A fascinating trip down memory lane . . . from MarkRothman's Blog:
This is an accurate implication.
Las Vegas is now 14 versions of Cirque du Soleil.
Las Vegas is now people lined up around the block 3 times deep to spend way too much to see Celine Deon.
It's Strip traffic that never moves.
It's Siegfried without Roy.
It's a place where someone named Danny Gans is famous.
It's so overbuilt and bloated and mean-spirited that it would be better off if it was robbed of all it's personality (which would be petty theft) .
With all the other places in the country to gamble, I really can't fathom why anybody goes there.
It wasn't always that way.
Now, I'm not talking about the Rat Pack Days.
I'm not that old to remember it, although I'm sure it was everything they say it was.
I started going there in the early '70's, and I loved everything about it.
The gambling, the shows, the generosity of the freebies if you gambled, the clean air, the room to breathe....it was really something.
For me, it was what Disneyland is for kids.
And I got to see all the great shows.
And all the cheesy shows.
And even the cheesy shows had something wonderfully awful about them.
There were two performers of whom it was always said "I know they don't seem like much on TV, but you have to see them live"----Wayne Newton and Shecky Greene.
Well, I got to see them both live in Vegas in the '70's.
And they were both perfectly awful.
Wayne Newton wasn't any less schlocky, and Shecky Greene worked so hard for the four laughs he got over the course of an hour-and-a-half that I really felt bad for him.
But I wouldn't have missed either of them for the world.
Elvis. Great. Mostly, you were overwhelmed by the event.
Rodney. Always pissing funny. Saw him probably four times. Always different material.
Cosby. Did less than an hour, seated in an easy chair. With no opening act.
Completely phoned it in. Probably just an off-night.
Sammy. I don't know, I just didn't get it.
I've seen him in other contexts, where he was magnificent.
"Golden Boy" on Broadway in the '60's.
He made some great recordings.
He was a wonderful actor.
He certainly was amazingly talented and versatile.
But in this venue, it just didn't work for me.
I was seated in a booth with 3 women I didn't know, and they were just gushing throughout.
I kept thinking "What?!".
I just couldn't get past the phoniness.
I guess I just turned out not to be a fan of Sammy Davis in Concert.
Not his fault.
All these things are subjective.
I went mainly to see Rosemary Clooney, who opened for him.
She was magnificent.
Tony Bennett. Less is more.
He did over two hours, and it felt repetitious after an hour.
Rosemary Clooney used to mock-complain that whenever she was up for a Grammy, she'd lose to Tony Bennett.
But the Grammy voters were right.
Tony Bennett was a much better recording artist, and Rosemary Clooney was far superior in person.
Bob Newhart. Completely professional, polished, genuinely funny, delightful.
Alan King. Ditto.
George Carlin. Always funny, but the material invariably showed up on his next HBO special. He used Vegas to break it in.
And he always had a bad opening act.
Liza. If you sit too close, you could see the sweat pouring off of her.
If you saw her more than once in the run, you were aware that she does precisely the same show every night.
Spontanaiety does not exist.
Rickles. Saw him three times. Invariably disappointing.
I think I kept going back because I figured "It has to be me".
You don't want to sit close enough to the stage to become a target.
Rickles was funny when he was Nobody picking on Somebody.
Or Nobody picking on Nobody.
Or Somebody picking on Somebody.
When he was on Carson or Dean Martin, he was great.
When he's on Letterman or Leno, he's great.
I'm sure when he was a Lounge comic picking on drunks, he was great.
But when I saw him in Vegas, he was this Big Star picking on tourists.
It's overkill, and embarrassing.
The Emmy-winning documentary about him captured it pretty accurately, but there's no reason for him to be proud of it.
Sinatra. Magic. Awesome.
Saw him three times. Always sensational.
One of those times, Count Basie and Ella Fitzgerald appeared with him.
Permit me a digression: Am I the only one in the United States who doesn't see what the shouting is about with Ella Fitzgerald?
Yes, she's a quite technically proficient scat-singer.
But no better than Mel Torme.
Her attempts at ballads are always sugary, syrupy, and completely devoid of personality.
I've never known anything about this woman through her music, other than her reputation as Madame Queen.
Why other singers and musicians roll over and play dead for her is beyond me.
What am I missing?
Louis Prima. We will never see his likes again, and that's a damned shame.
Harry Belafonte. Ditto.
Buddy Hackett. Easily the most consistently, explosively funny Vegas comedian ever.
Saw him like four times.
One time stands out, for a couple of reasons.
Danny Thomas showed up to watch him, with what appeared to be a thousand-a-night hooker on his arm.
I was with a couple of my less-than-hip friends who couldn't believe what they were seeing.
Mr. Wholesome. Mr. Family Man. Mr. Make Room For Daddy.
I said "Believe it".
One of the friends, clutching at perhaps too many straws, said, out loud, I swear, "Maybe she's a friend of Marlo's".
The other reason it stands out is that three days later I was back in L.A., hanging out at the Comedy Store.
This was in it's early days. When it was a breeding ground for Letterman, Robin Williams, really great people.
I saw Richard Pryor there once.
A comedian was announced, got up on stage, and immediately launched into Buddy Hackett's act, verbatim.
The same material I just saw three days previously.
And he was bombing with it.
That only slightly mitigated my outrage.
I felt like standing up and shouting "You're doing Buddy Hackett's act! Badly!".
I restrained myself.
But I made sure to catch his name after he got done.
The emcee said "How about a nice hand for Kenny Kramer, folks".
I decided to remember that name and that face.
I was already in a position to decide who to cast or not cast on the sitcoms I was working on, and he was never to get in the door.
Cut to: The '90's. Seinfeld's show became popular, Entertainment Tonight sought out the real Kramer.
The one the character was based on.
Or, more likely, he sought them out.
They interviewed him.
Hopefully you are ahead of me at this point.
Yes, it was Kenny Kramer.
He was trying to cash in on Seinfeld's success by conducting guided tours of Seinfeld haunts.
It was very nice to see him not doing too well.