Well, it’s been awhile since I posted, and so I’m going to have to do this in chunks, I think...
Before I say anything else, GO WATCH “SERENITY” IN THE MOVIE THEATERS!!! It opened weakly, and if it doesn’t do well, there may not be a sequel to it. AND I NEED MORE! Anyway, more on that later. Here's the low-down on my recent life.
1) ARRIVAL IN VEGAS:
I got to Las Vegas, without a clue what it would be like, or what the market was, or how the piano entertainers were.
Total And Complete Culture Shock!
The Architecture: Every casino is like a self-contained city. The bottom levels have the places to gamble, of course, but also streets, and shops, and theatres, and entertainment like you couldn’t believe. The Venetian has canals with gondolas that you can ride. Paris has a scale model of the Eiffel Tower. And so on. They’re not by any means true recreations of the original (I doubt a real New York street scene is anything like the New York, New York Casino lobby), but they are fascinating, nonetheless. I found myself in awe of each one I’ve been to see. And before you think I’m exaggerating about the “self-contained city” claim, consider this: the “Wynn” casino and hotel has 15,000 employees. That’s twice the size of my hometown. And of course, in addition to the lobbies, there are also the fountains of the Bellagio, the mall in front of Caesar’s Palace, the jungle of Mandalay Bay, and so on...
The Market: They need everything, and lots of it. Entertainment capital of the WORLD, baby! I can’t imagine that the rest of the US combined spends more on entertainment than Las Vegas. If I make it here, I’ll be making more than I ever could have in New Orleans (which was way more than I ever could have in Texas, so...).
The Piano Entertainers: Damn good. I mean, REALLY, REALLY GOOD. Everything that I prided myself on doing well, everybody here does better. Everything that I was worried might not be good enough for Vegas, isn’t. I’m bottom of the barrel here, just hoping I can improve fast enough to stay in the barrel.
2) THE PROBLEMS:
I arrived with very limited monetary assets (what my family was giving me, basically), no transportation, no contacts, and virtually no possessions aside from a few changes of clothing.
Well, through the internet, I found a lady who was willing to take me into her home (talk about trust!), which is what I did for a few days. I then proceeded to go to every piano bar I could find, and talk to the players, who put me in touch with the booking agent (Steve Beyer, who seems to have complete and total control over the LV piano scene – damn, but I hope I don’t piss him off!). He auditioned me, and is giving me shifts, partly out of a desire to help a Hurricane Katrina victim, and partly to see if I can get up to the level of the other entertainers here. I started working that week.
3) THE ENTERTAINERS (that I’ve worked with so far):
The Twins: Kim and Tam Pinegar – gorgeous blondes that headline “Harrah’s” – go to the website, and their pic is what they show. It would be impossible to find two nicer, big-hearted girls. It’s also intimidating sharing a stage with them, when all the guys start yelling “bring back the twins” whenever you walk on stage!
Van Walraven: A master of this show. He worked for Pat O’Brien’s in the early 90s, so he had a soft spot to help me out – went out and bought a keyboard and let me borrow it to practice on! He has had his own dueling pianos club, and now works in Vegas with his wife (also a dueling pianist). Great piano skills, great repertoire, great singer, and a high energy crowd pleaser.
Scott Nicholson: A great pianist (probably better than I am), a great singer, and one of the funniest guys I’ve ever met. I was laughing so hard it was hard to play.
Al Robinson: Imagine Joe Pesci as a dueling pianos entertainer... With a sarcastic bent, he berates the audience into loving him and giving him lots of money.
Joe Martell: a master of 80s music, with a tenor voice that lets him sing “Journey” songs in the original keys. If he wasn’t so nice, I’d hate him for that!
Bonnie Mizell: A gorgeous 26-year-old with a killer body, and a voice to match. Oh, and she got her Master’s degree in Piano Performance. And did I mention that her comedic timing is brilliant? Now if only she was an asian with a yearning for Jess and a huge sex drive, I'd be in love...
Mark Andert: The funniest guy I’ve EVER worked with; he has more one-liners and bits than you can imagine. When he’s onstage, it’s hard just to keep up. He has the audience captivated from the second he steps onto the stage until the moment he leaves.
Jeff Martin: Incredible repertoire, great jokes, but most of all, just a KILLER piano player. Originally a Jazzer (a real one, not a pretender like me), he shines when he cuts loose on the keys. I get nervous every time he throws me a solo, ‘cause my chops aren’t in the same ballpark as his. Hell, they’re not in the same league!
Have you noticed any reviews of crappy pianists here? Neither have I, ‘cause I haven’t worked with anybody who’s less than brilliant.
4) THE PROGRESS:
Well, I’m now in a place that has full internet access, which has allowed me to get back in touch with people, catch up with a lot of news and info, and generally be a happier man. I’ve played six shifts total (five in the last week), and made enough money to buy an old car (a 1994 Ford Explorer). That’s the transportation problem solved, which was a huge problem. I’ve got just enough left to buy a ticket to St. Louis on the 17th, where I’m going to meet up with my dad. I found out a couple of days ago that all my stuff is okay, including my car. So we’re going to drive from St. Louis to New Orleans, pack up, drive from New Orleans to Las Vegas, unload (into a mini-storage), and he’ll head back to St. Louis with my car, which he’s buying for my step-mom. Assuming I can get ahold of my Allstate agent, who hasn’t been returning my calls. I mean, what could she possibly be busy with?
I’m on the schedule for four shifts this week, and I’m hoping to keep busy. The more I play, the faster I’ll learn, methinks.
So, that’s enough typing for now. I plan to address some other stuff soon, like my cousin’s wedding (incredible) and the movie “Serenity” (go see it, damn it!).
Talk to you all soon,