Earlier this year, a few of my blog readers pointed out some bizarre restrictions placed on subscribers of HouseseatsLV.com, a day-of free-tickets service that had scolded patrons for telling non-members what shows’ tickets they had received.
More specifically, some of them had told me that they were being offered seats for the now-defunct Beauty of Magic show at Planet Hollywood, and I used that as an indication that the Hans Klok magic mess was in trouble. It hadn’t even been open a week and already they were giving away passes.
Evidently, one of the cardinal rules of getting “free” tickets—in exchange for a $169 annual fee—is that nobody is ever to tell anyone what tickets they get. So the entire HouseseatsLV.com universe received a terse note the day after I reported their distribution of Klok tickets warning that such “indiscretions” are punishable with “a suspension or revocation of your membership.”
At the time, my hero was HouseSeatsLV.com’s competitor, VegasSeatFillers.com, which didn’t play such cloak-and-dagger games and didn’t even charge for subscriptions. But then VegasSeatFillers.com changed hands and became ShowTickets4Locals.com—in part because the earlier domain name was far too honest for the easily bruised egos of stars playing to half-empty theaters. Membership to the new version is supposed to be limited to local residents (although there’s no effort made to ensure that you haven’t lied about your address), and a $99-a-year premium membership option was added to give paying subscribers dibs when tickets become available.
And so it was little surprise earlier this month when ShowTickets4Locals.com went over to the dark side. The surprise was that they did so to “protect” Mirage headliner Danny Gans.
In normal notifications of ticket availability, the service includes a discreet, polite and seemingly optional paragraph about how show-goers are supposed to behave. The one off the Fashionistas free-ticket notice reads: “Please do not print this e-mail and bring it to the box office. Once your ticket is confirmed with our operators, your name will be given to the box office directly. Valid ID required to receive your tickets. Please just let the box office know that you are on the guest list and do not let paying customers know you are receiving free tickets.”
See? Reasonable requests, asked reasonably. A little unrealistic, but whatever. Certainly not a nastygram.
The recent Danny Gans notifications, however, were different. In screaming red letters, they informed those who wished to take advantage of the offer that their memberships would be deleted if they called the Mirage box office at all, or visited said box office before 7 p.m. or after 7:30 p.m.
All that, coupled with that part of the boilerplate notice about not letting paying customers know about the freebies, seemed particularly odd, because the front page of ShowTickets4Locals.com features a grinning picture of Mr. Gans right there. It’s not like they’re hiding the fact that he’s passing out tickets through them from anyone, at least not on the Internet.
More importantly, though, what’s the big deal? When you go to New York City to see shows, you’re aware that some people around you had coupons, some people got comps, some people got group rates, some people were there at an appointed time to get specially discounted seats. Same goes for airlines; you must know that there is a silly list of reasons why your seat could cost twice that of the guy next to you.
And we’re in Vegas! Even if it’s less true than it once was, everyone knows comps are currency here. Some people are smarter, luckier or more savvy than others. Some listen to popular podcasts like The Strip and Five Hundy By Midnight, some read sites like RateVegas.com and VegasTripping.com, some subscribe to the Las Vegas Advisor or Vegas list-servs. Informed, hard-working tourists have done their homework, they’re aware of how to find the good deals, they grab them, and they enjoy.
Is someone who paid a full price going to be mad? Doubtful. Will they not buy their tickets next time in advance and wait for an online freebie instead? Maybe, but there’s no way to predict that the shows they’re here to see will be offered for free on the nights they want to see them, so it’s their loss if they try that. And if they’re not locals, this one’s not supposed to be for them anyhow. Tourists can grasp the notion that living through the miserable heat of a Vegas summer and dodging slobs sucking on Eiffel Tower margaritas all year round ought to be worth something.
No, this is entirely about image. The Danny Gans crew clearly gave a stern talking-to to the ShowTickets4Locals.com folks, indicating that Gans doesn’t like having the perception that he can’t fill a room without some help. And I honestly don’t know if he can or can’t, but this is the slowest time of the year, so there’s especially little shame in it right now.
The irony is that all of these warnings and threats have done more to tarnish Gans’ image than bragging to some eavesdropper that you’re getting to see the show gratis. Consider this comment from one reader who forwarded me the e-mail: “Can you believe this? F--k Danny Gans. No other artist or show has all these warnings. Next it will be ‘Don’t look into Mr. Gans’ eyes.’”
Don’t be silly. I’m sure premium members are allowed to look.
Read Steve Friess’ daily blog at TheStripPodcast.blogspot.com and catch his weekly celeb-interview podcast at TheStripPodcast.com. He can be reached at [email protected].