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LETTER FROM VEGAS

Robert Goulet's Short-Lived Show at the Venetian
By Richard Abowitz


All over the world, events get moved, delayed and even cancelled. Of course, Tempus Fugit, things change, and all of that. But––outside of an actual war zone––in Las Vegas this happens at a speed so much quicker than in any other place that it is a bit like living amidst time-lapse photography. Take Robert Goulet's short-lived show at the Venetian. It was slotted for a summer run and only lasted a few weeks.

There was a time when Goulet was just the sort of marquee name that casinos paid top dollar to have come perform in Las Vegas. Of course, back then there wasn't even a Venetian... "Those were the days, my friend," Robert Goulet sang.

If you manage to get to the Venetian at just the right time of day and approach the megaresort from just the right direction, you may catch a quick glimpse of them––the few, the proud, and the heavily regulated and restricted union protestors. Labor unrest never used to be a problem on the Strip for an obvious reason: casino executives and union leaders were both answerable to the same people. At least, that's how it was portrayed in Casino, and here at ground zero everyone believes in that movie. But––to throw in an extraneous Dylan quote––things have changed.

The Venetian has resisted fiercely union representation since opening. In fact, it was only a couple of weeks ago that the 9th Circuit upheld a ruling against the Venetian's claim that the casino could ban the protestors from its sidewalk altogether. I've been told that in most places in America the sidewalk is regarded as a public space. It doesn't snow here, so maybe it's just that no one knows that back East people are expected to do things like shovel the sidewalk in front of their homes without actually getting to own the sidewalk. But in Las Vegas the casinos argue that stewardship equals ownership, and in Las Vegas that is not an outrageous claim. Back in May, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that Treasure Island and Mirage could restrict people from standing on the sidewalk in front of those casinos to hand out fliers for sex businesses.

I didn't see any protestors the night I arrived at the Venetian to see Goulet perform, shortly after his show had opened and, as it turned out, shortly before it closed, too. Though brief, the history of the C2K Showroom has been both contentious and notorious. It is not run by the Venetian but leased out to another company that subleases it for events and shows. Last year, however, the Venetian didn't let that stop the casino from shutting down and ultimately booting the operators of the popular C2K nightclub when stories of rampant drug use surfaced after a 21-year-old girl died after allegedly taking Ecstasy while at C2K. The C2K showroom was also the location for the Russian-themed production show "Nebulae" which closed up quickly and left town. There was some grumbling in the local press about the show leaving behind a few unpaid bills.

My real problem with the C2K showroom, though, was that as Goulet sang, I sat in an amazingly uncomfortable straight-backed chair pushed up against people on either side of me. Tickets for Goulet, by the way, started at $78. Keep in mind, the people around me were, let's face it, not young and the chairs were no better than the kind set up in a high school gym for a student play. This is sort of a mystery to me, too, since, as it turns out, I went back to C2K last night, invited to see the one-year anniversary of another show, "Melinda the First Lady of Magic". The seats put on the floor for her show were fantastic, not at all cramped, and, if you're someone who cares, even stylish.

This is the heartbreaking part––Goulet sounded fantastic. The pace of the show was a bit slow and his banter awkward, but his voice was magnificent. I'm not a fan of Goulet's style of singing, and I was surprised by how powerful a performer he is. Unlike so many Strip regulars, Goulet sings unguarded and full-bodied. Though almost 70, he is better now than he sounds on recordings I downloaded from decades ago. Hearing his voice boom out, it is amazing that people didn't hear it echo all through the Venetian, past the slots and tables and even out on to the Strip. If they had heard, surely they would have come to see him... But things have changed in Vegas. Maybe one day they will change again. I hope so. I am a little weirded out to say this, but here it is: I look forward to the return of Robert Goulet, after all, in Las Vegas––final extraneous Dylan quote––the wheel's still in spin.