CHRIS PHILLIPS AND LYDIA ANSEL
LIVING THE VEGAS DREAM... CRAZY, SEXY, FUN!
by Marla Santos
Chris Phillips has been performing his high-energy music around Las Vegas for years under the name Zowie Bowie. He has been headlining at the Red Rock Resort and Casino since he arrived here, performs at the Fremont Street Experience in Downtown Las Vegas, and also fulfills corporate gigs, in which he’s hired for his diverse musical styles.
Lydia Ansel, a violin virtuoso and a member of Bella Electric Strings, has performed with Rod Stewart, Joshua Bell, Randy Travis and Clint Holmes, to name a few. Performing all genres of music from classical to rock and country, she can easily sit in for a symphony, then change clothes and perform in the Zowie Bowie show.
When Lydia and Chris first met, they were hit by the lightning bolt, and have been inseparable ever since. Chris sports his spiked blond hair with a perfect tan that makes his white teeth glisten, while Lydia lets her beautiful blond locks flow and has the body of a showgirl. The two make a striking couple, and then when you add the musical talent, the clothes, and the spicy attitudes, it all shouts “stars.”
Interestingly, Chris said that he felt “the bigger the star, the nicer they are,” and “the smaller they are, the more attitude they think they have to have.” Running into Celine Dion at a Chanel Boutique at the Bellagio, Chris introduced himself and said that his girlfriend was one of her biggest fans. Celine replied with: “Let’s do something fun and let me hide behind the clothes rack and I’ll pop out and say ‘Hi!’” The world-renowned singer popped out with a childlike spirit, and Chris explained, “That’s the reason she’s successful. She can convey that to the masses through her music and talent.”
During my conversation with Chris and Lydia, they told me their backgrounds and how they ended up in Vegas and what brought them both here. Chris opened up about his singing partner, Marley Taylor, who originally opened Red Rock Resort with him, and then ran off with his conductor and then his bass player. He also talked about why his new band is so damn hot! Lydia gets to explain, that while Chris is the ultimate gentleman, he is always grabbing the scissors to make her dresses a little shorter. Together they are full of life and totally in love with each other and with Las Vegas, and the opportunities the city has offered them. The conversation started with one of the questions most fans wonder: “Where did the name Zowie Bowie come from?
CHRIS: I think Zowie Bowie is really a frame of mind more than it ever was to be a band or character or anything like that. From a very young age, instead of going to Disneyland, my parents brought me to Las Vegas. From the mid ‘70s on, I was extremely influenced by the way the city worked and the sophisticated show-business life that they exposed me to. People used to get dressed up and go to shows late into the night. They’d see Sammy Davis Jr. at two in the morning. There’d be a maître d’ decked out in a tuxedo, and after you took care of him properly, he’d take you right down to the front. Everyone was so glamorous back then. That’s when shows weren’t so terribly choreographed or staged and filled with pre-rehearsed banter. You got a true sense of these incredible legendary performers coming out and sharing who they really were with the audience. It felt like every performance you saw was a unique experience. I think Vegas back then made the regular guy feel special. No matter where in the world people came from, they felt they could come here and be well taken care of, in terms of the way they were treated in the casino, in the restaurants, and at the shows. I think we’ve lost sight of some of that as the corporate takeover has taken hold over the last couple of decades. Growing up I was so influenced by these very charismatic entertainers that graced the billboards and marquees, driving up and down Las Vegas Boulevard and seeing these huge names, billboard after billboard. I thought that was such an exciting time for Las Vegas and I consider it the Golden Era. The very first show I saw was in 1975 at the Las Vegas Hilton. It was Tony Orlando. I got to see Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Don Rickles. As a young kid, instead of wanting to go to Hollywood or become a rock star and be on MTV, my dream was always to come to Las Vegas and be this Vegas character who lived in the showrooms and casinos. I wanted to create an existence here, rather than New York or Broadway. I wanted to perform in a showroom and be somebody who represents what I think this city was supposed to be from the get-go. My agenda coming here was to keep the Maverick Spirit of Vegas alive. Over the years, I was having difficulty finding clubs or lounges where you could still revel in that feeling of what Vegas felt like to me in the ‘70s. So