Tony Sacca Show Stubbornly Stands by Variety Format

Tony Sacca | Photo by Anthony J. Lewis

Tony Sacca | Photo by Anthony J. Lewis

Quaint, retro, throwback, outdated—call the scrape-the-mold-off variety-show format what you will.

Playing spiritual doppelgänger of the late Ed Sullivan, tireless Vegas stalwart Tony Sacca lacks only Ol’ Stone Face’s mouse puppet sidekick, Topo Gigio, in his new taped-for-TV show at Boulder Station, Las Vegas Rocks—which doesn’t so much rock as swing, sway, shuffle and stroll. (Performed every Friday afternoon at 2 at the Railhead, it’s free and broadcasts eight days later, at 3 p.m. Saturdays, plus repeat airings on KTUD, Channel 25 and Cox Cable 14.)

Rocks is hosted by crooner/kibitzer Sacca, celebrating 50 years in show biz and backed by the Michael T Band of veteran Vegas musicians. Audiences of a certain age—and they were virtually all that age at a recent taping, brimming with gray, silver and chrome domes, plus two Ms. Senior Nevada winners—will affectionately recall the format (which still lives in curios such as V—the Ultimate Variety Show). Between crooning some tunes, Sacca introduces Vegas lounge acts and lower-profile performers, each spending just a few minutes or a couple of songs onstage, then vamoosing, Sullivan-style.

At the show I attended, the lineup included: “Birdman” Joe Krathwohl, his talking/singing parrot and wing-spreading condor, leaving bird poop onstage; a PG version of Thunder From Down Under, a shirtless Sacca joining in; standards belter Jerry Tiffe; Kelly Clinton (a.k.a. Mrs. Clint Holmes) singing of her lust for bald men; Martin & Lewis impersonators Ted Stevens and Tony Lewis; and Motown tribute group Spectrum.

Flashing back to the Sullivan smorgasbord of Phyllis Diller, the McGuire Sisters, a Camelot excerpt and plate-spinners?

However easy it might be to condescend—aren’t the oldsters a-d-o-r-a-b-l-e, frolicking in the “I Like Ike” era?—there is more than novelty value here. There is history and there is respect for what came before, two things that—in a tech-frenzied age hurtling toward The Next Thing at such light speed we barely remember The Last Thing from the week before—are often breezily ignored. Especially in Vegas, which, long before Cirque extravaganzas and blockbuster musicals, built its entertainment rep on the backs of more modest (but hard-working) performers.

Yet rather than merely nod to a bygone time, Las Vegas Rocks reminds us that there are still entertainers, even younger ones, who deserve an audience, even if they don’t rate a cover photo, or even a mention, by our town’s entertainment press. Mostly they toil without enjoying the spoils.

Every Friday at the Railhead, every Saturday on your TV screen, revisit the Vegas that once was and—quietly but stubbornly—still is.

STRIP POSTSCRIPT: Gentlemen (and ladies), start your libidos—the Las Vegas Burlesque Festival is here October 10-12 at Boomers Bar and the Plaza Hotel, starring sexpots inside and outside Vegas. Among my favorite names of the headline shimmy-shakers:

Betty BeWare, Deirdre Von Derriere, Nikita Bitch Project, Paige Turner, Lili Von Schtupp (shoutout to Blazing Saddles groupies and Yiddish slang-slingers), Coco Lectric, Holly Dai, Jacqueline Hyde, Anita Brassiere, May Blush, Mia Sangria, Kalani Kokonuts, Buttercup Delight, Cha Cha Velour and April Showers.

All of whom hope to arouse your May Flower.

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