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Piff ready to fire it up once more at Flamingo

Updated January 22, 2021 - 5:46 pm

Piff the Magic Dragon doesn’t actually breathe fire. But if he did, he could perform that act at a safe distance at Flamingo Showroom.

Piff is returning to the stage once again Monday, playing to 50 souls in the 720-capacity venue. He’s performing at 5 and 8 p.m. Thursdays through Mondays (that’s dark Tuesdays and Wednesdays, folks).

Piff also is back online Feb. 4 with his “Piff The Magic Zoom Show,” streaming at 4 p.m. Pacific time Saturdays at PayPerPiff.com.

Piff’s revised live show “pencils out” financially, as they say. But barely.

“We have enough wiggle room to be able to scrape by, to stay in the black, unless two people can’t find their way to the theater for the show,” Piff, legal name of John van der Put, said Friday morning. “Then we are in trouble. But we have learned how to adapt and accept that this is the way things will be for a while, and we’ll be doing shows with social distancing for the foreseeable future.”

The Flamingo Showroom balcony is closed for Piff’s return. The crowd of 50 is spaced out appropriately and also represents the exact number of fans allowed in Piff’s post-show, meet-and-greet sessions during non-pandemic times. As the comic magician says, “Now, the meet-and-greet has actually been extended as our primary show.”

Piff usually shares Piff The Magic Dragon Theatre with fellow Stabile Productions show “X Burlesque” at the former Bugsy’s Theater. The room is called X Burlesque Theatre when the topless show is onstage. But in COVID, Piff has moved to the main showroom, where Donny and Marie Osmond held their residency, and most recently, it was home to “Ru Paul’s Drag Race Live!”

Piff has opened and closed on multiple occasions in that showroom during COVID. He closed with all other ticketed shows in the statewide COVID shutdown this past March. He was back at 250 capacity from Oct. 29 through Dec. 3. The production reopened again from Dec. 24-Jan. 3, and is back in its COVID format indefinitely.

As always, Showgirl Jade Simone and canine companion Mr. Piffles are cast in the production. Jimmy Slonina has joined the updated show as Marvin the Wizard. “You might know his brother … Steve,” Piff says.

Slonina, a former “Mystere” and “O” cast member, steps in for Brett Alters (who has portrayed Francis the Squire) and Matt Donnelly (the favorably costumed King, who operates the onstage camera). Piff says both performers opted to sit out until they receive COVID vaccine shots.

In the lengthy layoff, Piff has taken time to add elements specific to social-distancing measures, such as the fake turf in front of the stage with the sign reading, “Keep Off The Grass, By Order Of Mr. Piffles.” He’s also developed a routine in which he makes an audience member’s watch appear in a 15-pound mold of Jell-O.

“It took six months to develop, but I believe we’ve got the world’s best Jell-O trick,” Piff says. “We have even perfected the recipe, a lemon-lime flavor. It’s delicious. So we have one Jell-O for the show and one for the dragon. I am living the dream.”

Piff and Pinnacle

On the topic of the costumed dragon, Piff was an integral figure in August’s #MaskUPNV face-cover campaign, headed up by Experience Strategy Associates CEO Greg Chase, and directed by Douglas Johnson of Entertainment Plus Productions. Starting with Piff’s helicopter arrival at Sunrise Children’s Hospital, the rolling event was a series of pop-up performances by Vegas entertainers at 13 Las Vegas-area medical centers.

The campaign garnered seven Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Pinnacle Awards, announced in December (yours truly helped organize this campaign), including top honors in Crisis Communication, Public Affairs, Most Effective Corporate Social Responsibility Campaign, and Most Effective Campaign On A Budget Of $5,000 Or Less.

It was a thrill to help spread this message, it was a memorable day for Piff (who had never taken a helicopter ride, ever, before that morning) and the hundreds of front-line health workers who were layered in PPE. As we say, mask up and live.

Some Righteousness

Column faves with ties to the esteemed Bill Medley are on stage in the coming days in VegasVille. Medley’s fellow Righteous Brother, Bucky Heard, has partnered with the duo’s superb guitarist from their Harrah’s Showroom residency, John Wedemeyer, for a Monday night run at Tuscany’s Piazza lounge. That series kicks off at 8 p.m. Monday.

And Michael Grimm is playing the dinner scene at Italian American Club at 6:30 p.m. (dinner) and 8 p.m. (ambient performance) on Jan. 31. Lest we forget, Grimm backed Medley in his solo shows before competing on “America’s Got Talent” in 2010.

It was Medley who urged Grimm to leave the act and take a shot at the show. The band was touring in St. Petersburg, Fla., where Grimm took a call that he was to show up in Hollywood for the first round of the show. He went to Medley and said, “Bill, what do I do?” and Medley said, “Go, Kid.” Grimm, of course, wound up winning the Season 5 championship. (A final teaser, Grimm joins Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns on their livestream Feb. 15. Stay tuned for those deets.)

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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