Category Archives: Las Vegas Shows

“Imaginarium” Falls Victim to Tropicana Curse, Set to Close

A magic show featuring David Goldrake, “Imaginarium,” has announced it will close at Tropicana on Sep. 30, 2018.

Lackluster ticket sales sealed the fate of the production show after a little more than a year at Tropicana.

How do we know it wasn’t selling tickets? Because successful shows don’t close in Las Vegas, that’s why.

David Goldrake

Trying to decide if it’s the gaze or hairpiece that make us the most uncomfortable.

A news release about the show’s closure attempted some misdirection, par for the course both because it’s a magic show and it’s Las Vegas. Public relations horseshittery is the law.

The release says, “Award-winning grand illusionist David Goldrake announces today he is planning to open a new show, set to debut to Las Vegas audiences in Spring, 2019.”

Right. In the parlance of Vegas entertainment, “Imaginarium” is on “haitus.”

To Goldrake’s credit, the show lastest 300 shows, according to the release, anything but a sure bet given what’s come to be called the “Tropicana curse.”

Tropicana

No, the Tropicana curse isn’t really a thing. We just like being the first result in Google when people search for that term.

Other shows that have fallen victim to the Tropicana curse include “Cherry Boom Boom,” “Raiding the Rock Vault,” “Mama Mia,” “Purple Reign,” Murray Sawchuck and Brad Garrett’s comedy club.

The performer hit hardest by the curse, though, has to be magician Jan Rouven. Rouven is currently in jail facing federal child porn charges.

While we haven’t seen “Imaginarium,” it appears to be a classic Las Vegas magic “spectacle,” teeming with dramatic hand gestures and lots of “Voila!”

You know, the kind of magic show people aren’t clamoring to see anymore.

Do yourself a favor and catch Penn & Teller at Rio or Mac King at Harrah’s.

“Divas Las Vegas” Closes Abruptly at Linq Hotel, Requisite Drama Ensues

One of the longest-running shows on the Las Vegas Strip, “Divas Las Vegas,” has closed suddenly after eight years at the Linq hotel (formerly Imperial Palace and the Quad, for a minute).

“Divas Las Vegas” featured a cast of celebrity look-alike female impersonators lip-syncing and dancing to popular songs.

The drag revue starred Joan Rivers impersonator and Las Vegas institution, Frank Marino.

Frank Marino

Marino’s eight year stint at Linq followed a 24-year run at Riviera in “An Evening at La Cage.”

Although the cast didn’t realize it at the time, the show’s last performance at Linq was June 26, 2018.

The demise of “Divas” was so abrupt, it came as a surprise to just about everyone at Linq hotel and its parent company, Caesars Entertainment. For example, on the night the show’s untimely end was reported, the Caesars blog auto-posted a story promoting the show. The article was quickly removed.

Signage advertising “Divas Las Vegas” is already coming down across the Linq resort and elsewhere.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal was the first to confirm the show’s closure, but chose not to share, or is possibly not aware of, details of the drama surrounding the show’s going dark.

Derrick Barry

This is our favorite “Divas” performer, Derrick Barry. Yes, you’re allowed to be straight and have a favorite drag performer. This isn’t the 1950s.

While it’s being reported the closing of “Divas Las Vegas” was a “mutual decision” between Caesars Entertainment and the show’s producers, that’s far from the full story, according to our contacts.

We’ve heard several unverified reports that the end of “Divas” was sparked by an investigation into fraud related to the collection of funds for charity.

Frank Marino is a longtime supporter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the show publicizes proceeds from merchandise sales are donated to charity.

Divas Las Vegas curtain call

It’s Frank Marino’s final curtain call at the Linq.

We’ve also heard a number of Linq showroom employees were fired in recent weeks. The cause of those terminations is unknown, but appears to be related to the investigation.

Sources further share that when Frank Marino was informed he and members of his team were part of the fraud investigation, he was incensed and threatened to end the show. Caesars Entertainment reps, according to sources, informed Marino he was free to do so.

Ouch. That’s nearly as awkward as when Caesars Entertainment named the theater “Divas” performed in for nearly a decade the Mat Franco Theater, after magician Mat Franco had been there just two years.

In the words of a Las Vegas burlesque performer, nicknamed Sweetie Bird, “A drag show closing? It would be weird it there wasn’t any drama.”

