Meltdown should encourage change

A recent issue of Newsweek magazine responded to the financial meltdown with a yellow cover featuring just three words: “The Bright Side.”

Fareed Zakaria’s essay searched for a silver lining, suggesting the wake-up call may force America to rein in the financial industry and get back in the habit of saving.

In that spirit, could hard times for Las Vegas entertainment bring about some long-needed reforms? Here’s a short list of ideas that should have happened but didn’t when tourists roamed the Strip in greater, more free-spending numbers.

1. Thin the herd.

Show business should be pure capitalism: If people like your show, you sell tickets and stay open. If not, you close. Far be it from me or anyone else to tell Scarlett the Princess of Magic that she shouldn’t be on the Strip, as long as she and her producer are happy with the return on investment.

But, like the real economy, it’s more complicated. Thanks to the Strip’s own version of financial engineering (keep reading) there are just too many shows: 70 to 80, depending on how you count comedy clubs and weekend or part-year headliners such as Cher or Bette Midler.

The weaker titles distract attention from the good ones, and a few that barely meet the standard of community theater drag down the Strip’s collective credibility. Remember the ’70s, when the smart crowd made fun of Vegas.

2. Rein in the half-price thing.

Same-day discount booths, along with the less-visible deals for those who sit through time-share pitches, power the second and third tier of shows. They also screw up the pricing. Would you pay $90 for the Russian “Ice” revue? The producers do that to get a fair price of $45 at the outlets. This title also puts its cast to work on the sidewalks with discount coupons.

What about the poor fool who doesn’t know the half-price game? He looks at the face-value price and keeps walking. Another sale lost.

How refreshing it is to see $24.95 as “the only price” — to borrow a phrase from a no-haggle car dealership — for “Sin City Kitties.” That’s because the topless revue is performed on the state line at Primm, isolated from the discounters.

3. Keep the stars coming.

Really, they’ve been the year’s saving grace. Midler, followed by Cher and Donny & Marie Osmond have been guaranteed seat-fillers amid a downward spiral.

When ticket dollars are tight, people want to connect with a name, not take a chance on an unknown entity such as “Raw Talent Live.” Go to work with people such as Pete Townshend or Cheech & Chong, who have suggested ideas for new vehicles for the Strip.

So there you have it. Change we can believe in. Even if it’s forced on us.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at or 702-383-0288.


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