Sin City en­ter­tain­ment en­tre­pre­neur

Saxe en­ter­tains Las Ve­gas au­di­ences with 12 shows

Los Angeles Times - - Television - This ad­ver­tis­ing sup­ple­ment was writ­ten by Caro­line Fon­tein and pre­pared by the VE­ staff and did not in­volve the re­port­ing or edit­ing staff of the Los An­ge­les Times. To reach VE­, e-mail story@ve­

Who is David Saxe? You prob­a­bly don’t rec­og­nize his name, but many vis­i­tors who come to Ve­gas know his shows. He’s a pro­ducer and cur­rent­ly­works with 12 shows on the Las Ve­gas Strip that range in genre fromhyp­no­sis and­com­edy tomagic, a va­ri­ety show and his new­est ven­ture, a full-scale pro­duc­tion based on iconic en­ter­tain­ers from the city’s past.

Hemight notbe the face on ev­ery­bill­board in Ve­gas, but he’s the man be­hind more shows in the city than the­most rec­og­niz­able pro­duc­tion com­pany on the Strip, Cirque du Soleil. Find­ing a niche in the En­ter­tain­ment Cap­i­tal of the World is no easy feat, but to Saxe it was part of grow­ing up. “It was just what we did,” says Saxe. Com­ing from a show busi­ness fam­ily, he was on stage even be­fore he was born. His mom was a dancer in “Folies Berg­ere” at the Trop­i­cana and per­formed while she was preg­nant with Saxe in 1969. His dad was a band leader who played for­var­i­ous head­lin­ers in­clud­ing the Rat Pack. His par­ents also did en­ter­tain­ment for con­ven­tions where his dad or­ga­nized the band while his mom was in charge of the dancers and other per­form­ers. Saxe helped by do­ing some of the tech­ni­cal stuff like set­ting up lights, the sound sys­tem and band stands.

“Back inhigh school or even­back in ju­nior high school I was al­ways putting peo­ples’ shows to­gether and do­ing the tech­ni­cal parts. Then when my sis­ter was in the Siegfried and Roy show she re­al­ized ‘I can do this and I can dance,’ so she wanted to put a whole show around it. Kind of like Our Gang, Lit­tle Ras­cals, let’s just put a show to­gether,” says Saxe.

When hewas 17, Saxe be­came the youngest pro­ducer in Ve­gas when he launched his sis­ter’s show, “Melinda - The First Lady of Magic.” He went on to pro­duce the show for 16 years.

“[Tick­ets] started off at like $7.99 and that in­cluded a prime rib din­ner and two drinks. That was at the Bour­bon Street Ho­tel. Then we went to Land­mark, which was a 750-seat show­room, and it just blos­somed fromthere. We found our niche putting shows to­gether,” says Saxe.

Along with learn­ing the ins and outs of what goes into pro­duc­ing a show, grow­ing up in Ve­gas with par­ents who were per­form­ers gave Saxe the op­por­tu­nity to see some of the iconic en­ter­tain­ers who helped brand the city as the En­ter­tain­ment Cap­i­tal of the World. When Saxe was young he watched his fa­ther re­hearse with well-known en­ter­tain­ers in­clud­ing Frank Si­na­tra.

“I just kind of grew up around all this and watch­ing all these per­form­ers. Iwas just used to that amaz­ing per­son­al­ity fromthese stars,

they would fill the room,” says Saxe.

Be­ing wit­ness to some of the great­est en­ter­tain­ers in the world at such a young age helped shape Saxe’s view of what it takes to have a suc­cess­ful show. He’s also learned how to read the au­di­ence and howto let their re­ac­tions shape his next move.

“For so long I’ve al­ways watched the au­di­ence and what pleases them and I just got in tune with what Ve­gas au­di­ences want. Ve­gas au­di­ences have been fam­i­lies and mid­dle Amer­i­can, and I kind of just got in tunewith that. I fell into that niche asop­posed spend­ing $2 mil­lion on a show,” says Saxe.

It’s not that he couldn’t put on a mul­ti­mil­lion dol­lar pro­duc­tion like Cirque du Soleil, but he doesn’t think that’s Ve­gas.

“Tome that’s just notwhat peo­ple come to Ve­gas for. They come to have a great time, to hoot and holler and my shows con­nect with the au­di­ence I think. Maybe it’s a niche too.

We all can’t beCirque so you just have tofind your niche and go for it,” says Saxe.

Dur­ing the past 20 years he has pro­duced more than 100 shows. His cur­rent shows per­form in his venues the Saxe Theater (for­merly theWyrick Theater) andV-Theater, both lo­cated at the Mir­a­cle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood. His un­der­stand­ing ofwhat au­di­ences want along with know­ing how to put on a show, give him a unique ad­van­tage over other pro­duc­ers in Ve­gas.