While “Divas Las Vegas” had a solid run, word is the show’s ticket sales have flagged recently, and show cancellations had become more frequent.

Divas red carpet

The “Divas” cast out and about.

Crack Las Vegas Review-Journal entertainment reporter Johnny Kats has reported “Divas” will relocate this fall, and claims the show will go dark at least through September. Yes, the dreaded “haitus” so many Las Vegas shows have fallen victim to, including the recent “Marilyn.”

Read the Review-Journal story for some obligatory public relations nonsense, both from Frank Marino (“Here’s a random ‘Gone With the Wind’ quote!”) and Caesars Entertainment (“Nothing to see here!”).

We trust any potential relocation of “Divas” will depend upon the outcome of the investigation into alleged wrongdoing, and it seems unlikely the show would move to another Caesars Entertainment resort given the friction caused by the current unpleasantness.

Casinos, of course, are prickly about their reputations because of strict gaming regulations. Even allegations of illegal or unethical behavior are met with quick and serious ramifications.

At one point, Caesars Entertainment gave comedian Vinnie Favorito the boot from Flamingo because of his gambling debts, some of which were incurred via Caesars employees.

“Divas Las Vegas” was a much-loved show, very much woven into the entertainment fabric of Las Vegas.

For a drag show, it drew an incredibly diverse audience, and longtime fans are sure to be dismayed by recent events.

Divas Las Vegas

The divas celebrated their 1,000th show at Linq hotel in July 2012.

Should Frank Marino and his team be vindicated, we hope he’ll find another home for his quirky, entertaining show. Given the fact Joan Rivers passed away in 2014, it might be an opportune time for Marino to revamp his act.

Update (7/1/18): The “Divas” saga continues to unfold as chatter intensifies. From what we hear, this episode could open Pandora’s Box in Vegas, as it involves allegations of shady ticketing practices, kickbacks and potentially even tax evasion.

Latest rumors are Caesars Entertainment has wanted “Divas” out of Linq for some time. The show is a dinosaur and is a hold-over from another era in Las Vegas entertainment. It also doesn’t fit with the Linq brand, and sales numbers were declining rapidly.

Questions raised (possibly by a show insider) about funds raised for charity not going to charity were an opening for the legal eagles at Caesars to dig into a variety of business practices at the showroom. (It appears Mat Franco was not involved with any of the questionable behavior.)

From what we hear, it’s been a “running gag” among industry insiders that while “Divas” hawked merchandise in the name of charities, funds rarely, if ever, made it into the hands of charities.

Remarkably, shows get to self-report merchandise and other revenue numbers, so there’s a lot of room for malfeasance. Cash sales are often not reported at all. The mind reels.

Virtually everyone involved in Linq showroom has been let go, from theater manager to servers to ticket office staff.

From what we’ve heard, most of the questionable practices were violations of Caesars Entertainment policies and don’t meet the threshold for illegality, although if allegations of tax evasion are true, that’s a bigger legal issue.

Those close to the situation suspect it will not involve outside law enforcement, other than potentially the IRS. Caesars Entertainment isn’t anxious to have this dirty laundry aired publicly.

It’s worth noting Caesars Entertainment has strict policies related to not giving incentives to box office agents. This policy is alleged to have been violated, often. It’s actually not an uncommon practice in Las Vegas to grease the palms of ticket agents, but it’s prohibited at Caesars Entertainment resorts.

Another rumored element of “Divas” investigation relates to “comp” ticket practices. Shows report tickets as having been given away, but actually sell them and pocket the money. This skirts sales tax and LET laws.

It should be said, most of the practices mentioned fly under the radar in Las Vegas entertainment realm. What’s different with “Divas” is Caesars Entertainment’s long-standing interest in getting the show out, and declining revenue exposing irregularities in the show’s finances.

Shady practices have led to drama for Vegas shows in the past. Nathan Burton at one point is rumored to have had his theater door padlocked when the jig was up.

The fate of “Divas Las Vegas” is up in the air. Given recent revelations, other venues are sure to question whether “Divas” is a good fit, and whether the risks are worth the rewards.

Update (7/3/18): Well, no surprises here, but our story sparked a full-blown controversy, complete with apologies and PR bullshittery galore.

First, “Divas” star Frank Marino, after days of denials and spin, fessed up to collecting funds for Make-A-Wish but not actually giving the money the charity.

