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Las Vegas entertainers shaken by Strip shooting

Updated October 2, 2017 - 10:10 pm

Engulfing Las Vegas in a bloody tragedy that has left this city shocked and weeping, the mass shooting Sunday night at the Route 91 Harvest Festival near Mandalay Bay also has shaken local performers, personalities and entertainment executives, who reflected on its effect on them and the possible repercussions for the entertainment scene.

“The possibility of this day has been on our minds for a long time,” says veteran Vegas entertainer Clint Holmes. “We are resilient as performers and as people. But I didn’t think it would come like this. It will change the landscape.”

Though all shows at MGM Resorts properties have been temporarily suspended, Mirage headliner Terry Fator vows that his show will honor those who lost their lives and the hundreds of concertgoers who were wounded in the horrific attack. “For a few nights, whenever we return, I will start the show with a prayer for the victims and their families,” says Fator, adding that his religious faith is crucial now for himself and visitors to his show. “My father was disappointed in me, he wanted me to be a preacher,” Fator says. “But I truly believe I am a minister of happiness and joy and that’s what entertainers do. We are ministers called by God to bring happiness and joy in dark times.”

 

That philosophy gets an amen from Harrah’s comedy-magician Mac King. “I think people will be afraid right now,” King says. “What am I doing to make this situation any better? I’m doing my screwball comedy and my little card tricks. I have to continue to make people laugh.”

Numerous entertainers expressed their deep sadness, including Luxor magician Criss Angel. “I am devastated by the horrific events that occurred last night,” said Angel, who expressed condolences to the victims and their families, and urged people to donate blood through United Blood Services. “Police and SWAT did an amazing job, as well as scores of civilians — the unsung heroes — who saved so many.”

 

And legendary guitarist Carlos Santana, who performs at Mandalay Bay’s House of Blues, said “our heart is in shock,” then raised the questions that swirl anew after such tragedies. “”Why allow weapons of mass destruction to be sold to civilians? The laws need to be changed to prevent this from ever happening again. Brutality is pure ignorance. Compassion is the highest quality of pristine divinity.”

Magician Penn Jillette of the Rio’s Penn & Teller said that “I have nothing to say that isn’t being said very well by everyone. We all feel the same,” and Vegas resident and Oscar-winning actor Nicolas Cage said simply, “My heart is crying for Las Vegas.”

In a statement, Caesars Entertainment Corp said that “the entire Caesars Entertainment family is deeply saddened and we are keeping the victims, their families and the first responders in our thoughts and prayers. In light of the attack, and out of respect for all those impacted, all of our shows will be dark tonight. Tickets for tonight’s performances can be refunded at the original point of purchase. Additional details regarding show times for tomorrow are forthcoming.”

Jim Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International, which owns Mandalay Bay, said that “our hearts and prayers go out to the victims of last night’s shooting, their families and those still fighting for their lives. We are working with law enforcement and will continue to do all we can to help all of those involved.”

Helping the wounded can take many forms, says Jennifer Romas, star/producer of adult revue “Sexxy” at the Westgate Las Vegas. “I’m going to go to the dollar store and get flip flops and hand santizer, things you don’t immediately think people need, but there were people covered in blood and running with no shoes,” she says. “This is my city, my town, my home. If I don’t at least reach out and help one person, I would feel I’m not supporting my family. I would want people to come to my rescue. We have to mourn, but we also have to pick up the pieces. Just keep unified as a city and stand tall.”

As a parent, the tragedy also presented a challenge to Mercedes Martinez of radio station Mix 94-1.-FM’s “Mercedes in the Morning” program. “I felt sick to my stomach when I heard and I felt scared and I felt confused about how I was going to tell my daughters about this,” Martinez says. “They’ve seen tragedies like this in Manchester and Orlando but I always said, ‘You’re safe, have nothing to worry about.’ Now this happened less than 10 miles from where they go to school. I go to work very early but my husband spoke to them and said this is one of those things you have no control over and they are still safe and we can’t let something like this affect the way we live our lives. It can’t take away the light of Las Vegas.”

 

As his shows went dark Monday because of the tragedy, Matt Stabile, co-producer of the “X” adult revues — “X Burlesque,” “X Country” and “X Rocks,” as well as comedy show “Piff the Magic Dragon” — said the mass murders will profundly affect the Vegas entertainment paradigm. “This is going to change the face of Vegas because of all the outdoor activities — New Year’s Eve, the Fourth of July, it’s going to be a different game now,” Stabile says. “Hotels are going to check everybody’s bags now.”

Though The Smith Center for the Performing Arts is off the Strip, President and CEO Myron Martin stressed its ongoing emphasis on security. “The experiences we’ve had, including that day we had the memorial service for fallen Metro police officers from CiCi’s pizza shooting (in 2014) caused us to look at a lot of things from a security standpoint,” Martin says. “We have gone through multiple active shooting training sessions with our staff, we’ve implemented a number of heightened security measures and we brought in the (ex-FBI director) Louis Freeh company to do a full assessment of the building and we made some changes based on their assessment. We are always thinking about our patrons and their safety. The experts are suggesting that someone wanting to make a statement on Las Vegas is more likely to do something on the Strip than come to a building primarily for locals and a performing arts center. But we are still working hard on increasing our security.”

Citing his own performances at an open-air venue in Las Vegas, Chris Phillips of Zowie Bowie was particularly affected by the shooting at the outdoor Route 91 Festival. “There is going to be hesitation for awhile for people to want to congregate,” Phillips says. “I perform on Fremont Street with 2,000 people in front of me mashed together, with no safety net of any kind. I can’t even process that nightmare scenario. It will have a terrible ripple effect for some time to come. We’ve got an ugly scar on Las Vegas, and it’s all our jobs as entertainers to erase that and get us back on track as soon as possible.”

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