Are you ready to party?
I get asked that a lot lately. It just doesn’t seem to be in places where the answer is “Yes.”
Don’t think I don’t know where the party is. It’s just one that wants me there only slightly less than I want to be there.
Josh Eells’ recent New Yorker piece about Las Vegas nightclubs is yet another reminder of what an astonishing cash machine they have become, and how they are making traditional Las Vegas entertainment financially irrelevant by comparison.
It notes the Herculean effort that went into launching Shania Twain at Caesars Palace, including an expensive publicity stunt that closed Las Vegas Boulevard on a weekday.
Eells quotes XS club manager Sean Christie: “Those shows have just gotten killed.” Citing the sell-out capacity for the Colosseum at Caesars Palace, Christie observed, “If we did 4,300 people at XS on a Saturday, we’d be out of business.”
XS, you see, draws 6,000 to 8,000 people a night with, the New Yorker piece claims, a 50 percent profit margin. Eells writes of $25,000 banquette tables and a $100,000 bottle of Armand de Brignac champagne ceremoniously delivered to its buyer.
The thin margins for a sit-down show — Shania and Celine don’t work cheap, after all — seem trivial by comparison.
And shows keep retreating to earlier in the evenings to stay out of the way of the clubs. I never quite got this, and producers don’t seem to either. Seems like everyone else clearly understands that if you want to party, you go to a club. If you want to sit and watch a show, you buy a ticket.
But only a few shows — usually topless dance revues — even bother starting after 10 p.m. I wonder if Wayne Newton thinks we’re all wimps? Or if he’s just angry that he fried his voice over the decades when his second show routinely started at 12:30 a.m.?
Despite all this, shows seem obsessed with trying to pull some of the party action their way.
A short-lived fizzle called “The D*Word” handed out plastic shot glasses to watch a show about women sitting around a table and complaining about stuff.
The “Dancing Queen” revue at Planet Hollywood Resort kept telling us, “Get up on your feet if you want to dance!”
Uh, we’re good.
In the same Planet Hollywood Resort theater, Cee Lo Green served up an eccentric mix of dancing girls and pizza parlor robots, which was apparently not what enough of us considered a party after midnight.
More recently in that theater, the great showman Meat Loaf copped a Southern preacher voice to get us on our feet: “You’re gonna get up and sing! Or else you’re gonna owe me five dollahs! … You’re gonna sing to the heavens above!”
It reminded me of my better party days, when the consummate bar rocker Mojo Nixon would whip a couple of hundred of us into a frenzy to chant profundities such as “Yo Zamfir! Get your butt over here!”
But the master of the pan flute was then. This is now, so I ask my fellow peeps in their 40s and 50s, do you want to party?
If so, what do you want to do?
I’m not talking about you locals. We all have our Lon Bronsons and our Sin City Sinners and our watering holes close to home.
But I’m curious about you folks who are here for a Vegas weekend, and don’t have to worry about driving. You didn’t come here to crash at 10 p.m. but you’re too old to know your Kaskades from your Afrojacks.
What would keep you out late?
It’s a question the casino magnates haven’t quite forgotten, if you can trust a secondhand report of a veteran entertainer’s conversation with a chief executive of one of the Strip’s two big players.
“They are trying to figure out what to do for the high roller that comes out of dinner at 9:30 after spending a lot of money,” says the entertainer.
We used to have these things called the lounges. I’m too young for the Louis Prima era, but old enough to know when all questions of where to land could be answered with two simple words (and one middle initial): Cook E. Jarr. You could sit and watch the campy lounge king, or get up and dance. What a concept.
But lounges at some point became stigmatized as dead space that could be more profitably leased out.
Perhaps the answer lies in these new retail corridors in the pipeline, such as The Linq. Peter Shapiro, co-owner of the Brooklyn Bowl due to open there, sounds like he has my Mojo Nixon memories in mind with a plan to offer grown-up party bands such as Galactic late at night.
Did the megaclubs put too premature an end to the “ultralounge” concept? Would you hang in a place with music at conversational levels, perhaps to watch a retro crooner? The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas’ Chandelier seemed to find potential here.
But the official shows, I fear, will be stuck with us deadbeats for the forseeable future. Maybe if they just concentrated on being good shows, and not keep trying to get me to dance …
Really, it’s not you. It’s me.
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0288.