Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Stefon-like Club To Open in Vegas, Offer Something Outside the Box

Bill Hader's Stefon has become a breakout SNL character in the last few seasons, for good reason. While the joke remains pretty much the same every time Hader plays the character, his effete reading of outrageous attractions at "New York's hottest clubs" somehow hits the mark every time. The segments, in which Stefon recommends "Eurotrash Utopias" with names like Pssh and Spicy! that "opened in 2017," are located in unpredictable venues like "a crashing blimp," run by proprietors such as "beatnik doctor Soul Patch Adams" or "Jew Diamond Philips," and feature attractions like "Muppets in disguise" "that one fat Hawaiian guy that no one invited," and "Human Fire Hydrants," are some of the most reliably side-splitting bits in the current era of the long-running sketch comedy warhorse. Hader himself often breaks down in fits of giggles during the character's Weekend Update segments (possibly because the writers add some of the most outrageous descriptions at the last minute), which he's seamlessly integrated into his performance as one of the oddball character's many tics.

While a 2 year old ultimate fighter named Drooly Lips Jackson with "fists like little empanadas" (who just happens to be Stefon's "best friend"), "seven level courses in adult education," "Teddy Ruxpin in mascara," and "Black George Washington" seem like outlandish exaggerations of reality, they're actually not that far off from some of the details of the real-life New York club scene.

Stefon would certainly feel at home at The Box, a nightclub/ variety theater (or as their website cheekily/ pretentiously puts it, "theater of varieties") created by Simon Hammerstein (grandson of the legendary Oscar Hammerstein) that tried to attract a mix of young and artsy party-monsters in a "Moulin Rouge theater of the extreme" featuring edgy shows starring fringe-dwelling (and often nude) artists. The nightlife review sight BestClubsIn.Com describes the diverse group of performers onstage in the beautiful two-level club as "fire-eaters, cross-dressing midgets, contortionists, burlesque performers" and various other members of "the artistic underworld" getting on stage and "baring their souls (among other things)." Just the term "cross-dressing midgets" makes me question whether this place is real or exists only in the "visions a dying gay man would have if he was under too many blankets" or as the "nightmares of a Crystal Meth addict" as Seth Meyers has described Stefon's recommendations, but The Box is very, very real... and a version of it is coming very soon to Las Vegas.

The club was a sensation when it firs opened, attracting the young and hip along with celebrities and a second location opened in London just a year after the New York version debuted. Not a city to miss out on a successful nightlife property, Las Vegas will soon have their own version of the place. Anthony Curtis Las Vegas Advisor has confirmed rumors that the creators of The Box are opening a new venue in Sin City called The Act. Construction is already underway for a planned Fall opening in The Shoppes at Palazzo at a venue which will be "part cabaret, part Vaudevillian showcase, with exotic performances set between interludes of roaring music," offering further proof that Las Vegas is the most bizarre place on the planet as it's surely the only town where a theater featuring cross-dressing midgets (I can't stop mentioning it because I can scarcely believe they're featured in a real nightclub and not one in a David Lynch fever-dream) and other fringe artists would open in a shopping mall.

While the acts described at The Act don't sound like they're that much more outlandish than some of the weirder performance art aspects in Absinthe or even some of the more out there Cirque stars, the combination of crazy fringe performers with the Vegas nightlife scene is an intriguing proposal. I've made no secret of the fact that I can't really stand the standard Vegas nightlife scene (and have offered advice on how it can be improved even though nightclubs are bringing in unimaginable truckloads of money and the people who run them really don't need my input), I'm intrigued by the concept of The Act. The place sounds a bit pretentious... but pretentious is fine in this context, because at least the creators of the club intend to do something (anything, please!) different from what every other club in Las Vegas is doing. Anything even a little bit outside the box (pun fully intended) is a welcome addition to The Strip nightlife scene (even if it's in a giant shopping mall).

The Box in NYC was conceived as an edgy antidote to the usual New York club scene, and of course a New York Times piece ran less than a year after it opened in 2007 that asked the question if the place had already lost its edge and added that despite the owners' intentions of creating edgy and dangerous nightly shows, The Box had "settled into its role as a purveyor of kitschy, Las Vegas style exotica and extremely pricey drinks." So maybe the new club won't stand out all that much, but it's nice to imagine that it will bring something at least a little different to The Strip's over-saturated club scene.  Hopefully Stefon will be there opening night, rolling with his best friend Drooly Lips Jackson and dancing onstage with those cross-dressing midgets.

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