Monday, March 3, 2008

"A Steroidal Temple of Tackiness"

Today's New York Times carried a very odd review of "The Showgirl Must Go On" in which reviewer Charles Isherwood does his level best to simultaneously fawn over Bette Midler and kick Las Vegas repeatedly in the nuts.

He begins with a description of Vegas as -- and you can tell he's chuffed with himself for writing it -- "this sprawling gambling mecca, a steroidal temple of tackiness." He also takes a predictable slap at the length of Vegas productions as "apparently the maximum time audiences here will agree to be entertained away from the slots and tables." And, of course, he again attacks the unwashed millions (yes, you) who visit by referring to them as "masses who flock to this city in stupefying numbers in fervid search of ways to get rid of their money."

There is so much wrong with these arrogant, ill-informed statements from a man best known for writing the biography of a dead porn star that it'll probably spawn an entire Las Vegas Weekly column next week. But it's especially funny to me considering the whopper of an exclusive I'm about to break in the very same section of the very same periodical by week's end, one that should prove once and for all that (a) Vegas isn't tacky anymore and (b) the high-brow, elite Isherwoodsian world better get used to (a).

That said, I can't help reacting right here and now to just one of his ad hominem attacks. And, as an aside, one of the sad parts here is that his critique of the show itself is pretty dead-on and, in many places, quite well-written. (He calls the opening number "blazingly funny"; some of the choreography "delightful"; likens playing the ginormous Colosseum stage to "putting a Broadway show on a subway platform.")

But Isherwood also, unnecessarily and bafflingly, asked: "Is it a little dismaying for longtime fans of Ms. Midler to find her installed in Las Vegas as the latest luxury product for high rollers in a city awash in them?"

I guess in New York City, where people spend far higher prices on hotel rooms, fancy meals, tourist attractions and show and concert tickets, there's nothing so insulting about being treated as a product? Evidently to the Isherwood set, commerce in the arts is only inoffensive when it takes place in Manhattan.

I wonder, honestly, whether Isherwood knows that Radio City Musical Hall next week is hosting the, uh, MYSPACE MUSIC TOUR! I mean, what a trashy town they have there!