Here’s part of Frank Marino’s statement: “As some are aware, I have historically given a portion of the proceeds from the sales of certain ‘Divas Las Vegas’ merchandise to the Make-A-Wish Foundation as well as incorporating them into special events like my Celebrity Roast held at the Stratosphere Hotel in which all of the proceeds and donations were given to them personally. I’m saddened to say that due to my own negligence, Make-A-Wish has not received a check from me for some time. I am personally embarrassed and ashamed. I take full responsibility and am sincerely apologetic for this situation.”

Our translation: “Having been caught, I am forced to do the right thing after denying anything was amiss. At all.” Got it.

Marino goes on to say, “I have confirmed the figure which I would have customarily donated to them from a percentage of my merchandise sales and have offered to substantially increase that many times over.”

That’s cool. Apologize and make it right. Here’s the full statement.

Oh, and Marino also made this weird statement, “Numerous other false allegations have been circulated, they are inaccurate; ‘Divas’ agreed with Caesars to terminate the production which had been performed seven days a week.”

We assume it’s our allegations that are false, and we have no idea how the number of performances relates to anything, but we are not diva psychic.

Insert voice of collective Las Vegas media saying, “Well, he apologized, nothing to see here!” Sigh.

Yeah, and Steve Wynn was the only person doing bad things at Wynn Resorts, and he was also the only casino executive in Las Vegas harassing women, and not a single other person knew about anything he was doing except the victims. Deep sigh.

As for Caesars, it, too, released a statement. It’s the law.

Hope you’re wearing waders, because Caesars said, “Caesars Entertainment holds itself to the highest standards and given the non-payment of donations to Make-A-Wish by ‘Divas,’ we determined that a relationship with this show was no longer suitable. Upon discovering and fully investigating this issue, we immediately took all appropriate actions in response. Caesars enjoyed a long, mutually successful relationship with the Divas production team, which it hoped would have continued for many more years, and the show’s cancellation is due solely to these circumstances.”

So, at first Caesars said it was a mutual decision to end “Divas.” Now, they’re saying they made the decision. Both can’t be true. That’s how truth works.

Here’s a spiny question: If the closure of “Divas” was specifically related to charity donations, why were virtually the entire showroom and ticket office staff, including a theater manager of nearly 40 years, fired? These folks had nothing to do with merchandise, as that was handled by “Divas” staff members. So, they were either fired for no reason, or the whole story hasn’t come out. At least not officially.

As we said, that’s not really how Las Vegas works. While the mob no longer runs Vegas, some of their traditions remain intact. You don’t snitch, and you keep your business to yourself.

And “mutually successful relationships” sometimes end with one of the parties involved going missing. We’ll see if that will be Frank Marino’s fate, as casinos live by a “code,” and you don’t end a show because somebody was late on their charity payments.

Update (7/5/18): Multiple media outlets have reported the Nevada Gaming Control Board is investing “Divas Las Vegas” and Caesars Entertainment in regard to the show’s closing. For the record, this is not a common practice when a show closes in Las Vegas. You’re welcome.

“Baz” to Close at The Palazzo Las Vegas

It has not been a good week for Broadway-style musicals in Las Vegas.

First, it was announced “Marilyn” will close at Paris after just 15 performances.

Now, the cast of “Baz” at Palazzo has been informed that show, too, will close.

The final curtain comes down at “Baz” on July 29, 2018.

Baz

Don’t be too hard on yourself, “Baz,” that was a a solid run.

For a good part of its run, “Baz” was called “Baz: Star Crossed Love.” At one point, its title was “Baz: A Musical Mash-Up.”

Lately, it’s been referred to as “Baz: A Musical Tour de Force.”

The show originally opened at Light Nightclub in Mandalay Bay in 2015, but closed after just two months, in August 2015.

To the surprise of just about everyone, “Baz” re-opened at the Palazzo Theater in July 2016.

Baz Star Crossed Love

Where will we go now when we want to see lovers thwarted? There’s a definite lack of thwarting in Las Vegas shows.

In November of 2016, we got wind of lagging ticket sales and shared that the show’s days were numbered. While ultimately true, its number of days were greater than most expected.

“Baz” boasted songs and scenes from three Baz Luhrmann films: “Romeo + Juliet,” “Moulin Rouge” and “The Great Gatsby.”

