Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Terry Fator on divorce, "handlers" + Barry Manilow

OK, so the podcast is up and you can hear Terry Fator and his ex-wife Melinda discuss -- or not discuss as the case may be -- their marriage. I've also analyzed the situation a bit in this week's column, so you can read that, too. But I thought I'd provide a partial transcript of the salient parts because there was more to this conversation than the marital chatter. Like, for instance, the part where we're discussing Fator's gay puppet, Barry Fabulous, and he said this:

Fator: The whole point of Barry, I thought it would be a lot of fun to create a character that was almost an homage to the people of the past that we all knew were gay – Liberace, Paul Lynde – these guys we all knew were gay…

Friess: Barry Manilow?

Fator: Barry Manilow. And yet they just won’t come out of the closet. So that’s the whole point of Barry. It was like, you know these entertainers. There’s no doubt in our minds that they’re gay. Do we care? Of course we don’t care. It was the conservatives that made Liberace an icon.

Barry Manilow has, in fact, never confirmed whether he is gay.

The marital stuff was juicy, and I'll get to that in a moment, but Fator also had choice words for "handlers" he blames for some of the show's content:

Friess: You just said the show that opened at the Mirage as not yours. What about the show at the Hilton?

Fator: No, that was not mine either. That was other people.

Friess: Who? Who’s telling you what to do at that point?

Fator: Yes, exactly.

Friess: No, no. I’m asking you. Who?

Fator: From the very moment "America’s Got Talent" happened, I had advisers swoop in and take charge and take complete control of my career and life. I had my ex-wife who was at home telling me everything to do. I was the hen-pecked husband who never ever argued and never ever gave my opinion and then these advisers swooped in and I was the henpacked entertainer who never ever made a decision. It was all done by other people. It was wonderful because on the one hand I was achieving everything I ever wanted, but on the other hand, I wasn’t able to fulfill my creative potential as an entertainer. I would come up with an idea and I’d be immediately shut down by these advisers and then I would go, "Uh, OK," the way I did at home when I wanted soemthing at home.

Friess: Can you give me examples of things that were in the show in the beginning that aren’t there now?

Fator: Pretty much any of the dirty stuff. My show was getting dirtier and dirtier and we were getting more blatant. I like double entrendre jokes that are not outright dirty. And I was told, 'You’re in Vegas now, you can’t do a clean show. It has to be have edge, you know." They called it edge. . . . I was too big of a wimp because of the way I was raised to even mention it. It was that sense of confidence, the sense of, I won "America’s Got Talent" without any of these advisers. None of them were even there. I created this whole concept. . . . Their attitude was, "Well, you don’t know Vegas." And I was like, "I don’t care if I don’t know Vegas. Good entertainment is good entertainment, I’m a good entertainer and I’m a very good writer and I’m a creative person."

I asked him about his decision to have anti-Obama jokes in the show and why they're gone now, and this was his response:

Fator: That was one of those that was pushed on me, that they were saying that gives you edge. I definitely had second thoughts about that and it was one of those things that I caved and gave in to the other people. Once we had done that joke for two or three weeks, I put my foot down and said I don’t want to do political humor because I am a conservative, I am a Christian -- obviously my Christianity comes out when I do the song "Horses In Heaven" – but I don’t push anything down anyone’s throat and I certainly don’t want to use my show to push one political side or another. My show is about forgetting political differences. It’s about laughing or having fun and forgetting the realities of life.

Finally, for the record, here's some of the back-and-forth about his marriage:

Friess: I realize that nobody can say what goes on in a marriage. It’s always going to be personal and private, but was the demand on you as a public figure a factor in what happened to your first marriage?

Fator: Not at all. What really happened, the issues that were happening in my first marriage were happening for years before. I mistakenly thought success would fix those issues, and they made them even worse. Really, what happened was my ex-wife didn’t get along at all with my family and refused to allow them to enjoy the success that I had achieved, and family had been there when I first started ventriloquism. You know, decades before I ever met my first wife. It was just tearing me apart that they couldn’t be a part of it. I just really had to make a choice between my family and my mom, my brother and my sister and their families and my ex-wife. And I don’t regret that decision, haven’t regretted it one day because to sit and watch my mom who was not able to take part in any of the "America’s Got Talent" stuff because of my ex-wife, who was not able to take part in my first show in Las Vegas because of my ex-wife, to have my mom come to town and look at her face and see how proud she is sitting out there in the crowd. . . .

I did not have an affair on [Melinda]. She’s kinda gone out and made the claims that I did. What happened was that once we were separated, then it was several weeks afterward, my sister told me that [on-stage assistant] Taylor [Makakoa] was interested in me. I couldn’t believe it because I’m an older guy and I’m not that great looking. Turned out, She was looking for a guy who would love her and not cheat on her, and I’m that guy.

Friess: Part of your biography when you first came to Las Vegas and when you won "America’s Got Talent" was this notion that for all of those years, you were playing in empty rooms and convention halls and you were struggling until you finally got noticed and you got noticed big. Part of that was, you would give a lot of credit to your first wife for sticking with you and not abandoning that dream with you. Was that sort of television fable-making or was that true?

