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On Thursday, the Las Vegas Review-Journal published the first words from newly installed entertainment columnist Robin Leach, who just joined the newspaper (from the Las Vegas Sun) to beef up celebrity and lifestyle coverage for its Niche divisions across all platforms.
In addition to a brief introduction, Leach — perhaps best known for his work on TV’s Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and as a correspondent for Entertainment Tonight — posted a guest column from Sin City star Criss Angel as a way of delivering content before he jets off to Italy on Tuesday for his annual (pre-scheduled) European holiday. The London-born Leach got on the phone with The Hollywood Reporter ahead of his trip to talk about the new job, Brexit fallout, his favorite Vegas performer and all those Donald Trump headlines. He also mentioned what it’s like working for the paper at a time when it’s owned by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a supporter of Republican candidate for president Donald Trump.
Congratulations on your new job with the Las Vegas Review-Journal. It’s an ambitious announcement, that you’ll write a column, contribute content to the monthly magazine, Luxury Las Vegas, and spearhead growth on a new digital platform with TV opportunities down the line. How many hours a week are you working?
I look at it as a challenge. It’s another [opportunity] to make something out of thin air. I’ll work as many hours as necessary. I’ve never shied away from hard work. When Entertainment Tonight started it was 24/7. This, in a sense, is less, but if it takes from 5 a.m. until 1 in the morning, so be it. It is ambitious, but what I love about it is that it’s put together by a man [Sheldon Adelson] who believes in ambition and doesn’t flinch at spending money and making an impact in new media. When there is opportunity to do better at what you’ve been doing with new tools at your disposal, that becomes really exciting.
Is there a platform that you’re most excited about? Does this mean you’re going to be active on Snapchat, hosting a web show, etc., in addition to writing for the paper?
I’ll be more active on social media than in the past. Yes, we are looking at webcasting with all that that means. All of this comes about because we are in the entertainment capital of the world. Las Vegas isn’t the city where old acts come to die. This is the front row where everybody wants to be — from Jennifer Lopez to Lionel Richie. They’ve all bought into the theory that Celine Dion had in 2002. The media of the city has never caught up with that same excitement. New media lets you do that.
You’ve been a part of the Las Vegas social scene since 1999. What has been the most surprising change during that time?
The year 1999 was sort of a high-water mark for Las Vegas because it began the culinary revolution. Now we have a city with more celebrity chefs and restaurants than any city on Earth. It’s been particularly dear to my heart to see celebrity chefs become real stars here and recognized for what they should be.
Who is your favorite Las Vegas performer?
Now I’m going to upset Britney or J.Lo because I will say Celine. It’s a remarkable show. The fact that she’s bounced back after the death of her husband is amazing. It’s a brilliantly executed show, and she has the voice of an angel. She’s the trailblazer for today’s pop princesses. Vegas has changed since Celine arrived. Since the chefs came in 1999, 2000, hotels are more luxurious and more outrageous. None of that has been told to the world. What we’ve told the world is, “If it happens in Vegas, it stays in Vegas.” I want to tell the world what’s going on in Vegas.
You have one night to go to a show. Who do you pick: Britney, Mariah, J.Lo or Celine?
I pick Celine. It’s the most emotional of the shows. If you’d ask me 40 years ago, when I wasn’t so old and crotchety, I would’ve said Britney. She has an in-depth musical catalog and she dances her tail off like nobody else does and the whole thing is a party. J.Lo is right up there behind her with guest appearances from people like Pitbull.
What do you dislike most about Las Vegas?
Valet parking charges at MGM (laughs). One of the reasons that I don’t come to Los Angeles often anymore is the traffic on the 405. One day that city will not move, it will be one giant gridlock. In a sense, nowhere near it, though, Vegas has to watch congestion on The Strip as well.
Is there anyone you won’t write about?
No. There’s also nobody that we haven’t gone after and wanted and not gotten. There’s nobody I wouldn’t go after.
Is there anyone you’re eager to interview or a dream interview?
We get them all. It sounds boastful, and I don’t want to sound boastful at all, but we do get them. We can pick up the phone and we can get interview from Steve Wynn to Celine. I hosted the tribute ceremony for René [Angélil] after his death for Celine at her request. We have a good rapport and understanding of what it takes to be a superstar. We are sympatico with the way they work and live. We get entree where we want.
You served as entertainment editor of Rupert Murdoch’s first American tabloid, Star. What do you make of his recent marriage to Jerry Hall?
