If you want to see Terry Fator’s lips really move, talk to him after a show. The star attraction at The Mirage spoke at length after a recent performance at the Terry Fator Theatre. This week, Fator released a new DVD, aptly titled “Terry Fator Live From Las Vegas,” which was captured soon after he opened at The Mirage in March.
During our chat in his memento-laden dressing room backstage at the theater, the 44-year-old ventriloquist/vocalist/impressionist/comic spoke of the dynamics that brought him to The Mirage, new competition in Monte Carlo headliner Frank Caliendo, the dominance of Cirque du Soleil on the Strip, upgrades to his act and how his divorce has (or hasn’t) changed him on and off the stage.
On taking over the one-time Danny Gans Theatre at The Mirage: “It was probably the biggest gamble in the history of Vegas. The people here, the people who actually run the MGM (Mirage) properties, they were 100 percent against having me here. They said, ‘No, absolutely not.’ And the president of the Mirage (Scott Sibella) stuck his neck out and said, ‘I will guarantee you this is going to be a hit.’ And they said, ‘If he flops, you’re fired.’ And I’m telling you, he really stuck his neck out for me, and I appreciate the heck out of it.”
On the arrival of Caliendo, the nationally known (if you follow Fox’s NFL coverage and late-night sketch shows) impressionist who opens at Monte Carlo in October: “It’s funny, I was the new guy, and now I’m the established guy and others are coming in. I’m a person who believes there’s always room in the world for more entertainment, especially if it’s good entertainment. I’ve seen Frank perform, I’m a fan -- not just a fan, I’m a huge fan. I love Frank. I’ve gotten to meet him and talk to him. I couldn’t say I know him because I’ve just met him in passing. I think Las Vegas desperately needs more entertainers like him. … He’s going to do great, people are going to love him, he is hilarious, he is one of the best impressionists in the world. He’s just a great all-around entertainer.”
On the impact of Cirque du Soleil on the Las Vegas entertainment scene: “As much as I love Cirque du Soleil, and I think it’s wonderful, I think we have enough of ’em. Let’s start bringing back entertainers. Let’s quit bringing in more shows where there are 157 people flipping and dangling from ropes. Let’s go back to the day when it was Elvis and Frank and Sammy and Dean. Let’s get the legends back, and if they’re not legends, let’s make them legends. … I’m not trying to insult Cirque. They’re fantastic. They’re amazing. But, c’mon, it’s like, when you hear that there’s a Cirque show opening, it’s like, ‘Really? How many of them are there now? Twelve (laughs)?’ ” (The answer is seven, counting Elvis-A-Rama or whatever the new Cirque show at Aria will be called, and every one is at an MGM Mirage hotel except for "Mystere" at Treasure Island).
On updating his act: “I’m creating new puppets. I’ve got two more I’m creating right now. One’s Barry Fabulous, and he’s into singing show tunes, Bette Midler and Carol Channing and Judy Garland. He’s really into all that. Another character, I don’t even want to talk about yet, is really creative and amazing. We’ve got a show right now that is so solid that we want to wait. He’ll be added in the next few months. I can guarantee, year after year after year, my show is going to be fresh and exciting and new. If you come and see me next year at this time, you’re going to see a lot of new stuff because I don’t want to be bored, first of all, and I don’t want to be one of those entertainers that sits on my laurels and says, ‘I’ve got a good show, that’s it for the next 20 years.’ ”
On the fallout from the divorce from his wife of 18 years, Melinda, announced in July (Fator is now in a relationship with one-time assistant Taylor Makakoa, who left his show in March): “There were things that just couldn’t be resolved. I hoped success would resolve them, and it didn’t. I think anyone who has become successful and has had same the kind of problems I’ve had feel the same way. They think, ‘Gosh, I really thought my success would help fix things,’ but it doesn’t. It doesn’t fix problems, but I think it did magnify some problems. These were problems we were having that were years and years and years in the making, and it wasn’t like I suddenly got successful and bam! It fell apart. It looks that way, but I thought that getting successful would fix it, but it didn’t, unfortunately, and life goes on. I’m still a trusting person, I’m still a caring person, I’m still a nice person. I haven’t gone Hollywood, not at all. I love my family, my family and I are very close. I haven’t let it affect my show at all, and it has not affected my ticket sales even slightly. … The reaction (from fans) has been compassion, ‘I’m sorry you have to go through this,’ and I’m sorry I have to go through it, too. It sucks. But I’m not the only person to have to go through it, and it’s too bad. I wish it didn’t have to be that way.”
Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats.