|By Arnold M. Knightly, Las Vegas
Review-JournalMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
April 12, 2009 - Michael Greco understands the challenges he faces as the new point man for entertainment at one of Las Vegas' highest profile niche properties.
Since moving to the Palms in January from nightclub operator Pure Management Group, Greco has been working to keep the Palms positioned as a top entertainment destination in the face of greater competition and declining spending by customers.
He said his biggest challenge is "trying to live up to the Palms' stellar reputation of bringing terrific talent over here to this property and creating an environment that people want to come to. It's looking at everything at the Palms and trying to sustain and maintain what is a terrific brand."
As vice president of entertainment, the transplanted New Yorker oversees the bookings in the Pearl concert hall, the lounge, the pool, the bars and in-suite entertainment. He also assists the N9NE Group, which runs the property's four nightclubs.
Greco is a self-described loner who concentrates on playing guitar and writing when away from the buzz of the entertainment world.
He enjoys screenwriting. He's written 15 scripts, a couple of which have been optioned. One, a drama about a stand-up comic, was optioned by Hollywood producer Ezra Swerdlow, whose credits include "Waiting To Exhale," "Copland" and "Enchanted."
Greco admits to a near obsession with the Batman character, having seen "The Dark Knight" in the theater three times and watching the movie at home nearly once a week.
"There was a time when I'd be checking into hotels doing business on the road, and I'd check in under the name Bruce Wayne," Greco said. "I think I took that a little too far."
QUESTION: What lured you away from Pure Management Group to join the Palms?
ANSWER: It was the opportunity to work with such a tremendous brand that was family owned and operated. I've had the pleasure of dealing with (owner) George (Maloof) several times, and just to see that he knew everybody's name, from his management to his line cooks, was amazing. I've walked the property with him and he's just an amazing man. It's just a sense of security where you're not dealing in a corporate environment, not dealing with a whole chain of people to accomplish something. To accomplish something, you ask George what he thinks. If he likes it he says, "It's great." If he doesn't like it he tells you.
Q: How was Pure, which operates nightclubs at Caesars Palace, Luxor, Treasure Island, Excalibur and in the Bahamas, a training ground for your new job?
A: I've been around the industry for many, many years, starting back in New York City starting around 1994. Just to come out here and have the opportunity to work under (Pure managing partner) Stevie (Davidovici). I learned so much working for Stevie, the work ethic, promotion and marketing. He's a tremendous individual.
Q: What was the lure of moving to Las Vegas from New York City?
A: I'm a New Yorker through and through. It's my home. That's where my family is, where a lot of my long-term friends are. Went through a lot of struggles in New York. Lost family on Sept. 11, 2001. It was, more or less, time for a change. New York then was just a very difficult time for me when I decided to pick up and come to Las Vegas. When the opportunity came to come here, it was a fresh start and a good way to get a new perspective on life. A good way to get out of what was probably the most challenging period of my lifetime.
Q: What's the biggest difference between nightlife in New York and Las Vegas?
A: The great news is everybody comes to Las Vegas to have fun. Everybody wants to have a good time when they're here. In New York, everybody shows up to look cool. It's a very challenging environment. In Las Vegas, you don't worry so much about some of the challenges you have in New York City. In New York, you're trying to operate a nightclub and the police are showing up every night even if you have the cleanest business in the world. If it's not the police, it's the fire department. You try to operate in a city where there's people living all around you and it's very difficult.
Q: How competitive is the Las Vegas concert market with the new Joint opening at the Hard Rock Hotel and the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay?
A: I worry about what we're doing; I can't worry about what other people are doing. If I'm doing the best I can do on trying to create the best environment and the best product and the best experience for our guests, then I'm doing my job. Our guests are going to have a great time regardless. We also try to ensure the artists have a terrific time when they come out. We provide privacy, great dining experiences. We provide The Pearl itself, the acoustics, I'll take them against any venue in the world. It's a very intimate environment, a beautiful concert setting. You have the opportunity to see a band in a 2,500-seat venue where the artist is right with you. And the artist really appreciates that experience as well.
Q: What had you planned to do when you entered Syracuse University?
A: I went to school to study writing because I was pretty creative growing up. I did stand-up comedy in New York City for two or three years. I was also a writer. I even took my hacks at acting. Basically, moved to Los Angeles in 1988 and interned in the entertainment industry on some old comedy shows. I worked with Keenen Ivory Wayans on the old late show.
Q: What interested you in writing when you were growing up?
A: I started writing when I was 8 or 9 years old. My father was a New York City police officer for 27 years. My mother was an office manager for doctors, so there wasn't the creative element running through my family. Since I was a little boy I escaped reality through writing. I'm kind of loner, that's the reality of it. When I'm not working I spend a lot of time by myself reading or playing the guitar. It's either work or something creative.
Q: Do you still work on your writing?
A: I, actually, took a long time away from writing. I just wrote a piece called "Big Shot" about a New York City nightclub guy who moves to Las Vegas to learn nightclubs. I meet a lot of people from my work and one of the guys I met is an actor by the name of Michael Madsen. He's one of my favorite actors and he wanted to play a character based on me. He still has the script and he's still shopping it, so we'll see what happens.
Q: How was your experience as a stand-up comedian?
A: I did pretty well. I worked a lot of the New York City clubs. Catch-A-Rising Star, Boston Comedy Club, the Comedy Cellar. I also hit the road for a while, mostly as an opening act. Started out with some really great talent. Guys I've been on shows with include Jon Stewart, Ray Romano, Dave Attell. But it was a long time ago. This was in the late 1980s.
Q: Why are you a big fan of Batman?
A: I like the Batman character because he's a guy who needs to fight crime or he'd be crime himself. I like the conflict that goes on within the character. I can either beat 'em or join 'em, and I'm not going to join 'em because I know it's wrong. I love the ending (of "The Dark Knight" movie) when Commissioner Gordon says, 'He's not the hero Gotham needs right now, he's the hero it deserves.' I like that he takes the heat because he can.
--Occupation: Vice president of entertainment, Palms.
--Education: Syracuse University, majored in writing with a philosophy minor, incomplete.
--Work history: Stand-up comedian, New York City, 1986-1988; various entertainment projects, Los Angeles, 1988-1989; writer, waiter, bar manager, nightclub manager, New York, 1990-2004; director of nightlife entertainment, Hard Rock Hotel, 2004-2006; vice president of entertainment, Pure Management Group, 2006-2008; vice president of entertainment, Palms, 2009.
--Hobbies: Writing, guitar.
--Favorite book: "A New Pair of Glasses" by Chuck "C." and "The Catcher In the Rye" by J.D. Salinger.
--Favorite movie: "The Last Samurai" (2003).
--Hometown: New York City.
--In Las Vegas since: 2004.
--Quotable: "The great news is everybody comes to Las Vegas to have fun. Everybody wants to have a good time when they're here."
The Palms is at 4321 W. Flamingo Road and can be reached at 702-942-7777.
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