The show has featured any number of world-class peformers, and the closing will come as a blow to its die-hard fans.

Disastrous “Marilyn, The New Musical” to Close at Paris

Like a candle in a wind tunnel, “Marilyn, The New Musical” is being extinguished at Paris Las Vegas after just 15 performances since its official opening on June 1.

“Marilyn” closes June 17, 2018.

Marilyn musical closed

“Marilyn” is closing. Sorry, the gays.

From what we hear, the implosion of “Marilyn, The New Musical” had little to do with the talent of its cast.

Even as the show opened, there were rumors of behind-the-scenes drama, including a lack of competent direction and serious financial issues, and entertainment insiders predicted the show would have a very short run.

Few predicted the run would be this short. Oh, wait, no, there was us.

Marilyn

Look at all the fatalistic fun you’re missing on Twitter!

It should be noted we’re the one calling the show “closed,” not the show itself.

In an admirable piece of fiction, a news release says, “After launching to critical acclaim, ‘Marilyn: The New Musical’ will be going on a summer hiatus from Tuesday, June 19 through Monday, Sept. 3 in order to further refine the show and prepare for the Las Vegas-created production to launch a national tour. Performances at Paris Las Vegas will resume Tuesday, Sept. 4.”

Ah, the old “show refinement” ploy.

“Marilyn, The New Musical” won’t be resuming at Paris, or anywhere else for that matter.

In fact, we’re going to predict several others shows planned by the producer, writer and director of “Marilyn,” Tegan Summers, won’t be happening as announced, either. Las Vegas is a very small town and word gets around.

Summers was supposed to bring a series of Broadway-style shows to Las Vegas. The shows were to feature stories about Bettie Page and James Dean, with another involving EDM DJ and producer Steve Aoki.

Don’t hold your breath.

While ambitious, Broadway-style theatrical productions are hit-and-miss in Las Vegas. For every “Jersey Boys,” there’s a “Surf, The Musical.” For every “Phantom of the Opera,” there’s an “Avenue Q.”

For every “Mamma Mia” at Mandalay Bay there’s a “Mamma Mia” at Tropicana. Long story.

We trust the “Marilyn” cast and crew will find new gigs worthy of their time and talents.

Wynn Resorts Rights a Wrong, Rolls Back Paid Parking

Few saw it coming, but Wynn Resorts has bucked a trend by announcing it will give free parking to its hotel guests, as well as a way for us commoners to get free parking, too.

Your first question, of course: Las Vegas hotels make their own guests pay for parking?

Well, yes. Where have you been?

Currently, Wynn and Encore charge guests for self-park and valet, a trend that’s become the norm in Las Vegas, just as it is in other cities.

Self-park rates run $7 for the first 1-2 hours, $12 for 2-4 hours and $15 up to 24 hours. Valet charges currently run from $18 (up to two hours), to $27 for 24 hours.

Starting July 1, 2018, that all changes.

Wynn Encore

Wynn Resorts could use some positive buzz right about now. Free parking is a great place to start.

Guests of Wynn and Encore will be able to self-park or valet for free. Remember when free parking was a thing in Las Vegas?

Free parking for hotel guests will be included in their $39 resort fee. Wynn Resorts assures customers the resort fee won’t be increased to accommodate the new policy.

Don’t get us started about resort fees. That’s a fight for another day.

But wait, there’s more.

Non-hotel guests will also be able to park free, albeit with validation. Guests will be validated upon receipt of a $50 spend at Wynn or Encore.

That minimum can be spent at all the retail stores, restaurants, shows, nightclubs and lounges at either of the resorts.

Players will be pleased to hear even money spent gambling counts toward the $50 minimum spend to get free parking. The company hasn’t release details about how that will work, but we trust they’ll figure it out.

Wynn parasols

Sorry, gazing at the pretty things won’t get your parking validated. Buy a couple of drinks, though, and you’re good.

This change in paid parking policy is a pretty big deal in Las Vegas. Paid parking is an ongoing source of frustration for visitors, and many believe is has caused a shift in public perception of Las Vegas as a value destination.

We are one of those people.

So, what’s the motivation behind Wynn Resorts’ move?

Well, there’s the official answer, referred to as “horseshit” in public relations parlance.

Maurice Wooden, President of Wynn Las Vegas, said, “We have come to believe that charging additional parking fees is counter to the personalized service we provide. This new policy directly reflects the way we know our guests want and deserve to be treated.”

