Saturday, June 25, 2011
Many may associate me with the neon glare of the Las Vegas Strip, and that's cool, after all, I've spent my entire adult life here, writing and promoting Las Vegas shows.
For the past twenty years my nights have been artificially lit, from lounges' candlelight and main rooms' spotlights, by the Las Vegas Boulevard's neon glow and under Fremont Street's millions of blazing LEDs, but my brightest memories are not illuminated by manmade light. From the sun kissed days to moonlit nights, my shiniest moments are the naturally glossy ones.
You might be surprised to learn that as turned on as I am by the electric Crayola colored Strip, it's the things I've seen in the desert sky that have provided my real and lasting glimpses of awareness. I speak of the light above the lights, and that light within all of us.
There's a song that starts out, "I used to lay out in a field under the Milky Way." The first time I heard it I became flushed by the JACKSON BROWNE lyric, so deeply personal to me. How could he have turned a light on my life story, illuminating my doubts and fears, without having met me? That song, 'The Night Inside Me' has come to haunt my nights, in a good way, reminding me that the world is inside my head and not the other way around.
I mention this after a friend remarked via Skype last night how surprised he was to hear me talk about the Shiva Sutras, and that when I said that a certain idea lacked shakti, the feminine creative energy I look for in any new project, he said straight out, "I always thought of you as a casino type materialistic guy," adding, "but tonight, you're blowing me away." (He taped our Skype conference call and wants to use it as part of a discussion: "Getting in touch with your creative energy," making me beam.)
The young magician DARIN DIAMOND gets caught-up in mandalas, fashioning his entire show around the sacred circle in the novel, "The King of Diamonds: The Magical Life of Darin Diamond." I saw Darin as a "strange enchanted boy," you know, "a little shy, and sad of eye" type kid.
As the sun sets and the lights come on (and out), I'm starting to experience real doubts about how long I'm going to be shining around here but I am positively grateful for those who have inspired me, fanning my flame as I made my way through the sometimes dark night.*
As I look up at the night sky, I just know that at the right time, I'll merge into the starlight.
Last night I was asked how I wanted to me remembered and I quickly said, "In light." Sun or stars, but neon's cool, too.
*You guys know who you are.
Monday, June 20, 2011
We at H20 love specialty acts, those front-of-the-curtain entertainers who really put on the charm and show off their skills, often while behind them some major show scenery is being pre-set. If they're good at what they do (funny jokes, clever magic, decent juggling) the audience often doesn't notice the break in the show's action. If the performers are in the Gaucho act starring in Jubilee at Bally's, then they are the real meat and potatoes of that hearty show, and not mere filler. Jubilee has become a mixed spread, tossed full of classically costumed Las Vegas, dancers and showy singers but the sustenance that sticks to the bone and delivers the real bread and circuses comes from the added attraction Los Huincas Gauchos. The act, presented with military precision, pounding percussion and comedic preciseness, is produced by FERNANDO QUEVADO.
I first saw this act when uber- producer GREG THOMPSON brought his electric 'High Voltage' to the stage of the Dunes Hotel. The talented Mr. Thompson, who was on the road doing several shows, busily breaking Guiness World Records for many of his events along the way, had me keep an 8 and 11 o'clock eye on his show, which allowed me to be entertained twelve times a week by this fine speciality act. These exciting gauchos went on to Enter the Night and, once there, they took over the Las Vegas Strip, one neon-lit resort at a time. Back then, FERNANDO QUEVADO was a teenager; today the man runs Q Productions, presenting variety shows here in Las Vegas and custom productions throughout Europe and Asia. I happen to love the guy.
Fernando recently added a new passion to his creative endeavors: film. Que es correcto!! Our talented friend is producing and directing some compelling short films and interesting documentaries. The athletic performer has become one of the real technical experts regarding the new digital cameras on the market. If and when Red Digital's JIM JANNARD (a cool guy and great man) builds a proper soundstage here in Las Vegas, watch for Fernando to be right there with him because talent sticks together. Oh, although I happen to be shy, camera-wise, my gaucho friend recently talked me into walking on (and probably stinking up) a reality show pilot scene he was shooting. With apologies to real pros like MONTI ROCK III, I did my best James Dean. Or Paula, Paula Dean.
For many years now, I've wanted to work with FERNANDO QUEVADO and while I now see that dream growing dim, I will always be proud to have known this accomplished young man, a kid who left his Argentinean home at a mere two years of age, who now stands today near the top of the entertainment world.
De gaucho para el rey del mundo
Monday, May 30, 2011
I'm writing some promotional material to be used next month when Barnes & Noble at The Grove welcomes author BARBARA SINATRA and her love letter to her late husband, 'Lady Blue Eyes: My Life with Frank.'
BARBARA SINATRA (the only Mrs. Sinatra I knew) accompanied Ol' Blue Eyes to Las Vegas on many occasions, always kind, ever classy. She once went out of her way to tell me, "Frank likes it when you talk music with him." Wow- that meant the world to me.
I've yet to receive my copy but am happily helping put together background information to assist in the promotion of her new book. Frank's daughter NANCY SINATRA, author of two fine books and producer of many great music and DVD packages, including the sensational 'Sinatra in Vegas,' always sees to it that we receive advance copies of her projects.
Here's hoping Barbara is treated with the respect show business royalty rightly deserves.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
There are certain performers who are so talented, so successful, so lucky that they can test your will, man.
