Sinatra crooned a hit song about it. An '80s game show urged contestants to press it while avoiding those pesky Whammies. Ralph Waldo Emerson said only shallow men believed in it. And tourists sweating over the roulette wheels constantly swear by it.
The elusive mistress of whom we speak is luck, and good or bad, she's got a big out-of-town following in this city. But what about those who actually live and work here, specifically those in the traditionally lore-loving entertainment business? Blow on your dice, cross your fingers and grab your rabbit's foot as the Weekly asks top performers for their thoughts on superstitions of the Strip.
Matthew Banks, Blue Man, Luxor
Jeff Beacher, Beachers Madhouse founder, Hard Rock
Juan DeAngelo, Chippendales dancer, Rio
Clint Holmes, musical journeyman, Harrah's
Teller, magician and illusionist, Rio/Co-host of Showtime's Bullshit!
Jennifer Young, lead dancer at Midnight Fantasy, Luxor
Do you believe in lucky superstitions, or do performers make their own luck?
Clint: I'm one of those corny people who believes that in many ways we make our own luck. There is certainly timing and good fortune and I've certainly had my share of that ... I'm not a superstitious person, but I have my idiosyncracies.
Matthew: I think everybody makes their own luck. They do.
Jeff: You make your own luck in the entertainment business. There's no such thing as luck; it's all hard work, but fun and good hard work. No complaints.
Jennifer: I don't think you can really control what happens to you all of the time. But I think if you just go out there on stage every night, put your best 110 percent into it and you open up to the audience—and keep healthy and stretch before your show—and have fun with what you're doing, it takes the focus off the stressful side of things.
Teller: Luck is an illusion. It's sort of a magic trick. It's a psychological phenomenon where you remember hits and you forget misses. If you go to a palm reader and they tell you 18 things, and one of them happens to be close to the truth, you remember that as a completely successful palm reader. I will quote Penn about luck, because he has the most beautiful, concise description possible: "Luck is probability taken personally." It's when chance works out in its absolutely random matter and you decide this was some kind of intent. Humans just can't comprehend all the small, random things working in the world, so we can do one of three things: Give up, look to science for answers, or fill the world with demons and luck all these other little story-like explanations. But the world is not full of idiots. The world is full of people who haven't had the chance to find the right sources of information. We are very helpless in a very complex universe, and anything that gives us a feeling of power is very seductive.
Do you have any lucky numbers yourself? Any astrology beliefs?
Jeff: No, I actually wrote a column with my writing partner, Billy Devlin, called "WiseASStrology."
Juan: I really stay away from the tables because I don't feel that I'm a very lucky guy when it comes to gambling. As far as astrology goes, I wasn't really a strong believer in that until a girlfriend of mine who's really into astrology put my birth date, time I was born, everything into a computer program and it spit out this packet. It must have been 15 to 20 pages, and I couldn't believe how dead-on it was. But I'm also a firm believer in the fact that your character comes from your life experiences, your environment, and so forth. But then depending on whatever certain type of person you may be could determine how you would react in that sort of environment. So I guess I wasn't a strong believer until somebody pretty much proved me wrong.
Teller: I don't gamble. I think there are people who do it with the right attitude, but as a great lady of the theater once said to me, "When you invest in a Broadway show, the way you should regard your investment is that you're throwing your money down a rat hole for fun. And if the show does well, you rejoice, but if it doesn't, well, you had your fun.
Clint: I don't have any lucky numbers, and I just read the horoscopes for fun, but I don't put too much stock in them. Now fortune cookies; I do kind of live my life via fortune cookies. Because it's always positive. That's one thing that you can be pretty sure of, if you go into a Chinese restaurant and have a fortune cookie, it's going to say something positive, so I tend to live my life by that.
Do you have any pre-show rituals or other backstage traditions?
Jennifer: A lot of people say you shouldn't whistle backstage. There's another one where you shouldn't say, "Good luck"; you should say, "Break a leg." Also for dancers, I hadn't heard this until I put my shoes on my dressing table, and my girlfriend was like "No, no, no! Don't put your shows n your dressing table," so I guess that's a superstition for a lot of dancers. Personally, I'm not superstitious but I know there are a lot of entertainers who are, so if you're not you try to be aware of certain things since other people take it so seriously.
