Sharing the stage (and dressing room) with the Shimadas in Las Vegas.
I was off and away on another magical mystery tour courteously of Jean Cantor from the Magic Castle. Let me tell you about this particular show. Jean had booked me to perform on a Japanese television special to be filmed in Las Vegas. The star of the show was a widely popular comedy performer from Japan.
The special was to be taped live at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas to give it a more international feeling and the producers had hired two acts to entertain the live audience during breaks and downtime while the special was being taped. In keeping with the International theme they hired me to perform two ten-minute comedy sets and Shimada & Deanne to present their classic dove and parasol show.
I had met Shimada and Deanne before and was a huge fan of their dynamic onstage synergy. What I didn’t realize was how much fun they would be to work with. We all flew from L.A. to Las Vegas on the same early morning flight and there didn’t seem to be much energy between the three of us. However, any lack of energy disappeared instantly when Shimada stepped inside the Vegas terminal and within seconds was stuffing money into a slot machine at an impressive speed. I was impressed.
We were picked up at the airport and delivered to an enormous dressing room next to the Aladdin showroom. The dressing room was divided equally—not! Shimada and Deanne, along with their mountains of costumes, doves, parasols and dragon parts filled four fifths of the room and my working case was sitting on a chair in another corner of the room. We got our props together and sat gossiping in the dressing room wondering when we would be called upon to work.
We didn’t have to wait long. The live audience had been attracted to the filming by the offer of a free show and special surprises. The real problem was that not one person in the audience spoke Japanese. It really creates a hitch in comedy when you don’t understand the language. The visuals didn’t help the situation much either. I remember one sketch where a samurai warrior sliced open the gut of a fellow performer resulting in oceans of blood and guts washing out over the stage. The audience hated everything they were seeing and were leaving the showroom in droves!
The producer sent me onstage to see if they might react better to American style comedy. They did. I also introduced the ‘surprises’ that the audience had been promised; these surprises were a large collection of electronic goods such as TV’s and Stereo Systems that were to be given away on a regular basis. The dispersal of these goodies was very popular with the crowd and allowed us to keep an audience for the ten hours it would take to film the special. After finishing my ten-minute set, I came offstage and was greeted by an excited Haruo who said, “Nick, you did very well and I made a new deal for you with the producer.”
The deal he had made was that the production team wanted me to act as Host and MC and perform my comedy and magic during the remainder of the shoot. “What are they paying me I asked?” Shimada smiled and explained that the producer had agreed to give all three of us free drink in the dressing room for the remainder of the taping. They certainly fulfilled their end of the deal and for the next eight hours Wine, Spirits, Beer and Brandy arrived in the dressing room in copious amounts! They also disappeared in copious amounts!
The only downside to my new contract was that by the end of the day I had been onstage doing ‘time’ for nearly three hours! I did my jokes, old jokes, new jokes, jokes I had heard on the Carson show the night before! If in doubt I gave away another TV and that always worked!
I was a very exhausted, rather drunk and somewhat dazed comedy magician when I returned to L.A. with my new friends Shimada & Deanne!