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Anti-gay Facebook rant sparks fundraiser for The Center of Las Vegas

Updated July 5, 2017 - 12:29 pm

In retrospect, he should have just slept it off.

Instead, an inflammatory anti-gay rant posted on Facebook by Dave Bancroft, sound man for Las Vegas entertainer Pia Zadora, directed at Sand Dollar Lounge touched off a maelstrom on social media on Sunday and Monday.

The result: Zadora has issued a statement saying Bancroft has been terminated, and Sand Dollar has used the incident to organize a fund-raising show Aug. 6 for The Center of Las Vegas.

In an episode that developed, quite literally, out of the dark late Saturday night and early Sunday morning, Bancroft posted an update on Facebook blasting Sand Dollar’s clientele and the club’s allegedly lax bar service.

“When did the Sand Dollar become a gay bar?” he wrote. “I waved at one of the male cocktail servers (no females in the place) and asked for a drink. Crown and seven. The guy behind the bar says I am ‘disrespecting’ the server, and he asks me to leave. Yup … bounced from the Sand Dollar for … Whatever.”

Parenthetically, Bancroft used a famously offensive epithet to describe homosexuals and said that gay people “are afraid of my size. There, I said it Sorry.” Bancroft is a large man, is the meaning of that reference.

A day later, Bancroft said he had been “drunk-posting” from his vehicle after being asked to leave and said he was sorry for the strife he had caused.

“I was just blotto, drunk, and looking for my next drink. I had a bad experience, and tap-tap-tap posted something that was very bad from my car,” Bancroft, who has also performed technical work for Bob Anderson and the late Vincent Falcone, said late Monday night. “I can apologize all I want, but it’s not going to change what I wrote. I can tell you that I am not a homophobic person. I just used terrible judgment and now I’m getting thumped, and I deserve to get thumped.”

Bancroft, known as “Video Dave” as he is also a videographer around town, also issued a lengthy statement on his on Facebook page. Bancroft reiterated that he is not homophobic, saying his post was “stupid” and that he “cannot apologize enough,” and added that he is “probably a closet gay,” and in his four years in Las Vegas has donated his time and services to the AFAN Black & White Party and the annual Golden Rainbow Ribbon of Life productions.

The post was accompanied by a video Bancroft had produced for the UNLV F.O.C.U.S. Autism charity, a favorite of Zadora, whose 20-year-old son, Jordan, is on the Autism spectrum.

Bancroft deleted his original post Sunday morning, but by then it had already been shared across Facebook, drawing ire from several familiar figures on the Las Vegas entertainment scene. “Alice” co-directors Anne Martinez and Ryan Kelsey, and local singers Rockie Brown, Lisa Marie Smith (“Baz”) and Savannah Smith (“The Moonshiners”), all well-known around town, were among those chastising Bancroft.

Local sax player Rob Stone, long of the Lon Bronson Band who has backed John Fogerty at Encore Theater this year, said Bancroft’s rant has led him to be “86’d” from “multiple” Las Vegas bars said that he has been Zadora’s “right-hand man.”

Sand Dollar officials seized the post and fired back at Bancroft, posting on its page that Bancroft had been abusive to the staff from the moment he walked in and was summarily asked to vacate the club.

From the post on the Sand Dollar page: “So an a-hole walks into a bar. Starts berating the staff and making demands, asks for free drinks because he does sound on the strip, blah, blah, blah. This conversation doesn’t end the way he planned so the next day he leaves a (crappy) review, his prerogative. In a twist, in his review he asks ‘when did The Sand Dollar turn into a gay bar?’ And something demeaning about having male staff and f*gs not liking him. This we take issue with. Like accusing us of being a gay bar should be an insult.”

As the drama played out on social media, Zadora was off-line and doing business in Los Angeles, unaware of the episode until Monday morning. Within hours, she issued a statement, saying:

“I am mortified that anyone who is associated with me would ever try and secure preferential treatment by mentioning their affiliation with me. The offending employee is being terminated as I write this. I am one of the city’s biggest advocates for LGBTQ efforts and causes and often perform at fundraisers and events championing LGBTQ rights and campaigns. I am terribly sorry that someone who worked with me was so inappropriate, rude and insensitive and apologize to all those offended by his actions.”

To clarify: Neither Bancroft nor Sand Dollar co-owner Anthony Jamison, who was in the bar that night, said Bancroft dropped Zadora’s name during the incident. Bancroft said he was in the club for less than three minutes and the incident was “overblown, and it’s not as if I killed anyone.” He said he was asking for drink specials, shouting to be heard. But he also said he had a foggy memory of the night’s events, incuding just what he’d written, until Sunday morning.

Sand Dollar officials said Bancroft was a problem from the moment he walked into the club.

“He came in and started shouting at our bar backs, maybe he thought they were bartenders, and was being very abusive to the staff,” Jamison said. “I went over to try to calm him down, but he was so loud — the band was going full blast and you could hear him over the music. I finally just handed him a bottle of water and asked him to leave.”

The band performing was the none-to-nuanced A Slight Return, which is a tribute to such rockers as Jimi Hendrix, Van Halen, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Santana and Robin Trower. To shout over that act is no small achievement.

Bancroft has worked in Las Vegas for four years, covering Zadora’s weekend appearances at Pia’s Place at Piero’s Italian Restaurant.

Just before the incident Saturday, Zadora and onstage sidekick Sonny Charles had performed their final show at Piero’s before taking a summerlong break, planning to return in September. Though Zadora pinned Bancroft’s termination to the now-infamous Facebook post, the sound man said, “As far as I was concerned, I’d already been laid off, at least for the summer.” As of this afternoon, the two had not been in contact in relation to the incident.

Zadora also said she would attend the Aug. 6 fundraiser, and also make a donation, at the Sand Dollar.

Club operator Jamison, a longtime nightclub executive, has since turned his attention to that charity event. “It will be a great party,” he said. “I know all the brand ambassadors and already have great response from people who want to make donations and also donate items to the auction.”

Sand Dollar, stationed on the corner of Polaris Avenue and Spring Mountain Road, has been a live-music haven for since 1976. The club has weathered numerable ownership changes while specializing in blues and also hosting burlesque performances, jam bands and R&B acts. Last October, musicians from the Rolling Stones played a pop-up gig there when the Stones cancelled a show at T-Mobile arena because of Mick Jagger’s vocal problems.

In 2013, under its previous ownership, the bar was featured in an episode of Jon Taffer’s “Bar Rescue,” in which it was overhauled and turned into Bar 702. The club has catered to all ilk – bikers sitting alongside attorneys next to casino operators, all in the room to listen live music from local blues bands.

“All I can hope for is that sooner or later, the false narrative will subside,” Bancroft says, referring to his reported conduct inside the club. “And, maybe, the Sand Dollar’s event and hype will rally some extra support and funds for the LGBTQ community and some good will come of this incident.”

Note: This version of the column clarifies Rob Stone’s comments about Dave Bancroft being banned from bars in Las Vegas for Bancroft’s Facebook post criticizing the Sand Dollar.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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