The act was big. Really big. Millions-of-records-sold big. But that was then and that was somewhere else and almost nobody knows about it in the United States, so the act landed in Vegas hoping that America’s entertainment crossroads would provide the introduction necessary for broader success.
That’s the setup, anyway. And in the past year, much to my fascination, we’ve seen that hand being played out in two dramatically different fashions on the Strip, with significantly different outcomes.
The Australian group Human Nature and British singer Matt Goss both largely started from zero in their career second acts after boy-band successes in their homelands. Both even found well-regarded names to stand up behind their incursions onto the Strip scene and a classic musical trope to emulate.
The results, however, have been starkly different. Human Nature is rounding the bases to their first anniversary at the Imperial Palace, having proven to be a rare smashing success during the city’s most challenging economic era. And Goss? He was bounced from the Palms after about five months during which he couldn’t quite fill a tiny lounge, only to relocate to Caesars Palace’s 160-seat Cleopatra’s Barge, which, again, he is not filling up without the help of casino comps.
So what does this tell us? The answer, dear readers, is in the Gossiness of it all.
What, perhaps you ask, is “Gossiness”? Well, nobody exactly knows, except that it is very likely in coming years to be an Urban Dictionary entry synonymous with an act that thinks it can burst on the Vegas scene and expect everyone to revere its awesomeness before it’s actually even bothered to prove its awesomeness.
Goss was a member of British band Bros, which broke up about 15 years ago after some very successful albums, popular everywhere, evidently, but America. Since then, his solo career hasn’t been all that, his biggest hit reaching the soaring heights of No. 22 on the U.K. charts seven years ago.
Yet Goss was in Vegas mere moments before his producer, Pussycat Dolls founder Robin Antin, insisted the Palms rename the venue The Lounge as the “Gossy Room.” Antin herself was the first to inform me of that back in August, interjecting during an interview I was conducting with Goss to be sure I knew never to reference the venue where he would do a mere two shows a week by its former (and, as it would happen, future) moniker.
The aim, Goss and Antin said repeatedly, was to take over Vegas, to define the new cool. They were both explicit about Goss being the latest in a lineage that began with none other than Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, quite a lofty mantle if ever there was one. Humble people don’t stake such claims.
Meanwhile, there was Human Nature, four well-known guys from Down Under who don white tuxes and do a remarkable rendition of several Motown classics. They were doing it, in fact, back in Australia where none other than Smokey Robinson became a die-hard fan and imported them to Vegas.
Human Nature arrived not expecting to conquer but hoping to be heard. Rather than making demands for a renamed showroom or being vain enough to think that any serious person would use their name as a meaningless adjective, they took up residence in one of the most ignominious resorts in Vegas—the Imperial Palace—and hoped their hard work and modesty would pay off.
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To become the toast of Vegas, Human Nature actually decided to live here and attend every opening or charity event their schedules allowed. Goss still lives in L.A., and is spotted around town almost exclusively at nightclubs.
Human Nature’s approach seems to have worked. They’ve managed 80 percent occupancy in a 650-seat showroom six times a week at $55 a seat, according to Harrah’s Entertainment veep Michael Weaver. Goss, as previously noted, couldn’t sell out two nights a week at the Palms, where admission was $20 a head, and has now moved on to Caesars Palace, where he’s inexplicably doubled his price. Weaver acknowledged it’s not a sellout as yet.
Oh, and one more thing: Human Nature is not a laughingstock. The word “Gossy” is such a presumptuous joke that there are folks at the Palms who still use it randomly just for giggles. On Vegas message boards, blogs and podcasts, too, the term has become a synonym for exceptional hubris. The only place it’s taken seriously is in certain quarters of the compliant Vegas entertainment media which, incidentally, also hyped German magician wunderkind Hans Klok. What ever happened to him?
Why obsess over this one element? Because it says so much about the arrogance of the entire Gossy enterprise. I attended Friday’s show; Goss was certainly an energetic performer and I could tell there was some sort of genuine talent in there somewhere. But it felt buried under artifice and an extreme effort to tie Goss to Sinatra, despite the vast differences between them in every way except, perhaps, the clothes. To wit, the very first two images on the video screen is Old Blue Eyes, whose visage is replaced by, uh, Young Blue Eyes.
I’ve heard ad nauseum from Goss loyalists on Twitter this week that he’s not trying to be Sinatra. But even if he’s just paying homage to the aura and era of Sinatra, what Goss and Antin seem to believe Sinatra was all about is so shallow it’s an insult. Any blue-eyed singer who can pull off a fedora a Sinatra does not make. Sinatra was about lyrics, about delivery, about effortless, highbrow grace. He’d probably vomit at Goss’ version of “Luck Be A Lady,” a plea for fidelity that Goss belts while having his crotch pawed at by a gaggle of scantily clad dancers.
My Twitter antagonists insist that the whole Gossy Room construct is branding and point to the fact that Terry Fator also has an eponymous showroom as proof that Goss isn’t getting ahead of himself. Maybe, but naming a room for Fator, while admittedly a little premature, is understandable, as he was a big TV star who had already sold out dozens of shows at the Hilton before the Mirage signed him. Fator also was moving into a venue named for his predecessor, Danny Gans, so it had to be changed anyway.
Otherwise, the very few folks who have had showrooms named for them in Vegas history—Gans, Siegfried & Roy, Penn & Teller, Lance Burton and Wayne Newton are about the only ones who spring to mind—had long and significant careers before they reached that pinnacle.
What has Goss done to deserve this high honor? Sold a lot of records in another country? Pose for too-cool-for-school publicity posters?
That brings me back to Human Nature. Every time I’ve asked them about their grander ambitions, they’ve spoken about how great their current gig is and that, yeah, a larger showroom at some point might be cool, but really they’re just so grateful for the opportunity before them.
Goss? A reporter recently asked the guy who is not yet capable of filling a 165-seat space whether he’d rule out playing in an arena. That’s kind of like asking someone struggling through the second grade what his grad-school plans are, but the answer was even stranger. He could have taken the modest Human Nature route with something like, “Aw, gee, first I’ve got to make a success of this thing then we can talk about that.”
But no. Goss instead set his sights on—wait for it—the 4,000-seat Colosseum.
So now we know yet another sign of the apocalypse: When the House That Celine Built becomes the Gossy Room. It’s funny just thinking about it.