Saturday, June 25, 2011 | 2 a.m.
The Las Vegas casino has always had its signature entertainment attraction: The Sands had the Rat Pack. The Hilton had Jumpsuit Elvis.
Today, MGM Resorts International has more Cirque than Montreal. And Caesars has Celine.
That’s not a poke at the trendy Vegas casino-turned-Hollywood hangout. It’s a sign the resort knows its clientele, Palms owner George Maloof said.
He compares the new resident DJ — and “Jersey Shore” reality-TV star with the four-inch spiked blowout hairdo — to other resorts’ big production shows. “We definitely look at it that way, for our demographic,” Maloof said.
The Palms began to grasp the drawing power of big name DJs about six years ago, he said. “DJs are like celebrities now. They’re like rock bands were 20 years ago. So it’s an important part of the Las Vegas scene. We’ve been right in the middle of it and we’ll continue to be,” he said.
Here’s where we need to make something clear: We’re not talking about your wedding DJs, but rather skilled music manipulators who take other artists’ songs — and even their own musical productions — and sample and combine them to create something new. In the process, the DJ can become as famous as the recording artists themselves.
The Palms has as much created the DJ-as-headliner trend in Las Vegas as followed it.
The tipping point came in 2008, when the resort landed the Elvis of DJs, Paul Oakenfold, for a residency at its Rain Nightclub.
“I think Vegas is the new Ibiza,” Oakenfold told Las Vegas Weekly before his party’s Aug. 30, 2008, launch, invoking the club-heavy Spanish island. “We’ve got to get Vegas on the map internationally. This club can benefit Vegas in terms of a global, international scene, and I think it’s about time Vegas had that. It’s a grown-up city now. It’s now time to take part on a global level.”
And that is what has happened. Las Vegas is “fast overtaking Ibiza, Spain, as the electronic dance music capital of the world,” the Los Angeles Times noted in a story this week.
The success of Las Vegas clubs can largely rise and fall on the DJ.
It’s a co-branding, said Michael Fuller, a former vice president of N9NE Group, which operates nightclubs Rain, Ghostbar, Moon and Playboy Club and restaurants N9NE Steakhouse and Nove at the Palms.
Fuller would know. He’s long been a significant presence in Vegas night life and was instrumental in bringing big-name resident DJs to the Palms, including Oakenfold, the late DJ AM and Z-Trip.
“There are only about 10 DJs in Las Vegas who sell tickets,” he said. And Pauly D is in that group.
In his case, that can be from 1,500 to 2,000 tickets a night, Fuller said. To put that into perspective, Cirque du Soleil’s “Love” show at the Mirage is presented in a theater with 2,013 seats; Bellagio’s O Theatre has 1,800 seats and the theater at Aria where “Viva Elvis” is performed seats 2,000.
Celebrity DJs in residence do attract big crowds. Pauly D, for example, brought more than 2,000 people to the Palms in March, Maloof said. But those DJs cost big money.
Typical DJs in Vegas might earn a couple of thousand dollars a night, but celebrity DJs in residence can get from tens of thousands of dollars to six figures per appearance, industry insiders say.
Because Pauly D is best known for his antics on MTV’s highly rated reality series, naturally some have asked whether he’s a legitimate talent behind the turntables.
Maloof says yes.
“He’s a great DJ. He’s been a DJ for 10 years. So it’s a special talent that he has and he just so happens to be on the show,” he said.
Pauly D acknowledges that his success on TV has helped the DJ side of his career. And landing a gig at the Palms is in many ways the DJ equivalent of a baseball player making it to the big leagues.
“Obviously the show picked up my DJ career but I had to show them what I could do,” he said. “This is always where I wanted to end up. A dream of mine was to (be a) DJ at the Palms.”
Now it’s come full circle, as a new MTV reality show will focus on Pauly D’s DJ career. Parts of that show will be filmed at the Palms, he said.
Pauly D’s run as the Palms’ latest DJ in residence began Friday. He will spin at Moon, Rain and the Palms Pool and Bungalows.
Pauly D, who has been nominated for the 2011 America’s Best DJ award, will join the likes of industry royalty DJ AM, Oakenfold and DJ Jazzy Jeff, who have all had a chance to spin from the Palms’ DJ stand.
The Palms, in the hopes Pauly D will draw packed crowds as he has in the past, has scheduled him for a 12-show residency through the rest of the year.
And that might mean this decade’s Rat Pack has two turntables and a microphone.
Palms Casino Resort has come a long way since its "Real World" debut in 2002. The boutique property features three distinct towers and a diverse mix of bars and restaurants across a 95,000-square-foot casino.
Palms, which features more than 1,200 rooms and fantasy suites, is currently undergoing a multi-million dollar transformation that will encompass an Ivory Tower room and suite redesign, new culinary additions, re-imagined gaming spaces and new, distinctive nightlife experiences.
In addition to newly designed rooms, during the first phase of the renovation, Palms will welcome Heraea, a high-energy American restaurant and lounge, and XISHI, a pan-Asian restaurant and lounge.
Fantasy Suites include the Hardwood Suite, the only hotel room in the world with its own basketball court.
Other amenities include the all-new Cantor Gaming® race and sports book, one of the few sports books in Las Vegas to include a poker room; SOCIAL; Scarlet; Chocolat Bistro; tonic bar; ghostbar; Pearl Concert Theater; Moon Nightclub; N9NE Steakhouse; Nove Italiano; Simon Restaurant & Lounge; Palms Pool & Bungalows; Kim Vō Salon; Drift Spa & Hammam; Brenden Theatres, a 14-theatre cineplex and more than 60,000 square-feet of meeting space.
Las Vegas Weekly Editor Sarah Feldberg and Sun columnist John Katsilometes contributed to this story.