David Saxe has something you usually only see at nightclubs: long lines outside his V Theater in the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood. “My business has been great. No B.S., we have had total sellouts.” But Saxe admits his sales are not the sort that Cher boasts: “We are lower priced, and we have good broker and customer incentives and it has made us do well. Tourists want things cheaper.” A typical Saxe show uses old-school vaudeville acts, has a penchant for novelty and lots of gimmicks; his everything-with-the-kitchen-sink approach will never win his shows awards from critics.
But Saxe knows how to self-promote, work the Vegas ticketing system and entertain an audience on the cheap. He usually has more than a half-dozen shows running at V and uses all his skills to keep audience counts high. (Some highlights: Tony ’n’ Tina’s Wedding, Popovich Comedy Pet Theatre, Fab Four Live and Stripper 101.) Saxe is only slightly metaphorical when he offers: “I bribe the whole town to get people.”
Saxe recently expanded his Planet Hollywood empire to take over the failed theater/nightclub complex vacated by magician Steve Wyrick. Unlike Wyrick, Saxe has no plans to use the space as a nightclub: “I am not delusional. I know I am not going compete with Tryst.”
Saxe’s secret to success is to stick to what he knows and above all to pander to his audience. “If my show doesn’t succeed, something else comes in.” There is no highfalutin talk of “creation” like with the Cirque folk here. Saxe’s vision of successful creation is simply a full theater: “Yes, what I do is an art. The show has to be good enough for me to sell to audiences to like [it]because a revolving door is bad business. But my goal is to be a successful venue. I hope we are going to have a lot of shows in there. That to me is art.”
Chazz Palminteri Returns. A Bronx Tale is autobiographical enough that writer/actor Chazz Palminteri freely admits his life could have taken a bad turn. As things panned out, he did not find success with A Bronx Tale until he was 38. (His success story could be a movie in its own right: Struggling actor writes a part for himself, performs it as a one-man show and then starts a bidding war for the movie rights.) His late success is all he sees that separated him from being just like Tiger Woods:
“I think making it later on in life helped me. Maybe there is sex addiction? But Tiger Woods has been famous since he was kid. I think Tiger Woods is guilty of bad judgment. Being famous before you are 24 or 25 is just not good. What is Tiger Woods doing different from any celebrity with money? A lot of people do this. I would have done the same thing he did at that age, without a doubt.”
One of the big surprises in Vegas entertainment last year was Palminteri’s success with a one-man show version of A Bronx Tale at the Venetian Showroom. This coming-of-age story of a young man pulled between his father and a mobster has entertained people the world over, but Palminteri noticed in Vegas those involved were concerned that vacationing tourists would not be in the mood for drama. He disagreed: “I just could not believe it would not work in Vegas.” He was right. Now, he performs in Vegas through May 9, with plans to return this October.
Memories of Frank Sinatra. When Bob Gaudio was here recently for the two-year anniversary of Jersey Boys, the musician/writer/producer/original Four Seasons member reminisced about his favorite Old Vegas memory. The “incident” occurred when Gaudio was “hanging out” in Vegas and doing pre-production for Sinatra’s Watertown (1970) album, which Gaudio solo produced: “I happened to be in the casino when Frank Sinatra had that run-in with the head of the casino, Sandy—I can’t remember his last name—and it was a bit of a nightmare and chaos. I think he pulled the gun on Sinatra. That’s a memory. I can’t say it’s a good, savory memory, because it was a little bit of a scary moment for me. Hanging out with Sinatra in Vegas in that day, in the ’60s, was quite an exhilarating time to say the least.”