Teller: You're not supposed to say the name of the play Macbeth backstage. You're not supposed to say "Good luck" to somebody walking out on stage. So for years, we started our shows every night by saying, "Good luck, Macbeth." And then that started being sort of a superstition, so we dropped it.
Juan: Whether I've showered twice already that day, I have to shower one hour prior to show time. No matter what. I feel that I can cleanse away any bad energy. Its kind of like waking up in the morning. You want to have that new energy, especially before a performance.
Clint: An hour before my show I have what I call Disneyland Time, in which nobody in the band or no one in my family calls or comes in and talks to me about anything negative. Because when you walk on stage, you know the audience didn't pay for my troubles, they want to be entertained.
Matthew: Blue Men have to stare at each other, standing in a tight triangulation, for five minutes. It has been known that when it doesn't happen, something will go wrong in the show. And then during the show—this gets hairy but we pull it off—they have to look at each other at least once every eleven seconds. It's all about needing to stay connected, but if they're not connected the room somehow senses it.
Is there anything special about any of your performance clothes?
Jeff: I wear my father's Bill Clinton Presidential Cufflinks every time I'm on stage.
Clint: I try to have my shoes and socks on before they say, "Places!" And I'm a person who likes to get dressed right before he goes on stage; I don't like to wait around in my clothes, so I try to time it. One night I didn't and the show went OK, so I guess it doesn't matter, even though I thought it really meant something.
Juan: We have tons of different pairs of the little collars and the leather pants and all that, but my opening cuffs and collars have to be the same ones that I've had since the production began. I feel like I've worked hard to get here, and it takes me back to the excitement and energy I had when I first started. When you do the same show day after day, people do get tired and bored with their jobs. I feel that every day for me is always a brand new show, and I feel that it's because I've kept my first costume.
Jennifer: We do something that's called presetting before the show so all of your costumes are set in a particular order and that's individual for each person, depending on how you like to lay your costumes. I get dressed in the exact same order every night. If for some reason I put something on in the wrong order, it can really throw you off, believe it or not. I've been doing the show for over five and a half years, and you're in a groove, you know? So when that gets switched up a little it's like, "What's going on? What am I doing? Am I forgetting something? Where's my hair?"
How about outside work, in your day-to-day life? Are you the type of person who avoids black cats and broken mirrors?
Jennifer: There's only one, and that's walking under a ladder. People are like, "Don't ever do that," so I try to avoid it just in case, you know? But there is one thing that I don't like to talk about at work, and that's saying things like, "Oh, the show's been flowing so nicely with no injuries and no one's been sick." I find in my personal experience that whenever I say things like that, inevitably someone gets sick or they pull a muscle and have to be out for a day or two.
Jeff: No actually I broke a door mirror once into thousands of pieces and have had the best luck ever since. It was about four years ago.
Clint: I must admit that if a black cat walks past me or a mirror breaks, I think about that but I don't look at it as something that's going to affect me. I have never walked under a ladder, though. I think I do actually avoid ladders. I remember walking on the street in New York where they were doing repair work, and I saw people doing both, walking under this giant ladder and people walking around it, even if they had to walk in the middle of the street, and I opted to walk around it.
Teller: No, no. I began reading about these kinds of self-deception really almost when I began to read. I started performing magic when I was 5, so at 10 or 11 I was reading books about palmists and spiritualists and people who claimed that they could give you lucky potions and things. So I just always knew, boy, I don't want to get caught in that trap.
Matthew: I don't steer clear of black cats. I have one and I hug it a lot, so I'd say I steer into black cats.
Any types of food that give you an extra karmic edge?
Juan: I'm a firm believer in positive energy, and you can't start your day without a proper breakfast. Some people try to get away with coffee and a donut, but for me it's gotta be an omelet, and it has to be two whole eggs, two egg whites, and for some reason I've got to have a very colorful breakfast, so I've got to have red and green bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, turkey, ham and so forth. I like a lot of color, and out here in Vegas it's so dry and flat and there's no greenery, so I feel like I have to eat as much colorful vegetables as possible. And of course I have to have a little side of oatmeal and my orange juice.
