Deals like this one just don't happen anymore. It was upon a mere handshake — or so it is said — that singer/songwriter Matt Goss agreed to follow in some august footsteps with an indefinite run at Caesars Palace.
Presently billed as Matt Goss Live from Caesars Palace Produced by Robin Antin — quite a mouthful — and with the equally wordy locator, "In the Gossy Room at Cleopatra's Barge inside Caesars Palace," the 70-minute show will carry on Caesars' tradition of late-night entertainment with 10 p.m. performances Friday and Saturday. Over the years Caesars' various stages have seen the likes of Tom Jones, Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Bennett, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra and, more recently, Celine Dion, Elton John, Bette Midler and Cher. Goss' own show is slated to debut March 12.
Until recently, Goss had been performing since September 2009 in the Lounge at the Palms, an intimate 210-seat theater right off the casino, which has itself been home to the Playboy Comedy Tour and duo Zowie Bowie. Goss' run there concluded January 23, just nine days after this site broke the news that Goss was in talks with Caesars.
To hear Caesars Palace president Gary Selesner tell it, he, Goss and Antin, Goss' manager, put the deal together in just five meetings or so. Antin, creator of the Pussycat Dolls, has previously worked with Caesars Palace to place the Pussycat Dolls Lounge inside Pure Nightclub and the Pussycat Dolls Casino outside the club. Most recently, she choreographed the Dirty Virgins backup dancers for Goss' show at the Palms. Selesner credits Antin with bringing Goss to his attention. "She said, 'You've got to go over there and see this guy.'"
It took a few weeks, but Selesner finally made it: "My first impression when I saw Matt was here was this amazing, talented personality in such a small room ... And instantly, as I saw the reaction from the crowd to his performance, I realized that there was an opportunity here for Caesars Palace." Selesner returned to the show for a second time and the discussions began.
At a crucial moment at Beijing Noodle during negotiations, Selesner says he called for someone to bring him a copy of the Caesars Palace coffee-table book, a new tome of photos from the 1966 opening through today. "I wrote an inscription in the book right in front of Matt. I guess I was taking a leap of faith that in next moment he'd shake hands with me and seal the deal that way."
According to Selesner, the inscription went something like this: "Welcome to Caesars Palace and to the family of great stars that have performed here, including Frank Sinatra, Celine Dion, and Elton John." And then they shook hands. "I felt that Matt deserved this chance at a spot in Caesars Palace history."
Goss (41, though he doesn't look it), rose to fame in the late '80s and early '90s as lead singer and one-third of the UK boy band Bros. The trio, which also featured Goss' twin brother, drummer Luke, had 11 Top 40 singles and three Top 20 albums in the U.K., making them one of the most successful British acts between 1988 and 1992. Though Luke has moved on to a film career, Goss' attention has stayed with his music, recording solo albums (most recently Gossy, 2009), and even penning a children's book, Bear Crimbo, which will appear in 2010. Both brothers have published autobiographies.
But throughout Goss' many projects, one thing has remained a constant: "I'm a sensitive soul and a singer/songwriter," says Goss. "My personal life is in my songs."
While about half of Goss' show features covers and Gossified versions of some of his favorite tunes by Sinatra and Stevie Wonder, and even a reggae spin on The Eagles' "Hotel California," the balance is original.
So what is 'Gossy?'
"My whole life has resonance within my performance and my lyrics and beyond," says Goss. "That's who I am and I want to stay that way." That is Gossy.
"I definitely tip my hat to the Palms and George Maloof and Michael Greco," says Goss of his first 12 weeks performing in Las Vegas. "It went so incredibly well ... I'm really proud of my run over there." The show will require very little tweaking to make it work in its new home, the show being, as Goss puts it, "still virginal." The venue, however, is another story.
In anticipation of Goss' March 12 debut, Cleopatra's Barge, the venerable party lounge that opened in the 1970s (Selesner: "It literally reeks of history"), will get a face-lift, including new red carpeting, red chairs and spiffy new red curtains to corral some of the sound. But not all of it — some of the sound will intentionally spill out into Cleo's Way, the idea being to reel in more partiers after the performance.
While the ticket price has gone up (from $25 plus tax to $40 including tax, on sale at the Colosseum box office this Saturday), Goss' performance venue has gotten even more intimate; the newly renovated barge will hold just 165 seats at first.
"Matt's personality and style harkens back to the Rat Pack days," says Selesner. "And Caesars' personality and style also has its roots in those days."
The resemblance is there, no doubt: the slender, suited crooner under a fedora, with a voice that alternates from silken and sexy to fresh and energetic.
"There is a Sinatra feel to the show, but it's a little bit more edgy," says Goss, a self-proclaimed "soul boy" and fan of everything from Sinatra to ska.
Goss also would bring back some of Sinatra's bygone sensibilities, chief among them being loyalty to friends — and dressing up to go out. "The biggest compliment to me in my room is that the fellows are bringing their ladies on a date ... The word is 'a sense of occasion.'"