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THE MOVABLE BUFFET

Jackson playing Vegas? Fat chance

June 21, 2008|Richard Abowitz | Special to The Times

ON THE topic of Michael Jackson performing in Las Vegas, the mainstream media seem endlessly gullible. I don't care what the Wall Street Journal says. And I don't care what the New York Times offers. Michael Jackson is not going to be doing a show or shows in Vegas any time soon.

As readers of the Buffet know, since December 2006, I have been swatting at rumors of various Michael Jackson comebacks set in Vegas. I have even offered the dude a gig in Vegas myself.

Yet despite years of nothing happening, the rumors continue. This time the Vegas comeback story got a big boost from the Wall Street Journal, which reports that Colony Capital will be the factor that makes a difference: "Colony Capital, which owns the Las Vegas Hilton and is a major shareholder in closely held Station Casinos, is in discussions with Mr. Jackson to get him back onstage and in the spotlight via a long-term stand in Las Vegas."

As for leverage with Jackson, Colony Capital recently bought the loan on his Neverland ranch, a property Jackson has shown little interest in for years. Still, the media fantasies, like Charlie Brown going for the football, have begun again in earnest.

One interesting thing about the rumors is that as time goes by, less seems to be expected of Jackson. In 2006 the talk was that he would become a headliner in the style of Celine Dion. No resort jumped at that. Later comeback versions claimed Jackson would be part of a Jackson family reunion that might even include sister Janet. Nothing came of that either.

Now the Wall Street Journal story has lowered the bar even more: "The most likely option would be to create something like 'Love,' the Cirque du Soleil show built around Beatles tunes. Mr. Jackson wouldn't be a regular part of the performance but would appear for 20 to 30 performances a year, possibly with his brothers."

This is a horrible idea. Who is going to show up on the nights Jackson isn't performing? Is it a one-price lottery if you get to see Jackson or do the nights the Gloved One is in the house make for a totally different show?

That aside: The Beatles were a studio band when they made much of their best-known music, whereas Jackson's dynamic live performances and videos of his dancing were integral to his success and key reasons his fans from the '80s would spend a fortune to see a concert featuring him.

But I suspect that there is little interest in a reunion of the Jackson 5 in 2008, and, as a solo headliner, Michael Jackson remains a huge risk.

Jackson's draw remains undeniable. But even the Wall Street Journal's story notes that if Jackson were to become a Dion-style Vegas headliner, "the rigors of any such commitment would likely be too taxing for Mr. Jackson." Jackson's long dormant period means he needs to prove himself like a novice performer. And no novice performer is worth the expense of creating a Michael Jackson show. It is an unsolvable conundrum.

In the end, nothing has really changed since the end of 2006. Only more years have gone by since Jackson's last hit, and he remains an unproven live performer in this century. The only headlining Jackson has done in Vegas was the May 2007 auction at the Hard Rock of property he once owned.

As a rule, Las Vegas resorts do not believe in gambling when it comes to their entertainment. When considering if the Las Vegas Hilton would take a risk on Jackson, it may be instructive to note that Barry Manilow is its current headliner, and his show, by all reports, is doing great, with a contract that runs through 2009.

So I have contacted Colony Capital to confirm that it is interested in having Michael Jackson as a Vegas headliner, but it has yet to issue an official statement to me. If I get it, I will post it for you on the blog.

For now, I stand by my belief that a Michael Jackson comeback has become a suitably Vegas version of an urban myth.

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For more of what's happening on and off the Strip, see latimes.com/movable buffet.

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