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Surreal finale as Las Vegas Strip closes the show

Updated March 19, 2020 - 10:28 am

The finale of the last show to perform on the Las Vegas Strip for the foreseeable future starred an actor dressed as a zombie. The night of laughter and high jinks and dancing was closing with tears.

“Ladies and gentlemen, if I can just say one thing: This town has been through a lot, and it will get through this,” Enoch Augustus Scott, star of “Zombie Burlesque,” told the crowd at the V Theater at the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood Resort on Tuesday night. “We will get through it together.”

Never one to shy away from hyperbole, Scott then asked this small-but-mighty crowd a question. He wanted the answer to be so loud it could be heard “the whole world over.” Then he shouted, “Can you live your lives, people?!” The audience shouted back, “Yes!”

The show performed a final dance number, and the 50 or so audience members went off to live their lives — at a distance, in their various homes in such cities as Oakland, California; Muskegon, Michigan; and Toronto, Ontario.

I met people from those cities at the V Theater and Saxe Theater annex at the Miracle Mile Shops. Surreal would not cover the crisscrossing emotions, and very real anxiety, of this experience. Dazed and confused and not quite among the living, I felt like I belonged in the farcical show being played out on stage.

Gov. Steve Sisolak had only a couple of hours before showtime said these gatherings in nonessential businesses should cease by Wednesday. It was indeed a zombie-like scene.

Nonetheless, I met several tourists who wanted a last chance at a real Las Vegas Strip experience. Sandy and Lance Kohley, from Michigan, were married at Graceland Wedding Chapel about six hours before the show. It was a year after they met through a dating website. Lance said, “It was just awesome. Everybody seemed to be having a good time and wanted to be there.”

Asked if he was concerned about possible health risks, Lance said, “Not yet. But it’s going to hit pretty soon.”

Amanda Mesquita and Tom Cahill were in town from Toronto, arriving Sunday for their first visit to Vegas. Their tickets to “Zumanity” at New York-New York were canceled. Amanda brushed off questions about the pandemic, saying, “Considering it’s quieter here than it is back home, I feel OK, because there is no one here.”

Anthony and Rebecca Valdivia, a couple from Oakland, were in line for Nathan Burton’s magic show at the Saxe Theater. She is eight months pregnant, due April 23. The couple planned the trip before the cancellations. Rebecca said, “We are here now and everything is canceling, so we are trying to make the best of it while we are here.” Anthony added, “We are ready to go home and stay quarantined. The Bay Area is quarantined.”

Burton’s show at the Saxe Theater was followed by “Vegas! The Show,” a tribute to the history of entertainment in Las Vegas. That final performance ran the same time as “Zombie” down the hall.

“VTS” has a scene that depicts the many implosions of Las Vegas landmarks, including the Sands, Landmark, Dunes and Stardust. The video segment of our history dropping to the dirt is meant to touch the hearts of those visiting the city, or even those who live here. Those resorts were home to legends. Decades later, entertainers are tapping into the energy generated by the stars in those casinos.

Those implosions were intended, of course, to clear the path for a new Las Vegas. But the city has been rocked before by implosions of a different variety. The most common comparisons to what we are combating today are obvious: 9/11, the 2008-09 financial implosion, the Oct. 1, 2017, shootings.

Every time, Las Vegas moved fast to change the trajectory of events.

The difference today is we are being directed not to coalesce as a community, but rather communicate and commiserate online or (and this still works) in phone conversations. There can’t yet be a USO benefit concert at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, as Myron Martin produced just two months after the 9/11 attacks. The idea of a “Vegas Strong”-style benefit show at T-Mobile Arena, as held three months after the Oct. 1 shooting, is a far-off concept.

But I know this city too well. You can’t kill the spirit of Las Vegas. I said it after Oct. 1, too. You can throw anything at this town, even knock it down, but it always rallies. It’s beyond our architecture, our infrastructure and history of hosting visitors. It’s the character of those who live here, no matter the field.

Already I am gathering overtures from Vegas entertainers who insist on sharing their talent online, from living rooms, home studios, even from dining-room tables. The blueprint of a telethon to support performers at The Space is already taking shape. We are creating virtual cool hangs around the city, and those stories are coming.

We will live our lives, people. Shout it, so everyone can hear.

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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