Hollywood Nightlife: MGM Grand Bets Big on Jeff Beacher's Celebrity-Luring Circus Spectacle
This story first appeared in the Jan. 3, 2014, issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Jeff Beacher, the circus-cabaret maestro behind the 3-year-old celebrity-studded Beacher's Madhouse at the Hollywood Roosevelt, is about to supersize his shtick in Las Vegas. On Dec. 27, his friend Miley Cyrus -- perhaps the only figure currently better known for employing dwarves in the service of pop spectacle -- will host the opening of Beacher's new outpost at the MGM Grand.
Beacher spent five years in Vegas running an embryonic version of his Madhouse variety show at Hard Rock Hotel, beginning in 2003, before landing in Los Angeles. Chelsea Handler, Johnny Depp, Sarah Hyland, Kelly Osbourne and Kim Kardashian are among the guests who have shown up to see dancing pink gorillas and 7-foot-tall women in pasties while getting bottle service from dwarves dressed as Oompa Loompas.
Beacher, taking a major gamble, returns to a Sin City now ruled to an unprecedented degree by dance DJs. "The whole city is EDM," says Beacher, 40, who is decidedly not a fan of electronic dance music. "People want relief. And the power people that don't go out to that will come to this. They can sit down -- it's intellectual."
Well, intellectual might be in the bleary eye of the beholder, as Beacher's grand Vegas plan (aside from an added emphasis on acrobats, beloved by increasing numbers of Russian and Ukrainian tourists) is to triple down on the little-people action. "In L.A., you have one midget flying around [on mini zip lines], dropping off bottles of champagne," he says of the signature stunt at his venue, where a bottle starts at $500. Beacher freely uses the un-P.C. term for his cast and crew: "Here, you have a telephone booth where the midget shoots out of it as a different superhero character then flies to your table. Here, you have a midget shooting out of a cannon. Here, you have a huge elephant statue where a midget flies out of the elephant's ass." Pop icon look-alikes such as mini-Miley and mini-Britney also will be on hand.
MGM Grand president Scott Sibella expects success. "It doesn't appeal to my older slot customer," he says. "But Vegas needs more off-the-wall things. This town is supposed to be about experiencing things you don't in your normal neighborhood."
The casino is betting big: The 8,500-square-foot space is more than six times larger than the Roosevelt venue. While the MGM Grand declined comment on how much it has invested, Beacher's Hollywood location is quite profitable. It grossed $5 million in 2012, with a net margin of 22 percent (according to financial documents Beacher provided to THR). And Beacher will host two shows a night, five nights a week, on the Strip, as opposed to the two a week he has in Los Angeles. (Ticket prices in Vegas begin at $75, with VIP costing $150.)
"In L.A., we have the stars," says Beacher. "In Vegas, we're going to have the stars and the whole world, too."