A toast to Absinthe’s 500th

Damn thing was freaky and filthy. Made me blush. Gave me the creeps. Offended my senses. Caused me to fear for the safety of others. Had me giving last rites to the concept of class. Made me spill my drink.

I loved it. How the hell did that happen?

Absinthe, which marked 500 shows earlier this month, is a witches’ brew of physics-defying circus acts and gutter-level sexual leering, a fever dream befitting its name. Anything this rude, renegade and deliberately low-rent—in a tent outside Caesars Palace, no less—is refreshing because of its sharp U-turn away from the Vegas norm.

What is it? Start with this: Pre-show announcements warn that if you’re offended by profanity, “you’re probably at the wrong fucking show.” No shit.

Absinthe is overseen by a couple of kooks: the Gazillionaire, who’s so greasy he probably bathes in Wesson; and Penny Pibbets, who could be Betty Boop’s slutty twin. Embracing vulgarity, they do outrageous shtick between amazing acrobat acts performed mere feet from patrons. Wind punishes the tent flaps, deliciously adding to the atmosphere of danger.

Other routines include a stunning skating team, tightrope walkers, a hot singer and a scantily clad babe tap-dancing inside a psychedelic-colored bubble. When they’re not on, the Gazillionaire pulls women out of the audience to bury their heads in each other’s breasts and tongue-touch, and Penny performs an explicit sock-puppet show that would give Rick Santorum apoplexy. It’s a warped carnival. The only way to duplicate the Absinthe experience is to actually sip absinthe.

Odd as this comparison seems, Absinthe is a throwback to the spirit of … the Rat Pack. Although Frank Sinatra would turn over in his doobie-doobie grave if he heard that, consider that the Pack blew up the typical Vegas show in the 1960s, their raucous clowning sending a dynamite charge through a scene otherwise dominated by standard headliners. They turned the town’s aesthetic on its head. Absinthe knocks it on its ass.

Besides that, I think I’m in love with Penny. Or is it lust? Same difference.

LET’S NOSH ON NOTES: Thumbing through The Smith Center for the Performing Arts sked, circle on your calendar—OK, input it in your smartphone—the April 20 performance of MOMIX, a dance troupe that can only be described as beautifully bizarre. On April 24, a man whose genius requires no explanation—cellist Yo-Yo Ma—is joined by guitar duo the Assad Brothers and pianist Kathryn Stott, dabbling in a Latin American repertoire. Stepping away from Smith, Texas Station doesn’t waste time—it will unveil Queen of the Night: A Tribute to Whitney Houston on April 20.

DEVILISH ANGEL: Finally, Absinthe babe and Las Vegas native Angel Porrino hosts a “night of playful fun” April 28 at Crazy Horse III. Porrino performs that tap-dancing striptease inside a giant balloon, a gig I was offered first but turned down.

Suggested Next Read

The Color Purple


The Color Purple

By Cindi Moon Reed

The informal rule of casino-housed production shows is that they last 90 minutes and have no intermission—primarily to minimize time away from gambling. The Smith Center for the Performing Arts has no such obligation. And right on cue, I had a few Pavlovian fidgets 90 minutes into the 145-minute musical (not counting the 15-minute intermission) The Color Purple. But whenever my muscles twitched, the fantastic performance pulled me back in.