Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Erich Bergen's Last Stand As Bob Gaudio

I found the YouTube clip of the Vegas "Jersey Boys" appearance on America's Got Talent earlier this month. This would turn out to be Erich Bergen's final performance as Bob Gaudio.

There he was at the end with the presence of mind to remind the millions in the audience that the show is at the Palazzo. That was a good and unrehearsed move because the host was so busy pushing the AGT show at P-How that he never mentioned where to see JB on the Strip. Right up till the end -- and beyond, really, given his statement -- Bergen was a persistent salesman for the production. All class.


EC Gladstone said...

Erich was one of the strongest elements of the JB cast...what happened?

Anonymous said...

You really sure he came up with that? Check with Kirvin Doak about whose idea it was to mention the Palazzo before you canonize him.

lvoutsider said...

I agree Erich was a class act and spectacular as Bob Gaudio. It's why we saw the show several times and why we encouraged others to get to the show. I won't be recommending the show anytime soon after the way producers ditched Bergen. I think the original members being portrayed in the show would be absolutely appalled at this shabby treatment. Disloyalty at its finest, and who loses out? The patrons.

Anonymous said...

As a local who has recommended this show to many of his friends and sat quitely watching this Erich Bergen thing unfold, I have to say, I'm done being quiet.

First to everyone who continues to make Erich look like a saint and the producers of this show look like the devil, I want to ask you a question? DO YOU KNOW BOTH SIDES OF THE STORY? lvoutsider, you are ready to deny your friends a great show because you are so sure the producers "ditched Bergen". Do you know the whole story? All of the people who wrote that Erich was wronged on Steve's other blog entry, do you know the whole story? I am guessing in all cases the answer is a big fat NO!

And before I hear you cry that I have a vendetta against Erich, or before you tell me that I am envious of Erich's time in the spotlight, let me tell you I don't need the spotlight and haven't my entire life AND I am a huge fan of Erich Bergen's portrayal of Bob Gaudio....and Deven May's portrayal of Tommy and Jeff Leibow's portrayal of Nick and Rick Faugno and Travis Cloer's portrayal of Frankie, not to mention the rest of the cast.

What the "original members being portrayed in the show" should be appalled about is that people like lvoutsider and way too many others on these blogs (who have probably only met Erich at the stage door and have no idea what kind of an employee he is) are shunning the show and all the other talented people who have made it a success and a welcome guest in this community for the last year and a half.

I will continue to recommend this show to friends and family whenever I can because it was a great show with Erich in it, and I am sure it will continue to be a great show.

And finally, Steve, if you are truly Erich's friend, you should listen to his wishes. I believe he said, "I wish nothing but the best for the show". I would assume that means he doesn't want his friends badmouthing it. Somehow, I can't see how starting this helps your friend leave with grace.


Anon#2: Show me where I've badmouthed the show OR Dodger. I have not. I have not offered an opinion publicly on what precipitated Erich's dismissal. All I've written was a rather dispassionate accounting of the facts -- he was fired, it happened at such-and-such time, he was surprised by it. My editorializing in this instance have been personal (I'm sorry to see him go because he is a friend and an asset to the Vegas community) and journalistic (I disagree with Richard Abowitz on whether covering his departure is newsworthy.) I've studiously avoided opining on anything else.

Anonymous said...

I don't need to hear both sides of the story. The way this was handled makes clear to me the producers were wrong, IMO. I'm one individual with one opinion, other's mileage may vary. Erich Bergen was employed by these people for three friggin' years. Whatever oddities of his character had to have been apparent in all of that time. They just suddenly decide now that they can't live with him anymore? They fire him after sending him out of town? What business are they in, theater, or the CIA? The people running that show have lost my respect completely. I don't care how many Tony awards they have on their shelves or how much money they've made, they have acted like jerks in this instance. And I agree with those who've commented elsewhere that it's probably because they were unhappy with him doing a project that raised $100k for charity, but they don't want to look like Grinches by revealing that as their real reason. Yeah, I've seen the cast, they're all good, but if someone doesn't stand up when an injustice is done, then none of their jobs are secure, either.

anonymous, three

Anonymous said...

