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[Weekly Q&A]

Weekly Q&A: For O’Sheas leprechaun Brian Thomas, life is one lucky adventure

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Calling (and pouring) the shots: Brian Thomas wears leprechaun well.
Photo: Christopher DeVargas

Las Vegas Boulevard was a little less green last St. Patrick’s Day, as O’Sheas underwent a major redesign that included a move to the Quad, just one component of Caesars Entertainment’s big-picture plans for its multimillion-dollar entertainment complex, the Linq.

The beloved Emerald Isle-inspired space opened late last year, bringing back to center-Strip its famous $5 blackjack, $3 drafts and one very familiar face: Brian Thomas—but you might know him as Lucky the Leprechaun.

We caught Thomas before he began spreading the luck of the Irish late last week, discussing the new O’Sheas space, how he’ll be using his minister license March 17 and what was in that shot he poured down your gullet last St. Paddy’s Day.

So how’d you get into the leprechaun business? (laughs) That’s a funny one. … Back in February of 2006 our president at the time, Don Marrandino, he was actually looking for somebody to represent the O’Sheas brand. And he reached out to me and we had a meeting, and basically he gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

You’re a well-known face on the Strip now. Was your Lucky the Leprechaun character immediately embraced? It’s actually kind of crazy. When Don Marandino asked me to be the face for O’Sheas and to be the atmosphere entertainer, you could say, for O’Sheas, I didn’t really know what it was going to be or what kind of a job description it was going to entail. The guests [coming] through those doors at O’Sheas when we were on the front part of the Strip, they embraced me with open arms. They thought it was great. And I started to get to know all of the guests, pretty much on a first-name basis. And the pouring of the shots escalated into photos and more photos, and it became a support system not only from the guests but our staff. Our employees embraced me being on the property, right up to our executive team.

It took a little while I think. I didn’t really get that feeling until I met Oscar Goodman, the mayor, in 2009, when he presented me the key to the city. And it was for the contribution of tourism for what I had done for O’Sheas. And that was really the icing on the cake for me. Then, I knew, for the past three years, I had been doing something right. Because I don’t get a big head; I don’t have an ego or anything like that. When I’m embraced by the guests and people want to take pictures, I think it’s an honor, because they’re taking a piece of their vacation back home with them, and I become a memory of their vacation.

You’re obviously very recognizable when you’re wearing your leprechaun get-up. Do people recognize you when you’re not in the costume? They recognize me through a lot of different things, O’Sheas being one of them. I do television, film, commercials. I’m also known in Vegas as the “Mini-ster.” I am ordained here in Vegas and I now marry people here, currently at one of the wedding chapels, the Hotter than Hell Wedding Chapel [at KISS by Monster Mini Golf]. I’m exclusive over there, and we’re now going to start doing stuff at O’Sheas, especially this year at our block party.

You’re officiating a wedding ceremony at O’Sheas this St. Patrick’s Day. Yeah. We have a couple that met each other three years ago at the old O’Sheas, and now they are actually getting married. The best place, they thought, they could at least do their commitment ceremony would be at the new O’Sheas, when we kick off St. Paddy’s Day, Monday the 17th.

You play a leprechaun for a living. Are you actually Irish? (laughs) No. I play it well, but no. I’m actually Lebanese. My parents are both Lebanese and [my] father was born here in the states, but my grandparents were born in Lebanon.

Have you always enjoyed St. Paddy’s Day? Oh, of course. Any type of celebration—Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween … I like to be part of any type of holiday, especially St. Paddy’s Day—I mean, I look forward to it now, especially being a family member of the O’Sheas brand for so many years. It’s almost like a New Year’s Eve celebration for me.

With that in mind, what are looking forward to most at this year’s celebration? I’m looking forward to having everybody see the new O’Sheas, for one. It’s a little bit different than the old. I will say: It’s a little bit smaller, it’s a lot cleaner and our staff is actually amazing. And I’m really excited for everyone to come down and meet our new staff, as well as myself interacting with everyone. With Caesars Entertainment opening up the new Linq, we’re not just going to have the party inside—we’re going to spread it out into the Linq itself, so everybody can enjoy everything the Linq has to offer, besides O’Sheas.

When the old O’Sheas closed, many were worried about what would be preserved and brought to the new venue. We did preserve some parts of the old O’Sheas and we implemented it in the new O’Sheas. Now, if you were a true O’Sheas fan, I would say you can look around and see. We still also have our cheap drinks, which, in my opinion, are the cheapest on the Strip. We still have the beer pong; we still have the $5 blackjack. So, we kept a lot of the strongest points from the old O’Sheas.

We kept all the ceiling tiles and we had a sheet metal company bend them to an artistic mold. They’re hanging over the table games. And then we’ve also taken the brass mirrors that were hanging over the parking garage elevators and we implemented them behind all of our bars inside O’Sheas. There [are] definitely bits and pieces of the old O’Sheas, and all of the lighting fixtures are from the old O’Sheas. So I’m sure some people will recognize it. It’s definitely an eye-opening experience when you first walk in, because everybody expects the dirty carpeting and, you know, that feel. But I’ve embraced it with open arms, because when I first walked into the new O’Sheas, I was just in awe. I was like, “Oh my God. This is beautiful.”

You’re often pouring shots down partiers’ gullets. What are you usually pouring? Currently we’re pouring Irish margaritas made with Jameson. Basically, you have all of your margarita ingredients, except instead of tequila we have top-shelf Jameson inside. And everybody loves it. And I love pouring them.

Shots are difficult to take for some. Ever get spit on? No. (laughs) When they’re taking shots, I try to bend their head over and pour the shot into their mouth. And some can take it like a champ, and others fail miserably.

Every day is St. Patrick’s Day at O’Sheas, more or less. What’s different about being at O’Sheas on St. Patrick’s Day, though? Everybody loves O’Sheas in general. But when it comes to the brand and a celebration of a special day, it makes it that much more intense. And you feel even more a special being part of a celebration. For example, everyone goes to Boston all the time, but what makes it so special to be in Boston the day of the Boston Marathon, or the opening game for the Red Sox or the opening game for the Patriots ... You get that excitement, that energy. Everybody gets even more energized.

St. Patrick's Day at O'Sheas March 17, all day, parade and commitment ceremony at noon.

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Mark Adams joined the Las Vegas Weekly in 2010 and now serves as the magazine’s web editor. You can also ...

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