John Katsilometes

[The Kats Report]

Claire Sinclair and ‘Pin Up’ notch three years at the Stratosphere Las Vegas

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Pin Up‘s Claire Sinclair.

Claire Sinclair has just finished a performance of Pin Up, the production show she has hosted at the Stratosphere since 2013, and now it’s time for the obvious: a discussion of Downtown real estate.

“So, I bought an apartment building,” says the 2011 Playboy Playmate of the Year. “I’ve got this space, it’s really messed up, but I see it taking shape. It’s a crazy amount of work and maybe not what I’m cut out for …”

Wait a second. A building?

“Yeah,” Sinclair says. “I’m thinking of making it a residence, or turning it into a themed, boutique hotel like the Madonna Inn.” That’s in reference to the kitschy, pink-and-copper motor inn that opened on California’s Central coast in 1958.

“You should see it when it’s done,” she continues. “It’s a trip. I’m going to design it like a sundae on the outside, with a giant cherry on top.”

Sinclair says only that the eight-unit structure is in Downtown Las Vegas, but a scan of Clark County property records reveals she purchased the property in February for $420,000.

Who makes such a move, turning an old Downtown building into a fixer-upper with a cherry topping? Sinclair does. Those who know her understand she runs on her own specific plane. For evidence, just check her Instagram feed, where pillow fights turn into semi-topless music videos and the term “berry salad” has become something of a catch phrase.

The center of all this activity is the show at the Stratosphere. Pin Up has been onstage for more than three years, reaching that benchmark in March. It has undergone myriad changes since Sinclair and the cast first took the stage. Only three original cast members remain: Sinclair, music director/bassist Jozef Bobula and guitarist Rich Taylor.

The Pin Up lineup shifted again this month, when the show’s vocalist since nearly the beginning, Lisa Marie Smith, left for Baz: Star Crossed Love at the Palazzo. Healthy-voiced Australia transplant Natalie Brow, late of the Bourbon Room at Venetian, has just stepped into the role. Like Sinclair’s, that role is vital to the pacing of the show, with the singer called upon to deliver a dozen songs at full length, ranging from such belters as Christina Aguilera’s “Candyman” to the sultry Peggy Lee classic, “Fever.”

“The biggest challenge is finding the light and shade between each song,” Brown says. “There are songs like [Nina Simone’s] ‘Sugar’, which is more about the music. ‘Candyman’ is just balls-balls-balls powerful, and there are others, like ‘Fever,’ where I can kind of hold back a little. It’s a mix.”

The show, which features production numbers pegged to each month, has survived in a fickle entertainment climate when many shows—some of them superior—have closed. But Pin Up doesn’t play by the same rules as other large-scale productions.

The Stratosphere has always used the show as a marketing and promotional vehicle; I’ve long said Pin Up is like the Fountains of Bellagio, staged primarily to draw business to the property without being required to turn a profit.

Thus, such light houses as Sunday’s—when about 70 folks were seated in the Stratosphere Showroom—are not seen as reasons to panic. Business picks up when it’s supposed to, during Memorial Day Weekend, for example, and Pin Up has thus been insulated from the trends of today’s Las Vegas.

The show’s financial viability is once more being examined, however. Las Vegas production company Red Mercury Entertainment has taken over operations of all Stratosphere venues—the showroom, lounge and pools will all be under RME by the end of June. Red Mercury has delivered the production MJ Live, which has outdrawn Pin Up, to the showroom, and another afternoon production is in the offing.

Pin Up remains property of the Stratosphere and won’t close unless Strat officials authorize such a move. But with the success of MJ Live, and the ease with which hotels can turn a profit as a landlord versus a show producer, any outcome is possible for Pin Up.

Regardless, the cast continues to push to present the best show possible. Pin Up is better paced than it once was, and the show has admirably maintained its live band and four high-caliber dancers. “At the beginning, you could really feel the length of the show, and I dreaded that,” Sinclair says. “It’s tighter now. People are leaving not feeling that the show was too long. It’s the perfect pace.”

Pin Up Thursday-Monday, 9:30 p.m., $59-$75. Stratosphere Showroom, 702-380-7777.

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