Andy Warhol made one of the most-quoted predictions of our era in 1968, when a catalog for a Stockholm exhibition proclaimed, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”
“Who’s Andy Warhol?” asks the comedian known as Geechy Guy. He’s joking. He’d better be. The since-shortened expression of “15 minutes of fame” is now an extremely accurate — in some cases, almost to the number of minutes — challenge to Las Vegas entertainers who appear on “America’s Got Talent.”
The NBC talent contest tops the summer ratings, though we watch a little less TV in the summer. And somehow, it revived the variety entertainment that died with Ed Sullivan. Working pros up and down the Strip — from jugglers to magicians — suddenly had a shot at national fame.
But what next? How do you translate fame into sales?
That’s a very real question for the acrobats of Sandau Trio or Zuma Zuma, the only Las Vegas acts still in the running. Guy is out of the competition (barring a return via a wild-card process), but says people now call out his name virtually everywhere he goes.
How many of them know that for more than a year, Guy has helmed “The Dirty Joke Show” at Hooters Hotel? “It’s in my corner now,” Guy says. “It takes less to keep an airplane in the air than to get it up there.” He’s trying to get “Dirty Joke” out on DVD by December, and he’s been booked for Carolines in New York.
Guy is like second-season winner Terry Fator and other “Talent” contestants who were working pros before the show. A few, such as magician Nathan Burton or the troupe Recycled Percussion, already had a show up and running, making the link easier.
“You gotta run like hell,” says magician Murray SawChuck, who parlayed his “AGT” time into a “Pawn Stars” gig. But life has not profoundly changed for fellow magician Kevin James or fire-breather Antonio Restivo. Derrick Barry continues to imitate Britney Spears in “Divas Las Vegas,” just as he did before.
The recognition “still happens, even up until now,” says Josh Huslig of the vocal group Mosaic, which has a show at the Silverton on Saturday. Huslig notes that as “AGT” refined its formula, that formula became more dependent on the background story — preferably a sob story — of the contestants. “It’s more, how does your act fit our path? And if it doesn’t fit the path, they do with you what they will.”
Warhol’s comment on fame surely related to its evanescence. Could he have known he invented another kind of reality game? One with a countdown clock on those 15 minutes?
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0288.