A picture of Charo smiles down from one little corner of the V Theater, a reminder that once upon a time, somebody thought she could have this whole place to herself.
That was in 2003, when the Sevilla steakhouse and nightclub, with Charo as headliner, opened in the mall now called the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood. It lasted four months.
But the venue lived on to become the busiest show space in town. Depending on what day or time of year you count, the V can juggle as many as 10 titles and 17 performances in a single day.
If Charo returned to look around now, she might find an inch or two of the 35,000 square feet that proprietor David Saxe hasn't yet found a way to use. A cigar lounge with fireplace has even been refitted with poles to host classes in "Stripper 101."
Peeking in on shows as one might in a movie multiplex, you could see:
• A cat jumping through a paper-covered hoop.
• Two go-go gals in dresses emblazoned with British flags, shimmying to "I Saw Her Standing There."
• Motown tribute singer Jin Jin Reeves pleading "Can I get a man?" before pulling a balding retiree from the audience to sing along, flatly, to "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman."
• Two guys doing a balancing act: one standing on the ground holding the other upside down, with no means of support beyond their upper backs pressed shoulder to shoulder.
• A nun dancing to "Boogie Oogie Oogie."
• A burlesque dancer shedding her glasses and shaking out a ponytail for Van Halen's "Hot for Teacher."
• Hypnotized people doing unspeakable things to blowup dolls.
These sights are witnessed, in corresponding order, in "Gregory Popovich: Comedy Pet Theater," "Fab Four Live," "Hitzville," "V -- The Ultimate Variety Show," "Tony n' Tina's Wedding," "Sin City Comedy" and "Mesmerized." "The Mentalist" Gerry McCambridge and the male revue "American Storm" are among the other shows in the venue.
Saxe, 40, has to jot the titles down on a yellow legal pad to make sure he isn't forgetting any. But, he says, "When I write that huge rent check (to the mall), it's crazy. I need to maximize this space."
"He's very good at that," says Russ Joyner, the mall's general manager. "He's the self-proclaimed 'King of the B's' and he does a great job with that," Joyner says of a title usually associated with low-budget film legend Roger Corman.
The comparison helps keep all this in perspective. Saxe's flagship show, "V," seats 400 to 500 people. On an average night, the V Theater might run 2,200 people through its doors for all shows combined. A single performance of Cirque du Soleil's "Love" fits 2,013 people.
And Cirque probably has more room backstage. One show the public never sees at the V is the 20-minute turnover between Popovich's trained animals and the Beatles band.
Russian instructions mingle with English as two crews hustle past one another, a dozen cat carriers making way for guitar amps. The faux Beatles are set up and sound-checked by the time the doors open to the public, 10 minutes before show time.
At first, they said it couldn't be done. Saxe said it had to be. "Prime time," he says, is 7 to 9 p.m. It makes a big difference to have the last show start at 10 instead of 10:30 p.m.
Saxe grew up helping his mom produce his sister's act: "Melinda -- the First Lady of Magic." In 2002, Saxe followed Melinda's Venetian showcase with "V," a whole show made of the variety acts that once were a staple of Las Vegas revues.
He copied the concept for "Ovation," assembled to fill the newly anointed Ovation Theater after the Sevilla nightclub went belly up in April 2003 -- with Charo high on the list of creditors -- and reverted to its general contractor, Martin Harris Construction.
Saxe soon sold his interest in "Ovation." But he was invited back in April 2004 when, he says, Harris officials told him, "We don't want to be in show business after all." By then, a lease-purchase offer made sense: "V" had received its walking papers at The Venetian to make way for Blue Man Group.
The newly named V Theater worked, but "I realized every penny of the 'V' show now was going all back into the theater," Saxe says. And so he became landlord as well as producer, with tenants sharing a well-staffed marketing machine and the collective wooing of ticket brokers.
Last May, an upstairs space became a second venue, housing three more titles. When "Tony n' Tina" needed to leave Planet Hollywood Resort, Saxe walled off the balcony of the original nightclub, creating a third space.
But he isn't done. Customers "sometimes feel like they're herded," he says, lining up outside one door as patrons exit another. Saxe measured the distance from an unused service bar to his lease line. Now it's being built out into the Stripper Bar, which will be easy to identify by the 26-foot stripper statue at the entrance.
Elsewhere in the mall lies the recently shuttered Steve Wyrick Theater, a competing venue built over Saxe's objections to mall management about "splitting 10s."
Now, having been vindicated by Wyrick's failure, Saxe makes no bones about his willingness to take over that venue as well.
But there's at least one problem: "I'm not sure what I'd put in there."
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.