instead of trying to find it, I created it myself. In high school I became a heavy metal drummer for 10-13 years, and I could tuck my long hair into my pants. My idols at the time were Van Halen and Mötley Crüe, but in the back of my mind, I could never get over the fantasy and desire to want to be a Wayne Newton, a Frank Sinatra or Elvis Presley. These were the guys who truly inspired me to want to be a performer. It quite frankly kept me from going to college and following in the footsteps of my family, who were all attorneys and educators. Here I come, this black sheep, who instead wanted to become a Vegas Rock Star. For many years in my twenties I was wasting my time being this drummer. When I was thirty-one, I had some friends who were in this novelty band that did a lot of David Bowie music. One day their singer got sick and they said: “Chris, here’s your chance. Learn some songs and come sing with us.” I was scared to death, because I’d never held a microphone or sung a song, so I pretended to be David Bowie’s kid, Zowie Bowie. The real Zowie Bowie changed his name to Duncan Jones, who has now become a well-respected movie director and hasn’t used his real name for many years. I had liked Bowie’s music and was intrigued by his constant chameleon ways of reinventing himself. There really were a lot of other people I was influenced by more than him, but he was a cool character and someone I could relate to. So, I took on this persona of this Bowie-esque character, and did the show and had a blast. I decided this would be the springboard to cut my hair, sell my drums, buy a microphone and start my own band called Zowie Bowie. We did Bowie’s music, but I found in a short period of time, that wasn’t the kind of music that felt most natural to me. So that early ‘80s music went by the wayside, but the name stuck. I decided that, to make my Vegas dream come true, I needed to do something in Scottsdale, Arizona, that no one else was doing. I put a hip-hop nightclub concert together with really current Top 40 hip-hop music, that 15 years ago, no middle-aged white guy was doing. I came up with the concept of performing the music in a style like the DJ’s did, where the music never stops. My job was to keep people on the dance floor. We got hired at this beautiful, multi-million-dollar mega nightclub called Barcelona in North Scottsdale that catered to a very high-end affluent crowd of celebrities and sports figures. They hadn’t done live music there. I went into the club and said: “Not only are you going to hire us three days a week, we’re going to be playing through the prime hours and you’re going to be paying us this large amount of money.” The guy who owned the place thought I was absolutely nuts, but we did one night and it went over so well that he hired us three nights a week. I explained to him that I had this fantasy of doing this big band thing as well, so my singing partner, Marley Taylor and myself started off the first hour with the old Vegas standards. Then an hour later after dinner, they moved the tables back and we were bringing in 4,000 people in a weekend. It turned into something of a phenomenon in the Phoenix nightclub market where everything else was DJ’s. We figured out this formula where we’d keep people on the dance floor and they wouldn’t leave. We did this for three years straight, and low and behold, who happened to walk into the club one night, but the Fertitta’s, who own the Station Casinos in Vegas. They were in the process of opening a new property called Red Rock and they said: “Zowie Bowie, we want you to come to Vegas and want you to perform at our new casino.” The only preconceived notion that I had of Station Casinos was Texas Station and Palace Station. They said Red Rock was going to be the Barcelona of Las Vegas. They brought us out here, gave us a tour while the building was going on, and I said, “I’d like to be the face of your hotel, not just a band that plays here,” and they said: “Okay.” We packed our bags, drove into town and the first thing we saw were these huge billboards with our faces on them. We were on the front page of the paper, the front cover of Las Vegas Magazine and we thought: “Wow, is this the way it works?” We soon found out that wasn’t standard procedure for a local cover band to be in a bar. What an incredible, exciting experience that was! To make our debut in Vegas under those circumstances! I always had these dreams, my whole adult life, of having a billboard in Vegas or being on a marquee, the way all my idols used to be, and to drive into town and within 20 minutes of being in Las Vegas and see that, was just incredible! We honestly had to pull over to the side of the road and just sit there for a minute, going: “Is this really happening?” We opened up Red Rock and were there three nights a week. They were paying us a fortune at the time and we