Updated January 13, 2022 - 6:26 am
As a network-TV personality, Andrew Simon will never be mistaken for Simon Cowell. But that’s a good thing. The Fremont Street Experience President and CEO has preferred to be unrecognized in his upcoming appearance on “Undercover Boss.” In its 11th season, the CBS series sends disguised management types to the front lines to learn how their companies really work.
The episode featuring Simon premieres at 8 p.m. Friday, and will subsequently stream on Paramount+. Simon was recorded over a 10-day span in late August through Labor Day. He mopped the street, scraped gum from trash cans alongside the FSE cleaning crew, buckled passengers into the SlotZilla zipline, and replaced lights in the Viva Vision LED canopy.
This week, Simon chatted about the “Undercover Boss” experience:
Johnny Kats: How were you able to keep the show’s premise in order, that you would not be identified as the boss?
Andrew Simon: The No. 1 piece that has to work is to have as few people as possible know about it. You cannot have that secret known, or otherwise the whole concept is lost. So we had to make excuses as to why there was a film crew following me around. We told them it was under the guise of another documentary project, so it was not a hidden-camera show. That explained it to the employees who were wondering why we were acting a little strange.
It’s amazing that even in that disguise nobody recognized you.
I was very cognizant when we signed up to do this show that I was going to stay somewhat lower profile. Normally, when I would go into a company, I would try to meet every employee, try to sit down with everyone get feedback from everybody. But one of the advantages we have at the Fremont Street Experience is, we’re 24/7. So I wasn’t necessarily there at 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning, or 10 o’clock at night on the night shift with the Zip Line. Those were situations where I’m purposefully not going to the overnight shift until the show comes around, so people won’t know who I am.
How did the show find you?
I just got a phone call one day saying the TV show wanted to come to Fremont Street Experience, and would be interested in shooting me doing these jobs. This literally came to me about a month into the job, in October of 2020. Now, I’ve worked in TV for 12 years, for AXS TV and Mark Cuban, but I was always behind the camera producing events. My goal was never really to be in front of the camera. So I kind of brought it to our board and said, “Hey, is this something we want to do?” This is something that could be good for the city, and something high-profile to show what people do at the Fremont Street Experience.
Scott Sibella was featured on the show eight years ago, when he was at the MGM Grand. Did you watch that, or any other episodes?
Well, one thing I did before I did the show, I watched about 40 episodes over a six-month period. I worked out every morning, and I would exercise and watch an episode while I worked out. I wanted to make sure I didn’t get tricked into doing something I didn’t want to do. If anything, I wanted to be well-studied and make sure that I didn’t embarrass Fremont Street.
Did you or FSE have any authority over the final edit?
When we agreed to do the show, I signed away that we have no editing rights at all. I haven’t seen the show, I have no idea what they did with it. All I know is they probably shot 200 hours of content to put down to 40 minutes. We had to open ourselves up for the possibility of anything happening. That was a big consideration, that we had to be open-minded to say, “OK, they’re gonna see what they see.”
What are the revelations about doing these various jobs?
I learned that so many these jobs are very physically demanding. When I say physically demanding, I mean, like, very physically demanding. I’m not happy that they gave me a tiny T-shirt, and I’m sweating through it (laughs). But these jobs require lifting hundreds of pounds, working through heat and getting through large crowds.
Outside of reaching a TV audience, I expect you found ways to address operations at FSE, right?
We found ways that we could make people’s jobs easier. The show doesn’t want me talking about specific jobs, but I’m proud to say we were able to find certain areas where we can help employees, where we might make their lives easier. We found where employees really help come up with solutions to make Fremont Street Experience a better place to work.
Are you nervous about watching the show?
(Laughs) A little, a little. I would far rather have myself look silly than compromise our employees or Fremont Street Experience. I’ve just wanted to make sure that, besides the human aspect of what you see and the challenges our employees have, that downtown is an interesting place. It’s worth checking out on your next visit to Las Vegas.
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.