Fator: The actual reality of it was that I felt like I was stuck in what I felt was a no-win situation. I felt like I might as well make the best of it. When I wrote the first book, my ex-wife went through it and got really angry with me because I didn’t give her enough credit for enough stuff, so she edited it. (Laughs) When you’re stuck in a marriage, and in my mind there was no hope because I was raised to believe you don’t get divorced, that’s just not an option, you know, the old religious viewpoint of you can’t do it, you have to stick through everything, and so in my mind I was like, "Well, I might as well make this look good because I’m unhappy but we might as well look like it because I’m stuck." It wasn’t until I really started to get more confidence in myself. Another thing I was taught by my crazy religious father was if you do something good for yourself, it’s a sin and God’s going to punish you for that. I was terrified to do anything for myself. I was terrified to do anything that would benefit me. It was always about benefiting someone else. And I began to get the confidence in myself and said, "Wait a second, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with making a decision that helps me. That’s not a wrong thing. As a matter of fact, when I do good things for myself, it puts me in a better position to help others." And it was when I got that confidence in myself, when I got the realization that it’s not wrong, it’s not a sin to do something good that helps my life and my family’s lives, it was then that things really started to change in my life. It was when I really started to take control of my show.

It was when I started bucking everyone, my ex-wife included, and saying, "Wait a second, this is my life, this is my show, this is not your show, this is not your life, is when things really started changing for me." The show you came out to see, that’s my show. I put that show together, I wrote that show with the help of some other writers but they were my ideas and I was the end result of every decision that was made in that show. And I’m telling you, Steve, I’m more proud of that show than anything I’ve ever done in my entire lfe. And my life has become what I always truly dreamed of. I don’t have to exaggerate anymore. I don’t have to pretend anymore. I think that the success is probably what began to give me that confidence in myself and in my own ability to make decisions.

Friess: How old were you when you first got to know your wife?

Fator: I was in my mid-20s. That was another thing. In my mid-20s, I had no desire to have children. Never. Throughout our entire marriage, she never wanted children. But when I got to be about 30, I would be at an airport and I’d be picking up my luggage -- and of course I’d be by myself -- and I’d see a little kid run up to their dad and say “Daddy!” and I began to get those feelings of oh my gosh, I wonder what that feels like to have a child, to have children. And I’d go home and talk to my ex-wife about it and I would say, "Do you think there’s any possibility" and it was, "No, absolutely not, just get it out of your head, you’re never going to have kids, that’s all there is to it. There’s not even a discussion here." And of course, the way I was in life, it was "OK, OK. Whatever. It’s not my decision, it’s yours." That was another big issue. I’m here at the Mirage here, I ave a stable life, I don’t have to travel every day, I can have children. And now the prospect of having a houseful of kids and dogs and having a family is the sweetest prospect of all.

Friess: You kind of seem to acknowledge that it came out kind of badly in the press, the way you left your wife and got involved with Taylor. Is there anything you regret about the way that was rolled out?

Fator: Absolutely. And again, this was me not having the confidence in myself to make my own decisions and my advisors at the time, they were panicking and telling me that my career would be over. And so they advised me to hide my separation for six months. It was absolute hell. Taylor and I started dating and she had to hide in the shadows. And it was my fault because I did not have the confidence in myself and my own decisions to say, "No, this is how it’s going to be." I mean, I was lied to, I was told things by these advisers that my divorce attorney had advised me to do certain things and then when I talked to my divorce attorney, my dovorce attorney telling me no I would never tell you to do that. So it was people manipulating my life and my career and so, I feel what should have ehappened was I should have just come out and said, "Look, this is not working, it’s something that we just couldn’t see eye to eye," left her, made an announcement right away and then when Taylor and I started dating just dated in public and not have to worry about it. What’s funny is, it had almost no impact on anyone. Yeah, I got ripped, but sometimes people rip you.

I interviewed Melinda Fator for the podcast, and you can hear her responses, but she denies that the conversation about children ever happened and she denies rewriting Fator's book for make herself seem better.

The Show is UP: Fator v Fator

Some weeks, I head into an interview expecting one thing and a whole, very different other thing happens. This is one of those. Enjoy. Click on the date below to play or right-click to save the show. Or you subscribe -- for free -- in iTunes or Zune and you'll always get it first. -sf

May 25: Fator vs Fator

Terry Fator makes a lot of money as the master behind a string of colorful, entertaining puppets who croon standards nightly at the Mirage. But was the singing ventriloquist himself nothing more than a dummy, controlled by his ex-wife and so-called “handlers” who hijacked his career following his triumph on “America’s Got Talent”? That’s pretty much what he tells us this week in a stunningly candid interview that paints his former wife of 18 years as a self-aggrandizing, hen-pecking shrew who alienated him from his family and refused to bear him children. Melinda Fator, not surprisingly, has a different version of the story, and she gets her say, too. Also, the performer outs Barry Manilow.