really didn’t appreciate it until things changed around here. It took about a month to build up a following and then we started packing the club. I’m very proud to say that it has been packed ever since and we’re still there after seven-and-a-half years, which for shows or bands like us is kind of unheard of. One of the deals I made with Red Rock when we came out here was to do a show that reflects what Vegas used to be, with the big band arrangements of the Rat Pack era. So they let me, on Saturday nights before we did our hip-hop concerts, do a full hour of a big band concert, where we brought in a totally different demographic of people. We started out with a 13-piece vintage Vegas big band, came out in a tuxedo and a gown and did a very authentic Steve Lawrence—Eydie Gorme type of show. To this day, that’s why I came to Vegas, and I will forever be preaching the gospel about why I think this is important to the city. The biggest show I’ve ever done, which was a dream come true, was when they allowed us a 14-week limited engagement in the Lance Burton Theater at the Monte Carlo, which is now the Blue Man Group Theater. I got to go in there and live out my Sinatra fantasy. I had a 25-piece orchestra on this gorgeous stage in an 1,800-seat theater. We had 27 billboards around town, and for 14 weeks on Sunday nights, it was an incredible experience! We were able to do it until another headliner named Frank Caliendo came in and bought out the theater. I now do these Vintage Show Parties here and there. The most recent thing I’ve done is at Bally’s and I call it “Zowie Bowie’s Late Night Las Vegas.” It’s not only a chance for us to bring the vintage Vegas band and put on a concert, but more importantly, to create the camaraderie of other entertainers in town to come together, which was such a part of the old days of Vegas. You’d see entertainers get off their show at one place, go down the street and pop up on the stage with another entertainer or appear in a lounge with Louie Prima or Bob Anderson. To me, that was so cool! I really want to bring that back. Most recently I had Vince Neil of Mötley Crüe up there singing Sinatra with me. The cast of Jersey Boys, the cast of Rock of Ages, Gordie Brown, Frank Scinta and comedians from up and down the Strip. They’d come in and we reveled in the old vintage Vegas spirit and do these old songs with old charts and arrangements and just have a great time. To make a living, I get to do something that’s the exact furthest from that style of music. I do this high-energy hip-hop nightclub dance concert with a band performing the hottest dance music performed by DJ’s these days. I’ve got these two or three beautiful, young girl singers with me that add a saucy, sexy element to things. One of the most exciting things is that I’ve brought in my girlfriend Lydia, who I’ve been dating for a year, to play electric violin. She has changed my life considerably for the better. She’s not only sharp as hell, but also talented and easy on the eyes. When she’s not performing with me, she’s the violin player for Rod Stewart and other big acts that come through town. She’s become, quite frankly, a bigger celebrity than I am, in just a year of being here.
LYDIA: When I moved to Vegas, I knew only a couple of dancers and entertainers who had left by the time I got here. I was renting a condo and hoping to make a living as an entertainer. I wasn’t working a lot, but doing a few gigs for Bella Electric Strings, which is an all-girl string quartet. I was jamming with my friend’s band that was at the Golden Nugget called “Rock This Town.” He let me fill in whenever I wanted. Gordie Brown is the headliner there and sometimes his band would come in and jam, too. They invited me to go to Gordie’s birthday party. Within a few minutes of being at that party, this blue-eyed, bright-eyed, blond guy came up to me and said: “Hi, I’m Chris.” He was so happy and energetic, but there was something really strange, because he seemed familiar to me. I didn’t know how that was possible, because I’d only been in Vegas for 2 months at the time. After telling him he looked familiar, he said: “Well I have this little show here in town called Zowie Bowie.” I couldn’t believe it, I had seen him at Barcelona, this giant mega-club, in Arizona. That just seemed to make his day and we hit it off right away. I told him I played electric violin and he said: “Why don’t you come down and bring that little fiddle of yours and play a song with me.” He ran off to prepare for his show. Everyone at the party said they were going to Red Rock. I ran home, grabbed my violin and headed to Red Rock. The very first night I met Chris, I ended up jamming with him on stage, and maybe he was trying to impress me to go out on a date with him, but he asked me to play with him again. I started dating and performing with him from the day we met!
