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Sidelined star Terry Fator: ‘I just want to play Las Vegas’

Updated May 19, 2020 - 4:12 pm

His lips moving or not, it’s been a minute since we’ve heard Terry Fator’s voice. I caught up with the ventriloquial star Sunday afternoon, asking about his time with the late Fred Willard and his future on the Strip.

Fator says he is in good repair, all things considered. He recalled his time with Willard, the comedy great who died Saturday at 86. Willard portrayed the unnamed owner of The Mirage in a series of clips Fator played during his Christmas show last November and December.

Willard continually suggested that Fator rename his show “Celine Dion in Concert,” because, “it’s a surefire hit!”

Willard also performed a sock-puppet routine with Fator at the Las Vegas Hilton in 2008. In the bit, Willard poured a glass of water into an actual sock, drenching the item and creating a pool onstage.

Willard walked off stage showing he was wearing a single sock.

“He was really wonderful, and we had a great time doing the Christmas video,” Fator says. “It was probably one of the last things he did. He was very frail, not his old self, but just great to work with.”

Fator, who has been staying at home with his wife, Angie Fator, stepped through his often-rocky past few months. He’d been very ill in February, so much so that he disclosed he was tested for COVID-19. The 54-year-old entertainer tested negative but remains positive he’ll find a new room with MGM Resorts International when venues reopen.

“We have been talking for several months about what to do with my show,” Fator said. “I’m under contract with MGM Resorts until late September, early October 2022. I love them, and they love the show. It’s just a matter of finding the right room for me now.”

Fator announced in early March he was hauling out of the theater named for him, where he’d headlined since March 2009. The ventriloquist says he anticipated the change since the fall, as the hotel was planning to expand its “Aces of Comedy” series.

Now named simply The Mirage Theater, the room is also continuing with Shin Lim’s resident magic production. After 11 years, there simply was no longer enough demand for Fator’s show to make the numbers work.

Fator could conceivably move just down the hall to the former 1 Oak Nightclub, which recently has been the focus of several show concepts. Currently, Matt Goss is the room’s Sunday headliner (though Gossy had scouted Caesars Palace and the Hard Rock/Virgin Hotels Las Vegas before the shutdown).

Fator says he can roll along with specialty act Ben Harris (the animated, dancing DJ who opens the show) and sidemen Bill Zappia on keys and Jim Buck on guitars.

Of course, Fator maintains his familiar lineup of figures, led by Winston the Impersonating Turtle, Maynard T. Thompkins and Duggie Scott Walker. The puppets have been presented regularly on Fator’s social media platforms. Over the weekend, he posted a clip of his figures appearing to be passed out after a night of partying, “I think my puppets have had enough of the quarantine. Anyone have the number for Puppets Anonymous?”

Winston, Maynard and Duggie are all clearly identified. So much for anonymity.

The vignettes are funny, but Fator is ready to perform in front of humans again.

“I can play to 10,000 people, or 50 people,” says Fator, who has hosted occasional post-show hangs at Parlour lounge at The Mirage. “I’m easy. Just get me back onstage. I just want to play Las Vegas.”

Scinta-lating return

If nothing else, COVID-19 has led to a wonderful family reunion online.

Chrissie Scinta, an original member of “The Scintas” family variety act, sang with her brother Frankie for the first time in 11 years on Saturday night. The moment arrived a little more than an hour into Frankie’s weekly performances on his Facebook page, which start at 6 p.m. Saturdays and run until Frankie runs dry.

Chrissie was the female lead in the show that debuted in 2000 at Shimmer Cabaret at the Las Vegas Hilton (now Westgate Cabaret at Westgate Las Vegas).

Chrissie and Frankie dueted on “Somewhere Out There,” “The Prayer” and “I Will Always Love You.” It was the brother and sister’s first public performance of any type since Chrissie was forced to leave the act in 2013 because of vocal cord problems.

Chrissie appeared in audio only, with Frankie on video. The siblings sang great, they wept, and it was beautiful. I hope they plan for this to be a regular thing. As Frankie said to his sister, “We have the rest of our lives.”

Passing the audition

The long-running Beatles tribute band The Fab took its act to the streets Friday night. The crew built a stage in frontman Pat Woodward’s driveway and performed the unannounced “Beatles Driveway Show.”

The event was punctuated by a song-by-song performance of the rooftop concert from the 1969 documentary “Let It Be,” along with the closing suite from “Abbey Road.” Highlights are on The Fab Facebook page.

As the show stretched into darkness, Woodward’s neighbors popped out of their houses to see what the heck was happening. As booking agent/band member John Menniti says, the onlookers — and the musicians — kept a safe distance.

The Fab returns to action 6 p.m. Friday with a livestream event raising money for World Central Kitchen, José Andrés’ disaster relief initiative. That event is on The Rockabilly Hall of Fame Facebook page, a virtual driveway of rock classics.

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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