The main event: Concert puts Streisand back before the people

December 31, 1993|By Robert Hilburn | Robert Hilburn,Los Angeles Times

The fortysomething woman wearing the sparkling black Barbra Streisand concert sweat shirt paused during her marathon assault on the quarter slots at the new MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas.

Standing and stretching near the massive lobby of the $1 billion hotel, casino and theme park, the woman pointed to the $1,100 jackpot total on the machine.

"I'm going to keep at it until I win enough to buy a front-row ticket to Barbra's show," she said, good-naturedly.

If the machine pays off, the fan could most certainly score a ticket to one of Ms. Streisand's two shows here this weekend, but $1,100 isn't likely to buy her a front-row seat.

Because the New Year's Eve and New Year's Day shows in the 13,105-seat Grand Garden arena will be the singer's first paid public performances in 24 years, demand was so strong that all available tickets were sold as fast as they could be processed on Nov. 7 -- despite a top price of $1,000 and an average price believed to be around $500.

Within hours, ticket brokers in Los Angeles were asking $1,500 ++ and $3,000 for average to good $1,000 seats -- with the best of the lot going for $4,000.

L That Streisand frenzy was in evidence this week around town.

Fans stood in line outside the entrance to the 5,005-room hotel to have their photo taken alongside a large Streisand poster.

Inside, crowds were huddled at three souvenir stands, tempted by such items as $25 concert programs, $100 bottles of signature champagne and $100 sterling silver, limited-edition key chains.

"There hasn't been an event with this type of demand in years, including the championship fights," said Thomas Willer, vice president of marketing for the rival Las Vegas Hilton.

"What you have here, as far as concerts go, is the unretiring of a superstar. It's a blockbuster that is good for all of Las Vegas."

Though Ms. Streisand's camp and the hotel refused to divulge the singer's fee for the shows, industry insiders put the figure at around $15 million, from which she has to pay the shows' sizable production expenses.

The hotel will recoup most of that fee from box-office receipts, which are expected to be about $6 million to $7 million per concert.

Typical of the exposure for the hotel, fitness guru Richard Simmons, who prides himself in being the "world's greatest Streisand fan," will report live on today's opening from the hotel for Jay Leno's "Tonight Show" audience.

Except for guest appearances at isolated benefit dates and an inaugural salute to President Clinton last January, Ms. Streisand hasn't stepped on stage since 1969 at the International Hotel.

The MGM Grand Hotel relationship began last summer when the hotel's main owner, Kirk Kerkorian, offered to donate $3 million to Ms. Streisand's favorite causes.

(The donation, since increased to $3.5 million, was formally announced this week. Of the total, approximately $2 million will go to eight AIDS groups.)

The show is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. both nights and to run at least two hours.

Marvin Hamlisch is musical director for the show, which will feature a 64-piece orchestra.

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