CHRIS: Since that night she’s done every show with me, became a fulltime member of our band and we’ve seen each other every night since. So I put all my little girlfriends away and we moved in together about 10 months ago and couldn’t be happier, loving life here in Vegas. I love Las Vegas and I love performing. This is a place where people can come and be and do whatever they want, and get into a little bit of trouble. In our shows, we like to push the envelope and be a little edgy with what the gals are wearing. I like it to be sexy and hot! I feel like the dirty old man up there with all these beautiful young ladies who are half-naked, singing their asses off. (laughter) I’m having a ball doing it and I never want to grow up and I hope I never have to. Doing what I do allows me to be a drunk juvenile delinquent playing rock ‘n roll for a living. It’s essentially a high-energy rock band that plays high-energy dance music. Our persona and the way we present ourselves is very much like an old Van Halen kind of rock energy, but yet we’re playing music that was made popular by black artists and hip-hop. Now it’s evolved even more so, because DJ’s used to play music made famous by bands, now bands are playing music made famous by DJ’s. Half the night we’ll be performing music that has never been performed by a band, but played electronically by DJ’s doing it on keyboards and computers. We put a live band sound to it and it’s kind of exciting and it’s what people are into. Now it’s a combination of DJ music, hip-hop music and the standard dance music from the disco era. Add to that the element of these half-naked women, and to be even more bizarre, you’ve got this classically-trained, beautiful violinist up there playing this electric violin. It makes it a really unique show, where there’s this middle-aged guy singing hip-hop music with a beautiful violin player. We like to evolve and make things interesting, and that’s helped us have a longer shelf life than if I’d stuck with the exact same formula that I had when I got here.
STRIPLV: It was like a soap opera when you and Marley split up. It played out all over the media: “Marley dyed her hair brown,” and “Blah, blah, blah.” Did that throw you for a loop or did you just ignore it?
CHRIS: We were together 24/7 for years and years doing our show, shopping, and we were never apart more than 2-3 hours in ten years, if you can imagine that. That’s a true story. We were playing at the Monte Carlo at the time and they had spent a million dollars on billboards and magazine ads of this happy couple doing their show together. We had this big orchestra that had a conductor at the time, and just one day after one of our big band shows, I went and grabbed all of our stuff and said: “Okay Marley, it’s time to go home.” She just kind of disappeared and after 10 years, she and the conductor just shacked up and that was the end of our relationship, and she didn’t come home until the next day. When she came in, she goes: “Me and you, we’re done personally, and I’m now with this conductor guy and we’re going to be going out tonight and that’s the end of everything. Hope we can keep the show together though.” That was like a bat to the face. I didn’t see it coming at all and it was completely a shock, but within a couple of weeks it worked itself out. It was the best thing that could have happened for both of us, and the show. Dave Perrico was my conductor at the time, and as you can imagine, it caused some problems then, but some months later, I took on a girlfriend and we accepted the fact that Marley was with him. Marley and I were more of a business relationship, a brother and sister kind of thing. I wanted her to be happy and I think she became happy, so that was all fine, and we never missed a show, we never missed a beat. We couldn’t tell anybody that we had split up, so we kept it a secret for weeks. We couldn’t tell the hotel, because they had spent all this money on us and we didn’t want to ruin our reputation in town. All the media seemed to catch wind of it in one day, in the middle of December, and in that one day, all the news, newspapers and radio stations all reported it on the exact same day, and made her look like the Tiger Woods of Vegas. It was horrible and awesome at the same time. (laughter) We still remained together performing our show for three more years. It wasn’t that long after, that I brought Dave Perrico back on as our conductor, and to this day, he’s my conductor. A year and a half ago, Marley left him and started dating and ended up marrying my bass player. So she kind of broke his heart too, but it worked out best for him as well, and he’s very successful, a great guy, and I love him to death. I support Marley too, and she’s back in Arizona doing her thing and I hope she’s happy.