I'm going to have to agree with Anonymous on here in that there are ALWAYS two sides to every story. First of all, it seems pointless to discuss this on here because Steve is too close with the subject matter. However, here are some facts worth mentioning:

1) Actor's Equity (the union responsible for overseeing professional stage actors) does not allow ANYONE to be fired without just cause. So it's not like the producers of a show can just say "let's get rid of him" without proof and or a paper trail of bad behavior. So if he was fired, it would have had to been justified, or Erich could take it to arbitration with the union. I've not heard this is happening.

2) If the producer STILL wants to get rid of someone, they have the option to BUY them out of their contract. This RARELY happens because it's incredibly costly. Not that these producers couldn't afford it; but they are notoriously cheap. It's easier to fire someone than it is to buy them out of their contract.

3) The last way to get rid of someone in this union is to just not renew their contract. This only happens for PRINCIPAL members. The reason being that ensemble members are on a "run of show" contract, and have the job as long as they want it. The difference is that they don't make NEARLY as much as the principals: meaning, a principal could make in a year what it takes the ensemble to make in three or four. But, to my knowledge, contracts weren't up, so it would have had to have been option one or two.

We can't deny that Erich Bergen surely made an impression on Las Vegas. But, I guess my question is: who was he doing it for? He gets a lot of credit for the Liberace Museum's Composer's Showcase (an event that had been going on LONG BEFORE Mr. Bergen stepped foot on the strip. An event created to promote local song writers in a healthy, supportive environment. An event that allowed local composers to showcase their new musical works, SEVERAL of which have now had MAJOR Regional and NEW YORK appearances and won SEVERAL awards. But you won't hear about that on here.) Without the show JERSEY BOYS, Erich would not have had the opportunities he's had here. He's a young kid with talent. There are tons out there. He was given a platform, and he took advantage of all that came his way. But if you think that all he did here wasn't a way to further his career or self-promote, then you're really kidding yourself. I mean, the event was called: "Erich Bergen's Las Vegas Celebrates the Music of Michael Jackson." That kind of self importance is gag worthy when people who've earned it do it: (The New Mel Brook's Musical Young Frankenstein)

I don't wish anyone unemployment during this tough time. But I also don't wish the show Jersey Boys suffer because this member is leaving (as several posters on here have advocated). The show Jersey Boys was a hit BEFORE Erich Bergen, and it will continue to be WITHOUT Erich Bergen. The Las Vegas Strip Theater Community exists because of the hard work of those BEFORE Mr. Bergen. The real shame, in my opinion, is that these things were going on for years before this blog reported on them.

I have no vendetta against Mr. Bergen either. But I also am not ready to canonize this one performer for saving the arts in Las Vegas. I'd rather give that credit to the people who came before Mr. Bergen and started the programs that he took advantage of.


Last Anon: Again, I refer back to my earlier statement that I haven't expressed as a public view other than a personal one and have acknowledged I am personally invested so I hope you don't think I'm being disingenuous. I'll let most anyone opine one way or the other here, but I will jump in if I feel the need to correct something.

And, in fact, a couple of quick clarifications are in order: Nobody's crediting Erich with the Composer's Showcase, which was wholly an invention of Keith Thompson. But Erich started doing benefit concerts at the Liberace separate and apart from that and THAT led to a stream of Strip performers doing so, too, including the Versus series and Ali Spuck. That credit does belong to Erich and, in fact, several folks said so from the stage at the recent Liberace benefit to raise money for a new sound system.

Second, in no literature anywhere did the title of our Michael Jackson show include Erich's name. He did most of the media promotion for it and he was the host and that designation appeared on the posters and some ads, but it was never referred to as "Erich Bergen's Las Vegas Celebrates..." Never. Go to VegasLovesMJ.Com and see for yourself.

