Beacher’s Madhouse will offer something old in an entirely new way

Jeff Beacher caters to celebrities, but he never forgets the little people.

Pointing to areas of his Beacher’s Madhouse, he shows where one little person will emerge from a phone booth. Another will shoot out of a cannon. And yet another from the hindquarters of the gilded elephant that serves as a chief design element of the cozy showroom.

And if sometimes he slips and still calls these performers midgets?

“Being the No. 1 little-person employer in the world, it would be very un-PC to piss me off,” says the man who plans to keep 20 of them working in Hollywood and his new Las Vegas operation at the MGM Grand.

The sideshow is the main show at the Madhouse, which Beacher describes as “a modern vaudeville show.”

“Mini-Miley Cyrus will come on a wrecking ball and be grinding with a mini-Robin Thicke,” promises the man who supplies the real Cyrus with sideshow performers for her tours.

And in turn, the real Cyrus lent her infamy to Beacher as opening-night “host” of the new Madhouse on Dec. 27. Billboard ads featuring Cyrus were the perfect way to announce the return of a comedy club often better known for its audience than the product onstage.

Beacher begins to rattle the names of celebs who have visited his 150-seat room at the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel: Johnny Depp, Sandra Bullock, David Beckham.

It’s easier, he decides, to say who wasn’t there.

“Tom Cruise never came.

“The Scientologists are my good friends and I still couldn’t get Tom,” he adds, with no indication that this is in jest.

The rotund former stand-up comedian was in fact, a little stressed and serious during a pre-Christmas tour of the new room, which was still taking shape at that point.

And no wonder. What he cites as a $10 million remodel of the former Crazy Horse Paris showroom is all on him this time.

Ten years ago (to the weekend), the first Beacher’s Madhouse debuted as a periodic show at the Hard Rock Hotel. Then, it was a different story. Beacher was best friends with Harry Morton, the son of Hard Rock co-founder Peter Morton.

“The Morton family gave me a very large budget, enabled me to develop the show,” he says. “I didn’t know what I was doing, I just used up all the money. The shows cost 200 grand per show.”

The Hard Rock was part of the New Yorker’s gradual evolution from furniture salesman to stand-up comedian to promoter. “It was easier emceeing than thinking up material,” he explains. “My specialty is creating performances and doing all that.”

As soon as he pulled off his first big show, drawing 4,000 people to the Paramount theater in New York, he knew he had found his calling. But arriving in Las Vegas, Beacher realized he would have to put his gift for ballyhoo to work in a city famous for it.

“No one knew us. We couldn’t sell any tickets, nothing. I thought of this stunt I did in New York before. It got a lot of press.”

So, just a few hundred yards from his new location at the MGM, Beacher donned a Speedo and jumped into a 10,000 aquarium at the Rainforest Cafe.

The national press in town for the Billboard Music Awards made a big splash of it.

For three years, Madhouse nights in the Hard Rock’s original Joint showroom combined old-Vegas methodology — focusing on casino and bar traffic instead of trying to break even on ticket sales — with a preview of the city’s new, nightclub era: Attractive women were offered free tickets. Dudes pay.

The Hard Rock “made a lot of money on me and I made a lot of money and we had a really fun time, which is always the most important thing,” Beacher says.

But in 2006, the Morton family sold the Hard Rock. Beacher headed to Hollywood, where celebrity cachet and bottle service now drive a small room that seats only 150 people to $5 million in annual revenue, he says.

The new Madhouse is not the one fans will remember from the Hard Rock. It’s ramping up to two shows a night in a year-round operation. Beacher has enlisted V Theater operator and show producer David Saxe as hands-on producer to make the circus run on time.

And while the Hard Rock was at its heart a stand-up comedy operation — rising stars such as Lisa Lampanelli were among the early headliners — the new Madhouse is pure vaudeville.

“In the beginning it was all stand-up and it was great. But when it evolved into the variety show, there was no room for both of them,” he says. “The room got too crazy and even with the best comedians in the world, it was too crazy for them. The crowd’s too energized.”

Beacher promises a 6-foot-7 exotic dancer, and another “who crushes watermelons and cans with her breasts.” But his name is on the joint, and he will be back and forth between his two locations on a tour bus — and soon, if things go well for him, a private plane.

The new Madhouse arrives to heightened competition. Nightclubs have exploded, and shows such as “Absinthe” and the new Rose.Rabbit.Lie at The Cosmopolitan also offer immersive theater in a decadent environment.

Beacher thinks his celebrity friends will lend a competitive edge. “My friends will come in to have fun, do stuff with us. We’ll get press.” Nightclubs have to pay big appearance fees to celebrities, but “no one wants to be a monkey in a cage,” he says.

And the Madhouse might just be that haven for those who are too old for nightclub electronica, but too young to call it a night.

“I’ll have all the rich sugar daddies and all the young, beautiful girls. Story of my life. Every city I’ve been in. Somebody has to cater to it.”

And who better? Beacher is in a better mood now, despite this new club that needed to get finished on time.

“I’m a machine, buddy. I’m a perfect selling machine. I’m Ricky Bobby of the vaudeville business. I run on one speed.”

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

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