STRIPLV: So you got a taste of what it’s like with the Hollywood Paparazzi?
CHRIS: Oh my Lord, oh my Lord! We went from being this kind of goodie-goodie pristine little couple with no flaws to this cheatin’ woman, and Chris is in the clubs till 3:00 in the morning with these undesirable ladies. Everything changed within hours. It was meant to be, and thank God it worked out the way it did, personally and professionally. I’d been singing with a singing partner, (Marley) for 13 years. When she got married to my bass player – that inspired me to upgrade the show. It worked out great, because I got to bring in Joe James, who I’d known for years and is a total rock star, and he adds that image and look that was very conducive to our show and a significant upgrade. Now, instead of one girl singer, I have two or three young gals, and of course, Lydia. At any given time, you see three or four beautiful women on stage that are easy on the eyes and ears and I’m just kind of the old guy. (laughter) I have this brand new look, feel and sound to the show as we reinvented ourselves. If you haven’t seen Zowie Bowie in a year, you haven’t seen Zowie Bowie. It’s a completely new show! At 11:00 there might be 11 people in there and at 11:30 there will be 400. Bam! It just swells. When I arrive, I think: “There’s no one here tonight and 5 minutes later when we take the stage, it’s packed.”
STRIPLV: Lydia, you graduated with a violin performance degree?
LYDIA: I did. I got my degree on scholarship from the University of North Texas where you are required to have a minor in music theory. Besides having to do performances and recitals, you have to take the classes where you learn the skeleton of how music is made. It was a fantastic school and I really enjoyed it. I was classically trained and went that route until recently. I went to a music festival in Vermont and met this amazing violin professor who had just been hired at ASU. I auditioned to be in her studio for my Masters and when they offered me a full ride to come back to Arizona, I went straight there and did a year of my Masters there. I didn’t complete because I had an early life crisis. In Dallas, I was working in all these symphonies, weddings and churches, and gigging like crazy. I came to Arizona and the classical music scene was different at the time, and I didn’t know how I was going to support myself. I convinced the college to let me in the MBA program. I was hiring out my friends in quartets for weddings, because people were hiring me. I tried it for a year and absolutely despised it. I’m not a statistics person and it was very different than what I thought. I got a job with a law firm that did liquor licensing and it was so much fun. I’d go to openings of new restaurants and bars and everywhere that needed an alcohol license and this was the law firm to go to. I had a blast with that, but the itch for music came back and I couldn’t stand it anymore. I had a friend’s band that needed a fiddle player, and up to that time, I’d only read music on sheet music and charts. I was so desperate to play music again that I listened to their entire set list and wrote out note for note every fiddle solo there was and memorized it. For the first time it taught me how to improv, because I had never done that. The bass player worked for Fender because they had their headquarters there and he got me an amazing deal on my first electric violin. From there I wanted to play more rock music. I started using pedals and I was part of a duo that traveled all over the valley, becoming successful in that. The rest is history! I have always loved performing. I actually begged my mom to let me play violin at a very early age, but she wouldn’t let me. I had an older brother who started in music and he would never practice and he had perfect pitch. He’s this amazing genetic scientist now. I joined the sixth grade orchestra and she saw how much I loved my little rented violin, and for my eleventh birthday she got me violin lessons. I swear it was probably the most expensive gift she ever gave me, because I took lessons for the next ten years. I was immediately passionate about it and I always felt like it was such a privilege, since I’d been told that I couldn’t have it.
STRIPLV: Do you still play with Bella Electric Strings?
LYDIA: I do. They are just amazing girls. Nina DiGregorio is the owner of that group. She had a concept of something that was very similar to what I was doing at the time. I was playing everything from rock music to pop tunes to whatever and I would play the vocal line and I would use pedals to play the guitar solos and fun things. Nina had taken that to a whole new level and written out charts for a whole quartet and had even cooler effects. When I moved to Vegas, everyone who saw what I was doing said that I had to meet Nina. So I auditioned for her and started playing with her in Bella Strings and I still perform with them. She’s expanding so much and has a group in L.A. and opening one in Florida. She has all sorts of amazing violinists and it’s always a pleasure to play with them. It’s amazing – this town has embraced the niche of an electric violinist.
