Monday, April 12, 2021 | 2 a.m.
When Clint Holmes was ready to return to the Las Vegas stage, it was easy for him to find the right stage. Many of the venues where the longtime local headliner has performed have not yet reopened due to COVID restrictions, but downtown’s Neonopolis complex on Fremont Street has a perfect space: Notoriety Live.
Holmes has created and performed two monthly installments of his “Regeneration” series at the third-level, multi-room live entertainment hot spot, with a third scheduled for May 8. And he’s known the owner and operator for a long time. Las Vegas native Ken Henderson co-founded the Best Agency and has represented Holmes for years.
“I was in on the walk-throughs when he was explaining his plan to do this, when it was basically a shell,” says Holmes. “One of the things I really respect about what he did is when so many venues just got stopped cold, Ken didn’t [complain], he just kept working and making it better. And then when he could really open it up for audiences again, people walked in and said, oh my God, this is a gem.”
Notoriety Live opened quietly in December 2019 after Henderson had been working with Neonopolis proprietor Rohit Joshi for more than a year to redevelop the former movie theater space into a versatile entertainment venue. When the pandemic struck in March 2020, Notoriety closed along with all other showrooms, then struggled for a short time to find its footing operating as a lounge with ambient entertainment.
“We kept the wheels turning, which was a challenge, just jumping through the hoops of what the city was saying, what the governor was saying,” says Henderson. “And then we saw a lot of people switching to livestreaming [performances] and I just didn’t buy into that. We had the capability and we did a few with some charities, but I wasn’t going to surrender and say live is not going to happen anymore. So we just stayed on it.”
When restrictions loosened in the fall, Notoriety started booking more shows and more kinds of performances, including comedy, magic, musical tributes and other standard Vegas genres. It quickly became a welcoming spot for local entertainers whose Strip shows remained shuttered.
In recent months the scheduling has exploded. There’s Holmes’ monthly residency as well as regular Composers Showcase of Las Vegas gigs anchored by Keith Thompson, who had been holding court at Myron’s Cabaret Jazz at the Smith Center. “M is for Magic” with David Goldrake, the musical “Motown Extreme” and the mind-reading show “Totally Mental” with Vinny Grosso hit the stage on weekends, “Four Funny Comics” takes over with stand-up on Saturdays, and “Faaabulous! The show,” a drag cabaret created by and starring Christopher Kenney as Edie (formerly of Cirque du Soleil’s “Zumanity”) is a fixture on Friday nights.
“We’re just coming out of the train station and hopefully it will be successful and we can get more people in seats,” says Kenney. “We’ve had great audiences, we just need to get the word out more to tourists. Right now it’s mostly locals who are coming and the energy is great.”
Though it’s located at the eastern end of the Fremont Street Experience and has some exposure to the thousands of tourists staying and playing at the casinos along the downtown drag, Notoriety is built for locals, both artists and audience members.
“Even pre-pandemic, I was never trying to compete with hotels,” Henderson says. “We even had some events with several hotel presidents from the Strip in the audience and they loved the place and told me I was in a unique situation. It’s all about getting the talent that’s out there and giving them a home to play in.”
With two different rooms currently hosting shows and a third space coming online soon, Notoriety is building momentum. It will launch a new comedy show, “Laughter After Dark,” which will be filmed monthly and already has a TV deal with a major streaming platform, and Henderson is planning an ongoing singer-songwriter series that will further spotlight local talent in a competition-style format. He also wants to launch a true jazz night, something not easily found around town, and is getting a lot of calls from more Strip performers looking for a place to play.
“There are lots of knocks on the door. It’s just about finding the right ones,” he says.