I've posted in the past that there are so many entertainers and celebrities living in Las Vegas, it makes it such a unique place to live. You never know who you might run into, or turn out to be a friend or neighbor. Donny and Marie Osmond have been a huge hit headlining at the Flamingo and have had contract extensions because of it, and Marie has made her home here in Henderson. Actually she's in the process of moving into her new home, which is still close to my parents. My folks made the move here when I did, and there is a strange coincidence about all this. Growing up in Pittsburgh we lived just down the street from Marie's BFF Patty. Marie would visit with her there, and of course when we went to Patty's wedding, where else but in Las Vegas, Marie was in attendance. So what a small world it is after all, and in Las Vegas with so many entertainers and celebrities it can be even smaller.
I was out shopping for a new Cadillac for my parents and had another moment of fate. The purchase of a new CTS sport wagon at Cadillac of Las Vegas was handled by LJ Harness, who is their marketing and promotions director. Stepping into his office I couldn't help but notice his own picture with Donny and Marie among his other celebrity pictures in his office. As it turns out, LJ is a celebrity in his own right, having played and shared a stage with so many Classic Rock bands, including Journey, Cheap Trick, and so many, many more. He also had a picture of himself when he performed for a crowd of 64,000 at the Tangerine Bowl. This was opening for Aerosmith with his premier rock band of the South and Midwest, 'Hoochie'. All this made for an interesting conversation of different celebrities and entertainers that we both knew.
As you can read in his Bio, LJ walked away from performing for 17 years until his own fateful moment made him unable to suppress his love to entertain. At a Patti LaBelle concert in Sarasota Fl., Patti pulled him from the audience to accompany her on stage. That appearance and media coverage that followed it unleashed many more opportunities to play both live and for studio work. You can see more in the Videos on his new website. His return to music combined with his many celebrity and entertainment industry connections made him a natural choice when the marketing position for Cadillac of Las Vegas needed filled. LJ Harness really is the 'Cadillac' of Las Vegas drummers!
After relocating to Las Vegas it didn't take long for LJ to notice what has troubled many long time Las Vegas visitors. Live entertainment, that had been the 'magic' of Las Vegas, was being replaced with nightclubs and recorded music. That magic, the excitement of going to Vegas, has always been hanging out with the stars and not just with a paid celebrity host or DJ. Even in recent years, a surprise drop in for some karaoke by Nicolas Cage or Drew Carey and crew would create a priceless sensation that visitors would take home to share with their friends. Nick has been an on and off resident of Las Vegas, and before his TV shows, stand up comedy, and role as game show host, Drew Carey worked as a bank teller and waiter in Las Vegas. Still today Celebrity sightings in Las Vegas are the 'Norm', and quite literally, as they are reported by Las Vegas Review Journal Celebrity Columnist Norm Clarke's Vegas Confidential.
Strangely enough in the 2011 Visitor Survey done annually by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), this was also noted. As seen in this excerpt from a Las Vegas Sun's Vegas INC article, the average visitor to Las Vegas is a 49 year old married male from southern California and his guest. The entertainment they are seeking isn't nightclubs, shows, or gaming that they could now do closer to home. What they are looking for, and what would make them return to Las Vegas is good lounge entertainment that had been a staple of Las Vegas.
With all the talented performers living in Las Vegas, LJ quickly became friends and that was how THE Vegas Underground was born. While the website is just getting started, this 'Secret Society in a City Built on Entertainment' has been operating nearly since LJ arrived in town. This with many community events he has organized, including USMC Toys for Tots, veterans' groups, and his true passion, inspiring children with arts and music programs in the locals schools. Much of this has been done through the sponsorship of Cadillac of Las Vegas. Pictured above is Domenick Allen who was with Foreigner, and as a 'wee lad', discovered by Liberace and became his featured performer of his cast of 60 here in Las Vegas. Standing behind him are Billy Hinche of Deano, Dezi, and Billy and Beach Boys fame, Regi Brown of Rose Royce, Gene Sironen, Brass player, singer, and arranger for several Las Vegas shows, Sonny Turner former lead singer for The Platters, and Heidi Thompson the premier Cher impersonator. This just scratches the surface of the number of entertainers that turned out to show their support during the 4 hour show. You'll also notice that LJ was able to get a lane closure on the Vegas Strip for the event, for Cadillacs and Marine Corps vehicles filled with toys, celebrity drop-offs, and Las Vegas TV station KLAS coverage.
The Vegas Underground has brought back what some call 'Vintage' or 'Classic Las Vegas Entertainment', that was symbolized by none other than The Rat Pack. As you can see from the photo on THE Vegas Underground About Page, when they were headlining there were still many other entertainers sharing the marquee, even though the hotels and showrooms had capacities in the hundreds, not the thousands of today. It was these intimate shows, often where you never knew who would show up, that made a trip to Las Vegas that magical experience that had visitors trekking back to the desert for more. They were having fun, jamming, and doing these unscripted and unrehearsed performances where the audience felt like they were part of it all. Much different than watching a show and possibly only seeing the performer on a monitor before they disappear back stage.