STRIPLV: Chris, tell me something that would surprise people to know about you.
CHRIS: When I was in high school, I was the president of the Tempe Teenage Republicans. I think that I’m extremely old fashioned and conservative. I was raised with old values and morals in a very conservative household with an attorney and a first grade teacher who were very right-wing Republican.
STRIPLV: How did your family react to your not going to college?
CHRIS: They are without question my #1 fans, supporters and friends. They have been the most perfect parents you could possibly imagine, and I wouldn’t have been as successful if it weren’t for their ongoing, unbelievable support! My father, prior to going to law school, was a jazz piano player. My mother, prior to going to college, was an opera singer. They always had dreams of becoming entertainers, themselves. All through my childhood, we played Trivia pertaining to old actors and old song composers. We were obsessed by entertainment. Every morning when I woke up I’d hear my mom and dad singing by the piano; old standards. For them to see me become what they had fantasized about becoming themselves, is very exciting for them, and they love it. I’m one of the very few acts in this town that is paid a salary to perform. At least 90-95 percent of the shows you see in town have to do “4-wall deals,” which means they rent the theater, buy their own marketing and hope to God they can sell tickets. In the long run, if you can sell tickets, it can be very profitable, but it’s very risky. For a small time guy like me that doesn’t have a corporate machine backing me or large investor, I’m essentially doing my show out of the trunk of my car. One of the reasons we’ve been successful is not that we sell a lot of tickets, but we sell a lot of alcohol. The casinos love that we bring in a nightclub crowd that buys bottle service and the bars will ring thousands of dollars, plus then we send a very drunk, careless crowd into the casino to spend carelessly. Half of our business is this nightclub business and the other half is corporate, where we travel all over the country performing for major Fortune Five Hundred companies, entertaining between 800 and 2,000 people in grand ballrooms; everything from a very conservative black tie affair to wild parties.
LYDIA: We did one recently in Scottsdale with a Mad Men theme. We started off in gowns and a tux doing the big band, vintage Vegas thing, then a really quick turn around and changed into basically nothing and did the hip-hop, high-energy thing.
CHRIS: All of a sudden the bow ties come off in the audience and everyone is having a great time. To this day, we probably have a larger following in Scottsdale, Arizona, than we do here, because we were a big deal there. We go back in the summer and do some “all-ages concerts” at the Fairmont Princess Resort and 2,000 people will show up. It’s amazing that they still remember who we are and support what we do. It great to go home to our hometown with our families and parents there, and for them to get to see that still after all these years we still pull a crowd and have some fun. It’s really neat! On any given weekend we’ll have people from Arizona come to Vegas and seek us out and have Red Rock become a destination for them. Over the years we’ve been marketed heavily at times, but now with the economy the way it is…with Red Rock, I think they’ve figured out that they don’t need to market us at all and save their money and we still pack the place. The first three years we were here we were being paid a fortune, but then when everything went to hell, entertainment budgets across the board in all the hotels just disappeared. We were completely caught off-guard by that, and literally went from riches to rags within a few months. It was devastating to us, even though we were at the top of our game in popularity and bringing in more people than ever. I’ve never had an agent or a manager. I’ve always done it all myself. I think that’s limited me over the years from doing things on a grand scale on a national level. It has also saved me and kept me alive. That way there’s no miscommunication between the corporate client and me or between the casino and me. Sometimes with managers and agents, they can rub each other wrong and it doesn’t represent the artist. I create relationships on a friend basis first and the business relationship second. That’s why I think we’ve survived. We’re very happy and comfortable with a schedule that’s doable for us, because we still like to go out and party and enjoy Vegas. I’m not a workhorse that’s going to work 24/7. I’ve been very fortunate to work two to three nights a week and then the rest of the week is “party city.” It keeps that energy and vitality that is so important to what I do, because if I grow up, I won’t have a business. What I do is extremely juvenile, it’s extremely high energy and it’s extremely youthful. I’m trying to compete with guys that are 18-19 years old putting out records on MTV, because I’m doing their music with the same ferocious energy and fierceness that they are. When people come to see Zowie Bowie, it’s a party and it’s social and I think people feel very comfortable and accepted. The audience that come to see Zowie Bowie is the most incredibly universally diverse demographic you’ve ever seen. It’s all ages, all colors, all sizes and you name it and they all come together as one, and at the end of the night, they’re all family. We love people and we love to make them feel good. One thing that I love about our show is that there isn’t one pre-rehearsed word, not one choreographed step, and it’s completely off-the-cuff every single show. It’s not about us, it’s about the people that come to see us. I want people to know that they can come see Zowie Bowie and have the time of their life in an affordable way and not have to spend $10,000 to sit down at Hakkasan and be shoved in a corner. With us, you’re part of the party and you’re getting in for free. People who’ve seen Zowie Bowie haven’t seen it twice, they’ve seen it 200 times. I don’t claim to be the best singer, or best looking or best dancer or anything, but I think I’m someone who genuinely really cares about the people who come to our shows, and I’ll be damned if they don’t have a good time.
