Vegas Voices is a weekly question-and-answer series featuring notable Las Vegans.
Even if you haven’t seen her in a couple of years, chances are Griselda Torres will remember what you like to drink.
A knack for such details helps explain why Torres was a natural for the hospitality industry, and how she now makes sure both Billy Idol and his fans feel at home in the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay.
As the music hall’s director, Torres oversees the “front of house” operation of the music venue, from the box office and security staff to the bartenders, to setting up meet-and-greets backstage.
“I feel like I’m an awkward person as far as just talking to me. I’m pretty quiet, but I’m also very hospitable. That’s just the way I grew up. If you came to my house, my mom made you feel like you were at home.”
The Las Vegas native, who turned 40 on Monday, went to both versions of Las Vegas High School: the downtown original and the eastside campus, which opened in 1993. After high school, she bounced from data entry to working in a kitchen and as a restaurant server, before a concierge job at the House of Blues’ Foundation Room led to her current management gig.
Review-Journal: Your job sounds like this odd mix of complicated details and getting to know rock stars like Carlos Santana. After 12 years with the House of Blues, does it seem at all glamorous?
Torres: I do take it for granted sometimes that I have a cool job. People want to hear about it, and I’m like, ‘Why?’
But seeing Carlos Santana walk in the building — “Hey, how are you?” — does set in my mind how lucky I am. He is really dear to my heart, having him here for five years now. I was pregnant with my son when he started his residency. I grew up listening to a lot of Santana, but never as a fan. But after working with him and watching what he does, how do you not become a fan?
RJ: That must happen more with the House of Blues getting more classic-rock residencies by the likes of Billy Idol and Joe Walsh. Do you end up being kind of a backward fan, going out and catching up on their albums after you get to know them?
Torres: Absolutely. Like Heart. I never thought I would be a fan. I knew their music was great, but it wasn’t really my style. But watching them prepare before a show? Even though they’ve been doing this for years, they still sound-check and they still find little quirks that you and I can never hear. But to them, they always want to take it up a notch. Watching them as sisters and as artists and hearing more about their careers, I became a fan. It happened pretty instantly.
RJ:And to reverse that question, who made you have to pull yourself in and not gush?
Torres: Steven Tyler. I totally fangirl-ed and had to take myself down a notch. I bumped into him in our back gate area and I had these funky frilly pants on. He got out of the car and had his eyes set on me and said, “Those are some pretty cool pants.”
RJ:You were born and raised here. Does the big city Las Vegas has become still feel like home?
Torres: I think everybody says the same thing, that it felt like simpler times. I grew up where everybody knew everybody. I think it’s very different now.
I grew up with pretty much just my mom, who worked as a maid. My stepfather owned a bakery here in town for a short while. He made Mexican bread and it was mainly known around the neighborhood … probably one of the first ones that actually baked traditional Mexican bread.
My husband always laughs at me because we can never share our ’80s stories. He grew up in Colorado, and during the winter they watch a lot of TV. I grew up in Vegas, where I’m pretty much a desert rat and spent most of my time outside. We always laugh because I’m oblivious to the ’80s shows and stuff like that.
RJ:Your husband (Brett White) is also in the concert industry, working at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace. With three kids and both of you working a lot of nights, how do you make that work?
Torres: Our life is traditional, but nontraditional in the sense that we work off an events calendar, essentially. Our kids know we have this show coming up for this many weeks, and our schedule’s going to change. I have a daughter that’s a huge fan of Elton John, so she always looks forward to the dates Brett’s working that, so she can go to work with him a couple of days.
RJ:You’ve really had upward mobility with House of Blues owner Live Nation. Is that because they like to promote from within or because you have mad skills, or both?
Torres: Our company really does give you the opportunity to develop and grow. If the opportunity’s there, they want to give you the opportunity to try something new. I always had a passion for music, I just didn’t know exactly where it was. … I had spoken about going into operations one time, and one person remembered.
This industry I felt at one time was pretty male-dominated, only because I don’t think a lot of females paid a lot of interest. But I think that has changed a lot in the last few years.
I tell my daughters all the time of so many jobs they could do in the music scene. You could be booking the band, booking someone’s travel. You could be a manager. I always try to tell my girls, that even though in Vegas it’s about who you know, it’s not always the case. I feel like first impressions are what people remember.