Las Vegas Sun

September 19, 2014

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Guest Columnist:

Longtime entertainer Tony Sacca ruminates on the changing landscape of Las Vegas

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Tony Sacca and his wife arrive at the red carpet for the 2013 Canon USA and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children benefit at the Bellagio on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013.

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Tony Sacca, entertainment director, stands near the rides during the San Gennaro Feast at the Rio on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011.

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Tony Orlando, right, with Las Vegas Rocks Cafe founder Tony Sacca.

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Charo, Robin Leach and Tony Sacca.

Robin Leach has finished his annual summer vacation under the Tuscan sun in Italy, and many of our Strip personalities again stepped forward in his absence to pen their own words of wisdom. As Robin enjoys the remainder of his working vacation with his family, we continue today with our popular guest columns. Here is longtime Las Vegas entertainer Tony Sacca, host of “Entertainment Las Vegas Style” and “Las Vegas Rocks Variety Show.”

Robin Leach continues to be a TV host, producer and now a positive voice reporting the many happenings in Las Vegas, and he’s been a strong influence on my TV career.

Robin and I first met in 2005 at the National Association of Television Program Executives convention when he saw me performing in MGM Grand Garden Arena. Having lived, worked and performed in Las Vegas since 1981, and being named the “Las Vegas Ambassador of Entertainment” by former Mayor Oscar Goodman, Robin invited me to write a guest column about how the showbiz landscape has changed since I moved here.

My unexpected move to Las Vegas came in 1981. I was touring the world performing in nightclubs and hotels with my identical twin Robert when Siegfried Fischbacher of Siegfried & Roy discovered us at the El San Juan Hotel in Puerto Rico and invited us to Las Vegas, saying it was “the land of opportunity.”

It was a glorious time when we arrived. Instead of today’s mega-resorts forming a continuous wall-to-wall blockade on the Strip, there was land between properties, and many were set back with sweeping entrances. There were no big nightclubs with DJs becoming famous playing electronic dance music.

Instead, we had fabulous lounges that featured names such as Louis Prima and Keely Smith, Don Rickles, Freddie Bell and us, The Sacca Twins. We landed our first job at the original MGM Grand that turned into a three-year run, followed by dates at the Las Vegas Hilton, Sands, Desert Inn, Tropicana and Mint downtown. It was all live music.

In 1982, Paul Shaffer, David Letterman’s musical director and sidekick, referred to all of us as “lounge lizards.” Not wanting to be referred to as a “lowly bug,” I wrote my song “Las Vegas the Greatest Town Around” in protest and sent it to him. To my surprise, he saved it for four years, and in 1986, my brother and I were invited to appear on “The Late Show With David Letterman” representing singers of Las Vegas, and I also was asked by the producers to suggest other Las Vegas performers for them to feature on the show.

Also in 1986, my brother and I started a TV show interviewing and featuring Las Vegas talent and visiting headliners. Our first guest was singer Carlene Terrano, a favorite back in those days; she has worked the past 10 years for SPI Entertainment.

The second guest was Frank Sinatra Jr. That’s about the time the lounges began fading away and I started concentrating on TV, working with the annual San Gennaro Feast and opening an advertising agency and production company producing spots and often acting as product spokesman.

Inadvertently, my transition to embrace the “business” end of show business was decidedly a good move. Now I’ve produced and hosted the longest-running, award-winning local entertainment TV show, “Entertainment Las Vegas Style,” that has featured more than 300 celebrities, production-show specialty acts and more. I also produced and hosted a PBS special with Charo.

While the lounges are no longer an entertainment destination, amazing talent remains, and I’m able to book and showcase them on my live-audience TV show “Las Vegas Rocks Variety Show.”

While the entertainment scene has evolved with ticket brokers, two-wall and four-wall shows, EDM, etc., I’ve found that it’s important to make changes and go with the flow. With the entertainment landscape changing, it has provided the community with the Smith Center for the Performing Arts.

It is such a privilege to perform at Cabaret Jazz, which I did with my 10-piece ensemble and The Saccettes for my show “Listen to My Heart” in February. In July, I returned with another musical odyssey, “A Celebration of Songs.”

Probably one of the most amazing things and a surprise from out of nowhere was when local writer Arlene Krieger approached me last year wanting to write my biography. The book by Mascot Publishing, “Tony Sacca: Las Vegas Ambassador of Entertainment,” describes my life’s journey from being born an identical twin in Philadelphia and performing at age 12 to my solo career today.

I’ve been doing book signings across the country, and my next one is in Wildwood, N.J., on Aug. 31, the place where I started my headlining career. The book is available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com, Books-A-Million and on my website TonySacca.com.

I still believe strongly that Las Vegas remains the Entertainment Capital of the World and is one of the most-sought-after destinations for an exciting vacation. I have to say Siegfried was right. Las Vegas has been the land of opportunity, and thank you, Robin, for this opportunity.

This Sunday, I’m presenting a “Las Vegas Sings for America” fundraiser at Santa Fe Station benefiting Las Vegas’ Young Entertainers, so come by to say hello, enjoy the show and support the future entertainers of our great city.

Be sure to check out our other guest columnists today — celebrity chef Matthias Merges of Yusho at Monte Carlo and reality-TV tattoo star Dirk Vermin. On Sunday, we’ll meet up with illusionist Jan Rouven from the Riviera and Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood executive Wendy Albert.

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 Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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