LYDIA: On Thursdays we are down at the Fremont Street Experience and that’s in conjunction with The D hotel. Sometimes Frankie Scinta stops by in the VIP booth.
CHRIS: I love Frankie, he’s the real thing! He is the real deal entertainer from the old school of sing, dance, play every instrument you can, and most importantly, and the reason he’s so successful, is because he has a genuine passion for making people feel good. That’s why his show is so awesome! He will entertain until he falls over, and that’s the mark of a genuine entertainer.
STRIPLV: Chris, is anything going on with the reality show that’s about you, Gordie Brown, Murray SawChuck, Marc Savard and Frank Marino?
CHRIS: Yes, and I can tell you this much: It’s called “Real Headliners of Las Vegas”. The producers and the production are making tremendous strides with it at this point. It’s been picked up by the biggest agency in the world and they’re shopping it at the Cannes Film Festival to get the best deal possible. There is significant interest not only in America, but Canada and Japan. It looks like it’s going to be happening in the next couple of months and it should be a lot of fun. They painted each one of us as a very specific type of character. They painted me as this womanizing, club-going, little rascal that’s nothing but a drunken, Vegas dog! That’s so not true at this point. It’s who I was a year ago.
LYDIA: When they called Chris to tell him about all the interest, Chris said: “I just have to tell you this one thing. I still party every night, but I have a girlfriend and she’s not going anywhere.”
CHRIS: I told them that if other girls were going to be in the mix, Lydia has to be involved. (laughter)
STRIPLV: Chris, what are you most vain about? Your hair, your clothes…?
CHRIS: Thank God for Michael Boychuck. He’s been bleaching my hair since I moved here. In lieu of talent, you decorate yourself with gaudy jewelry and fake tans. I think tan is a big one. I hate being white. I haven’t been in the sun in years. It’s all spray tan from Bronzed Tanning Salon.
STRIPLV: Chris says his heart is with the vintage music. Where’s your heart, Lydia?
LYDIA: Honestly, my heart’s with the audience. People ask me what is my favorite song to play, and I must be a real ham, because my favorite song is whatever the crowd responds to. It can be Devil Went Down To Georgia, Pink Floyd, or it can be Bach – whatever they smile or respond to, then at that moment there is no song that is more exciting to me to perform. I think that’s what makes you successful, because if you’re constantly reaching out and trying to make that other person smile, they’ll respond, in turn. They feel the sincerity of the fact, when someone smiles you smile, and I think that most performers feel that when they’re on stage and someone responds to you – even the slightest tap of the foot, that gives you the inspiration to try to do even more. It’s so exciting and like an adrenalin rush. When I first came out here and I first met Chris, I thought: “I don’t want to date another entertainer,” because I’d dated entertainers in the past. There’s always the fear of competition, and will they feel threatened by you, or will they feel like you’re taking something away? Chris has been the opposite of every fear that I’ve ever thought. He pushes me forward at every opportunity, every jam session and highlights me, and sits in the back, which was weird for me. In his show, he has created opportunities. He’s never had an electric violinist and his show was always about him and his singing partner. Now he has two singers and he still creates opportunities to highlight me. He’s probably my biggest fan and it’s so much fun. We have this energy on stage that I like to think translates to the audience. People come up to us, and you worry a little that some of his female fans would be: “Oh gee, he’s off the market now…”
CHRIS: And we bring them home with us.
