These days, it's tough for most entertainers to make a decent living. The economic downturn has affected show attendance, so the number of desirable positions is fewer. Production companies have raised ticket prices while lowering wages, so performers often find themselves working numerous jobs just to stay afloat. And they might be inclined to take gigs that they'd normally have passed on in previous years.
All of these conditions happening at once create the potential for a very toxic work environment. That's when victims turn to Gunnar McDixie, our hard-boiled crusader for fairness. Gunnar returns with the latest Vegas Justice column, and this one should have you hanging on for dear life. Just like the acrobats and dancers he interviewed for this piece. - Editor
"Justice will be delivered." - Gunnar McDixie
Hey, friends, did you miss me? Your pal Gunnar has been taking it easy on the Sin City villains for a while. Seems like things had calmed down now that we're getting back to normal. So I just kept delivering packages and waiting for another crisis to rear its ugly head. And yep, a new one has indeed come along. But first, let's look back on a few of my past stories -
George Michael, An Aging Mistress, and the Case of the Missing Memorial Funds - Pleased to report that the George Michael Tribute Show is back on the Strip and doing big business. That crazy sax man is no longer in the picture. As for the missing memorial funds, they've been reallocated to a new charity that seems to have been approved by everyone involved.
Chaos, Confrontations, and Rising Sewage at the Conga Room - Since my expose, the original Havana Room location has been permanently shuttered and absorbed into the spinoff. Entertainers have jumped ship, and the level of talent has gone from "stunning" to "obscure". One particular headliner has been apparently seeking to move the show to another venue and take their devoted following along.
The Showgirl, The Scottish Eunuch, and the Sleazy Ultimatum - The showgirl has decided to leave town, and the Eunuch was exposed for all to see. His reputation has plummeted significantly, so those creepy claws won't be able to clutch any more victims.
Recently, old Gunnar heard of trouble behind the scenes of SPECTACULAR - The Spectacular, a family-friendly production on the Strip. It's the second such show by a company from....let's say the "Republic of Malta". You might not be familiar with Malta, but the tiny island nation is a pretty unique place. Rich in history and culture, it also has deep religious and military significance. But for most people, it's just a dusty land where movies are filmed.
The Maltese Circus ruffled more than a few feathers when it came to town several years ago. Opposed to hiring Vegas locals, they brought their own performers and creative staff, leaving Sin City entertainers out of the running. This was for WAVES, a splashy spectacle that debuted in 2017. Eventually, local dancers, singers, and acrobats were hired to replace departing members of the Maltese cast, but they rarely remained for long. Poor pay, unfair scheduling, unreasonable demands, and an unpleasant work environment were common complaints.
When the spin-off show was announced, the Maltese Circus once again flew in its own crew. This time, the locals didn't scoff, as they knew to avoid this company. As a former dancer, I got tired of playing the game. That's why I left show business and switched to deliveries. My friends weren't so lucky. Once the pandemic hit, they were all out of work. So when SPECTACULAR - The Spectacular was one of the first to re-open, some hungry Vegas entertainers caved. Most have been regretting that decision, just like the internationals who now refer to themselves as "slaves".
One cast member told Vegas 411 that since they're on a work visa, they're basically hostage to the production. They're forced to work as many performances as the producers decide, sometimes three in one day. The extreme athleticism involved is exhausting, and a lack of rest and proper care has led to injuries. But those in charge at the Maltese Circus don't take kindly to medical issues and threaten to deport the sick and injured if they miss a show.
"Everything about them is unprofessional. When we arrived here, we knew our salary. We have to pay for our insurance and taxes. They pay for our apartment separately, which is half of our salary." That causes major problems if an injured cast member applies for workman's compensation. The percentage they are eligible to receive isn't based on their entire salary, but only the half not applied towards rent. And since the Maltese Circus continues to pay for their housing during recuperation, the injured end up having to reimburse their own bosses after they recover. Did you follow that?
"They take that out of your paycheck. If you are out for more than two days, you have to pay for your apartment. But if you work extra days, you don't get extra. That was one of my biggest issues with them. They treat me like a dog. I could never be injured and have to be in the show every single night. We can't go anywhere or take time off. When we are injured, we get horrible messages saying they are going to send us back. We are not robots. We can't overwork our bodies."
One of our local boys performed as an on-call "swing" in SPECTACULAR - The Spectacular for several months. It was an unpleasant experience, during which he witnessed extreme favoritism towards certain castmates, along with racial discrimination, lack of compensation for extra rehearsal time, overly-long workdays, inadequate rest periods, invasion of personal space, and abusive shouting by the director. Matters as simple as meal breaks and off-day scheduling communications were frequent issues.
After walking away at the end of his contract, this entertainer was requested to return for their latest production, an adult revue that we can call SIZZLE. After some haggling back and forth over pay scale, the talented young man joined the new cast, only to face the same old problems. He walked once more, only this time backed by a strongly-worded letter of resignation:
"You have not used my time and talent properly, you have lied to my face and pushed (me) around like an infant, You have made me feel small, undignified, and did not honor at all my longevity with the company since I’ve been swinging for your other production show. I feel disrespected on many levels and my intentions of working with you have totally diminished to zero."
"What you do to all those amazing people and artists under your employment (is) inhuman and it makes us bleed from our hearts, killing what brought us to seek this profession in the first place."
After quitting, the entertainer shared his entire resignation letter online, hoping to bring attention to those who can't speak out. Cast members have been told to avoid controversial and political matters on their personal social media platforms. Females are directed to make "sexy posts, like a showgirl", and one dancer informed Vegas 411 that their accounts are monitored and evaluated.
The fed-up former entertainer didn't have those concerns. He shared the name of the company, described specific incidents, pointed fingers, and issued a list of demands to complete his legal resignation. Then he contacted me here at Vegas 411 to expose the company's misdeeds. Gunnar now has dozens of communications between performers and management, along with audio recordings, emails, and reports of mishandled incidents. Even complaints about a drunk audience member storming the stage were downplayed, leaving the cast feeling unsafe in their own theater.
Men and women for the three productions weren't just brought in from Malta but from other nations around the world. They came here hoping for a better life, with dreams of being able to send money home to their less-fortunate family members. Instead, there is barely anything left, yet fears of being sent back prevented several victims from speaking out for this article.
The problems caused by the Maltese Circus have had wide-ranging effects on local performers and those on international visas. Gunnar gained a third perspective from "Anka", a Swedish immigrant who now resides in Vegas. Having lived here for many years, the talented blonde acrobat, also a former member of both SPECTACULAR - The Spectacular and WAVES. offered these insights to Vegas 411:
"I’d like to stand up for our community and speak the truth. Only those who worked there can tell you how it is. Some have never worked for a production show and have never been to America. They are looking at it from a different perspective. We who have been through many companies know what it should be like. This is a serious thing."
"They are willing to put people on aerial work with minimum experience because they care more about the show than the actual performers. It's so dangerous. They're racist, lack communication, and mistreat lots of performers. On my last day, I told the manager/creative director - Respectfully, f*ck you and your whole company."
"I’m happy to burn the bridge because they don’t deserve to work with professional and talented artists. I don't like conflicts but feel good about what I said. Enough is enough."
Are you done being silent about slander, libel, or gossip? Any horror stories to share about workplace violations? Have you been treated unfairly or ripped off when doing an honest day's work? Gunnar McDixie wants to know and will keep your identity confidential. Email me at email@example.com.