Def Leppard may have an 11-show ‘residency,’ but these glamsters and hair-metalists are residents
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Residency. It’s a word that has been bandied about rather freely on the local entertainment scene — maybe a bit too freely.
If a band or performer signs on to play a few weeks’ worth of gigs at a local showroom, lounge or concert venue, it’s labeled a residency — and it seems anybody who used to be somebody is looking to land one. (We’re talking about you, Britney Spears … and Shania Twain … and Andrew Dice Clay … and Rod Stewart … and Boyz II Men.)
The newest “residents” are ’80s rockers Def Leppard (“Photograph,” “Rock of Ages,” “Pour Some Sugar on Me”), who’ve settled in at The Joint inside the Hard Rock for 11 shows, collectively dubbed Viva Hysteria, through April 13. It follows residencies there last year by fellow metal heavy-hitters Mötley Crüe and Guns N’ Roses.
But, let’s face it: Most of these “resident” performers aren’t actual residents — at least not in the tax-paying, driver’s license-carrying, underwater mortgage-vexed sense. It’s highly unlikely you’ll bump into Brit-Brit at Buffalo Wild Wings when and if her much-rumored residency becomes a reality. (One exception is Crüe frontman Vince Neil: Since relocating here from Los Angeles in the mid-’90s, he’s opened a tattoo parlor and a strip club, and been an occasional presence on the police blotter.)
Improbable though it may be, if any of the Def Leppard dudes ever make the move to Las Vegas, they would find themselves in good company: Many of their hard-rock and metal peers from back in the day already call the valley home. CityLife caught up with several of these rockers-turned-actual residents to learn what brought them to town in the first place — and what keeps them here.
Claim to fame: Former Slaughter drummer
In Vegas since: 1990
Before Las Vegas had The Killers, it had Slaughter.
The foursome, fronted by Chaparral High School alum Mark Slaughter, exploded onto the hair-metal scene in 1990 with the fist-pumper “Up All Night,” an anthem dedicated to his hometown. The band’s debut disc, Stick It To Ya, also spawned the power ballad “Fly to the Angels.”
The same year Texas-native Elias purchased a home in the valley, but was in town only “occasionally” while Slaughter toured extensively during the early part of the decade. The group released three more studio albums before tragedy struck in ’98, when guitarist Tim Kelly was killed in a traffic accident.
Slaughter forged ahead with a new guitar player and continued touring for years until a hiatus brought the bandmates home to Vegas. In 2001, Elias saw a performance of the Blue Man Group at Luxor and “fell in love” with its music. Soon after, he learned the production (which moved last year to Monte Carlo) was in need of a drummer and promptly joined the cast. “It was perfect timing. It just kind of fell in my lap,” he recalls.
Aside from an occasional gig played “for fun,” he no longer performs or tours with Slaughter. “I’ve got two young kids I would rather stay home with,” Elias explains. During meet-and-greets with Blue Man Group audiences, the 45-year-old says he’s often recognized by Slaughter fans. “Sometimes it’s like I forget about my past … and it takes me by surprise when people bring up memories of the old days.”
Or when they remember his turn as — what else? — a drummer in a hair-metal band in the 2001 movie Rockstar, starring Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Aniston. “I’d never planned on being an actor, and I’m not sure I’ll ever do it again, but it was an amazing experience,” says Elias, who in his spare time competes in triathlons and adventure races. Look for him in April when he tackles the Reebok Spartan Race at Lake Las Vegas.
Claim to fame: Frontman for the band Keel
In Vegas since: 2006
Keel relocated from Nashville to fill what he called a “vacuum” in country-music production shows in Las Vegas. He co-created Country Superstars, a celebrity impersonator show which enjoyed a lengthy run at Golden Nugget before opening recently at Planet Hollywood. He takes the stage regularly to portray Ronnie Dunn of Brooks & Dunn.
But he hasn’t turned his back on his rock ’n’ roll. Some nights, “I can do the Superstars show … at 6 or 7 o’clock, and by 9 o’clock I’ve changed my clothes, changed my attitude and I’m onstage at a club … screaming my guts out playing metal. I don’t know if I could do that anywhere else,” he says.
During its early ’80s heyday, Keel (the band) shared arena and festival stages with Van Halen, Bon Jovi and Aerosmith, playing its biggest singles: 1985’s “The Right to Rock” and the ’86 power ballad “Tears of Fire.” Eventually the group disbanded, and for two decades Keel (the man) says he refused to tour using the band’s name despite “some pretty lucrative offers to do that. I felt like it wouldn’t be right.”
Keel reunited in 2009 for its 25th anniversary, and performed earlier this month on the sold-out Monsters of Rock cruise in Florida, the lineup for which featured more than three dozen glam and metal acts from the ’80s and ’90s.
