BetteBack April 14, 1974: Rock stars easily refuse big Las Vegas offers

Salina Journal
April 14, 1974


Alice Cooper dropped in to see Liza Minnelli perform at the Riviera and while he was there he discussed the possibility of bringing his group and his snake to do a gig there.

A few days earlier, Neil Diamond visited the glittering desert oasis to see Frank Sinatra do his dramatic comeback, and as long as he was there anyway, he,gave a polite ear to those who showered him with offers.

The Tropicana Hotel, which recently adopted a big-name policy, reportedly offered Bette Midler $250,000 a week to play their theater-nightclub, and Miss M divinely rejected it. She would like ?1 million a week for her appearances and doesn’t seem embarrassed about asking for it. At that price, there are few takers.

Las Vegas is perhaps the only entertainment area in the world that can afford to compete with the enormous arenas which normally bring rock acts together with their armies of otherwise faceless record buyers.

Besides money, the other ingredient comprising the Las Vegas lure, is staging.

While the Cow Palace, the Astrodome, and Madison Square Garden can accommodate city-sized crowds, they leave a lot to be desired acoustically.

Says Tony Zoppi, vice president of the Riviera, which recently signed Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge for their Labor Day weekend run, “We have the best sound system money can buy. And our room is set up so that anyone can get a good view of the performer.”

This is not the case at the sports palaces, where most of the audience gets a bird’s eye view of the act and sound of the crowd is hardly distinguishable from that of a boxing match.

With a few exceptions, young performers have been reluctant to play before Las Vegas audiences. The exceptions have been Elvin Presley who is an entity unto himself, the Carpenters and Osmonds who have been consistently good draws, Bette Midler who was not an overwhelming success, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band which made no bones about dislikin g their audience of conventioneers, and Barbra Streisand who has not matched her inflated expectations.

Streisand’s $250,000 a week salary to open the International Hilton seems like a mere pittance now, compared to the demands other contemporary superstars are making.

To protect themselves from a bidding war. Las Vegas bookers are reluctant to say what some of their offers are. Somehow or other, however, word leaks out about the fabulous salaries promised and the higher fees requested.

The Bette Midler situation is a case in point. The word is that she’s asking ?1 million. When and if she’s signed, the unpublished prices will be somewhere in between that and the reported $250,000 offer, and while everyone in town will know the exact amount, the specific salary will never be announced.

I had lunch at the MGM Grand Hotel one day with Neil Diamond. During the hour or so we s,at together, at least 3 offers were served to him. “They offered me stock deals and enormous amounts of money,” Diamond revealed.

But if he accepts any deal, he said, it would be because he would be able to put on the type of show that he can not do anywhere else. He had seen the “Best of Ann-Margret” show at the Tropicana and compared its presentation to a Broadway production. That impressed him as well as the prospect of doing a long-awaited television special from there.

Alice Cooper was backstage following Liza’s opening when Tony Zoppi asked him if he would consider playing the Riviera.

“Of course,” Alice said without committing himself. “I would do it so that parents could see me perform. I’d like that.”

Whether or not Kristofferson, Cooper, or Diamond would draw big gamblers, to the gambling capital is not known, nor is it the decisive factor. The major pr6blem is that Las Vegas, despite the enormous salaries it pays, is running out of entertainers.

They would give their eye teeth for, the Beatles or any part of them and already, have made overtures to Paul McCartney which were coolly received.

“We were misled,” Zoppi said. “We were told that McCartney would welcome an opportunity to play the Rivibra. I don’t know how much we offered, but it doesn’t matter since he wasn’t serious. We of course would make another offer if he were interested. The same goes for the Rolling Stones. We’d love to Have them.”

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