LYDIA: …but instead, they’ve embraced both of us. After the show, they come up to us and ask to do a shot with us. Especially in the beginning, when people would want to take pictures during our breaks, (and we love interacting with the audience), and when I’d offer to take their picture with Chris they’d say: “No, we want a picture of both of you.” That is just the most amazing feeling to feel accepted and part of it. Chris likes to tease that I have more female fans than he does, but I don’t think that’s true.
CHRIS: Chicks love chicks in this town. Girls love girls, so that just means more girls!
LYDIA: Well, I love it and I think it’s awesome.
STRIPLV: Lydia, what’s your favorite thing to do in your free time?
LYDIA: I adore going on the Strip, going to little bars, hearing live music, seeing shows, and I don’t care if I’ve seen the same show three times, I love entertainment and I appreciate it, and when you get to watch it with someone who appreciates it even more than you do, it’s totally contagious. Chris took me to my first Mötley Crüe concert and it was the rocker-crazy diehard fans. Then last night we saw Don Rickles. It was a totally different scene. After both concerts we went and had a drink with Vince Neil and the cool rocker scene, and last night we hung out with Don Rickles and were having a conversation like we’d known him for years. It was so much fun, and I feel like since I’ve met Chris, it’s all red carpets, celebrities and performing opportunities.
CHRIS: One of the biggest highlights of living in Las Vegas came last night when we saw Don Rickles. I love all the older vintage performers, but Rickles was one of my favorites, because he is the last of a generation of those Rat Pack performers. He was in that original Vegas Gang. So not only did we get to see him last night, but Lydia and I got to go back in his dressing room and hang out with he and his wife by ourselves. That was one of the coolest things that has happened to me since I’ve been in Las Vegas! We’ve met some really amazing people, but that was a crowning jewel. Another thing is that I’m so proud of how charitable this city is. I’ve been very fortunate to be associated with and a spokesman for Opportunity Village. Just to be associated with them on any level is one of the highlights of being here in Vegas. The entertainment community alone are some of the most charitable people I’ve ever met and that makes Vegas very livable and I think a lot of people that don’t live in Vegas would be shocked by that.
STRIPLV: Chris, what turns you on?
CHRIS: A lot of things turn me on. I love life, I love people, and I love living and experiencing things, great genuine entertainment and delicious food with friends. My girlfriend turns me on all the time and that’s cool to be dating someone that turns you on. We’ll go to strip clubs and it’s amazing that for the first time in my life, I look at these beautiful naked girls, but none of them compare to my own girlfriend.
LYDIA: I’m extremely flattered that he knows to say the right thing.
CHRIS: I’ll tell you that I’m an extremely sexual person and so I love your magazine! I love sexy environments; I love sexy women, skintight clothes and I love beautiful cars.
STRIPLV: And now, what turns you off?
CHRIS: Insincere people, people who smell, I hate cold weather. I like it hot!
STRIPLV: Lydia, what would you consider a perfect date?
LYDIA: I’m really easy when it comes to that. One of the things that I love about Chris is that he does the little things that just brighten my day. He always opens the car door for me. A tiny thing like that is such a small gesture, but to me, means the world. What most people don’t know about Chris is that he’s an extreme romantic kind of old-fashioned type of guy that wants to make sure… and in the very same sense, he’ll be cutting my dresses a size smaller and shorter. It’s an interesting mix. I’ve never worn as little clothes that I have since I’ve met Chris. That’s fine with me, but it’s an interesting twist of opening the car door and grabbing the scissors.
Zowie Bowie can be experienced at Red Rock Resort and Casino at 11:00 (11:30pm) Fridays, and on Thursdays at Fremont Street Experience. ZowieBowie.com