Jeff: [Back in my New York performance days,] I would drink 10 to 15 energy drinks and down tons of alcohol.
Clint: No, I just don't eat too close to the show. I enjoy having wine with meals, and I can't do that until after I work. So I tend to have my most relaxed meal of the day after the show. But I do play tennis and I do work out, and I find that the closer I do that to the show, the better. So in other words, if I could play tennis from 4:30 to 5:30 and then work out until 6 and then jump on stage at 7:30, I feel like my whole body's in motion. A lot of performers like to take naps before, but A), it take me too long to get to sleep, and B), it takes me too long to wake up, so I try to sleep eight hours at night and get though it.
Do you do or carry anything to ensure safe traveling?
Juan: I have a little plaque that says "Follow your dreams," and right below it, I have a photo of my mother and sister. I've taken that everywhere with me since I left home about seven years ago. And I have a goddaughter who's 7 years old. I'm always buying her little coloring books, and she's always seen me with all my magazines that I buy overseas. Two years ago I gave her a little notepad, and she sat there and drew on every single one of the pages, and she said, "Here Niño, here's your own magazine that you can carry with you on your trip." So now I carry that with me everywhere I go ... Plus my manager gave each of us one of these little real nice soaps, a notepad and a coin with a little angel on it. Ever since that day I've carried them with me, and whenever I feel like I need a little bit of energy, I wash my hands with that bar of soap.
Clint: No, I really don't. I've done so much traveling and been so many places, and you're not always going to remember to take anything. So if you're traveling and you have a lucky something or other and you forgot to bring it, then what? I certainly have favorite things but I don't look at any of it as something that's going to make a difference in my life.
Matthew: I touch the outside of an airplane before I get on it. It's for good luck flying wherever I go. And it's just kind of cool to touch something that's going to be miles above the planet.
Teller: No, because they'll all be taken away by airport security. Incidentally, have you checked eBay lately to see the collection of things that the TSA is selling? Just type in TSA and you'll see 50 pounds of Swiss Army knives.
Now there's being lucky, and then there's "getting lucky." Any favorite rituals, clothes or music for that kind of luck?
Teller: If you're saying, "Do I try to look my best?" Well, yes. I do try to look my best. I don't think there's any luck attached to that, but there are things that make me look awful and things that make me look better, and I tend to chose things that make me look better.
Jennifer: I'm not really sure about that one. Not really anything in particular. You've got to switch things up and keep it exciting.
Clint: It's a mood thing, you know? Sometimes you want the music to be slow and sensual and sometimes you want the music to be energizing. But I am very, very much a music person in terms of moods. And that starts every day in the morning. I get up and put on a CD that seems to fit my mood or I find a radio station that fits my mood. Music is with me every step of the day. And now that I think about it, before the show is really the only time I don't listen to music. I put on some kind of sports thing. It's the perfect example of something you can care about that doesn't make any difference in your life. Any kind of game works, and sometimes it's the roar of the crowd that is energizing to me as I'm getting ready to do a show.
Jeff: My tuxedo with my red vest; it's the only guarantee I have of getting lucky. If I'm wearing it I'm either on TV or doing my show, traditionally the only nights I get lucky.
Matthew: No, usually that kind of luck catches me totally off guard. If I try to prepare, nothing happens. It's on the day when I'm dirty and have a beard and all of the sudden somebody seems interested. Maybe I look better dirty.
Bonus! Pick one of the following Lucky items: Lucky Charms Cereal, Lucky Brand Jeans, or Lucky Strike Cigarettes.
Juan: Oh, the jeans, definitely.
Jeff: Lucky Charms. 'Cause it's food.
Clint: Definitely the jeans. I actually have Lucky brand jeans. They're low-cut, which makes me look tall and lean.
Jennifer: I say Lucky Charms cereal. I like those Lucky Charms a lot. I like eating all the cereal part and eating the marshmallows last.
Teller: I'm definitely the surfer type, so give me Lucky brand jeans any time. Also I just lost about 15 pounds and I'm looking for a new pair of pants.
Matthew: Lucky Charms cereal, because of the nostalgia it sparks up. They get me feeling warm and friendly, and when I'm warm and friendly, everyone around me becomes warm and friendly.