Performance heroic or heinous? No one's certain


I wasn’t even in Las Vegas last Sunday night. And if I was, I probably would have been turning in and not down at the Plaza at 11 p.m.

But had I been? Depending on whom you believe, I would have seen ...

A. One of the worst shows ever performed on a Las Vegas stage. Or,

B. A heroic effort to save the day and live out the old adage, “The show must go on.”

What is clear? The reason why every entertainer in town is trying to sell a reality show: The real story was backstage.

Sunday’s odd performance came after John Lewis, one of three producers of “Centerfolds of Magic” — and the one responsible for the magic — had a falling out with main investor Bill Gillespie.

Lewis alleges Gillespie wasn’t paying the cast and crew on time. “I said, if you don’t have (the money) Saturday, I’m pulling my (magic props) out of here, because I won’t let the hotel put a lien on my magic equipment.”

The issue wasn’t settled, and “Sunday morning I had a truck down there.”

But you know the adage. The tale now shifts to variety performer Joe Trammel. “I told (Gillespie), ‘If you close this show down even for one night, it’s going to look like it’s shut down. You can’t let it get out there.’

“So here we are, we’ve got literally three hours that day,” Trammel says. “We just called every magician in town” to borrow illusions that were either similar to what Lewis pulled or easy to learn.

“We had over a dozen magicians (respond). We may have had a team of 20 people who came together,” Trammel says. “We had U-Hauls pulling up to the Plaza.”

The generosity, Trammel says, “gave me chills. They weren’t asking for money or anything. They were like, ‘We’re just here to make this work.’ We did the show that night and we pulled it off.”

Or did they?

Two industry professionals were there. They want to be anonymous out of concern of being seen as petty. But they claimed to see a 50-minute train wreck, 20 of them done by Trammel.

“Everything worked somehow, but nobody applauded,” one said. “It was uncomfortable because the people don’t know exactly what is wrong, but they feel something is wrong with the show.”

“It’s not good for magic in general,” the witness added. Those in that small audience “will never want to go to another magic show.”

It wasn’t clear at this writing whether the heroic effort worked or if the show would implode anyway.

Again, I wasn’t there. But I’ve seen enough shows that shouldn’t be on a Las Vegas stage, so low-rent they threaten the larger image of the city’s entertainment. Over time, I’ve drifted from rushing to see every new arrival to giving the dubious ones time to prove they can stay open.

And some do. Trammel hopes “Centerfolds” is one of them.

“I need this to work. ... I have a family and baby on the way. I’m counting on this. I don’t think any of us are doing anything wrong by trying to keep this alive.”

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.