Keel hosts his weekly Streets of Rock & Roll radio show, which is recorded at his Las Vegas home and airs on 33 stations nationwide. (A television version is set to begin production in April.) He’s also a “counselor” at the Rock ’n’ Roll Fantasy Camp attraction at MGM Grand, where he and other rockers teach average Joes how to play like real-life guitar heroes. Meanwhile, he is writing an autobiography and recording a solo album, both titled Metal Cowboy, which he hopes to release simultaneously this year.
Claim to fame: Guitarist for Faster Pussycat
In Vegas since: 2004
The Sunset Strip just ain’t what it used to be, says Muscat.
During the mid-’80s, it was a mecca for the glam- and hair-metal bands that dominated its legendary club scene, including his former group Faster Pussycat (“House of Pain,” “Poison Ivy,” “You’re So Vain”). Over the years, the famous stretch of boulevard became a tourist trap, and he decided he’d had enough.
When Muscat and his wife relocated to Las Vegas, his Faster Pussycat fame earned him invitations to jam onstage with other local musicians. Three years later he co-founded Sin City Sinners, which has built a solid reputation by playing a wide range of covers as well as original music.
Muscat credits the Sinners for starting Las Vegas’ rock ’n’ roll residency trend: For a year it was the house band at Hard Rock hotel’s Wasted Space venue. They’re in residency at the Hard Rock Café on Paradise Road, and in their fifth year performing at Station Casinos’ properties throughout the valley.
Some of metal’s biggest names have taken the stage during Sinners’ sets, including Tim “Ripper” Owens (Judas Priest), Lemmy Kilmister (Motorhead), George Lynch (Dokken, Lynch Mob) and Sebastian Bach (Skid Row) — as well as most of the guys profiled in this article. Former Faster Pussycat frontman Taime Downe — with whom Muscat experienced a nasty public parting of the ways shortly after moving Vegas — has also guested.
Although 45-year-old Muscat no longer performs with Faster Pussycat, he and Downe have mended fences. “You learn that life is just too short to hang onto anger and bad feelings. It doesn’t do anybody any good,” he says.
It’s a lesson Muscat learned as a result of his 2005 oral cancer diagnosis, the treatment for which included removing part of his tongue and “hundreds” of lymph nodes from his neck. “I couldn’t actually talk for months. … I couldn’t eat for a while,” he recalls, and doctors warned he’d never sing again. He retrained himself to speak by reciting tongue twisters. Now cancer-free, “I think I sing better now than I ever have.”
Sin City Sinners support several area charities, including the local arm of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation for pediatric cancer research. Last year, Muscat, the father of two young kids, shaved his head as part of its annual fundraising event. “I want to … give back to the community and do it for the right reasons and have fun.”
Claim to fame: Former frontman for Rough Cutt and Quiet Riot
In Vegas since: 2007
Fame opened a few doors for Shortino — Duke Fame, that is.
In the early ’80s, while gigging with his rock band Rough Cutt (“Take Her,” “Cut Your Heart Out”) at Hollywood’s Troubadour club, Shortino was spotted by casting directors for This Is Spinal Tap. He was invited to audition for the film, showed up wearing his own glam-tastic white-leather duds, and was immediately awarded the small role of “Enormo Dome” headliner Duke Fame.
When Rough Cutt toured as the opening act for the band Krokus in early ’85, the latter’s members recognized Shortino from the film. “Basically we went from [requesting] Budweiser to Heineken in our [performance contract] rider, and I was backstage signing autographs as Duke Fame,” he recalls.
Rough Cutt also spent months on the road opening for Dio (the late Ronnie James Dio was one of Shortino’s closest friends), but following the release of its second album was dropped from its record label.
In ’87, Shortino joined Quiet Riot (“Mental Health,” “Cum On Feel the Noize”), replacing singer Kevin DuBrow (a Las Vegas resident prior to his 2007 death). Shortino co-wrote the band’s 1989 release QR during his two-year stint. Throughout the ’90s he focused on solo projects, which included recording and touring in Europe with his own band.
Since moving here from Southern California with his wife, he has been active on the local rock scene. He fronts the rock band King Kobra, featuring legendary drummer Carmine Appice (of Vanilla Fudge fame), which is scheduled to release an album this summer. Shortino is also in the cast of the recently opened Raiding the Rock Vault production at LVH.
He says eventually he’d like to star in his own Las Vegas show, singing — of all things — old standards. “I think the good Lord has bigger and better things [in store] for me in a broader variety of music.”
Claim to fame: Guitarist for Stryper
In Vegas since: 2009
Fox spends quite a bit of time in the company of prostitutes, but not for the reasons one might assume.
The year he moved from Southern California to Las Vegas, he married Annie Lobert, a former exotic dancer and high-class escort who founded Hookers for Jesus, a faith-based organization and ministry dedicated to helping women escape what it calls “sex slavery.”
