Middle keeps shrinking on Strip


You may not have heard of Tommy Wind, but he’s a magician on the Strip.

Don’t ask me if he’s any good. Gotta admit, I haven’t seen his show.

One thing I’ve learned, don’t rush. Not to see every new, self-financed dreamer who opens up shop in a bottom-rung venue on the show business ladder. Most of them don’t have a chance, and the general idea here is to write about the shows people actually go to see.

Now, I was way more excited about the 2009 arrival of “Peepshow.” This was a $12 million reinvention of burlesque — until then a low-budget genre I still love — by a top Broadway director, Jerry Mitchell.

What a jolt of fresh thinking. Just what the Strip needed to push beyond its established genre conventions.

But come September? “Peepshow” will be closed at Planet Hollywood but apparently looking to reopen. Which happens to describe Wind’s status right now. I wouldn’t rule out either coming back. But if I had to pick today which one we’d see back first, I have to go with the magician.

Wind has managed to perform more than 260 shows since early last year. He tells me he has a deal in place to build out a 250-seat Tommy Wind Theater in a retail plaza on the Strip.

Management turnover at the Boulevard Theater currently has him sidelined, but he says the door is not at all closed for him to return there as well. (Should that happen, he would rent out the venue he’s building to other hopefuls. How’s that for irony?)

So, another guy telling us his show has closed, but don’t worry, he’ll be back soon. We’ll see, right?

But here’s the thing. If “Peepshow” does return, it will be doing things more Wind’s way.

I’m not saying this is necessarily good. In fact, it’s a little troubling. But it is what it is, and the two shows illustrate what’s going on in Las Vegas entertainment these days.

You hear about the shrinking middle class in this country, and it seems to be happening on the Strip as well.

At one end of the spectrum, we have Cirque du Soleil with Michael Jackson songs (although, if you look closely at “One,” you will see even it is not the spectacle of “O” or “Ka”).

At the other end, a lot of stand-up comedians. And the Tommy Wind show, which includes his mom, dad, two dancers and four stagehands.

“I keep my costs as low as possible. When the bad times come you have to stay open,” he says. “I’ve always negotiated ticket-split deals. A lot of shows in town will pay a huge, huge rent, $30,000 or $40,000 a week.”

It’s the middle that seems to be suffering. I worry about worthy titles such as “Million Dollar Quartet” and “Raiding the Rock Vault.” A new version of “Peepshow” would likely continue a downwardly mobile trajectory that began in 2011, cutting the live band and some of the production value.

Further cost-cutting is the main logic behind the rumored attempt to move.

Tommy Wind’s threadbare operation cannot be a realistic “apples and apples” comparison to a $12 million investment. Still, he seems to have figured out how to survive without as many cab tops and billboards.

“A lot of performers send their reps to visit the ticket brokers, but I show up personally with coffee and cakes and magic stuff for their kids,” he explains. “They’re happy I’m there, I’ll talk to them for half an hour.”

And, he says, when he gets his reports, “I know that it’s working because the booths I visited sold the most tickets. My relationship with the ticket brokers is huge, and that’s really what’s helping.”

Wind also works hard to keep changing and improving his show. “My mom will tell me, ‘That joke is not funny. Take it out.’ ”

And he tries to offer as much production value as his budget will allow, such as a segment with an aerialist performing while he plays piano.

So this could be the bitter new reality. Any show without Michael Jackson music having to do more with less.

But Wind seems to be managing. If and when he reopens, I’ll have to go see for myself.

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