are reopening and we’re fully engorged with anticipation at the news.

“Absinthe” reopens at Caesars Palace on Oct. 28, 2020.

“Piff the Magic Dragon” reopens at Flamingo on Oct. 29, 2020.

Shows are back on the Las Vegas Strip! Even more importantly, laughter is back, and it’s about damned time.

Absinthe balancing act

The thrills, and wildly inappropriate humor, are back.

Both shows have implemented strict safety protocols to assuage COVID-19 concerns and are setting the stage for others to follow suit.

For example, “Absinthe” will have “cabaret-style seating” inside the show’s tent outside Caesars. This seating will allow parties of two to five to reserve tables positioned no less than six feet apart.

The venue also has a new air purification system, guests will be temperature screened, masks will be mandatory and table service will be provided to avoid the need for guests to line up at the bar for drinks.

“Absinthe,” of course, is one of the most popular and successful shows in the history of Las Vegas.

The show features one jaw-dropping variety act after another, and the festivities are hosted by The Gazillionaire and his assistant, Penny Pibbets.

Spiegelworld produces “Absinthe” at Caesars, as well as “Atomic Saloon” at Venetian and “Opium” at Cosmopolitan.

The company’s founder (sorry, “Impresario Extraordinaire”), Ross Mollison, says his other shows will return “very soon.”

Ross Mollison

Producer Ross Mollison is responsible for some of our favorite Las Vegas things. No, he didn’t invent Captain Morgan. Nobody’s perfect.

We trust “Opium” will no longer have performers spitting bananas into each others mouths, and cast members throwing dinner rolls into the audience at “Atomic Saloon” is likely to be nixed. Bummer.

“Absinthe” will have performances Wednesday through Sunday at 7:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. starting Oct. 28, 2020. Tickets here.

“Piff the Magic Dragon” is a hilarious comedy-magic show featuring demented genius John van der Put, his showgirl assistant Jade Simone and Piff’s pup, Mr. Piffles.

We rank Piff’s show among the very best, and funniest, in Las Vegas and we tend to hate everything.

Piff’s show has a lot of audience interaction, with audience members being asked up on stage (we’ll never live that down), but we assume there will be workarounds for those elements for the time being.

“Piff the Magic Dragon” will temporarily move into the Flamingo Showroom. The room can accommodate 250 people, the current limit for gatherings in Nevada.

Piff performs Thursday through Sunday at 7:30 p.m. starting Oct. 29, 2020. Tickets here.

Piff

Girlie, squirrelly and surly.

Some Las Vegas news is more fun to share than others, and this update is particularly gratifying.

While Las Vegas has been slowly recovering, the lack of shows has been painful.

It’s apropos “Absinthe” and “Piff” are among the first shows to reopen, as they represent the kind of Las Vegas shows we personally love, stuffed to the gills with originality, irreverence and mirth.

Also on the mirthy tip, it’s worth noting stand-up comedy shows have reopened at The Strat (L.A. Comedy Club) and Downtown Grand (Delirious Comedy Club).

The return of must-see Las Vegas shows like “Absinthe” and “Piff” isn’t merely a relief for the casts and crews whose lives and livelihoods have been on hold for seven months, it’s an invitation to experience unbridled, sometimes raunchy, joy in Las Vegas again.

The way Mother Nature, and The Gazillionaire, intended.