Las Vegas Sun

July 24, 2014

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Aladdin expels Ronstadt after political remarks

Aladdin President Bill Timmins ordered security guards to escort pop diva Linda Ronstadt off the property following a concert Saturday night during which she expressed support for controversial documentary filmmaker Michael Moore.

Timmins, who was among the almost 5,000 fans in the audience at the Aladdin Theatre for the Performing Arts, had Ronstadt escorted to her tour bus and her belongings from her hotel room sent to her. Timmins also sent word to Ronstadt that she was no longer welcome at the property for future performances, according Aladdin spokeswoman Tyri Squyres.

How much weight that carries is debatable, since the bankrupt Aladdin is in the process of being sold to a group headed by Planet Hollywood International Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Robert Earl.

Near the close of her performance, Ronstadt dedicated the Eagles hit "Desperado" to Moore, producer of "Fahrenheit 9/11," and the room erupted into equal parts boos and cheers.

She said Moore "is someone who cares about this country deeply and is trying to help."

Ronstadt has been making the dedication at each of her engagements since she began a national tour earlier this summer, but it has never sparked such a reaction.

Hundreds of angry fans streamed from the theater as Ronstadt sang. Some of them reportedly defaced posters of her in the lobby, writing comments and tossing drinks on her pictures.

Timmins told Las Vegas Sun gossip columnist Timothy McDarrah: "We live in a city where people come from all over the world to be entertained. We hired Ms. Ronstadt as an entertainer, not as a political activist.

"Whether you are politically on the left or on the right is not the point. She went up in front of the stage and just let it out. This was not the correct forum for that."

Timmins said she was wrong to bring her politics to the stage.

"Our first and only priority is the enjoyment of our customers," he said. "I made the decision to ask Miss Ronstadt to leave the hotel. A situation like that can easily turn ugly and I didn't want anything more to come out of it. There were a lot of angry people there after she started talking.

"If she wants to talk about her views to a newspaper or in a magazine article, she is free to do so. But in a stage in front of four and a half thousand people is not the place for it."

Squyres said half the audience walked out, an estimate that might have been high. But the number was substantial, nevertheless.

"The hotel's policy is that we hired her to entertain guests, not to express her political views," Squyres said.

According to Squyres, the 58-year-old singer did not create a scene as she was escorted out of the hotel and to her tour bus.

"She wasn't happy, but she was cooperative," Squyres said.

Attempts to reach Ronstadt and her manager were unsuccessful Sunday and this morning.

Squyres said a number of ticket holders had asked for their money back after an article appeared in a local newspaper last week quoting her making disparaging remarks about Las Vegas.

"She said Vegas isn't the best place to perform anyway," Squyres said.

Other fans asked for their money back shortly after the Saturday night show got underway, when Ronstadt informed the audience that ads publicizing the concert were incorrect. The advertisements called it her "Greatest Hits Tour."

Ronstadt started the evening with her 1983 hit "What's New?" and then set her fans straight about what they might expect during the concert.

"In case you are wondering what I'm going to do," she said, "Driving into town I saw this big billboard up there with my picture on it saying 'The Greatest Hits Tour.'

"That was news to us. We didn't know it was 'The Greatest Hits Tour.' "

Squyres said Ronstadt was wrong.

"Her management gave us the information and approved the ad," she said.

According to Squyres, Ronstadt lopped off about 20 minutes from the show, walking away from an encore portion of the concert, which I attended as the reviewer for the Sun.

The incident capped a generally lackluster, unenthusiastic performance by one of the top singers of the '70s and '80s.

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra opened the concert. The highlight of the 30-minute segment was a rendition of George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," featuring pianist Terrance Wilson.

Ronstadt began with several songs from the 1920s, '30s and '40s she and arranger Nelson Riddle recorded, among them "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered," "Someone to Watch Over Me" and "Straighten Up and Fly Right."

She performed Cole Porter's "Get Out of Town," Frank Loesser's "Never Will I Marry" and jazz great Billy Strayhorn's "Lush Life."

And then she gave fans some of what they came for, several of her hits from the '70s and '80s, including "Just One Look" (1979), "Ooh Baby, Baby" (1978) and "Somewhere Out There" (1987).

Although she still has that powerful, distinctive voice, Ronstadt was merely going through the motions.

The only song she had trouble with was "Blue Bayou." She stumbled over the lyrics, seemed to gasp for breath at one point and ended the song in Spanish, screaming the words rather than singing them.

Her performance was uninspired and generally flat. She lacked stage presence, doing little more than sleepwalk from song to song.

The fiasco at the end was the most exciting part of the show.

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