So many talented singers and musicians live here and still perform, but are often lost in the advertising of the major productions. The Vegas Strip casinos, if they have them, now often 'four wall' the more intimate shows, making the performer rent the space rather than it being provided , and advertised, by 'the house'. This again is where THE Vegas Underground comes in, allowing Las Vegas entertainers a place to share to share their performances and for fans of this style of Las Vegas entertainment so that they can find it. You can view posted shows on the site's event page, the THE Vegas Underground on Tunblr, The Vegas Underground mobile site for Las Vegas shows, on Facebook, through rss feeds, or by subscribing to email alerts.
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This also brings back the camaraderie between entertainers. Just like the video above, done by someone else LJ has shared a stage, Joe Cocker. They can get by 'With a little help from my friends'. It gives then an opportunity to network and share ideas, while their audience gets the benefit of enjoying the unique experience. Eliminating the feeling of competition brings back the fun in entertaining, when performers could just show up at another's lounge or theater, even for a 'competing' resort. With the opening of 2 mob museums in Las Vegas, it almost makes one reminisce that 'the boys' that built this Mecca in the desert had a better handle on providing entertainment than the corporations.
Besides LJ's Birthday Party at the former home of Caesars Palace creator Jay Sarno, what has turned into the biggest event for Las Vegas entertainers is the Monday Night Open Mike Jam at The Tap House on West Charleston. There LJ has teamed up with singer Mark Giovi, former lead singer with 'Bite' at the Stratosphere and a founding member of The Las Vegas Tenors, and keyboard and horn player Ned Mills of Piano Follies, the Suncoast Hit Parade, and arranger and musical director for other Las Vegas shows. While they are the hosts, many other entertainers and musicians will join them throughout the evening. Some may stroll in late after they finish their own shows. There are also visiting performers that may just be in town for their own concert, and can come from all over the globe. Singers, musicians, and comedians are all invited to be part of the show, from the up and comers to classic performers, and you just never know who will be there. It is truly entertainers performing for other entertainers, a long honored tradition that even Liza Minnelli has brought back to Las Vegas in her appearances.
Pictured above you'll see LJ and Ned, with Tony Drake on guitar and Bobby Brooks Wilson singing. You've probably heard Tony play before as he has numerous film and TV credits, played for various artists on A&M Records, and has toured with countless performers from Barry White, Cher, Della Reese, Tina Turner, The Supremes, En Vogue, The Fifth Dimension, Lou Rawls...well the list goes on and on. Bobby is the son of R&B legend Jackie Wilson, and brings back his father's and many other artists' music to audiences around the world. Here you get to enjoy them and the many others that drop in to jam, in a very casual atmosphere.
Now I have to warn you that the place does get packed. The word has been getting out to the Las Vegas locals about this special entertainment. Well established Las Vegas entertainment and society writer ZZ Zorn, or Dr. Adel as some may know her, has been letting the secret out in her columns that appear in several online sites. Talking with her recently she was amazed to see so many friends she hadn't seen in some time, but this show has brought them all out. Yet another place the secret has been exposed comes from a Las Vegas locals site, the Evan Davis Jazz Blog known among the Las Vegas music scene. Just this past Friday, the secret was leaked again on local TV from Channel 13's The Morning Blend in The Vegas Connection segment that you can see in this video at about 3:36. I also hear that the LA Times is also about to uncover this Las Vegas secret.
So even without LVCVA surveys, a visit to this or many of the other THE Vegas Underground member shows, I think you'll find there is a strong desire for this classic Las Vegas entertainment. From Sinatra style standards to Classic Rock, to Dance, or songs from production shows, comedy and more, it is really bringing out the crowds from all over the valley and beyond. Even if not performing it can be fun to just sit back and watch and feel like you're a part of the show, and getting to press the flesh with these performers and neighbors here in Las Vegas. As it's now been called by many, it's being part of the Las Vegas 'In Crowd'.
While some only get these kinds of Las Vegas experiences when they visit, living among so many talented performers, musicians, singers, and more is truly unique. You never know who you may meet, sit next to in a restaurant or deli, at a ball game, spy in a grocery store, or bump into at a car dealership. You get to enjoy these talents, whether just at a headliner or production show, or by discovering the more intimate venues of the members of The Vegas Underground. Having all this entertainment in your own backyard and making new interesting and talented friends is just one of the added benefits of living in Las Vegas.
The interesting and often colorful history, talented neighbors and celebrities of Las Vegas, and the sense of community they can create by sharing their art, are all just a few of the reasons Las Vegas is such a great place to call home. If you are interested in relocating to Las Vegasor would like more information on Las Vegas Real Estate, please email me, at Roberta@RobertaLaRocca.com, or call 702-354-8988. I look forward to hearing from you!