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December 21, 2014

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Chris Phillips of Zowie Bowie tackles the mega-club mentality in Las Vegas

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Steve Marcus

Lydia Ansel and Chris Phillips (Zowie Bowie) arrive for “The Showbiz Roast” of former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman at the Stratosphere Theater Tuesday, July 23, 2013.

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Chris Phillips is Zowie Bowie.

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Zowie Bowies Chris Phillips performs during the gala premiere of Vintage Vegas at the Lance Burton Theater at the Monte Carlo on Sunday night. Launch slideshow »

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Naughty Gras: Mardi Gras to the Max featuring Zowie Bowie at M Resort's new Pavilion Events Center on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012. Launch slideshow »

Editor’s Note: While Robin Leach takes his traditional summer vacation under the Tuscan sun in Italy, many of our Strip personalities have stepped forward in his absence to pen their own words of wisdom. We continue today with Zowie Bowie’s Chris Phillips, who talks about the effect of mega-nightclubs on our entertainment scene.

Perhaps no other city in the world has been, for so long, identified with being the gaudy mirage in the desert that could possibly deliver the big score — a powerful and appropriate image for a place that conjures thoughts of satisfying one’s dream of riches and romance.

All too often these dreams, large and small, are dashed within days or even hours of being here. It’s also fair to say that for some, the act of getting lucky can instead be the welcomed experience. Nevada’s biggest city, the bright lights and (seemingly) endless stream of cash and opportunity are still powerful lures for visitors and would-be Las Vegans alike.

Be it luck of the draw or years of hard work, Las Vegas can obviously be a place to find success and even call home. For me, as a young man from Arizona visiting here in the 1970s and early ’80s, it was the entertainers and shows that created such an overwhelming influence and desire to want to one day become a Vegas showman and live in the Entertainment Capital of the World.

During those impressionable years, I got a strong sense that this city was based on and ruled by the maverick spirit of not only its original founders, casino owners and politicians but even more so by the incredible personalities and impact of the headliners and lounge performers whom I was lucky to have the chance to see and experience.

As many of us can recall, a typical late night would consist of seeing a big-name celebrity’s second show in a glamorous showroom and being sat appropriately (depending on your tip) by a sophisticated maitre d’ in a well-pressed tuxedo. From there, you would hit one of the cool lounges such as Top of the Dunes, where you could hear world-class lounge performers surrounded by a well-dressed audience and sharp-looking band.

Even up to a couple years ago, it was very common to devote and base your late-night social agenda around who the hottest nightclub band was and where they were performing.

Needless to say (with very few exceptions), this is no longer the case. Anyone coming to Las Vegas with the hope of seeing some of this great talent and exciting, late-night live entertainment in the clubs and lounges is going to be hard pressed to find such a thing and will ultimately be shocked and perhaps saddened to see what has happened in a relatively short period of time.

Never more so than in the past couple of years has Las Vegas gone through such a shift and evolution in the Strip’s approach to its late-night entertainment offerings in particular.

Nearly 20 years ago, I started calling myself Zowie Bowie and set out to create a unique, live nightclub concert experience that would excite and entertain people of all kinds in the way that I would want to be entertained. Thanks to the Fertitta Family and others in this town, I have been given the tremendous opportunity to live out my dream and most importantly make people feel good for a living.

However, like so many of us, I’ve watched the quick decline of live music and the closing of live-music venues that have always been a staple in casino resorts. This all has taken place due to the mega-nightclubs and the unbelievable popularity of DJs, which together have almost completely dominated the late-night social landscape. Many people have asked me, “How has this happened?”

In my humble opinion, it’s really quite basic. With the incredible success of these nightclubs and now dayclubs, along with the phenomenon known as the EDC experience, it is clear that the individuals who have engineered this abrupt and impressive fete have instinctually tapped into the original intent of what this city was based on in the first place.

They have cleverly and aggressively appealed to our most basic of all urges and addictions — sexuality, feeling good and having fun. It’s as simple as that. Where the casinos for decades have cornered the market on satisfying the hope for riches, the mega-clubs have cornered the market on satisfying the hope for romance and interaction with others. This is a powerful and effective way to strip a person of money and time as much as blackjack and slot machines.

At the end of the day, people come to Las Vegas to get lucky or go for the big score, something the casinos and mega-clubs are able to offer. And, quite bluntly, the sooner we as entertainers and other attractions figure this out, the sooner we can share in this gigantic industry with a greater reward.

My hat’s off to all the clubs and DJs who are making amazing things happen in this town. I’m just thankful there are some of you out there like me who still believe in something we used to call live nightclub entertainment.

Our guest columnists this week include cast members of “Fantasy” at Luxor, “Jersey Boys” at Paris and “The Australian Bee Gees” at Excalibur, and comedy magician Mac King at Harrah’s.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow VDLX Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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