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Betting on Big Name Has Downside

October 10, 2008

By Mike Weatherford

At Caesars Palace, even big winners can have a bad run.

Cher has been the smartest entertainment investment on the Strip in a year with little else to sing about. The perennial pop star pulled in $2.5 million in a late August week in the 4,200-seat Colosseum, again making Billboard’s list of top 10 concert grosses.

The success of both Cher and Bette Midler back up the long-term strategy of producer AEG Live, which accurately predicted the Strip needed a steadier presence of big names, not more production shows, when it opened Celine Dion’s “A New Day” in 2003.

But last weekend, Cher canceled for a seventh time in one stint, reminding fans and promoters alike there is a downside of staking all your chips on one 62-year-old voice.

Seven missed shows add up to at least 29,400 seats, many of which were bought by fans who flew in expressly to see Cher. “I’m really, really devastated after traveling over 700 miles for her,” noted one post on Cher.com. Cher probably will add dates at the end of her contract to make up the total number, but other bookings prevent a more immediate return.

Caesars offers room-and-show packages on its Web site, making it hard to explain to fans that the casino and the venue are operated by separate companies, so only the ticket price can be refunded.

Cher’s last cancellation notice cited asthma-related bronchitis. It might be of no relevance, but it’s worth noting that AEG removed Dion’s stage humidifier when it remodeled the stage – flattening it and adding more prime rows of seating up front – after “A New Day” closed.

The million-dollar humidity system generated snickers and diva jokes about Dion, who also came down sick several times and canceled shows. But who knows how many other nights it may have helped her voice? And if she returns, as widely believed, will she want it put back in? …

The producer of “Shear Madness” cites construction delays for pushing back the comedy’s previously announced Nov. 14 opening in a free-standing theater in the Town Center shopping center. …

A show that starts at 9:13 p.m.?

That being the time printed on the ticket, not a 9 p.m. show that just starts late?

“There’s the old adage that in comedy, everything is funnier in threes,” says John Bentham, producer of both “Defending the Caveman” and the new “Fitz of Comedy,” which opens today at Fitzgeralds as a stand-up showcase for “Caveman” star Kevin Burke.

Burke clearly is taking this “Hardest Working Man in Show Business” thing to extremes, doing what now will be 16 shows per week. The novel start time generates attention (see, I fell for it). But it also gives Burke time to shake hands with departing “Caveman” customers, change his shirt and walk from the Golden Nugget to Fitzgeralds.

“If it gets to be much of a problem, we’ll get a golf cart for him,” Bentham says. Opening comedian Rolan Whitt also can stall “Fitz” to cover any delays. …

Since we’re downtown, here’s a reminder that the Fabulous Thunderbirds play the Canyon Club inside the Four Queens today. In July, casino management debated the club’s future as a concert venue after taking over hands-on management from Lance Sterling, who opened the club and operates its California namesake.

Concerts made a comeback last weekend with the help of BikeFest. Three more are slated this month and five are booked for November. “We really want the room to work,” says casino spokeswoman Lisa Robinson. “We like (the resident show) ‘Marriage can be Murder’ and we’ve found a way we can do both in that room.” …

Another Stardust reunion is on the horizon. Lou Anne Harrison Chessik is organizing a third cast and crew reunion of those who danced in the Stardust’s “Lido de Paris” and other vintage production shows on Nov. 7 at the Nevada State Museum. The museum will host a related “Showgirl Art Competition” and costume exhibit. …

Finally, an e-mail came in reminding me to sign up for press credentials for this year’s Latin Grammy Awards on Nov. 13. I had to Google to realize this year’s ceremonies are in Houston, not at Mandalay Bay.

Las Vegas seems to have cooled as an awards show host city just as quickly as it heated up. New owners of the Billboard Music Awards took the event down for a relaunch that has yet to be announced. The MTV Music Awards weren’t invited back to the Palms this year.

At least we still have the Academy of Country Music Awards each May … don’t we?

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.

(c) 2008 Las Vegas Review – Journal. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.