Celebrity meltdowns in Vegas: From David Cassidy to Lou Reed

David Cassidy told an audience at the South Point last week to just clap and “shut up.”
Photo: Wes Gatbonton

Barbara Tidd describes it as “witnessing something that should only be seen by close family and friends.” Tidd had gone to see comedian Rodney Carrington last month, and midway through his act he “got real serious … talked about how he and his wife were going through a divorce … how she had a new boyfriend, how he had a private investigator following her around.” The Tidds left 15 minutes into what she calls a “stiflingly uncomfortable” experience. She doubts she’ll ever attend another Carrington performance. (Full disclosure: Barbara works for our parent company, Greenspun Media Group).

Her story isn’t uncommon in Las Vegas lately. Last week, former teen idol David Cassidy suffered a complete meltdown in front of a confused South Point crowd, repeating himself multiple times, performing only a handful of songs in a 90-minute set and at one point berating the audience to just clap and “shut up.” Cassidy’s reps have since blamed the incident on the performer mixing his cold and eczema medications, but it remains to be seen if Vegas audiences give him another chance (at least 50 walked out on his performance, and the hotel booker says Cassidy will not be invited back). Mismatched medications may or may not justify Cassidy’s behavior, but, to our knowledge, there has never been any explanation given for these other famous Nevada onstage meltdowns:

•In 2003, Lou Reed put on an exhibition of bad behavior at the Joint, flying into a rage because of noise from the bar area. He stormed off, had liquor sales stopped, came back, kicked audience members out—an epic Vegas debacle.

•In 2004, George Carlin, ending a four-year run at the MGM Grand, launched into a tirade about not only his host property, but Las Vegas tourists and residents. “People who go to Las Vegas, you’ve got to question their [expletive] intellect,” Carlin said. When an audience member pleaded with him to stop degrading his audience, he responded, “[Expletive] me.”

•In 2005, comedian Gallagher was sued by a 40-year-old man for an alleged assault during a Laughlin performance. According to reports, the audience member ordered a beverage from a waitress, prompting Gallagher to leap into the audience, berate the waitress and slap the man in the side of his head. Hotel officials claimed they fired Gallagher after the incident; he claims he quit.

•Why the bad behavior? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Tidd says performers need to remember that audiences want to be entertained, not assaulted. “If you’re not up to performing that night, cancel the gig.”

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Ken Miller is Las Vegas Magazine's managing editor, having previously served as associate editor at Las Vegas Weekly, assistant features ...

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