Vegas show producers are historically behind the curve. And that’s not always bad. Caution may have spared us showgirls in flannel bikinis and Doc Martens dancing to “Grunge Tonite!”
But in 2004, Tim Molyneux didn’t even know how far ahead of the game he was with the topless vampires of “Bite.”
It was before “Twilight” and “True Blood.” Molyneux just figured vampires were “a subject matter that everyone understands and everyone gets, that has never been done.”
But sexy vamps became the next big thing. And this month, “Bite” celebrated its seventh anniversary at the Stratosphere, no small feat in a casino that may as well be in Transylvania now at the barren north end of the Strip.
And “Bite” became Vampire Pop itself. The new “Fright Night” remake, set in Las Vegas, seems to pay homage in its scenes with the Criss Angel-like magician character doing a “Bite”-like show.
There’s nothing else on the Strip quite like this campy, guilty pleasure. Molyneux’s background in opera, of all things, inspired him to stitch schlocky rock songs into a narrative, with the likes of “Maneater” and “Hot Blooded” telling a wordless story in laughably literal terms.
I have compared Molyneux to the movies’ low-budget director legend Ed Wood. Some parallels are valid: He first pitched “Bite” with grandiose visions of a giant set, a live band and 20 coffins opening up to have 20 vampires flying over the audience.
“I was very naive when I first started in Las Vegas, hoping somebody would pay for that type of production,” he now admits.
But when the Stratosphere offered a limited space — and by the way, wanted a topless show to fill it — Molyneux downsized his vision and made it work on his own dime.
Pop culture has now given him license to go further with the vampires, and he plans to push the show more to its theme in time for Halloween.
“I do think we can add a little more depth of character,” he says. And the fire effects have been missing way too long after some issues with permits.
But any resemblances to Wood end with Molyneux’s business savvy. All changes must pencil out. “I’ve learned this with all aspects of life: Just because you can does not mean you should,” he says. “You want to spend enough money to get the repeat customers coming back, and yet don’t sell the store.”
“Bite” may be a show we make fun of, but Molyneux has the last laugh. “I still remember very clearly the day I was sitting in my office in Nashville at my computer with a nice single malt, and I wrote that thing in an evening.”
And today it’s still undead. “I would have never guessed that.”
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0288.