Louie Anderson and ZAP!

A couple topics today: a review of Louie Anderson’s show at Palace Station and discovery of an unusual art project with a personal connection.

On September 7th, comedian Louie Anderson opened his own showroom at Palace Station. My husband and I attended his show Wednesday night.

Anderson’s new theater, the former Bonkerz Comedy Club, is a nice intimate room with booths in the back and individual cocktail tables in front. Seats are not reserved, but open seating is not really a problem in that the room is not large.

Louie Anderson, center, poses with two VIP fans from Davenport, Iowa.
Photo by Diane Taylor

Official ticket prices on line are $49.95 (plus taxes and handling), but $15 discounts are available for locals if tickets are purchased at the Palace Station Rewards Center. (Be a whale of a gambler and the who experience might be free!) For $99.95 (plus taxes and handling) audience members can purchase VIP tickets and meet with Anderson personally before the show.

I was fortunate to be part of one of the pre-show VIP sessions. Anderson, “who turned 50 seven years ago”, was friendly and candid, answering questions from four fans. Yes, he likes having his own showroom. Yes, he enjoys Las Vegas, but he considers himself a Californian. He’s writing another book and he’s hosting (for $299) two two-day comedy workshops this fall called “Stand-Up Boot Camps.” Anderson then gave each VIP customer a personalized signed copy of one of his CDs and gladly posed for photos.

A video of Anderson’s recent successful appearance on Craig Ferguson’s late-night show is on the Louie Anderson website. (Check out Louie TV.) The comedian noted he will be appearing with Ferguson again this coming Thursday, October 7.

I’ve seen Anderson perform three times before. He has incorporated new material in his current show, but some of his familiar family memories remain. Anderson is at times bewildered, amused and maddened by the world and his place in it. He whispers. He shouts, and his facial expressions are a treat. At the show we attended, a seven-year-old boy was in the audience with his father. Anderson’s show is, indeed, family friendly. Anderson leaves the scatological humor to others. Segments where Anderson talks with audience members are wonderful.

So yes, I recommend the Louis Anderson show. Want to laugh? Louie’s show is subtitled, “LOL” — laugh out loud.
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So for what seemed like 100 years, I worked at S&C Electric Company in Chicago, a great company that will, in fact, celebrate its 100th anniversary next year. S&C is one of those few American companies actually in the manufacturing business, with a “niche” customer base, primarily electric utilities. You’ve probably seen the large grey boxes with the little red S&C logos; they are everywhere in the Las Vegas valley. Those grey boxes, incidentally, are Pad-Mounted Gear units used with underground utility systems. Cables come up to the boxes for switching and fusing and then go underground again.

So I was driving along Eastern Avenue and I see one the S&C boxes painted to look like a TV set with some sort of batman character on it. What?

Beneath Suzanne Hacket's art is a plain old NV Energy utility box.
Photo by Diane Taylor

I did a little research (thankyou Steve Friess) and found that an artist named Suzanne Hackett painted the unit four years ago as part of the Clark County Parks and Recreation Department “ZAP” Program to develop public art by painting utility boxes. Hackett’s theme in painting several boxes was abandoned Las Vegas TV programs. The S&C box, she told me, depicted “Count Cool Rider”, the host of a vintage Las Vegas scary movies program, “Saturday Fright at the Movies”.

Hackett seems like a person to get to know. In addition to being an artist, she is currently Executive Director of the UMC Foundation, Inc., and as of October 25, she will become Director of Major Gifts for the Discovery Children’s Museum which is moving to The Smith Center. She is also a founding director of the Goldwell Open Air Museum in Ny County, NV.

I told Hackett I loved her painting and that I knew the box better than the art. She explained how the art came to be, listened to me about my former employer and seemed pleased her artwork was still being noticed. She also referred me to Clark County Cultural Programs Supervisor Patrick Gaffey, the man behind ZAP.

Gaffey explained that even if I had not noticed earlier, two phases of the ZAP program to paint utility boxes have been completed, one in the Winchester Neighborhood and one in Paradise Park. A third phase of the program, in historic West Las Vegas, is currently under way.

Jose Believer was the artist in the Winchester neighborhood.

Artists chosen for ZAP (a pithy name with no other meaning than “zap” an ugly utility box turns into a piece of art) are paid $2250 for completed work. In this struggling economy, Gaffey has to struggle to get the money, but somehow he does it. “I know some mall owners have hired folks to paint boxes, but they haven’t been nearly as successful as we have been,” said Gaffey. “We have a panel of judges who cafefully select our artists; our goal is quality.”

I know S&C has switchgear that can be installed totally underground. In such cases, the “ugly” box is gone….but then again, without an above- ground enclosure, we’d never have seen Count Cool Rider!

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