Tuesday, August 18, 2020 / by Ken Couture
Even in a pandemic shutdown, the Las Vegas entertainment community knows how to stage an event. The city’s riggers, sound engineers, lighting techs and related stagehands are making themselves seen and heard on the Las Vegas Strip.
The WE/EC Vegas organization — which stands for We the Entertainment Community of Las Vegas — is holding a car parade and walking event Wednesday. The drive is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. at the parking lot of Guitar Center at Town Square, moving northbound past the staging area at the four corners of Flamingo Road and the Strip and continuing on until dispersing at the Sahara Las Vegas.
The organizers are longtime Las Vegas entertainment industry pros. Some you never see, but you are dazzled by their work.
The team is headed by David Schulman, a lighting director for such productions as “Vegas! The Show,” “A Mob Story,” several “Ribbon of Life” benefit productions and Strip corporate events. He’s teamed with Cian Coey, his girlfriend and a renowned singer with “Raiding the Rock Vault,” Meat Loaf, Dweezil Zappa and (reaching back a few years) “We Will Rock You” at Paris Las Vegas.
And, the woman known as the “Pixel Queen” in town, veteran lighting director Vickie Claiborne, is also on board.
“We are seeing the effects beyond just the production shows. It’s with all the stagehands who put on live performances everywhere in the city, from Fremont Street Experience to the lounges, to all of the corporate events that bring business to Las Vegas,” Schulman said in a phone chat Monday morning. “You see the numbers, how many shows are down and how many people are out of work. But we’re trying to put a face on this.”
Schulman emphasized the effort is safe — masks and social distancing required — and designed to be peaceful. It is not a protest or a political rally. The event is showing quick support — its Facebook page was launched Sunday night; by Monday afternoon it had reached 3,500 members.
“This is our way of getting noticed,” Schulman said. “We are working with local unions, we’ll have nonunions, we will have the performers in Cirque, the production shows, whose lives have been decimated.”
The movement was sparked by similar support events in Brazil and in the U.K., such as a “case push” parade of about 100 stagehands last week in Lancaster, England. They actually pushed rolling cases along the street to gain national attention for the arts and entertainment industry.
In Las Vegas, WE/EC and the worldwide arts organization Red Alert Events are planning a case push along the Fremont Street Experience on Aug. 27. The start time and map for the walk are still to be finalized, but the event is set to begin at the Third Street Stage.
Coey, who has worked across the city from the lounges to Paris and Tropicana theaters, said the entertainment culture is frequently overlooked during a crisis.
“We are usually at the bottom of the totem pole. Our industry is vital, especially in Las Vegas, but we’re artists, and people think it’s just art, we don’t need that, we’ll survive without art,” Coey said. “In this community, we are just used to sacrifices because we love what we do. So it’s hard to be supported, and sometimes we are forgotten.”
These theaters are not just boxes for shows either. As Schulman notes, it takes a veritable village to restart a major Las Vegas production show.
“You look at ‘Ka,’ or ‘Zumanity,’ and the systems in those theaters were never meant to be dormant this long,” he said. “You need to make sure everything is working properly, that it’s safe for the artists on stage as well as following the safety conditions set by the Gaming Control Board, the CDC and our own governor.”
As Coey said, “Who knows how long it will last? We don’t know how long we can survive, or what it looks like when it’s over. We are all talking about how we will perform again, and I think this is a start.”
This is Sturgis
A Vegas singer found her way to the Sturgis motorcycle rally last week. Sandy Knights, who portrayed Shania Twain in “Vegas Gone Country” at V Theater at the Miracle Mile Shops, worked the Full Throttle Saloon during the 80th annual event in South Dakota. Full Throttle is known as “The World’s Largest Biker Bar.” She said the place was mostly outdoors, she felt safe and the crowd was “ecstatic” to be there.
Knights holds down a different sort of gig in Las Vegas, as the chanteuse at Capo’s Restaurant and Speakeasy on West Sahara Avenue.
Greatmoments in social media
George Wallace’s Twitter feed @MrGeorgeWallace is a must-follow. From Saturday: “What the hell is a jiffy, and why will so many folks be back in it?”
E.T. and me
Programming note: I’ll join Vegas entertainment great Earl Turner at 7 p.m. Tuesday on his Earl Turner Show Facebook page, and his Earl Turner Live on YouTube. This is a flip of roles, as Turner asks the questions and I perform a blazing rendition of “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire.
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