Luxe Life Blog
Photos: Stifler is the best Las Vegas show you don’t know about
By John Katsilometes
OK, I will owe to the obvious:
Stifler? I just met ’er (hashtag-SheckyKats)!
That’s an inside joke, but Stifler is an entirely insiders’ experience.
Backstory: Saturday night erupted, Mount Vesuvius-like, in the Lounge at the Palms. This is where, on occasional Saturdays, an unbilled, quasi-organized showcase under the mysterious title Stifler is held forth around 11:30 p.m. At the center of the manic performance are Frankie Moreno and a few members of his band that headline Wednesdays through Saturdays at the Stratosphere.
For an idea of who turned up at the second Stifler rollout (the first was about a month ago), champions of two of the nation’s top-rated contest shows took the stage: “American Idol” winner Taylor Hicks and “America’s Got Talent” champ Michael Grimm, each of whom claimed their titles in the fifth season of their respective shows.
Hicks is headlining at Indigo at Bally’s (more on that residency in upcoming bloggity), and Grimm has been toggling dates at Ovation at Green Valley Ranch and Access Showroom at Aliante Station.
This night was bananas, and we’re not just talking of the video clip of a guy lighting firecrackers and blowing up bananas taped to his face.
As Moreno and former ‘N Sync member (and current member of “Dancing With the Stars: Live in Las Vegas” at the Trop) Joey Fatone muscled through the indefatigable saloon staple “Mustang Sally,” Hicks unexpectedly waded through the jammed audience and crawled onstage. He then produced a harmonica, played a searing solo on the instrument and swapped vocals with Fatone. Moreno happened to have pocketed his own harmonica and alternated solos with Hicks as the audience went something akin to crazy.
Grimm was called up several minutes later for “Chain of Fools.” Sort of an apt number, actually. Grimm and Moreno go back a few years when Moreno’s band performed at Brendan’s Pub at the Orleans, with Grimm sometimes joining their booze-fueled, late-night sets.
Other mad happenings: Las Vegas stand-up Rob Sherwood opened with a 10-minute set and called out to Brad Garrett, who was seated at my table, as I am such a hotshot. Celebrity magician Murray Sawchuck (headliner at the Trop’s Laugh Factory) performed a trick in which he made a playing card disappear, only to reappear in a bottle of Crown Royal, a ubiquitous stage effect in Moreno performances. Paul Shortino (the esteemed Duke Fame from “This Is Spinal Tap and former frontman of Rough Cutt and Quiet Riot) sang, and Golden Nugget’s chief headliner Gordie Brown took the stage for about 167 impressions in six minutes.
Melody Sweets from “Absinthe” sang two numbers (forgive me for not knowing all the titles of what was performed; Stifler shows lack official programs), and most of the cast of that production at Caesars Palace stood in the back of the room. Dorimar Bonilla hustled up to dance to “Tangerine Honey,” her showcase song in Moreno’s Stratosphere performance.
At show’s end, a member of the “Absinthe” balancing duo, Michal Furmanczyk, climbed onstage, shed his shirt (he is known as “Mr. 10-Pack” and thus must be stopped) and mimicked Bonilla’s “Tangerine Honey” performance. This was as funny, and as flexible, as any scripted scene you will see in Las Vegas.
Others around the room included not one but two Vegas hypnotists, Marc Savard of V Theater at Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood and Anthony Cools of Paris Las Vegas (who took the stage for a somewhat coherent toast and to allow bassist Tony Moreno to sing “Happy Birthday” as the show was on or around Cools’ birthday), Carrot Top, Zowie Bowie’s Chris Phillips, Pantera drummer and co-founder Vinnie Paul, assorted members of the “DWTS” cast, members of Blue Man Group and musicians in Celine Dion’s orchestra.
Those who attended the first show included violin virtuoso Joshua Bell, members of the L.V. Philharmonic, baseball great Orel Hershiser and master chef Rick Moonen.
The Stifler shows have already outgrown the room and thus are in danger of outgrowing their organic vibe, too. The crowd outside the Lounge at the Palms seemed to double the seated capacity of 228 (and gosh, maybe there is a new live-music venue opening at a slick resort that could be the vinyl -- er, final -- destination for these shows).
The high demand for these informal performances, and the high caliber of those who appear onstage and in the audience, shows that the spirit of Old Vegas is still alive.
You just need to know where to find it (wink).