EntertainmentVegas Unfiltered

Keeping Entertainers Safe: The Stage is a Battleground

From the “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished” files, entertainers face increasing risks from their own audiences…

Keeping Entertainers Safe: The Stage is a Battleground

A BRUTAL TRUTH

It was the slap heard around the world. This spring, the once-elegant Academy Awards became an ugly reminder that decorum and respect are bleeding out like a farm-raised turkey in November. Sad as it may be, the Chris Rock-Will Smith incident was just one example of an increasingly dangerous battleground known as “the stage”.

Keeping Entertainers Safe: The Stage is a Battleground

David Chappelle. Sampson McCormick, Affion Crockett, Pauly Shore, Jay Oakerson, Jim Jefferies, Jerry Sadowitz, Steve Brown, Justin Bieber, Beyonce, Pitbull, and Alicia Keys have all been attacked during performances. This is in sharp contrast to decades past when such incidents were rare (Frank Zappa, Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse).

ART REFLECTS LIFE, LIFE REFLECTS ART

With so much upheaval around us, performers often feel compelled to reflect on current events through the mirror of their artistic talents. Yet the ramifications could be disastrous. In our post-pandemic reality of rage, one in which our own Capitol was invaded and flight attendants are commonly assaulted, violence against entertainers must be anticipated.

Keeping Entertainers Safe: The Stage is a Battleground

In Las Vegas, the line between art and life is a precarious one. People come here to escape reality, not to be reminded of it. Yet in their mission to raise Hell, visitors forget the basics of public behavior and can sometimes become wild and dangerous. Remember the riots and brawls we faced once casinos reopened? That’s our new truth, and it isn’t going to suddenly go away.

Artists aren’t just performers….they’re a business commodity. Now more than ever, they must be protected from their own fans. You might have noticed a heavier security presence recently when attending shows or events. Armed guards, pat-downs and wanding, bag searches, and metal detectors…once unthinkable, they’ve become commonplace.

HANDS OFF

Along with escalated incidents of violence, venues continue to deal with other residual effects of the big pandemic. Some people on both sides of the stage do NOT want physical interaction of any kind. But if they’re clever, they can find a way to work precautions into the show.

Keeping Entertainers Safe: The Stage is a Battleground

Carrot Top, for instance, enjoys walking through his theater, hugging patrons, and offering shots of Crown Royal. Now the quirky prop-comic carries a large sheet of plexiglass, placing it between his own lips and those of audience members who want a kiss. He jokingly smears sanitizer over his hands and body when returning to the stage, but the point has been made. A wall has risen between “us” and “them”, and it can’t be ignored.

Adult revues have taken steps to erect an implied barricade between performers and ticket-buyers. While female topless revues have always kept their ladies out of harm’s reach. male strippers are known for their tactile approach.

At Chippendales, the guys still occasionally wear face masks (albeit in a wink-wink fashion) when stepping offstage. In downtown’s AUSSIE HEAT, you have the option to purchase a wristband that entitles you to lap dances. And innside Magic Mike Live, those who don’t want to be approached are asked to keep their hands on their thighs or use the safe word “Unicorn” to send dancers elsewhere.

KEEP YOUR OPINIONS TO YOURSELF

Despite the fact that art and politics are intertwined, some don’t like their entertainers to express opinions. It’s a very slippery slope. Nobody seems to mind if a celebrity uses their influence to promote a charitable organization or social cause. But endorse a certain political candidate or comment on touchy subjects, and you risk the wrath of your own followers.

Keeping Entertainers Safe: The Stage is a Battleground

One Vegas entertainer used to host an online chat-fest that brazenly blew apart the absurdity of our culture. His brilliant efforts were rewarded with a “cease and desist” request from his own advisors and supporters. Apparently, free speech is still guaranteed in the States, but not when it might affect audience attendance. Every show has cast and crew members who count on its success. “So please just shut up and sing.”

We also have this new beast among us called “Cancel Culture”. Say the wrong thing, date the wrong person, perform in the wrong place, wear the wrong clothes, endorse the wrong candidate, or just be that unfortunate individual at whom an allegation is made, provable or not, and your career is instantly over. No jury, no trial, no chance to defend yourself. The Court of Public Opinion is speedier than any legal procedure, and the punishment is just as swift.

PAUL BLART, MALL COP 

Just like the airlines, showrooms and nightclubs are scrambling to redefine “security”. Entertainers want to touch people with more than just their artistry, and fans love a fist bump or hug. So where does that leave the people hired to keep everyone safe?

Keeping Entertainers Safe: The Stage is a Battleground

An overzealous security detail can create its own problems, disrupting the performance and perhaps angering those on both sides of the live experience.  It’s a balancing act that sometimes fails…badly. As a frequent show attendee, I’ve been on the receiving end of unnecessary treatment from security guards. Even though they’re only following orders, the notion of using common sense often gets lost in the execution.

I blatantly gave my opinions to the two armed men who escorted me out of Criss Angel’s farce AMYSTIKA a few months back. “Don’t you feel a bit absurd, protecting a magician from my keyboard when there are actual crimes being committed in your casino?”. Their facial expressions made it clear that my point was understood.

YOU’LL BE HEARING FROM MY ATTORNEY

Let’s throw one more biggie onto the table – frivolous lawsuits. Not only are entertainers battered down by absurdly costly union requirements, resistance from their host hotels, ever-rising production costs, and fierce competition, but they’ve also got to worry about guest injuries and allegations from audience members.

Keeping Entertainers Safe: The Stage is a Battleground

I’ve been closely following an incident that took place at a topless revue this summer. In a super-odd role reversal, an audience member claims to have been injured by a performer during a lapdance. Despite video and photographic evidence clearly showing that no such event took place, a hang-wringing lawyer eagerly took the ca$e. The investigation is ongoing, yet whatever the final outcome, it’s future ticket buyers who may suffer.

GET OFF THE STAGE

Audience interaction is a huge part of live entertainment. Magicians, comedians, hypnotists, mentalists, dancers, and all types of variety acts invite guests to participate in the fun. Even small children are frequently welcomed onstage. It’s all part of the experience that earned us the title of “Entertainment Capital of the World”.

Imagine if all of that came to an end, simply because entertainers feared repercussions or attacks while doing the very thing that brought audiences to see them. If that were to happen, EVERYONE would lose.

Keeping Entertainers Safe: The Stage is a Battleground

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