I’m thrilled for him. I want to be like him when I grow up (laughs). Good for Rupert. I’ve always admired his work ethic when I was involved in News Limited, and I still do an awful lot of hits for Fox News. He’s one of the last big publishing moguls, if you think about it. I have a story that reveals one of the secrets to Rupert’s success. I was late one day to the News Limited office in New York for a meeting that he had called. When I went to the lobby of the building, there was Rupert standing next to an editor. On his hand, he was penciling the layout of the office from front door to where he was going for this meeting. It was like a route map on his hand. When Rupert strolled into the newsroom, he knew the name of every person on his staff and where they sat. If you were in Rupert’s employ and he walked past your desk and said, ‘Good morning, Robin. How are you doing?’ That would be a great feeling. It was a very clever trick. He’s a remarkable man. He has a great work ethic that spills over to everyone else.
You recently defended Donald Trump over an interview you did with him on your show, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, in 1994 when he referred to his daughter Tiffany, then 1 year old, and her breasts. [Leach asked what attributes she had that were inherited from her mother, Trump’s then-wife Marla Maples, to which Trump replied: “Well, I think that she’s got a lot of Marla, she’s a really beautiful baby, and she’s got Marla’s legs. We don’t know whether she’s got this part yet [gestures toward his chest], but time will tell.”] Were you surprised by how much coverage it got?
No, not really. I was surprised that it was taken out of context and the quotes were beaten up and used to give him a verbal lashing. It was unwarranted. At time, the comment was as innocent as the driven snow. He was being complimentary in a spontaneous manner that when it got taken out of context … was totally unfair. None of what was suggested by people today was what was in his original statement. He was and is a proud dad, period.
What do you make of Trump’s chances?
First of all, I’m not Kreskin, so I can’t predict the future (laughs). Having said that, I admire Donald for shaking up the status quo, for breaking the ordinary, for changing the establishment, for wanting to break the rules. I’m all in favor of him for ending the status quo. I remember watching him deliver his first speech, and all that I could see was Peter Finch in Network yelling out the window, “I’m not going to take it anymore!” We never got the hope and change that was promised, just more of same. Government hasn’t been transparent. Donald is one of those blustering individuals who will cut through the crap to get to heart and meat of the matter. In process of doing that — when you’re short editing or not editing yourself — you will aggravate a number of people, if not a lot of people. I can assure you that Donald is not a racist. He is equal for everybody — for women, for minorities and majorities. He just wants the job done, period.
Who would you vote for in November?
I’m English, so I can’t vote. I wouldn’t be voting for Hillary. Would I have voted to leave the European Union? Yes, I would. My theory there is that Britain was fed up having won two World Wars against the Germans and had reached the boiling and breaking point of being told where to live and what to do by a bunch of bureaucrats in Belgium. It was out of that frustration that the vote to leave was made. After all of these knee-jerk reactions, they will do nicely yet again without the EU.
Your show followed the lives of the uber-wealthy, people like Trump. Do you think the show would work in today’s political and social environment? Do you think that level of showiness would be accepted in today’s culture?
Oddly enough, yes. I wouldn’t be the one to do it because I’m too old. There was a plan afoot by NBC to bring Lifestyles back. They bought the title rights and Nick Cannon shot a pilot for the production company Relativity. You know what happened with Relativity better than I do, but with its financial problems, the show went by the borders as did many of its other shows. I was going to pass over the Grey Poupon mustard from my Rolls Royce to Nick Cannon in his Lamborghini.
Speaking of lifestyles, what is yours like today?
I life very comfortably in Las Vegas, five minutes from The Strip. I don’t live in a mega mansion. I am not like the people I interview. I do not have a fleet of bodyguards or minders around me. I have an accountant and lawyer; I don’t have a manager. I do all my business by myself and I shop at the supermarket by myself because I enjoy it. There’s a Lincoln in the garage and a Jaguar in the garage. There aren’t 48 or 50 cars in the garage. I go to Europe once a year for vacation. It’s been a good life, and it’s always been a good life. I have been rewarded very nicely. They haven’t all been winners. Entertainment Tonight was a huge winner. Lifestyles was the biggest winner. Food Network was an incredible winner. We had a lot of television shows on air, producing between 3,000 to 5,000 hours of television in that genre, which really was the first reality TV program. It was nice reality, not “Taking My Clothes Off With the Kardashians” kind of reality.
Brexit hasn’t been the only blow to the British of late. How devastated were you by England losing to Iceland in the European Championships?
Not at all. I didn’t even know that they lost. I don’t follow English soccer because it’s become a game for hooligans. Cricket is my game because they still break for tea.
Back to your career, you’re 74 years old. How many more years will you continue to work as hard as you do?
I am 75 next month, in August. Working keeps me young. I’m still going strong, and the body lets me know that it doesn’t like doing what I used to do years ago. There’s no point in retiring because there’s no fun in retiring. I won’t hang up the “Gone Fishin‘” sign.
Robin Leach (left) and Donald Trump pose together in this undated pic provided by Leach.
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