Finally, you're absolutely right: There are lots of young kids with lots of talent. That's why being active and self-promoting is absolutely necessary in that field (and in mine, by the way). But note that Erich never did a show away from JB for personal profit. Rick Faugno, one of the Frankies, did so at the South Point recently. I'm not casting aspersions; that's great that he can do so. But these are show business people. Criticizing them for being self-promotional is sort of like criticizing a hen for laying eggs. It's what they do. It's part of how they make their name and get ahead. Erich did so through charitable means and, in the process, did some real good for a lot of people. I don't recall any other non-headliner EVER who organized or executed any event that raised anything close to $103,000. That is extraordinary and different and deserves at least a little bit of respect.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Friess,
Some more thoughts:

1) Michael Brennan AND Keith Thompson started the composer's showcase several years ago, when it was first being done at a now defunct gay lounge Suade, before the Liberace Museum ever got involved. I merely pointed out that you didn't start writing about it until Erich started doing his concerts. Which could be your point.

2) Phillip Fortenberry, associate musical director and pianist at Jersey Boys, has done SEVERAL concerts APART from the showcase long before Bergen ever got involved. They're amazing shows, totally benefitting the Museum.

3) The Strip has been coming together for decades to raise awareness and funds for charities, namely with Golden Rainbow's RIBBON OF LIFE SHOW, which you've written about here before. Non-headliner and Phantom performer Bruce Ewing has produced several benefits for a charity he feels strongly about, Family Promise, doing concerts of Thompson's GOD LIVES IN GLASS and shows at the Flamingo Library featuring many dancers in that show. So, it happens here. Just not as on grand a scale as the MJ benefit (which, you have to admit, had main stream appeal).

4) I am not downplaying the money raised at the MJ BENEFIT (which, had quoted as Erich Bergen's Las Vegas I stand corrected if it wasn't printed that way in other media. I was unable to attend this concert, regrettably, but I'm glad to know that a great cause benefitted. What I do point out, though, is that there have been and continue to be events of this caliber that don't highlight or promote ONE performer. All actors are not self-promoting, nor do they have to be. You brought up Rick Faugno's concert at South Point. He was capitalizing off of an opportunity. No doubt. But, I'm sure he'd be the first to admit this. How could he not? He wasn't anyone before Jersey Boys. Some could argue he's not anyone now. But his self-promotion wasn't mixed in with a charity. When Broadway stars unite in New York for benefits, they're not trying to be bigger than the charity they're promoting. When Tony nominee Gavin Greel heads up Broadway Impact, he lends his name and time TO THE CAUSE. Not to promote HAIR. Not to promote a CD or event. I'm sure the producer's of that show get worried when he takes such a strong stance and uses his name. In fact, I know some of them that do. And I know many actors that have given their talents to causes in Las Vegas that have done so because they believe in the cause and that's it. They don't need the recognition or press that comes from it. They just want to be involved. While hens lay eggs because it's part of their DNA make up, an actor's self-promotion is completely up to them. While Faugno may have done the gig for monetary gains, you can't deny that Bergen has done his for personal gains as well. I don't blame him for that. I just call a spade a spade.

5) Again, I don't wish Mr. Bergen anything but the best. I think he was a fantastic Bob Gaudio. I've just known too many humble actors as a producer in Vegas and New York to know the genuine article.

Lastly, I want to respond to Anonymous Three who claims "he doesn't need to hear the other side of the story." This person has clearly never been involved in a long running show and never witnessed how people's personalities change and evolve. I refer to my earlier post in detailing how DIFFICULT it is to get rid of someone in this business. Producers don't make these decisions lightly. And trust, they weren't upset about a benefit raising money. If anything, the benefit promoted their show. Him being fired has nothing to do with that. But, again, I'm sure it was justified. Otherwise, Mr. Bergen has a lawsuit on his hands and a good chance at winning it.

Jeff in OKC said...

This looks like a case for Jack Finn!