Vegas, Oh, Vegas whither goes thou……..

Living in Las Vegas has become a depressing business recently. The city’s numbers and the spending have gone down like a rock in water. The closing of Lance Burton’s show was a sad event and robbed our town of much of its magical class. It seems like Lance has always been a fixture somewhere in Vegas, from the Tropicana via the Hacienda all the way to his self-named showroom at the Monte Carlo. It was the very first room in town to be named after its star. It was very sad to see this fine show leave the strip. Incidentally, is it just me or don’t you think that Lance’s new photo shows him desperately trying to avoid giving the hotel the finger by restraining his right hand.

I think the demise of magic in Las Vegas began inevitably with the closing of Siegfried & Roy’s show, it just kicked off the downhill trend. There are still one or two bright spots of magic on the strip. Amazing Johnathan and Mac King represent the two most diametrically opposite aspects of magic and both do good business because they both do really good shows. David Copperfield does amazing numbers but has very wisely never become a ‘Vegas magician’ in spite of his frequent visits and the fact that he calls Las Vegas home.

The universal dislike and rejection of Criss Angel’s show was another kick in the gut to the credibility of the magical arts. Even with the aid of a highly popular TV show and the participation of the ubiquitous ‘Cirque de Same’ he has done nothing to improve the stature of magic in the neon city, in fact quite the reverse.

Not so long ago magic was an integral part of the entertainment scene in Vegas, however it’s now impressionists, ‘tribute shows’ and hypnotists who struggle for the the garlic flavored crumbs from the Cirque table. The magic shows are now relegated to ‘four wall deals’ that feature performers who seldom have any valid claim to ‘Star of a Vegas Show’ status. The hotels are in the theater rental business with no great interest in promoting or even caring about the success of the performers (with egos that they enable).

I have always seen the migrationary pattern of magic in America following Timothy Leary’s ‘East to West Evolutionary Pathway.’ New York to Chicago to Los Angeles with a tiny back step to Las Vegas, it sounds like a waltz! Don’t anyone get their knickers in a twist over this sweeping (but pretty damn accurate) generalization. Where does magic (and ultimately magicians go next)? Dr. Tim would probably suggest Japan thus completing a full cycle back to the East. Japan’s sophisticated approach to the performance and careful approach to the cultural status of the magical arts in Japan is very different to the cynical ‘Have rent: open show’ mentality that has hit the neon city.

Everywhere you see magicians gather in Las Vegas now the centerpiece conversation is how can I sell my submarine (they used to be called houses but are now so deeply underwater that submarine is more accurate) and where shall I move to. Los Angeles is way less attractive now that the Castle is making it’s transition from magic clubhouse to whatever it now is. That was a surprisingly tactful statement compared to what I really think! My phone call to the Castle office yesterday to make sure Milt knew that his Facebook account had been hacked and was being scammed; I was treated with such disdain and rudeness I had to pinch myself to make sure I was awake. Maybe I should have identified myself as an unknown cabaret singer to get a little courtesy!

I do believe there is something of a solution to these migratory problems, which I will expand upon in future writing. Sufficient to say, I think Jeff McBride has created something very special with his ‘Wonderground’ events in Vegas. There may be a key here to the regional revival of magic as a performing art as well as a conceptional one.

P.S. if you would like to read a fully coherent version of Leary’s theory of civilization’s migration from East to West buy or download his amazingly insightful book ‘The Intelligence Agents.’ The book is well worth a read, particularly in its original form as shown in this picture.

~ by Nick Lewin on September 9, 2010.

One Response to “Vegas, Oh, Vegas whither goes thou……..”

  1. OMG; what a sad but remarkably accurate piece of writing you’ve done here.
    As for the city of Las Vegas, it’s just a tumbleweed ready to roll. Half of ALL businesses are GONE. It’s a ghost town for real or certainly soon to be one.

    One of the things i’ve always hated about Vegas was that it never did more to promote the art of magic. Vegas could/should have been the magic capital of the world instead of the neon dumpster it is. Right about now, I’ve been “Cirque’d” to death. As for Criss Angel, the less said the better.

    And yes, thank God for Jeff McBride and Wonderground. Do you think one of the major properties would think ahead of the curve and get behind Wonderground? Don’t hold your breath. Doesn’t matter; Jeff is a warrior/magician and he’ll push forward.

    Supposedly what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Well, I’ve lived here eleven years.
    As soon as something happens here, please let me know.

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