Welcome to 2022, where decorum is just a memory. Gone are the days when people dressed up for a casual evening out. We know and accept that, but does it mean that disrespectful behavior should be tolerated as well? Of course not. Yet we see it everywhere, from road rage to supermarket brawls. When people at the highest level of authority (you know exactly who I mean) are blatantly foul and disrespectful, nastiness has become “normalized”. That’s where we are today.
Despite the fact that it should be obvious, audiences require constant reminders that they aren’t in their living rooms. Whether it’s weddings, classrooms, movie theaters, or live entertainment, we’re asked to shut off our phone ringers, put them away, not talk during a presentation, and not take flash photos. Still, it happens over and over.
I’ll never forget the time that I attended a graveside service for the mother of a friend. As the rabbi led the deceased’s son in ritual prayer, someone’s phone began to ring. And kept ringing over and over. Are we really that clueless as to how we affect others? Of course, we are.
Consider Will Smith and the “slap heard around the world”. The Academy Awards was once a gathering of distinguished artists in their best outfits, setting the bar for sophistication. But in 2022, it’s a profanity-laden bar brawl…and just as many people laughed at the incident as were mortified by its ramifications. A sad reflection on society, indeed.
Here in Las Vegas, public behavior is at an all-time low. Coming out of the pandemic, we saw riots and mob fights, stabbings and shootings, and violent incidents on flights coming into and leaving our city. Now the scope has broadened to pool fights, disorderly conduct, nightclub fisticuffs, mistreatment of staffers, and much more. Bad behavior is now an everyday part of the Vegas experience.
We’ve become desensitized to metal detectors and bag checks before entering theaters, and we’re often required to lock our devices in secured bags before being allowed to proceed. Casino security has to constantly tell parents that it’s illegal for children to be on the casino floor. Why? Because we can’t be trusted to police ourselves.
As an entertainment writer, I attend an average of eight to ten live performances per week. Disruptions have become the norm, from the person who tries to give themselves a seat upgrade to the idiot who lights up a cigarette. But one of the most consistently regular breaches of etiquette is the “very late arrival”.
Of course, there are understandable reasons for not arriving on time. People get lost, can’t secure an Uber or Lyft, misread the showtime or end up at the wrong location altogether. It happens. But here in Las Vegas, curtain time seems to be more of a suggestion than an actual “thing”. You can best believe that at any performance, people will flow in steadily during the first half of a show.
For whatever reason, the absolute worst offenders are women at male revues. I’d estimate that roughly 45 percent of every audience is late-comers. Along with their screeching, grabby hands, vulgar language, and utterly obnoxious behavior, they flow in throughout the entire run time…even into the last 20 minutes. It’s mind-boggling.
Many performers have been known to chastise their audiences for disruptive tardiness and other distractions. “You know that I can see and hear you, right?”. “Oh, so nice of you to finally join us. We’ve just been hanging out waiting for you to get here.” “Excuse me….you on the phone….would you like me to shut up until you’re done with your call?”
I’ve seen entertainers walk off the stage and physically take phones from offenders. Sometimes they’ll stop a song or joke and say “I’m sorry…am I interrupting your conversation?”. Sadly, it’s a slippery slope. Confront them too strongly and you face the wrath of “Karen – the Yelper from Hell”. Just one nasty review can significantly lower a venue’s overall rating, which in turn might harm future sales. So, do you put up with rude patrons or address infractions for the benefit of others? It’s a lose-lose situation.
Another uniquely-Vegas problem is the seat-filler patron. We have a number of subscription services that allow members to obtain same-day unsold seats free of charge. While that’s an awesome deal for local residents, it is often a pain in the ass for performers and showroom operators. They tell me that this type of audience member is the absolute worst…the person who gets in for free but flaunts their “entitlement hat”.
One showroom operator recently shared a letter that they sent to at a seat-filler service, which we’ll call “Hospitality Shows” to maintain confidentiality:
“We are really having issues with your guests being very rude to our staff. Last night I personally had an interaction with one of your guests who didn’t like his four free seats After being placed at a table in the 5th row (a really good seat) he got up and tried to sit in other areas of the room. Then he grabbed me and demanded a front row or booth even after I explained that those were sold. I explained that Hospitality Show guests are exactly that …”guests”…with General Admission tickets that we don’t actually get paid for.“
“It’s my understanding from my team that this is a CONSTANT issue with your guests. In fact producers from all over town complain of the same thing — about how rude and ungrateful Hospitality Shows guests are.“
“I’d like you to place a disclaimer that tickets are general admission and assigned at the door based on availability. You should also fully explain that Hospitality Shows does not pay venues for tickets and that these people pay $XX a year to gain access to empty seats.“
As I said above, people need constant reminders that they aren’t in their living rooms. What you do there is your own business. But when you step out into the real world, you are obligated to follow simple rules and offer courtesy to your fellow human beings. If you need to be constantly reminded to do so, then maybe you should just keep your nasty ass at home.