Fox says he helps his wife with her work “whenever I can,” which includes treating the women she assists to lunch each Sunday following church services. “I’m there just kind of hanging out and smiling and opening doors for them and just trying to be nice,” he explains. “Most of these women get treated really bad by men — definitely abused, threatened, tortured. … People think prostitution is just some kind of business when in reality [the women] are actually slaves.”
Fox, a 51-year-old grandfather, continues to record and tour with Christian rockers Stryper (an acronym for Salvation Through Redemption Yielding Peace, Encouragement and Righteousness). Decked out in yellow-and-black-striped getups, the band was known to toss Bibles to its audiences. Its 1986 album, To Hell With the Devil, spawned the hit power ballad “Honestly.”
Stryper also performed on the Monsters of Rock cruise and has released Second Coming, a disc of its rerecorded hits and a pair of new tunes, this month. “We do what we do … we’re gonna continue doing it,” Fox says. “We have an audience, and that audience is not gonna go away.”
Vinyl Tattoo is Fox’s other band. The group, which also features Frank DiMino, former frontman of ’70s glam-rock band Angel, bass player J.P. Michaels and drummer Carl Ciadella, tackles classic rock tunes at local venues, as well as casinos in California and Arizona.
When he isn’t performing, Fox schools aspiring guitarists who subscribe to his Sir Oz Academy website (sirozacademy.com). Launched last year, the site features a library of instructional guitar videos in which he stars. Plans are to add additional instrument lessons and instructors as the subscriber base builds.
Claim to fame: Former Britny Fox frontman
In Vegas since: 1984
For years, Paris lived a kind of double life.
During the ’90s, he could be found most nights backstage at the Rio, running lights and sound equipment for the nightclub and showroom there. On his days off he toured with the hair-metal band Britny Fox, which he’d joined earlier that decade, replacing lead vocalist and guitarist “Dizzy” Dean Davidson.
Before Britny Fox, Paris was known by his given name, Don Jillson. He fronted the local rock band Jillson, which recorded the 1990 album Dirty Girl. While shopping the record to labels, he learned about the open frontman spot with Britny Fox, auditioned and got the gig (that’s also when he changed his name for what he says were legal reasons).
“I was so stoked to be at that level, to be joining something legit … that was actually in the business already,” he recalls of the band, which had a couple of singles and videos (“Long Way to Love,” “Girlschool,” “Save the Weak”) on MTV’s rotation.
“I knew I didn’t want to be a clone of [Davidson]. … I just wanted to do my own thing in the band and cover those songs the way I would, and try to be true to them,” Paris says. For the next 17 years he co-wrote all of the tunes the band recorded in an effort to build a sizeable catalog of original music.
Britny Fox continued to tour for years with other bands of the era, including Bulletboys, L.A. Guns and Steelheart, but never attained the same level of fame its peers. Paris ended his run with them in 2007. “I probably hung on longer than I should have,” he admits.
For five years he co-fronted the local cover band Phoenix, which performed at area casinos, but stepped down last year after growing tired of singing the same cover songs night after night.
The married father of two is forming the Tommy Paris Band, which he plans to launch this year. Its stage show will highlight Paris’ vocals and ability to play eight instruments. He plans to have several of the musicians interviewed for this article sit in unannounced during sets. “We can do whatever we feel like doing, and to me that’s the most important thing,” he says.
Claim to fame: Longtime guitarist for Alice Cooper
In Vegas since: 2004
A big fan of specialty craft beers, Kelli (and his business partner) decided to open a bar in Las Vegas. “It was just the thought of having a cool place where we could have the beers we wanted, the food, and play some cool music that we liked,” recalls the guitarist, who spent six years backing Cooper.
In the four years that Aces & Ales, at 3740 S. Nellis Blvd., has been open, he says he has learned there’s much more involved with running a tavern. “You’ve gotta deal with the food purveyors, the staff, the bathrooms breaking. Literally, if it isn’t one thing, it’s another.”
The complexities weren’t enough to dissuade the 30-something Kelli, who divides his time between his homes in Southern California and Las Vegas, from doing it again: A second Aces & Ales, at 2801 N. Tenaya Way, is scheduled to open in June.
There are some perks to being a bar owner: In 2009, he convinced Cooper to perform for patrons. “The place was obviously fucking packed,” Kelli recalls. “He did like six or seven songs, and he goes, ‘Thanks.’ … He walked out, got in his car service and just [left].”
Since becoming a professional musician in the early ’90s, Kelli has performed with Slash, Vince Neil, John Waite, Night Ranger and Skid Row, among others. He’ll head to Europe later this month for a series of gigs with another Las Vegas resident, Jizzy Pearl of the band Love/Hate.
