It’s almost like coming home, this CineVegas Film Festival. Except, instead of Grandma awaiting with a platter of ravioli, we have someone dressed like (but not actually) Billy Idol shrieking “Rebel Yell.”
More, more, more. That’s CineVegas, except that this year, it’s less because the festival has been dieted to six days from the usual 10. It’s just as well -- the 10-day festival nearly killed us last year. I’ve not been hanging around the festival too much yet, having lost time reporting on other fronts (Holly Madison’s, specifically, and I’ll now stop telling everyone what I’ve been working on this week). But when I loped into the CineVegas and was about floored by the powerhouse vocals of Walt Turner, an Imperial Palace Dealertainer, I knew I was home. Turner plays Billy Idol at the I.P., and also in the film “Vegas: Based on a True Story,” which premieres at 1 p.m. Sunday at Brenden Theatres at the Palms.
CineVegas is a lot like the city itself, sort of spread out but a close culture of a small society of staffers, filmmakers and journalists. It was at CineVegas last year I met John Corey, who brought the moving documentary “Lost in the Fog” to CineVegas, a film centering on an improbably successful horse and his oddly right-wing San Francisco owner. I bowled with John and “Super Size Me” documentarian Morgan Spurlock and hung out with the young guys whose communal labor of love led to the quirky “Happy Birthday Harris Malden.”
A lot of us have grown up a little bit, or at least gotten older, with the festival. Artistic Director Trevor Groth used to come across as a hotshot kid; now, he and his wife of five years, Susan, are expecting their first child in November. He says they’re mulling over a name that hearkens to classic films. Hopper Groth, maybe?
Whatever, I hope to meet young Groth someday at CineVegas. Maybe he’ll even sing us some Billy Idol.
Prior to last year’s festival, I had one of my four best ideas over the past six years: to feature Groth in a photo essay in full costume as characters portrayed by Gene Wilder. Groth looks a lot like a young Wilder, so I envisioned him in fully costumed portraiture as Willy Wonka, Leo Bloom and Dr. Frankenstein. I’ll never forget the response I got from Trevor when I pitched him this idea. He said, “Eh?” Then he went and got his hair cut. End of story. Or, not. I was passed along a photo of what appears to be Trevor Groth as Willy Wonka. It works, and I’m not letting go of this concept. … Making her first appearance as a member of the CineVegas team is festival Managing Director Anita Nelving, formerly of Cirque du Soleil. Nelving’s most recent duty was to help construct a PR firewall around “Believe.” … Legendary actor Jon Voight, the festival’s Marquee Award honoree, continues his outspoken political advocacy, having called President Obama a “false prophet” in a speech at a Republican Party fundraiser and during an interview with Glenn Beck last week. Maybe we can set up a debate between him and Bette Midler. … Not a CineVegas note, but I’m hearing from discriminating experts on the Las Vegas entertainment scene who are not connected to the show that Human Nature at I.P. is phenomenal.