Yes, the reports are true: Erich was fired by Dodger Theatrical Productions last week after nearly three years of performing the role of Bob Gaudio in "Jersey Boys" on tour and then since May 2008 in Las Vegas. His final performance in the role, strangely, was on Sept. 9, when the four Vegas leads appeared on "America's Got Talent." He was placed on vacation the next day -- his first in his three years, although there were absences due to injury and sickness -- and then let go while he was visiting his folks in New York. His last official on-stage utterance as a member of that cast, then, was beckoning millions of people to come to the Palazzo and see the show. Contrary to my friend and colleague John Katsilometes' blog post at LasVegasSun.Com, this turn of events was, indeed, a surprise to Erich and to many in the cast.
Because Erich and I are obviously close, I am not at liberty to discuss publicly more than the bare facts as I've recited them. Erich has, however, allowed me to be the first to publish the statement he is releasing to the press:
All that being said, I have a little bone to pick with my friend and Las Vegas Weekly colleague Richard Abowitz. Richard wrote a very peculiar item for his Los Angeles Times blog about Erich's departure in which he puzzled over why this particular casting change was newsworthy and called it a "media kerfluffle."
You would have thought that the matter was garnering massive headlines or something when, in fact, evidently what amounts these days to a "kerfluffle" was a few exercised Tweets from KVBC's Alicia Jacobs and the aforementioned blog post by Kats. That's it. That is all that has been written or said in anything vaguely related to the mainstream press. In fact, Richard is personally responsible for the biggest and most extensive discussion of the matter to date!
And then there was his explanation for why this isn't really news, that cast changes are routine. Except that departures of leads of major Vegas shows generally don't go unnoticed, even when they're not as sudden and unusual as this. The exits of Tina Walsh from "Mamma Mia!", Sierra Boggess and Brent Barrett from "Phantom" and Elijah Johnson from "Lion King" all received ink, and those are only a few.
Plus, it's odd to me that Abowitz overlooks the fact that Erich's name has been in the papers for most of the time he's been in Vegas, an unusual feat for even the stars of shows with more singular performers. He's been pivotal in turning the Liberace Museum's showroom into a hip place for young Strip talent to jam, he raised $103,000+ less than a month ago for Las Vegas schoolkids in a show that drew massive amounts of international news coverage and he was the mouthpiece for "Jersey Boys" only a fortnight ago on one of the most-watched TV shows of the summer.
When someone makes a name for themselves, we call them celebrities. And when celebrities are summarily dismissed from the jobs that made them celebrities, the public is understandably curious. Fame + Controversy = Newsworthiness. Is it really that baffling?
Of course, I have a personal bias because another close friend is probably leaving Vegas and that bums me out. But I think my news judgment sensor is still intact and some scuttlebutt in the entertainment press seems about right to me for this situation.
I'm also bummed that the closing note of this Las Vegas Weekly column -- written when I barely knew him personally -- is coming to pass far sooner than I could have known. In that piece, I warned the public that they ought to get out and see him when he was small Vegas fry so "you can say you knew him when."
I hope some of you heeded that.