Kelli also is jamming with current and former members of the Scorpions, Judas Priest, Quiet Riot and Guns N’ Roses. “We’re kind of putting something together right now and we’re gonna see what develops.”
Claim to fame: Frontman for Angel
In Vegas since: 2001
“It was a great-roller coaster ride,” DiMino recalls of his days fronting Angel, the ’70s glam band, whose stage shows were heavy on theatrics.
Dressed from head to toe in white, band members would emerge onstage from clear boxes, a la Spinal Tap, as Angel’s animated, 11-foot-tall talking logo (designed by “H.R. Pufnstuf” creators Sid and Marty Krofft) rose and addressed audiences.
“It was pretty wild,” he says of the band’s shtick, as well as its meteoric rise from playing clubs in Washington, D.C., to eventually performing a pair of shows at Budokan.
Despite releasing five studio albums and a double live album, the band’s stable of singles remained small. Among them was 1975’s “The Tower,” which had a presence on FM radio. The group appeared on American Bandstand in ’77 singing its holiday-themed offering “The Winter Song”; and covered The Rascals’ tune “I Ain’t Gonna Eat My Heart Out Anymore” in ’79.
Although Angel had “a very loyal following … it never really” broke through with listeners the way Boston native DiMino, a graduate of the Berklee College of Music, expected it would. Band members parted ways in the early ’80s, and he went to work writing and performing music for TV series and movie soundtracks, including 1983’s Flashdance.
In the late ’90s, DiMino and Angel drummer Barry Brandt took a “revised” lineup to Europe “with the hopes that maybe the other guys would at some point want to” reunite the original band. “We talk about it all the time, but the more years that go past, the harder it is to get back together.”
DiMino set out to learn about the local music scene shortly after moving from Southern California to Las Vegas with his wife and two sons. He crossed paths with Stryper guitarist Oz Fox and, along with bassist J.P. Michaels, formed the local classic rock band Vinyl Tattoo. “We have great harmonies between the three of us,” he says, “and we’re kind of utilizing with that the rock ’n’roll backgrounds that we had.”
He continues to write music and also heads DiMino Enterprises, teaching vocal lessons to aspiring and professional singers. “The great thing about teaching is every time you teach someone something, you learn again.”
Claim to fame: Founder/former keyboard player with the bands Angel, Giuffria and House of Lords
In Vegas since: 1994
Giuffria says it is “an odd, strange, weird, scary coincidence” that both he and former Angel bandmate DiMino ended up calling Las Vegas home. The men share similar memories of their years in the band, which Giuffria (pronounced ja-free-yuh) says he founded with the intention of creating a “super group.”
After signing in the mid-’70s with the same management company that repped David Bowie, the band was quickly shuttled from D.C. to Hollywood, where it landed a deal with Casablanca Records. “I got off the plane and we were rock gods,” he recalls. “Nothing made sense after that.”
Giuffria wrote music, recorded and toured with Angel until it disbanded in 1981.Three years later, he formed Giuffria, which had a hit single and video with “Call to the Heart.” It toured extensively in ’85 with Deep Purple and later with Foreigner.
In 1987, Giuffria formed House of Lords, which enjoyed a hit with an “aggressive” cover of Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home.” But after touring in rock bands for nearly two decades, Giuffria says he was “really exhausted.” He lopped off his long blond locks and retired from the music business in 1990.
Giuffria says he began reviewing civilian-sector patents coming out of the U.S. Department of Defense and stumbled upon the Telanes patent. His company, Summit Systems, took ownership of the patent and later sold it to International Game Technology, makers of Megabucks slot machines.
The Telanes patent “created virtual probability, which allowed us to make all of these big [slot] jackpots,” he explains. “Personally, I don’t believe Las Vegas would be here, these big hotels would not be here unless [for] that patent.”
Other big business moves followed: From 1996-2000, Giuffria served as president, chief operating officer and sat on the board of casino gaming company Full House Resorts. When the Mississippi native left that company, he founded another that built the Hard Rock hotel-casino in Biloxi. Just days from opening in 2005, the property was decimated by Hurricane Katrina. His company rebuilt the property, officially opened it in 2007 and sold it last year.
These days 61-year-old Giuffria, the married father of a college-aged son, owns G2 Game Design in Las Vegas, which develops, trademarks, licenses and holds the patents for numerous electronic gaming machines. The company owns the only artificial-intelligence patent for a game chip, which will be used in its forthcoming Texas Hold ’Em Pro Series video poker machines (featuring imagery of World Series of Poker champs Phil Hellmuth and Johnny Chan) set to debut this fall. G2 recently developed a slot based on the hit show Pawn Stars, and another featuring David Copperfield.
“I need to do something creative,” Giuffria says. “What has music in it, mathematics, video and film, and you’ve gotta make it all work together? There’s only one thing on the planet, it’s slot machines. It’s everything that I love.”