So, it suddenly dawned on them guests don’t like having to pay for parking? Right.

Wynn $5,000 machine

This machine at Wynn is $5,000 per spin. You’re covered on the parking.

Wynn Resorts has at least three reasons to change its paid parking policies.

First, its restaurants, shows and retail stores have taken a hit since paid parking was instituted. And it’s not just happening at Wynn and Encore, but at casinos all across Las Vegas.

Restaurants don’t receive the financial benefits of paid parking, at all, so they’re being hurt with nothing to show for it.

Increasingly, restaurants, shows and retail stores are letting their casino overlords know they’re suffering, and it appears Wynn Resorts is listening.

Second, it’s Wynn Resorts, so there’s an undeniable public image component.

Generously setting aside parking fees can’t hurt during a time when Wynn Resorts is trying to restore its tarnished reputation following the Steve Wynn sexual misconduct scandal.

Wynn Resorts is throwing everyone a bone. Which, come to think of it, is what got Steve Wynn in all that trouble in the first place.

We’ll wait.

Wynn funny chip

Oh, like we’d do a story about Wynn without including this chip. Do you know this blog at all?

Third, follow the money.

Wynn’s neighbors, Venetian and Palazzo, still offer free parking. That means many customers park at these competing casinos and walk to Wynn and Encore.

One of the cardinal rules of Las Vegas casinos: Don’t send customers to a competitor. Guests may intend to pass through Palazzo to gamble and dine at Wynn, but there are lots of distractions along the way.

So, the bottom line is Venetian and Palazzo deserve props for holding strong on free parking. If they’d rolled out paid parking, it’s unlikely Wynn Resorts would be changing its policies.

Palazzo

We all owe you a beer, Palazzo.

Along those same lines, let’s not forget another neighbor with free parking: Fashion Show Mall. You can bet there’s a collective sigh of relief at retail outlets inside Wynn and Encore right about now.

We can only hope the new parking program at Wynn and Encore is an acknowledgment by casinos that paid parking is an unnecessary annoyance to customers.

Paid parking is a short-sighted revenue play that hurts brands and, ultimately, Las Vegas.

Let’s hope the other big casino companies in Las Vegas, Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts (which started this whole paid parking mess), see the light, too.

Barry Manilow Finally Confirms Westgate Residency

Confirming a story we first got wind of back in Nov. 2017, Barry Manilow will undertake a new Las Vegas residency at Westgate Las Vegas.

The renowned singer-songwriter launches his follow-up to a two-year stint at Paris Las Vegas on May 24, 2018.

His new production, “Manilow Las Vegas: The Hits Come Home,” will be 85 minutes long.

The “home” in the show’s title is presumably a reference to the fact Manilow had a previous five-year run at Westgate (then the Las Vegas Hilton) that started in Feb. 24, 2005 and ran through 2010.

Barry Manilow at Westgate

Fun fact: Barry Manilow didn’t write one of his biggest hits, “I Write the Songs.” It was written by Bruce Johnston.

Manilow’s new show will feature some 40 of his top 40 hits, as well as a crowd-pleasing medley of catchy jingles he wrote for commercials back in the day.

Manilow wrote “You Deserve a Break Today” for McDonald’s, “Stuck on Band-Aid” for Band-Aid and “Like a Good Neighbor” for State Farm, among many others.

At 74, Barry Manilow has expressed a desire to have an easier schedule, as well as wanting to be able to keep his back gainfully employed, so his schedule will be relatively light at Westgate.

Scheduled dates are May 24-26, June 14-16, June 21-23, July 19-21, July 26-28, Sep. 27-29 and Oct. 4-6.

Tickets prices will range from $19.75 to $329.75.

Barry Manilow

Also fun: When Barry Manilow lived in Bel-Air, he frequently received room service from the Bel-Air Hotel at his home.

Manilow should be a much-needed boost to a spotty history of entertainment offerings at Westgate.

Additionally, his schedule is realistic and the theater is small enough (about 1,600 seats, despite the fact Manilow has said it’s 3,000 in media reports) that the producers shouldn’t have to paper the house to keep the theater full.

We saw Barry Manilow’s show at Paris, and his voice was still strong and charisma (and humor) were very much intact, so we look forward to seeing “Manilow Las Vegas: The Hits Come Home” at Westgate.