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October 21, 2014

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Beyond the Barge

Pure and other possible destinations considered for Goss’ residency

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Scott Harrison/Retna/www.harrisonphotos.com

Matt Goss celebrates the announcement of his new show at Caesars Palace with a performance in front of the resort on Jan. 28, 2010.

Caesars Palace has a long history of reeling in top live talent since the resort opened in 1966. At first performers took to Circus Maximus, Nero's Nook and Cleopatra's Barge, and later to the Colosseum. Beginning in March, Cleopatra's Barge once again will assume the role of host with the arrival of singer/songwriter Matt Goss' Friday and Saturday night show, Matt Goss Live from Caesars Palace Produced by Robin Antin.

But Cleopatra's Barge is not the only venue that was considered by Gary Selesner, Caesars Palace president. Selesner said he toured the property a few times with Goss and Goss' manager/producer/choreographer, Robin Antin, also creator of the Pussycat Dolls. Selesner told the Weekly prior to the big announcement that a number of alternate locations were also on the table before the final decision was made.

According to Selesner, Pure Nightclub was one obvious consideration. Antin already has her Pussycat Dolls Lounge there, not to mention the Pussycat Dolls Casino right outside Pure's velvet ropes. Keeping these brands and experiences close together would have made sense for Antin, for Caesars and for the young, nightlife-oriented audiences that have frequented both Pure and Goss' live show, formerly in the Lounge at the Palms. But like the Barge's neighbor, Shadow Bar, also under consideration, Selesner noted the clear need for extensive renovation and expansion for either one of these possibilities to have worked out.

There also was the possibility of new construction, and while that is still in the master plan for Caesars, Selesner noted that the goal was to get Goss into Caesars Palace and performing as soon as humanly possible.

"We envision at some point building a second but smaller showroom, but that's in the future. We don't have any current plans to do that."

When it does happen, would Goss be in consideration to headline such a venue?

"Absolutely," Selesner said.

The only existing venue large enough yet small enough was Cleopatra's Barge, which Selesner calls "one of the most historic places on property."

"[Goss] has a big, big future ahead of him and having him move to Caesars Palace was not only a tremendous move for his career but a very appropriate continuation of a grand tradition that has existed at Caesars Palace," Selesner said.

"We think we're going to be able to create an experience in the lounge that doesn't exist anymore in Las Vegas."

Caesars opened in 1966 and not long after, in '68, Frank Sinatra began his live performances a few times a year, a few weeks at a time. The Barge later opened at the original crossroads of the casino in 1970. Other Caesars headliners included Tom Jones, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr. and Judy Garland.

"We do know that many of these stars used to hang out in Cleopatra's Barge," Selesner said. "It just reeks of history."

But at 40, the boat best known for the famous breasts of the Cleopatra boat prow that gamblers have been rubbing for good luck for four decades is in need of some attention. In anticipation of Goss' March arrival, the Barge will receive a facelift including new carpet, furnishings, curtained edifice and some scaling down to improve sightlines and make way for the 165 seats to start.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Goss' show, only 12 weeks old, will receive only minor tweaks to make it work in the new Gossy Room.

"I think that there's something very fresh about what were doing," Goss said. "So I don't want to lose that in any way. I'm still learning."

A former UK boy-band sensation in the late '80s and early '90s, Goss says that though he's performed for a multitude of arenas and stadiums, "there's something very different about playing a small room. There's an intimacy there for the performer that you get a real connection, and at first, it was somewhat daunting for me. I would rather have been on an arena stage. But now I'm really loving this size room because I can really connect with people and you see the emotion in them — laughter, tears, everything."

"[Goss] really believes in the intimate excitement of a great lounge," Selesner said.

— Originally published on LasVegasWeekly.com

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