Saturday, June 20, 2009

Seacrest As Larry King Successor Draws Laughs

I just got in from one of the truly strange nights in the annals of Las Vegas entertainment, the appearance of Larry King and his wife, Shawn, on stage at the Wynn Las Vegas. Many of you Facebook friends -- and Miles, too -- were baffled that I needed to see this, but the 75-year-old CNN host was being billed as planning to do stand-up comedy and his 49-year-old wife, was going to sing and this was all happening on Danny Gans' former stage. The night Gans died, Larry anchored his CNN show from there; Shawn had been slated to sing with Danny sometime that same weekend.

We'll get to that in a second, but first something very interesting occurred. During a Q-and-A session after Larry told some jokes and stories, someone asked him who might replace him on his CNN program when he retires. Larry gave a rambling answer before mentioning the possibility of American Idol host Ryan Seacrest. And then...the audience bust out into uproarious laughter.

It was spontaneous and startling, and it was followed by a second wave of giggles over how spontaneous and startling it was that so many people found Ryan Seacrest as Larry's replacement amusing. For his part, Larry was utterly baffled. "What's so funny?" he asked, bewildered. "Why is that funny?" He quickly pivoted onward to the next inquiry but I wonder if he's going to go back to the producers and say, "The American public thinks Seacrest is a joke." We can only hope, huh?

Now back to a show which was, by every measure, surreal. Shawn King is, at best, a bearable singer. She wore a pink shirt-skirt over black leather pants and very tall, very narrow stiletto black boots and sang a range of standards for about a half-hour that included a very peculiar Motown medley and a duet with a video of Willie Nelson in which the audio was not in synch with Willie's part.

The missus reminded me a little bit of my mom who loves to sing and insists on doing so at all our family weddings and Bar Mitzvahs. If Mom were married to a major TV personality with the ability to get her a gig on a prominent Vegas stage, she, too, would have enjoyed singing a few tunes and soaking up the applause, however obligatory. And the event had the sheen of that sort of amateur hour, especially when she explained that some video that was to go with a song "didn't make it onto the plane." Uh, OK. And later she said something to the effect of, "As you know, I'm the wife of Larry King from Larry King Live and, boy, is he ever." That's good because many people have wondered.

After Mrs. King came the Scarecrow. Except that, believe me or don't, Larry was incredibly charming and totally funny. And yes, to those of you who asked via Facebook, he does have legs. Very thin ones in painted-on black jeans and, of course, suspenders. He explained he was doing the show on a dare from Steve Wynn -- the tickets benefited a King charity but I'm told only about 400 of the seats were sold and the rest were comps -- and I think it was some sort of closure experience for both King and Wynn, both close friends of Danny Gans.

Larry told amusing stories about his youth in Brooklyn, albeit unrealistic and probably false ones despite his insistence that this all was the truth, and some about his career including how Jackie Gleason got him an interview with Frank Sinatra while he was a Florida radio host. It was light, indulgent fare, although the talk-show host had an annoying habit of constantly reaching out to rest his hand on the mike stand even when the mike stand was not next to him. Larry didn't do traditional stand-up; he told jokes when they occurred to him and told stories and answered questions. One joke he told, about a chihuahua guide dog, is actually in Bette Midler's show.

The audience was interesting, too. I didn't realize it until Larry pointed it out, but Warren Buffett was seated a few seats to my right in my row. And Steve Wynn was there with Andrea Hissom, whom he introduced to me as his "lady friend." Elaine Wynn was not in attendance, but Larry King did mention how great "Steve and Elaine" have been to him. I had a perfect view of Wynn and Hissom at that point and there was no reaction at all on her face when Elaine was mentioned.

Wynn did mention he was having Garth Brooks in the showroom for another free concert for invited guests on Tuesday. Brooks was there a few weeks ago for a similar gig. This is sure to fuel more speculation about Brooks coming to Encore for a resident show, but when I asked Wynn he said, "You're a reporter, I'm not answering that." Which means he's learning some restraint with me, which is kind of a bummer.

@Norm_Clarke Tweeted after the show that Wynn wants Larry to come back. Sure he'd say that. But both men must know that as a one-off, it was a fun curiosity, a camp classic. Anything more than that -- particularly if they try to charge paying customers for a for-profit venture -- and they'll embarrass themselves. Especially with the missus in tow.


Pete said...

I saw Larry King more than 15 years ago at a conference and he "killed". I couldn't believe how good his stories are, and probably the same stories you heard last night. What works at a conference probably is different than what works in Vegas however. Giving the wife a platform for her singing is a little bizarre.

robertw4771 said...

Steve, very good observations on larry. Larry does tell some tall tales. For many years he did not come backto miami because some tough guys were looking for him regading various issues. Gulfstream park in halladale used to have his bad checks pasted on their office walls. Many of Larry Kings stories are modified or just not true. He has some stories about Sandy Koufax. They all went to the same school in brooklyn. He supposedly played ball with koufax etc. Koufax said all the stories were false. Anyway the thing is that if he was so funny there are probably some of the biggest whoppers.


Anonymous said...

Interesting that Wynn chose not to answer you about Brooks with that particular comment. I can see Brooks doing a few engagements at Encore but wouldn't think that the crowd there would be consistently receptive to country-music (not being a snob, as I like it).

I really don't get a Larry King show. The biggest softball interviewer in history and then forcing his current wife on an audience. So did you enjoy the show? Would you recommend the show?