In Banter: Caesars wants to soak tourists for an arena, NV may nix its smoking ban, the FAA is silent about the Ferris Wheel, the hosts baffle over who the &*#@ attends pro soccer and more.

Open & Banter: Start to 18ish
Terry Fator interview: 19-58ish
Trivia/Poll/Letters: 59-1:06ish
Melinda Fator interview: 1:07-1:24ish

TSTToTW: 1:24-end

Links to stuff discussed

Terry Fator’s website
Steve’s LVW column on Fator’s Barry Fabulous character
VegasHappensHere.Com on Fator’s lousy break-up style
Steve’s column in the Weekly based on these interviews
VegasMavens.Com profile of Steve and the podcast
Smoking ban in danger in Nevada
The R-J on the non-groundbreaking for the Ferris Wheel
Elvis is leaving the bathroom
Caesars’ Jan Jones writes an op-ed supporting soaking tourists
The latest from Howard Stutz on Christopher Milam’s arena plans
See pictures of the new Plaza rooms via their Facebook page
Internet Mafia Family Picnic Planned by VegasTripping.Com
Yelp on The Henry at the Cosmopolitan
Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me from NPR
The YouTube video of Terry Fator at the Michael Jackson tribute benefit
Robin Leach on Terry Fator dumping his manager, John McEntee
J. Patrick Coolican’s turn-the-Sahara-into-the-state-capital column
Gladys Knight raises her ticket price

Monday, May 23, 2011

Two Vegas-ish Funnies For Monday

Every day, I make Miles his lunch and include a note and at least one comic from the newspaper. Often they're not actually funny, but the comics pages these days are slim pickings for belly laughs. These two, however, felt blog-worthy in a Vegas-esque kinda way:

The Strip is LIVE tonight: Fator vs Fator

We are live tonight on The Strip, where we'll be playing my stunningly candid interview with Mirage headliner Terry Fator, who lays the blame for his 18-year marriage on his ex-wife, Melinda. They split in 2009 and finalized their divorce in November 2010. Fator also talks about how he broke free from controlling handlers he said were forcing his show and career in directions he didn't like.

Melinda Fator also gets an opportunity to respond to specific allegations, and you'll hear that, too. That's the couple, above right, back when his Mirage show was announced in 2008. Terry Fator is now married to his on-stage assistant, ascendant model Taylor Makakoa, left.

Join us at 8 pm PT to listen and watch via the live cam. We'll play the two interviews back to back and then Miles and I will record the proper parts of the show starting at about 8:45 pm. Then you can expect the podcast edition to be available late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Show is UP: Holly Madison's Stars

Alrighty, folks. Here's a new show! And folks who download the show might already know that for the past few weeks we've been adding a time guide to help you navigate to parts of the show you want. It's below and it's in the show notes on the Web version. Enjoy. Click on the date below to play or right-click to save the show. Or you subscribe -- for free -- in iTunes or Zune and you'll always get it first. -sf

May 22: The Spawn of Holly

Oscar Goodman may be working overtime to ensure his wife replaces him as the official face of Vegas, but it's been a heckuva lot easier for the city's unofficial mascot, Holly Madison, to spread her fame among her minions. Her longtime personal assistant, Angel Porrino, is now a star in the new Caesars Palace hit "Absinthe" and her best gay boyfriend, "Peepshow" singing star Josh Strickland, recently landed atop iTunes with his first single. And, to hear them tell it, they owe a huge debt to one particular former Hugh Hefner girlfriend. Porrino met Holly while testing to be a Playboy Playmate and Strickland, who created the role of Tarzan on Broadway and was a contestant on the second season of American Idol, became fast friends with the blonde bombshell when she joined the Planet Hollywood topless production.

In Banter: Bye to Sahara and Jerry Lewis, hi to Rod Stewart, hi and bye to Lotto Express, a maybe-hi to Google’s driverless cars, yay to Absinthe and more.

Open & Banter: Start to 24ish
Angel Porrino interview: 25-53
Trivia/Poll/Letters: 54-1:04ish
Josh Strickland interview: 1:05-1:49ish
TSTToTW: 1:49-end

Links to stuff discussed

Josh Strickland’s website, Twitter and hit single
Peepshow’s website
Absinthe site
Angel Porrino’s Wikipedia page and Twitter
Sahara owner Sam Nazarian’s load of bs to Johnny Kats
VegasHappensHere.Com on the Sahara progressive drawing and the media coverage of the closure
Pollstar.Com on Rod Stewart coming to the Colosseum
The Washington Post on Jerry Lewis’ MDA Telethon retirement
Hear our Jerry Lewis interviews form 2007 and 2010The site for Total Rewards Marketplace
The R-J on the brief life of Lotto Express
The L.A. Times has video of the Google driverless cars idea and Consumerist has the Nevada angle
Yelp’s assessment of Serendipity3
VegasInc on
Venetian-Palazzo profit drop caused, perhaps, by LVS pulling most of its comps
Also, Wynn defends Adelson
Steve’s column for the Weekly about how the recession could help the city
NPR’s The State of the ReUnion episode on Vegas
The NYT Times Talk podcast that Strickland was on with Tim Rice