“He has an in­sight to how Ve­gas works, how the tick­ets are sold, what peo­ple like on stage, how to make the show ex­cit­ing on stage, he’s got the best of both worlds,” says Wally East­wood who hosts and per­forms in one of Saxe’s shows “V-the Ul­ti­mate Va­ri­ety Show” at V Theater.

An in­cred­i­ble jug­gler and fifth-gen­er­a­tion cir­cus per­former, East­wood worked in nu­mer­ous shows in Ve­gas and with var­i­ous pro­duc­ers be­fore he started work­ing with Saxe.

“I know a lot of pro­duc­ers who can put to­gether a great show, and I know a lot of pro­duc­ers who can sell tick­ets and sell the show, but I don’t know­many pro­duc­ers who can do both. He’s one of the few that can, and it takes both. You have to mas­ter both,” says East­wood.

Know­ing what peo­ple want to see in Ve­gas is some­thing that Saxe learned from ex­pe­ri­ence, yet he ad­mits that not all of his shows have been suc­cess­ful. His hits and misses as a pro­ducer have all been part of a learn­ing process that started when he was 18 and de­cided to take on more pro­duc­tions aside from his sis­ter’s show.

“I launched a male strip show and a girlie show and they pretty much sucked. I lost all mymoney. I learned, which­was pretty hard,

but I didn’t want to stop so I kept try­ing new things. I’m pretty sure I’ve done more shows than any­body in the his­tory of Las Ve­gas,” says Saxe.

Work­ing in a fickle in­dus­try like en­ter­tain­ment has its fair share of ups and downs, but that’s what Saxe en­joys most about his work.

“ I refuse to just sell out and just do some­thing that I think will make money but is not chal­leng­ing. I don’tdothis for the­money. I re­ally do this for the chal­lenge ofwhat’s go­ing to sell,” saysSaxe. “I like cre­at­ing things and see­ing it all the way through from (an idea) just out of my head­writ­ten on a nap­kin to an en­tity that runs it­self. That’s the sat­is­fac­tion of see­ing some­thing go up.”

That am­bi­tion is what pro­pelled the cre­ation of his new­est pro­duc­tion “VE­GAS! The Show,” which opened in June at the Saxe Theater.

He got the idea for his new show when he re­al­ized that Ve­gas was missing Ve­gas.

“Maybe be­cause it’s what I grew up in, but I kept sit­ting there go­ing, man there’s noth­ing like the old­days. When­peo­ple thinkofVe­gas they think of theRat Pack, they think of Elvis, they think of show­girls andwe’re just get­ting so far away from it,” says Saxe.

Since the idea for “VE­GAS! The Show” was an orig­i­nal con­cept, Saxe worked more on this show than any of his other pro­duc­tions. The show fea­tures orig­i­nal mu­sic and chore­og­ra­phy by Tiger Martina. Sax­e­playeda part inevery as­pect of cre­at­ing the show, from pounding out chords on the pi­ano com­pos­ing orig­i­nal songs to di­rect­ing.

“This is re­ally my baby. I’ve done more on this show than any other show I’ve ever done,” says Saxe.

He ex­plained thatwith a castof70the show is an ex­pen­sive en­deavor, but he’s hop­ing that his tim­ing is right and that open­ing the show in a down econ­omy will put him in a bet­ter po­si­tion when things turn around.

“I’m well aware sta­tis­ti­cally how things shouldn’t work – es­pe­cially in this busi­ness. So in one as­pect I’mvery stupid, like I’mtoo stub­born to stop at ex­pand­ing. I’ve got a game plan, and I’m not let­ting the damn econ­omy

get in my way. I’ll just fig­ure out a dif­fer­ent way to mar­ket or some­thing,” says Saxe.

Born and raised in Ve­gas it’s no sur­prise that just like the pi­o­neers who built the city, Saxe iswill­ing to take a gam­ble on some­thing that he be­lieves will pay off in the long run. So far the odds have been in his fa­vor.

“I can’t stop com­ing up with con­cepts,

and then I’m not sat­is­fied un­til I do them. So even if it might not make busi­ness sense or tim­ing sense, if I re­ally be­lieve it in my bones, then I just have to do it. I guess I have just been very for­tu­nate that most of them have paid off,” says Saxe.

Photo by J Rick Martin

David Saxe stands on­stage among props from “VE­GAS! The Show,” one of 12 shows he pro­duces on the Las Ve­gas Strip.

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