JUSTIN (KREDIBLE) WILLMAN set out to take-over the country and, over the past few years, campus-by-campus (many times six per week!) he's done just that. A national TV commercial led to an appearance on the chipper chef RACHAEL RAY show where the buoyant boyish close-up comic conjurer really started cooking, leading to TV appearances on the regular. Now, he's the "First Call" guy for television producers who like his likable personality. Me? I love the guy. (Justin's gorgeous girlfriend is cool with that; we're all in love with her, her beautiful voice.)
I've been in Justin's corner for some time now, fondly remembering the 'Music, Magic & Makepeace Tour,' where the magician joined friends JASON MRAZ and THE MAKEPEACE BROTHERS in a shamanistic tour that rightly left the country starry eyed.
I see that Justin will be back at the World Famous Magic Castle June 13-19.
The artist who designs Justin's posters is nothing short of brilliant* but, it's worth noting that, now, the 'World Famous' tag line rightfully belongs prior to JUSTIN WILLMAN as well, man.
If you're near Hollywood and haven't been put off by the mental image of guys with birds in their pants (see: brainy, beautiful and, my new favorite writer LAURENNE SALA) well then you Must See JUSTIN WILLMAN. He's just incredible.
*JON MARRO is beautiful.
Friday, May 20, 2011
It just happened again, late last night. I was catching up on emails when this one caught my eye: "What is Sinatra's best record?"
I often think what qualifies as best is whatever I'm listening to at the moment, but when it comes to a recording career that started in 1939 and continued into the 90's, well, it is not that simple.
FRANK SINATRA was America's first teen idol, singing with Tommy Dorsey's band, and then later, on his own. By the late 40's, the big bands were over and, as good as young Sinatra was, he had yet to record great records.
IN 1953, after nearly fifteen years of singing, something happened, and it was magical. Joining Capitol Records surrounded the now- struggling singer with the best studio musicians in the world, and an arranger-conductor named NELSON RIDDLE. Sinatra was born again and with him, a confidant sound and smooth style punctuated by an all-new rhythm that, even today, sounds fresh. Sometimes I'd swear there's new versions playing but no, the tracks are the same, yet somehow still surprising. It is almost impossible to sing along.
Throughout the 60's, he'd turn out hit-after hit, including 'My Way,' a song everyone covered, all haunted by the sound of Sinatra. He'd sing a perfect duet with his daughter Nancy ("'Somethin' Stupid") after cutting the most beautiful Bossa Nova songs with Jobim.
There is little doubt that the most creative decade in the musical life of FRANK SINATRA came when Ol' Blue Eyes hired a young classically trained pianist, VINNIE FALCONE, and toured every corner of the the world, sparkling in deserts from the Springs to the Sphinx, in casinos from Las Vegas to Monte Carlo, in Rio: bravo, even dominante the Dominican Republic, their sound preserved on studio recordings like 'Trilogy,' featuring 'Theme from New York, New York,' an anthem that will live forever.
Okay, back to the best record thing. Here it is: 'Indian Summer.' Yup. The Duke Ellington Band made it into the studio to back Sinatra, playing BILLY MAY arrangements, sometimes poorly, once or twice, heavenly. 'Indian Summer' has it all: it is big band, jazz, pop all rolled into one song, and Sinatra sings simple and straight, soft and surreal, the sound of a brilliant actor letting his audience do all the thinking. 'Indian Summer' includes a saxophone solo that catches you off guard, pulling you way out into the deep water and then, gently, floating you back onto shore. MATT WALLACE and others tell me JOHNNY HODGES was a genius and NELSON RIDDLE, in an interview on my radio show, in the 80's, told me that this arrangement is the one he always wished he'd written. Man!
The seasons change, and so do popular tastes but, amazingly, this song, now over forty years old still shines. I'm told you can hear it on YouTube; I know you can buy it on iTunes.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
House of H2o has been keeping an eye on actor-magician R.J. CANTU and keeping you updated on this young performer's career. A few years back, prior to his successful, heart-warming debut at Hollywood's MAGIC CASTLE , we proudly pointed out that R.J. "has the goods," and now, his goods are getting great.
'Death Valley,' MTV's new supernatural series, premiering August 29th, right after the Video Music Awards, looks to be a good bet. A strong cast makes this seriously spooky yet lighthearted series perfect for the twenty-something crowd. R.J. is cast as a likable yet lecherous cad, getting young girls off on the taste of his vampiric saliva. When we described Cantu as "the badboy next door," a while back, we nailed it.
Now, there's another-darker-vampire script he's working on called 'Vampires in Vegas.' But not to worry, R.J. CANTU won't soon be typecast. You see, in addition to his acting career (and a recent string of national commercials), the guy is pursuing his magic career like no other young magician I have ever seen.
MAGIC SPACE EXTREME, a site dedicated to what's hip and happening in the world of magic has been web home to Cantu & Co. And talk about magic:
There have been sightings of this exciting magician performing impromptu shows- lit by lasers and backed by house music and high energy dancers-all around Los Angeles. H20 just got word of an upcoming show, in Santa Monica at the trendy V LOUNGE on Friday, May 27th. And, we hear loads of celebrities plan to hit the V on Fridays on the regular.
House of H2o has long been enchanted by magicians who are original and authentic. JUSTIN (KREDIBLE) WILLMAN owns college campuses all over the country and cable airwaves up and down the dial. JASON LATIMER is in an indescribable class by himself and JAMES GALEA is the best close-up magician to ever play Las Vegas. Ever!
R.J. CANTU is right up there, and in damn good company.
Keep an eye out for this monster of a magician, will ya?
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