Wandering Minstrels (and Contortionists and Jugglers)

Amos Glick and his off-duty Strip performers struggle to find a place where they can continue their once-popular late-night act

After you strip away the machine-made fog, the lighting, the sound technicians and the $10,000 costumes, what you have left are the artists. And whether that’s a contortionist or a cross-dressing knife juggler on a pogo stick, that’s what you found at Ok, Ok, the amos glick variety show. (Produced by the type of guy who puts his name in the title, yet purposefully lower cases it.) “The gloss from the Strip shows is torn away and you get raw skill and love of the art and performance,” says Amos Glick, whose primary occupation is Le Rêve clown. “No way do you get the vibe of a show that’s done every day, 10 times a day.”

And when the underground show—starring Cirque, Le Rêve and other Strip performers—played every four to six weeks at the Square Apple, a dive bar on East Sahara Avenue across from Commercial Center, it would attract upward of 100 people, mostly by word of mouth. It proved to be a good night for the bar, whose profits rose by 200 percent on those nights, and the audience, who got a free show featuring performers they would’ve had to pay more than $100 to see at the Venetian, Wynn or Mandalay Bay.

“No place was more packed than us,” says Jamaal Ealey, former Square Apple general manager. “Anyone who saw that show returned.”

The grassroots effort charmed all the right people. After an article on the show ran in the Los Angeles Times on Oct. 9, Glick signed an exclusive contract with a Hollywood producer. They have been discussing the possibility of taking the show to TV.

But then came a precipitous fall—the Square Apple closed in December. The show had a mutually cushy deal with the bar: no lease agreement and free performers. In exchange, all concession sales went to the venue.

Getting his variety show up and running again hasn’t been easy. Glick needs a large stage for aerial and dance numbers, technical capabilities and intimate seating in a central or downtown location, so that it’s close to the performers coming off their Strip shows. And he wants all that for free. He considered the Artisan or Aruba, but neither fit.

The show’s absence has left a hole in the city’s late-night cultural scene. For more than a year, Glick organized the acts such as an open-mike night. Starting at 11:30 p.m., the audience got up close and personal with the city’s best performers (from Phantom–The Las Vegas Spectacular, Criss Angel Believe or The Lion King), who felt free to be creative or risqué in front of a friendly audience.

“If I jumped onto a chair next to somebody, my hips would be in their face, then I could back bend and lay into their lap and do a shoulder roll,” says Jami Jones, a professional belly dancer. “I could do that there, but not in a restaurant.” Yuval Ayalon, a Le Rêve acrobat who performed hand-balancing in the variety show, says his goal was artistic expression, but the practice he got in front of an audience was beneficial to his main job, too.

Glick—who often contributed his talents as a comedian/singer/songwriter to the mélange of performers (not to mention a zombie comedian)—wants the show to return with aerial acts, which could mean he has to buy insurance. That may lead to a cover charge or drink minimum. However, if necessary, the variety show is capable of making money. This was demonstrated with a benefit performance at the now-defunct Wyrick Theatre in the Miracle Mile Shops last September, when the variety show raised $5,000 for a scholarship fund in the name of a Strip show technician who was killed on the job.