Veteran producer banking on gimmicks

Norbert Aleman isn’t done yet.

The 68-year-old French producer of “Crazy Girls” and “An Evening at La Cage” knows he isn’t on the same playing field he was in 1985. “In the beginning, there was no competition,” he says of opening “La Cage” on a Strip dominated by old-school headliners and 14 production shows.

“It was a different time. It was the old days,” he says. “The (casinos) were comping and they were taking care of the customers. Today it is a machine to make money. Now you pay $5 for even a Coca-Cola.”

Now he competes with about 80 shows (depending on how you count them). Aleman says it costs him $30,000 to $40,000 per week just to advertise his two Riviera revues. He knows they are small and can’t command $100 tickets.

He admits to the temptation of pulling the plug and focusing on the Cabo Paradise resort, where he is a co-developer in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

On the other hand, his costs are lower than the big shows and Aleman isn’t ready to give up for a couple more years. “You’ve got to have gimmicks,” he says.

And he thinks he has come up with one for each show, not counting the windfall of “La Cage” performer Derrick Barry doing his Britney thing on “America’s Got Talent.”

Next week, a film crew arrives to shoot a pilot for a reality show based on the backstage life at “La Cage,” the venerable female impersonator show. An E! cable series boosted ticket sales for “Skintight” in 2003. Who knows? Given Aleman’s notorious feuds with star Frank Marino, we might even be talking pay-per-view.

But “Crazy Girls” are getting there first. On Tuesday, Aleman’s friends convene for a private screening of “Las Vegas Crazy Girls Undercover,” a low-budget movie that he hopes will spawn a cable-TV series. For now, it will have a three-month pay-per-view run, before airings on Showtime and Starz.

The movie was mostly trusted to Alan Margulies, longtime manager of Ann-Margret, whom Aleman knows from his pre-Vegas days in Atlantic City. But Aleman says it was his idea to put the Crazy Girls into a mix of “Baywatch,” James Bond and “Charlie’s Angels.” He only wishes he had done it before the Pussycat Dolls got the drop on him with their hit songs and nightclub. “‘Crazy Girls’ was the No. 1 show in town,” he laments. “I got busy with my real estate and dropped the ball a little bit. I should never have let Pussycat Dolls take advantage like this.”

But he figures there is still time. “You get old but you try to stay young,” he says. “I wish I could be sold out every night like the old days, but we’re doing good. I should feel lucky to be in good health and still have the show running.”

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.

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