Show ends, but comedian says Las Vegas still part of his life

The road is calling George Wallace again, even if home is already a hotel.

On Saturday, the comedian was set to wrap up 10 years and three months as the Flamingo’s 10 p.m. headliner. Not bad for a guy who first signed on for a 90-day run.

But it sounds as if it will be tougher for Wallace to part with his hotel suite than the showroom he’s shared with Donny and Marie Osmond and others over the years.

I told him it was surprising that he never wanted a little separation from the tourists, following the trail of Marie Osmond, The Amazing Johnathan and others to a house in the suburbs.

“Dude, I don’t stay in a room, I got 2,000 square feet of property,” he says of accommodations that include a kitchen and office. So even though the show has ended, he’s negotiating to stay at the Flamingo through May, perhaps even the summer.

When it comes to the downstairs situation, the 66-year-old agrees things have changed over 10 years. Especially since 2007, when Wallace stumbled over loose wires in a private performance at Bellagio and ruptured his Achilles tendon.

A jury found Bellagio negligent and awarded him $1.3 million earlier this month. That’s when he threw in the towel at the Flamingo, where — like most Caesars Entertainment Corp. show tenants — he contracted the venue and worked for ticket revenue rather than a guaranteed salary.

“My niche was to go shake everybody’s hand” in the service industry, getting ticket vendors, valet parkers and bellhops to talk up his show. “But after the injury I couldn’t walk the streets like I normally do.”

Other things changed, too.

He’s never been happy with having another resident comedian, Vinnie Favorito, in the Flamingo’s smaller showroom since 2008. He thought former Flamingo President Don Marrandino was more accessible than the current regime.

And his 10 years included the recession, and the implosion of the time share industry. Wallace used to cut deals with the likes of Tahiti Village owner Consolidated Resorts, which would buy a guaranteed number of tickets at a discount rate to give away to those who sat through time-share pitches.

But in 2009, Consolidated shut down sales and marketing offices on the Strip.

Wallace did land in the right place at the right time. Many a comedic road warrior wanted to unpack his suitcase after the 2001 terrorist attacks tightened air travel. Wallace, Rita Rudner and Carrot Top reaped the rewards of being early arrivals to the Strip.

“What happened was, comedy caught on,” he says. “It caught on so well (that) now I have 18 competitors here in town. Maybe it’s time to go out and make money on the road. Everybody’s calling.”

Airports are flowing better now, and the grass now seems greener beyond the Strip. “In one hour I could have 52 weeks booked in comedy clubs around America,” cutting “door deals” for ticket revenue.

There are other options though. He’s developing a TV project that would be based in Las Vegas. He has fielded offers for morning radio. And Macau, he says, “makes Las Vegas look like Atlantic City.”

When his best friend Jerry Seinfeld did a walk-on at the Flamingo a few weeks ago, “he announced that I’m going back out on the road with him,” Wallace recalls with a chuckle.

“There’s so many irons in the fire and I’m so blessed,” he says. “I can do anything I want to and even nothing if I don’t want to.”

And, “I’m definitely staying in Las Vegas,” he adds. “I will still be a part of the community.”

Maybe even living off-Strip like the rest of us.

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

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