On a weekday morning, the theater built into the MGM Grand for the stylish adult revue Crazy Horse Paris is a construction site busy with a team of hard-hatted workers, tape measures hooked to their belts. Littering the room are metal ladders, hand trucks, power tools, miles of wiring and cables and rolls of duct tape used for any purpose but to repair ducts. And looming at the back of the under-renovation theater is the imprint of Jeff Beacher: a giant elephant, shimmering in a silver fabric, its ass end facing the stage. Is this odd? Not in the world of Beacher’s Madhouse. “This particular theater has flying, little-people bartenders,” Beacher says in a straightforward way that makes it clear this sort of act is commonplace in his production. “One who shoots out of a telephone booth, one who shoots out of a cannon and another … [pause for effect] … who shoots out of an elephant’s ass.”
With a blast of little people bearing cocktails, Beacher’s Madhouse is back in Las Vegas and set to open December 27, with Beacher’s friend Miley Cyrus, a frequent guest at the Beacher’s Madhouse outpost at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel since that show opened in 2010, serving as “host” for the evening. Cyrus met Beacher through common friend Kelly Osbourne, and Cyrus sightings have provided Beacher (a frequent name-check in New York Post’s Page 6 gossip column during his days in New York, where he first staged Beacher’s Comedy Madhouse) his customary media buzz.
“Miley is a really sweet, smart girl,” says Beacher, who expects repeat visits by Cyrus to the MGM show. “She is awesome.”
The show’s circuitous presentation in the club—set up to hold 550 patrons (or about 320 for a seated show)—and its madcap reputation has drawn celebrities of all kinds. David Beckham, David Arquette, Zac Efron, Sean Penn and Johnny Depp have all been spotted at Beacher’s Madhouse in Hollywood. And Beacher toured the country with his show after closing at the Hard Rock Hotel in 2007 and before opening at the Hollywood Roosevelt. Now, he’s bringing a version of that LA show to the MGM Grand.
“It’s the energy of a nightclub and the atmosphere of a circus,” he says by way of explanation. “We’ll have a mini-Miley Cyrus to mini-Britney Spears to acts from all over the world. An act from Africa, two twin little people performers with dreadlocks—that’s a crazy act. We have a lot of stuff from everywhere. Stuff from Russia. We have a DJ who is 8 years old [he would be DJ Baby Chino], a lady who crushes cans and watermelons with her breasts. You have to check it out. It’s going to be great.”
At the center, as emcee, is Beacher himself. The indefatigable showman made his mark in Vegas by staging a show often likened to Jackass if it was blended with an Orpheum Circuit vaudeville production. The spectacle featured an assortment of unusual acts, little people and showgirls, with the oversized (in personality and physical form) Beacher playing the role of ringleader.
Those in the Vegas entertainment industry frequently compare him to the great promoter P.T. Barnum, a throwback character who sometimes defies logic and accepted boundaries to advance his production. Is that a fair representation?
“I think I’m a good promoter,” he says, “but I have a great show and a great audience. Even before we moved to Los Angeles we had a huge celebrity following, and the response has always been tremendous.”
But Beacher’s zeal for self-promotion has not always worked out favorably. Eyebrows across the city raised when word got out that Beacher was planning to move into the MGM Grand, the site of one of the more brazen and unauthorized promotional stunts ever performed in Las Vegas.
On the night of the 2003 Billboard Music Awards, almost a decade ago to the day, Beacher slipped into a light-brown uniform similar to those worn by the folks who worked at the hotel’s former Lion Habitat. He carried a 10-foot ladder and walked into the Rainforest Cafe, where the central design effect is a 10,000-gallon fish tank. He stripped down to white briefs, climbed up the ladder, leapt into the tank, and pandemonium ensued.
At the time, Beacher said it was the “perfect publicity stunt” to promote his show at the Joint. The fact that it is well-remembered a decade later bears that out. But today, the 39-year-old Beacher allows, “I made up with the MGM years ago, six or seven years ago. I apologized. I was a kid, you know? It was a joke. … It’s been long forgiven.”
Beacher says he had his pick of “pretty much any hotel in the city” to stage Madhouse. He landed at MGM Grand because of his tight friendship with hotel president Scott Sibella, whom he met during the days of the Madhouse at the Joint when Sibella headed up the Mirage.
“I love Scott. I’ve been friends with him for a decade,” Beacher says. “When you have the hottest show in town, which at the time I had at the Hard Rock, you meet the other people who are the best at what they do. When Scott moved to the MGM, making a deal there became my focal point.”
The climate for entertainment is not the same as it was when Beacher’s wild show was a standout in Vegas. Productions that blend border-testing adult performances, such as Absinthe at Caesars Palace and (we expect) the upcoming Vegas Nocturne at Rose. Rabbit. Lie. at Cosmopolitan are drawing the sort of buzz enjoyed by Beacher during his heyday at the Hard Rock. But he’s hardly worried about carving a new niche on the Strip.
“There are other, different versions of what I do. But when you are the first, it’s kind of, they’re the ones who have to keep up with me,” he says. “The other guys are fun; they’re cute little shows. Absinthe does a nice show, but it’s a different product, you know?”
And Beacher promises the show at MGM Grand will be the best he’s ever produced. “I’ve never been more proud of something I’ve built than what I’ve built at the MGM,” he says. “There is nothing like it in the whole world.”
It’s a massive claim from the larger-than-life figure, but Jeff Beacher isn’t scared of living up to his own hype. Anyone who doubts his ambition can just check out that giant elephant, and wait for the boom.