In 1990, the Lon Bronson All-Star Band christened Le Bistro Theatre at Riviera. In the face of predictions from Vegas entertainers and critics that the band would face immediate demise, the powerhouse ensemble proved one of the hippest bands in the city.Bronson's orchestra became so popular so rapidly that, within a year, it seemed every professional singer and even karaoke hobbyists wanted to clamber onstage to join the Riv's brassy funhouse.
"I finally had to set a couple of rules," says Bronson, the great trumpeter whose band celebrates its 20th anniversary tonight at Ovation at Green Valley Ranch Resort.The band takes the stage around 10 p.m. for an open-ended jam session.
"To sing with us, you have to have sung for someone I've heard of. And, I have to have a cassette of you singing. This was so long ago that people didn't even burn their own CDs."
Failing to meet that criteria meant you would not sing with Bronson. In some instances, or at least in one instance, Bronson turned back a budding star.
"We had this guy come to us who wanted to sing — you'll probably guess who it is — who told us he was working at the MGM Grand Theme Park," Bronson recalls. "I said, ÔNo, we're getting hundreds of karaoke junkies who want to sing with us. I gotta say no.' He told me about all these impressions he'd been doing at the MGM Theme park; Elvis and James Brown É"
Ah. Wayne Brady.
"It was Wayne Brady, yep," Bronson says, laughing. "I don't recall him getting super-huffy about it, but fast-forward seven years and he's in town with Drew Carey's improv all-stars, and he tells me this story."
Brady wound up taking the stage with Bronson's orchestra and tearing up the 200-seat Le Bistro Theatre with a couple of Brown songs.
"It was a great show, great," says Bronson, who is featured at Ovation the second and fourth Thursday of each month. "I've got this list of about 100 people who have performed with us, and every time I add a name I think of someone new."
A sampling, dating to the days at the Riv and including a stint at Golden Nugget: Fee Waybill of the Tubes, Joe Walsh, Bill Medley, Sheena Easton, "Weird" Al Yankovic, Huey Lewis, David Cassidy, Joe Pesci, Dave Attell, David Lee Roth, Jeremy Piven and Martin Scorsese.
"Some are not musicians," Bronson notes, needlessly, "and a lot of them have been friends of Drew's. He's a big fan. He brought Joe Walsh in, who did, ÔRocky Mountain Way,' and jammed on some other songs. That was back in the late '90s."
Bronson had no standing gig as a musician when he persuaded then-Riv entertainment director Sam Distephano to set aside time for a weekly jam starring some of the city's best players. Bronson had an "in" at the Riv because he was the production manager for "Crazy Girls" and "Evening at La Cage" at the hotel, but had no reputation — good, bad or otherwise — as a live performer.
"I finally told Sam, ÔWe can do this once, because we have more great musicians per capita in Las Vegas than any city in the country,' " Bronson says, "And, I told him we'd do it once, for free, and he said, ÔOh! Free? Let's do it!' "
Soon, you could not find a seat at Le Bistro for those late-night Monday shows, and the momentum has continued at Ovation.
"We've invited everyone who has played with us to join us at Ovation," Bronson says. "By the end it'll look like the USC marching band É It's supposed to be about a 1-hour, 15-minute show, but this one could go a lot longer."
Maybe another 20 years, even.¥¥¥How can we discernibly link Donny & Marie Osmond and Boys II Men? This way: Boys II Men is all but signed to fill in the dates left vacant when the Osmond siblings leave Las Vegas for a couple of weeks to perform a set of holiday shows on Broadway.
The Osmonds will be at Marquis Theatre from Dec. 9-19. Still awaiting an announcement on this, but all signs are that Boys II Men, the a cappella group that in 1992 made "End of the Road" a long-running hit — there seemed no end of the road for that song, actually — will fill those slots.¥¥¥Illusionist Dirk Arthur, one of the last remaining performers in Las Vegas to use white tigers in his act, has been at the little 200-seat theater at O'Sheas for about five weeks. If there is a way to make these big cats even more impressive, it's to walk them across the stage no more than about 50 feet from any seat in the theater.
I'd not seen Arthur's act before Tuesday night, and it's impressive even without the cats. He performs the tear-apart, re-construct newspaper flawlessly and is an ace (he says in good pun) with playing cards. If you like precisely executed, sleight-of-hand artistry performed by a likeable entertainer, Arthur's is a show to see. If not, just checking out the casino floor at O'Sheas is pretty danged entertaining.¥¥¥The new lineup of productions at Tiffany Theatre has been released, and the biggest news on this list is Recycled Percussion setting up in the old theater on Monday. The thunderous percussionists became a nationally recognized act after appearing on "America's Got Talent" and have been slamming the tin at Studio 54 since September. The problem with that venue is that it's restricted to adults. At Tiffany, kids ages 5 and up can rejoice in the interactive beat-fest, set for 7 p.m. Thursdays through Tuesdays (dark Wednesdays, in other words). Tickets to RP are $50, $55 and $60 and include one drink. (RP is also opening the Latin Grammys from Mandalay Bay, broadcast at 8 tonight on Univision.)
Also moving into the Tiff is "Sideswipe," which at first blush seems the title of my driving record as a teenager (ba-dum-bum!). Actually, the daily show features the martial-arts crew that was also seen on "America's Got Talent." It's nonstop, perpetual-motion acrobatics, running from 2-4 p.m. Tickets to "Sideswipe," and the Beatles tribute "Yesterday," (5:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays) are $29, $39 and $40.¥¥¥Joining the Liberace Museum as the museum gingerly moves to its next incarnation are longtime Las Vegas "arts enabler" Melanie Coffee and former board member Sandra Harris. Coffee started as collections manager this week. Harris, the museum's former director, is the newest member of the Liberace Foundation board of directors.
Harris knows the collection and museum's history well, still. She lives in Berkeley, Calif., but will take part in meetings through conference calls and visiting the museum as a strategy plan is drafted.
One of the issues facing the new hierarchy is to keep collectors from trying to purchase individual pieces in the collection. Reps from Sotheby's Art Auction House in New York have been pestering board members about pianos, vehicles, jewelry and costumes, and have been repeatedly instructed to back off.
The tour of select pieces from the museum collection, about 40 of which have been chosen for display, should be under way in the spring.¥¥¥The USO Lounge at McCarran International Airport opens today, as scheduled. Entertainers scheduled to take part in the ceremony, from 1:30-3 p.m., are Wayne Newton and Terry Fator.
Also, Newton is branching out to social media, and not a moment too soon. Mr. Las Vegas is now on Twitter, having been talked into setting up his own account by George Lopez during a taping of Lopez's show this week (Newton is scheduled to appear tonight, and look for him riding a Segway). Newton's Twitter account handle is¥¥¥Bob Kephart is looking for a new Las Vegas home for The Comedy Stop, which closed at Sahara about six weeks ago. The split between hotel and comedy club is no joking matter — The Comedy Stop claims to be owed $12,000 by the Sahara, and might seek legal action to recoup that money. Assign Bobby Slayton as the judge in this trial and you'd have the best comedy show in the email@example.com/
Source: Las Vegas Sun