Obviously, the creators of a show about vampires are interested in death. But Tim Molyneux has a different kind of death in mind as he ponders having passed the fifth anniversary of his show Bite. He counts 13 erotic shows that have come and gone since Bite opened at the Stratosphere. Not all topless shows, mind you, and so to get to the unlucky number 13, he includes shows like Fashionistas, fully covered, in his total. But there is nothing magical about Bite’s longevity, to hear Molyneux tell it. Bite, from the start, was a carefully balanced confection, a formula:
“I wanted a Las Vegas show. And so I went to see all the shows here. I saw there was a formula. The curtain opens, and there is a singer; the curtain closes. Then the curtain opens, and the comedian comes out. Then the curtain closes, and it’s the girls. So I wanted to do a show that would let you do all the things that are in shows without having to explain why. Vampires give you permission to do that. I am a big fan of [author] Anne Rice. I am amazed in all the years of Vegas no one had thought of vampires as an entertainment show. It seems a nighttime thing. We were five years ahead of the curve.”
This last is a reference to True Blood and Twilight. But as the mention of Rice also suggests, vampires have always been part of the popular culture, and Vegas tries to appeal to the center of that culture. Bite arrived perhaps in a vampire lull, after a successful cult television show—Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which spawned the spin-off series Angel)—left the air and before True Blood and Twilight made vampires even hipper. But there were still vampire websites, movies and comic books permeating the culture. Looking back, Molyneux is right; it really is amazing there were no topless vampires in Vegas before Bite (unless you count strippers on Halloween).
Bite has a tissue-thin plot about a vampire king, a well-muscled version of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, in search of true love, with a coven of frequently topless, fanged hotties to divert him in the meantime. And, of course, that diversion allows for all the elements common to Vegas shows. There are cabinet tricks no better or worse than those in Believe. There are aerialists and a singer. In short, a small catalog of what more expensive shows deliver, plus topless vampire girls.
For almost two years, one of those topless vampires has been Kim Langstaff, 24. It was the variety of skill sets in the show that made the job appeal to her. She explains this just after taking out her fangs:
“I went to a performing-arts high school. I was a competition kid. From there I went to cruise ships, and land life seemed scary, but I wanted to keep dancing, and Vegas seemed right. I got Bite because it is a difficult show for dancing. There is a lot of talent onstage. We have a little bit of everything that the other shows have, and, yeah, we are topless. So when people want everything, they come to our show.”
Fashionistas attempted to get the room Bite is in now; it is an instructive comparison. That show also had a thin plot, intense dancing, aerialists. Yet Fashionistas was made by an auteur pornographer to be erotic art; so critics praised the show while audiences ignored it. Despite the great reviews, it closed.
Bite’s reviews have been so brutal that my invitation to see it was defensive, noting that critics had not reviewed the show on its own terms, which seemed to mean they were expecting innovation or cleverness or originality. None of that can be found here. Bite is contrived and workmanlike in its delivery, and that succeeds because viewers feel they got a Vegas show, and that is what they want. So until critics carry wooden stakes, the undead vampires of Bite will continue to live at the Stratosphere.